The Revolution Will Not Be Copyrighted: Why You Should Care About Free Culture

Presented at DEF CON 13 (2005), July 30, 2005, 7 p.m. (50 minutes)

The purpose of this paper is to explain and introduce the free culture movement and organization to the hacker community. We make the case that hackers should not only care about the ideas of free culture in the literal sense in that we seek to protect technological and digital rights, but also in a broader cultural sense. The idea of using and reusing bits of culture(the goal in a free culture) parallels the central tenets of the hacker ethos where manipulation, reuse, and recontextualization are essential. To that end, we'll show some compelling examples of art and music that we consider to be culture hacking. From reengineered Nintendo cartridges to electronic albums consisting almost totally of samples to an early 20th century modernist Mona Lisa hack, we'll demonstrate that some of the most innovative and radical cultural works are also the most derivative. We also intend to emphasize the significance of political and social action in order to maintain an environment of innovation and progress. There are highly significant cultural and technological issues that need to be addressed in society and we cannot stand by passively while leaving the control in the hands of the government, corporations, and other entities. In essence, free culture is deeply ingrained in the hacker ideal.


  • Fred Benenson -
    Fred Benenson graduated in May with honors from New York University's with a major in Philosophy and a minor in Computer Science. He founded the official NYU chapter of the national student organization He has worked professionally as a graphic designer, web programmer, and IT technician and owns at least one DeCSS shirt. When he's not involving himself in the future of intellectual property rights (or lack thereof), he likes to take pictures for his photoblog, solve the cube, and listen to copious amounts of electronic music. He is working as a Free Culture intern this summer at Creative Commons.
  • Elizabeth Stark -
    Elizabeth Stark is the main law student of She went to Brown University and is currently attending Harvard Law School, where she is involved with the Berkman Center for Internet and Society on such issues as the digital media project, internet filtering reports, and drafting an Internet and technology law casebook. She is also an editor of the Harvard Journal of Law Technology, soon to be a Teaching Assistant in Cyberlaw, and conducts research for Professor Jonathan Zittrain. Elizabeth has worked and studied in such places as Berlin, London, Paris, and Singapore, is highly interested in the impact of technology on digital culture, and is (semi-) obsessed with electronic music. She is spending the summer as a legal intern at the EFF, where she gets to think about such issues 24/7.


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