Bill Gates: Free Culture advocates = Commies

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In an interview on, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates described free culture advocates as a “modern-day sort of communists.”

Q: “In recent years, there's been a lot of people clamoring to reform and restrict intellectual-property rights. It started out with just a few people, but now there are a bunch of advocates saying, 'We've got to look at patents, we've got to look at copyrights.' What's driving this, and do you think intellectual-property laws need to be reformed?

A: “No, I'd say that of the world's economies, there's more that believe in intellectual property today than ever. There are fewer communists in the world today than there were. There are some new modern-day sort of communists who want to get rid of the incentive for musicians and moviemakers and software makers under various guises. They don't think that those incentives should exist.

And this debate will always be there. I'd be the first to say that the patent system can always be tuned–including the U.S. patent system. There are some goals to cap some reform elements. But the idea that the United States has led in creating companies, creating jobs, because we've had the best intellectual-property system–there's no doubt about that in my mind, and when people say they want to be the most competitive economy, they've got to have the incentive system. Intellectual property is the incentive system for the products of the future.”

Ok this damm right offensive, where does he get off saying the free-culture movement is sort of like the communists movement. I cant wait to hear what others say about this part of the interview. I'm glad the Bill Gates is worried about free-culture, but this kind of misunderstanding leads to fear and stupid reactions to something quite normal. I mean come on now, you seriously think having a flexable IP system which allows the long tail to be productive is some what anti-captist? Get real! Jon Udell discussed the propsal of the long tail, opensource, creative commons and free-culture in the case of audio recently. And i'm sorry but none of the thoughts sounded communistic in anyway. (some more on the longtail here)

Anyway, I hope Lessig reminds all of us that were so above these silly comments. And that free-culture, creative commons,, open-source, free software, the creative archive are all part of what makes the internet great and Bill Gates needs to get on now or catch up later.

Update, more views about Gates outburst, while the list grows in blogdigger
Gates Calls Patent Reformists “Communists” from of all places xbmc blogger
Gates brands IPR opponents Communists a link from planet Mozilla
More Gates “Creative Commies” propaganda from boingboing
And what I've been waiting for, lessig replies to Bill Gates. As expected, he takes the moral highground and reminds Bill that he should once in a while engage in a conversation with his own employees. Ow, what a stinger in the tail.

Ok last few comments on the topic now. This weeks Gillmor gang also covers Bill Gates comment but Robert Scoble is in the Hot and uncomfitable seat. Its well worth the listening to, I am suprised that Doc Searls doesnt take it too seriously, i mean I dont and do. Anyway whats really interesing is Miles comments. He pointed out that Bill Gates is surrounded by Yes people who wouldnt dare say anything out of turn (I mean listen to Robert Scoble when Dan asks for his view). And its not even Bill Gates talking, its Microsoft's Shareholders view of the free culture advocates… And in that we are done for now.

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Author: Ianforrester

Senior firestarter at BBC R&D, emergent technology expert and serial social geek event organiser. Can be found at, and