Wil Wheaton, Barney, the EFF and Copyleft

Aug 22 22

Wil Wheaton, Barney, the EFF and Copyleft

Paul Weinstein

The biologist Richard Dawkins is often credited with inventing the term meme to describe how an idea or behavior can spread by means of repetition from person to person within a culture. Of course, now a days, when most people make mention of memes, they are usually referring to an Internet meme

But the idea of being able to capture and reuse cultural touch points on the Internet wasn’t always a given. In the early days of the Web corporations were spooked at the idea of losing control of their intellectual property to the lawless Internet. Laws such as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) were passed to strength penalties for copyright infringement on the Internet. More over many legal actions against individuals tended to ignore fair use provisions included as part of copyright law.

To counter the growing abuse of copyright law organizations such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) started defending fair use rights and supporting “copyleft” licenses that applied copyright provisions in new, more collaborative ways. If not for organizations such as the EFF, it’s unlikely that popular spaces such as TikTock and Twitch would exist today.

Of course, legal assistant doesn’t come cheap, so organizations such as the EFF must get creative in raising fund and spreading their message to the public. Which explains why, 20 years ago Wil Wheaton fought Barney at the DNA Lounge in San Francisco. And oh, yeah, I was there too:

Electronic Frontier Foundation cofounder John Perry Barlow and actor Will Wheaton
The main event

And speaking of memes, here’s a couple of more:

The Clown Sweater Project – I’ll leave the explanation to the originator of the project, Wil’s own thoughts on his participation

My personal memento of participation. Ironically, this photo was taken at an earlier EFF benefit at the The Fillmore.

Revolution is not an AOL Keyword – A reinterpretation of Gil Scott-Heron’s The Revolution Will Not Be Televised that include this stanza:

“There will be no webcast of Wil Wheaton boxing
Barney the Dinosaur on the dancefloor at DNA
There will be no mob- or wiki- blog of Richard Stallman
Strolling through Redmond in a medieval robe and halo 
As St. iGNUcious of the Church of Emacs 
That he has been saving  
For just the proper occasion.”