My polemic with Marc Ribot’s interview was published in dwutygodnik.com 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 dwutygodnik.com he confused – in an unbearable way – three 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 https://secure.flickr.com/photos/christopherdombres/5814893360/in/photostream/
My interview with Birgitta Jónsdóttir (in Polish) about new technologies as a tool for increasing general public’s participation in building better world and ideas for copyright reform:
English version – soon!
My submission for re:bublica14 has been accepted so I will have a chance to present super interesting project I was working on last year.
I want to present results of the study „Future scenarios of culture’s circulation in Europe in 2043” conducted by Modern Poland Foundation – it will be our premiere presentation!
It will be four scenarios of possible changes in creating, using and sharing of cultural works in 30 years perspective. In collaboration with experts (social science researchers, economists, entrepreneurs, lawyers, programmers) we choose the European cultural policy and the role of intermediary business as a main factors that will shape the future of culture’s circuits (we were focused especially on digital ones). Then we built upon it four possible scenarios and did assessment of their impact on the society, culture, education, creative industries and the copyright system. Now we are working on final report and cool website to present our research output.
We did this research because we are convinced that there is a serious public interest in studies that explore ethical, economical and sociological perspectives over copyright issues. Especially that impact of copyright law on our possibilities of realization the basic needs and universal freedoms of citizens seems to increase. We also want to influence public debate about copyright and so called piracy moving it from highly emotional level (owners vs. thieves) to constructive and practical discourse. This is one of the main goals of the „Right to culture” project carried out by our Foundation from 2012.
If you ever wonder what will be the future of culture in Europe you should see this.
European Commission asked (in question no. 45) about our proposals concerning educational „exceptions”. This is my answer:
Copyright law shouldn’t ever limit the right to education. The Internet has created a tremendous opportunity for making available the knowledge, once available only for a few, to billions of children around the world. The economic interests of a small portion of the inhabitants of the richest regions of the world can not justify missing this chance. European politicians should understand its role as guarantors of social justice, they were given a unique opportunity to repay a moral debt to communities harmed by the 500 years of colonialism. In addition to financial support, full access to knowledge and education give such a chance. Such an approach would be also, of course, beneficial for the residents and of Europe. Any use of works related to education (the purpose of which is education) should therefore be permitted, only commercial operators should obligatory share their profits with authors. Public institutions should support all forms of education on-line as a cheap and easily available way of teaching.
Copyright law should stand on the side of citizens, not big corporations
The link above is to an interview we (me and Pawel Stankiewicz) gave about copyright consultations for Polish newspaper. We spoke about general problem with this law and debate – nobody shares citizens perspective. And business just doesn’t care for our liberties.
BTW do you think that it should be treated as an infringement of copyright that I put a link to copyrighted material without asking rightsholder for permission?
Consultation platform in Polish: konsultacje.prawokultury.pl
or other languages: fixcopyright.eu
Meeting on the occasion of the 2nd anniversary of the protests against ACTA, which took place yesterday in Cracow (Poland). Together with progressive copyright legal thinker Konrad Gliscinski (PhD candidate from Jagiellonian University) we talked about international trade agreements „type ACTA”, European consultation about copyright and how right to culture is connected to the right to privacy. As it turns out it is the copyright that is an obstacle to the legalization of safe (because ensuring anonymity) P2P file sharing network. As I pointed out copyright law leads to enforce payment or registration as a condition of lawful access to cultural works on the Web, depriving us of our privacy by just taking away our personal data or information about our activity on the Internet.
Copyright is such a fun!
Today we’ve launched website dedicated to European consultation about copyright issues in cyberspace. We chose 12 most important questions and added some hints to make more clear what was on EC mind. I’m very proud of our team work, hope we manage to make this boring stuff as attractive as possible. Hope you find it helpful, and even if no that you do your job :)
///It’s in Polish but as a part of broader initiative we’re working on English too, I’ll let know asap.///
//And photo, what can I say, we work very hard for several days on this document, our brains are a little devastated.//
This January authors who died in 1943 re-joined common cultural heritage, in legal wording they entered public domain. From that moment (70 years after death) we can legally publish, remix, translate their works without asking for permission and paying money (of course we still should attribute them as authors). Here are some of them:
Stephen Vincent Benet
Happy re-birthday! And now let’s see what we are missing because of absurd long term of copyright monopoly EU launched:
- Sylvia Plath, American poet, novelist and short story writer.
- Georges Braque, French Cubist sculptor and painter.
- Jean Cocteau, French poet, novelist, playwright and artist.
- C. S. Lewis, English novelist, poet and essayist.
- Aldous Huxley, English novelist and essayist.
- Tristan Tzara, Romanian and French essayist and poet.
- David Low (cartoonist), New Zealand political cartoonist who worked in the UK.
Can you imagine that we have to wait 20 years more for liberate their works? Even though Berne Convention (international agreement about copyright) allow 50 years term? It works this way in Canada for example, and used to in Poland before we joined EU. But few active fellows convince European politicians in 1993 to prolong it to 70 years. I’m sure that most of citizens has the same feeling as me that it doesn’t work for our good. Fortunately just now we have an unique opportunity to say it laud by writing few nice sentences to European Commission as a part of the consultations that EC announced month ago. You can do it in your own language but have to use their document and then send to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Here you can find model responses by Amelia Andersdotter but you can just write what you think, like, dislike and want regarding to your right to use culture in cyberspace as an answer to q. no 80. The deadline is 5th of February this year. It is possible to stop that absurd, let’s DIWO!
Image and catalog source: en.wikipedia.org
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.
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/).
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