Utopias battlefield

Legal proposals reflect not only current citizens concern but also try to create better environment for future generations. That’s why they inevitably become a battleground not only for present interests but also different utopias, to which the parties involved into debate strive for. Therefore the compromise is very hard to achieve and require broader reflection then only economical or strictly legal. Unfortunately those two dominate public debate (not only) about copyright law. An anthropological input can be relativization and historicalization of the ideas activated in the debate. For example such modern categories as „an individual property” or „an ownership of idea’s expression” belong to axiological system that is quite unique in global perspective.

Others than global North’s systems are based on broad commons domain and barely recognize the need to impoverishment of public resources by extrapolation cultural works from it. Unfortunately global South’s countries are now forced to implement the system dominated by the extraneous ideas. It is widely known problem, especially in an aspect of intellectual property in Africa and India. But this conflict can be also observed in my country, Poland, because of our experience of communist time – quite liberal regarding to copyright. Public ownership of media and culture was a part of state ideology, so a lot of people can not accept that their cultural heritage founded by society during 45 years is now unavailable because of copyright (mainly there is uncertain who is a right holder). On the other hand, part of society accepts „sacred right of property” as a main rule and experiences its questioning as a return to an oppressive ideology of ancien regime. When those two options meet it is very hard to communicate. Copyfighters should find a language to present own ideas to people who are not on the same page regarding critical reflection over neo-liberalism and over-consumption. One of the solution is in-politicization of the discussion and redirecting it to the ground of emotions, relationships etc.

But in such case there is usually another disagreement regarding to general humankind philosophy: leftists idea is that people do evil or follow wrong ideology because they are uninformed, non-educated or badly raised.  The right oriented people are convinced that human beings are bad by design and had to be curbing by law and other norms. So it’s hard to find common ground in this discussion also.

Another way could be focusing on such a value as freedom because of its wide recognitions and imprecise definition. This is a strategy that worked during Stop Acta protests but is efficiency is  limited in the long run.

Nature of the network: nodes, links and sexy hubs

I just watched Albert-László Barabási lecture (from 2011) about principles that networks are based on. As he contend there are some rules that we can observe in micro- and macro-scale as well:

1. networks have natural tendency to form hubs; each network has several huge hubs that are connecting most of nodes;

2. because of that there is always short path between distant nodes (less that 6 handshakes);

3. networks are still evolving, new nods are emerging and willingly attaching to the hubs;

4. there are nodes with bigger fitness and they become hubs;

5. random errors cannot destroy network but purposeful attack (especially on hubs) can;

6. network is consisting of communities of nodes which has similar behavior characteristic.

I found it interesting because of some observations about *hubes*. What are they? They are „better” nodes. Nodes have two characteristics. One, quite obvious and measurable, is the number of links they are connected with. Higher number makes you hub. It works like that: if you are a new node you probably will link to the nodes with high number of links because they are just easier to find and it will enable you to find short path to other nodes. This is how hubs are created.

Second attribute of the node is its fitness (which can be also called ‚sex appeal’ I guess), it determinate if you want to connect with that particular node. In basic model, the more links you have, the more attractive you are. While network is growing and new hubs emerge, old hubs’ position is declining. But if some node has a special fitness (not based only on a number of links) network grows differently. Most of other nodes want to connect with it and shortly it become a hub and what is important it maintain its dominating position.

So it looks like the dream about horizontal architecture of Internet is utopian because it is against nature of network. Hubization (=centralization=oligopolization) is inevitable. The only solution for freedom lovers is to become a very sexy hub which will attract a lot of nodes. Of course now the question is what makes one node more fit than others. We don’t find the answer in tha=centralization)t lecture but that’s OK. More to think for us, the merrier :)

Lecture here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ni_A2bAkUww

Films to see – philosophy

* Jacques Derrida


* Walter Benjamin


* Slavoj Žižek, Cornel West, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Martha Nussbaum, Michael Hardt, Peter Singer, Avital Ronell, Judith Butler


* Alvin Toffler with a Orson Welles as on-screen narrator


*Sartre, Heidegger, Nietzsche: Three Philosophers in Three Hours


* Noam Chomsky and the Media (1992)


* Carl G. Jung

Michel Foucault’s Controversial Life and Philosophy Explored in a Revealing 1993 Documentary


Films to see – tech

I found 2 interesting films about technology on openculture.com:

* Open Source, it’s not just for software. It’s for hardware too. The new film, Arduino: The Documentary, revisits a project launched in the Italian town of Ivrea back in 2005. The challenge? To develop cheap, easy-to-use electronics components for design students.


* Code Rush, produced in 2000 and broadcast on PBS, is an inside look at living and working in Silicon Valley at the height of the dot-com era. The film follows a group of Netscape engineers as they pursue at that time a revolutionary venture to save their company – giving away the software recipe for Netscape’s browser in exchange for integrating improvements created by outside software developers. Visit: www.clickmovement.org/coderush


Copyright and economy

There are two arguments often used to protect idea of copyright: it encourages artists to activity and supports new business models of creative sector. Lot of bullshit.  The idea that an artist need to be encouraged to create is total misunderstanding of our natural need to create which, in case of artist, is kind of compulsion he/she cannot reject. So there is no sens to reduce human creativity to economic incentives. They don’t need incentives, although of course they should be payed for their work. But there is no need to provide copyright law for that. Artist were payed for their work before Statute of Ann was signed – and still are (like painters who gain money from selling their pictures without selling copyrights to them or performance artists for shows). IMO state policy should strongly support cultural activity of their citizens –  both artist and non-artist. But copyright law is not about paying, it is about control other than right-holder’s use of cultural content (read: https://digitalrightsgonzo.wordpress.com/2013/12/06/162/).



Source: wikipedia.org

This argument that artists need to be financially encouraged to create is typical for economic point of view (recently economy made the top of mine enemies list, joining psychology and sociology ’cause of this stupid category of „rationality” that is based on :) ) The idea that all human behavior can be interpreted as „do ut des” is wrong. No matter what is a object of transaction – money, seashells or prestige. I don’t buy simplification of  all social relationships to this functional level. Even exchange is not only about it. We had those discussion in anthropology many years ago. Malinowski and Mauss argued about an institution of a gift. Mauss was right – reciprocity is just a part of the gift-exchange but it enables the realization of many other purposes aimed at the benefit of the whole community. But Malinowski was also right that social behaviors (like gift-exchange) are based on a deep needs of individuals (like sharing) which are expressed in specific frames of a culture. They were writing about Inuis’ and Triobrands’ institutions but their conclusions are more general. We do a lot of things without expecting a reciprocity. Joy, fun, altruism, generosity, ambition, a desire for self-realization (do not forget about ennui!) are equally compelling reasons to take action as the expectation of financial profit.


Copyright is supposed to support artists but in fact it works to their disadvantage. If you are a young artist now it means that people we’ll be able to legally share your work with friends, translate it into other languages or remix it without asking for permission in… 22nd century. And this is much more probable that nobody will know you at that time because of copyright regime lasting  through more then 100 years after work was done.

If we are focused on creative sector – it is a different story than art, this is about lifestyle (design, fashion etc) and pop culture. But even though there is no sense to encourage production if you strongly limit access to the results of that production. So you need to release a lot of copyrighted material, not only as a marketing tool and samples. But copyright doesn’t help you in this, you have to use all your power (=money and lobbying) to sustain  restrictions to access and use of your products. I think that HADOPI is a good example how efficient they are, 1,5 million Euro, one case. So much about rationality and economy :)

Photo: Picture of Bronislaw Malinowski with natives on Trobriand Islands in 1918.Author unknown (maybe Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz, link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Wmalinowski_triobriand_isles_1918.jpg

Copyright definition part 1

I was asked if we have a good definition of copyright law (or rather author’s law because we have European construction of that), we don’t, so I started to construct mine, here are some thoughts:

* Copyright is the right to control what others can do with the cultural work which expresses one’s ideas. This work has not to be material – it can be just a sound of music or someones voice while lecturing – no one can even record it without  author’s permission. It can be of course  a stream of bits as well. In contemporary art it is common that someone else than artist produce the piece of art for him/her, so there is no definition of authorship which will demand personal work input.So, in fact, the copyright is about limiting access and use of the new ideas. Therefore acts contrary to the postulate of innovation.

* Copyright defines how much you can forbid and to whom and under what conditions. Hence it is recognized sometimes as a kind of censorship.

* The opinion that copyright is limited by fair use is all wrong, in fact this is the public domain what is limited by the copyright.

For our sake

I’ve just seen few episodes of US tv series „Castle”. It’s about criminal investigations leaded by the writer and homicide detective with an increasing support of new technologies. The scheme of the episodes is similar – the body was found, they have to find the killer. They start from a detailed reconstruction of the last days of the victim. So they analyze data from bank account statements, videos from  ATMs monitoring, phone records, information about card payments, street monitoring, geolocalization etc. This is really impressive how much information about every day life of common citizens are gathered. One could be anxious, but int the series all that surveillance machinery is presented as acting on our favor. You may even think that it makes our life more secure, because by monitoring, for example, you can identify the killer. Even though monitoring on the show have not yet saved anyone, because the police are watching it AFTER the victim was killed.

I watched whole season but didn’t find any reference to privacy issues or possible abuses of the surveillance technology. Servility of the American movie and tv production to the ideology promoted by the state is well known, this is just another example. I found it noteworthy because this is a sign that pop culture joined the war against whistleblowers  like Snowden. And the power of pop culture influence on common thinking should not be underestimated. This reflection starts with frankfurter’s school and still is developing. Very interesting insights came from Tim Edensor’s reflection over how pop culture builds nationalism (in ‚National Identity, Popular Culture and Everyday Life’). I think we  can easily and legitimately transpose it on the other fields – like privacy issues. He make a good point in the discussion about roots of nationalism. Most of the previous authors argued if it comes from the elites, state or grassroots activism but he showed how the material  and pop culture shape our identity (you may find it close to Michael Billing’s idea of ‚banal nationalism’). But what is important here it is the indication Edensor made about the close connection between an ideology that supports the State and role of the pop culture that is only seemingly entertaining.

Just think how different is the position of surveillance in the ‚Castle” series that in candid camera format. The old one taught us that new tech can be dangerous for our privacy and we should be careful with them, the new one is the opposite, it is just a pure apologia of the big brother’s system. But during the cold war tracking citizens was supposed to be enemy’s malpractice, not the good ones’.