Archive:Chapter Kickstarter

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So, you've decided to start a Free Culture chapter at your school. Great! This Activist Packet is designed to guide you through the process of founding a group. We hope you find it useful.

No pain, no gain

We should warn you: starting a chapter is no easy task. Forming a new student group is never easy, and Free Culture chapters are no exception. It takes considerable effort and time, and probably a little money too. You will be challenged; you may be confronted. You will be forced to leave your comfort zone. Your skills -- particularly in leadership, organization, and communication -- will be tested. But and your fellow chapters will do what they can to help. Don't hesitate to ask for input or advice.

The good news

Starting a new student group is an exciting experience and a worthy addition to your time as a student. You will meet new people and have new experiences. You will have the opportunity to talk with experts and leaders. You will work with -- and against -- elected and appointed officials, faculty, and administrators. You will hone your skills and develop greater confidence. You will develop expertise. You will have a chance to influence decision-making, and to educate. Most importantly, you will work to defend your rights and to improve the lives of others.

(By the way: all of the above look really good on a résumé.)

What is free culture?

How to Start a Chapter

Registering with Students for Free Culture

1. Contact to say that you're interested in starting a chapter. Someone from the org will get back to you to discuss getting your chapter off the ground and eventually make you an official chapter.

2. Register your chapter with our handy-dandy chapter registration form.

3. Eventually (usually in the late summer/fall) we'll send you a box of swag from Students for Free Culture and our partner organizations. Yay for swag!

Getting started locally

1. Contact your school administration to find out how to make your chapter an official club/organization at your school. Most schools will require a mission statement, constitution, bylaws, or some combination of the above. (Here are some example constitutions.) You don't have to be an official group in order to hold meetings, but it's a good idea to get started on the process promptly.

2. Find out how to reserve rooms for meetings. Pick a date, time, and place and schedule your first Free Culture meeting.

3. Advertise! Try to give yourself a week or so advance notice before your first meeting. Flyer campus hot-spots with your club name and the date, time, and place of your meeting. (Sample flyer here.) Putting table tents in the dining hall are good, too. (Sample table tent here.) If your campus requires flyers/table tents to be approved, make sure to give yourself time to do this. (Lots of old flyers here; merge it with the Media Dump and pick the best stuff to update the page)

Post meeting advertisements in the student list-serv or other public notification systems. Find other student groups with similar interests--Linux user groups, music organizations, Universities Allied for Essential Medicines, political groups, art societies, anime clubs--and come to their meetings to plug free culture. Sometimes there may be classes offered that are Free Culture-friendly (e.g. communications/media studies/art classes dealing with the Internet or copyright)--with the professor's permission, attend and give plugs there too. Make a Facebook event for your meeting and invite your friends.

If your school has an activities fair at the beginning of the year, sign up for a table and talk to new students about joining. If you have swag, don't give it to just anyone. Give it to people who actually look interested. Make sure to have a sign-up sheet and get their email addresses. Email these new recruits to remind them about the first meeting a day or so in advance.

4. Hold your first meeting. Get there well ahead of time to make sure things run smoothly. Explain what free culture is, why it's important, and what things you're thinking about doing that semester/year. Lots of chapters have shown movies/presentations at their first meetings--see the "Movies" section below. Try to keep it from getting too long. Make sure to get the email address of everyone who shows up! If you can afford to get a pizza or other snacks, that's not a bad idea.

5. Schedule more meetings. Reserve that room for the entire semester, if you can. It's generally good to have meetings at the same time in the same place, every week or every two weeks. Figure out what schedule works best for your group. Before each meeting, come up with at least a rudimentary agenda (list of things to discuss). It helps keep meetings short and on-task.

6. Talk to professors who might be interested in free culture issues. Computer science, film, and intellectual property law professors are often helpful. While having a faculty advisor for your group isn't necessary, it can be very helpful for getting around bureaucratic red tape.

7. Once you have a decent number of members, find out how to get funding from your school. Most budget hearings are in the spring, but usually there's a little money reserved for new groups in the fall. Budgets are good. They mean you don't have pay for flyers or food, and you can have much cooler parties and other events!

Establishing an online presence

Email list - List-servs are key for keeping track of your members and making sure they know about meetings and events. If your school doesn't make email lists for student groups, ask the Webteam and they can set a list up for you.

Blog - Blogs are useful for advertising, as well as discussing current events or recording how a campaign went for future reference. There are lots of services that host blogs for free, like open-source Livejournal and Wordpress. If you'd like a blog on, ask the Webteam to make one for your chapter from our blog farm. Wherever you decide to host your blog, let the Webteam know so it can get added to the chapter aggregator on the front page of Students for Free Culture. It's useful for seeing what other chapters are up to!

Wiki - Wikis are good for organizing future events, posting meeting agendas and minutes, and keeping track of who's doing what. If your chapter doesn't have its own hosting, ask the Webteam to make you a wiki from our wiki farm.

Facebook - Make a Facebook group for your chapter. Join other free culture-related groups. Make friends with Free Culture dot Org!

How to Win Members and Influence People!

New Chapter Tips

Organizing manual - this could probably use an update/edit.

Activist Links

  • Write editorials for campus papers. Whether to advance a particular campaign or just talk about free culture issues in general, editorials are great for raising awareness and persuading people. Often campus papers like to run material from regular students and/or are desperate to fill column space, so make them happy!

A Free Culture Activist's Reading/Watching/Listening List


You should also be reading these blogs in order to keep up with current events, and have something to talk about at your meetings besides administrative stuff:



Tangentially Related

  • Multitude by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri - Interesting and surprisingly optimistic text on globalization and the future of grassroots organization.
  • Kevin Kelly, Out of Control - This book is about our ideas about control, and the future we are plunging into. The book is free to read, but I do not believe it is free to change. We're still working on reading it.


  • Freedom of Expression by Kembrew MacLeod
  • Free Culture By Lawrence Lessig, Keynote Speaker at the O'Reilly Open Source Convention 2002, San Diego
    • In his address before a packed house at the Open Source Convention, Lawrence Lessig challenges the audience to get more involved in the political process. Lawrence, a tireless advocate for open source, is a professor of law at Stanford Law School and the founder of the school's Center for Internet and Society. He is also the author of the best-selling book Code, and Other Laws of Cyberspace. Here is the complete transcript of Lawrence's keynote presentation made on July 24, 2002.
    • Transcript, MP3, Ogg
  • Good Copy Bad Copy
  • Steal This Film part one, part two
  • Alternative Freedom - another free culture documentary
  • Manufacturing Consent - a classic film from Noam Chomsky's book that illustrates how media corporations are at the bidding of their advertisers, who control what can and cannot be published
  • Patently a Problem - Australian film on the effect of biotech patents, the idea of patenting a gene sequence, "closed" rather than "open" science, etc.
  • Craig Baldwin's Sonic Outlaws - an experimental documentary on negativland, tape beatles, ebn and other free culture warriors.
  • A Fair(y) Use Tale
  • "The Future of Intellectual Property on the Internet"
    • A debate from October 1, 2000 at Harvard between Free Culture author Lawerence Lessig and former head of the MPAA Jack Valenti over the impact of the Internet on copyright law. RealVideo, Approx. 1 hour and 40 minutes.
  • Creative Commons Videos - short and to-the-point, these videos are great for introducing people to the concept of the Creative Commons
  • Trusted Computing by Benjamin Stephan and Lutz Vogel
  • How Software Patents Actually Work by Gavin Hill

Remixes and mash-ups

  • Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Edit
  • "The Grey Video"
  • Gimmie the Mermaid - Negativland video actually made using Disney's own equipment by one of their employees after hours.


Event Ideas and Materials

Local projects

Undead Art

Screen zombie films and their remixes. Good for around Halloween.


Promote and attend your local Copynight to talk about copyright issues. If there isn't one in your area, or it's only open to 21+, start your own meetup!

CC Art Show

CC Remix Contest

Free Your PC

Help frosh get their new computers going and introduce them to Linux and other open-source software!

Face-to-Face Peer-to-Peer

Eyes on the Prize

Good for around Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

Bring a speaker to campus

Projects/Campaigns and Materials

Open Access

Antenna Alliance

Got a campus radio station? Start a Free Culture radio show and play free/CC-licensed/Antenna Alliance music!

Got campus recording facilities? Help local/student bands record and promote their music through the Antenna Alliance in exchange for CC-licensing their songs!

Don't got campus recording facilities? Talk to the music department and other student organizations to see if you could get your school to put money and space toward making a rudimentary recording studio for student use!