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Lachlan Brown on Sun, 13 Oct 2002 18:16:13 +0200 (CEST)

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from 'No pay, No Play' in 
'Some Thoughts on the Unmarked Grave of History
from the Unmade Bed of Culture'  

Lachlan Brown

Maybe Richard Barbrook would like to share his 
salary in the 'gift economy'. Richard, can you post
your salary to an open source Paypal account?  Hmm?
(Or are you really a mere Fabian English Socialist by 
inclination like most of James Curran's underlings?)
I think I almost have Tiziana Terranova and Sally Wyatt
about to make this historic move. I'm sure The Krokers
will be keen to upload their income and then, surely,
the Association of Internet Researchers will follow
en masse at Maastricht.  

Vuk Cosic will, I am sure, agree to post some .art.

The 'gift economy' was promoted by individuals in 
education and in commerce to encourage the rapid 
dissemination of ideas and knowledges about the new 
networks and new media to give (temporary) advantage 
to individuals in conventional networks (networks 
do exist independently of the Internet as you know) 
in academic networks (Screen studies comes to 
mind as does my favourite 'running dog lackey' Sean 
Cubitt) as well as numerous commerical networks. 

It was a way of encouraging the theft of ideas and 
work while shoring up the power of conventional networks 
and institutions. 
Do I have to explain to a political economist the 
political economy of the 'gift economy'? 'Open-source', 
'shareware'  is of course the basis of research culture 
in educational and academic life. But academic life is 
not life as most people know it. Research Culture is 
heavily underpinned economically, supported by Fees 
(student fees), government grants to universities, and 
by foundations (commercial and non-profit).

In commercial life research is supported by budgets 
for 'new product and service development' including 
identifying 'new or future markets'. What seems free comes 
with substantial economic backing. Why pretend that it 
doesn't? The outcome of requiring producers and 
innovators (usually young people) to sign away their 
rights to their work for a principle of freeware is 
Lessig's rather problematic copyright solution. Different 
levels of protection depending upon how much power one 
has within the 'new economy'. Core/margin/periphery 
organisation of labour in late, later and latest capital?

I thought I covered this issue last year in my Copyright 
post to Nettime in December 2001.

I know you would like 'the new economy' to be radical in 
a sort of 'cyber punk' kind of way, but lets leave that
for the books (printed books) and the movies, and let's
get to grips with what people have actually been doing with 
AND to 'technology' in distributed computing for the past 
seven years. It's a far more radical story than the plot
brought to the field in the early 90s. 

 People online are quite willing to pay primary 
producers for their media wares. Copyright is an 
excellent guarantee for renumeration.  
I think I covered this in my copyright post to Nettime 
last year? 
1. a new means of distribution of media and communications,
or a new world market as it turns out;
2. new media products and services;
3. The Dialectic/Dialogic, I love it.

I dunno, you digital revolutionaries promised us 'speed'
I wonder why your thoughts have begun to set like concrete.

I wonder why the consequences of 10% of the worlds
population with network access were not discussed in
cybersalons in the mid 90s? It was fairly obvious
that this contemporary world/global situation would 
arise. The revolution is happening and it is happening
around the contradictory signs 'technology' and 
'globalisation'. One third of the world population
will be networked in a few years. 

Its been very boring waiting for this situation to arise
but I suppose the Cybersalon was an occasional opportunity
for the terminally networked in London to develop a social
life in the midst of the tedium of the digital revolution.

Perhaps someone could do some work tying the benefits of 
micro loans in development contexts with the ability
to make micro payment for cultural products online? 

Lachlan Brown

The Centre for Cultural Studies,
and the Centre for Urban and Community Research 
Goldsmiths College 
University of London

Copyright, consumer to consumer publishing and distributed 

Lachlan Brown, December 02, 2001

        Somewhere in the debate and contest between 
academic and scientific economies of sharing information, 
knowledge and research andcorporate commercial economies 
of accumulating intellectual properties, we have forgotten 
how and why the copyright law came into being. Around 
the time that the public emerged as an economic and 
political force in the late eighteenth century the rights of 
the primary producer to the friuits of his or her labour for 
a period of seventy years were guaranteed.  Prior to the 
appearance of the copyright law, which was of course
associated with the emergence of 'publishing' industries 
(as opposed to patronized production and printing industries) 
a wide range of contracts of an 'obligation' form existed 
between patron and producer.

What we see now and not only in culture based in digital 
transactions butinflecting culture at large is an ad-hoc 
regression into these 'obligation' economies which are feudal 
in their character without any of the 'guarantees' of feudal
 welfare such as they were.  While people
who occupy new roles of mediation in these economies may 
temporarily assume positions of power, this is likely to 
be mere proxy for corporate entities whose interests (public 
service and/or commercial) are best served by a knowledge 
and articulation of such power relations.  The only
possible winners in a contest on these terms are those who 
already have accumulations of power, economic or political. 
If, that is, we did not have copyright to protect the labour 
and the moral rights of the primary producer under law.

        Napster provides a case in point of a failure to tie 
new relations of distribution and mediation with the economy. 
First a technology of consumer to consumer (or peer to peer) 
sharing through distributed computing was made available. 
Ironically, the 'meaninglessness' of consumer to consumer 
exchange meant that the deployment and growth of this
technology was 'invisible' to conventional media, media 
industries and economies. They didn't really understand it, 
and they still don't, except in the 'goodwill' value and 
the potential insight in identifying new and future markets
that it offers. 

Second a community of users engaged with a passion for 
sharing and a passion for music (and no doubt a passion 
for community) began to tue new relations of mediation to 
new means of distribution of music in the 
digital form. This threatened revenues across the music 
industry in retail, promotional, legal, marketing and 
distributive segments of the industry.

Third, with media conglomerates in a heightened state of 
distress over Napster the company and the community of users 
who formed Napster (and arguably have a stake or share in the organisation - as well of course responsibility for the 
actions  of the community). The detail of 'librarianship' of transactions 
and administration of payment of royalty were not developed.

Artists receiving royalty they had not expected from Napster 
and its stakeholders, now that would have been the radical 

Its always the third step that's difficult in any revolution.  
The development of an alternate way to ensure that royalty was 
paid and the rights of the primary producer were protected 
would have been the revolutionary development. 

 A wide range of e-commercial subscription and micro-payment 
models are available of course, but no thought was given to the boring and mundane work of administrating the exchange. Simple
accountancy. Simple equity banking.

I find it really strange that the 'shareware' priciple of 
research supported by public service institutions, or supported 
by commercial research and development is carried over to the implementation of the circulation of the cultural product as publishing. The cultural product (music, artwork or writing) 
is the outcome of labour that is not necessarily supported 
either by commercial nor public service institutions (nor 
should it be).  Do any of us have any objection to paying 
for alternative print media? Admission fees to experience 
alternative music? Then why such difficulty with the idea
of paying for online media and discussion?

There have been many tentative steps to query the ideology 
of shareware in the publishing market for digital content. 

Ironically, the copyright law articulated around protecting 
the rights of the primary producer, the writer, artists, 
musicians. Its cultural appropriation to copy and pass off 
work that is the outcome of someone else's intellectual
labour, full-stop. Its not right in a world sense to query the 
moral right the artist has to the fruits of his or her labour.

Just thought I would state the position. Somethings got to give 
in the present ideological log-jam in the broadband river that 
is contemporary Digital Culture (so to speak), and while 
'copyleft' and 'copyrites' are welcome , they do not give 
comfort to those who would like to make a living from writing 
and producing.

Lachlan Brown

Lachlan Brown
T(416) 826 6937
VM (416) 822 1123

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