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<nettime> Report: Creative Labour and the role of Intellectual Property
Ned Rossiter on Tue, 30 Sep 2003 07:35:48 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Report: Creative Labour and the role of Intellectual Property [Part 1/2]

[here's a report on creative labour that I've written for the 
fibreculture list. It may be of interest to nettimers in light of the 
recent "DISTRIBUTED CREATIVITY" threads.  For those of you after 
"Executive summaries only", here you go:

Reflexivity and Empirical Research
Creativity - What's in a Name?
Intellectual Property and Creativity
Intellectual Property and the Labour Contract
Intellectual Property and (Dis)Organised Labour
Multitudes and the Exploitation of Network Sociality
Immaterial or Disorganised Labour?

For those after something more substantive, read on....]

[PART 1/2]

Report: Creative Labour and the role of Intellectual Property

By Ned Rossiter, September 2003

Here's my report based on the survey I conducted for the fibrepower 
panel initiated by Kate Crawford and Esther Milne - Intellectual 
Property-Intellectual Possibilities (Brisbane, July 03).  I wanted to 
explore in some empirical fashion the relationship between 
intellectual property and creative labour.  Why?  Largely because 
such a relationship is the basis for defining what is meant by 
creative industries, according to the seminal and much cited mapping 
document produced by Blair's Creative Industries Task Force (CITF). 
Despite the role IP plays in defining and providing a financial and 
regulatory architecture for the creative and other informational or 
knowledge industries, there is remarkably little attention given by 
researchers and commentators to the implications of IP in further 
elaborating conceptual, political and economic models for the 
creative industries.  There is even greater indifference towards 
addressing the impact of exploiting the IP of those whose labour 
power has been captured: young people, for the most part, working in 
the creative and culture industries.  Angela McRobbie's work is one 
of the few exceptions.

At a different level, I was curious to see how a mailing list might 
contribute in a collaborative fashion to the formation of a research 
inquiry in which the object of study - creative labour and IP - is 
partially determined by the list itself.  Finally, after levelling 
critiques at various times and occasions against what Terry Flew 
(2001) identifies as the 'new media empirics', I thought it necessary 
to engage in a more direct way with this nemesis-object: what, after 
all, can a new media empirics do and become when it is driven through 
what I've developed elsewhere (or rather, syphoned from larger and 
older media theory, informatics and philosophy debates) as a 
processual model of media and communications? (Rossiter, 2003b)  I'll 
address this question in the concluding section of this report.

As I noted in an earlier paper (Rossiter, 2003a) posted to fc: The 
list of sectors identified as holding creative capacities in the CITF 
Mapping Document include: film, music, television and radio, 
publishing, software, interactive leisure software, design, designer 
fashion, architecture, performing arts, crafts, arts and antique 
markets, architecture and advertising.  The Mapping Document seeks to 
demonstrate how these sectors consist of '... activities which have 
their origin in individual creativity, skill and talent and which 
have the potential for wealth and job creation through generation and 
exploitation of intellectual property' (CITF: 1998/2001).  The CITF's 
identification of intellectual property as central to the creation of 
jobs and wealth firmly places the creative industries within 
informational and knowledge economies.

In posting the survey questionnaire to the list, I was interested in 
ascertaining the following:

1. the extent to which respondents perceived their primary activities 
(i.e., activities other than eating, sleeping, watching TV, having 
sex, substance abuse, etc -- though I guess many would argue that 
they are indeed primary activities, and perhaps also creative ones!) 
to correspond with "creativity", however that term might be 
understood (n.b., the survey synopsis clearly framed creativity in 
relation to the Creative Industries discourse, so the latitude for 
interpreting the term creativity was relatively circumscribed).

2. whether a very partial mapping of the fc network produced results 
similar to the sectors identified in the CITF Mapping Document. 
Whatever the results, I was interested in what they might then say 
about national, regional or State manifestations of the creative 
industries: is Australia's CI the same as the UK?  Is there a 
temporal factor at work? (i.e., given the time of development, 
incubation, etc., would a mapping exercise produce different results 
depending of when and how it was conducted?)

3.  to establish whether respondents perceived or understood an 
extant relationship between their labour and intellectual property.

4.  to find out whether IP in the workplace makes work a political issue.

At the time of the survey, the fc list had just over 700 subscribers 
(June, 03).  All responses came on the same day I posted the survey, 
most within a few hours of it appearing on list.  (This in itself 
perhaps says something interesting about the 'attention economy' of 
email lists and the time in which any posting may receive a 
response: i.e., while the Stones could sing about the redundancy of 
newspapers after a day, do list postings have a life of 3 or so 
hours?  Not so bad actually, though it's probably much less - more 
like seconds, depending on whether a post is read or not.)

Of the 700 or so subscribers then, I received 7 responses.  That's 1% 
of all list subscribers, a lovely sample to be sure.  One of the 
respondents provided a follow-up response as well.  There was one 
other query from someone asking whether they could do the survey even 
though they thought they weren't a creative worker; they were a 
copyright lawyer - a category Richard Florida assigns to 'creative 
professionals' - 'business and finance, law, health care and related 
fields") as distinct from the core Creative Class: 'people in science 
and engineering, architecture and design, education, art, music and 
entertainment, whose economic function is to create new ideas, new 
technology and/or new creative content' (2002: 8).  Curiously, there 
is no mention - at least in this initial definition - of the role 
intellectual property plays in constituting a 'creative class'.1  No 
doubt there are national-cultural and socio-political explanations 
for the differences between how creative workers are perceived and 
constituted in the UK and North America.  To my knowledge, there is 
yet to be a study that inquires into the different national and 
regional formations of creative 
industries/classes/economies/cultures.  One could argue that OECD 
research papers and reports along with those by neo-conservative, 
libertarian think-tanks such as Demos and the Cato Institute do such 
work; however, while they certainly compile statistics and bring a 
dual mode of commentary and hyperbole to such figures, they do very 
little by way of historical, political economy and cultural analysis 
of the variable conditions that have led to the emergence of creative 
labour and its attendant industries across these geopolitical regions.


While the sample I'm drawing on is most certainly small, it is not 
insignificant.  Indeed, I think its minutiae corresponds to larger 
patterns of creative labour in Australia, and most probably 
elsewhere, as I extrapolate below.  Interestingly, I'm told by a 
psychologist friend researching the formation of depression in 
migrants that current, more reflexive literature on quantitative, 
empirical research argues that the fuss over sample sizes (i.e., the 
need to have a large sample if the claims/results are to have any 
scholastic purchase on the phantasm of veridicality) is problematic 
in all sorts of ways (see Edwards, 1997; Silverman, 2001).  For 
instance, at what point can one say a sample is representative of the 
community, user-consumers, demographic, socio-technical network, etc. 
under analysis?  As Pierre Bourdieu (1973) argued so acutely and with 
such verve, public opinion does not exist.  What exists, for 
Bourdieu, is the discursive form of the survey or opinion poll, the 
interests that drive it, and the ends to which it is put.  Of course 
my own survey is not immune from the sort of critical, theoretical 
and political interests I bring to the analysis of responses.

Then there's the whole pseudo-scientific language of "observation", 
as though there might have ever been some sort of impartiality 
underpinning the process of enacting the survey.  Scott Lash 
associates such a paradigm with "reflective modernisation" and the 
work of Giddens, Habermas and Parsonian structural functionalism and 
linear systems theory: 'The idea of reflective belongs to the 
philosophy of consciousness of the first modernity.... To reflect is 
to somehow subsume the object under the subject of knowledge. 
Reflection presumes apodictic knowledge and certainty.  It presumes a 
dualism, a scientific attitude in which the subject is in one realm, 
the object of knowledge in another' (2003: 51).  In contrast to a 
reflective first modernity, Lash posits a reflexive second modernity 
and non-linear systems of communication and risk comprising of 
quasi-objects and subjects and their theorisation by the likes of 
Luhmann, Beck and Latour, along with Castells' network logic of flows:

'Second modernity reflexivity is about the emergent *demise* of the 
distinction between structure and agency altogether.... 
Second-modernity reflexivity presumes a move towards immanence that 
breaks with the [ontological] dualisms of structure and agency.... 
The reflexivity of the second modernity presumes the existence of 
non-linear systems.  Here system dis-equilibrium and change are 
produced internally to the system through feedback loops.  These are 
open systems.  Reflexivity now is at the same time system 
*de*-stabilization' (2003: 49-50).

The extent to which reflexive non-linear systems wholly dispense with 
or depart from a constitutive outside in favour of a logic of 
immanence is a problematic I have begun to question with other fc 
members in an earlier posting to the list (Rossiter, 2003a).2  Like 
the question of and tension between new media empirics and processual 
media theory, it is a problematic I'll return to in my concluding 

I think one reason I received even 7 responses had much to do with 
prior knowledges and trust established between myself as "observer" 
and the "participants" in this survey: ie, I had either met or knew 
very well 6 of the 7 respondents.  Here, it is worth turning again to 
Bourdieu (1992), who frames the concept of reflexivity in 
particularly succinct terms: 'What distresses me when I read some 
works by sociologists is that people whose profession is to 
objectivize the social world prove so rarely able to objectivize 
themselves, and fail so often to realize that what their apparently 
scientific discourse talks about is not the object but their relation 
to the object' (68-69).  Put in terms of non-linear systems theory, 
the on- and off-line relationships, trust and symbolic economy I had 
established largely through an online network operated as a feedback 
loop into the call for interest in and responses to this current 
survey.  Obvious as it may sound, this very historical and social 
dimension to a communicative present actively destabilises any 
rhetorical claims that I might attempt in the name of conducting a 
survey that follows the scientific principles of objectivity and 
impartiality and methodologies befitting quantitative research.  The 
only thing that is remotely impartial about this survey is the 
anonymity of the respondents as I present them here.

Feedback loops further destabilise the very object-ness of this 
report as a discrete posting to a mailing list insofar as anyone who 
responds to this report breaks up components of the report by way of 
selective quoting or paraphrasing and interjecting their own 
critiques or comments.  Many of us do this when we reply to an email, 
separating the sender's text from our own; in so doing, we are 
translating or mimicking the effect of dialogue.  Such a process is 
registered in a material, symbolic form in the dissipative, 
non-linear structure of discussion threads as they appear in the 
mailing list's archives.  Further registration of feedback loops are 
made in the googlisation of this combinatory knowledge and 
information formation, where any particular posting has the potential 
to move up the vertical scale of "hits" depending on the key words 
used in the user's search, the online links made to the posting, and 
the popularity of the posting: in short, the coding of the google 
software program plays a determining role in the hierarchisation of 
information that is then further shaped by the interests and habits 
of users.  The economy and architecture of the google search engine 
has been subject to considerable debate and discussion in lists such 
as fc and nettime, along with many other online fora, print and 
electronic media.  If this posting, for example, were made on any 
number of web conferencing systems, collaborative text filtering 
sites or blogs, such as slashdot.org, indymedia.org, makeworld.org or 
discordia (http://discordia.us), then a very different information 
architecture of feedback loops would prevail.  Ok, time now to get to 
some substance of the survey.

CREATIVITY - What's In a Name?

When I asked respondents what creative activities they engaged in, a 
list of 4-6 fields, practices or sectors of creativity by any one 
person was compiled.  These included writing, performing and 
producing music; writing academic and policy papers (considered by 
one respondent and assumed by others as 'creative endeavours'); 
photography; design (interactive, information, education); publishing 
and editing; new media arts (dv, net.art, print, electronic music); 
painting; and creative writing.  Three things stand out for me here:

1) Irrespective of whether or not respondents went on to identify 
themselves as part of the Creative Industries project, however that 
might be understood, the range of creative activities any single 
person might undertake suggests that diversity rather than 
specialisation is a defining feature of creative workers.  This isn't 
to say that specialisation doesn't occur in any particular idiom of 
creativity - I think  it's safe to assume that it would, but rather 
that respondents were not limited to one particular set creative 
skills, trainings, or passions.  Thus these respondents are clear 
exemplars of the so-called fragmented postmodern subject, traversing 
a range of institutional locations and cultural dispositions.

2) Many of the respondents are engaged in academic work either on a 
full-time, continuing basis or as sessional, casual teachers.  In 
both cases, university related activities and non-university related 
activities were assumed to hold creative dimensions. If nothing else, 
the diversity of creative activities identified by respondents 
indicates the complexity of labour in the contemporary university, 
further suggesting that: a) the university cannot accommodate the 
diverse interests and economic necessities of its constituent labour 
power, and/or b) that individuals wish to distinguish between the 
kind of work they do at university and its concomitant values and the 
kind of work they do outside the university, or c) that there is zone 
of indistinction, if you will, between the university and its 
so-called outside, given that all sectors of cultural production and 
intellectual labour are today subject to market economies.  The 
extent to which tensions exist between these realms, or whether they 
are better characterised as a sort of zone of indistinction that 
cannot be reduced in such a manner, varies, I suspect, according to 
the contingencies of time, interests, values, labour conditions, age, 
class, gender, etc. of individuals as they are located in different 
institutional settings.  Each of the above possibilities corresponds 
with the economic and labour conditions peculiar to the creative 
industries operating in the UK, as McRobbie explains:

'Those working in the creative sector cannot simply rely on old 
working patterns associated with art worlds, they have to find new 
ways of "working" the new cultural economy, which increasingly means 
holding down three or even four "projects" at once.  In addition, 
since these projects are usually short term, there have to be other 
jobs to cover the short-fall when the project ends.  The individual 
becomes his or her own enterprise, sometimes presiding over two 
separate companies at the same time' (2002: 519; see also Beck, 1992: 
127-150; Bauman, 2001: 17-30).

3) There is much overlap between this list of creative activities and 
the CITF's list of creative sectors, with the exception that 
traditional arts and crafts and antiques do not figure in the former; 
this comes as no surprise, given that the survey was conducted on a 
listserve for critical Internet research and culture.  As for how 
this list relates to Richard Florida's composition of the Creative 
Class in the US, there is an obvious absence in my survey of 
engineers and scientists.  Again, you might say this should come as 
no surprise; one could, however, describe software programmers, 
"codeworkers", game designers, etc. as computer scientists or 
information engineers - though no doubt there'd be some disciplinary 
and perhaps ontological dispute over this.

Having established that they all are engaged in creative activities 
of one kind or another, there were then considerable differences 
amongst respondents as to whether they perceived themselves as 
engaged in the Creative Industries.  Two respondents said they didn't 
- one being a bit hesitant as to whether they did or not, the other 
indifferent, implying the term was no more than a 'tag' associated 
with 'official places' and 'certain faculties'.  Four respondents 
stated that they did associate their activities with the Creative 
Industries, some more emphatically so than others.  One of those 
responded by writing that 'Yeah, but I'm a special case :)', 
indicating that creativity, at least for this person, comes with a 
sense of individuality, difference and exception.  Yet such 
subjectivities carry more baggage than this.  As Angela McRobbie 
notes, 'Individualization is not about individuals *per se*, as about 
new, more fluid, less permanent social relations seemingly marked by 
choice or options. However, this convergence has to be understood as 
one of contestation and antagonism' (2002: 518).  Much of this report 
seeks to unravel various tensions that underpin labour practices 
within the creative  industries.

A seventh respondent took a more reflexive, marxian and historically 
informed position, choosing to problematise and open up the question 
in the following way: 'All industry is creative; all human activity 
creates something; and nearly all human activity is subsumed under 
industrial imperatives (including the consumption of media and other 
products).  Therefore I think this is probably a question whose 
answer is presupposed in the historical facts of its own terms'.  On 
these grounds, then, irrespective of whether respondents did or 
didn't identify their creative activities with Creative Industries, 
there is a sense amongst these respondents - perhaps unconscious - 
that there is an "idea" of what constitutes the creative industries, 
and respondent's identification with those industries is based, 
perhaps, on whether one meets the criteria or fits into the 
discursive boundaries, categories, or ethos of the Creative 
Industries, as established in part in the survey's preamble.


The importance of intellectual property (copyrights, patents, 
trademarks) as a source of income was met with a mixed response.  For 
one person it was important, for the rest it wasn't, at least in an 
exclusive sense: labour was paid for on an hourly basis or IP was 
assigned to the company or publisher commissioning the work; in other 
instances remuneration from IP contributed to a respondent's income, 
but wasn't relied upon as a primary source of income.  Creative 
workers were thus primarily alienated from their intellectual 
property in one form or another.  Such a response clearly signals a 
tension and power relationship with regard to the CITF definition of 
creative industries as those activities that  have 'the potential for 
wealth and job creation through generation and exploitation of 
intellectual property'.  Thus despite all the rhetoric around 
informational and creative labour consisting of "horizontal" and 
"fluid" modes of production, distribution and exchange, clearly there 
remains vertical, hierarchical dimensions within the "New Economy". 
If IP is to function as the mainstay of capital accumulation within 
informational economies, it doesn't take much imagination to foresee 
industrial, legal and political dispute focussing on the 
juridico-political architecture of IP.  The extent to which workers 
are able to mobilise their potential power in an effective manner 
(i.e., in a way that protects and secures their interests whilst 
inventing new information architectures) depends, I would suggest, on 
their capacity to organise themselves as a sociopolitical force. 
I'll address this issue in relation to the problem of immaterial 
labour in more detail below.

Respondents found IP a source of tension not only at the level of 
financial remuneration; a tension prevailed around the concept of IP 
as well.  In response to the question of whether intellectual 
property is important as a principle - that is, as a system or 
framework consisting of rules and beliefs that enables the 
transformation of labour into legal, moral and potentially economic 
values - one person stated that they found it of no importance at 
all.  All others found it was, though the response, as expected, was 
mixed: 'Yes, but in a negative sense.  The whole structure of IP has 
turned into a perversion of its intended principles: namely, that 
alienation rather than one's inalienable rights in one's own work is 
the guiding principle of IP law. Put differently, rights are seen to 
exist only so that they can be sold.  That is a function of capital, 
long since dead. I would prefer a rights structure that existed to 
ensure the free flow of ideas'.  In a similar vein, though without 
the libertarian overtone, another respondent writes: 'It is important 
to me as a principle to be critiqued, developed and (in some cases) 
rejected. The arm of IP is extending in several directions and in 
many industries - and it's that reach that needs to be reviewed with 
some urgency'.

A third respondent strongly rejected the idea that IP might be 
understood in terms of principles: 'No', they write, 'It's important 
to me as a discursive field!'  By my reading, such a statement 
suggests that the respondent understands principles as holding some 
kind of unchanging, transcendental  and universal status, while a 
discursive field is historically and culturally mutable and holds the 
potential for local intervention by actors endowed with such 
capacities.  (A similar distinction is often made in philosophy 
between the universality of morals and the contingencies of ethics.) 
The idea of IP as a discursive field rather than a principle is also 
interesting in relation to the second response tabled above, which 
implies that limits need to be established with regard to IP and the 
extent to which it governs areas of life previously outside a market 
economy.  Current debates around patenting the human genome, database 
access to DNA information on sperm and embryo composition and their 
relationship to insurance premiums and future employment 
possibilities (see Gattica for the filmic version of this scenario), 
the pressure on developing countries to import GM food coupled with 
uneven, neo-colonial trade agreements along with conditions imposed 
by the World Bank and IMF's structural adjustment programs, and so 
forth are the most obvious examples that come to mind here.


The tension associated with IP was further extended to the workplace, 
with all but one of the respondents noting that they had heard of and 
in some instances personally experienced conflicts over IP issues. 
If such accounts are the norm rather than the exception, this clearly 
signals a need for much greater attention to be given to the role of 
IP in the workplace, and the status it holds as a legal and social 
architecture governing the conditions of creative production, job 
satisfaction, employer-employee relations and thus life in general. 
While only two respondents reported of losing a job or contract for 
refusing to assign IP to their employer, many commented on the 
problems of such a condition - as one person noted: 'This is common 
in film music now: if you don't sell your rights to the film maker, 
you are not given the contract'.  Another highlighted the legal and 
institutional distinction between private and state sectors. 
Addressing the Australian situation, this respondent notes that 
government bodies such as councils and departments 'are exempt from 
recognising author rights under the current copyright act - therefore 
to refuse to hand over intellectual rights in these cases is to 
refuse to work'.

Here is a curious and paradoxical case in point in which the call to 
a 'refusal of work' - derived from 1960s radical workers' movements 
of the 1960s by Italian autonomists such as Paolo Virno - is 
jerry-wired into the system itself, albeit with a significant proviso 
of political proportion.  The autonomists seek to liberate work from 
relations of waged labour and the capitalist State; to unleash 'a 
mass defection or exodus' and in so doing subtract the labour power 
which sustains the capitalist system, affirming the 'creative 
potential of our practical capacities' in the process (see Hardt, 
1996: 6).  There's a bit of a different rub, however, in a capitalist 
logic of post-Fordist flexible accumulation, whose modes of social 
and political regulation set the scene for our current informational 
paradigm.  While the worker within Fordist systems of assembly-line 
mass production and mass consumption conditions the possibility of, 
to refer to the classic example, the assemblage of motor vehicles 
that, ideally, are then sold to the consumer who built the vehicle in 
their 8 hour working day, the case of IP and creative labour operates 
in substantially different ways.

Within an informational paradigm, the appropriation of labour power 
by capitalists does not result in a product so much as a potential. 
This potential takes the "immaterial" form of intellectual property 
whose value is largely unquantifiable and is subject to the vagaries 
of speculative finance markets, "New Economy" style.  Thus, in the 
case of government institutions that don't recognise an individual's 
IP rights, there is nothing to 'hand over' in the first instance. 
That is, the right to a refusal of work is not possible; or put 
differently, the creative potential or work, as registered in and 
transformed into the juridico-political form of IP, is undermined by 
the fact that such a social relation - the hegemonic form of 
legitimacy - is not recognised.  As noted by another respondent: 'I 
don't think you "lose" a contract for refusing to sign IP over ... 
it's more like you never had it in the first place if you do work for 
hire'. Instead, one does not so much refuse to work as decline to 
provide a service, whose economic value as wage labour - that is, 
labour separated from its product (Marx in Harvey, 1990:104) - bears 
no relationship to the potential economic value generated by the 
exploitation of IP. In effect, then, "creativity" goes right under 
the radar.  Prostitution functions in a similar manner.  One does not 
buy "love" from the prostitute, one acquires a "service" in the form 
of an orgasm, or "little death", with no value in and of itself.  The 
prostitute's love does not figure in the relationship; love is off 
the radar.  Like intellectual property, the expression of the orgasm 
in a given form - sperm, for the male who appropriates the labour 
power of the prostitute - nevertheless holds the potential to 
translate into economic, social, political and biological values if 
its eruption is arranged under different conditions - the normative 
ones peculiar to heterosexual couplings living in advanced economies, 
for example.

A couple of respondents, both now working in the higher education 
sector, had mixed responses to the kind of conditions such a setting 
enabled vis--vis labour and IP. Respondent 1: 'I would always give 
in [and sign over IP] when I was self-employed, now I only take jobs 
where I'm happy with the IP arrangements'.  Such a position is 
possible when, as noted earlier, IP is not the primary source of 
income.  Interestingly, the other respondent anticipates conflicts 
over the assignation of IP within university settings - Respondent 2: 
'as i continue to collaborate in university settings, the problem 
will arise'.  The problem of job security arises where IP policies 
can vary substantially from university to university and at an 
intra-university level depending on the kind of contract an 
individual is able to negotiate with management as universities 
undergo increasingly deregulation toward a system that destroys the 
legal concept fought for by unions of collective wage agreements.  At 
my own university, to take a typical example of someone working in 
the higher education sector, the subject materials I produce are the 
intellectual property of the university.  These educational materials 
will often incorporate parts of articles I have written or am in the 
process of writing. (They will also include lists of references to 
articles and debates located in open-access online repositories, as 
found in the fibreculture and nettime archives, for example.)  And 
here, a curious institutional tension over IP emerges: depending on 
the publisher, the IP of articles and books I write belongs to the 
publisher.  One of the respondents noted how this problem of 
proprietary rights of academic IP has been dealt with in recent 
legislation in Australia: 'the new IP rules (e.g., the one which came 
into effect on 14th March) gives the university ownership of all IP 
created by staff (with a 'scholarly work' exception).  This creates 
major problems - for example, academics moving to different 
universities who intend to use educational materials they have 
developed previously'.  Thus the extent to which IP functions as an 
architecture of control is and has always been dubious at the level 
of the everyday.  Just think of what happened with the appearance of 
the xerox machine in university settings - in effect it became a free 
license to appropriate the property of writers, with myriad staff and 
students reproducing the pages of otherwise copyright protected 

Even if the legal aspects of IP are frequently difficult if not 
impossible to regulate, there are important symbolic dimensions to IP 
that have implications and impacts at the level of subjectivities and 
their degree of legitimacy within institutional and national 
settings.  Here I am thinking - yet again - of that rather chilling 
line in the CITF's definition of the Creative Industries in which IP 
is not only generated, but more significantly, it is *exploited*. 
The exploitation of IP is not simply a matter of extracting the 
potential economic value from some inanimate thing; the exploitation 
of IP, let us never forget, is always already an exploitation of 
people, of the producers of that which is transformed from practice 
into property, which in its abstraction is then alienated from those 
who have produced it.  While there are clear problems with such a 
system, IPRs are not necessarily a bad thing.  As I've argued 
elsewhere, to simply oppose IPRs is not a political option (Rossiter, 
2002).  Individuals and communities must look for ways in which IPRs 
can be exploited for strategic ends.  Such a political manoeuvre is 
possible, for instance, in efforts to advance Indigenous sovereignty. 
To return to the relationship between the exploitation of IP and the 
political status of subjectivity, it should be noted that QUT holds a 
policy in which students retain control of all IP they produce, with 
some exceptions.3  Such a policy initiative seems to be the exception 
within an environment of "enterprise universities" (Marginson and 
Considine, 2000) whose economic viability depends upon obtaining the 
maximum leverage possible within a political economy of partial 


Most of the respondents corrected the assumption in my question on 
the relationship between collaborative production and the difficulty 
of assigning IP rights to individuals or joint-authorship. 
Respondents noted that corporations own the creative efforts of both 
individuals and collaborations, since the corporation has paid for 
that work.  This brings me to the final component of the survey - the 
relationship between IP and the problem of disorganised labour.  It 
seems to me that unions are among the best placed actors to contest 
the seemingly foregone conclusion that corporations have an a priori 
hold on the appropriation of labour power. As Castells has noted in a 
recent interview:

'... with the acceleration of the work process [enabled by new ICTs], 
worker's defense continues to be a fundamental issue: they cannot 
count on their employers.  The problem is that the individualization 
of management/worker relationships makes the use of traditional forms 
of defense, in terms of collective bargaining and trade union-led 
struggles, very difficult except in the public sector.  Unions are 
realizing this and finding new forms of pressure, sometimes in the 
form of consumer boycotts to press for social justice and human 
rights.  Also, individual explosions of violence by defenseless 
workers could be considered forms of resistance' (Castells and Ince, 
2003: 29).

However, there is an impasse of paradigmatic proportion to the 
potential for unions to assist workers - particularly younger workers 
- within creative industries or knowledge and information economies. 
The so-called strategy of consumer sovereignty is a relatively weak 
one, and only further entrenches the problem of individualisation 
inasmuch as the potential for a coalition amongst workers is only 
further sidelined in favour of that mantra urged on by our 
politicians who are so keen to protect "the national interest" -- 
yes, the national economy is fragile, so enjoy yourself and go out 
and shop!  There is a general perception that unions and their 
capacity to organise labour in politically effective and socially 
appealing ways are a thing of the past.  To address this issue I will 
first table comments from respondents.  I will then move on to the 
thesis of "immaterial labour", as presented by Lazzarato, Hardt and 
Negri, and argue why the condition of "disorganised labour" more 
accurately describes the circumstances in which labour finds itself 
within an informational paradigm.

Three of the respondents stated they did not belong to a union, one 
with perhaps a degree of ironic self-affirmation characteristic of 
what Lash and Urry (1994) term 'reflexive individualization': 'Nope', 
writes one person, 'I'm a manager and self-employed :7'. In his book 
on globalisation, Ulrich Beck identifies a nexus between those who 
work for themselves - a mode of coordination he attributes to 
"life-aesthetes" in particular - and their desire for 
'self-development'.  He goes on to suggest that such dispositions 
lend themselves to 'self-exploitation': 'People are prepared to do a 
great deal for very little money, precisely because economic 
advantage is individualistically refracted and even assigned an 
opposite value.  If an activity has greater value in terms of 
identity and self-fulfilment, this makes up for and even exalts a 
lower level of income' (2000: 150).

Richard Caves prefers to explain the condition of non-union labour in 
more economic terms.  Citing the example of independent filmmaking, 
Caves notes that '30 to  35 per cent of production costs [can be 
saved] by operating a nonunion project' (2000:133).  In productions 
involving union labour, most of these additional costs are a result, 
so Caves claims, of inefficient and interventionist management 
practices and regulations, which sees workers being paid for standing 
around doing nothing.  Caves casts unions as manipulative entities 
who have a propensity to 'hold-up' production unless their wage 
demands are met (132).  Issues of creative governance are always 
going to have local, national peculiarities, and will vary from 
industry to industry.  In every case, however, the challenge for 
creative workers is, it seems to me, to create work that holds not 
only the maximum potential for self-fulfilment and group cooperation 
on a project, but just as importantly, creative workers need to 
situate themselves in ways that close down the possibility of 

The other respondents belonged to various unions or professional 
organisations: NTEU (2), MEAA/AJA (2), the College Arts Association 
(USA) and APRA, 'which is not really a union, but it primarily 
concerned with IP'. All these respondents were aware of their union's 
policy on IP issues, though one respondent held a high level of 
cynicism: 'I've never heard a union take a credible position on IP'. 
The follow up question on the efficacy of unions in instances of 
dispute with management over IP elicited further cynicism from 
another respondent: 'Unions are too stupid to do this properly. They 
are as much a part of the problem since they agree to perverse work 
relations. Unions are corporations'.  Others noted that disputes of 
this nature were 'an ongoing battle on many fronts' and that 'the 
MEAA/AJA newsletter often has such stories. Most of it is so 
thoroughly covered in case law that the major players don't bother to 
buck the system.  The case of US freelance Journos seeking payment 
for new media republication of their stories seminal'.  To summarise: 
while the majority of respondents did belong to one or more unions, a 
good proportion of these respondents did not seem satisfied with or 
have any great faith in the efforts of unions to negotiate disputes 
over IP in the workplace.

[end part 1/2]

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