WOS 2 / Proceedings / Panels / Eröffnung / Volker Grassmuck / skript
Ladies and Gentlemen, dear friends, welcome to the Wizards of OS 2.

No, this is not a conference about a nearly forgotten operating system developed in an unsuccessful collaboration of IBM and Microsoft. Nor does "OS" stand for "Open Source" -- a more common misunderstanding -- but indeed for "operating systems". The guiding concept behind the series of conferences and workshops under this name is a notion of "operating system" that is open enough to reflect upon technical systems and social systems alike. Binary Code regulates human behaviour -- the thesis of Larry Lessigs -- and therefore needs to be subject to public discussion about what kind of cyberspace we want to live in.

To talk about "freedom" in software might mean something specific, but it makes as much sense as in the context of society as a whole.

Knowledge is a peculiar thing. As has often been remarked, it is quite different from material goods. I receive knowledge from you without diminishing yours. I learn, say a musical instrument, by imitating others. Until eventually I might find my own language, and become able to create works for others to enjoy. We're social animals. Sharing knowledge is natural to us.

Knowledge can be turned into a secret. By only conveying it to selected pupils, and calling down the wrath of the gods if they tell it to somebody else. By non- disclosure agreements. By locking away the source code.

Knowledge can be turned into a marketable good. The printing industry established the concept of knowledge as property. Books are transferred like any other material good.

Digitization set information free from any physical embodyment. It can now flow as easyly between Vancouver and Tokyo as between two people in a face- to-face conversation.

The Internet started out in a setting that required neither secrecy nor marketability. Without any exterior obstacles, knowledge was flowing freely. The intellectual property industry was rather late in catching on. But now they set all their resources into endowing digital works with properties of material goods. They want to make them non-copyable, non-transferrable, useless for learning how they are made.

"Free software was only the beginning" is written on the conference posters. Not of freedom altogether, of course, but of freedom in the realm of digital knowledge.

The WOS2 has two focal points: the information commons and the public domain. A commons is the property of a community. Like free software, that utilizes copyright, but within the community turns it into copyleft.

By public domain, I'm not referring to the technical term in anglo-american copyright law, but to a -- maybe more European notion of public -- as in tax- financed -- knowledge infrastructure. The schools and universities, the libraries and public broadcasting. This is the foundational layer -- the operating systems -- of the knowledge order on which every other form of knowledge transaction and transformation rests.

Freedom is NOT something that at one point you just have. It only exists if you defend it. While the focus is on constructive approaches of open knowledge communities, we will also have to talk about threats to this openness -- software patents, the Cyber Crime Convention, the Hague Agreement, the revision of copyright laws in accordance with the EU Directive (the first German draft is due in four weeks).

The Wizards of OS is not a well-balanced conference. It is partial in favor of openness and freedom. We therefore invite you to join in, and make this into a strong statement that open cultures and free knowledge are not utopian notions but that they actually work.

This conference received support from many friends and partners. Among our financial supporters are the "Project Future. Berlin in the Information Society", and the the Initiative "Security in the information society" by the German Ministry of Economics. One that we are especially proud of is the Center for the Public Domain. The Center, formerly known as Red Hat Center, is a philanthropic foundation dedicated to the preservation of a healthy and robust public domain. It seeks to call attention to the importance of the public domain and to spur effective, practical solutions and responses. Its work is animated by the conviction that new legal regimes, social institutions and transparent technologies must be created to fortify the information commons.

In other words, it has basically the same aims as the Wizards of OS. The Center is a natural partner for the WOS, and we're very proud to be among the academic and activist institutions that Bob Young, James Boyle, John Gilmore, Larry Lessig and the others on the board of directors have decided to support.

Enjoy the conference.

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