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Has Freenet's Creator Sold Out?

By Carnage4Life in MLP
Thu Apr 12, 2001 at 01:07:36 PM EST
Tags: Internet (all tags)

There is an article on Inside about Ian Clarke the creator of Freenet, a decentralized peer-to-peer network designed to allow the distribution of information over the Internet without fear of censorship, which describes how his views seem slighltly altered now that he has a startup company.

The most significant indication of the change in Ian's outlook is that Hilary Rosen (yes, the head of the RIAA) stated that the following about Mr. Clarke '
'a thoughtful young guy. The hype on Freenet was, 'Oh, you know, content world, look out.' But when push comes to shove, he wants to be in a business. I think he has some general philosophical views, but I don't think that he is out there propagating Freenet to be the content industry's doom. What he conveyed to me was that he's about the technology. Not that information should be free, but that technology is an opportunity, and I've been there all along. I don't think either one of us felt like we were on such opposite sides of the table.''
The above seems to be in direct conflict with the kinds of comments typically attributed to Ian Clarke who is known to have called copyright "economic censorship" and has stated that "Freenet...must prevent the enforcement of copyright". The above quotes were obtained from the Slashdot Interview with Ian Clarke and the FreeNet Philosophy Page respectively.


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Would you be interested in an article that compares C# and Java?
o Yes. 53%
o No. 35%
o I am not a programmer. 11%

Votes: 81
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Slashdot
o an article on Inside
o Ian Clarke
o Freenet
o startup company
o Slashdot Interview with Ian Clarke
o FreeNet Philosophy Page
o Also by Carnage4Life

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Has Freenet's Creator Sold Out? | 20 comments (18 topical, 2 editorial, 0 hidden)
enforce vs respect (3.40 / 5) (#2)
by enterfornone on Thu Apr 12, 2001 at 04:10:19 AM EST

According to the FreeNet Philosophy page the goal of Freenet is to prevent censorship. It then goes on to say "You cannot guarantee freedom of speech and enforce copyright law".

From a technical POV this is obviously true. But just because you can't enforce copyright law, doesn't mean you can't respect it.

Clarke doesn't appear to have stated that copyright is bad, just that censorship is bad and preventing it has the side effect of stopping you enforcing copyright. He seems to support rewards for IP creators, something most warez puppies don't.

efn 26/m/syd
Will sponsor new accounts for porn.
ian clarke is rather confusing (3.83 / 6) (#6)
by eLuddite on Thu Apr 12, 2001 at 07:42:53 AM EST

"You cannot guarantee freedom of speech and enforce copyright law".

From a technical POV this is obviously true.

Clarke has never offered a substantive explanation for why it would be true. According to Clarke:

enforcement of [copyright] requires monitoring of communications, and you cannot be guaranteed free speech if someone is monitoring everything you say.

The word monitoring is intentionally misleading. There is neither requirement nor great effort to monitor for copyright violations, mere discovery has always been good enough. Moreover, it seems to me that any attempt to monitor my private life would be invasive and likely found illegal.

Even if legal, no amount of monitoring prevents the exercise of free speech where it exists. "We heard you say Linux!" "So what, free speech. Linux, Linux, Linux." As for public speech, well, it's meant to be heard ("monitored"). If no one listened to you, free speech wouldnt be useful.

I also dont see how a a copyright on my words silences yours. It's your free speech that's at issue, not mine. If I want you to say my mind, I'll give you that permission.

As it turns out, Clarke arrived at his free speech conclusion in order to justify Freenet. From a feed interview:

CLARKE: Okay. Let me clarify. I do think that copyright is a bad thing, but my initial motivation was not copyright. First, people started saying to me, "Hey, this could be used to distribute stuff without enforcing copyright." Then people started to say, "This can be used to distribute material without enforcing copyright, therefore, it shouldn't be allowed." And that put me in the situation where I had to justify what Freenet did. So yes, I did come to the conclusion that copyright was a bad thing, but that was not the initial motivation behind Freenet.

LOCKE: It seems like the initial motivation was free speech: unbounded ability to publish.


And thus free speech was redefined to mean the "unbounded ability to publish."

That isnt free speech. Free speech is speech protected from censorship. The "unbounded ability to publish" is not a protection against censorship, it is a rejection of the fact that holders of copyright material would like to have some input in how their material is used and distributed. Artists can continue to have rights and you can continue to speak your own mind, just like free speech intended.

The best you can say for freenet is that it can be used to circumvent censorship where it exists. That is very useful. But that does not mean (a) that censorship is necessarily immoral or illegal; (b) that freenet is necessary for free speech any more than it means that freenet is the only way to circumvent censorship. Where free speech exists (most everywhere) freenet is a tool to circumvent copyright, not censorship. Where it doesnt exist, copyright is immaterial because copyright has nothing to do with censorship in the first place. Books arent censored because of their copyright.

God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

Prince Clarke (4.00 / 2) (#4)
by slaytanic killer on Thu Apr 12, 2001 at 05:55:43 AM EST

There is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle, than to initiate a new order of things. For the reformer has enemies in all those who profit by the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order.
This is what faces Napster, and any other similar effort. So one obvious strategy is to ally with those who profit by the old order, just so the new order may be achieved.

I don't know whether we can trust people who do this; do we accept that perhaps these "sell-outs" are being pragmatic and fighting old enemies in insidious ways? And is our stance of acceptance but a permanent witholding of trust?

Now, of course in this situation it is a little bit odd to talk about our trust, as if it matters and decides everything. But the reason we consider these questions is because they seem likely to be situations we'll individually have to face one day, and technologies like peer-to-peer sharing are inherently community oriented.

Content rights? (3.00 / 2) (#9)
by error 404 on Thu Apr 12, 2001 at 10:10:17 AM EST

Is there a certain irony, in this context, in Slaytanic's use without attribution of Nicky Mac's words?

OK, NM's been dead half a millenium, so he isn't likely to sue. But attributing the quote (which Slaytanic did, in a subtle way, in the title) could lead some who are not yet familiar with Macciavelli to an interesting thinker.
Electrical banana is bound to be the very next phase
- Donovan

[ Parent ]

Very interesting point (none / 0) (#15)
by slaytanic killer on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 09:19:42 AM EST

That was what I once was all about, pointing people to information because I needed people to do that as well. But I've been less into that, thinking that people would just ask if they were curious. It was clear that I quoted it from somewhere, and when I've faced those situations I've done a Google search to find an answer...

[ Parent ]
The poll (3.00 / 5) (#5)
by Dacta on Thu Apr 12, 2001 at 06:33:27 AM EST

Have you read the articles on JavaWorld about C#? (Part 1, Part 2)They are pretty good - not at all "This is JavaWorld, therefore Java is better". They actually point out the advantages that C# does have, as well as its flaws. (Coming from a Delphi background myself, I love a lot of the things C# has and Java doesn't).

The article I'd really like to see (or write... hmm) is more about component-oriented development vs object oriented development, and how C# is designed from the ground up for components, as opposed to the OO view of Java. C# vs Java would be cool, too, though.

Uh, Java's got components too... (1.00 / 1) (#7)
by Shadowlion on Thu Apr 12, 2001 at 09:10:42 AM EST

C# is designed from the ground up for components, as opposed to the OO view of Java.

Yeah, except for that whole JavaBeans thing that makes it incredibly easy to write components in Java (JavaBeans being a standard part of the language).

C# may be a very good language (haven't really looked into it too deeply), but component creation is not a virtue is has by itself. Now, having said that, perhaps it makes writing components easier than Java - I don't know. But it's an outright false statement to say you can write components in C# and not in Java.

[ Parent ]
groan! (none / 0) (#19)
by Dacta on Sat Apr 14, 2001 at 01:59:23 AM EST

But it's an outright false statement to say you can write components in C# and not in Java

Where exactly did I say that?

[ Parent ]
Selling Out (4.00 / 4) (#8)
by lucas on Thu Apr 12, 2001 at 09:13:42 AM EST

I don't know... more power to him. All I can say is that, today, anytime you have something that is supposed to be liberating or freedom-oriented mixed with something that is for-profit, you're going to have a lot of controversy that won't go away... no matter how you cut it. There is also the tendency to elevate people onto artificial platforms and then, at the slightest infraction, drop it out from under them.

Let's be realistic: the guy came up with Freenet, but it's not like he's patenting it or something. I don't think it would be wrong to have a little consulting biz to set up installations with Freenet or something. It's free software - if his version has content control or some other bullshit, just strip it out of there. Big deal.

Selling out... (4.50 / 2) (#10)
by Nafai on Thu Apr 12, 2001 at 12:10:19 PM EST

In what way exactly has he "sold out"?

Has development of Freenet been significantly altered because of the existance of Uprizer?

Freenet code is freely avaiable. The upside article seems to say "Ian Clarke is starting a company with the purpose of making money from freenet." Is that wrong?

It seems to me that Ian is planning that Freenet will eventually be A Big Deal. If it does become huge, of course he wants to be one of the first ones there to reap some benefits of his creation. Besides, Ian does not control freenet, the whole architecture has been designed to NOT allow any central control. What does he have to "sell out" except his god-given talents as a programmer?

In what way exactly has he "sold out"? (3.66 / 3) (#12)
by pallex on Thu Apr 12, 2001 at 01:00:50 PM EST

Didnt you know - making money is bad now. Youre supposed to just sit on your arse, expecting other people to provide you with food, education, mp3s etc, shouting 'sell out' at people with the intelligence and motivation to actually Create something.

[ Parent ]
Ye gads... think people! (3.33 / 3) (#11)
by Signal 11 on Thu Apr 12, 2001 at 12:19:19 PM EST

This is why open source is so successful - sure, the maintainer can run away and start his own business. He can even co-opt some of the code he wrote, but this thing called the GPL prevents him from stopping others from keeping the project on track. Such a wonderful invention... be sure to thank Stallman on your way to work this morning.

Oh yeah, one other thing - maybe he's just politic'ing to buy himself time?

Society needs therapy. It's having
trouble accepting itself.

General Response To Comments (3.00 / 1) (#13)
by Carnage4Life on Thu Apr 12, 2001 at 01:40:58 PM EST

Many people are offended that I claim that Ian Clarke may have sold out and seem to think this is some how bashing the Freenet project. Quite frankly I don't care one way or the other about Freenet and could care less about whether it is GPLed or not.

I am interested however in what the motivations of Ian Clarke who supposedly was creating this product which would empitomize the idea of Information Wants To Be Free. From the first time I read Ian's pseudo-anarchistic writing I felt that he came off as another one of the "gimme" crowd that clusters around Slashdot that doesn't want to pay for anything and believes that they have a right to everything for free while the content creators are irrelevant.

I then concluded that he was either nothing more than an opportunistic w4r3z d00d cashing in on the new rhetoric that violating copyright is civil disobedience and is thus moral or that he was a virulent anarchist. Now with this new revelation it seems that there are new questions to be asked about his motivation.

Freenet has always been a rather unfriendly mechanism user interface-wise and is has been lambasted several times by a number of developers and activists. Now that Ian has debutted with his RIAA friendly company, one wonders if this was always his plan and Freenet was simply a strategy designed to get him in the radar of the VCs (making him a Machiavelian schemer) or whether he simply decided that making money of the RIAA and its ilk was more financially rewarding than ripping them off (making him simply an opportunist with a wavering moral code).

who said anything about RIAA friendliness? (none / 0) (#17)
by sanity on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 03:31:04 PM EST

I think that the point with Uprizer is that it really has little or nothing to do with the philisophical underpinnings of Freenet. It is no-more or less RIAA-friendly than any other software company which obeys the law (and how many readers of this post work for such companies?).

The point is that the Freenet architecture has some commercial applications beyond the protection of free speech and it is these that Uprizer hopes to explore. These do not in any way contradict or inhibit Freenet's ability to achieve its goals.

[ Parent ]

Reminds me of a song (none / 0) (#14)
by Ian A on Thu Apr 12, 2001 at 03:16:37 PM EST

Sell out
with me oh yeah
sell out
with me tonight
the record companies gonna give us lotsa money
and everythings gonna be all right

(rough translation from memory of song 'Sell Out' by Reel Big Fish, and I definitely think Ian Clarke, even if he has the coolest name on Earth, is a sellout)

Has Linux creator sold out? (none / 0) (#16)
by sanity on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 03:23:02 PM EST

In recent news, Linus Torvalds announced that he will be going to work for a software company. Since it is clearly impossible to make money without being evil, it is clear that he has sold out on his earlier marxist views which led to his creation of Linux, and which motivated him to place it under the Gnu Public License. The GPL is a clever piece of legal text designed to bring down capitalist society by making it impossible for anyone to make any money.

What a childish response. (none / 0) (#18)
by Carnage4Life on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 08:25:36 PM EST

In recent news, Linus Torvalds announced that he will be going to work for a software company. Since it is clearly impossible to make money without being evil, it is clear that he has sold out on his earlier marxist views which led to his creation of Linux, and which motivated him to place it under the Gnu Public License. The GPL is a clever piece of legal text designed to bring down capitalist society by making it impossible for anyone to make any money.

Which article did you read? It surely couldn't have been mine to make you draw such an irrelevant parallel. Almost a decade ago, a college student shares code he has hacked up that is mostly crap but has promise. This code is improved on by others under his leadership until it is a quality piece of software capable of challenging proprietary options. Later on he decides to work for a software company that has a marginal interest in his OS. This is Linus' story.

Ian Clarke creates a product that is based on a philosophy and constantly reiterates this philosophy every chance he gets. He clearly states who he perceives as "the enemy" (Linus has never done that by the way) and goes to some lengths to demonize their views and opinions. Suddenly he decides to create a company based on the technology of this philosophical product and becomes friendly with the so-called "enemy". He then starts making inroads to becoming potential partners with the aforementioned enemy.

Like I've said before I don't care whether the product or not is GPLed but am more interested in Ian Clarke's motivation for creating Freenet (did he always plan to exploit it or did this opportunity just fall in his lap) than whether Freenet will be forked or if it is GPLed.

This may explain while certain functionality (e.g. search) is missing from Freenet which prevented it from being to much of a thorn in the side of his potential business partners.

[ Parent ]
Huh? (none / 0) (#20)
by sanity on Sun Apr 15, 2001 at 05:10:01 PM EST

I think that if you look at quotes rather than journalist's interpretation of his opinion (journalists love pitting people against each-other, reality is rarely so simple) then you will see that his primary concern is with freedom of speech, and the copyright thing is largely a side-show. The problem with copyright enforcement infringes on people's right to communicate.

Remember that it is the copyright industries who attack Freenet, not Clarke who attacks them.

Additionally, where do you gather that he is suddenly friends with the RIAA? Is this just because he met with her and didn't jump across the table to strangle her? Uprizer is providing means to deliver information more efficiently, how exactly does it damage freedom of speech (Clarke's actual concern) to help companies, which may or not include members of the RIAA, to save some money?

[ Parent ]

Has Freenet's Creator Sold Out? | 20 comments (18 topical, 2 editorial, 0 hidden)
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