Rhea Myers

What Is Free Culture? (Again)

Free Culture[1] is the culture of an Open Society[2]. An open society must be Pluralistic[3]. Freedom of Speech[4] is a necessary condition for pluralism.

Freedom of speech can be Negatively and Positively[5] supported.

Negative support is lack of legal and institutional opposition to free speech. Traditionally this means lack of government censorship, but as media and corporations mediate social relations ever increasingly this means law and institutional power as it relates to all players in society.

Positive support is economic and technological support for free speech. Traditionally this has meant innovations in the physical means of reproduction and the legal means of charging for it.

In this scheme, alternative licensing schemes are a technology, albeit a legal technology.

It could be argued that P2P is negative support rather than positive innovation; it removes legal and institutional opposition to free exchange. This shows that these categories must be dynamic. It also shows that positive and negative freedom can be in tension. Berlin or Mill[6] are helpful in considering this.


  1. “Free Culture” - Lawrence Lessig.
  2. “The Open Society And Its Enemies” - Karl Popper.
  3. “Four Essays On Liberty” - Isaiah Berlin.
  4. 1 ibid
  5. 3 ibid.
  6. “On Liberty” - John Stuart Mill.

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