jen Hui Bon Hoa on 26 Jul 2000 22:23:11 -0000


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<nettime> Re: <.nettime> Terror in Tune Town - part1


  
    Ken Ward:
> "'intellectual property' is really little more than the bourgeoisie's
> attempt to distinguish itself from the working classes by claiming
> that there's a qualitative difference between its own labors and
> that of its economic lessers."

This is an interesting way of thinking IP and is laudable as a 
shorthand attempt to sociologise legal infrastructure. The Marxist 
position is slightly different: the entire legal structure --is- a 
bourgeois construction; it exists to articulate and defend bourgeois 
class interests. So from this understanding of the law and the state 
(as a bureacracy protecting its own interests), resistance to efforts 
to expand copyright, and attacks on IP in general are politically good, 
insofar as they are symptomatic of opposition to the broader social 
arrangements of which they are an expression. 

Unfortunately, opposition to IP can also correspond to the strategic 
interests of what (in Bourdieu-speak) can be understood as a dominated 
sector of the dominant class.  These interests are often expressed as a 
kind of anarcho-capitalism.  Take the open source movement through the 
lens of "the october document" that was put out two years ago in 
heavily annotated form by eric raymond.  raymond purported to be a sort 
of spokesman for open source, and to many people his writings appeared 
to articulate the liberatarian potentials that accompanied this 
challenge to conventional notions of intellectual property. However, if 
you read  his other writings, it became clear that he advocated the 
challenges to ownership implicit in open source because he opposed 
microsoft, not because he opposed IP or any other kind of private 
property.  for him, open source was a way for fraction of the dominant 
class (in terms of cultural capital) that understood itself as 
marginalised to get around the barrier to market access that microsoft 
then represented.  The core of raymondís ideological vision was a kind 
of half-baked right nietzschean vision of himself and his fellow 
hackers as a natural arsitocracy that differentiated itself internally 
through the writing of elegant code.  The idea behind raymondís view of 
open source was to find a way to correlate this techno-aristocratic 
status with Big Cash in a market freed of bureaucratic impediments 
(like microsoft and the state).

the question is: do mp.3s and other such products represent a challenge 
to property or are they merely a moment of flux within the dominant 
order ó the changeover from older types of distribution run by the evil 
record companies to a new one, the ultimate beneficiaries of which may 
well be the mysterious "pipe guys"?  I am inclined to see multiple 
possible outcomes in terms of politics because the situation remains 
unclear ó but no political significance follows automatically, all must 
be argued.


Eric miller:
I agree that, in a crisis of profit for the record industry as is 
threatened by napster, the people furthest down in the capital food 
chain would suffer. But I would characterise this demographic as small 
distributors before artists who (as jeff carey explained) earn a 
considerable proportion of their revenue from touring and 
merchandising. 

ō "if you take what doesnít belong to you, youíre stealing"
ō "IF YOU DIDNíT PAY FOR IT, IT ISNíT YOURS"
Following Jeffery Fisherís critique, "what belongs to you and why," to 
a more basic point in the logic: the valorisation of property-by-
payment is a naturalisation of the dominant market-driven order. What 
about people who canít afford anything? These are the people who are 
punished by the canít-pay-for-it-canít-have-it capitalist model. Eric, 
in your first posting, you deplore the inequities of the present 
system, and then for the remainder of that posting and the whole of 
your second outline a position that would simply uphold them.  How do 
you reconcile these two points?

That said, I do share both Eric and Jefferyís concern about a potential 
lack of sufficient financial support for artists. but the claim that 
creative cultural production will stop when the money stops is 
ridiculous. Have you ever seen kids freestyling on the street? Do you 
have friends who produce art in their spare time? Do you understand 
there to be any satisfaction to be had in the artistic process itself?

And, Eric, in reponse to your concern that the lucrative dimension of 
artistic production maintains artistic diversity: 
                  Have you ever watched MTV?

Because artistic diversity does suffer Ė nowhere more than under market-
driven recording company rationalisation. In fact, many of the 
interesting and important artists and musicians that I know do what 
they do despite the difficulties encountered in the market, despite 
problems getting a record deal because their work is deemed 
unprofitable by record companies: out jazz, for instance, and other 
experimental stuff that pushes the limits of intellectual and technical 
possibilities, or hip hop that does not cater to the idiotic suburban 
white adolescent preoccupations of the major record labels. And in some 
cases, extension of copyright enforcement by major transnational 
communication companies has put them in a position to stomp out musical 
diversity (and not simply neglect it) ó see robin ballingerís work on 
calypso in trinidad for example, and how the major recording companies 
were using copyright arguments to shut down the tape economy that gave 
most people access to the music, that served as an important feedback 
loop in the continuation of calypso culture in general.

The problem of making art oneís primary mode of production and being 
able to eat as well points me to the critique of specialisation rather 
than to a rationalisation of the recording industry. A system whereby 
one could work a few hours a day and earn something approximating a 
decent wage is my long-term solution. 

     
jen and stephen

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