Ambitious – Pirate Party to the Sky!

In a move that roughly parallels global capitalism’s quest for domain over the heavens since the late 1950s, Pirate Parties are now suggesting taking to the sky via balloon or satellite as a means of ensuring access to culture without the hindrances of territorial law. Basically a hi-tech, sci-fi redux of the British pirate radio pioneers of the 1960s. Here, here, here, and here.

Capital is driven to expand as it seeks ever more opportunities to intensify surplus value. In the last 200 years we have seen it expand from regional mercantilism, through colonialism, the expansion of the factory, and recently into globalised trade and manufacturing. It also took to the sky in the late 1950s as the “space race” was cast in terms of the cold war between “free” markets and state socialism. In a palpable sense, it was surmised that whoever got into space first would thus prove the superiority of their economic system. The Soviets got there first, followed soon after by the Americans. It is of no small significance that the purpose to which space was put was principally that of communication. And for years we have taken for granted that a) space is no longer contested, reinforced by international scientific cooperation aboard MIR and the ISS and (b) that it is there solely to be put to use by the ever expanding needs of capital, reinforced by the now current fascination with private citizens funding their own space exploration, by renewed dreams of space tourism, and tellingly by continued threats to the public funding of NASA.

It is within this scenario that those who are concerned with cultural freedom and intensified legal restrictions on the reuse of cultural work are now speculating on the use of space for goals that resist those of capital, at least at the level of IP. I think it’s also of some significance that resistance to intellectual property law – to be sure a law of the abstract and ethereal – is in this case literally taken to the ether. It’s also suggestive of the long history of space as the domain of the imagination, “out there” where anything is possible. Space is the place of dreams. In this way, it is refreshing to see discussion that takes place in the realm of speculation and the imagination rather than in the often dry and procedural arena of copyright law and international trade negotiations.

Bizarre French Anti-piracy Strategy

This is the most bizarre but imaginative strategy I have heard of yet. And like many other anti-piracy strategies seems like a weak band aid.

For the next two years the French govt will subsidize half – that’s right half – the cost of a 50 euro ($70 USD) card to be used to download music from approved subscription-based online retailers. Consumers will be limited to one card a year.

Somewhere between a social service debit card and a tax break, this strategy appears to be both an admission of powerlessness in the face of piracy and also an assertion of state involvement that on the surface seems to run counter the “hands off” anti-regulatory ethos of neoliberalism and the Sarkozy regime. Additionally, this is a great example of the intensification of state surveillance regimes, surely there must be a way to then gauge the “taste” of the nation, or even to index the number of music files a person possesses against the number they buy with the card – any discrepancy and its the gulag for you! Alas, it may also be another case of the state funneling of public resources toward private interests. And this time, instead of a bailout to the finance industry, this is a way to direct tax payers’ money toward “legitimate subscription-based services.” It’s hard not to see how this doesn’t amount to paying twice. It also doesn’t seem clear if this is about nurturing French cultural production specifically, or just ensuring that for-profit distributors get a slice of the pie. However, in exchange for state aid

website operators will be required to cut the price of music, extend the duration of subscriptions, and contribute to the cost of advertising the card. Their benefit will be capped at 5 million euros each.

That said it also seems a rather ingenious way to promote cultural awareness and listening to music. I can’t imagine a British or North American government so blatantly funding the consumption of artistic work. Here we cut arts funding and gut humanities departments in universities. What else could be next: a tax break for every theatre ticket purchased? A granting system for reading materials? Still, if there’s a mood for state involvement these days, why not a lump sum to the download services and performing rights agencies via a blank media levy like we had on blank tapes and CDs and then let everyone download away? I’ve seen studies that suggest support for this. Or, even better, why not scrap the whole notion of state support for for-profit entities (not very “free market” anyway is it?) and instead support people with a universal living minimum wage that would also account for the purchase of cultural/creative works, which, following food, I’d say are pretty important for a well-nourished soul.

See also here.

Cory Doctorow – The Real Cost of Free

Cory Doctorow, always a great read.

You know who peddles false hope to naive would-be artists? People who go around implying that but for all those internet pirates, there’d be full creative employment for all of us. That the reason artists earn so little is because our audiences can’t be trusted, that once we get this pesky internet thing solved, there’ll be jam tomorrow for everyone. If you want to damn someone for selling a bill of goods to creative people, go after the DRM vendors with their ridiculous claims about copy-proof files; go after the labels who say that wholesale lawsuits against fans on behalf of artists (where labels get to pocket the winnings) are good business; go after the studios who are suing to make it impossible for anyone to put independent video on the internet without a giant corporate legal budget.

At the Guardian.

Cory Doctorow – Digital Economy Act: This means war

Cory Doctorow’s latest.

The entertainment industry’s willingness to use parliament to impose censorship and arbitrary punishment in the course of chasing a few extra quid is so depraved and terrible that it has me in fear for the very underpinnings of democracy and civil society.

Indeed, the swiftness with which the DEA went through the British parliament is something that does not bode well for democratic processes. A scant debate, a paltry showing of MPs, and blatant ignoring of public outcry marks the very opposite of engaged and responsible government. Add to the this that the substance of the law is largely the construct of profit-driven (i.e. not concerned with democracy) private industry, we have here authoritarian rule by the unelected and the unaccountable. A travesty.

So what, it’s just music and movies, right? Cutlral production plays a massive part in the circulation of ideas, social norms, possibilities and potentials, etc. This move represents the continued imposition of control in the name of profit on the very texts that might hold the key to new discoveries, that might open up posibilities for better worlds. In process and in content, this law is an attempt by a powerful elite to suppress the common, to lock down communication, and to punish those who dare to dissent. It is absurd.

Michael Geist on the Canadian Copyright Reform Consultation

Michael Geist notes the rock and hard place situation in which Canadians who desire a sane copyright law find themselves. The strategies employed by powerful lobby groups in order to shut out the voices of educators and consumers of creative works are of particular interest. Those in support of strict copyright laws, including “three strikes” laws for Internet users

turned out en masse for a public town hall meeting in Toronto late last month, resulting in multiple interventions from record label executives (four from Warner Music alone).  Packing the room ensured that there was virtually nothing heard from education and consumer groups, many of whom could not even attend the town hall since all the tickets were scooped up in less than five days.

See the full post here.