Geert Lovink on Thu, 25 Oct 2012 05:49:09 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> background text on the Free Culture Forum 2012 this week in Barcelona

The struggle for the defense of the Internet and free culture grows  
stronger year after year, inseparable from the struggle to consolidate  
the paradigm change that goes hand in hand with the digital era.
2012 has seen civil society win great victories over the barbarians:

Social pressure has led to the rejection of the fearsome ACTA, SOPA,  
and PIPA laws; the UN has recognised freedom of expression on the  
Internet as a basic right; the EU has declared that filtering links is  
illegal; the Swiss government has legalised filesharing; the German  
Constitutional Court has prioritised the right to freedom of  
expression and information over the interests of cultural lobbies; the  
Hargreaves Report recommends a fair reform of copyright in the UK;  
Pablo Soto has been absolved; a European ruling declared that bars,  
gyms, hairdressers and similar businesses do not have to pay royalties  
to collection societies; anti-downloading legislation is failing; IP  
addresses are not accepted as evidence to persecute users in the US?

Nevertheless, we must not let our guard down. New dangers are always  
lying in wait for sharing and for the Internet as we know it. As Cory  
Doctorow, rightly says, ?the copyright wars are just the beta version  
of a long coming war on computation.? Copyright lobbies and those in  
power are always imagining ways to gain ever-tighter control over the  
way we use computers. Attacks posing as defense of copyright were only  
the beginning. Further battlefields will be deployed in an attempt to  
seize civil society?s potential to bring about the cultural and  
economic ? as well as political and social ? renewal that the Net is  
making possible.

Even so, something has changed. The victories achieved are proof that  
civil society is prepared to defend itself.

Placing restrictions on users and creators is synonymous with blocking  
the invention of new kinds of economies and sustainability. In the  
face of this, we continue to come up with new sustainable models  
adapted to the new conditions for creativity, given that the  
restructuring of the cultural industries neutralises one of the  
excuses that are used to try to castrate the Net.

In the meantime, we are preparing to confront the new threats that are  
taking shape.

The aggressive new laws that have invented the idea of ?cybercrime?  
blatantly manipulate legality in order to gain political control of  
the Net.

For all of these reasons, civil society is determined to put an end to  
the repressive approach and the mutilation of the Net, replacing it  
with a Positive Digital Agenda that favours a democratic renewal that  
is in line with the times. An overhaul of the legislation that  
regulates the use of the Internet and the dissemination of  
information, culture and knowledge in the digital era.

By protecting the Net, we protect a tool for democratic change, a new  

Increasingly transformative uses of the Net are emerging.

Direct forms of control are spreading to better informed and more  
connected citizens, allowing them to monitor governments and  
corporations. Transparency, access to public data and freedom of  
information, which governments have always tried to hinder, are the  
prerequisites for any democracy worthy of the name, and are now  
gaining ground thanks to the efforts of self-organised citizens on the  
Net. As the spectrum of information that citizens can obtain from  
governments and companies grows, so does our knowledge and level of  

In 2011, the Net allowed for the emergence of massive movements  that  
seek to totally transform the political and social framework. In 2012,  
it is enabling them to adapt to the new tactical needs of the current  

With all of this in mind, the 2012 FCForum will explore the following  
subjects, and extract conclusions and useful tools for action from  
each of them:

Working Areas 2012

Authors? rights are being used as an excuse to curtail Internet  
freedoms. Even though it has been proven that cultural industries and  
their business models do not in fact defend the interests of authors,  
but rather those of multinationals and middlemen, while authors can  
actually defend their own interests on the Internet; in spite of ample  
evidence that it will not only be inevitable but also beneficial to  
restructure the industry based on the new models of creation and  
dissemination of culture that the Internet makes possible; in spite of  
all of this, some artists still believe in the propaganda of cultural  
industry lobbies, and are being used by them to keep their outdated  
and obsolete businesses afloat.

This would only be an internal problem for the culture industry,  
except that it ends up affecting the whole of society because these  
lobbies are pushing legislation that mutilates the Internet.

This is why it is so important to have an RPCUDAY: Rehabilitation Plan  
for Creators who haven?t Understood the Digital Age Yet (a project  
included in the European Community?s Culture Programme).

Every year, after publishing its influential report on Sustainable  
Models for Creativity in 2010, the FCForum sets some time aside to  
help fast track the restructuring of the cultural sector. Not just for  
the good of the sector, but also to neutralise the excuses for  
attacking the Internet and the free flow of culture and knowledge.

This year, we will systematise the models that have emerged from the  
restructuring of the journalism sector, teaching (specifically music  
teaching), digital fabrication based on 3D copies and intermediary  
platforms for online music creation and distribution.

But above all, we will propose two models that are fully structured in  
practical and legal terms: to revolutionise for-profit sharing  
mechanisms on one hand, and crowdfunding on the other.

? Crowdfunding: a model for empowerment in the current context or  
poverty management?
Crowdfunding, a financing system that dates back thousands of years,  
has experienced a remarkable boom on and thanks to the Internet. Even   
so, we think that it hasn?t really evolved beyond a marketing and pre- 
sales tool yet, because it has not been able to become a communal  
shareholding system within the capitalist economic system. We have  
also seen how institutions sometimes use it to shirk their  
responsibility to support culture.

For these reasons, we studied the most highly developed platforms and  
came up with a legally viable proposal to promote a system of mixed  
public, private and group shareholding, one that favours sustainable  
culture in today?s context, in which everybody can participate and  
which is at the service of all.

The proposal also includes the use of patronage laws and some existing  
European directives, given that it is not possible to imagine a viable  
creative sector that isn?t integrated into the European and global  

? The cost of sharing
Although it is wasteful and anachronistic, Spain?s ?Sinde? anti-piracy  
law is too cumbersome and inefficient to be pernicious per se; what  
makes it dangerous is that it works at the level of the social  
imaginary to criminalize sharing itself, attacking the distribution  
systems of digital culture such as torrents and P2P networks. The  
discourses against ?downloads? and against sharing fail to make  
distinctions between platforms that are simply used as tools for  
sharing among peers and those that are genuinely new models of  
distribution for the creative sector ? highly efficient, innovative  
and reliable, very beneficial for creation. A sane society should  
promote both kinds, and support them for the good of the sector. Or  
could it be that governments are intent on protecting multinationals  
rather than authors? As it happens, society is defending authors,  
while governments serve the interests of powerful cultural sector  

We, civil society and innovative entrepreneurs, believe that it is  
necessary to promote and defend sharing, and this includes profit  

This is why, now that some filesharing platforms are turning a profit,  
they are suggesting a change of the game rules, in which middlemen  
disappear and profits are shared with the creators of the content  

Megaupload was working on the launch of Megabox: a music store that  
planned to offer 90% of profits to creators who shared their music on  
the site. The response came swiftly. The US Government called on no  
less than the FBI to close down Megaupload and requested the  
extradition of  Kim DotCom. But the battle is not over and Kim DotCom  
has announced that the Megabox project is going ahead and will be  
released soon.

Other projects are following similar paths. After fending off an  
accusation in which its founders faced a 6-year jail term, the  
platform Taringa! is lauching Taringa! M?sica,a platform that shares  
profits with the authors.

The FCForum is contributing to this experience, by launching the  
Spanish section of the project and discovering how much it really  
costs to share cultural content in the digital age.

A few facts:

Monthly expenses for a website with 10 million users are high, easily  
exceeding $20,000 per month, which means it could come to around  
$250,000 per year
Host + Server = $10,000 per month
Staff = $10,000 per month
Website operation and development
Graphic design
Technical support
Advertising sales and service
And always a surplus for legal services and advice.

If industries accepted fair competition, this would not be necessary.

Audiences are part of the creative process; their property cannot be  
taken from them.

In 2012 the the European Parliament rejected ACTA after two years of  
civil society lobbying; two official reports confirmed the failure of  
the European intellectual property directive IPRED 2011/29; the  
Spanish government (the fox guarding the chicken coop) published a  
shameful report against Net Neutrality which it had commissioned from  
those interested in destroying it (this was precisely the opposite of  
the Netherlands, which already has legislation in place to protect Net  
Neutrality); royalties collection societies continue their failure to  
respect their members and users, while they are sued for fraudulent  
practices around the world (USA, Belgium, Colombia, Spain, Brasil?),  
meanwhile, the EU only asks for ?a little more transparency? in its  
proposed directive for these entities.

Civil society, which is much more advanced than legislators in these  
(and other) subjects, is determined to put a stop to this corporate,  
repressive approach and to the mutilation of the Net through laws that  
regulate copyright and royalties, entrepreneurs and users of culture  
and knowledge. Instead, we want to replace it with a Positive Digital  
Agenda. A Positive Agenda that protects non-profit sharing among  
individuals once the work in question has been released, and also  
protects the interests of all the agents involved when financial  
profits are generated.

In addition, we defend citizens? right to participate in the debate  
and drafting of legislation that affects them.

With this in mind, we will launch a prototype for collective online  
drafting of legislation on copyright and the Internet, along the lines  
of an experience tried in Brazil with the Marco Civil do Internet.

Similarly, at the FCForum we will present a collaborative system for  
the reform of the misnamed ?Intellectual Property? Law in Spain and  
the European Union, based on documents created by civil society at the  
2009 and 2010 FCForums, the Charter for Innovation, Creativity and  
Access to Knowledge and the How-To for Sustainable Creativity, and on  
a proposal by Quadrature du Net that draws on the recommendations of  

The current tendency for legislators to fail to apply the same justice  
in the earthly realm and the virtual context is sometimes disguised  
under the name of ?cybercrime?. For example, it requires complex  
juggling and many headaches for politicians to ban street  
demonstrations in the physical world, but a few lines hidden away in  
legislative reforms is all they need to ban demonstrations in virtual  
space, such as DDoS, he same goes for spying on mail, forcing service  
providers to monitor their customers, censorship, ignoring the  
presumption of innocence, etc.

People who are up in arms about repression and censorship on the Net  
in countries such as China should realise that there are lobbies and  
legislators who are proposing the same thing here. They should also be  
aware that the control mechanisms used by repressive regimes are  
usually paid for by Western multinationals who develop them to control  
their own employees and then, in order to make the most of their  
investment, they sell them to States that are repressive to a lesser  
or greater extent. Once again, control is also big business.

At the FCForum we will study legislative approaches to these issues  
and ways of defending ourselves from them.

Recent emergencies such as the Arab Spring, #15M, the Occupy movement  
and Mexico?s yosoy132 have shown that there is an urgent need to  
update our democracies, and radically changed the relationship between  
citizens and governments. Organised civil society no longer wants to  
be a spectator of ?democracy.? Our current institutions, born under  
the industrial paradigm, behave like zombies, emptied of any  
representatitvity or legitimacy and out of touch with the social needs  
of the people. But even so, democracy is being re-built by citizens  
behaving as a smart mob.

At the FCForum we will study the potential of this path, of building a  
democracy that explores new kinds of participation and engagement  
technologies, and that includes freedom of information and  
transparency as built-in, inalienable values.

? Information: Free choice doesn?t exist without free access to  
information. For this reason, access to public data and freedom of  
information are the key indicators of democracy in the 21st century. A  
good example to follow is Iceland?s IMMI or Icelandic Modern Media  
At the FCForum, we will analyse the strategies employed in new  
professional and citizen journalism, how the two complement each  
other, and the attacks they face, as well as looking at ways to defend  
and support them.

? Transparency: Governments do not engage in transparency. As  
citizens, we do not know what information the government?s decisions  
are based on; we don?t know how they spend our taxes; we don?t know  
who decides our future or for what reasons. Spanish citizens are the  
least informed of all: Spain is one of the few European States that do  
not have any transparency legislation. Under pressure, the current  
government is planning to pass a simulacrUM. Pure whitewash. Even the  
OSCE has said that the majority of changes in the Spanish government?s  
proposal are ?cosmetic? and fail to meet international standards such  
- Recognise the right of access to information as a fundamental right  
(article 20).

- Expand the scope of application of the future law to the legislative  
and judicial powers.

- Improve the definition of information which currently includes some  
exceptions not subject to public interest tests.

- Ensure that all exceptions are subject to both harm and public  
interest tests.

- Ensure that the body charged with overseeing compliance with the  
right of access to information is fully independent.

This is why there is an urgent need to organise ourselves to achieve a  
genuine transparency law.

? Networked democracy: In the context of the Net, people are inventing  
new tools for collective decision-making and creation of legislation,  
predominantly under citizen control.At the FCForum, we will explore  
the potential of these mechanisms in order to equip ourselves with  
tools for the battles that are taking place. We will also share  
projects such as Democracia 4.0, and the Government of Rio Grande do  
Sul?s Digital Office- a next generation democracy mechanism that is  
becoming a prototype for distributed, open control of the State by its  
citizens. Meanwhile, with its new forms of digital participation and  
its innovative constitutional process celand is showing us other  
interesting approaches to the bottom-up drafting of a constitution, by  
citizens, for all.

Working method
The FCForum is open to anybody who is interested in participating. It  
is free, and registration is not required. Everybody can participate,  
taking into account the different levels of knowledge and skills.

The FCForum working method consists of discussing different hypotheses  
so that we can all end up working together on a unifying strategy.  
There are no long speeches, only presentations of the different  
hypotheses as a point of departure for the discussions.

Discussions will focus on the sticking points between the different  
proposed models, in an attempt to identify possible mechanisms that  
can bring them together and make them compatible. We believe it is  
possible to create an inclusive mechanism within the autonomy of each  
agent, which can boost all the alternatives by means of strengthening  
each one, through the others.

The results will be defined online in the weeks following the FCForum,  
in the form of ?recommendations? that can be used to:

? Provide arguments for political ?reformers?: they are a tool with  
which to lobby political parties, institutions and government  
agencies, with the aim of influencing the legislative changes that are  
currently being considered and introduced.
? Provide tools for citizens as active agents facing a change of  
paradigm, so that they can take advantage of its potential to the full.
? Create a network of affinity and global collaboration based on a  
common interest in the defense of the Internet and free/libre culture.

The FCForum is open to anybody who is interested in participating. It  
is free, and registration is not required.

More on

#oXcars12 - Thursday, 25/10 - 8,30PM:

#fcforum12 - Friday 26 + Saturday 27 - 10,30AM to 9PM:

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