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Re: <nettime> a free letter to cultural institutions
"ÃzgÃr k." on Sun, 29 Jun 2014 11:05:54 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> a free letter to cultural institutions

sorry for this long post:) the post got longer and longer as i wanted
to address many issues connected to each other. and i may be repeating
some points i also mentioned in my second post in this thread, sorry
for that as well.

so this is an introduction for the coverage of this long post, since i
do not want to take time of those who are not interested in.  the free
letter intended to mainly address contemporary art institutions and i
wanted to highlight the rationale behind it while making connections
with various aspects of free culture. the keywords for the post:
-the contemporary art institutions,  and politics regarding their
-the politics of digital information in the capitalist context,
-the need for a definition of free culture that would get inspired by
free software,
-the exploitation of the free software and related discourse, and the
confusion it creates among people and the decision makers,
-non-commercial issue and nettime's non-commercial policy,
-the statement and license about this post and the âchilling effectâ issue,
-the idea of âeveryone is an artistâ with a reference to one of
florian's previous posts on the list, and what art matters for one,
-contemporary art, precarity, biennials, fairs, galleries,
-free culture in music by speculating on the âpunk bandâ example with a
fictional scenario and politics of donation and building on culture,
-freedom and power issue in licensing referring to stallman,
-speculation on keeping the lights on/off metaphor by aymeric and rob
referring to thomas jefferson. what we choose to do?

On 06/16/2014 09:43 PM, Florian Cramer wrote:

> I would even agree that for highbrow (fine) art institutions
> financed by public money, a "free culture" provision as proposed
> in the manifesto would be a good challenge and political reality
> check. It would infinitely more honest as critical politics than the
> several decades of superficially critical discourse in a journal
> like "October" which have questioned everything but the institutions
> of art themselves.

the main motivation to address the free letter was something that
florian mentioned above; the attention of the contemporary art
institutions engaged in the "institutional critique" and especially
the ones questioning their position in the culture industry and trying
to redefine the audience as an "active" part of their community. free
culture already created a discourse that those institutions willing
to constitute, i believe. but the politics of fc is invisible to them
because of the neo-liberal exploitations. and unfortunately most
institutions follow the hype of those exploited ideas starting with
"open-", "crowd-" prefixes and the creative commons discourse, instead
of contributing to the detailed free culture discussions as in the
responses in this thread.

for the contemporary art institutions that are not yet engaged in
these issues, i wished the free letter could be something to consider
in the future for their institutional politics. and for the rest, i
really would like to call for a âreality checkâ, as
florian put = it.

i wonder if we agree on the definition of fc works at the
freedomdefined.org following the values of free, and even open
source software for the âcultural worksâ as a
superset. i find t= his important because the software with its
ability to be independent of the physical means on which the logic of
capitalism is based, achieved some important outcomes beyond being
just gestures. there have been many valuable practices outside the
âsystemâ, especially during the 20t= h century but non
has succeeded to be something other than valuable gestures creating
temporary autonomous zones, some of which eventually became part of
the system or helped it to develop an immune system. but the nature
of software rendered the scarcity discourse on which the capitalist
economics was built, irrelevant. i think this is the most important
point to start discussing the relevance of free culture: now most of
the cultural productions can be represented, even born, as digital
information, just like the software. and another mode of production
is not only possible but also in practice in this field, just like
it is in the software... for some of us who has grown up with the
scarcity imposition and also developed a fetish reflex for the
physical objects that the cultural productions were represented on, a
mind switch can be difficult. but what encourages me is that the kids
born into the information technologies cannot be convinced to print a
photo, no matter how convenient the former gatekeepers of that medium
try to make the physical reproduction of the photographic digital
information. but the main issue here is that, this new generation
is guided to take the possibilities of the information technologies
as practical things instead of thinking about the political aspects
of their practice, how it can render another world possible, as it
was never possible before. so, we need some definitions for what we
call âfree culture⠝, as separate from the valuable
practices and discourses of the 20th century, and even before. and
most importantly why it matters now.

here i must say that i am ok with the floss approach and vocabulary
for the software and i support it. that's what we need for fc as well.
at least âsharewareâ is not ok for the definition of
both fr= ee and open; and non-commercial and no-derivatives approaches
should not be ok for a consistent fc approach as well.

we need something like freedomdefined.org to agree on, also to
improve. the vocabulary is important if we want to refer to the
concepts without having to explain everything from scratch. not to go
back to the discussions on the software but as i have stated above, i
am for the floss vocabulary, however i prefer using and emphasizing
on the â= freeâ discourse. and for me, someone just
using the âopenâ disc= ourse while not referring to
âfreeâ or âflossâ, is either= not
articulate enough about the political debate on the issue in terms of
software, or really in favor of the âopenâ discourse.
i am not interested in the= work of the latter, sorry. but everything
is clear this way; we both know about each others' values and politics
through the concepts we prefer to use. i prefer to be building on the
political view i share. i use floss/free software, spread the word
about it, send bug reports, share my experience about it and donate
to the author(s) of it. not the âo= pen sourceâ one,
supporters of the dominant neo-liberal politics shou= ld do it for
them, as they have been doing.

there are not many people among the first category i mentioned above
in the software world. even though i met many IT graduates who have
never heard of gnu, at least many hackers know about the politics of
both open source and the free software. but i must say that, in the
cultural field, not many people know about the politics of the issue.
they either have not heard about âfree softwareâ,
or use it in englis= h for âgratisâ, or translate
it to other languages meaning so. and this is the simplest way to
know about their articulation on the issue. i think this shows the
âsuccessâ of the âopen sourceâ for making the âfree softwareâ invisible.

i want to say that; there is a confusion/lack of knowledge in the
cultural field about the detailed politics of the issue. if they do
not know the foundations of the debate on the software, and why such
ideas were possible as they have never been before in other aspects of
life in history, they cannot translate the ideas and values of free
software to the culture, most of which can now be represented/born
as digital information, just like the software... that's why i find
the work at freedomdefined.org important and needs highlighting to
constitute a âfloss-likeâ consensus in the cultural
field. and the cul= tural institutions i mentioned are the ones that
have the potential to create such a discourse about it, along with
their communities they would threat as peers.

so once again i would like to address the free letter especially to
the decision makers of the contemporary art institutions, along with
all other cultural institutions with such goals.

as we would all agree, fc is not just a license issue. the "legal"
fc licenses (especially the copyleft ones) are just some tools for
talking in a way the "corporate" would understand. personally i find
the free cultural statements (no matter how articulated they are)
attached to the works more interesting than the licenses. however
working on the licensing issue has been a must since the domination
of creative commons, which has nothing to do with the politics of fc
IMHO. the vocabulary of "non-commercial" is so sympathetic to anyone
who has a problem with the current socio-economic situation. right?
but if it is featured such as a pill, how can someone discuss the
long-term consequences of it, what it means in fact, how it serves the
continuation of the system based on capital while giving no benefits
to the independent (not the independent artist but the independent
redistribution), how it renders another economics impossible...

i think one issue must be highlighted in every occasion;
non-commercial in cc licenses does not mean the work cannot be
used for commercial purposes; it means that the work can only be
used/exploited for commercial purposes by its author and by those
whom the author would re-license the work with another copyright
agreement, just like the conventional copyright regime. it cannot be
used commercially by anyone else, including those put it in their
blog with ads, commercial social networks, also not by the ones who
would put their labour to build on it. this is another discussion,
i do not want to go to the details here but at least one needs a
definition for what free culture is and i am in favor of sticking to
the freedomdefined.org's one, if no one has a better contribution.

by the way, all my contribution to the nettime is free/libre for
anyone for any purpose. commercial use is encouraged (preferably in
a copyleft logic) if you can add value on this (by giving the labour
of editing it, including it in a collection with other free cultural
works) so that anyone would like to pay or donate you for the value
you add on it. i must state this point here since nettime's policy
says âno commer= cial use without permissionâ, which
makes these e-mails non-fc work ac= cording to the definition at

however, what i stated above is not a license, a statement by the
author and would not have a legal value and would not protect you in
the real world ruled by the laws. you must count on me that i will
not change my mind when you start making money from what you build
on this, or you must count on my âlegal heirsâ in
the future to follow my= ethics. you are right; this would create
a âchilling effectâ, just li= ke some other people
do when they say that they are ok with every way people make use of
their work but not attach their statement to their works, while not
also free licensing them since they do not want the intermediation
of law between their works and the people. but it is copyrighted by
default in terms of law and people do not have to know, or search
about the personal attitude of the author. this is where intellectual
property laws need a tweaking at least. a work must only be considered
copyrighted if a copyright note is attached to it. not the way
it is now; copyrighted by default even when there is no mention
of it. in fact there is not much need for tweaking at IP laws.
the rest is the responsibility of the authors' who have chance to
âdictateâ= other ways of distribution for their
works with free cultural licenses, or statements... free cultural
statements/licenses tell too much about the politics and the sincerity
of the author...

anyways, i respect the âchilling effectâ my statement
wit= h good intentions would create; so all my contribution to
nettime is also multi-licensed with all those free cultural
licenses listed now and will be listed in the future at (
http://freedomdefined.org/Licenses#List_of_licenses ) is this a
license proliferation of is it a solution to that?

in his great 2006 article on this list,
"The Creative Common Misunderstanding" (
), florian also criticized "some rights reserved" policy of creative
commons as:

â...the Creative Commons licenses are fragmented, do not
define a= common minimum standard of freedoms and rights granted to
users or even fail to meet the criteria of free licenses altogether,
and that unlike the Free Software and Open Source movements, they
follow a philosophy of reserving rights of copyright owners rather
than granting them to audiences... ...in CC's motto "Some rights
reserved." Beyond being, quote Mako Hill, a "relatively hollow call,"
this slogan factually reverses the Free Software and Open Source
philosophy of reserving rights to users, not copyright owners, in
order to allow the former to become producers themselves.â

especially the last part of this quotation is important. this
approach of florian (as well as many of us i believe) values the
idea that everyone is an artist. i think free culture is the most
practical discourse until now to constitute this, which is a very
much appreciated idea in contemporary art since joseph beuys made it
popular being inspired by novalis.

some people think that artists should be privileged; they should
be supported to be able to make a living and to be able to keep on
making their art. if everyone is an artist, then everyone should be
privileged and supported. no? i believe everyone is an artist, yes,
but no one should rely on any support to be able to make art. they
should do what they do not have to do, which is art, and neither do
it for the attention of others, nor for making a living from it, but
do it for themselves as an excuse to be able to deal with something
in depth apart from everything else occupying their life, that they
âhave to⠝ do. and it is more than great if others
appreciate it and find ways of showing their appreciation.

so if we really get away from an author-centric perspective and value
the freedom of everybody (who is also artist) over the author myth
that exercises power on people, we should focus on identifying if
an artist's (or institution's) attitude is for constituting a free
culture or not. precarious situation that 99% of the artists are
facing (the cultural industry is what makes them precarious, not fc)
is something important and must be discussed. this is also where the
ethics of free culture (caring to donate, for example) would take us
somewhere i believe. even though getting some donations would not be
enough for everyone to make a living, it would definitely show them
that there are at least some people who appreciate their work in a
way, no matter how much they donate. of course there are many other
ways of showing your appreciation.= ..

if we think of contemporary art, the time of the biennials which
are expected to create a discourse out of the commercial gallery
system is almost over. art fairs are the new hype for contemporary
art with their "rich" public programs as their justification system.
even though we haven't witnessed m/any fc works in the biennials
yet, in the future. there will definitely be no room for fc in the
contemporary art fairs, even though the fairs seem to create critical
discourses by employing respected curators. commercial galleries are
not expected to present fc, fairs neither, biennials haven't done well
yet about it and also they won't be keeping that much attention in the
near future. small scale institutions and artist run initiatives do
not have enough funds to support fc, or even non-fc art properly and
also their community is much limited. that's why this is a call for
the big scale contemporary art institutions, those with a critical
approach about culture industry and the way it positions people as
fans/customers. by the way i am not expecting any rejection to the
free letter from the artists who are already in the global network of
contemporary art institutions; gaining prestige by working with them,
constituting their political artist persona, while also working with
big galleries on the other hand and being represented at art fairs;
i don't think they would have anything to say about the precarious
situations the practice of this free letter would put them in!

even though my intention was the contemporary art and the institutions
i mentioned above, the punk band example gives me an opportunity to
speculate on this in an easier way since constituting fc is less
complicated in music.

as we all know that free culture has nothing to do with selling
something or not; it is not about the price but the freedom on the
work. it is totally ok in terms of fc if the band sells the lp (most
of which they probably give for "free" to some "important" people) or
charge a fixed price for the show (with a guest list at the door for
some people, not usually those who cannot afford it, but mostly those
who wants to feel privileged by having their names on the list). it is
ok and good, if i have the freedom to make a mashup from their song
that i bought or copied and be the author of it while attributing to
the band that inspired me and supplied with the source material.

but unfortunately i have never witnessed any musician making a
considerable amount of money from selling self-made LPs etc. that
practice does not usually go further than a gesture for both musicians
and those who âbuyâ it. however there are alternative
ges= tures that would make both parties experience another world other
than the market oriented one. one possible gesture is the one i will
explain below. this is not the only way fc should work but it is the
one that excites me for the possibility of another world in general,
beyond free culture.

the fictional scenario goes: the band does not ask a fixed price as a
prerequisite for the show but let me donate the money of my choice.
preferably anonymously, by putting the donation box in the toilet
for example:). there is a possibility that they will not be able to
collect enough donation to cover their expenses for the show. however
there is also the possibility that not enough people will come and buy
a ticket if they followed the conventional method. if the concert is
good, why would people donate less than they would pay for a concert
ticket of a non-fc band? am i naÃve thinking this way? i would
donate, if i have= the money, the money at least to to buy a ticket.
wouldn't you?

then there is this lp, a derivative work of their music which has
a marginal cost for them other than zero because of its physical
nature. they would say that, "we spent x for producing this commodity,
which is subject to scarcity, and if you pay x for a single edition
we just cover its marginal cost. the more you pay according to your
appreciation, the more we will make profit from this. we must also
cover the cost of non-sold lps, including their production and
logistics costs etc. so please consider that as well." and i buy the
derivative work of their music paying the money of my choice. or i do
not even buy that lp since i do not have a fetish about music related
objects, but i download their recordings, another derivative work of
their music, since i liked the show and i donate them online instead
of buying their lp or spending my money on a non-fc music. and i
follow them for their next concert.

as i keep listening to their recordings i keep making micro donations
whenever i am excited about their music, or send it to the attention
of another friend. as i listen to the recording of one of their songs,
i realize that it has the same chord progression as another fc song i
like. so i download the guitar and base channels of that song that the
fc band made available as separate tracks. i download the vocal track
for the other fc song and make a mashup of them along with the drum
track of another fc song from another band. i also make my mashup a fc
work and make micro donations to all the bands. i got some donations
for my mashup and donate back to the bands if i have enough money to
fulfill my so-called unlimited desires in life.

or the scenario forks this way: i went to the concert, didn't like it
but donated some money since i appreciated their politics. i had no
relation to the band for 20 years. and then i encountered a recording
of a song they played in the show and liked it this time since my
music taste changed during years passed. i even don't remember going
to their concert. then the story goes on from above me donating for
their music.

free culture matters in the long run. think of songs that became
popular with their covers after 20 years.

florian wrote regarding his punk band example in an early reply to
this post:

âFirst of all: the release of work as free culture (according
to = the standards of freedomdefined.org or the FSF Free Software
Definition) should be intrinsically motivated and a decision of
those who created the work. It should not be something forced upon
by an institution/venue which would then use its institutional
power to force upon modalities of distribution - i.e. you can't
play/exhibit/work here if your work isn't released under a free

as i also pointed out in my second e-mail, i totally agree that, it
is the choice of the author, it is the power of the author; more than
that it is the political statement of the author.

in terms of using institutional power, nearly most of the
films festivals do say "you can't show your work here if it
âisâ= released under a free license. so i don't think
it is unfair that the institution (not the gallery, not the venue but
the fc institution) says âyou can't...â thing and then
add "because i am not here to promote yo= ur proprietary work which
positions my community as passive audience giving them no freedom on
what i made them experience. your gallery should do it for you.".
however, the easiest would be the punk band saying "f*** the license,
f*** the law. this is music, we make it, you do whatever you want with

also regarding the using power issue, in the text i linked in
my second e-mail also, richard stallman writes if it is the
âfreedomâ= of a developer to decide which license to
use or is it exercising his/her âpowerâ on people:

"Freedom is being able to make decisions that affect mainly you; power
is being able to make decisions that affect others more than you."

a good work of art i experience affects my life and pushes me to think
and build on it once it gets into my universe, that is which keeps me
alive. and i want to show my appreciation to the author of that work
in a way. i am not dead if i do not have the freedom to do so but then
i do not need that art in my life. so everyone is an artist and no one
should have a privilege to exercise power on others.

regarding turning the lights on or off metaphor at rob and aymerics
replies; i think everyone is for keeping the lights on, since one
making use of someone's light does not leave the others in the dark,
if we refer to thomas jefferson's saying, which has been referred to
many times to explain free culture, by tweaking it a little to the

but what if we can only afford to keep just one light on? should we
keep the one in our house or the one in front of it letting others
also benefit from it? the simple logic says that we should keep the
one in the house and let only the guests of our choice at our house
benefit from it and the state funding (not prefer to say public here,
that i'd like to think of it in terms of peer funding) should keep the
light on the street on. that was our contract with the state system.
this task may have been outsourced to a private company. that's ok
if the street light is still on and the company is not exploiting
other issues, like breaking the street lamps in other territories, or
blocking the water of some people living near some river to supply
us with the electricity. the question is, if there is no light in
front of our house, or it is lit by exploiting others, and if we can
afford keeping only one light on, are we willing to prefer to keep the
one on the street instead of the one inside our house and go outside
where the light is, leaving our comfortable life of unlimited human
desires in the house? i believe some passerby would bring us some food
respecting our attitude and some others would protect the light while
we enjoy the lights of other streets hanging out there.

back to my focus; an institution asking me not to be a passive
audience shouldn't make me experience a non-fc work. that's it. with
my respect to rob, earlier suggesting "that Arts Council England
require funded works to be freely licensed."

--  ÃzgÃr k. gpg:A3E6 57AD E14D 1F66 A546 6101 BA42 0724
E750 C5AE

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