geert lovink on 15 Feb 2001 03:28:21 -0000

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Re: <nettime> Usenet archives sold?

The Usenet archives thread is raising interesting questions and I think we
should further list these questions rather than getting into a big
capitalism debate. As far as I can see the issue of Google *owning* Usenet
archives should have been discussed much earlier, when Dejanews started
archiving Usenet for commercial purposes. This debate is not about the right
of this or that company to make money, but about the question if they should
do that with other people's writing, without asking permission.

Brian Holmes and others have pointed at the inherent mechanism within
capitalism to live off cooptation. The Usenet archives could serve as a
classic case. But I am not sure if should cry for help and complaint about
the evil world. It might be more interesting to look why this could have
happened in the first place. Why weren't the Usenet archives transferred to
an international independant body? (possible answer: because the first
generation Internet operators did not want to build up institutions, they
preferred anarcho capitalism). Could the ICANN disaster have prevented if
more awareness would have existed over the possibilities of alternative
models for global governance in the early-mid nineties? Is it all too late
now? Which models exist for public domain content? And, as Ronda, asked, why
didn't the research centers, who got the money to take care after all this,
stood up and acted? Petitions are good, but perhaps there are ways to

Instead of looking back, we may as well raise the *future* issue of the
nettime archive. Who owns it? What will happen if someone suddenly starts
selling it to a museum or library, or as a commodity, selling it as a DVD?
Could anyone of us, who have put so much time and effort into nettime,
prevent this from happening? I don't think so. And how about other lists?
Nettime and other lists such as syndicate, do not have a clear ownership, so
that's asking for trouble. But how about Rhizome? Are all the artists who
are posting on Rhizome aware that their words and net.artworks are already
owned by the Rhizome corporation? What is going to happen to that archive?

Best, Geert

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