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<nettime> Roberto Verzola: Cyberlords
Pit Schultz on Sun, 15 Mar 1998 12:06:01 +0100 (MET)


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<nettime> Roberto Verzola: Cyberlords


[ The following is a must-read for all political net.economists hence it
probably looks like old school class analysis.  As a materialist (e.g.
have-nots) counterpart of the 'econonmy of attention' it speaks out a
social critique of 'netizenship' and points at an global microeconomic
reality which has been quite unpopular in the enthusiastic times of
egalitarian cyberspace. In times of the financial crisis in Asia it makes
special sense questioning the expandibility of the idea of intellectual
property. This might end up in quite effective redistribution practises
like 'compulsory licensing' - think of China buying one single state
licence of Microsoft Windows for all Chineses. In other words this
manifesto from the periphery of the nets encourages dispute of the
economic foundations of the fancy term of 'info wars'. It adds context to
the recent criminalisation of fair use, brought trough congress by
lobbyists of the US software industry, based on some doubtful calculations
of a world wide loss of $11 billion in 1996 through software piracy.
http://www.bsa.org/piracy/96TABLES.HTM or http://www.dfc.org /p]




           Cyberlords: The Rentier Class of the Information Sector

                            by Roberto Verzola 


   [ Roberto Verzola (rverzola {AT} phil.gn.apc.org) is the coordinator of
     Interdoc, a loose international network of non-government
     organizations (NGOs) which is tracking the impact of the emerging
     global information economy on developing countries and on social
     movements. He is also the secretary-general of the Philippine Greens,
     a political formation dedicated towards building self-sufficient
     communities guided by the principles of ecology, social justice and
     self-determination. He makes a living operating an electronic mail
     service for NGOs, and is an electrical engineer by training
     (jagdish {AT} igc.org) ]



     The information sector of an economy is that sector whose products
     consist principally of information goods.

     Information goods are non-material goods.[1] They are most easily
     distinguished by the fact that they can be stored in various media
     and when stored in electronic media, their cost of reproduction
     becomes negligibly low. Some examples of information goods include
     software, music, video, databases, books, machine designs, genetic
     information, and other copyrighted or patented goods.

     When the information sector of an economy becomes more dominant
     than either its industrial or ecology sector, then that economy
     has become an information economy.[2] A good example of such an
     economy is the U.S. economy.


     Information: low reproduction cost

     The basic production process in the information sector involves
     the use of mental workers or intellectuals to produce information
     goods. They are often aided in this process by additional
     information processing tools, at the heart of which is usually a
     computer. Once the first copy is created, an information product
     can then be transformed for storage on various media. The most
     flexible form of storage is electronic media. Once stored in this
     form, the product becomes very easy to reproduce at very little
     cost. If the information is stored in digital format, then perfect
     reproductions of the original can be made over unlimited
     generations of copies.

     It is the recent electronic and digital revolution which has made
     possible the emerging dominance of the information sector in some
     countries.

     The ease with which information, especially in its electronic
     format, can now be reproduced leads to the basic conflict within
     the information sector. On the one hand, information users tend to
     share copies of information products freely. On the other hand,
     information producers tend to hinder the free exchange of
     information, so that they can maintain the extremely high profit
     margins possible from the negligibly low reproduction costs.

     The extra-high margins of a successful information-based company
     are best seen in Microsoft, which grew to a billion-dollar firm
     within a decade after it released its first software product. This
     is a feat which probably has no equal among industrial firms.

     The high profit margins among information firms likewise draw
     finance capital from industrial and agricultural sectors. The
     transformation of the U.S. from an industrial to an information
     economy reflects this movement of investment capital towards the
     information sector, confirming the observation that investment
     capital tends to flow towards business prospects with the highest
     rates of return.


     Monopolistic information economies

     The U.S. information economy is a monopolistic information
     economy, because the propertied classes of the dominant
     information sector assert their control over information through
     monopolistic mechanisms called intellectual property rights (IPR).
     The main forms of IPR are patents and copyrights, both of which
     are statutory monopolies, i.e., monopolies acquired by virtue of
     government statutes. These State-granted monopolies cover the
     exclusive rights to use, manufacture, copy, modify, and sell the
     product. Recently, under the GATT/WTO, these rights have been
     expanded further to include the exclusive right to rent and to
     import the products.

     These statutory monopolies, which are gradually being strengthened
     and extended as the political and economic power of the propertied
     classes of the information sector grows, are in direct conflict
     with the information freedoms sought by the vast majority of
     information users. These freedoms include the freedoms to use, to
     share with others, and to modify information. Information
     monopolies are also in conflict with the basic nature of
     information itself as a public good.

     In the future, non-monopolistic information economies may emerge,
     which will remunerate intellectual activity through means other
     than monopolistic mechanisms such as patents, copyrights, and
     other IPR. In such an economy, the nature of intellectual rewards
     will be in much better harmony with the nature of information
     itself.[3] This analysis covers monopolistic information
     economies. For convenience, the shorter term 'information
     economies' will be used for the rest of this article to refer to
     monopolistic information economies.


     Classes in the information sector

     Just like the ecology and industrial sectors, the information
     sector gives rise to various economic classes based on the
     individuals' position in the production, distribution and use of
     information. An analysis of these classes will give us useful
     insights about the underlying economic interests and typical
     attitudes of various social groups in the sector.[4] The following
     major classes can be identified:

     Cyberlords. The cyberlords are the propertied class of the
     information sector. They control either a body of information, or
     the material infrastructure for creating, distributing or using
     information. Cyberlords are a rent-seeking capitalist class.[5]

     The first category of cyberlords are the IPR holders, who have
     staked their monopoly rights over a specific body of information,
     and who earn their income by charging royalties, license fees, or
     other forms of rent from those who want to use this body of
     information. Cyberlords include the owners of software companies,
     database companies, audio, video and film companies, genetic
     engineering firms, pharmaceutical and seed firms, and similar
     companies who earn most of their income from IPR rents.

     The second category of cyberlords are the infrastructure owners.
     They own or control the industrial infrastructure for creating,
     reproducing, distributing, or using information. They earn their
     income by charging rents for the use of these infrastructures.
     This category includes the owners of communications lines and
     equipment, radio and TV stations, Internet service providers,
     theater distributors and owners, cable TV operators, and other
     firms through which information controlled by the first category
     is reproduced, distributed, or used. Strictly speaking, these
     infrastructure owners are an industrial rather than an information
     class, but are doubly-classed as cyberlords because they are a
     rent-seeking class who play a key role in the distribution of
     information.

     However, these industrial cyberlords may not share the same rabid
     advocacy for IPRs that characterize the IPR-holding cyberlords,
     especially when IPRs impede the wider use of the infrastructure
     from which they derive their own income. This category is
     generally in alliance with the first; nonetheless, the distinction
     between them may become important occasionally, in the struggle
     against the cyberlords of the first type, who are the true
     cyberlords of the information economy.[6]

     We can also include in the cyberlord class those highly-paid
     professionals who earn their living under the employ or in the
     service of cyberlords. The best examples are the top-level
     managers as well as the lawyers who serve cyberlords and who
     derive their income mostly from payments by the cyberlords they
     work for. Lawyers, in particular, are absolutely necessary for
     copyrights and patents holders because these IPR instruments are
     basically legal artifices which can only be implemented through
     government action. These highly-paid hirelings acquire the class
     status and the ideological outlook of the cyberlords they serve.

     Information cyberlords can be classified into big cyberlords,
     middle cyberlords and small cyberlords.

     The big cyberlords earn most of their income from information
     rents. The mark of the big cyberlord stratum is that it did not
     create some or even most of the body of information protected by
     its patent or copyrights. They were instead created by hired
     staff, contracted out or bought from other companies. Big
     cyberlords normally start out as a small or middle cyberlord. As
     they acquire economic power, they find it more convenient to pay
     others for existing information products than to create new ones
     themselves from scratch. When they do so, they turn into a big
     cyberlord. Big cyberlords often buy into or buy out smaller
     cyberlords not only to acquire new products but also to suppress
     potential or actual competition. The best example of a big
     cyberlord is William Gates, the principal owner of Microsoft and
     the richest person in the world.

     Big cyberlords all over the world are scouring the public domain
     for information products that they can privatize and monopolize
     through IPRs. Some have already acquired the exclusive electronic
     reproduction rights to the paintings and other cultural artifacts
     in the world's best museums. Others are engaged in a race to
     patent genetic information of all kinds, including parts of the
     human genome. Still others are turning their eye on the vast
     information outputs of governments, which are normally in the
     public domain.

     Like Microsoft, most corporations owned by big cyberlords operate
     globally. These firms comprise a big portion of the hidden forces
     driving the process of globalization. Because the social nature of
     information keeps asserting itself and information products tend
     to spread themselves globally as soon as they are released,
     cyberlords need a global legal infrastructure for imposing their
     information monopolies and extracting monopoly rents. Thus, they
     push the globalization process incessantly to ensure that every
     country, every nook and corner of the globe, is within the reach
     of their mechanisms for extracting monopoly rents.[7]

     The biggest information cyberlords are based mostly in the U.S.,
     Europe, and, to a lesser extent, Japan. In these countries, the
     highly-advanced industrial infrastructure, together with extremist
     concepts of private property, have given their cyberlord class a
     huge, commanding lead over cyberlords elsewhere.[8] Their presence
     is felt globally, and because they tend to suppress local efforts
     to acquire new technologies at the least cost, big cyberlords are
     a major hindrance to the development efforts of most national
     economies.

     Like the big cyberlords, middle cyberlords earn most of their
     income from information rents. However, the incomes of middle
     cyberlords come principally from the rent income generated by the
     body of information much of which they created themselves.
     Successful authors, inventors, and songwriters, who live off the
     royalties from their works, belong to this category.

     Small cyberlords earn substantial income from information rents,
     but their income is not sufficient to support themselves and their
     family, so they have to supplement it with incomes from other
     sources. Most local information cyberlords belong to this
     category.

     This stratum keeps trying to graduate to the middle cyberlord
     status, because they have internalized the ideology of the
     cyberlord class. This ideology arises from the basic dream of the
     cyberlord class, which can be summed up as follows: "create a good
     idea or 'expression of an idea', stake a monopoly claim over it
     through a patent or a copyright, and then live off the rents for
     the rest of your life." Small cyberlords are in perpetual pursuit
     of this dream, and a few may manage to become middle cyberlords.

     Compradors. They are the merchant capitalists of the information
     sector. They earn their living by selling for profit patented or
     copyrighted products. They very often come from the merchant
     classes of the industrial and ecology sectors, and may retain
     their businesses in these sectors. These merchant classes are
     attracted to move into the information sector because the
     extremely high profit margins enjoyed by successful cyberlords
     gives resellers better margins too.

     This class can be roughly divided into two. Monopolistic
     compradors make money by paying cyberlords for the right to sell
     patented or copyrighted goods. Thus, they derive their income from
     information rents and are therefore supportive of cyberlord
     interests.

     Non-monopolistic compradors make money by reproducing and selling
     patented or copyrighted material, without paying the monopoly
     rents claimed by cyberlords. In a way, they help break the
     information monopolies imposed by cyberlords.

     Because of the political clout of cyberlords, the non-monopolistic
     compradors are often harassed and suppressed, to discourage them
     from their trade and to turn them into monopolistic compradors.
     They are frequently the targets of surveillance, legal suits,
     raids, and other forms of government and cyberlord harassment.
     Yet, there is no lack of non-monopolistic compradors who trade in
     copyrighted and patented materials, making these materials more
     accessible to the public which would otherwise be unable to afford
     them. Even under the worst forms of authoritarian rule,
     non-monopolistic compradors will continue to ply their trade by
     forming an underground network to break the cyberlord monopolies.
     These compradors can be allies of information users against the
     cyberlord class. Many of them, however, eventually surrender to
     the power of cyberlords, arrive at a profit-sharing arrangement
     with them, and turn into monopolistic compradors.

     Intellectuals. Intellectuals are the main creators of information
     in the information sector. They earn their living through mental
     labor, creating new and useful information. The intellectual class
     may be further subdivided into three strata.

     The upper stratum earns some income from information rents but
     this is not substantial. Most of their earnings are from business
     contracts for information work, rather than IPR rents. This
     stratum will often defend IPRs because its members already derive
     income from information rents and hope to get more income from
     such rents in the future.

     The upper stratum's rent income from IPR distinguishes it from the
     middle stratum, which has no such rent income.

     The middle stratum gets its income from business contracts for
     information work. Some members of this stratum may retain their
     fixed-wage jobs, although the bigger portion of their income
     already comes from their contractual work. This can be common
     especially among intellectuals in government.

     This stratum earns no income from information rents, but members
     of this stratum sometimes successfully negotiate to retain
     ownership over their body of work, to prevent the other
     contracting party from making commercial use of their work. This
     represents an incipient cyberlord thinking that is strengthened or
     suppressed depending on their success or failure in retaining full
     ownership over their work in these negotiations and in extracting
     rent income from their body of works. In the main, however, this
     stratum does not closely identify with the interests of
     monopolistic cyberlords.

     The middle stratum differs from the lower stratum in that it is
     profit-making rather than wage-earning, and that a member of this
     stratum may have other intellectuals under its employ.

     The lower stratum consists of the wage-earning intellectuals, who
     earn most of their income from fixed-rate payments such as wages
     and salaries. They may occasionally get additional remunerations
     such as bonuses for especially useful intellectual work, or side
     contracts from which they may earn considerable sums. But they
     earn the bulk of their income as wage-earners.

     Should their work result in patentable or copyrightable materials,
     their hiring contracts normally specify that such materials become
     the property of the company they work for. Because they are
     usually in no position to negotiate when looking for a job, they
     accept such contracts as a matter of course. The majority of
     intellectuals belong to this stratum of the intellectual class.

     Information users. Members of this group use information but are
     not generally involved in the creation of information products.
     Whatever information they generate are either automatically shared
     with others, or kept confidential. The idea of staking a monopoly
     on a body of information so that they can make money out of it is
     quite alien to this group. Because they generally earn their
     income from elsewhere, information users are actually not a single
     class nor a monolithic group, but a cluster of classes in the
     ecology, industrial and information sectors. In so far as they are
     all information users, however, they actively seek the information
     freedoms of using, sharing, and modifying information. Information
     users are therefore the main force in the struggle to free
     information from cyberlord monopolies.


     The basic conflict

     The key issue that separates classes in a monopolistic information
     economy is the issue of IPR, which reflects their class roles in
     the production, distribution and use of information. IPRs are a
     highly monopolistic form of controlling information flow, and are
     therefore totally incompatible with the nature of information as
     well as the desire of information users to use, share and modify
     information freely.

     Cyberlords are very strong advocates for expanding these monopoly
     rights, while information users want to limit these rights as much
     as possible. In so far as IPR infringements impinge on their
     profit margins, compradors will take the side of cyberlords. But
     in so far as monopoly rents themselves impinge on their profit
     margins, other compradors will oppose IPRs. Intellectuals may
     dream of owning some body of information in the future, from which
     they can themselves extract information rents, but in the main
     realize that this cannot be their main source of income, and that
     they themselves need access to many bodies of information which
     are currently monopolized through patents or copyrights.

     The key to the transformation of a monopolistic information
     economy towards a non-monopolistic information economy is to
     replace monopolistic IPRs with other means of rewarding
     intellectual activity. This transformation will of course be
     opposed to the very end by the cyberlord class, which furthermore
     is politically and economically very strong. As the privatization
     process subsumes under cyberlord monopolies more and more of what
     is now public domain information, the public of information users
     will acquire a higher level of political consciousness, and this
     struggle will eventually express itself as the main conflict in a
     monopolistic information economy. As such, it will increasingly
     manifest itself in cultural, economic as well as political fronts.


     A class strategy against monopolies

     The class strategy that can defeat the powerful cyberlord class,
     involves advancing a set of demands that will isolate the big
     cyberlords and their closest comprador allies, neutralize or win
     over the middle and small cyberlords, and to win over and mobilize
     the entire intellectual class with special attention to its middle
     and lower strata, to unite with the vast majority of information
     users. This united front should also involve other classes and
     social groups in the industrial and ecology sectors who are
     themselves information users or whose thinking and orientation are
     in conflict with some aspects of IPRs. The latter group include
     indigenous peoples, farmers, women, and the religious sector.
     Without such a united front, it will be extremely difficult to
     defeat the information monopolies of the big cyberlords, and the
     latter would be able to use their increasing economic and
     political power to consolidate, codify and further expand their
     statutory monopolies.

     With a well-formulated set of demands, the powerful cyberlord
     class can be politically isolated, and existing laws can be
     restructured to liberalize access to monopolistically-owned
     information. The long-term goal is to dismantle monopolistic forms
     of information ownership and to replace them with non-monopolistic
     forms which are more in harmony with the nature of information
     itself. This will eventually enable users to enjoy the full
     information freedoms that will unleash creativity not only among
     the intellectuals but among information users themselves.

     The formulation of such a comprehensive set of demands, which in
     effect becomes the basis of political strategy and tactics in the
     emerging class conflicts within the information sector, deserves a
     separate piece. However, several demands can be identified now,
     because they have emerged historically and must necessarily become
     part of the overall set of demands against information monopolies.

     Compulsory licensing. The most important demand for breaking the
     information monopolies of cyberlords is the retention of
     compulsory licensing and the expansion of its coverage.

     Compulsory licensing works as follows: Somebody who wants to
     use/commercialize patented or copyrighted material approaches NOT
     the patent or copyright holder, but the government for a license
     to do so. The government grants the license, whether the original
     patent or copyright holder agrees or not, but compels the licensee
     to pay the patent/copyright holder a royalty rate that is fixed by
     the government (or by law). Many countries in the world have used
     and continue to use compulsory licensing for important products
     like pharmaceuticals and books.[9]

     Compulsory licensing (also called mandatory licensing in some
     countries) is a demand of many countries who want to access
     technologies but cannot afford the price set by patent/copyright
     holders. While this internationally-recognized mechanism was meant
     for the benefit of poorer countries, even the U.S. and many
     European countries use it.

     Most small cyberlords, because they often have neither the capital
     nor the production facilities to commercialize their creations
     themselves, welcome compulsory licensing, although they will try
     to negotiate for higher royalty rates. They welcome it because
     compulsory licensing will ensure them of some income from their
     creations. Compulsory licensing is the demand that can split the
     cyberlord class and win over or neutralize the small cyberlords
     and some of the middle cyberlords. The big cyberlords, who have
     the capability to commercialize products themselves, are violently
     opposed to the idea of compulsory licensing, because it is a
     powerful threat to their monopoly over information. It is an
     indication of the political power and influence of cyberlords that
     they managed to thoroughly emasculate the concept of compulsory
     licensing in the GATT/WTO agreement.

     Non-monopolistic compradors welcome compulsory licensing because
     it legalizes their anti-monopolistic trading activities,
     protecting them from legal harassments, raids, and other attacks
     initiated by big cyberlords.

     No patenting of life forms. This demand emerged out of the popular
     campaigns against genetic engineering and recombinant DNA
     technologies. It has become a major global issue, as biotechnology
     in general and genetic engineering in particular continue to take
     that slippery slope leading corporations towards the direct
     manipulation and commercialization of human genetic material. True
     to their cyberlord nature, owners of biotech firms are racing
     against each other in patenting DNA sequences, microorganisms,
     plants, animal, human genetic matter and all other kinds of
     biological material. Cyberlord representatives have already
     managed to insert in the GATT/WTO agreement protection for patents
     on microorganisms and microbiological processes.

     This is a very powerful demand because biotech cyberlords impinge
     on religious and moral issues as well as on indigenous community
     knowledge. Genetic engineering also threatens to give rise to a
     whole new class of harmful viruses, germs, microorganisms and
     higher life forms which have no natural enemies. This demand can
     unite a wide range of sectors against the cyberlord ideology.

     Expanding the fair-use policy. This has been the historical
     struggle waged by librarians, particularly of public libraries,
     who see themselves as guardians of the world's storehouse of
     knowledge. Most librarians want to see this storehouse of
     knowledge freely accessible to the public, and they have fought
     long battles and firmly held their ground on the issue of
     "fair-use", which allows students and researchers access to
     copyrighted or patented materials without paying IPR rents.
     Recently, this ground has been suffering from slow erosion due to
     the increasing political power of cyberlords. The expansion of the
     fair-use policy can be a minor victory against the overwhelming
     advances of cyberlords in various fronts to expand the scope and
     coverage of their monopolies.

     Support for non-monopolistic mechanisms. Various concepts in
     software development and/or distribution have recently emerged.
     Some, such as shareware, are less monopolistic than IPR. Others,
     such as "copyleft" and the GNU General Public License (GPL), are
     completely non-monopolistic.

     Shareware works under various schemes, such as free trial periods,
     free distribution, voluntary payments, etc. These concepts have in
     effect abandoned the legal artifice of asserting one's exclusive
     monopoly over copying one's work, in favor of granting users
     limited rights to use, copy and distribute the material. While
     shareware authors have shed considerably the monopolistic ideology
     of cyberlords, they still balk at releasing their source code, and
     therefore continue to keep their users captive and unable to
     modify the software on their own.

     The GNU GPL enables users to enjoy the fullest set of information
     freedoms, including the freedom to use, the freedom to share with
     others, and the freedom to modify information. The GPL shows how
     current copyright concepts may be used in the transition away from
     monopolistic arrangements, and points the way towards future
     non-monopolistic software development.[10] Software as well as
     books which fall under the GPL copyright may be used freely by
     anybody who may find them useful. They may also be shared freely
     with others. Finally, the software may be freely modified because
     the source code is included in the distribution.

     Software source code is the equivalent of architectural plans in
     case of buildings, schematic diagrams in case of electronic
     equipment, or technical drawings in case of machinery. To improve
     software, a building, electronic equipment, or machinery, you must
     have these original plans to do the modifications properly.
     Otherwise, the original plans must be reconstructed before major
     modifications can proceed.

     The extremes which cyberlords resort to, in order to strengthen
     their monopolies, can be seen from their persistent and
     increasingly successful demand that countries outlaw the
     decompilation of software.[11] Decompilation is the reconstruction
     of software source code. It is equivalent to reconstructing
     architectural plans, schematic diagrams, or technical drawings,
     because the original designers refused to release them to the
     user. By prohibiting the reconstruction of these original plans,
     cyberlords make it extremely difficult if not impossible for users
     to independently modify copyrighted or patented materials, denying
     users their freedom to modify the materials and enabling
     cyberlords to extract even more monopoly rents from users.

     General wage increases. In a way, salaries and wages are a
     specific form of non-monopolistic remuneration for intellectual
     activity. This is the most relevant demand for the big majority of
     intellectuals, who will stay on the side of information users as
     long as they are assured of some reasonable remuneration for their
     work as information creators. In this respect, the big majority of
     intellectuals can unite with other wage-earning classes to raise
     common demands.

     The list above is not complete. A comprehensive set of demands for
     transforming monopolistic information economies can only emerge
     when the various classes ranged against the cyberlords acquire an
     economic and political consciousness that will make clear-cut
     where their interests lie.[12]


     Towards a new social order

     These demands in the information sector must also be linked with
     the demands of other change-oriented classes and groups in the
     ecology and industrial sectors, such as farmers, fisherfolk,
     workers, women and indigenous peoples. The key is to bring
     together the widest range of people, whose unity and joint action
     can bring about a political structure for evolving new forms of
     rewarding intellectual activity. Such forms will lead in the
     future to a non-monopolistic information sector. The rethinking of
     property concepts that this will bring about will then reinforce
     demands for restructuring the industrial and agriculture sectors
     as well.

     From such a confluence of social movements, enough social forces
     for change can emerge to bring forth a society where knowledge and
     culture are freely shared, where industrial machinery are
     carefully designed for genuine human and community needs, and
     where agriculture is an ecological and not an industrial
     undertaking.

     *****


     Notes:

     1. Information goods. Information, in the most general sense, is
     anything that can be represented and stored as a digital series of
     bits (ie, one's and zero's). In the information sciences,
     information is defined in terms of resolving uncertainty about a
     set of possible outcomes. The basic unit of information is the
     bit, which resolves the uncertainty between two equally-possible
     outcomes. To acquire information means to reduce or to completely
     resolve the uncertainty. This clearly makes information a
     non-material entity. For a more detailed discussion of information
     products, please see my earlier article "Towards A Political
     Economy of Information"  

     2. Information, industrial, and ecology sectors. I am referring
     here to the sectors of the economy that engage in the production
     of goods. I use the ecology sector to cover both agriculture and
     hunting/gathering. Fishing, for example, is a hunting/gathering
     activity, which is part of the ecology sector. A more complete set
     of economic sectors would include the personal and the financial
     services sectors (both which involve services more than goods).
     For a more detailed discussion of these three sectors of
     production, please see my earlier article "Redefining Our Vision
     For The Future." 

     3. Non-monopolistic forms of remuneration. These include salaries
     and wages, bonuses, prizes, awards, grants and other means of
     remunerating intellectual activity which don't give intellectuals
     the exclusive right to use or copy their creation.

     4. Class analysis. It is sometimes considered unfair to lump
     individual cyberlords into a single class, as if these people had
     no conscience, moral values, or social ethics. It is true that
     individual cyberlords, perhaps due to personal belief, religion,
     or political inclination, may act against their own economic
     interests. If they do so consistently, however, they probably will
     not remain a cyberlord for long. Also, most of the big and middle
     cyberlords run their business affairs through corporations.
     Obviously, corporations have neither heart, conscience nor soul.
     These are invariably run by managers whose pay and job security
     depend on how well they maximize corporate profits. Thus, it
     remains valid to look at the economic interests of classes, to
     acquire some useful insights into their most probable economic,
     political and social behavior.

     5. Cyberlord. The word is constructed from "cyberspace" and
     "landlord". The information space created by all the storage and
     transmission media connected to the Internet is often called
     cyberspace. Landlords, ie, landowners who charge rent for the use
     of their land, are the classical example of a rent-seeking class.

     6. Conflict of interest between the industrial and the information
     cyberlord. For instance, a lot of commercial software are freely
     exchanged among online users. Online providers like Compuserve or
     America Online either turn a blind eye on these activities or
     claim that they are impossible to police. Since most online
     providers charge their subscribers per minute of usage, it is also
     obvious that the more such exchanges occur, the more money they
     make.

     7. Globalization. The Internet, the international media, the
     continuing pressure on countries to open up their economies to
     global corporations, and the GATT/WTO are examples of mechanisms
     that facilitate the globalization process.

     8. Extremist private property concepts. A good example is the
     claim of scientists that if they discover a particular human DNA
     sequence, they can stake an ownership claim over this sequence
     through a patent. Such a claim means that they will have the
     exclusive right to use, copy, commercial, rent, import, etc. such
     DNA sequence. Another example is the claim of scientists, who
     splice a strand of DNA from one life form to another, that they
     have created a new life form, and thus can patent it. Such a
     patent represents a monopoly ownership claim not only on the
     particular result of such a genetic experiment, but on all
     subsequent life deriving from it, such as its offsprings and
     descendants. Still another example is the ownership by some
     companies of the exclusive electronic reproduction rights to some
     of the world's most famous art works. Such ownership claim means
     that they, alone, can reproduce electronically these art works.

     9. In the Philippines, we have a Book Reprinting Law, which
     authorizes local publishers to reprint foreign textbooks for the
     use of the local educational system. Philippine law also provides
     for compulsory licensing by local companies of pharmaceutical
     products. Both laws are currently under heavy attack by cyberlord
     lobbyists. Moves are now afoot to repeal them in order to align
     Philippine laws with the GATT/WTO agreement.

     10. GNU GPL. GNU is a project of the Free Software Foundation
     (FSF), under the leadership of Richard Stallman. Its General
     Public License (GPL) was carefully crafted to make use of existing
     copyright concepts to pave the way for a non-monopolistic form of
     copyright. The increasing popularity among Unix users of the Linux
     kernel by Linus Torvalds, the GNU operating system of the FSF, and
     free alternatives to MS-DOS and Windows -- all distributed under
     the GPL -- shows the way for future non-monopolistic software
     development. Please check the Web page
     http://www.gnu.ai.mit.edu/philosophy/categories.html for details
     about the GNU GPL.

     11. Decompilation. The Business Software Alliance (BSA), which
     represents the interests of cyberlords worldwide, has launched an
     aggressive lobby within the Philippine legislature to ban
     decompilation.

     12. An effort to formulate the response of social movements to the
     emerging information economy was made by Interdoc, an
     international network of non-government organizations, in a
     workshop last November 1996 in Silang, Cavite, Philippines. One
     formulation which emerged from the workshop is as follows: "Build,
     improve and expand the body of public domain information
     infrastructures, tools and content."

     July 27, 1997


     [
     
     sources:
     
     http://www.tao.ca/earth/lk97/archive/0174.html
     http://www.corpwatch.org/trac/internet/corpspeech/cyberlords.html
     
     other articles by the same author:
     
     "It's only piracy if you are poor"
     http://www.news.com/Perspectives/Soapbox/rv11_18_96a.html
    
     "Colonialism to Globalization, five centuries after Vasco da Gama"
     http://x3.dejanews.com/getdoc.xp?AN=321398692.1&CONTEXT=889949462.576847881

     "towards a political economy of information"
     http://www.solinet.org/THIRDWORLD/obet1.htm 

     "Labour and the Internet"
     http://www.corpwatch.org/trac/internet/globalabor/seminar.html


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