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Re: <nettime> Roberto Verzola: Lords of Cyberspace
E. Miller on Mon, 8 Mar 2004 15:16:28 +0100 (CET)


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Re: <nettime> Roberto Verzola: Lords of Cyberspace


Warning: unhinged rant ahead.  Mr. Verzola, here's where you lost me:

> Because the free sharing of information goods undermines their potentially
> high prices, commercial information producers want to prohibit the free
> exchange of information. Then, they can create an artificial scarcity,
> which enables them to keep prices -- and profit margins -- high.

The rest of your argument hinges on this unsubstantiated point.  The problem
is that the principal players aren't aiming to reduce the overall exchange
of information; they're looking to protect their particular patches of
informational turf.  The potential consequence of stifling free exchange of
un-protected material via, say, P2P is secondary.  Yes, it's an effect, and
a horrifically bad one at that, but it's not the primary intent; and that's
a critical differentiation.

Now if you had chosen to argue that the continued IP protection of cultural
goods with zero cost of reproduction was no longer sustainable in a truly
level P2P content CREATION (as opposed to distribution) environment you
would have had something.  Instead you trotted out tired dogma that assumes
all information is publicly owned regardless of source.  Yawn.  2004 !=
1867.

> Can we not leap-frog development stages and right away become an
> information economy? Won't the new information and communications
> technologies (ICTs) democratize benefits and make it possible for poor
> countries to catch up with the developed economies? Not likely. In fact,
> new ICTs are bound to exacerbate the existing gap between rich and poor
> countries, and between rich and poor sectors in every country.

Funny, I recently worked on an IT project that was farmed out to India, then
brought back to the US for troubleshooting, then sent out to China for
completion.  My billable rate is ten times that of the folks in India and
twenty times that of the Chinese developers.  Gee, what did capitalism
decide here?  Wonder why they're using overseas developers, despite the need
for high-level troubleshooting expertise?

ICT is reducing the friction separating IT service consumers from IT service
providers.  Pair that with the increasing productivity gains achieved by ICT
and you'll see a reason why the US economy can't get traction on improving
employment figures, especially when services is such a critical part of the
US economy.

The point being that a low-friction global economy (low costs for production
and transport of goods, material or informational) means that corporations
will seek to reduce costs by taking advantage of lower-cost supply chains.

> technologies often carry a built-in ideology which is so deeply embedded that
> one cannot have a technological transplant without getting at the same time an
> ideological transplant - the biases, values and mindsets carried by the
> technology.

Meet my friend Linux, he and his pals in the OSS community might have an
issue or two with the capitalist-only techno-ideological bias implied above.
Windows 2000 != OSS, and it's OSS that runs the network.  For now.

> The more we freely share information that they want locked up under IPR, the
weaker information monopolies will become.

That would probably be true if there weren't zero marginal costs involved
with the sharing of commercial IP.  Instead, it's just a loss of potential
income; in the meantime, these content creators still represent a fearsome
aggregation of capital, they don't intend to give up lightly, and our
present geopolitical system is structured to give them a lot more power than
the individual who is valiantly resisting The Man by downloading an Outkast
MP3.  Believing otherwise is na´ve; power now often rests in capital, not
ideas.

Look, I'm not saying that you're not bringing up good points, especially
about encroachment of corporate IP at the expense of social capital and the
public good.  And I bet we'd agree on all the dangers of the current IP
environment as well as the need to remedy the situation.  I'm just saying
that the analytical framework is about 140 years out of date.

Y'know, I live where the people who run the country start from an
ideologically correct conclusion, then marshal the arguments to support that
conclusion regardless of reality.  It's a dangerous habit.

Cranky Eric


Postscript:

> In the infrastructure area, we should advocate various forms of
> community/public control or ownership over backbone information facilities
> and infrastructures, to minimize private and corporate rent-seeking.

Alright!  Screw the Internet, Minitel for everyone!  

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