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<nettime> for benjamin mako hill
kev on Sat, 10 Sep 2005 12:18:28 +0200 (CEST)


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<nettime> for benjamin mako hill


Michael *Hardt*. Associate Professor of Literature at Duke University.
*&*Antonio*Negri*. Former Professor of State Theory at the University of Padua.
(*Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire*. p289-90, p301-3.)

_

There is no conflict here between reform and revolution. [82] We say this not
because we think that reform and revolution are the same thing, but that in
today's conditions they cannot be separated. Today the historical processes of
transformation are so radical that even reformist proposals can lead to
revolutionary change. And when democratic reforms of the global system prove to be
incapable of providing the bases of a real democracy, they demonstrate ever more
forcefully that a revolutionary change is needed and make it ever more possible.
It is useless to rack our brains over whether a proposal is reformist or
revolutionary; what matters is that it enters into the constituent process. This
recognition is widespread not only among progressives but also among conservatives
and neoconservatives who see dangers of revolution in even modest reform proposals
and respond with radical initiatives in the opposite direction. In some ways, the
reactionary theorists of Washington, circa 2000, correspond to those of London and
Vienna, circa 1800, from Edmund Burke to Friedrich von Gentz and Franz von Baader,
in that they all recognize the emerging constituent power and believe that the
forces of order must oppose it actively, posing against the possibilities of
reform and revolution a violent counterrevolution. {...}

In the realm of cybernetics and the Internet, for example, we saw earlier, the
control of access, information, and ideas through copyright increasingly thwarts
creativity and innovation. We have also cited repeatedly numerous grievances that
arise from patents that control pharmaceutical drugs, knowledges, genetic
material, and even life-forms. There are many proposals to solve or or ameliorate
these problems. Some modest proposals, for example, seek to address the expanding
controls of copyrights simply by limiting their duration. Copyright was originally
coceived as a means to encourage innovation by allowing the author to enjoy a
monopoly on the work for a limited time. Copyrighted material can now be
controlled, however, for more than 150 years with very little action on the part
of the owner, thereby restricting its use in the common public domain. One could
improve the system simply by reducing the possible duration of copyright to a much
shorter period and require more efforts of the owner to renew the copyright
periodically. [103] And more generally, one could limit copyright protection to
only the commercial use of material, such that copying texts or music without
commercial gain would no longer be restricted. [104] Similarly, one could reduce
the kinds of products that are eligible for patents, excluding, for example,
life-forms and traditional knowledges. These are very modest proposals that easily
fit within the existing legal framework. The open-source movement, which strives
to make software free and accessible for modification without copyright, offers a
more radical example. [105] Since proprietary software owned by corporations does
not expose its source code, the proponents of open source maintain that not only
can users not see how the software works but they also cannot identify its
problems or modify it to work better. Software code is always a collaborative
project, and the more people who can see and modify it, the better it can become.
One can certainly imagine doing away entirely with the legal protection of patents
and copyright, making ideas, music, and texts free and accessible to everyone. One
would have to find, of course, other social mechanisms to compensate the
creativity of authors, artists, and scientists, but there is no reason to assume
that creativity depends on the promise of great riches. Authors, artists, and
scientists are indeed often outraged when corporations get rich off of their
creativity, but they are not themselves generally driven to create by the prospect
of extraordinary wealth. It should be clear, in any case, that each of these
proposals aims to reduce political and economic control, through mechanisms such
as patents and copyright, not only because it is unjust to limit access to these
goods but also because such controls thrawrt innovation and restrict econonomic
development. </p> <p>Some of the most innovative and powerful reform projects, in
fact, involve the creation of alternatives to the current system of copyright. The
most developed of these is the Creative Commons project, which allows artists and
writers a means to share their work freely with others and still maintain some
control over the use of the work. When a person registers a work with Creative
Commons, including texts, images, audio, and video productions, he or she forgoes
the legal protections of copyright that prevent reproduction but is able instead
to choose minimal restrictions that apply to its use. Specifically, the author or
artist can choose whether reproductions have to include attribution of authorship,
whether the work can be used commercially, whether it can be transformed to make
derivative works, and whether any use made of it has to be equally open to
reproduction. [106] One might say that this alternative system is just a
supplement to existing copyright laws that serves those who do not want its
restrictions, but really such an alternative is a powerful agent of reform. Its
example highlights the inadequacy of the patent system and cries out for change.



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