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Why Bother about Harry Potter?

With human rights under threat so much in the world today, why bother about an injunction that temporarily forbade Canadians from reading books they had legitimately purchased? Is that issue more important than all the others?

I've been campaigning for 22 years for specific freedoms for the users of software: the freedoms that you have while using free software. It isn't the most important of all areas of freedom, but since software was and is my field, I had a responsibility to do something about freedom there. And nobody else was doing it--it was me or no one.

A few years ago I decided to use the small fame I had gained from this work to promote other issues (mostly issues of human rights) through stallman.org. Most of the site is concerned with them.

In the political notes section, you'll find recent items (as of 19 July 2005) about Iraq, Afghanistan, how Bush stole both elections, the failure to investigate 9/11, Bush's War on Integrity, Bliar's campaign to abolish the Rights of Englishmen, aggression and lies by police in many countries, global warming and mass extinction, and various other causes. In the urgent action section, you'll see active campaigns of the day that I support by informing people about them.

In the long-term action section, you'll see campaigns such as to support Venezuela by buying gas from Citgo, support conscientious objectors in Israel, and a suggestion for how to get revenge for 9/11 by supporting gay marriage. (That last is my own idea; we don't know which group was responsible, but both likely candidates are religious fanatics that hate gays.) And now, the newest item, not to buy Harry Potter books.

The right to read a book you bought is arguably less important than freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom to elect officials who can really change your laws (which requires getting rid of GATT and NAFTA, and fundamentally reforming the European Union), and so on. But one of the biggest threats to all these freedoms today comes from the general climate of fascism--the idea that government should support the power of business over human rights. This injunction is a perfect example. It says that your human rights can be suppressed in order to protect a company from suffering the consequences of the mistakes of its hirelings.

The right to read information in text that a company published "by mistake" can be very important. Suppose it's not a work of fiction, but about the health effects of some of their products, or how to make a program that will interoperate with theirs. Suppose it gives information about corruption or government lies. The right to read is a right worth defending, and no exceptions can be tolerated.

Still, is that more important than freedom of speech? More important than abortion rights? More important than preventing global warming? Why compare them? The comparison would be relevant if we had to choose to support just one, but we don't have to choose. It is easy to support this campaign and others at the same time. Don't buy Harry Potter books, and send the money you saved to the ACLU, NARAL, the EFF, the FSF, No2ID, or GreenPeace.

It looks like this campaign may have potentiated my efforts in favor of other aspects of human rights. It brought a lot more hits to stallman.org, and twice as many people read the Political Notes on July 15 as on a usual day. Maybe some will continue reading them regularly. If you publicize this campaign, and/or make links to stallman.org, you will make the site more effective at supporting a wide range of human rights and conservation issues.


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