[cc-community] NC, anticapitalism and clashing visions of freedom - was: More discussion on NC
m.pedersen at lancaster.ac.uk
Sun Oct 24 09:59:45 EDT 2010
On 23/10/10 16:03, drew Roberts wrote:
> "anti-corporate, anti-capitalist"
> Does this have some code word meanings in some circles that I am not aware of?
To answer that I would have to read your mind. Or was it a rhetorical
In any case, you can read your way to the answer in such publications as
(to name a few):
> Does the sole owner and sole employee of a small business who chooses to
> incorporate to lessen the risks of a sole proprietorship rise to the level
> that the anti-corporate folks oppose? (For instance.)
Yes, if they produce missiles, spinformation or provide training and
concultancy for military dictatorships. (For instance).
> Is it the form of
> capitalism that is practiced today that is opposed or the idea that people
> should be allowed to choose to pool their resources for a project that is
> beyond their individual reach and share in the rewards if any?
I guess this is another rhetorical question, but just in case: it is the
former that is opposed.
>> In radical, political activist movements there has always been a certain
>> critical reservation about Free Software and Free Culture politics,
>> because it is (too?) industry friendly, to quite some degree capital
>> dependent, and because it is supportive of capital as a significant
>> growth area. When the World Economic Forum in 2008 was themed "The Power
>> of Collaborative Innovation", the circle - which began with Perry
>> Barlow's "libertarian" declaration at the WEF in Davos in 1996 - seemed
> There are risks. How can they be eliminated or lessened?
Know your history - recuperation, enclosure, commodification,
reification, spectacularisation are some of the keywords in the
literature that documents how risks have been met or succumbed to in the
>> Cyberspace enclosure is a real serious problem, even if Debian is still
>> going strong. IBM still builds a patent portfolio, even though they
>> develop free code. And resisting enclosure is the common ground. But how?
>> The argument that corporate Free Culture gives back as much as it takes
> Does anyone make this argument?
Yes, if you had read this thread you would know. This was a direct
response to that very argument. It is based on the "reciprocity in
perpetuity" clause (in FUD terms the viral clause) and conflates
legal-technical system with the social system.
>> is not a very good political argument, it is a technical and a legal
>> argument: yes, there is reciprocity in perpetuity ensured by the GPL and
>> the freedom follows the code and so on. But the coding and the graphical
>> user interfaces that we are all immersed in are given shape not by
>> "civil society", but by capital interests,
> Why does this happen? What are the consequences of this if so? How can this be
This has to do with power assymetries in society - capital control makes
it possible: if something is freely available, then those with time,
space, energy and labour can benefit. (Likewise, Cameron's Big Society
is about individual freedom to be realised from the community level
upwards, but absent of funding, of course, it will be the local elite
that are able to establish free schools etc. Not the poor and those who
actually need a social lift. Open Access empowers those who have the
means to enjoy that access - i.e. those with access to hardware and
bandwidth and for production purpose you need also space, time, energy
Until capital interests are much less powerful and until people have
food sovereignty in self-determined communities, the threats of
enclosure will be very real and must be confronted.
Social movements from about the 12th century have been working on this,
Free Culture movements should connect, align and build alliances with
these, instead if developing their own idiosyncratic philosophy that at
the end of the day serves capital interests.
> In this world of crazy out of whack copyrights, the GPL and other Free
> Software licenses bring more usable Freedom than any other recent
> developments. Likewise BY, BY-SA and other Free Culture licenses.
Yes, and it brings stable economic growth to large corporations, which
in turn consolidates the power base from which assymetries in health,
wealth and mobility springs.
>> Free Software and Free Culture advocates have always been in bed with
>> corporations and their conception of freedom is shaped accordingly.
> This is perhaps an overly broad brush. Do you wish to list the advocates this
> applies to?
I don't really, but if I must (and I of course forgot to label them as
the _leading_ advocates):
“I [do not] condemn “proprietary culture.” Proprietary culture has been
with us from the start and for most of our history has served creativity
and culture well. What I do condemn is extremism—the shift from the
standard view to an extreme version of “proprietary culture” that could
easily become embedded in the digital economy” (Lessig 2005: 63).
“This is not to say that property is in some sense inherently bad.
Property, together with contract, is the core institutional component of
markets, and a core institutional element of liberal societies. It is
what enables sellers to extract prices from buyers, and buyers to know
that when they pay, they will be secure in their ability to use what
they bought. It underlies our capacity to plan actions that require use
of resources that, without exclusivity, would be unavailable for us to
use” (Benkler 2006: 23-24).
....we can “say with some confidence that a right of physical exclusion
works as a legal matter because its benefits exceed its costs” (Lemley
“Real property rights do in fact serve two valuable goals. First, they
prevent rivalrous uses by multiple claimants to a particular piece of
property and therefore avoid the tragedy of the commons. Second, they
allow their owners to invest in improving or developing the property”
Apart from perpetuating a misleading and simplistic conception of
property here, we can here see the clearly unambiguous position of these
leading Free Culture advocates. And that this is a simplistic position
on property, of course Lessig knows well:
“If you're a lawyer, it's OK to think of intellectual property as
property, because we're trained to use the word property in a careful
way. We don't think of it as an absolute, perpetual right that can't be
trumped by anybody. We understand property rights are constantly limited
by public-use exceptions and needs, and in that context we understand
intellectual property to be a very particular, peculiar kind of property
-- the only property constitutionally required to be for limited terms.
It's clearly established for a public purpose and is not a natural right
… The real problem is when people use it in the ordinary sense of the
term property, which is "a thing that I have that nobody can take,
forever, unless I give it to you." By thinking of it as property, we
have no resistance to the idea of certain great companies controlling
"their" intellectual property forever. But if we instead use terms like
monopoly to describe the control that companies like Disney have over
art objects like Mickey Mouse, it's harder to run naturally to the idea
that you ought to have your monopoly right forever” (interview in Walker
So, they are admittedly in the business of misleading “the public” on
the basis of the assumption that “the public” is unable to understand
property properly. If anything, a very careful explanation to “the
public” of what property means for lawyers and philosophers would be
called for, rather than a misleading, non-factual deviation.
I am shortly publishing a derivation of my PhD thesis ("Property,
Commoning and the Politics of Free Softnware") in which I come to terms
with these issues.
>> - and many other reasons - make it no surprise that there should be a
>> clash of understandings around NC, its usefulness, and strengths and
>> weaknesses. The discussion really concerns this political divide - and
>> the legalese stands in a recursive relation to that.
> I am not so sure all of the opposition to NC arises where you seem to think it
> does. It is precisely NC work's ability to be acquired by and used against me
> by corporations (and others) and its reservation of for profit benefits on
> behalf of the few that steer me away from it. It is not my love for
> corporations that does this.
Well, then you should be interested in an articulation of NC that would
facilitate defence against corporations. Free Software Foundation calls
that a limitation to freedom, others a defence of freedom.
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