Law in the Internet Society
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What does a 'free' job look like?

-- By JacobusVanEssen - 06 Dec 2009

'The Line'

The endnote of professor Moglen in the last class of the semester was a clear message: In our (professional) lifetime we are going to work and live on one side of an imaginary line. On one side of that line there is ‘freedom’, ‘freedom as in the context of this class. A world where information can be shared with everyone for zero cost, a chance for people to reclaim their privacy, consumers paying a fair price (if any) for services such as telephone and internet and a chance to lift people out of poverty by giving everyone access to information. On the other side of this line there is an ‘unfree’ world, where huge monopoly or oligopoly companies control the free flow of information, people’s privacy is reduced to non-existent due to extensive practices of data mining, the government has people under 24 hours surveillance and every aspect of human life will be somehow influenced by targeted advertisement. This side of the line is much like the world we live in today, only in time, if no appropriate action is taken, things will get worse.

'The Choice'

If the question is posed on what side of this line you want to be, the answer is an easy one In general I believe that a very large majority would opt for option one and say they want to be on the side of ‘freedom’ and have a job that contributes to make the world a ‘free’ place. Who would want to be responsible for in a world number two and have a job that contributes to this Yet in reality, most people, and law school graduates in particular will end up with a job on what we would consider the ‘unfree’ side of that line. The society we live in is structured for a large part in favour of the ‘unfree’ world. A well worn path will lead you right to an ‘unfree’ job. I think it would be a valuable exercise to try and distil the elements that distinct a ‘free’ job from an ‘unfree’ job. A clearer understanding of this concept is useful. I believe that currently ignorance is one of the foremost enemies of ‘freedom’ in our LawNetSoc? context. People are acting in a certain way because they simply haven’t thought about ‘freedom’ in this way.

A negative approach: What jobs are clearly 'unfree'?

In our discussions during this course we have encountered numerous examples of companies and institutions that pose a direct threat to ‘freedom’. If we look at their business models, they share a number of characteristics. There are business models that are based on the presumption of rigorous enforcement of copyrights and patents (Microsoft, Apple) There are the online companies that are in a direct conflict with the privacy of it’s users (Google, Facebook). The companies that control ‘switches’ (the telecom industry) are anti-‘freedom’ since their business are completely against the free sharing of information and then there are others, like the entertainment industry who’s businesses depend on making information sharing ‘unfree’. Not only working directly for such a company, but also working for a law firm that advices them, a company that finances them or is in some way connected to it should be considered as an ‘unfree’ job.

Positive approach: So what does make a job 'free'?

To point out elements that make a job ‘free’ I think is a bit more challenging. Besides that a ‘free’ job should obviously lack the negative elements that are stated above, should a ‘free’ job have other particular elements? I would say that the most obvious ‘free’ jobs are the ones that promote ‘freedom’ in a direct sense. A job at a free software organization, as a free software developer, or working for a privacy protection organization, such as EPIC are jobs that you can label ‘free’ without too much trouble. But not everyone has the skill to develop software, nor can everybody work for an organization such as EPIC. So what would be a good guideline for more mainstream jobs to be considered on the ‘free’ side of the line? I believe that if you want a ‘free’ job you should look at companies with business models that embrace the possibilities of free information sharing and explore the new opportunities, instead of working against it and firmly holding on to business models that should have no future in the modern world. A company that incorporates this idea and explores new ‘free’ possibilities in the music industry is the Amsterdam based which came up with a business model that I think incorporates a ‘free’ philosophy. This music website allows unsigned musicians to raise money directly from fans in order to enable them to record a professional album, while the rights of the album stay with the musicians. I think it’s a great example of a company that embraces the possibilities of the digital age and uses it in a positive, responsible way leading, in this case the musicians and their fans to being ‘free’


The career we choose is one of the most important decisions of our lives, so we better make it a good one. I believe that a ‘free’ job will take a bit of out-of-the-box thinking. A clear choice to not stay on the well worn path, but to let go of old ideas and business models and explore the new endless opportunities that come with the free sharing of information.


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r3 - 07 Sep 2011 - 00:43:59 - IanSullivan
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