The following document is a draft of a constitution for FreeCulture.org. The structure and recommendations contained herein will be evaluated on Date X (see Note 1 in Talk section) and refined into a permanent constitution.
The central goal of Free Culture is to engage students and youth in the creative and communicative potential of digital connectivity and the threats posed to it by the current intellectual property regime (see Note 2). Free Culture will also foster the growth of a free (as in freedom; or, libre) electronic culture, one that will show the potential of free media to connect, inform, and entertain.
The vision of Free Culture is the creation of a strong democratic, decentralized, and free culture. To this end, Free Culture will
- Continue to spread through national and international outreach to new campuses,
- Establish and maintain working relationships with other organizations with similar goals,
- Campaign against actions that threaten to limit access to our common culture,
- Organize lectures and other events to educate our campus communities,
- Promote free culture in the media, and
- Promote the production and use of free cultural artifacts in our campus communities and in general.
- Bottom-up. Our national structure exists to help focus and direct the disparate local forces. We aim to be a participatory organization, with ideas permeating upwards from local chapters rather than disseminated outwards by central fiat. The energy, the drive, and the manpower come from the ground up.
We do not have a command-and-control structure. We make our decisions through consensus, and if an issue becomes divisive enough that charting a generally acceptable course of action becomes impossible, you always have the right to fork.
- A student movement. We may be law students, but we are not lawyers. We may be business students, but we are not CEOs. We may be political science students, but we are not elected officials. Accordingly, we don't have the resources or experience of established, "grown-up" civil liberties or consumer/digital rights groups; let's not try to be them. What we do have is this: an insider's view of issues affecting students, youth, and academia today; many hands to do the work of a free culture, and warm bodies to be its ambassadors; and boundless energy and optimism. We are not a "student version" of any pre-existing organization; however, we should look to established groups with similar aims for inspiration and recommendations, and encourage and collaborate their work where it coincides with our goals.
- Freedom never sleeps. Our regularly scheduled meetings always happen. They can be moved, individuals can take vacations, but the meetings cannot be canceled. People should never wonder, "Is there a meeting this week?"
As a corollary to that, we work right through school vacations and breaks. The forces that we are facing -- corporate malice, legislative indifference, and public ignorance -- do not take summer vacations. It's fine if individuals have to drop offline, but those who can must keep the ball rolling.
- Authority follows responsibility. People who do work and take responsibility for making sure things get done get titles and standing to help make decisions. We like to model ourselves along the lines of an open source project in a lot of ways, so people in charge of different parts of the organization can be compared to people who maintain different sections of code. We need some official organizational structure in order to deal with things like money or grants, but keep in mind when making decisions about how our organization should do things the question "how would we do it if we were an open source project?" Organizations like the Mozilla Foundation do exist, and they are good role models, but we have to keep in mind that all open source projects rely heavily on distributed volunteer labor, as do we, and we shouldn't treat our volunteers like troops to be ordered around.
- Idealism, not fundamentalism. Two modes of thinking that we have to be wary of, both in ourselves and in our allies, are absolute purism and spineless "pragmatism". By absolute purism I mean sacrificing all effectiveness in the name of an abstract idea. The corporations we are fighting have built many tools that can be useful for activism, and there is some poetic justice in using their tools against them (although we have to beware of the "One Ring" effect - i.e., If you use the methods of your enemy to destroy him, you become your enemy.). By spineless "pragmatism" I mean abandoning all principles in the name of convenience. If we have to wait until it is convenient to fight for a free culture, we could be waiting for a long time. If choosing freedom becomes inconvenient, that's a sign that we have to put up a fight before choosing freedom becomes impossible.
As of next semester, Free Culture will operate on a committee system. The core committee will have final authority on matters of policy and organizational agenda. In addition to the core, four other committees will be established, each with a coordinator responsible for communication between the committee and the rest of the organization. The coordinator will also maintain an official task list for their committee and set the agenda for meetings. At least one member of each non-Core committee will also be a member of the Core committee (see Note 3). The committees are as follows:
The Core Committee
The Core Committee will set policy, distribute funding, and approve major decisions (see Note 4). Core members will also be responsible for contact with outside organizations and for acquiring grant money. Within the core will be an executive director, who has the authority to call for consensus on an issue and thereby finalize decisions. There will also be a secretary, responsible for: (see Note 5)
- Writing an agenda for each core meeting,
- Keeping minutes of Core meetings,
- Maintaining a task list for the Core, and
- Maintaining a comprehensive list of Free Culture membership (including committee membership) and contact information.
The Web Committee
The Web Commitee will maintain the Web site, email lists, and wiki, as well as any other technical tasks. (see Note 6)
The Media Committee
The Media Commitee will
- orchestrate press campaigns, including the writing and distribution of press releases, replying to requests for interviews, and responding to stories and editorials; and,
- create resources such as flyers, graphics, videos, Web presentations, and other promotional media.
The media committee will also maintain a database of press contacts and an online archive of media coverage. Major campaigns and events should be accompanied by press releases, sent to media contacts with appropriate contact information.
The Campaign Committee
The Campaign Committee will organize national or international campaigns, prior examples of which include the Undead Art or Barbie in a Blender campaigns. The committee shall orchestrate campaigns as appropriate. Campaigns should be organized in collaboration with allied organizations. (One candidate for a Spring 2005 campaign is the Free Culture Tour, to be organized in collaboration with the Center for Social Media.)
Ad-hoc committees may be established by the Core or at the initiative of local chapters with Core approval to deal with specific temporary projects.
One person may be a member of multiple committees. Free Culture does not dictate the structure of individual campus groups, but each campus chapter should encourage members to become involved with national committees. Not every member of a local chapter must be a member of a committee. Local chapters will be responsible for their own campus organizing, including bringing speakers to campus (outside of nationally organized tours and other campaigns).
Committee selection will proceed as follows. Membership and positions in the Core Committee will be finalized by 10 January 2005. Criteria for membership will be time committment and the consensus of other longstanding Core participants. Membership in other committees will be the same, approved by 2/3 vote (see Note 7) of the Core. It will be finalized by 15 January. Committee membership will last until Date X. Members may be admitted to or removed from committees by the 2/3 vote of that committee. Committee members may also voluntarily leave committees.
The Core Committee should meet at least once a month (see Note 8) by conference call. Other committees will meet as appropriate, at least twice per semester. Each Core Committee meeting will include reports from the coordinators of the other committees. This does not, however, preclude direct communication or collaboration between committees.
In addition to Core meetings, each local chapter should maintain a weblog with an RSS (or Atom) feed, updated preferably at least once a week. These weblogs will be aggregated at freeculture.org and used as a way to help move ideas through the organization. The Web committee will assist local chapters in establishing and using their blogs as needed.
There will be at least one physical meeting of the Core each semester. The time and place will be determined based on what is most convenient for the greatest number of Core members. It may coincide with other major Free Culture events.
The list of membership and contact information maintained by the Core secretary (to include phone numbers, email, and instant-messaging contacts) will also be made available to all (see Note 9) committee members.
Local Organizing Guidelines
The local chapter is the heart of Free Culture and one its distinguishing characteristics. Each chapter shall have significant autonomy, though chapters are encouraged to collaborate with each other, the national organization, and other groups as they see fit.
Each campus chapter of Free Culture is responsible for tailoring an organizing strategy to their local needs. However, Free Culture offers a few organizational recommendations:
- Local chapters should use materials developed by the Media Committee, their own members, and outside sources like Public Knowledge and Creative Commons to educate their campus communities about Free Culture issues.
- They should organize lectures, media presentations, or other events to further their educational outreach.
- They should work locally around issues in their communities.
- They should encourage the production and use of free media, software, etc. on their campuses.
- They should participate in broader Free Culture campaigns in collaboration with other chapters and organizations.
- They should recruit and train new members to work with central committees.
One of the first tasks of the Media Committee in the Spring semester will be to work with the Core to develop a campus organizing handbook that will spell out in more detail how local organizing should proceed. It should include examples of local campaigns for chapters to execute and templates for promotional media.
National / International Strategy
The national strategy for Free Culture will center around campaigns. (see Note 10) Free Culture will use its campaigns, which may include national events, to garner media attention and educate the public as well as elected officials.
These campaigns may be web-based or physical in nature. Conferences, rallies, web stunts, and contests are all good examples of campaign events.