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Re: <nettime> aaaaarg lawsuit digest
Felix Stalder on Wed, 20 Jan 2016 00:44:09 +0100 (CET)


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Re: <nettime> aaaaarg lawsuit digest


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The trials and tribulations of the small publishers in the
current media environment are not the right way to a approach this
issue, even though we all know that they are really under pressure and
thus their valuable contributions to the types of culture we like are
indeed threatened.

Yet, this is a sideshow of the much larger questions of how the media
industries are going to operate and what kind of society this is creatin
g.

So far, only two big models have emerged.

The first is simply the continuation and extension of the previous
model, which, in order to work for digital content, requires stringent
control over the means of communication, aka DRM. This, in turns,
necessitates an unacceptable re-engineering of the entire digital
infrastructure, providing central actors with an unprecedented control
over a distributed infrastructure (think Apple, Amazon). In such an
environment, it's impossible to operate as an independent publisher,
rather, one becomes a dependent publisher, depended on the provider of
the infrastructure of control and IP enforcement.

The second takes its inspiration from the old broadcast experience and
focuses on collecting, packaging and selling audiences. It's just that
the packaging has become a lot more fine-tuned and the market has
expanded beyond classic advertisers. This model, like the old broadcast
model, requires the large scale, but thanks to digital efficiencies, the
scales are bigger than ever. Think of Facebook where only 12'000
employees are able to amass more than a billion people, package and sell
them in any way imaginable (and probably also some as of yet
unimaginable ones, thanks of ubiquitous surveillance) and still only
generates a profit just $2 billion (2014). That's obviously lots of
money for Mr. Zuckerberg, but not that terribly much, given the size
of the product he can sell.

In such an environment, even independent publishers need to attract
audiences in the millions, by providing beauty tips and the like on
youtube, to make a living. Hardly the type of niche products that we
deem culturally interesting and why we care about independent publishers
.

For the development of these two models, both of which are really not
very innovative, independent publishers play no role because these
contribute, in one way or the other, towards a heavily and centrally
controlled society. They might be able to find a nice or two in them,
but that's not what these models have been designed for. Their are
designed by and for new media monopolies, likely to merge, sooner or
later, with the old ones (think of Jeff Bezos buying the Washington
Post).

None of this should make independent publishers nostalgic, because
that, in the end, only helps to justify the first model.

Outside of these two moels, there is a lot of experimentation about
finding ways of turning the audience into some kind of community in
which some functions are provided professionally (that is, paid) and
others are not. Of course, the sharing economy is trying to commodify
all of this, sometimes a bit softer (like kickstarter, itself a
"public benefit" company), sometimes a bit more aggressive (like etsy,
which had an ipo in April 2015).

But I don't think this is the end of that story. There is still a lot
of things to be discovered in this space, and, as far as I can see,
it's the only way small niche cultures can survive without external
funding (state or private). In this context, there is legitimate
criticism against the "pirates", not that they take away revenue, but
that they interject themselves between the artists/producer and the
audience and are thus making it harder for a community to develop. I
think They Might be Giants were the first to remark this a couple of
years ago.

Of course, this is the reformist strategy and it might be the case all
innovation that this generates is simply setting the ground for the
next wave of capitalist commodification and accumulation.

In this case, we need to follow Alex :)


On 2016-01-15 14:16, Alex Foti wrote:
> if i can add my zero bitcoin to this heated debate, i download 
> everything in epub for free - since i got half unemployed couldn't 
> afford the non/fiction i wanted to read anyway. copyright is not
> the right way to either spread knowledge or provide for authors' 
> livelihoods - my crude imperatives would be: overthrow the digital 
> oligarchy, let's expropriate the wealth produced with our own means
> of production (general intellect + connected devices) and
> redistribute it for public welfare and ecosocial enterprise.
> 
> have a good weekend
> 
> lx


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