creativity

Relax! Producing culture in a weak intellectual property environment

I just published this article on eurozine, based on the talk I gave at their conference, Changing media – Media in change in mid May in Linz, Austria. Here's the argument in a nutshell:

Cultural producers should be relaxed about digital technology's erosion of copyright. A weak copyright regime offers a chance to re-embed cultural production in concrete, personal relationships out of which new economic models can and do emerge.

If you want to know why and how this is the case, you'll have to read the whole article.

For those with very little time, here's the conclusion, and, very important in my view, how to avoid the argument about new opportunities to be high-jacked by the conservatives who want to cut public cultural funding.

Re-embedding culture

One way to understand copyright is as an abstracting mechanism. Copyright stabilizes a work so that it can be lifted out of concrete social relations – between the author and her cultural environment – and made to circulate as a commodity in abstract, impersonal markets. The more innovative alternative models re-embed cultural works in concrete, personal social relationships. This is made possible through social media of all sorts, which allow personal relationships to grow beyond the small and the immediate. Strong copyright is not helpful in this process. Indeed, it is detrimental to it, because of the strict separation between author and audience, where one is entirely active the entirely passive. Re-embedding cultural production into concrete social relationships requires that all parties actively contribute to creating the particular environment. Their contributions are highly differentiated – not all people are, or need to become, an artist.

Leaks, Remixes und die Unordnung der Diskurse

In: Springerin, Heft 2/11

Die beiden radikalsten Medienprojekte der letzten 10 Jahre, The Pirate Bay (TPB) und WikiLeaks, haben in kürzester Zeit haben sie entscheiden dazu beigetragen, bestehende „Kontrollprinzipien“ diskursiver Ordnungen ausser Kraft zusetzen. In der Folge entsteht der Raum für neue diskursive Formationen, deren Konturen erst unscharf zu erahnen sind.

TPB, 2003 ins Leben gerufen, trug wesentlich dazu bei, file-sharing zu einem Massenphänomen zu machen. Zwar nach wie vor der wichtigste BitTorrent Tracker (mit momentan über 27 Millionen aktiven NutzerInnen), aber es gibt unzählige anderer, geschlossener und offener Tracker, so dass file-sharing nicht mehr vom Schicksal dieses einen Projekts abhängt. Mehrere Wellen der Strafverfolgung, sowohl gegen Tracker als auch gegen individuelle Nutzerinnen, konnten weder die Infrastruktur noch die Popularität von file-sharing in relevanter Weise schwächen. WikiLeaks, das Ende 2006 an die Öffentlichkeit getreten war, etablierte ein neues Modell wie Insider grosse Datensätze – wie sie in allen Organisationen vorhanden sind – anonym an die Öffentlichkeit bringen können, um verborgene Missstände aufzuzeigen. Egal wie es mit WikiLeaks als spezifische Organisation weitergeht, es zeichnet sich jetzt schon ab, dass das Prinzip der Leaks ganzer Datenbanken weiter gehen wird. WikiLeaks selbst ist nach wie vor hoch aktiv und bereits positionieren sich selbsternannte Nachfolger.

Free Culture Forum Declaration

sustainable creativity

The Free Culture Forum has launched its declaration on "Sustainable Models for Creativity in the Digital Age". After last year's "Charter for Innovation, Creativity and Access to Knowledge", the declaration is an important next step in the self-definition of the free culture movement. It moves beyond licensing issues, focusing instead on long-term sustainability, which needs to combine income streams for professional producers with the right to access and re-use material for the general public. I think this is crucial, but admit to being somewhat biased, since I played a part in drafting these documents. See for yourself.

We can no longer put off re-thinking the economic structures that have been producing, financing and funding culture up until now. Many of the old models have become anachronistic and detrimental to civil society. The aim of this document is to promote innovative strategies to defend and extend the sphere in which human creativity and knowledge can prosper freely and sustainably.

This document is addressed to policy reformers, citizens and free/libre culture activists to provide them practical tools to actively operate this change.

  • How To for Sustainable Creativity [30 pages]
  • El cànon digital a debat, amb Felix Stalder i Peter Sunde

    Short interviews with myself and Peter Sunde, on VilaWeb, a web.tv from Barcelona. The interview itself is in English.

    Parlem del cànon i dels nous models de negoci en l'era digital amb Felix Stalder i Peter Sunde, que han pres part en el Fòrum d'Accés a la Cultura a l'era digital, congregat a l'Arts Santa Mònica de Barcelona.

    Content recognition engine

    There is very little information about the back-end of Youtube (provided by a company called audible magic), which watermarks content to screen for copyright violation. But there's an interesting snippet by Viacom's general counsel.

    Fricklas points to the recent MTV music awards, where Kanye West rushed the stage, grabbed the mic, and delivered his Internet-meme-producing-line, "I'mma let you finish, but…" Viacom quickly uploaded the evening's footage into the content recognition engines of sites like YouTube, which can then block exact uploads of the same footage or allow rightsholders to monetize it with ads. Viacom used the tool to block copies of the clip, but not without offering a solution of its own: the clip was hosted on Viacom websites and was embeddable and linkable.

    It also points to a more flexible strategie: Block exact copies, earn money from other people's mash-ups (who themselves don't earn money).

    Source: Ars Technica,Viacom's top lawyer: suing P2P users "felt like terrorism" November 16, 2009

    SellYourRights.com

    An attempt to implement a street-performer protocol type platform for music.
    http://sellyourrights.com/. Still in closed beta, but I'm not overly optimististic that this will work.
    See also futurezone article.

    product placements (2008)

    http://www.kreidler-net.de/productplacements-e.html

    music piece / performance ("music theater")

    70,200 samples in 33 seconds: nightmare for GERMAN RIAA

    If you want to register a song at GEMA (RIAA, ASCAP of Germany) you have to fill in a form for each sample you use, even the tiniest bit. On 12 Sept 08, German Avantgarde musician Johannes Kreidler will —as a live performance event—register a short musical work that contains 70,200 quotations with GEMA using 70,200 forms.

    The Piece:

    Essay by the artist Johannes Kreidler, Telepolis Article about the performance (both in German)

    From Youtube to the Cinema

    Before the Euro2008, Detlev Buck, a well-known German director, issued a call on Youtube to send in fan movies, hundreds of people responded, and now he has edited it down to 50 minutes which will be shown in selected cinemas in Germany. The whole thing is entirely non-commercial, the entry fee is €2,30 (which is less than one third of the normal price) and the proceeds will be donated to charitable orgs. It probably will also be posted to Youtube later on.

    Which begs the question: is editing the new directing? In the age of information overload and remixing, the likely answer is yes.

    Update: The film has been released on youtube.

    Stephen Wright, Digging in the Epistemic Commons

    This is an older text, from 2005, but it's still one of the best on the issue of the paradoxical relationship between the attempts to privatize knowledge and its inherent tendency to be social, because it's based on a shared language.

    The gentrye are all round, on each side they are found,
    Theire wisdom’s so profound, to cheat us of our ground
    Stand up now, Diggers all.

    The Diggers’ Song, Gerrard Winstanley & Leon Rosselson

    Using the ideas of Gabriel Tarde, Ludwig Wittgenstein and George Herbert Mead, writer and critic Stephan Wright reflects on the question of how, in a capitalist knowledge economy, to prevent intellectual property from being commodified and knowledge from becoming increasingly privatized.

    Source: http://www.skor.nl/article-3090-en.html

    In the Air. Who says big ideas are rare?

    Malcolm Gladwell wrote an interesting article in the New Yorker on Nathan Myhrvold's company "Intellectual Ventures" which tries to come up with a method of the process of scientific discovery. The trick is that you can do it. That scientific discovery is a lot about looking at available information in a new way, relating fields to one another that are usually not considered together.

    This phenomenon of simultaneous discovery—what science historians call “multiples”—turns out to be extremely common. One of the first comprehensive lists of multiples was put together by William Ogburn and Dorothy Thomas, in 1922, and they found a hundred and forty-eight major scientific discoveries that fit the multiple pattern. Newton and Leibniz both discovered calculus. Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace both discovered evolution. Three mathematicians “invented” decimal fractions. Oxygen was discovered by Joseph Priestley, in Wiltshire, in 1774, and by Carl Wilhelm Scheele, in Uppsala, a year earlier. Color photography was invented at the same time by Charles Cros and by Louis Ducos du Hauron, in France. Logarithms were invented by John Napier and Henry Briggs in Britain, and by Joost Bürgi in Switzerland.

    And he continues:

    For Ogburn and Thomas, the sheer number of multiples could mean only one thing: scientific discoveries must, in some sense, be inevitable. They must be in the air, products of the intellectual climate of a specific time and place.

    Good ideas are out there for anyone with the wit and the will to find them.

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