lördag, juni 03, 2006

Piratbyran's speech at Reboot

This is Piratbyrån's talk at the Reboot 8.0 conference, under the title The Grey Commons. This version somewhat extended, but with some parts about current events left out. Held by Rasmus Fleischer. Large parts copypasted from the earlier speech in Berlin and co-written by Palle Torsson. Corrections and slides to come. Note: As there seems to be some confusion around this internationally, I should clarify that Piratbyrån is not a political party, so this is not a speech from The Pirate Party (Piratpartiet) that is another Swedish group. Piratbyrån is also not synonymous with The Pirate Bay, but the relationship is briefly explained in this text. Intro There has been a lot of grey zone activity the last few days. You know that if you've followed the story about the Swedish police seizing the servers of the Bittorrent indexing site The Pirate Bay, a raid initiated by Hollywood's MPAA and probably through several more than dubious stages of political influence, raising more question marks for every hour. Anti-piracy is operating in its own grey zone. But I would like to start this talk from another direction, the positively grey, which was what was I originally was invited to talk about here at Reboot, to sum up some of the crucial points in copyright's current crisis. We are the many shades of the Grey commons DJ Danger Mouse took the vocals from Jay-Z's The Black Album and re-mixed it with the Beatles' White Album and in his creation, The Grey Album, he was ignoring copyright law. The whole circulation of the Grey Album would never have been possible without P2P file-sharing. These networks exists in the same space as remix or mash-up culture; a space of production, of inspiration, obtaining, downloading – remixing and reinserting distribution and up-down-loading of data. This grey zone is fading in and out of historically dominant forms of circulations, slowly tearing them apart and replacing them with new ones, through rapidly multiplicating small habits. It is not a grey commons in terms of the law, but inscribed in the technical habits we use every day. The grey is not optional, it is not here by an effort but rather as the shortest way to make life work with technology. The test, the query, the shading, the tuning and twisting is omnipresent; it is not something you can wish away. This is the way we live and come alive. The Grey Album could escape the claws of copyright owners, because the channels of distribution where there and rather untouchable. But this claw is stretching to bring us all back to a time before internet, P2P file-sharing and the universal computer. Two days ago, there was a major clampdown in Sweden, with the police seizing a large part of the world's filesharing infrastructure, The Pirate Bay, as well as silencing the voice of Piratbyrån. Of course only temporarily. We'll get back to that. But below such dramatic outbursts, the copyfight is raging on a conceptual level, where the permanented crises of copyright is masked by images grounded in a one-way mass-medial logic, images with no room for greyscales. In this dislocated situation piracy is about reestablishing connections that has been lost or cut-off. By developing the tools and discourses of file sharing, we try to expand the grey zones and make room for the unforeseeable. Instead of talking about things in the copyright industry’s universal terms, and instead shift the focus to the diverse reality of cultural circulation: what we call The Grey Commons. On this Grey Thursday I would like to present som thoughts that have been cooking around projects like Piratbyrån and The Pirate Bay. About pirate ontologies, geneaologies and strategies for the grey commons. Some words on the projects Piratbyrån (The Pirate Association or Bureau of Piracy) in Sweden and Piratgruppen (The Pirate Group) in Denmark are sister organizations that tries to develop and deepen the questions about intellectual property and file sharing, through discussions, events, media appearances, publishing, lectures; developing and deepening Piratbyrån was born in late summer 2003, emerging out partly from an integrated internet radio broadcast community and partly from IRC channels populated by the Swedish hacker community and demo-sceners. Piratbyrån was initiated to support the free copying of culture and has today evolved into a think-thank, running a community and an information site in Swedish with news, forums, articles, guides and a shop and has to date over 60000 members. But two days ago, it was closed down by the Swedish police seizing the servers, that stood in the same server hall as The Pirate Bay, the world's largest Bittorrent tracker. It was started by Piratbyrån in november 2003 but grew faster than anyone could imagine, therefore it was naturl to branch it off and today, The Pirate Bay is a fully independent entity, but in a very friendly relation to Piratbyrån. [Presentation about the razzia and current events left out in this version.] It's not about downloading, stupid! For a long time it was legal to download copyrighted files in Sweden, while the uploading of copyrighted material was criminal. But with the 2005 implementation of the EU copyright directive in Swedish law, also downloading was turned illegal. The anti-piracy lobby of course wanted everyone to believe that it suddenly has become very dangerous to be a file-sharer. While many voices have spoken up against the supposed “mass-criminalization of teenagers”, Piratbyrån has tried to present a more realistic picture. Most file-sharers use bittorrent, where every downloader is also an uploader, and thus were probably in a formal sense criminals also before this law, that doesn't really seem to have changed anything. It is of big importance not to accept this terminology where “downloading” appears as some kind of activity completely separate from the uploading. We instead insist on talking about file-sharing as an horizontal activity. Just like the activity of breathing includes both taking in air in the body and letting it out, filesharing has the same symmetry between up and down. Taking them apart, if even only through language, can only fill the purpose of replacing open exchange with centralized control. Talking about "downloading" obscures the fact that horizontal P2P-communication is essentialy different from vertical mass-distribution. It is not the same "content" taking different paths to the "consumer". It is about different archives and different architectures. There is a constant buzz, driven by mass media, about so called "legal download services" for digital movies and music, presented as an alternative to P2P networks. But the aim of "legal download services" is not primarily selling movies or music. It is rather about selling language, selling ideology, appropriating the very notion of "legal download". In that ideology, "legal" is understood as "for payment", and "download" as an up-down-transfer from a central server offering a limited range of so-called "content", to a consumer. So, we are totally mistaken if we think that we are criticising the content industry by saying that "offering legal downloads is good, but DRM sucks and prices are too high..." etc – because with that terminology we have already swallowed the ontology of undifference. Horizontal exchange or vertical distribution? Open and unstable archiving, or centralized and limited? Those are the fundamental questions. Much more fundamental than the questions asked in the discourses about accessibility, consumer rights, social justice or compensation. Metadata, not copyrighted material, is the war on piracy's target Pirated copies will be produced, no matter the fate of file-sharing networks. We're all too often today equalising unauthorised digital copying with file-sharing networks, but it's a fact that a lot of the illicit warez arrives at the hard disk from a physical storage medium, like an usb-device, a borrowed cd or a burned dvd. To the extent that some people may avoid P2P networks, research shows that they just reconnect to other sources of data – be it physical copying from family and friends or files exchanges with mail and chat clients. It's all a piracy performed in a grey zone outside surveillance. So the question is not piracy or not, nor if darknets are desirable or not, but what infrastructures piracy will take use of. Burning cd's or gmailing files or giving them away with services like Yousendit.com, means quite much that piracy is stuck in the same infrastructure that it had during the era of the cassette tape and the photocopier, only multiplied by digital effectivity. There is still a dependence of finding someone (a friend, a library) with access to the source. File-sharing networks, however, connects every private archive that in one particular moment is connected, into the largest and most accessible archive ever. The war against file-sharing is essentially a war against the distribution of uncopyrighted metadata, not against the distribution of copyrighted material. It is about hindering the ever-present piracy from globalizing and open indexing, pushing it back to the family and the schoolyard and the workplace. Scaling-down, not in quantity but in network scale, from peer-to-peer to person-to-person. The result is not less piracy, but less plurality in piracy. More dependence on personal contacts means that more iPods will be filled with mainstream music that is exposed through mass media, while less people will curiously sneak around shared folders just to try out stuff. But the iPods will no doubt be filled anyway. And you can forget that it will be according to an "one copy - one payment" formula. Mental rights management The grey zone also becomes visible if we consider how arbitrary the very definition of "copying" is. How it is based upon outdated technical cathegories. We emphasize and affirm the tendency that it is getting harder to distinguish between local transfers of data and “file sharing” between different systems, for example in wireless environments. Digital technology is built on copying bits, and internet is built on file-sharing. Copying is always already there. The only thing copyright can do is to impose a moral differentiation between so-called normal workings and immoral. For the copyright industry, it is of extreme importance to keep people uninformed of the real workings of networked computers. They want to make an artificial distinction between "downloading" and "streaming", as equivalents to record distribution and radio broadcasting. But – and we should keep insisting that – the only difference between "streaming" and "downloading" lies in the software configuration on the receiving end. However, copyright law will never be able to acknowledge that. It has to rely on fictions, on a kind of cognitive mapping, where notions valid for traditional one-way mass media are forcefully applied to the internet. We call it Mental Rights Management (and it is the very precondition for DRM). It is essential for the copyright industry to keep the majority of computer users trapped in the belief that the ”window” of their web browser is exactly a window, through which they can look at information located elsewhere, under someone else’s control. Then our job is to clarify that everything you see on your screen or hear through your speakers, is already under your control. Zeros and ones have no taste, smell or color – be they parts of pirated material or not. Therefore it is impossible to construct a computer that cannot reproduce and manipulate these zeros and ones – as such a machine would no longer be a computer, but something as grotesque as a digital simulation of the machines of the last century. From one-way to read/write But of course the aim of copyright is to do exactly that. Copyright was born in 18th century England in order to regulate the use of one specific machine, a machine that was expensive, few in numbers and that could write but not read, namely the printing press. Ever since, copyright laws have tried with varying success to make other machines imitate the characteristics of that one-way medium. The concept was pretty easily adapted to the first technologies of sound and image recording, as grammophone and film entered around the turn of the last century, both being one-way media. But in the seventies, machines that could both read and write, like the Xerox photocopier, the audiocassette and video recorders, came into the hands of a wider population. This transformed the production of culture, as well as the distribution. Remix, cut-up and mash-up cultures flourished, with early adopters like William S. Burroughs. The record industry started to claim that home taping was killing music. Initially, they wanted to stop the cassette technology altogether. However, the common compromise solution in Western Europe gave the introduction of a special tax on magnetic tapes, in order to "compensate" the copyright holders for a calculated loss of sales. Since that time, the sampler, the CD-burner and portable memory devices has continued to make the possibilities greater. Now we’ve got the combination of home computers, broadband, network protocols and compression algorithms that together define what we know as P2P file sharing. As we stand here today a fair question must be if a principle that was implemented for controlling printing presses in 18th century England should be the hole which our present world must circulate through. The threefold division: A parenthesis in musical history In the beginning, copyright was simply a regulation of the reproduction of printed matter. Anything that was not made with printing presses, was not really under copyright's domains. Sound was something essentialy fleeting and intangible, something that happened in real time. In particular cases, musical notation was used, but primarily as a simple memory-helper for musicians. The Western classical tradition, however, evolved on its on way, more and more dividing the role of the composer from the role of the performer, by making notation more and more exact. But music and musical performances had nothing to do with copyright. Only the printed graphical representations of music was affected. But things changed with the new reproduction technologies for sound and film, some time roughly around year 1900. Legislation transformed as a response to the possibility to reproduce sounds and not only symbolic representations of sound. Copyright went from covering texts to covering Works. A Work can be defined as the abstract product of any artistic creation, existing independently of its material forms. Now, composers not only owned the symbolic representation of music in form of a musical score on a printed paper, but also the melodies themselves. The realm of copyright conquered two new territories: public performances and recorded music. But it was still based in the concept on written music. The symbolic score secured its power over the real vibrations stored in records, as well as over the live music experience. That meant that a lot collecting societies had to be funded, responsible for channeling money to composers and publishers, who still were the only musical copyright holders. Radio broadcasting meant a growing cake, and soon some musical performers and record companies demanded their share from it too. And they got it in the early 1960s, when the Rome Treaty gave international copyright two new layers: performer's rights and producer's rights. Music copyright, and the whole phonogram economy, is still built on this threefold division between the composer, the performer, and the producer. Those are the three main roles, each one represented by a different collecting society, each getting their own share of money for every song played on the radio and every CD-R sold. But since this system was institutionalised, the division itself has shown clear signs of dissolution, and in quite many cases, one can observe how all those three roles are converging into the figure of the bedroom producer. A convergence driven by the development of recording and mixing technology, from the multitrack tape recorders of the 1960s, to the contemporary average computer able to simulate what only some years ago demanded very expensive studio time. But lowered production costs wasn't saluted by everyone. Mechanical music menace At first, synthesizers were marketed as a substitute for living musicians. Advertisements presented the Roland MC-8 Microcomposer as a huge orchestra. No wonder that the musicians' trade unions, all over the world, depicted electronic instruments as a threat. They preserved the traumatic memories of when the introduction of talking films created mass unemplyment amongst cinema musicians, and held a strong belief that technical reproduction of music was a threatening rival to live performances. During the early eighties, the American Federation of Musicians fought against use of synthesizers to mimic string and wind instruments, in the name of employment. One idea, seriously considerated in several countries, was to impose a special fee on synthesizers, to make them less attractive and to support orchestras with "real" instruments. The London chapter of the British musicians' union went one step further, demanding a complete ban on synthesizers – which caused a split in the union, where musicians affirming electronics started their own Union of Sound Synthesists (USS). Both electronic musicians and DJ:s were being labelled as sell-outs who played the game of commercial interests. The unionist resistance against the synthesizer, was rooted in ideas about how capitalists tries to lower production costs, just for their own profit. The basis for that argument, was the hegemony of a very narrow definition of a musical performer: Only people mechanically controlling the production of sound in an instrument, like a violin or a saxophone. But that narrow view was soon to be undermined by a number of experiments in hacking and indeterminacy, that explored the sonic machines as something else than just representational technologies. DJ:s hacked the turntable, transforming it into an instrument of musical production, and the discjockey became a cathegory of creators not fitting in any of the roles in the tripartite division of composers, musicians and producers. The Roland TB-303 was designed to reproduce the sound of a bass-guitar, but was hard to configure and made interesting mistakes. Soon the misuse became the norm, as the unique squelching sounds produced by its filters came to define a whole genre of music – acid house. Music is, as it were, performance When making electronic music, the bedroom producer is programming patterns that are interpreted not by musicians but by machines, and then mixing the components together. But the bedroom producer is not really a composer and not a producer – but truly a performer. In contrast to the institutionalised image of the musician interpreting the symbolic notes of a composer's score, the bedroom producer interprets not symbols but real sound samples and the imaginary musical styles. Recombining, refining. Redefining bugs to features. Performing a beat, that in real time is performed again by the dancing crowd, interpreting sounds into bodily movements. Or maybe recorded, encoded as MP3, copied though Soulseek, and psychogeographically performed by playlist fanatics. Music is, as it were, performance. Even the uses of recorded sound must today be understood as real-time experiences – if we are not to be stuck in a dead-end road like the musician's unions fighting the synthesizer. Similar tendencies – with selection and recombination as an ever more important creative role – can be seen everywhere on the artistic fields. Without openly confronting copyright law at all, these practices subtly marks out a line of flight. Along that line, creativity and artistic interpretation migrates out from the realm of copyright, leaving its gateways to the realm of semantics wide open and leaking. Beyond the consumer/producer-dichotomy The copyright industry today likes to present the problem as if internet were just a way for so-called “consumers” to get so-called ”content”, and that we now just got to have ”a reasonable distribution” of money between ISP:s and content industry. But we must never fall in that trap, and we can avoid it by refusing to talk about “content” altogether. Instead, we talk about internet as communication. Therefore, it is totally wrong to regard our role as to represent “consumer interests”. On the contrary, it’s all about escaping the forceful division of humanity into the two groups ”producers” and ”consumers” that copyrights produces in different ways. An obvious example is the movie industry’s bizarre lobbying to “plug the analog hole”, by introducing a law banning video equipment able to rip analog media. The law proposal put forward by the MPAA mentions that so-called professional producers of course should have a license to use these video cards anyway. The effect would of course be an extreme consolidation of the split between producers and users. But so-called "alternative compensation systems", that some voices put forward as a progressive alternative to DRM and mass-criminalization, they are no less reproducing this split. The idea is usually to impose a special fee on every internet connection, so that a bureaucracy could channel the money to publishers and other rights holders. This way we can save both the copyright system and file sharing, says amongst others Lawrence Lessig, the EFF, and the Swedish Green party. However, none of them likes to specify exactly how it should be decided which creators that should get money. If book authors should get compensation when their books are digitally transmitted, why should not bloggers get a part of this compensation as well? So, for the very notion of "compensation" to work, there must be someone filtering out the "worthy" forms of artistic creation from "unworthy". (Or the system could give every internet user money for every line they are writing in a chat, but that would maybe better be called an universal basic income.) This dilemma also illustrates the schizophrenic nature of industry. Companies like Microsoft and Sony on one hand tries to use DRM to block out independent cultural production. But on the other, they are already totally dependent of what they call “user-generated content”. Clever entrepreneurs of course do understand that internet business is not about selling information. It is about selling the possibility to interact. Overcoming the split between producers and consumers is not some utopia of a world to come, but a necessity to let communication media be communication media instead of simulating one-way media. Copyright's three points of crisis I have mentioned two key points in copyrights' permanent crisis, points where concepts that where evolved to handle the separated flows of one-way mass-media clashes with the reality of networked computers. One was the fact that the very concept of copying is rather arbitrary when it comes to digital technology, as using digital information already implicates that it is copied. Another was the extreme problems with institutionalizing a producer/consumer-division, inside a media technology used for horizontal communication. Both anomalies seems totally unsolvable, from the perspective of copyright, and indicates that the copyfight is very unlikely to cool down. Now I will go on to the third point of crisis: the form/content dichotomy. Three key points in copyright’s permanented crisis

  • RAM/ROM; the very definition of ”copying” is arbitrary
  • Consumer/producer; impossible to institutionalize, especially in communication media.
  • Form/content; the distinction can only pass a digital cable as simulation
The form/content-division belongs in the age of postal distribution Year 1793, Johan Gottlieb Fichte wrote a piece that for the first time clearly separated "form" and "content", with the specific and successfull goal of establishing literary copyright. While an author's ideas are the universal content of writing, he gives them an unique individual form, which is his intellectual property. Then, on another level, the copyrighted material itself usually is described as content, then understood as abstracted artefacts, not bound to a specific media form. Communication media are, on a kind of third level, also logically divided between form and content; or, more specific, in address and message, or instruction and information. That division could seem totally unproblematic at Fichte's times around year 1800, at the dawn of modern copyright and a couple of centuries after the postal system got public. The postal system has always built upon the physical separation between the address outside the envelope, and the message inside it, the latter hidden and legally protected. Already with telephony, however, this separation wall started to leak. The "hole" between form and content was signified by the frequency of 2600 Hz, used by phreakers to insert information that the central servers interpreted as instructions to connect calls for free. But, as the servers were still centralised, this tiny hole never grew to be a huge gap in the wall. Networked computers, however, are not only media, but universal semiotic machines. Computers makes no difference between information and instruction, they're storing text and code in just the same way: Form and content cannot be distinguished objectively. But that distinction is what European politicians today are trying to resurrect, in the implementation of the data retention directive. What they say and probably believe, is that data retention has nothing to do with supervising what people say to each other on the net – it's not about the content, only about who is communicating with who. And that is maybe possible if this is restricted to e-mail communication using the SMTP protocol. But what for, if every criminal knows that they can just communicate in chatrooms or with community messages? Either politicians must give up their stated ambition, or they are bound to go into ever more detailed regulation of specific internet protocols. But Sweden's judiciary minister thomas Bodström, that has been spearheading the European plans for data retention, still talks about supervising only the address layer and not the content layer. The important point, in criticising data retention and similar surveillance measures, is not about so called "privacy" or "personal integrity". We would like to stress the importance of different media logics. The distinguishing of form and content is a physical part of an postal letter, but it cannot pass a data cable. The only way for it to pass, is as a simulation. And every single regulation that is based on such a simulation, will inevitabely kill one thousand other possible simulations. It will block the exploring of one thousand paths. Instead of assuming the holiness of privacy, we are questioning the technological consequences of data retention, in terms of detailled regulation of communication protocols, and the ban on anonymous internet connections. The main problem with surveillance and with the war against filesharing, is maybe not about an unfair trespassing on what should belong to the individual subject – it is about an unfair and absurd attempt to turn networked computers into individual subjects. A vital experiment of complexity Maybe what is most important now, is to bypass the urge for solutions, for victory in battles or for compromise and stability. For example, talking about how to "compensate the creators" is to obscure the truth about the social production of culture. Such talk establishes the myth of copyright as some kind of "wage" for artists, and the strange idea that real-time performative aspects of culture are secondary or unimportant. And while some of the Creative Commons licenses can of course be usable sometimes, it would also be a wrong to believe in that a “some rights reserved”-approach would do anything to cool down the three anomalies mentioned before. Instead, that approach sometimes just seems to move the problem to another field: Instead of the producer/consumer-dilemma, you get something quite similar, namely the commercial/uncommercial dilemma. Making general statements about the alternative to copyright always brings the danger of strengthening copyright's universality claim. On the contrary, trying to keep the grey zone as open and wide as possible will almost automatically produce better conditions for cultural production to go beyond prevalent economic imperatives. We think that our projects have generally succeeded in escaping the most obvious re-territorializations, like explaining file-sharing just as a response to expensive records. Instead, they aim is to open up and explore new grey zones. The Pirate Bay is one example – a grey zone currently under attack. Much of the mass-medial reporting are still blind to the grey. Paradoxically, they represent the binary world in an all-too-binary way. In their black and white picture, the conflict is about certain "content"; the picture is painted with The Pirate Bay on one hand and "the rights holders" on the other. Everything that is not juridically plain white like a penguin, is in that picture black. But we would like to direct the attention to the grey zone, that is all the movies and music and text on The Pirate Bay that no rights holder ever thinks about trying to stop, either because they affirm it as a possibility or because they really don't care or because the works are actually orphaned. The attack on Pirate Bay is an attack on that grey zone. Rather than securing their own copyrights, the movie industry are attacking an infrastructure that is needed for many kinds of independent production. They are not attacking piracy in general, as the sharing of digital files can always take its physical routes. They are attacking the very possibility to interconnect metadata of private archives. But while intellectual property will surely continue to be a battleground for major clampdowns in our society, there will always be enumerable lots of open ways. The drive of discovering, thinking and inventing alternative processes of production is the affirmative power of life as a vital experiment of complexity. Internet piracy is all about desiring-production, and its long-term effects are beyond our human capacity to compute.


Anonymous Anonym said...

Well written! I'd suggest that you add a link to some of the many great Swedish music artistss who release their music for free on the web. Some of them are well-known, but most are unknown. Aura Productions, Kaveh Azizi, Trance[]Control, Lagoona, Andreas Viklund, Kanix Cane (aka xposex), Andre 'asu' Sundberg... They are all great - and I've only named electronic dance music artists... :) Thank you piratbyran, I hope to see a similar organizatino in other countries soon!!

/Leval, outside Europe :)

6/03/2006 07:13:00 em  
Anonymous Anonym said...

Du får ursäkta mig om jag har fel, men skall det inte vara "speech"?

6/04/2006 02:26:00 fm  
Anonymous Anonym said...

probably the most eloquent, roundabout, post-hoc argument to avoid common sense I've read on this issue.

It's pretty simple: don't steal stuff, because you wouldn't like to have your stuff stolen. You can make every half-assed rationalization for downloading things that you didn't pay for without the artist's permission that you want, but the bottom line is that people generally want to get paid for their work, and they are not going to produce an album or book or movie for free just because "copying is an arbitrary distinction because of RAM/ROM."

I would imagine that if all the logical fallacies were removed, this lengthy essay could be made portable and printed onto a standard 3"x5" index card, good for either a laugh or simply a quick reminder of how people will fight tooth and nail in defense of their forgone conclusions.

6/04/2006 03:45:00 fm  
Anonymous Anonym said...

"Speach" kanske var ordet du sökte i rubriken?

6/04/2006 12:24:00 em  
Anonymous Anonym said...

"Copying is already there. The only thing copyright can do is to impose a moral dimension between so-called normal workings and immoral."

This is what all laws do. They draw a moral distinction between the permitted and the illicit. Copyright infringement is a crime against consent.

The problem with copyright is not a problem with the law, as such. Copyright is (or can be, or should be) a good thing, which enables artists and even bedroom producers to make careers out of their hobbies to the benefit of everyone in general. The real problem is with the priveledging of some producers over others. If I want to sample from pop tracks, I should not be prevented from doing so simply because I'm not backed by Sony.

The whole p2p issue is a huge distraction from the real issues of the copyright reform debate. I don't think anyone's interests are well served by conflating the two. P2P file-sharing may well be the most vulnerable point in the argument for better copyright laws. It's an easy target for the copyright industry to pursue, and by which this monopoly of priveledge can be extended.

6/04/2006 02:34:00 em  
Blogger rasmus said...

James: You miss the point, that is the arbitraryness in the definition of copying, making it a form of policy on communication technologies, rather than anything like the regulation of a natural right.

6/04/2006 05:20:00 em  
Anonymous Anonym said...

"probably the most eloquent, roundabout, post-hoc argument to avoid common sense I've read on this issue."

That something is common sense is a weak argument for it.

"It's pretty simple: don't steal stuff, because you wouldn't like to have your stuff stolen."

I think it's that simple when we talk about physical objects. To take something physical from another is to deprive them of its use; to do this without their consent is bad.

It's less simple when we're talking about copying something in a way which deprives no-one of its use; when rather, we're multiplying the possible users of something.

Personally, I share what I have when I can. The less I'm deprived of by doing this, the more I do it: there are far more people for whom I'll burn a CD than to whom I'll lend my car, for instance.

Maybe lots of people do this (share according to how little they're deprived by doing so), which I guess would make it another kind of common sense. Whatever: that doesn't justify it. I'd rather look at the effects of different ethics than how many people practice them. For example: to whom does a given ethical practice give more power? From whom does it take it away?

I'm less interested in sharing as a means of consumption than as a way to multiply producers. I'm a musician; I'm struggling to think of another musician, amateur or professional, who doesn't use any pirated software.

The bottom end, the poor end, of digital cultural production relies on borrowed tools and resources. I'm thinking of beginning filmmakers, musicians using digital tools, digital artists and so on.

Sigh: my comment is structured weakly, and I should spend more time fixing it up. But I have to finish the music score I'm writing for a collaboration with a fashion student. I'm planning to finish this the way I started it: by using my pirated copy of Cubase SX3 to cut and paste bits of illegally downloaded mp3s.


6/04/2006 08:09:00 em  
Anonymous Anonym said...

I still don't understand how it's stealing. I've heard the arguments over and over about how it's not different from taking a physical object, but it is, fundamentally. The only way to compare sharing information to physical objects at all would be if machines existed that could copy physical objects, and even then driving off with a copied car wouldn't be the same as driving off with the original. Nicely written, even though some parts were difficult for me to understand at first glance. I completely understand that english isn't your first language, though. All this makes me want to stop by sweden for a protest or three.

6/04/2006 09:53:00 em  
Anonymous Anonym said...

Actually, there is a natural difference between uploading and downloading that is artificially blurred with the Bittorrent protocol with its tit-for-tat enforcement. If you are against all artificial restrictions, how about turning off tit-for-tat and letting freeloaders sponge off your bandwidth? What Bittorrent does for network bandwidth is not so different from what DRM does for content creation. The exchange of money is also a technical way to discourage free-riders.

6/04/2006 10:50:00 em  
Anonymous Anonym said...

Anonymous said...
"Actually, there is a natural difference between uploading and downloading that is artificially blurred with the Bittorrent protocol with its tit-for-tat enforcement."

that's an interesting point of view and i think it's worth considering. i'd like to provide a different POV about the tit-for-tat enforcement though: it allows for someone to get a copy of some information without burdening the owner of the original copy. much like copying a CD that you had temporarily borrowed anyways. it doesn't make a difference for the owner of the CD if your computer remembers its contents after you eject it again -- since your computer copied the information off the CD anyways when reading it or playing it back, keeping the information doesn't deprive the owner, who'll get the medium back, of anything.

if you download n bits of information from a web server, the owner of the server has to carry the cost for n bits of bandwidth. but if you use a torrent instead of a web server, you pull n bits from other sources, but also feed n bits back into the system. (approximately.) thus you yourself 'consume' 2*n bits of bandwith, which you pay your ISP for, but in sum, you incurred zero cost for other participants. if you take n bits from anne and pass them on to bob, you burdened anne with the requests for those n bits, but also relieved n from the same requests from bob, which you handled instead.

so on one hand, i can see how the disctincion between up- and downloading is blurred. on the other hand, it's also obvious that bittorrent isn't about upholding a server/client dichotomy, but all about sharing. but there is still a distinction between a publisher -- someone who acts as original seed and registers his torrent with a tracker -- and a participant, who duplicates the torrent's contents, but hasn't that much impact on it otherwise.

6/04/2006 11:22:00 em  
Anonymous Anonym said...

"If you are against all artificial restrictions, how about turning off tit-for-tat and letting freeloaders sponge off your bandwidth?"

Well, the thing is that with BitTorrent that restriction is not artificial like with other P2P systems that give you some sort of 'points' for uploading stuff.

The BT client connects to several other clients, sees which ones are letting it download most and tries to keep the connection open to those. At the same time clients that aren't giving you enough if bandwidth are cut off while the search always goes on for new better sources.

You might think of a sort of Free Market capitalism where each downloader is only interested about optimizing their own download rate (until you have 100% after which you're only seeding). Therefore your uploading is an integral part of the way BitTorrent works and the reason it doesn't rely on powerful central servers.

6/05/2006 03:01:00 fm  
Anonymous Anonym said...

"It's pretty simple: don't steal stuff, because you wouldn't like to have your stuff stolen. You can make every half-assed rationalization for downloading things that you didn't pay for without the artist's permission that you want, but the bottom line is that people generally want to get paid for their work, and they are not going to produce an album or book or movie for free just because "copying is an arbitrary distinction because of RAM/ROM.""

Dear Sir, you Fail It for not realizing that copyright never had anything to do with thefts. Copyright is a deliacate balance between the rights of the authors and the rights of the public - it has NOTHING WHATSOEVER to do with physical property, although that is a common misconception - understandably fueled by the MPAA the BSA and their ilk. After all, the word "stealing" is enough to make people wary.

On another, related note: this is not about robbing the artists/authors of their incomes. It's about moving a lot of money around, breaking up a lot of business models to leave room for new ones, and creating more new authors and artists than ever before. This is not a dream - the world has already started to change, it's just that some people hasn't realized it yet.

6/05/2006 03:14:00 fm  
Blogger . said...

This is very interesting stuff. I like the references to Situationists ("psychogeographically") and Deleuze ("marks out a line of flight").

You may be interested in my research (in development): The Control, Resistance, and Evolution of Digital Artifacts: A Materialist Study of Internet Culture.

6/05/2006 07:59:00 em  
Anonymous Anonym said...

You know... the "streaming" vs "downloading" business is quite easily explained with a simple metafor. (for those less technically inclined i guess)

Consider a water tap. The kind you have in your kitchen.
When you turn the handle the water starts streaming. The only difference between "streaming" and "downloading" would be whether you collect the water in a glass or not.

//Sam - Currently tired

6/06/2006 01:53:00 fm  
Anonymous Anonym said...

but, sam, there are many web sites that download entire music files (e.g. mp3s) to your computer and use a silly trick that prevents lesser educated users from keeping that file. it's silly because an educated user can always archive the file, whether it's delivered like this or through a 'real' straming protocol. and often you can get the file from the server as often as you want -- in these cases, it's doubly silly to call it streaming, because the site insists that you burden its resources every time you want to hear or watch the 'stream', even though one time would be enough.

if a stream is 'on demand', it's really the same as a download. the speech nails this situation perfectly. often it's cheaper and more efficient to make a stream not 'on demand', e.g. when a radio programme is streamed. in this case, your computer acts like a radio receiver and you have only one chance to record the programme, like you did with a cassette recorder in the past. the speech nails this situation perfectly, too: your universal computing machine acts as a simulation of an outmoded one-way medium.

6/06/2006 03:16:00 fm  
Anonymous Anonym said...

It seems to me that while it may seem productive to try and make any determination about copyrights as they pertain to file sharing, in fact it matters not. File sharing will happen no matter what. Various copyright holders can attempt to shut down as many sharing mediums as they want and newer, and more often larger mediums will arise to take their place.
When napster went down there was a big hoopla about a victory for the RIAA. When kazaa went down the same happened. When the pirate bay was shut down there was again a big hurricane of media coverage, and it is already back up. Even beyond P2P networks there are other larger vestiges of piracy available. All an RIAA or MPAA shutdown does is put a small hiccup in the sharing, and inspire people to come up with larger less controllable methods of distribution. Whether piracy is illegal or not makes no difference. It will happen just the same.
It just goes to show that legislation means nothing without the possibility for actual enforcement.

6/06/2006 07:55:00 fm  
Anonymous Anonym said...

Mike, the musician, please contact me for a possibility of marketing your works!
I have a competition going at http://myspace.com/ymmeli where we both could benefit.

And regarding copyright, and the stealing analogies.. complex issues! I do think one should respect copyright, and the recording industry need to update their business model. They are, as mentioned in this speech, clinging to the has-beens. The world is smaller, so the market increase, and the profit per sold unit goes down. This happened with electronics and mechanics, now the recoring industry have to face the same think. Innovate instead of complaining.

Be creative!

6/06/2006 02:31:00 em  
Anonymous Anonym said...

Hmmmmm. Well in my read of this, I would gather that the main ideal is that copyright in and of itself is an attempt to control communication. Since communication is how we verbalize thoughts and ideas, copyright is therefore the restriction of our thoughts or ideas or more specifically who is privelidged to use our thoughts or ideas. This is achieved by not allowing someone to take a thought or idea and expand on it,modify it, restructure it, or make another work based on it due to copyright so that in the end all that remains is the original idea. The notion that it is protecting would actually be better described as they are allowing you insight into their "thought" in so much as you don't take this thought and use it anywhere else. The conflict in this is that by tying a noose around our ability to transfer, expand, and improve upon someone elses thought by stifling our communication is that it is directly counter to our notion of free speech. Free Speech grants us the ability to say what we want in order to bettter communicate expand and grow as human beings. For instance, had the British Government restricted all communication and thus all "thought" colonists would have been the first computers. Highly unlikely, but the underlying principle in copyright is the same stifling creation and thought by stifling communication. Free Speech on the other hand is about expansion,creation and growth of ideas in order to come up with better thoughts/ideas. This was all written rather quickly so it is probobly disorganized. But lastly, to comment on the Pirate Bay, the conflict is that the Pirate Bay is not hosting the actualy files but merely a location of where to find it. To punish them is like punishing a library for having information on how to build a bomb(Anarchists cookbook) or drugs(PihKal). Yet these books are readily available in the US. As are even other "morally" aprehensible documents such as racist works(since someone cried it's about morals). Most of them for free, online, and unregulated. So in the end what this boils down to is "Can the control of this thought turn a profit or not." Do I want to get payed for the work I do? Yes. But only because society has imposed it's will on me as far as doing what I want. I would rather live in a society where people just shared.

6/07/2006 09:01:00 fm  
Anonymous Anonym said...

to the poster who said that copyright is irrelevant because there would always be the option of piracy: you're not entirely right, here's why: imagine that you could seemingly pull out pretty much every copyrighted work out of thin air, with very good anonymity (i.e. there's pretty much no way for anyone to find out where you got a copy from, or whom you're giving a copy to when file-sharing). this is technologically possible right now. but not in practice, since there aren't enough people using sufficiently good implementations of p2p networks yet. your argument is basically that if they had to, more and more would adopt these better techniques/programs and at some point in the future it would really work. this is pretty much correct. the only way to prevent this would be a police state in which you aren't allowed to have a universal computer connected to the internet or are severely restricted in another way of similar proportions. or a scenario in which people are brainwashed into believing that comprehensive (i.e. you can get pretty much anything you want), anonymous file-sharing is not possible. and this is the first thing you didn't take into consideration: there's a continuum between weak, vulnerable file-sharing (like napster, where you're not anonymous, can't get rarer tracks, have little features, can't get some types of media at all), and perfect file-sharing. and there's also a continuum between anarchy and a police-state. so as more people adopt better file-sharing techniques, the big labels become more aggressive with restricting people's freedoms and brainwashing them. because, as a matter of fact, if you could easily find anything you might like and artists wouldn't need contracts with big companies to set up a distribution channel, the big labels would become totally obsolete. and they want to stay in business. the second thing you left out is that if you can get everything you want practically for free, payment is strictly voluntary. if artists embraced this view (and some of them already do), then it would be possible to set up a system where you can pay them reasonable amounts directly, again cutting out the labels. experiments have shown that if you can download an album directly from an artist's homepage with guaranteed good quality and speed, i.e. more comfortably than via current file-sharing networks, and presented with a paypal (or similar) tip-jar with a suggested price range (a reasonable one, that is), people on average pay more than the minimum amount. they enjoy that they can reward their favourites. now if that was integrated with serives such as last.fm and also bittorrent, it would all work even much better. everyone would win. except for the labels. those are becoming obsolete, and that's just a fact, nothing you can do about that, except by passing laws that artificially support and subsidize them.

so, where you're right is this: if you're a freeloading, pirating cheapskate, copyright law doesn't matter to you, you can get your warez anyway. but still, copyright *does* matter, if you give a damn about personal freedom, about not living in a police state that dictates what you may do with your hardware, about giving artists some money so they can make a living (instead of paying big bucks to only the ones in the charts, and to the labels, but jack squat to anyone else).

copyright reform is not so much about getting 0day warez to you for free as it is about *fairness*. and making laws that protect conservative assholes that want to restrict our freedom just so they can have their good old days back, the days of one-way media that are run like dictatorships, is *not* fair.

6/09/2006 05:00:00 fm  

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