Often when I mention Free Software and Creative Commons to people they react as though it's a silly minor issue that I'm wasting my time on, considering the scale of problems like climate change, AIDS/HIV, Trade Justice, third world debt and poverty, etc. etc. So here are two reasons I've been mulling over for why Greens, Socialists and other progressives should support and even promote these issues.
1 - To reclaim "community" from the religious / nationalistic right
Aside from talking about political communities - encouraging participation - the left has very little to say about community. "WHAT?" You say! "the left is all about community!" You repost. Well no, not really. In theory we are, but when you look at the fastest growing and most influential community groups, they're church groups. The religious right is on the rise throughout the Western world, with evangelical Christians (thanks in part to the Alpha course), Catholics, conservative Muslims and even other faiths pushing the same agendas. They are trying to reclaim their moral values from the secular liberal elite that has been banning religious symbolism left, right and centre.
Not only are these groups community-minded insofar as they get their strength from being communities, but they also have a community-minded agenda. They see the secular liberal elite as pushing the market and secularism over family values, destroying the moral fabric of their communities and reducing us to atomic individuals. They see no credible challenge to the anti-communal attitude of the market. Only the radical left has mounted a challenge, and it is so tied up in the politics of trade and environmentalism that the basic community-minded objections about homogenising our culture, about reducing us to atomic consumers, have been buried.
And to make things worse, we've not put forward any credible alternative. The conservatives can defend "the good old days" and advocate their moral system, which they perceive as being a return to those old days. Progressives are supposed to put forward new solutions to old problems, and yet when it comes to culture there's an incoherent mess of conservatism, anti-American anti-market sentiments and new-age nonsense.
The same is true in the workplace. The left could traditionally rely on the trade union movement, based in the manufacturing industries, for a community basis. But those communities have been eroded or even broken up. The white collar middle class is the emerging constituency of the left, and the flexible nature of the work means that there is little class or community identity. The right, meanwhile, can bemoan the loss of the family unit.
You guessed it: Free Software and Creative Commons are progressive solutions. They put the community - sharing, collaborating, remixing - at the heart of work and culture. They give us an alternative to the reactionary atheism that has characterised the left's response to the right of the evangelical, conservative religious movements. Rather than simply bashing religious family values and leaving a void, we can bash those values and advocate a different kind of community.
2 - To provide a pragmatic attack on the market-privatisation model
This will be a short one: when attacking the free market and its shortcomings, and trying to stop privatisation, we can simply point to FS and CC as good examples of where mitigating the rights of the property holder and putting community back into the heart of the property model makes for more innovation, more value, more good stuff. And for the more radical on the left, they can point to the GPL in particular as an example of a fairly anti-capitalist division of labour and distribution of products.