simona.conservas.innmotion on Tue, 8 Jul 2008 16:30:47 +0200 (CEST)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> A citizen response to the recent attacks on freedoms in the name of intellectual property

Multiply and share, use, improve...
Collective response provoked by the latest attacks on our digital rights 
in Spain and Europe and in view of the upcoming G8 summit that will try 
to enforce "protection of intellectual property" (sic). This letter is 
also being sent to governments and 287 authorities.

7 solutions/facts plus one.
A citizen response to **the recent attacks on freedoms in the name of 
intellectual property.*

Over the last few months we've witnessed several attacks on freedoms in 
the name of intellectual property. We also recently had the chance to 
read the manifesto "Rights for All on the Internet" (available in 
Spanish on the website of Spain's RIAA equivalent, the SGAE, 
which is being perpetrated by the self-baptised "Coalición de Creadores 
e Industria de Contenidos", or "Coalition of Artists and the Content 
Industry" (an umbrella group bringing together five of the country's 
main royalty management associations and cultural industry corporations 
-- SGAE (artists), Egeda (audiovisual production), Promusicae (music 
producers), Adivan-Adican (video distributors and importers) and FAP 
(intellectual property) --, which are, in turn, the Spanish lobby of the 
major US film producers and distributors: Disney, Universal, Paramount, 
Sony Pictures, Fox and Warner), and their declarations on the supposed 
damage that filesharing or P2P networks are doing to culture.

This response has been written by housewives, businesspeople, internet 
users, lawyers, judges, "distinguished" intellectuals, programmers, 
unemployed people, professionals, scientists, artists, artisans, 
workers, grandparents, teenagers, citizens in general -- we are part of 
the millions of people who use these networks in Spain. We would like to 
take the opportunity to clear up some of the things this "Coalition", in 
extremely bad faith, are trying to distort through their declarations. 

"The Coalition" and their like want to play a game in which the dice are 
loaded. Their stance is simply the bluff of an industry that wants to 
change the rules at the last moment in order to win the game.

The main problem is that there's more than economic dividends at stake. 
We're also playing for the very idea of what culture is and for the 
right to access to information (which has taken us a couple of centuries 
to gain).


We say the dice are loaded because this "Coalition", and the cultural 
industry in general, uses the words "culture" and "creative production" 
according to their own interests, in an attempt to redefine these 
concepts for their benefit and their own, strictly financial interests.

When they say "culture", they mean "entertainment industry". When they 
say "cultural production" they are talking about the "commercial 
exploitation of some of their member's royalty rights". Basically, 
they're talking about business dealings. When they talk about "pirates", 
"plunder" and "pillage", they are referring to each one of us.
Only the intentional impoverishment of these concepts for their own 
interests could be behind these declarations.

Apologies for the depressing comparison, but to change intellectual 
property legislation in accordance with these distortions would be like 
changing the coastal protection legislation for the benefit of a group 
of real estate developers. Culture and beaches belong to everybody, and 
the crisis in the cultural and real estate industries shouldn't make us 
loose site of our shared heritage.


A social phenomenon that is so widespread (13 million households and 70% 
of all Internet users, that is, an absolute majority of the Spanish 
population) can't be written off in such a simplistic way, specially not 
by trying to make society aware of its "bad practice" through fear, 
defamation threats and, as their latest campaign attempts to do, by 
changing legislation to get the Courts that suit them.

In Spanish history, we have a flagrant example of a private institution 
that managed to impose its point of view on society. It was called the 
Inquisition, and it managed to impose its own interests for centuries 
through book burning, by banning science and condemning thousands of 
people to death.
It also managed to hold Western cultural and technological progress back 
for a couple of centuries.
Although at least during that period there was no arguing about the 
definition of "culture" (culture=religion).

But enough of comparisons with other centuries. Let's return to the 
present - the information society.


As we will see later, there is no way the information society can 
coexist with the reforms proposed by "the Coalition" and the cultural 
industry in general.  In fact, the information society would disappear 
only to be replaced by an "entertainment industry society".

More than at any other moment in history, the digital age allows 
everybody access to the free circulation of knowledge and multiplies 
opportunities for learning and creativity, for the benefit of all humanity.
Times have changed - all citizens have to be able to benefit from all 
the advantages offered by the Network of Networks through the horizontal 
exchange of information and culture. We have to adapt our means of 
cultural production to this new form of democracy, and not the other way 
around. Copying and its benefits are behind all of this.


Why is copying demonised when it is the basis of all learning?

We don't live in isolation, we live in a network. We are constantly 
communicating, from the moment  we're born and are socialised we 
continuously absorb knowledge by imitating, copying and sampling. 
There's no other way to do it. Knowledge comes about through imitation  
and copying.

That's how our cultural imaginary is formed, and then it becomes our 
source of inspiration and allows the creation of new ideas, works of 
art, theories, etc. Any kind of cultural creativity or new knowledge is 
based on this received tradition, which means that no new creation is 
completely original or even possible without the existence of this 
collective heritage.

This is extremely familiar ground for the big multinational companies in 
the cultural world, which have always reaped profits from folktales and 
traditional music and thus plundering our common heritage and the 
creativity of those who create through the simple act of communicating 
and storytelling. 

In the digital, communication age, "digital" is our shared memories and 
the networks that connect them.
"Digital" material  is what the contemporary memory is made from.
If anything deserves to be called plundering it is the desire to 
greedily make money from our natural way of learning - copying -- at the 
very moment that it is flourishing.

This technological transformation is often compared to the invention of 
the printing press, which revolutionised the diffusion of culture 
through its capacity to produce copies in a way that was much faster 
than ever before, and more faithful to the original than the most 
highly-valued copyist of the time. Books that had been kept in 
monasteries an available to a privileged few were brought within reach 
of the public, in spite of the powerful opposition of a minority, 
motivated by personal interests. It's true that copyists lost their jobs 
and had to go into a new line of work, but who would be able to ban the 
printing press today?

Something similar is happening in the digital age. The new technology 
even benefits the entertainment industry, that small section of cultural 
production that is fighting for its own private interests to the 
detriment of the rest. Today, they are the minority who oppose the new 
printing press, unfairly holding back the increasing free circulation of 


It's simplistic and biased to try and divide the Spanish population into 
those who copy and those who buy, because we all do both things at once.

It's like saying that those who cook without buying recipe books are 
gastronomic pirates.

How many times do we have to say it? The fact that I use the Internet to 
compile music and that this turns me into a music lover feeds my desire 
to go to concerts and buy my favourites on CD. Only the record 
industry's insatiable delirium could possibly think that people have to 
buy the thousands of records available now, when they decide to consume.

It's not true that if we share we will stop appreciating artists and 
Have people stopped buying El Quixote just because it's in the public 
domain? Do people no longer by it because parents can pass their 
children copies that had belonged to their grandparents?
Will people stop going to the cinema to see a new Almodóvar movie and be 
moved (those who are moved by new Almodóvar movies)? Will Almodóvar no 
longer be a millionaire? Highly unlikely. Will he be a bit less of a 
millionaire? Does the entire country really have to care about the 
fluctuations of Almodóvar's millions?

Culture is bound to keep producing community, emotions and wealth, as 
well as investments, as it always has and always will. It will keep 
copying itself to produce new originals, and maintain its power to 
attract people wherever it pops up.
In the digital age, more and more people will dedicate themselves to 
culture based on what they learn directly from others through the net.
People won't stop appreciating those who create. Just the opposite, they 
become more familiar and closer to us. We all become creators. 
We are losing appreciation, but not for the artists -- for the middlemen.


Until recently, the culture industry was the main intermediary between 
artists and audiences.  This intermediary is now the Internet.

This is the period of highest levels of production and consumption of 
audiovisual media in history.

I can carry an mp3 player with thousands of songs in my pocket. On 
MySpace I listen to new songs by music groups from far-flung corners of 
the world.
Does this mean I'm being detrimental to the diffusion of culture?

The business opportunities that emerge from the greatest levels of 
audiovisual consumption in history are immense. But the game rules 
involve active users that access information directly, without turning 
to the slow, expensive system of middlemen.

In a world of consumer-producers in which everybody can easily access 
culture and its means of transmission and production, the culture 
industry as we know it has entered a dead end street. It has to 
restructure itself.

It is up to the companies themselves to restructure the industry in an 
innovative way, by investing in the new possibilities rather than trying 
to hold them back, without hindering fair competition and the creation 
of new jobs in the way it is doing now.
Citizens shouldn't bear the costs of this restructure through 
indiscriminate and legally dubious levies. And the industry shouldn't 
paralyse the progress of society in general, destroying its creative 
ecosystem just when it is flourishing like never before, making citizens 
pay once again.


They could well be.
But there is no decline in the opportunity to undertake new investments 
and make money (which is what ultimately concerns them).
A local example: Rodolfo Chiquilicuatre (Spain's abominable Eurovision 
representative) has earned millions of euros without selling a single 
record, mostly through the sale of ringtones and the thousands of hits 
on his videos and copies and off-shoots on sites like YouTube. Could a 
phenomenon like this have existed without the Internet and mobile 
technology? Does anybody have the nerve to say he hasn't generated 
money? Haven't consumers been the main distributors of this product?

The restructured culture industry will keep making money, that much is 

Record sales are falling? Yes. Audio tape sales fell too.

It's absurd for the culture industry to want to remain the same, as 
though the Internet had never been invented.

It's not in crisis, that's a lie. SGAE  (the Spanish RIAA equivalent) 
makes record-breaking profits year after year. While the professional 
weepers mourn the losses that we Internet users are causing through 
something that no Spanish law has classified as a crime, the rights 
management associations are living through a golden age.

If street vendors start offering CDs by an unknown group along with 
Madonna CDs, it will mean that the profits of culture are finally being 
distributed more fairly: Madonna will keep selling millions of records 
and travelling on her - perhaps slightly smaller - private jet, and the 
unknown group, who deserves to have its talent recognised without 
passing through any company's profitability filters, will have the 
chance to grow and become known, to gave audiences at their concerts, 
generating culture, knowledge and economy.

Digital information is the memory of our time. If I buy a record or a 
book,  or watch a consumer product on TV, I have every right in the 
world to make a private copy for non-profit purposes and share it.
It would be absurd and impossible if someone asked me to wipe my memory 
of the film I've just seen. It would be even more absurd if I had to pay 
every time I talked about it. Attacking digital copying is like banning 
people from talking to other people about their memories, not allowing 
people to repeat what they've heard, stopping people from lending books 
to friends or humming a song. Basically, it means banning communication 
in the communication age. Strange, right?

One of the cornerstones of the lament of the industry weepers is the 
idea of "lost profits". The theory goes like this: if I download a song, 
I'm not buying it, therefore that revenue is never produced and this is 
known as lost profits.

Let's do the maths:

Say I've bought (yes, bought) an mp3 player with a capacity to store 
40,000 songs. If I had to fill it by acquiring the music through an 
online sales platform like iTunes, which charges an average of 1 euro 
per song, it would cost me 40,000 euros. But being a responsible 
consumer, I should really buy the entire records by my favourite artists 
from a local music store like VIRGIN (note: this is joke, but local 
music stores died out 20 years ago). A new release costs approximately 
22 euros, which would imply an outlay of 88,000 euros, or around 15 
million pesetas in the old currency.

How horrifying to realise that the most valuable thing we own are the 
contents of our mp3. We stop sleeping, frightened, thinking of the 
hordes of thieves who could steal our prized treasure. But this is all a 
lie, or rather, a fantasy: the fantasy of the farmer who counts his 
chickens before they hatch and imagines how much money he will make from 
them. The calculations of the culture industry and royalty management 
associations are absurd, simplistic and malicious. If they were 
realistic, we would have fortunes in our pockets. We would be 
millionaires on one thousand euro salaries who store everything and 
nothing on a few data bits.

One of the basic laws of the economy (especially for non-essential goods 
and services) is that products cost whatever users are prepared to pay. 
The industry's greedy desire to extract profit from everything that 
moves doesn't realise that if their idea of taxing all exchanges were 
implemented, it would die of thirst, a victim of its own desires.

In the times we are living in, our wealth lies in information and 
culture. We have previously unimaginable levels of freedom of 
expression. Thanks to P2P, we can be millionaires in terms of the 
millions of people we can share our thoughts with or sing a song to. 
With millions of others, we can listen to Amy Winehouse's latest record 
and then write something completely different. This is the social wealth 
we want to talk about -- about the kind of society it builds, the kind 
of creative people it shapes and the benefits it generates.


Here is an example:

Viacom takes legal action against YouTube because Viacom isn't happy 
about excerpts of its programs being posted on the Internet (even though 
it's recognised as "the right to quote"). What is it so unhappy about?
Maybe it doesn't like the fact that a program it has already broadcast 
is reproduced as memory - YouTube is a "digital memory", a collective 
archive of users -- thus bringing more advertisers and audiences to 
Viacom? Or perhaps it's complaining about the money it's not making when 
people re-watch the excerpt without generating the profit that would 
never be generated if it wasn't possible to re-watch it for free? 
Internet users are their own best publicists. They do it well, and for 
free. If Viacom had to carry out the same operation, it would probably 
end up being less "profitable".

This is what the obsession with lost profits means: selling the car to 
buy petrol.


Although they try to give a different impression, the Internet is full 
of artists. Only a tiny percentage of them have any connection to the 
culture industry.

If P2P networks are criminalised, we all lose: we lose freedom, we lose 
privacy (it's not science fiction: a court ruling has recently ordered 
YouTube to
reveal the identities of millions of its users in order to protect the
"lost" profits of the multinational Viacom), we lose wealth and freedom 
of expression. Everybody knows this. Why do we have to keep repeating 
it? What interests are being defended?

Those who want to apply the Sarkozy model that criminalises filesharing 
on the net (P2P) totally overlook the thousands of artists who allow 
their work to be copied by using free licences. They also ignore the 
privacy of all Internet users and the democratic benefits of breaking 
the control of information. The biggest communication tool ever created 
by human beings, the library of Babel that humanity has long dreamed of, 
could end up becoming the largest form of social control ever created. 

Restricting P2P networks doesn't defend a few poor millionaire artists 
and the helpless entertainment industry. It limits, fragments and holds 
back the tool that has changed the way we understand the world.

Do we really want to follow in the footsteps of Pakistan, China, France 
and Sudan?

Do we want to live in a country in which governments are afraid of their 
Will we allow Mickey Mouse to condition the future of knowledge and culture?
*Therefore, we hereby DEMAND:
7 necessary and urgent measures to protect and boost the knowledge 
society for the good of everybody (every single person, really ;))

1. That any restrictions placed on filesharing (P2P) networks be 
considered to be an act of obscurantism and an attack on the fundamental 
human rights guaranteed by our constitution and covered by countless 
international treaties that have been ratified by the Spanish state.  
Our rights to knowledge, learning, access to culture and freedom of 
expression would be seriously undermined if limits were to be placed on 
the tools that society currently has at its disposal.

2. That royalty management associations become what they really are: 
private associations that ONLY AND EXCLUSIVELY manage the "accounts" of 
their members, that is, the royalties of a section of artists. That they 
allow free competition, like any private organisation, and that under no 
circumstances private entities be allowed to delve into the privacy and 
the pockets of citizens for their own private benefit (see the Tower of 
Music in Valencia, among thousands of other examples).

3. That artists be paid equally and fairly, whether or not they are 
members of royalty management associations. That artists, if they wish, 
be paid mainly for their actual creative work, not for the explotation 
it generates.

4. The immediate abolition of the "canón digital", a digital levy that 
indiscriminately sanctions citizens in the name of "compensating" 
artists for a crime that isn't a crime when, in reality, it is collected 
for the benefit of a few private individuals who rarely produce the work 
themselves and even more rarely produce anything related to Culture.  
Only dictatorships make people pay simply for being considered likely 

5. That the periods in which works become part of the Public Domain 
benefit creativity and society. Allowing more than one generation to 
live from somebody's work is a way of encouraging parasitism and 
creative stagnancy. It deactivates reinvestment and instead of favour 
people, as it was designed to do, it ends up benefiting mainly large 
multinational companies that distort the original work. We ask that work 
becomes public domain within a reasonable period of time, according to 
the kind of work, with a maximum of 30 years.

6. The defence of the "right to quote" as a vehicle for democratic 
expansion of the information society.

7. The elimination of the concept of "lost profits" in any area relating 
to cultural production.*

And one more thing:

Because free and collaborative culture is the Culture of our time, 
because it's a fact, because there's no turning back....

EXGAE presents:

The awards that will sweep the Grammys, the Goyas, the Max...
The 1st non-competitive awards in the history of Culture...
The 1st international Culture awards in the digital society...

eXcellence is sharing

Tuesday October 28, 2008, Sala Apolo - Barcelona*

Multiply and spread.

More details:

#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime>  is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info:
#  archive: contact: