One should know its enemy

My polemic with Marc Ribot’s interview was published in last week. My text was first (as I recall) publication under free license on this state owned on-line magazine. I decided to take advantage of the kindness of the editor and the possibilities that CC BY-SA 3.0 PL give and translated some excerpts from the article (whole text in Polish can be found here):

A simplified view of the world probably has a rhetorical power, but it is not a good starting point for political action. In the poorly recognized area one can easily get lost and start sawing the branch on which it sits. And it seems to me that this dangerous sport an excellent musician Marc Ribot began to cultivate. In an interview for he confused – in an unbearable waythree different concepts: free culture,  culture for free and piracy. He was lost too looking for guilty ones among the victims.

In the first part of an article I am explaining the difference between culture that is „free as in freedom” and this that is „free as in free beer”, what is piracy, what does it mean that „information wants to be free” (as in freedom, not as in free beer). I’m also arguing with Ribot’s unfair accusation that EFF and Lessig are payed by corporations („are subsidized by big corpos” & „received bunch of money from firms like Google”). But you know all of that, right? So am skipping it in translation. Last part is about the copyfight battle field:

But I do not want to undermine Ribot’s important insights about the deteriorating situation of authors and the need for solidarity to counteract it. The fact is that we live at a moment when situation of millions is worsening. Old world in which capitalism has been civilized by social and state pressure is falling apart right before our eyes. Precarity becomes an experience of growing number of citizens,  also of  formerly well-functioning creative middle class, we can see it now in Poland as well. Not all artists recognize however that only they, due to its high social and symbolic capital, have a chance to reach the media, politicians and express their needs in a language accepted by the mainstream media. Other groups affected by changes in the creative sector, such as the owners and staff of video and DVD rental, also suffered but no one cares and is trying to change the law to keep their jobs. But it is worth to see because it let understand that we have to deal with the problem source of which is not the internet but public policies that see its role in the field of culture as to protect the interests of intermediaries and take some showy activities in the name of artists, most of them in fact leaving for a mercy of allegedly free market. Who knows why those policies do not consider as being appropriate to represent the interests of the largest group in this field users.
Therefore it is very good that the authors want to organize in bottom-up model. No doubt only by solidarity activities  they will be able to improve their working conditions. For the record, one of the largest strikes in recent years in the US was a 3-month protest and refusal to work made by 12 thousand of unionized screenwriters against audiovisual producers. Also musicians should direct their anger against those who do not want to share the profits with them, that is intermediaries in the circulation of cultural works, not against human rights activists like Lawrence Lessig and EFF, not to mention users.
One can not earn the most and in the fastest way from the free culture because under capitalism it is usually more financially effective to take activities aimed at a quick profit then those that are pro-community. But observing practice of free culture creators (like on the Humble Bundle) you can learn effective ways to reach your customers and shortening the distribution chain, and therefore to minimize the margin that must have been left to intermediaries. You can also see that loosening of copyright monopolies helps authors. Studies also confirm that even piracy does not cause a decline in sales (and therefor authors’ loss) as shown by researchers from the Warsaw University Faculty of Economy (project iPiracy).
Am sorry but if someone wants to resist the system, not only have more pocket money right now, s/he must identify the conditions under which the entire chain of value is created. Then we can talk about possible solutions – those immediate and far-reaching. In contrast, the reproduction of propaganda narration produced by companies operating on the basis of copyright monopolies (aka Big Content) about bad pirates and bad freedom only strengthens the current, dysfunctional from authors’ point of view, system.


Pic by CC BY 2.0. from