The Students for a Free Culture conference, hashtag #fcx, drew participants from throughout the U.S., who negotiated filthy weather on their way to Washington, D.C. Organizer Ben Moskowitz congratulated them not only for making their way through the snow, but also for recognizing the importance of Washington, D.C. for people who care about copyright and creativity. Students for a Free Culture started out in 2003 when a couple of Swarthmore students hacked into Diebold company emails showing how shaky and riggable electronic voting machines were. The organization now has dozens of chapters all over the country and internationally, and it focuses on making information in the higher educational environment as open and accessible as possible.
Saturday was full of great speakers, including Public Knowledge's Gigi Sohn, SPARC's Heather Joseph, the Chilean digital activist Claudio Ruiz, Harvard scholar Jonathan Zittrain, Educause's Steve Worona, and University of Michigan open courseware maker Garin Fons. It had Washington wonk presence, including the kindly and funny Zachary Katz. He's from the Federal Communications Commission, and was begging people to send any insights and information about the changing information environment, and particularly about broadband use, the FCC's way. (The Obama Administration finally brought the FCC into the 21st century, and now if you want to make a video podcast of your input and send it along, you can with a click.) Sunday was a roll-up-your-sleeves unconference.
For me it was a surprise and a thrill to face an audience that clapped and cheered at the news about the success of the codes of best practices in fair use. These activists, skilled as organizers, really understood the power of community. They also understood the importance of getting safe access to copyrighted popular culture. For them, defense of fair use's "floating public domain," personalized according to need, was a natural. On the spot, two students from American University decided to form the first AU chapter, and I get to be the faculty sponsor. Can't wait to see AU on the roster!