Posted on October 21, 2008 in FC, SU Law by Brian RoweComments Off

This is the beginning of a series of short articles I am writing for the Seattle Univeristy Law Prolific Reporter (PR). The publication is a weekly news paper for the law school, it is only available offline at this point.

In late fall of last year Seattle University School of Law became one of the few law schools in the nation to have a Students for Free Culture (SFFC) chapter. At the time, only Harvard Law School and George Mason Law School had law students involved in the movement.  All other chapters were undergrad chapters.  Since starting the SFFC chapter, the board members have noticed that there is some opposition to and confusion about SFFC.  I joined Seattle University because of the focus on public interest and social justice. During my first year of law school, the public interest paradigm did not appear to extend to extra circular activities focused on intellectual property.  However, I was able to connect with some amazing faculty including Margaret Chon and the visiting professor Elizabeth Townsend-Gard (whose copyright class I sat in on as a 1L).  These next few articles are designed to explain what SFFC is and why we need to care about public interest in the realm of copyright, patents and technology.

The second national Free Culture conference was held on October 11th and 12th at Berkley, it was attend by 270 students from through the US and abroad.  The focus for the conference was to set a national agenda had identified four areas of focus for the organization.  Before the conference students engaged in a nation discussion online and identified 4 areas of interest to SFFC.  They are best summarized by my summer roommate and fellow intern at Creative Commons, Tim Hwang: 1) Create a preemptive ultimatum around creative works to defend fair use 2) Connect with the development community (including access to essential medicine) 3) Encourage open access 4) Promote data portability.  By the end of the first day we had heard speakers on each of these main topics and were ready to take action.

The second day of the confernce was an un-conference (like barcamps) where the participants created there own panels.  One full track was dedicated to creating a campaign where students could take action. Students chose to focus on open access due to the broad reach and the focus on public interest generally.  This campaign gives student the opportunity to engage universities on topics ranging from how we use patents to access to information and knowledge.  SFFC believes that education and knowledge should be available to everyone regardless of social or economic position, this campaign is focused on opening up access to a broader audience.  The day ended with a written declaration of our values around open access and a commitment to run a 1 year campaign bring these issues up at all universities. Here is the text of the declaration:

The Wheeler Declaration

An open university is one in which

  1. The research the university produces is open access.
  2. The course materials are open educational resources.
  3. The university embraces free software and open standards.
  4. If the university holds patents, it readily licenses them for free software, essential medicines, and the public good.
  5. The university network reflects the open nature of the Internet.

Note: “university” includes all parts of the community: students, faculty, and administration.

This campaign with be used to grade and rank universities based on the above criteria.  After universities are graded, SFFC will develop action plans for dialogue with the universities to improve their scores and help move the universities to a more open model of education.
Final note: I am an IP geek. If you ever see me on campus in my black hat and kilt feel free to approach me and talk talk about IP issues I am always willing to engage in banter.  I also write daily at and

Brian Rowe

PS: I will be trying to get the PR to print online also.