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Freedom Is Not Free
Ever since I visited the memorials around Washington DC just over two years ago, this slogan has been emblazoned upon my consciousness. On that same trip, with a really great group of seventy or so eighth graders from my school, we also visited the Pentagon and the site of the World Trade Center. Guys from my high school died at each place on September 11, 2001. This Memorial Day weekend, as I thought about all the people who served and died to protect and preserve our way of life, I also reflected on the lives of American Indians whose land was stolen by Americans and African slaves on whose backs an entire economy was built. As a nation, we’ve taken enough at others’ expense.
And now for the part where I tell you what in the world this has to do with technology and education. I have an iPhone and an iPad, so I know about buying apps. And I know all about that rush of downloading as many free apps as you can during the early days of iPhone/iPad ownership. Guilty as charged. But our electronic existence consists of so much more than programs we run on our handheld devices. There is a LOT of “freemium” stuff out there. You know, free programs or websites that also have a paid premium version with more features. How do you decide when to go pro or upgrade to the premium version?
After I use a site three or more times in just a few months, if I know for sure that I will be back, I usually start looking at what the paid version gets me. If I see any value at all in having the premium account, I will usually upgrade. Not only do I think this is an excellent business model, I also believe this falls right in line with the newest generation of the American Way. We are a capitalist nation. People with good ideas and the willingness to work hard can become very prosperous in the United States of America. It has been this very promise that has lured people from all over the world – and the diversity of our national heritage has made us even stronger. Since I am not really the developer kind, I shall play my role as hearty consumer.
I pay for subscriptions to Quia, Weebly, and PBworks (well, this last one I earn by mentoring for their teacher summer camp). I pay for JingPro. I also pay for subscriptions to Ancestry and GenesReunited. These programs and sites have clear value for me, and I use them frequently for their advanced features.
This same idea applies to copyrighted music and movies. I “get” why bootleggers did their thing during Prohibition. I did not live at the time, so I can’t pass judgment, but it’s really hard to legislate people’s choices about having a good time. Plus, the economy took a major hit when alcohol was illegal. But bootlegging media clearly hurts the people who create these works of art.
Another thing that makes our country great is its long legacy of culture: artwork, music, architecture, theater, etc. When we steal from our artists, we tell an entire segment of society that we want their stuff, but we won’t give them anything for it. How can we expected talented young people to pursue careers where their gifts get to shine . . . if they know that they’ll never be able to live off their efforts?
I sometimes get the feeling that many Americans have an entitled feeling of “if I CAN get this for free, then I should be ALLOWED to.” Artwork is not free. Expression forms are not free. Someone worked hard to create them. Freedom is not free. Over the centuries, countless men and women have given their lives – or at the very least, large chunks of their lives – to protect the rights of our citizens to create, to think, to question, to speak out, and to make an honest living. When terrorists took away three thousand of our friends and loved ones, they were attacking this freedom. By honoring the laws that protect creative artists, we can strike back at those who fear what we Americans think, say, and do.
Image of statues within Korean War Memorial by Flickr user Jeff Kubina, some rights reserved, Creative Commons.
Image “News of 9/11” by Flickr user qthomasbower, some rights reserved, Creative Commons.