Introducing Free Culture Canada

The following was authored by Free Culture Canada, and was sent out in a recent GoodWork newsletter


Free Culture Canada wants to liberate our culture. Overly restrictive intellectual property laws are threatening to prevent us from using technology in ways that foster a culture of participation. The Free Culture movement seeks to promote a culture of freedom in the digital era by educating and advocating for:

  • use and creation of Creative Commons media and "Free" Software that encourages creativity and innovation;
  • fair copyright policy that strikes a balance between user's rights and artist's needs.

Free Culture Canada is a newly created national umbrella for the Free Culture international student movement. We aim to promote and support chapters of the Free Culture movement in colleges and universities across Canada. Because Canada has different legal issues to confront, it is important that we unite in creating policy that is friendly to the interests of Free Culture.


There are many ways to participate:

  • contact the chapter at your university or college
  • start new chapters in colleges and universities across Canada
  • help us run the national organization -- see
  • join the e-mail list and introduce yourself

We are seeking volunteers to contribute to existing chapters at:

  • University of Toronto freeculturetoronto at
  • McGill University, Montreal dartbanks at
  • Carleton University, Ottawa free.culture.carleton at

Find out more at:


(1) What role does technology play in liberating our culture?

Digital technologies make it easier for people to create and distribute culture. For example, they have dramatically reduced the entry cost of producing audio and film, and have given us new ways of synthesizing and modifying this media. The internet and digital media has allowed us to easily share this culture. Technology has presented the potential for alternative models for cultural production and participation, ones that challenges the highly centralized and monopolized ways of big media.

(2) If our culture is free, how will creators of culture get paid?

The "Free" in Free Culture does NOT mean "without cost"; we don't believe that creators of culture and information don't deserve to get paid. In fact, many companies (e.g. the Linux distribution business Redhat and record label Magnatune) have made money participating in the creation of Free Culture. Rather, the "Free" in Free Culture refers to *freedom*.

As humans, we are all swimming in the culture that we create, be it in the form of written words, images, audio, video, and other multimedia. Free Culture believes that this culture belongs to all of us, and that we all deserve the freedom to not only access it but also to create something new from this existing media. As Isaac Newton once said: "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants."

In the digital era, it is a fallacy to treat culture as a physical, finite product of manufacturing, where there is a cost per unit. It only takes a certain investment of energy to create a cultural work, and after it's made, there is little to no cost to make one more digital copy of this work. Therefore, the royalty model is a poor model to recompense artists, researchers, computer programmers, and others who produce digital media.

"Peer production" is a term often used to represent modes of production that rely on the ability to build upon existing works. If we are not free to adapt existing culture and information to meet our creative needs as a society, we will be damned by "big media" who are currently using law and technology to lock down culture and control creativity, as the subtitle of the inspirational book "Free Culture" by Lawrence Lessig suggests (download the book Free on ).

(3) Then how is our culture being locked up?

  • Excessive copyright -- Copyright in Canada lasts 50 years after the death of the artist, whereas most commercial value is obtained very early into this term. This long term restricts old works from passing into the public domain in which they could be derived into new works without explicit permission of the artist.

  • All Rights Reserved de facto -- When you create a fixed work, it is automatically copyrighted for the full term, even if you don't add any copyright symbol or notice. That means by default you can not copy or "remix" that work without permission from the artist. Even if someone wanted to share their work, most creators don't know how to express this in a legally enforcable way. Creative Commons licenses for artistic works and Free Software licenses for computer programs help to unlock our culture and share it with the world.
  • DRM + anti-circumvention laws = rights infringement. --Digital Rights Management (DRM) is a technique used on digital media to restrict our use of media; copy- protection on CDs in the most common example of DRM. In the United States under the DMCA, it is illegal to break (circumvent) these protection measures even if it is to do something that is otherwise legitimate (e.g. make a personal backup copy of a CD, move your CD to your MP3 player, create a movie clip for the purposes of social commentary). Right now Canada's copyright policy is under review, and legislators are considering bringing anti-circumvention measures into Canada, which would be a great threat to our cultural freedom.
  • - Justin Barca, Free Culture Canada,


    SOME RIGHTS RESERVED -- this work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License. To view a copy of this license, visit or send a letter to Creative Commons, 543 Howard St., 5th Floor, San Francisco, California, 94105, USA.