Skip to comments.What is Free Republic all about?
Posted on 12/08/2001 4:43:40 PM PST by Jim Robinson
What is Free Republic all about?
Free Republic is a personal avocation and project of my own. Prior to Free Republic, I had been a regular poster on the Prodigy Whitewater News BBS. Prodigy was an online service similar to the Internet, but more limited in scope. You had to be a paying subscriber or member of the Prodigy service to access it.
Prodigy was, at that time, a joint venture of two giant multi-billion dollar, commercial for profit enterprises, namely, Sears and IBM corporations. On Prodigy, we had several hundred members of this particular Whitewater BBS and we were engaged in posting news articles, primarily regarding President Clinton and his corruption. We had been doing this for at least a couple years. I believe I got started on Prodigy sometime in 1993 or 1994.
Each Prodigy BBS (and there were many) had its own moderators. Moderators were regular Prodigy members just like the rest of us, but they had volunteered to serve as moderators and they came and went and were generally not all that visible or problematic. Some of the Prodigy moderators cautioned that they might delete copyrighted articles, but they almost never did. One particular moderator started deleting some of our posts and it wasn't because they were copyrighted. Other posts, in fact, thousands of them remained up and they were complete full text copies of copyrighted articles. The posts were deleted simply because of the nature of their content and several of our members raised quite a stink about it.
This was in 1996, and I had already started getting interested in the Internet by that time. My company had acquired a small ISP service in 1995, and I was learning how it operates and saw its potential.
Prodigy had a very limited scope in terms of attracting a large audience. You had to be a paying subscriber to Prodigy in order to access the postings and, at the time, any serious participation was fairly expensive as they did not offer flat rates. You had to pay by the hour for access.
I wanted a larger participation and I did not want to be controlled by others. I had learned enough about the internet and how to establish websites, and thought that I could establish my own site and hopefully develop a larger readership than we had on Prodigy.
I had not been all that politically active prior to President Clinton's election. Yes, I complained about government and politics just like everyone else, and I participated in every election since I got out of the service in 1969, but politics was not particularly high on my list of priorities -- until Slick came along.
I had been a registered Democrat, but I did not necessarily vote Democratic. My first vote in a presidential election was cast for Richard M. Nixon. Over the years, I had began reading and listening more and more to conservative writers and commentators. I knew that the newspapers and news media were lying and I knew that government had been encroaching on our individual rights and that our politicians were as corrupt as the day is long. I also knew that nothing would be done about it unless we the people somehow joined together to exercise our political free speech rights to expose the corruption and demand that it be stopped and demand that the erosion of our individual rights be stopped and reversed.
As a result of all this, I set up the Free Republic website in September of 1996. At first I posted all the materials myself. I searched the internet looking for forum software, but was not very successful in finding any. I found and tested a few products, but they were all fairly primitive and did not have the features I was looking for. There were not very many forum software products on the market at that time, so I decided to develop my own.
I wrote the original version of our forum software and installed it on my website in January or February of 1997. Then I posted notices on BBSes, forums and newsgroups all around the Internet and invited others to join me in our political free speech forum. I also submitted my URL to as many search engines as I could find.
I also continued my Prodigy membership well up into the middle of 1997 and everything I posted on Free Republic, I also posted to Prodigy and included a link back to my forum. I was never kicked off of Prodigy for any reason as some have alleged. I also posted many articles and threads to the various political newsgroups and included a link back.
Soon people began reading and participating in Free Republic and the rest is history.
Free Republic is simply a political bulletin board and it was and is not a commercial business. The concept of posting copyrighted news articles under the fair use rules for discussion purposes is not new and is not mine. It had been a long standing practice, engaged in by huge multibillion dollar international corporations like Prodigy, (owned by Sears and IBM), Genie, Compuserve and many others, as well as wide open newsgroups and tiny one man operations on the Internet or even on private BBSes. And prior to computers, the practice of news clipping and posting and or reprinting had been going on since the times of our founding fathers. Political free speech was essential to our founders then, and is still essential today in order to maintain freedom and guard from tyranny.
The Congress is forbidden by the first amendment of making any law that would control or abridge or restrict or diminish our right to free speech. Free Republic is nothing more than an electronic edition of the original Liberty Tree.
We post articles and invite our participants to comment on them. We share them, compare them, examine them, look for lies or inconsistencies, expose corruption, praise good works, condemn the bad, spread the word, debate, develop plans and strategies, build activist groups, and carry out various activism projects. All of these activities are guaranteed us by our Constitution and we are definitely operating squarely within our constitutional rights and within the letter and intent of the law.
The fact that my personal avocation has grown beyond the point that I can no longer pay for it myself without help from willing donors does not change the underlying concept. It is a primarily a political discussion forum and it is a constitutionally protected activity. Nothing more nothing less.
When the first alleged copyright and unfair competition complaints came in, I posted them to Free Republic and many people discussed and debated the facts and options and whether or not we should fold up or fight off any attacks on our forum. Many of these people offering their opinion were lawyers and many of them (including our own Brian Buckley) said that we were operating well within our rights and that we should continue and that we should fight for our rights.
Well we did.
To be continued in Part II.
It is about freedom, information, and excellence.
Thank you for a fun, informative, and needed site. Keep up the great work.
Thanks for the history lesson,some of us know most of it,having been logged on for a while but it's good for everyone to refresh once in a while.
Thanks for all you and john do!
When it was proven, IBM claimed that there was "some errors" that had been inadvertantly put into the code.
That was of course about a hundred lines of code
The above sentiments of 'Rightly Biased' echo mine exactly. However my wife is coming around. Perhaps one day I can get her to pick a nickname and contribute.
It's also the single best place to catch up with the news, regardless of your political persuasion.
Thanks to you Jim and FR, I have maintained my sanity(I think)
Free Republic Forever
The election fiasco...........oh Lord...........
..........so nice to see 'clintonism' with a lowercase 'C'.........may not have been otherwise........
What brought America back? The American people brought us back--with quiet courage and common sense; with undying faith that in this Nation under God the future will be ours, for the future belongs to the free.
State of the Union Address
4 February 1986
...with quiet courage and common sense
Thank you Mr.Robinson
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