Defective by Design

Interview with Leo Babauta

Submitted by helen on Mon, 2011-05-02 12:08

Leo Babauta is a simplicity blogger & author. He created Zen Habits - a blog with over 200,000 subscribers,, and the best-selling books focus, The Power of Less, and Zen To Done. He has dedicated the Zen Habits blog and Zen to Done e-book to the public domain. In this interview with Graziano Sorbaioli of Libreplanet Italia, he shares his thoughts on free software, copyright, and DRM.

0) When did you start being a minimalist and finding simplicity in the daily chaos?

It's something I started exploring in the 1990s, then forgot about, then rediscovered in 2006. I'm still learning.

1) You practice minimalism and even blog about it on Many minimalists condemn the use of technology because they see it as a plus. What's your opinion about it?

There's a lot of appeal to giving up technology and living in a log cabin in the woods with nothing but the bare necessities. There's also a lot of value in technology -- it has enabled us to create things impossible only a decade or two ago, to connect in ways never imagined before, to give us instant access to learning that was simply unthinkable when we were growing up. That's as amazing as anything you'll find in the woods.

2) Since August 2009 you joined, the free microblogging platform. Social networks can be overwhelming due to their great amount of messages and friends. How do you manage to stay updated without burning up?

The freedom of truly appeals to me, but I don't feel it has reached the critical mass it needs to be as useful as it could be. I haven't given up on the idea though.

I place limits on how much time I spend reading news and social media, and getting updated. If I don't set limits, it will eat up my creative time.

3) On I read that you are against using copyright to restrict what your readers can do with your articles. What convinced you to "free" your writings and what would you like to say to people who criticize your choice?

It was an experiment -- I'd been holding onto copyright out of fear, but I asked myself, "What would happen if I just let go?" I didn't know the answer, but the idea that ideas should be free of the restrictions they've had for centuries was a beautiful one to me -- and an idea I freely stole from others. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that no work is completely original, that authors build on the ideas of others every single time they write, and that if we pretend we own this stuff and threaten to sue those who use our ideas, we are hypocrites. Let go of the idea of ownership, and see what inventions can arise. Free software has shown me that letting go of protections over information can result in wondrous things.

4) You have published many books without any restrictions or DRM. The Free Software Foundation campaigns against DRM and will launch a Day Against DRM on May 4th, 2011. What would you say to other authors who wish to restrict their books using DRM?

Authors need to put their readers first, always, if they want trust from their readers. Put yourself in your reader's shoes: do technical restrictions on the use of your book help the reader? Or do they frustrate and annoy the reader? What message does this send to the reader -- that you care more about the reader or protecting your ownership over something they've paid you for?

Authors use DRM out of fear, not out of a desire to give something valuable to readers. Release the fear, release the DRM, and see what happens when you start a relationship with trust.

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Topic:  interview