Francis Hwang on Fri, 12 Jul 2002 09:46:00 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> "China:Imitation Nation"-Salon

Just because copyright is becoming an anachronism doesn't mean people
should starve to be artists. It just means that the payment mechanisms we
have aren't going to work. We'll need alternatives.

One alternative is called the Street Performer Protocol, and you can read
a technical paper by security guru Bruce Schneier and John Kelsey here:

In a nutshell, artists post applications which describe a work and how
much money they need to be paid to do such a thing and release it into the
general public. People log into a system, decide whether or not to donate
some money. Eventually the amount is met and the work is released to the
general public, or the amount is not met and the donaters get their money
back. Think of it as a distributed-grant process.

Part of the problem has been because solutions like this route around the
language of commercial transactions and start to sound a lot like communal
action. Our political imaginations are so atrophied that we can't imagine
the possibility of anything other than the familiar atomized
consumer-to-corporation interaction. "You mean I would join with others to
help fund something that eventually would be released to everybody,
including people who never paid anything? I don't know, sounds sort of
socialist to me ... "

But we'll need to start thinking this way, soon. With increasing computing
power and bandwidth (I'm not pitching a Gilder-esque telecosm scenario,
just observing that lots of people have enough bandwidth to file-share
MP3s today), we can no longer treat data as if its distribution can be
controlled. If you put an artistic expression in a digital reproducible
form, it becomes less like a physical object and more like a natural

Think of oxygen. No society would ever want its citizens to be forced to
buy oxygen out of individually wrapped containers. Yet oxygen, like all
resources, has a limit, and it's a society's responsibility to make sure
there's enough oxygen around. You can't let people chop down all the
trees, and you can't let industries build too many power plants.


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