Tiffany Lee Brown on 16 Feb 2001 08:25:24 -0000

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Re: <nettime> Usenet archives sold?

"geert lovink" <> wrote:

>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.

from the various posts i've read, it seems that general issues about 
copyright and ownership of intellectual property are kinda big in 
this argument. just to throw in my POV:

regardless of whether or not capitalism sucks ass, it is what we 
happen to have right now in the US. given this reality, some of us 
attempt to make our way within "the system" by selling our skills, 
talent, time, and hard labor. in return we are given magic green 
tickets that we can trade to other people for rent, mortgage 
payments, food, and little devices composed of plastic, silicon, and 
soldered stuff.

t byfield <> wrote:

>a critique from the standpoint of the commodity, which fetishizes
>the author and his (yeah, his) rights.

some of us earn all of our magic green tickets by creating things 
whose only monetary value lies in their distribution. in and of 
themselves, they are abstract, ephemeral things. we get the magic 
green tickets to pay our rent because people will pay to read our 
words in magazines, books, webzines, databases, and business plans. 
but give the fetishized author a frickin' break: did he ask to be 
born into a capitalist world, or one dominated by terrifying powerful 
multinational entities? probably not. still, he writes. he's good at 
it. he gets paid. he wants to own his writing and have the right to 
sell it, just like the farmer can sell his cabbages and the cobbler 
can sell his shoes.

as an author fetishized by my own commodity (and i just love that 
mental picture, which comes complete with latex and restraints), it's 
important to me that copyright exists. "information wants to be free" 
-- true, perhaps, but i want to pay the rent, as long as i live in a 
world where paying rent is part of the deal if you want to avoid 
death by exposure. i happen to write a lot for free, because i 
cherish participating in things i care about. this does not mean that 
some CEO should be making an extra half-mil $US just cuz he and his 
clever cohorts figured out a way to steal a thousand writers' words. 
yep, STEAL. that's what it's called when you take something that 
isn't yours: STEALING. if i wrote those words for free, it just makes 
me *more* furious that some random entity has stolen them.

>"geert lovink" <> wrote:
>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?

all artists, writers, musicians, hackers -- anyone who creates 
intellectual property -- should be aware of copyright protection and 
think about intellectual property. IT IS ALL WE HAVE. maybe it's 
screwy, maybe it isn't implemented properly, and maybe capitalism is 
yucky altogether, but within the constraints of where we are *right 
now* it's all we've got. and no one should be able to waltz in with 
their corporate power and phalanxes of attorneys and just plain steal 
our stuff -- not startups like Google and Deja, not cool arty things 
like Rhizome, not the New York Times, which my union has been 
fighting for the last few years due to their various attempts to 
gobble up all redistribution rights from writers.

>Could anyone of us, who have put so much time and effort into nettime,
>prevent this from happening? I don't think so.

i think it would be helpful to abandon the position that poor little 
us, the regular old people, are useless in the face of these 
corporate sharks and phalanxes of attorneys... are they not human? do 
they not bleed? well, no, i guess not. but perhaps we should all be 
vigilant, *just in case* maybe we can make a little bit of a 
difference. make some noise. sign some petitions, call some senators, 
spam the media 'til they cover our precious issues. tell others. 
there just might be hope out there, even in such naive-sounding, 
grassrootsy approaches. (and, failing that, there's always digital 
terrorism to consider.)

the National Writers Union, for example, has seen some success with 
intellectual property and electronic rights, because a lot of people 
have made a lot of noise. they've organized. they've educated each 
other -- a necessary step, since many writers are astonishingly naive 
about these things. it involves all kinds of boring, old-fashioned 
political organizing: petitions, speeches, lawsuits, and refusing to 
back down. but it's working, in some cases. there's info at

i like the idea of applying a public license. in the case of 
Google/Deja/net news, it's too late. you can't retroactively apply 
any kind of license, not unless you can find each and every person 
who's every posted to Usenet and get their permission. "the public" 
does NOT own those posts into eternity, however grumpy it may make 
them feel because they're used to having instant, free access to 
other people's thoughts frozen in time. going forward, though, geert 
is definitely on to something: take steps now to avoid future 
problems. apply a very specific license agreement to lists like 
nettime and to their archives.


  Tiffany Lee Brown * Editrix, SIGNUM *
  after March 1:  *

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