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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating contribution to a critical issue, 28 Nov 2010
This review is from: Copy, Rip, Burn: The Politics of Copyleft and Open Source: The Politics of Open Source (Paperback)
In order properly to understand a culture is it necessary - or even helpful - to be a member of that culture ? The advantages and disadvantages of an alien's perspective are on show in this fascinating overview of the politics of Open Source.

To the credit side, Berry's distant view allows him to identify quite clearly what is at stake in the current battle for the definition of intellectual property through law and custom. These laws and customs are currently in a state of flux, as different parties attempt to alter them to suit their own purposes, and the Open Source 'guerilla movement' has staked a place at the table. Berry's dissection of the forms of property is a tour-de-force and an invaluable contribution to the debate. Further, Berry's status as an outsider allows him to use (with fascinating results) techniques of postmodernist discourse analysis which no rationalist hacker would touch with a barge-pole.

There are disadvantages to this separation from the culture, however. In brief, Berry just can't figure out what makes these people tick. My sense reading the book is that Berry largely approves of the Open Source movement's actions and objectives but remains bewildered as to the actors' motivations. (By Open Source I refer here to both the Stallman/FSF and Raymond/OSM varaints). Further, I think this failure to get under the skin of the hackers leaves him with a sense that their position is precarious, and a lack of confidence that they will prevail against the forces opposing. Given his support for a "re-enchantment of the commons" of intellectual property, this lack of confidence drives him to a suggestion that we need a direct intervention by an 'active state' - a recommendation that will send most hackers diving for cover.

For myself, I remain an optimist. The hacker culture has strong and deep roots providing a shared perspective to a significant proportion of the West's (the world's ?) technologists. It provides this community with flexibility, resourcefulness, and - most importantly - mastery of the mysteries of programming computers to do ever more interesting and revolutionary things. "We reject Kings, Presidents, and Voting. We believe in rough consensus and running code." A potent credo.
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J. Reffin
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Location: London, UK

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