Students for Free Culture , formerly known as , is an international student organization working to promote free cultural ideals, such as cultural participation and access to information. It was inspired by the work of forming Stanford, now Harvard, law professor Lawrence Lessig , who wrote the book Free Culture , and it frequently collaborates with other prominent free culture NGOs , including Creative Commons , Electronic Frontier Foundation , and Public Knowledge . Students for Free Culture has over 30 chapters on college campuses around the world, [2] and a history of grassroots activism.

Free Culture, Free Culture, and other variations on the “free culture” theme, but none of these are its official name. It is officially Students for Free Culture, as set for the new bylaws that were ratified by its chapters on October 1, 2007, which changed its name from to Students for Free Culture. [3]


Students for Free Culture has stated its goals in a “manifesto”:

The mission of the Free Culture is to build a bottom-up, participatory structure to society and culture, rather than a top-down, closed, proprietary structure. Through the democratizing power of digital technology and the Internet, we can place the tools of creation and distribution, communication and collaboration, teaching and learning in the hands of the common person. Oppression will slowly but surely vanish from the earth. [4]

It has now been published to a more “official” mission statement, but some of its goals are:

  • Decentralization of creativity-getting ordinary people and communities involved with art, science, journalism and other creative industries
  • Reforming copyright, patent, and trademark law in the public interest, which is creators are not stifled by old creators
  • Making information available to the public


According to its website, [5] Students for Free Culture has four main functions within the free culture movement:

  • Creating and providing resources for its chapters and for the general public
  • Outreach to youth and students
  • Networking with other people, companies and organizations in the free culture movement
  • Issue advocacy on behalf of its members


Initial stirrings at Swarthmore College

Students for Free Culture had its origins in the Swarthmore Coalition for the Digital Commons (SCDC), a student group at Swarthmore College . The SCDC was founded in 2003 by Luke Smith and Nelson Pavlosky , and was originally focused on issues related to free software , digital restrictions management , and treacherous computing , inspired widely by the Free Software Foundation . [6] After watching Lawrence Lessig’s OSCON 2002 speech entitled “free culture” [7] however, they expanded the club ‘ S scope to cover cultural participation in general (and rather in the world of software and computers). In September of 2004, SCDC was renamed Free Culture Swarthmore , laying the groundwork for Students for Free Culture and making it the first existing chapter.

OPG v. Diebold case

Within a couple of months of founding the SCDC, Smith and Pavlosky became embroiled in the controversy surrounding Diebold Election Systems (now Premier Election Solutions ), a voting machine manufacturer accused of making bug-ridden and insecure electronic voting machines. The SCDC had been concerned about electronic voting machines using proprietary software. Their alarm grew when a copy of Diebold’s internal e-mail archive, the Internet, revealing questionable practices at Diebold and possible flaws with Diebold’s machines, and they were spurred into action when Diebold began sending legal threats to voting activists who posted the e- Mails on their websites. Diebold was claiming that the e-mails were their copyrighted material, And that’s what it’s all about. The SCDC, the inevitable legal threats.

Diebold sent takedown notices under the DMCA to the SCDC’s ISP , Swarthmore College. Swarthmore took the SCDC website, and the SCDC co-founders sought legal representation. [8] They contacted the Electronic Frontier Foundation for help, and discovered that they had an opportunity to sign on to an existing lawsuit against Diebold, OPG v. Diebold , with co-plaintiffs from a non-profit ISP called the Online Policy Group which also had legal threats from Diebold. With pro bono legal representation from EFF and the Stanford Cyberlaw Clinic , they sued Diebold for abuse copyright law to suppress freedom of speech online. After a year of legal battles,

The network of contacts that Smith and Pavlosky have built up during the lawsuit, including dozens of students who have also hosted the Diebold memos on their websites, gave them the opportunity to The SCDC. They purchased the domain name and started building a website, while contacting student activists at other schools who could help them start the organization. launching at Swarthmore

On April 23, 2004, Smith and Pavlosky annoncé the official launch of, [9] in an event at Swarthmore College featuring Lawrence Lessig as the keynote speaker [10] [11] (Lessig released HAD His book Free Culture less than A month beforehand.) The SCDC became the first chapter (beginning the process of changing its name to Free Culture Swarthmore), and students from other schools in the area who attended the chapters on their campuses, including Bryn Mawr College and Franklin and Marshall . [12]

Internet campaigns has been launched in a series of Internet campaigns, in an attempt to raise its profile and bring it to the attention of college students. These covered issues ranging from-have Defending artistic freedom ( Barbie in a blender ) to fighting the Induce Act (Save the iPod), from celebrating Creative Commons licenses and the public domain ( Undead Art ) Opposing to business method patents ( Cereal Solidarity ). While these one-shot websites succeeded in attracting attention from the press and encouraged students to get involved, they did not directly help the local chapters, and the organization’s concentrates less on web campaigns than it did in the past. HOWEVER,

Increased emphasis on local chapters

Today when? ] The organization focuses on providing services to its local campus chapters, including web services such as mailing lists and wikis, pamphlets and materials for tabling, and organizing conferences. Active chapters are site location is schools Such As New York University (NYU), Harvard , MIT , Fordham Law , Dartmouth , University of Florida , Swarthmore , USC , Emory , Reed , and Yale .

The NYU chapter made headlines when it began protesting outside of record stores against DRM on CDs during the Sony rootkit scandal, [13] resulting in similar protests around New York and Philadelphia. [14]

In 2008, the MIT chapter developed and released YouTomb , a website to track videos removed by DMCA takedown from YouTube . [15]

Other activities at local chapters include:

  • Art shows featuring Creative Commons -licensed art, [16] [17]
  • Mix CD -exchanging flash mobs , [18]
  • film- remixing contests, [19] [20]
  • iPod Liberating parties Where the organizers help people replace the proprietary DRM-encumbered operating system on Their iPods with a free software system like Rockbox , [21]
  • Antenna Alliance [22] has That project provides free recording space to bands, releases Their music online under Creative Commons licenses, and Distributes the music to college radio stations, [23]
  • a campaign to Promote Open Access are university campuses. [24]


Students for Free Cultivated as a loose confederation of student groups on different campuses, but it has been turned into a tax-free non-profit.

With the passage of official bylaws, Students for Free Culture now has a clear governance structure which makes it accountable to its chapters. The supreme decision-making body is the Board of Directors, which is a once-a-year by the chapters, using a Schulze method for voting. It is meant to make long-term, high-level decisions, and should not meddle excessively in lower-level decisions. Practical everyday decisions will be made by the Core team, composed of chapters and meet the expectance requirements. Really low-level decisions and minutiae will be handled by a coordinator, who will ideally be a paid employee of the organization, and other volunteers and assistants. A new board of directors was elected in February 2008, [25] and a new Core Team was assembled shortly thereafter. There is no coordinator yet. When? ]


  1. Jump up^ Students for Free Culture »About. URL: Accessed: 2011-12-04. (Archived by WebCite® at
  2. Jump up^, Students for Free Culture chapters
  3. Jump up^, Students for Free
  4. Jump up^, Free Culture manifesto
  5. Jump up^, About Students for Free Culture
  6. Jump up^, “New group to fight RIAA, Microsoft” from the Swarthmore Phoenix,
  7. Jump up^ Lessig, Lawrence. “ crosses 13 – Lessig” . Retrieved June 25, 2016 .
  8. Jump up^ “File Sharing Pits Copyright Against Free Speech” . The New York Times . 3 November 2003 . Retrieved June 25, 2016 .
  9. Jump up^, Students for Free Culture blog: Official Launch
  10. Jump up^ Nelson Pavlosky (1 January 2004). “Lessig speaks at Swarthmore” . Retrieved June 25, 2016 – via Internet Archive.
  11. Jump up^, Legal Affairs article on the launch
  12. Jump up^, Wired News – “Students Fight Copyright Hoarders”
  13. Jump up^ “ – Firestorm rages over lockdown on digital music” . Retrieved June 25, 2016 .
  14. Jump up^ “Copy Cats”,
  15. Jump up^ Guo, Jeff. “YouTomb Takes Stock of YouTube Takedowns” . Retrieved 2008-09-09 .
  16. Jump up^, NYU’s CC art show
  17. Jump up^, “Sharing is Daring” CC art show at Harvard
  18. Jump up^, Santa Cruz “face to face peer to peer” flashmob
  19. Jump up^, NYU’s Movie Remix 2006
  20. Jump up^, USC FC NOTLD speed remix contest
  21. Jump up^, Newsforge – Liberating iPods in Cambridge
  22. Jump up^ カ カ 店 店 店 店 店. Retrieved June 25, 2016 .
  23. Jump up^, Boston Phoenix, Antenna Alliance Offers Free Studio Time
  24. Jump up^, FreeCulture Taking Action on Open Access
  25. Jump up^, Spring 2008 Board Election results

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