While searching for a generic beer label for my previous post, I stumbled upon the Free Beer organization, a Danish art project applying the open source or Creative Commons idea to beer. The Creative Commons is a more open approach to copyright law, created by people who think copyright law as it exists today does more to stifle creativity than allow it to flourish. If that seems at first counter-intuitive, I would recommend you read Lawrence Lessig‘s wonderful book, Free Culture: The Nature and Future of Creativity and/or see the film Revolution OS, which has as much to do with this fascinating idea as it does with the history of computer operating systems (and it details the contributions of Richard Stallman). Anyway, the idea of a looser way to reserve some rights but allow people to build on previous efforts to collectively come up with better solutions and products because they’re designed in the open by dozens, hundreds or even thousands of people working on them is at the heart of this idea. Originally, of course, this notion was applied to software. This blog you’re reading, for example, runs on WordPress, an open source blogging software that is essentially free to use and has been created by untold numbers of programmers who are working constantly to make it better.
From the Free Beer website:
The project, originally conceived by Copenhagen-based artist collective Superflex and students at the Copenhagen IT University, applies modern free software / open source methods to a traditional real-world product — namely the alcoholic beverage loved and enjoyed globally, and commonly known as beer.
It seems to me that homebrewers already share recipes fairly freely, and I know of instances where commercial brewers have all made the same beer (using the same hops or to celebrate Ben Franklin’s 300th birthday, for example) so I’m not sure how novel this is, but it’s still a worthwhile idea to promote, at least in my opinion.
The English version of the Free Beer label.