Felix Stalder on Sun, 23 Jan 2005 19:16:14 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> Re: What's the meaning of "non-commercial"?

On Tuesday, 18. January 2005 18:13, Benjamin Geer wrote:

> > This only applies if you assume that each work as a small number of
> > authors, or that these authors are easily identifiable. This, of course,
> > is not the case with major collaborative works. It's next to impossible
> > to identify all the authors of, say, a wikipedia article.
> That would be the case whichever licence Wikipedia used.  If a licence
> imposes any restrictions at all, it's possible that someone may wish to
> ask for a special exception. 

This is a bit of a moot point. The difference is not 'restrictions' vs 'no 
restrictions'. Openness and freedom are not constituted by the absence of 
rules (which are always enabling and constraining) but a particular set of 
rules that is biased to promote certain dynamics and inhibit others.

The question is, what kind of dynamics does the non-commercial clause in CC 
license promote? Basically, it creates two universes, a commercial one and a 
non-commercial one. The more complex these information goods becomes in terms 
of their authorship (think of remixes of remixes, etc) the less it becomes 
possible to move information form the non-commercial universe to the 
commercial one. 

Now, this might sound like a massive attack on capitalism, the one Benjamin 
sees lacking from the GPL.

> Another way of looking at it is that this is one of the limitations of
> FLOSS, which keeps it from contributing to an alternative to capitalism.

However, it seems to me, this critique is totally misguided. For one, it 
assumes that there is a clear boundary between the two categories which is 
not the case for two reasons. One, there are no clear definition for those 
terms and we are back to murky case-by-case decisions. Second, within the 
same process, we find nowadays routinely elements that are commercial and 
that are non-commercial. The two universes are not separate, but deeply 
intertwined, as highlighted in recent concepts such as 'bio-politics'. 

So, what the actual effect of the non-commercial clause is to lock information 
into a ghetto where production must be done for free, or, where its material 
support cannot be provided by the producers themselves through small scale 
commercial transactions (say, a DJ selling a few copies of her CD) but needs 
support from government grants, foundations, or other donors. A rather 
strange alternative to capitalism.  



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