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<title>Is Digital Inclusion a Good Thing? How Can We Make Sure It Is?
- GNU Project - Free Software Foundation</title>
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<h2>Is Digital Inclusion a Good Thing? How Can We Make Sure It Is?</h2>

<p><a href="http://www.stallman.org/">Richard Stallman</a>
<br />President, Free Software Foundation

<h3 id="intro">INTRODUCTION</h3>

<p>Digital information and communication technology offers the
possibility of a new world of freedom.  It also offers possibilities
of surveillance and control which dictatorships of the past could only
struggle to establish.  The battle to decide between these
possibilities is being fought now.</p>

<p>Activities directed at “including” more people in the
use of digital technology are predicated on the assumption that such
inclusion is invariably a good thing.  It appears so, when judged
solely by immediate practical convenience.  However, if we judge also
in terms of human rights, the question of whether digital inclusion is
good or bad depends on what kind of digital world we are to be
included in.  If we wish to work towards digital inclusion as a goal,
it behooves us to make sure it is the good kind.</p>

<p>The digital world today faces six major threats to users' freedom:
surveillance, censorship, proprietary software, restricted formats,
software as a service, and copyright enforcement.  A program to
promote “digital inclusion” must take account of these
threats, so as to avoid exposing its intended beneficiaries to them.
First we look at the nature of these threats; then we propose measures
to resist them, collectively and individually.</p>

<h3 id="surveillance">SURVEILLANCE</h3>

<p>Digital surveillance systems are spreading.  The UK uses computers
with cameras to track all car travel.  China plans to identify and
photograph everyone that uses an Internet cafe.<a name="tex2html1"

<p>Cell phones are Big Brother's tools.  Some can be activated by
remote command to listen to the user's conversations without giving
any sign of listening, by the police<a name="tex2html3"
href="#foot101"><sup>2</sup></a> and by unauthorized
individuals.<a name="tex2html5" href="#foot102"><sup>3</sup></a> Users
are unable to stop this because the software in the phone is not
free/libre, thus not under the users' control.</p>

<p>Cell phones also localize the user, even when set to
“idle.” The phone network needs to know roughly where the
phone is located in order to communicate with it, and can easily
record that information permanently.  However, networks are designed
to locate phones far more accurately by triangulation.  They can do it
even better with GPS in the phone, with or without the user's

<p>In many countries, universal digital surveillance does not record
what you say, only who you talk with.  But that is enough to be quite
dangerous, since it allows the police to follow social networks.  If a
known dissident talks with you by phone or email, you are a candidate
for labeling as a dissident.  It is no use ceasing to communicate by
phone or email with fellow dissidents when a dictator takes power,
because his secret police will have access to records of your past

<p>The European Union mandates keeping records of all phone calls and
email for periods up to two years.  The stated purpose of this
surveillance is to “prevent terrorism.” Bush's illegal
surveillance of phone calls also cited this purpose.
Non-state-sponsored terrorism is a real danger in a few countries, but
the magnitude is often exaggerated; more people died in the US in
September 2001 from car accidents than from terrorism, but we have no
Global War on Accidents.  By contrast, the practice of labeling
political opposition as “terrorists,” and using supposed
“anti-terror” laws to infiltrate and sabotage their
activities, threatens democracy everywhere.  For instance, the US
Joint Terrorism Task Force infiltrated a wide range of political
opposition groups.<a name="tex2html7"

<p>False accusations of “terrorism” are standard practice
for suppressing political opposition.  In the US, protesters who
smashed windows at the 2008 Republican National Convention were
charged with “terrorism.”<a name="tex2html9"
href="#foot104"><sup>5</sup></a> More recently, Iran described
protesters demanding a new election as
“terrorists.”<a name="tex2html11"
href="#foot105"><sup>6</sup></a> The generals who ruled most of South
America in the 1970s offered precisely that justification for their
systematic murder of dissidents.<a name="tex2html13"

<p>A free society does not guarantee anonymity in what you do outside
your home: it is always possible that someone will notice where you
went on the street, or that a merchant will remember what you bought.
This information is dispersed, not assembled for ready use.  A
detective can track down the people who noticed you and ask them for
it; each person may or may not say what he knows about you.  The
effort required for this limits how often it is done.</p>

<p>By contrast, systematic digital surveillance collects all the
information about everyone for convenient use for whatever purpose,
whether it be marketing, infiltration, or arrest of dissidents.
Because this endangers the people's control over the state, we must
fight against surveillance whether or not we oppose current government
policies.  Given the surveillance and tracking which cell phones do, I
have concluded it is my duty to refuse to have one, despite the
convenience it would offer.  I have few secrets about my own travels,
most of which are for publicly announced speeches, but we need to
fight surveillance even if it is established while we have no
particular secrets to keep.</p>

<p>The UK car travel surveillance system has already been used against
political dissidents.<a name="tex2html14"

<h3 id="censorship">CENSORSHIP</h3>

<p>When the topic of Internet censorship is mentioned, people are
likely to think of China, but many supposedly freedom-respecting
countries have imposed censorship.  Denmark's government has blocked
access to a secret list of web pages.  Australia's government wants to
do likewise, but has met strong resistance, so instead it has
forbidden links to a long list of URLs.  Electronic Frontiers
Australia was forced, under threat of fines of AUD 11,000 per day, to
remove a link to an anti-abortion political web
site.<a name="tex2html16" href="#foot107"><sup>9</sup></a> Denmark's
secret list of forbidden URLs was leaked and posted on Wikileaks; that
page is now on Australia's banned list.<a name="tex2html18"
href="#foot108"><sup>10</sup></a> Germany is on the verge of launching
Internet censorship.<a name="tex2html20"

<p>Censorship of the contents of web sites is also a threat.  India
just announced a broad plan of censorship that would effectively
abolish freedom of the press on the Internet.<a name="tex2html22"

<p>Some European countries censor particular political views on the
Internet.  In the United States, people have been imprisoned as
“terrorists” for running a web site which discussed
actions taken against experiments on animals.<a name="tex2html24"

<p>Another common excuse for censorship is the claim that
“obscene” works are dangerous.  I agree that some works
are obscene; for instance, the gruesome violence in the movie Pulp
Fiction revolted me, and I will try never to see such a thing again.
But that does not justify censoring it; no matter how obscene a work
may be, censorship is more so.  A variant of this excuse is
“protecting children,” which plays to the exaggerated and
mostly misplaced fears of parents.<a name="tex2html25"

<p>Censorship is nothing new.  What is new is the ease and
effectiveness of censorship on electronic communication and
publication (even where a few wizards have ways to bypass it).  China
in 1960 achieved effective censorship by cutting its population off
from the world, but that held back the country's development, which
was painful for the regime as well as for the population.  Today China
uses digital technology to achieve effective political censorship
without cutting itself off in other ways.<a name="tex2html27"

<h3 id="control">SOFTWARE YOU CAN'T CONTROL</h3>

<p>In order for computer users to have freedom in their own computing
activities, they must have control over the software they use.  This
means it must be <em>free software</em>, which I here call
“free/libre” so as to emphasize that this is a matter of
freedom, not price.</p>

<p>A program is free/libre if it gives the user these four essential
freedoms:<a name="tex2html29" href="#foot113"><sup>16</sup></a></p>

<li>0. Freedom to run the program as you wish.</li>

<li>1. Freedom to study the source code, and change it to make the
program do what you wish.</li>

<li>2. Freedom to redistribute and/or republish exact copies.  (This
is the freedom to help your neighbor.)</li>

<li>3. Freedom to distribute and/or publish copies of your modified
versions.  (This is the freedom to contribute to your community.)</li>

<p>When software is free/libre, the users control what it does.  A
non-free or <em>proprietary</em> program is under the control of its
developer, and functions as an instrument to give the developer
control over the users.  It may be convenient, or it may not, but
in either case it imposes on its users a social system that keeps them
divided and helpless.  Avoiding this injustice and giving users
control over their computing requires the four freedoms.  Freedoms 0
and 1 give you control over your own computing, and freedom 3 enables
users to work together to jointly control their computing, while
freedom 2 means users are not kept divided.<a name="tex2html31"

<p>Many argue that free/libre software is impossible on theoretical
economic grounds.  Some of them misinterpret free/libre software as
“gratis software”; others understand the term correctly,
but either way they claim that businesses will never want to develop
such software.  Combining this with a theoretical premise such as
“Useful software can only be developed by paying
programmers,” they conclude that free software could never
exist.  This argument is typically presented elliptically in the form
of a question such as, “How can programmers make a living if
software is free?” Both premises, as well as the conclusion,
contradict well-known facts; perhaps the elliptical questions are
meant to obscure the premises so people will not compare them with the

<p>We know that free software can be developed because so much of it
exists.  There are thousands of useful free
programs,<a name="tex2html34" href="#foot115"><sup>18</sup></a> and
millions of users<a name="tex2html36"
href="#foot116"><sup>19</sup></a> run the
GNU/Linux<a name="tex2html38"
href="#foot117"><sup>20</sup></a>operating system.  Thousands of
programmers write useful free software as
volunteers.<a name="tex2html40" href="#foot118"><sup>21</sup></a>
Companies such as Red Hat, IBM, Oracle, and Google pay programmers to
write free software.  I do not know even approximately how many paid
free software developers there are; studying the question would be
useful.  Alexandre Zapolsky of the free software business event Paris
Capitale du Libre (<a
href="http://web.archive.org/web/20140402120239/http://paris-libre.org/">http://www.paris-libre.org</a>) said
in 2007 that the free software companies of France had over 10,000

<p>Most computer users use proprietary software, and are accustomed to
letting a few companies control their computing.  If you are one of
them, you may have accepted the view that it is normal and proper for
those companies, rather than you, to have control.  You may also
believe that “reputable” developers will not use their
power to mistreat you.  The fact is that they do.</p>

<p>Microsoft Windows has features to spy on the
user,<a name="tex2html43" href="#foot119"><sup>22</sup></a> Digital
Restrictions Management (DRM) features designed to stop the user from
making full use of his own files,<a name="tex2html45"
href="#foot120"><sup>23</sup></a> and an all-purpose back door with
which Microsoft can forcibly change the software in any way at any
time.<a name="tex2html47" href="#foot121"><sup>24</sup></a> Microsoft
can alter any software, not just its own.<a name="tex2html49"
href="#foot122"><sup>25</sup></a> Cell phones tied to particular phone
networks may give the network a similar back door.  MacOS also has DRM
features designed to restrict the user.</p>

<p>The only known defense against malicious features is to insist on
software that is controlled by the users: free/libre software.  It is
not a perfect guarantee, but the alternative is no defense at all.  If
code is law, those governed by it must have the power to decide what
it should say.</p>

<h3 id="protocols">RESTRICTED FORMATS</h3>

<p>Restricted file formats impose private control over communication
and publication.  Those who control the formats control, in a general
sense, society's use of information, since it can't be distributed or
read/viewed without their permission.</p>

<p>For instance, text files are often distributed in the secret
Microsoft Word format, which other developers have only imperfectly
been able to decode and implement.  This practice is comparable to
publishing books in a secret alphabet which only officially approved
scribes know how to read.  Italian public television (RAI) distributes
video in VC-1 format, whose specifications are available only under
nondisclosure agreement from the Society of Motion Picture and
Television Engineers.  (As of 2016 RAI seems to have shifted to
a non-secret format.)  Ironically, the SMPTE states this in a Word file,
which is not suitable to cite as a reference.<a name="tex2html51"
href="#foot123"><sup>26</sup></a> This standard has been partly
decoded through reverse engineering.</p>

<p>Most music distribution on the Internet uses the patented MP3
format<a name="tex2html82" href="#foot137"><sup>42</sup></a>, and most
video uses patented MPEG-4 formats such as DIVX and H.264.  VC-1 is
also patented.<a name="tex2html53" href="#foot124"><sup>27</sup></a>
Any software patent directly attacks every user's freedom to use her
computer.  Use of patented data formats is comparable to mandating
that people use officially approved scribes rather than do their own
reading and writing.  Patents on MPEG formats have been used to attack
and threaten developers and distributors of programs that can handle
these formats, including free/libre programs.  Some distributors of
the GNU/Linux system, for instance Red Hat, do not dare to include
support for these programs.</p>

<p>A restricted format is a trap; any and all use of the format has
the effect of pushing computer users into the trap.  Inclusion in
dependence on these formats is not a step forward.</p>

<h3 id="saas">SOFTWARE AS A SERVICE</h3>

<p>Typical proprietary software gives you only a binary, whose actions
are controlled by the developer, and not by you.  A new practice
called “software as a service,” or “SaaS,”
gives you even less control.  With SaaS you don't even get a copy of
the program you can run.  Instead, you send your data to a server, a
program runs there, and the server sends you back the result.  If
users have a binary, they could reverse-engineer it and patch it if
they are really determined.  With SaaS, they can't even do that.</p>

<p>Reverse engineering being so difficult, perhaps software as a
service is little worse than proprietary software.  The point,
however, is that it is no better.  For users to have control of their
computing, they must avoid SaaS just as they must avoid proprietary

<p>For the preparation of this paper I was invited to use an IEEE site
called <a href="http://pdf-express.org">pdf-express.org</a> to convert
my PDF file into one with the embedded fonts required for the
conference proceedings.  Looking at that site, I concluded that it was
an instance of software as a service, and therefore I should not use
it.  Another strike against it is that it requires users to identify
themselves, which is gratuitous surveillance.</p>

<p>It's not that I'm specifically worried that this site is malicious.
I cannot trust the IEEE implicitly, since I disapprove of its
restrictions on redistributing the papers it publishes, but there is
little scope in that particular site's job for intentional
mistreatment of its users (aside from the gratuitous surveillance).
However, the point is not whether this particular site abuses its
power.  The point is that we should not let ourselves become
accustomed to granting others that sort of power over us.  The habit
of handing over control of our computing to others is a dangerous one.
The way to resist the practice is to refuse invitations to follow

<p>The only way to maintain your control over your computing is to do
it using your own copy of a free/libre program.</p>

<h3 id="copyright">COPYRIGHT AND SHARING</h3>

<p>The biggest conflict over freedom in the Internet is the War on
Sharing: the attempt by the publishing industry to prevent Internet
users from enjoying the capability to copy and share information.</p>

<p>Copyright was established in the age of the printing press as an
industrial regulation on the business of writing and publishing.  The
aim was to encourage the publication of a diversity of written works.
The means used was to require publishers to get the author's
permission to publish recent writings.  This enabled authors to get
income from publishers, which facilitated and encouraged writing.  The
general reading public received the benefit of this, while losing
little: copyright restricted only publication, not the things an
ordinary reader could do, so it was easy to enforce and met with
little opposition.  That made copyright arguably a beneficial system
for the public, and therefore legitimate.</p>

<p>Well and good—back then.</p>

<h4 id="waronsharing">The War on Sharing</h4>

<p>Nowadays, computers and networks provide superior means for
distributing and manipulating information, including published
software, musical recordings, texts, images, and videos.  Networks
offer the possibility of unlimited access to all sorts of
data—an information utopia.</p>

<p>The works that people use to do practical jobs, such as software,
recipes, text fonts, educational works and reference works, must be
free/libre so that the users can control (individually and
collectively) the jobs that they do with these works.  That argument
does not apply to other kinds of works, such as those which state what
certain people thought, and artistic works, so it is not ethically
obligatory for them to be free/libre.  But there is a minimum freedom
that the public must have for all published works: the freedom to
share exact copies noncommercially.  Sharing is good; sharing creates
the bonds of society.  When copying and sharing a book was so
difficult that one would hardly ask such a large favor, the issue of
freedom to share was moot.  Today, the Internet makes sharing easy,
and thus makes the freedom to share essential.</p>

<p>One obstacle stands in the way of this utopia: copyright.  Readers
and listeners who make use of their new ability to copy and share
published information are technically copyright infringers.  The same
law which formerly acted as a beneficial industrial regulation on
publishers has now become a restriction on the public it was meant to

<p>In a democracy, a law that prohibits a popular and useful activity
is usually soon relaxed. Not so where corporations have more political
power than the public.  The entertainment companies' lobby is
determined to prevent the public from taking advantage of the power of
their computers, and has found copyright a suitable tool.  Under their
influence, rather than relaxing copyright rules to permit productive
and free use of the Internet, governments have made it stricter than
ever, forbidding the act of sharing.</p>

<p>The publishers and their friendly governments would like to go to
any length they can get away with to wage the War on Sharing.  In the
US, the record companies' legal arm (the RIAA) regularly sues
teenagers for hundreds of thousands of dollars, and one sharer was
fined almost two million.<a name="tex2html56"
href="#foot125"><sup>28</sup></a> The French government recently
passed a law (HADOPI) to abolish the principle of due process of law,
by punishing Internet users with disconnection on the mere accusation
of copying.  Only certain selected, government-approved organizations
were empowered to make such accusations; thus, this law meant to
abolish Liberté, Egalité, and Fraternité with one
<span class="gnun-split"></span>The law was rejected as unconstitutional by the Constitutional
Council.<a name="tex2html58" href="#foot126"><sup>29</sup></a>  (It was
subsequently changed, introducing a sham trial, to make it acceptable.)  A
similar law in New Zealand was withdrawn this year after public
protests.  The European Parliament recently voted against imposing
similar injustice on the whole European Union, but the EU's weak form
of democracy does not give Parliament the final decision.  Some would
like to go even further: a UK member of parliament proposed ten years'
imprisonment for noncommercial sharing.</p>

<p>The US, Canada, the European Union, and various other countries are
engaged in negotiating the “Anti-Counterfeiting Trade
Agreement.” The negotiations are secret, but Canada reluctantly
published a list of suggestions it received from private parties, and
HADOPI-style punishment without trial was one of
them.<a name="tex2html60" href="#foot127"><sup>30</sup></a> The
suggestion is likely to have come from the copyright lobby, which has
great influence in the US government and others, so the danger is not
negligible.  European officials may seek to use this treaty to
circumvent the European Parliament, following a practice known as
“policy laundering.”</p>

<p>The corporations that profit most from copyright legally exercise
it in the name of the authors (most of whom actually gain little).
They would have us believe that copyright is a natural right of
authors, and that we the public must suffer it no matter how painful
it is.  They call sharing “piracy,” equating helping your
neighbor with attacking a ship.</p>

<p>Public anger over these measures is growing, but it is held back by
propaganda.  Terms such as “piracy,”<a name="tex2html62"
href="#foot128"><sup>31</sup></a> “protecting authors” and
“intellectual property,”<a name="tex2html64"
href="#foot129"><sup>32</sup></a> and claims that reading, viewing or
listening to anything without paying is “theft,” have
convinced many readers that their rights and interests do not count.
This propaganda implicitly assumes that publishers deserve the special
power which they exercise in the name of the authors, and that we are
morally obliged to suffer whatever measures might be needed to
maintain their power.</p>

<h4 id="digitalrestrictionsmanagement">Digital restrictions

<p>The publishers aim to do more than punish sharing.  They have
realized that by publishing works in encrypted formats, which can be
viewed only with software designed to control the users, they could
gain unprecedented power over all use of these works.  They could
compel people to pay, and also to identify themselves, every time they
wish to read a book, listen to a song, or watch a video.  They could
make people's copies disappear on a planned schedule.  They could even
make copies unreadable at will, if they have all-purpose back-doors
such as found in Windows, or special features for the
purpose.<a name="tex2html66" href="#foot130"><sup>33</sup></a></p>

<p>Designing products and media to restrict the user is called Digital
Restrictions Management, or DRM.<a name="tex2html68"
href="#foot66"><sup>34</sup></a> Its purpose is an injustice: to deny
computer users what would otherwise be their legal rights in using
their copies of published works.  Its method is a second injustice,
since it imposes the use of proprietary software.</p>

<p>The publishers gained US government support for their dream of
total power with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (DMCA).
This law gave publishers power, in effect, to write their own
copyright rules, by implementing them in the code of the authorized
player software.  Even reading or listening is illegal when the
software is designed to block it.</p>

<p>The DMCA has an exception: it does not forbid uses that qualify as
“fair use.” But it strips this exception of practical
effect by censoring any software that people could use to do these
things.  Under the DMCA, any program that could be used to break
digital handcuffs is banned unless it has other comparably important
“commercially significant” uses.  (The denial of validity
to any other kind of significance, such as social or ethical
significance, explicitly endorses business' domination of society.)
Practically speaking, the limited right to disobey your software
jailer is meaningless since the means to do so is not available.</p>

<p>Similar software censorship laws have since been adopted in the
European Union, Australia, and New Zealand, and other countries.
Canada has tried to do this for several years, but opposition there
has blocked it.  The publishers' lobbies seek to impose these
restrictions on all countries; for instance, the US demands them in
trade treaties.  WIPO (the World “Intellectual Property”
Organization) helps, by promoting two treaties whose sole point is to
require laws such as these.  Signing these treaties does no good for a
country's citizens, and there is no good reason why any country should
sign them.  But when countries do sign, politicians can cite
“compliance with treaty obligations” as an excuse for
software censorship.</p>

<p>We still have the same old freedoms in using paper books and other
analog media.  But if e-books replace printed books, those freedoms
will not transfer.  Imagine: no more used book stores; no more lending
a book to your friend; no more borrowing one from the public
library—no more “leaks” that might give someone a
chance to read without paying.  No more purchasing a book anonymously
with cash—you can only buy an e-book with a credit card, thus
enabling computerized surveillance—and public libraries become
retail outlets.  That is the world the publishers want for us.  If you
buy the Amazon Kindle (we call it the Swindle) or the Sony Reader (we
call it the Shreader for what it threatens to do to books), you pay to
establish that world.</p>

<h3 id="supportingartists">SUPPORTING THE ARTS</h3>

<p>The publishers tell us that a War on Sharing is the only way to
keep art alive.  Supporting the arts is a desirable goal, but it could
not justify these means.  Fortunately, it does not require them
either.  Public sharing of copies tends to call attention to obscure
or niche works: when Monty Python put its video files on the net for
download, its sales increased by a factor of over
200.<a name="tex2html69" href="#foot131"><sup>35</sup></a> Meanwhile,
digital technology also offers new ways to support the arts.</p>

<h4 id="donations">Donations</h4>

<p>The singer Jane Siberry offers her music for
download through her own web site, called <a name="tex2html71"
href="http://janesiberry.com">janesiberry.com</a> in 2010, allowing people to pay
whatever amount they wish.  The average price paid per song was earlier
reported to be more than the $.99 that the major
record companies charge.<a name="tex2html72"

<p>Bestsellers also can still do well without stopping people from
sharing.  Stephen King got hundreds of thousands of dollars selling a
serialized unencrypted e-book with no technical obstacle to sharing of
copies.  Radiohead made millions in 2007 by inviting fans to copy an
album and pay what they wished, while it was also shared on the
Internet.  In 2008, Nine Inch Nails released an album with permission
to share copies and made 750,000 dollars in a few
days.<a name="tex2html74" href="#foot133"><sup>37</sup></a></p>

<p>Even hampered by today's inconvenient methods of sending money to
artists, voluntary contributions from fans can support them.  Kevin
Kelly, former editor of Wired Magazine, estimates the artist need only
find approximately 1,000 true fans in order to earn a living from
their support.<a name="tex2html76"

<p>But when computer networks provide an easy anonymous method for
sending someone a small amount of money, without requiring a credit
card, voluntary support for artists will become far more effective.
Every player could have a button you can press, “Click here to
send the artists one dollar.” (The optimal amount may vary
between countries; in India, one rupee might be a better choice.)
Wouldn't you press it, at least once a week?</p>

<p>Why, today, would you hesitate to send one dollar to an artist,
once a week or even once a day?  Not because you would miss the
dollar, but because of the inconvenience of sending it.  Remove the
inconvenience, and voluntary support for artists will soar.</p>

<h4 id="tax">Tax-based support</h4>

<p>Another way to support the arts is with tax funds: perhaps with a
special tax on blank media or Internet connectivity, or with general
revenue.<a name="tex2html78" href="#foot135"><sup>39</sup></a> If this
is to succeed in supporting artists, the state should distribute the
tax money directly and entirely to them, and make sure it cannot under
any pretext be taken from them by publishers such as record companies.
Thus, in order to design this tax system to achieve the valid goal of
“supporting the arts,” we must first reject the misguided
goal of “compensating the rights-holders.”</p>

<p>The state should not distribute this tax money in linear proportion
to popularity, because that would give most of it to superstars,
leaving little to support all the other artists.  I therefore
recommend using a function whose derivative is positive but tends
towards zero, such as cube root.  With cube root, if superstar A has
1000 times the popularity of successful artist B, A will get 10 times
as much money as B.  (A linear system would give A 1000 times as much
as B.)  This way, although each superstar still gets a larger share
than other artists, the superstars together will get only a small
fraction of the funds, so that the system can adequately support a
large number of fairly popular artists.  This system would use its
funds efficiently for the support of art.</p>

<p>I propose this system for art because art is where the controversy
is.  There is no fundamental reason why a tax-based system should not
also be used to support functional works that ought to be free/libre,
such as software and encyclopedias, but there is a practical
difficulty in doing so: it is common for those works to have thousands
of coauthors, and figuring out the right way to divide the funds among
them might be difficult even with the cooperation and generosity of
everyone involved.  Fortunately it appears not to be necessary to
solve this problem, because people already put so much effort into
developing free/libre functional works.</p>

<p>Francis Muguet<a name="tex2html80" href="#foot79"><sup>40</sup></a>
and I have developed a new proposal called the Mécénat
Global (or Global Patronage) which combines the idea of tax-support
and voluntary payments.<a name="tex2html81"
href="#foot136"><sup>41</sup></a> Every Internet subscriber would pay
a monthly fee to support certain arts that are shared on the Internet.
Each user could optionally divide up to a certain maximum portion of
her fee among her choice of works; the funds for each work would be
divided among the creative contributors to the work (but not the
publishers).  The totals thus assigned to various artists would also
provide a measure of each artist's popularity.  The system would then
distribute the rest of the money on the basis of that popularity,
using a cube-root or similar tapering-off function.</p>

<h3 id="makingitgood">MAKING DIGITAL INCLUSION GOOD</h3>

<p>The paper so far describes the factors that can make digital
inclusion good or bad.  These factors are part of human society and
subject to our influence.  Beyond just asking whether and when digital
inclusion is a good thing, we can consider how to make sure it is

<h4 id="legally">Defending freedom legally</h4>

<p>Full victory over the threats to digital freedom can only be
achieved through changes in laws.  Systematic collection or retention
of information on any person using computers and/or networks should
require a specific court order; travel and communication within any
country should normally be anonymous.  States should reject censorship
and adopt constitutional protections against it.  States should
protect their computing sovereignty by using only free software, and
schools should teach only free software in order to carry out their
mission to educate good citizens of a strong, free and cooperating

<p>To respect computer users' freedom to operate their computers,
states should not allow patents to apply to software or (more
generally) using computers in particular ways.  States should mandate
their own use of freely implementable, publicly documented formats for
all communication with the public, and should lead the private sector
also to use only these formats.  To make copyright acceptable in the
network age, noncommercial copying and sharing of published works
should be legal.  Commercial use of DRM should be prohibited, and
independently developed free software to access DRM formats should be

<p>To make these changes in laws happen, we need to organize.  The
Electronic Frontier Foundation (<a href="http://eff.org">eff.org</a>)
campaigns against censorship and surveillance.  End Software Patents
(<a href="http://endsoftpatents.org">endsoftpatents.org</a>) campaigns against
software patents.  The Free Software Foundation campaigns against DRM
through the site
<a href="http://DefectiveByDesign.org">DefectiveByDesign.org</a>.</p>

<h4 id="personally">Defending freedom personally</h4>

<p>While we fight these legislative battles, we should also personally
reject products and services designed to take away our freedom.  To
resist surveillance, we should avoid identifying ourselves to web
sites unless it is inherently necessary, and we should buy things
anonymously—with cash, not with bank cards.  To maintain control
of our computing, we should not use proprietary software or software
as a service.</p>

<p>Above all, we should never buy or use products that implement DRM
handcuffs unless we personally have the means to break them.  Products
with DRM are a trap; don't take the bait!</p>

<h4 id="others">Defending others' freedom</h4>

<p>We can take direct action to protect others' freedom in the digital
world.  For instance, we can remove the passwords from our wireless
networks—it is safe, and it weakens government surveillance
power.  (The way to protect the privacy of our own Internet
communications, to the extent that it is possible, is with end-to-end
encryption.)  If others use enough of the bandwidth to cause actual
inconvenience, we need to protect ourselves, but we can try gentle
methods first (such as talking with the neighbors, or setting a
password occasionally for a day or two), and keep the option of a
permanent password as a last resort.</p>

<p>When we publish, we should grant the users of our work the freedoms
they deserve, by applying an explicit license appropriate to the type
of work.  For works that state your thoughts or observations, and
artistic works, the license should permit at least noncommercial
redistribution of exact copies; any Creative Commons license is
suitable.  (I insisted on such a license for this article.)  Works
that do functional jobs, such as software, reference works and
educational works, should carry a free/libre license that grants users
the four freedoms.</p>

<h4 id="inclusioninfreedom">Inclusion in freedom</h4>

<p>In our efforts to help others in practical ways, we must avoid
doing them harm at a deeper level.  Until freedom is generally assured
in Internet use, projects for digital inclusion must take special care
that the computing they promote is the freedom-respecting kind.  This
means using free/libre software—certainly not Windows or MacOS.
This means using free, documented formats, without DRM.  It also means
not exposing the supposed beneficiaries to surveillance or censorship
through the computing practices to which they are being

<h3 id="footnotes">Footnotes</h3>

<dt id="foot100">… cafe.<a

<dt id="foot101">… police<a

<dt id="foot102">… individuals.<a

<dt id="foot103">… groups<a

<dt id="foot104">… “terrorism.”<a

<dt id="foot105">… “terrorists.”<a

<dt id="foot20">… dissidents.<a
<dd>See the documentary, Condor: the First War on
  Terror, by Rodrigo Vásquez (2003).

<dt id="foot106">… dissidents.<a

<dt id="foot107">… site.<a

<dt id="foot108">… list.<a

<dt id="foot109">… censorship.<a
<dd>See <a

<dt id="foot110">… Internet.<a
<dd>See <a

<dt id="foot28">… animals.<a
<dd>I support medical research
  using animals, as well as abortion rights.  Our defense of political
  freedom should not be limited to causes we agree with.

<dt id="foot111">… parents.<a

<dt id="foot112">… ways.<a
  href="http://www.networkworld.com/article/2255678/lan-wan/20-years-after-tiananmen--china-containing-dissent-online.html">  http://www.networkworld.com/article/2255678/lan-wan/20-years-after-tiananmen--china-containing-dissent-online.html</a>.

<dt id="foot113">… freedoms:<a
<dd>See <a

<dt id="foot114">… divided.<a
  href="/philosophy/why-free.html">http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/why-free.html</a> and
  href="/philosophy/shouldbefree.html">http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/shouldbefree.html</a> for other

<dt id="foot115">… programs,<a

<dt id="foot116">… users<a

<dt id="foot117">… GNU/Linux<a
<dd>See <a

<dt id="foot118">… volunteers.<a
  for some of their motives.

<dt id="foot119">… user,<a
<dd>See <a

<dt id="foot120">… files,<a

<dt id="foot121">… time.<a

<dt id="foot122">… own.<a

<dt id="foot123">… reference.<a
<dd>The standard in machine-readable form
  is only available to be “leased”;

<dt id="foot124">… patented.<a
http://www.mpegla.com/Lists/MPEG%20LA%20News%20List/Attachments/176/n_06-08-17_pr.pdf</a> (archived).

<dt id="foot125">… million.<a

<dt id="foot126">… Council.<a

<dt id="foot127">… them.<a

<dt id="foot128">… “piracy,”<a

<dt id="foot129">… property,”<a
  href="/philosophy/not-ipr.html">http://gnu.org/philosophy/not-ipr.html</a> for why this propaganda
  term is harmful.

<dt id="foot130">… purpose.<a
<dd>See <a

<dt id="foot66">… DRM.<a
<dd>Those publishers, in an act of doublespeak, call it “Digital
  Rights Management”.

<dt id="foot131">… 200.<a

<dt id="foot132">… charge.<a

<dt id="foot133">… days.<a

<dt id="foot134">… support.<a

<dt id="foot135">… revenue.<a
<dd>See <a
  for my 1992 proposal.

<dt id="foot79">… Muguet<a
<dd>Head of the Knowledge Networks and Information
  Society lab at the University of Geneva.
<dt id="foot136">… payments.<a

<dt id="foot137">… MP3<a
<dd>As of 2017 the patents on playing MP3 files have
reportedly expired.

<p><i><b>This essay was first published in the ITU's
2009 Kaleidoscope conference in Mar del Plata, Argentina</b></i></p>

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