Amy Alexander on 15 Feb 2001 09:50:50 -0000

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Re: <nettime> Usenet archives sold? (Introducing Gnettime!)

On Thu, 15 Feb 2001, geert lovink wrote:

> 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.
<stuff deleted>
> 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?

the discussion actually sounds a lot like a discussion of open source software
licensing and economics issues. of course, it's not identical - primarily
because contributors to nettime, usenet, rhizome, etc., in most cases aren't
aware of the intellectual property rights they are retaining or not retaining.
with open source software, if you write software or contribute code to an
existing project, you are either selecting a free software license or are aware
of the license under which the project exists.  (see for a
comparison of the major ones.)

they usually boil down to something like, "the intellectual property can be
redistributed all anybody wants - there are no copyright restrictions. if you
want to make money doing it, that's ok, but you can't stop anyone else from
redistributing the content."

so for example, i might pay $30 for a redhat linux boxed CD, because it's i
don't have to download it for hours, it comes with a useful manual, i get 30
days web support, etc. but that doesn't stop anybody else from redistributing
anything. (except maybe their manual.) of course, you don't get the tech
support. the point is, open source "capitalists" make money from things other
than the intellectual property of the content.

by the same token, google might do a great job of organizing the usenet archive
on their site (it already seems much faster and easier to navigate than deja's
was.) if the open software license model held, they could sell ads or charge a
subscription if they wanted to. but then someone else could also host a
competing site with the same content. then google would have to figure out how
to get people to go their commercial version - perhaps faster servers with more
bandwidth, perhaps a special proprietary search engine.... 

ah, can you hook up a proprietary search engine? well, that depends on the
license - if this is open source. some licenses stipulate that the content
(code) can only go into other open source products, never into  proprietary
software - the argument being, that it puts an end to the "open source" aspect
of it if you let it go into something that's closed. 

for our proprietary search engine problem, i'd probably suggest something like
the LGPL license.  it's a sort of "compromise" license, that lets proprietary
products link with, but not encompass, a Lesser Gnu Public Licensed  (LGPL)
library.  ok, ok, the metaphor's a little screwy because usenet is more than
just a library, but, i'm tired, and... hopefully the point still comes across.

so, getting back to geert's questions about nettime. what if we GPL'ed it?
meaning, if someone wants to sell DVD's of nettime, they can make money from
the physical distribution of it - but that doesn't stop anyone else from
distributing for free on the web, or selling their own DVD's.. etc....  as long
as it never becomes part of something proprietary.  just imagine, Debian
Nettime, Suse Nettime, RedHat Nettime, Slackware Nettime...  

would that bother us? if so, why? because someone else makes money from our
writing? hmm... how does the open source capitalist solve this one...  well, i
think, by the fact that the wider distribution of nettime would increase the
notoriety of various contributors, which translates to money in various ways. i
wonder what animal o'reilly will put on the cover of my book, "Weasly Corporate
Censorship Tricks - The Definitive Guide." oh wait, it's pretty much just the
major contributors to an open source project that happens to. darn.

so, who is this we? yeah, it's a little tricky, because there's five years of
retroactive contributions to worry about; this kernel has quite a lot of
modules by now, each of which has a number of authors. i don't have a good idea
for how to deal with that, but, if it's of any help, this post is GPL'ed:

    # Gnettime - post to translate nettime into some sort of open source
    # project
    # Copyright (C) 2001 Amy Alexander

    # This program is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify
    # it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by
    # the Free Software Foundation; either version 2 of the License, or
    # (at your option) any later version.

    # This program is distributed in the hope that it will be useful,
    # but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of
    # GNU General Public License for more details.

    # You should have received a copy of the GNU General Public License
    # along with this program; if not, write to the Free Software
    # Foundation, Inc., 59 Temple Place, Suite 330, Boston, MA  02111-1307  USA

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