Archive for September, 2009

The Stallman Paradox

Friday, September 4th, 2009

Until society can resolve what I will call for the first time the “Stallman Paradox”, where learning and access enabling technologies, such as for example digital books, conversely disables the freedom to read and hence more than negates the actual benefits of said access, the rush to embrace all digital libraries and textbooks is a rush to a new dark ages.

This is perhaps best exemplified in the case of Cushing Acedemy. In this place of assumed learning, the administration choose to abandon a library collection of some 10,000 books which any student may freely access and share for the presumed benefit of DRM (Digital Restriction Management) disabled e-book solutions including the Amazon Kindel. While it is true that the amount of material available is far greater potentially for students, however in doing so, this institution has also decided to accept that costs associated with DRM solutions will mean each student will only be able to afford and have access to a far smaller actual collection of material than they had access to before.

Furthermore, outside of the question of turning universal education to a monitary privilege that only few will be able to afford, DRM disabling solutions mean that the right to read and share and learn together is immeasurably harmed. This is perhaps best exemplified in Stallman’s essay on the “Right to Read”, and hence, along with a question of basic freedom of access to knowledge and basic human rights, why I propose this problem be called the “Stallman Paradox”.

The logical solution is one where the right to read and think, and to share knowledge, is not made into a good that only few will be able to experience. In the European dark age, education was an exclusive privilege enabled only for a very few. While most societies today now recognize that universal education is both a right and a need, the use of mandated digitally restricted e-book solutions for education could well return societies to a new dark age.