Friday, May 14, 2010


peer to peer communism vs the client-server state

The Political Economy of Network Topologies


The Telekommunist Manifesto is an
exploration of class conflict and property
born in the realization of the primacy of
economic capacity in social struggles.

Emphasis is placed on the distribution of
productive assets and their output, keeping
the analysis firmly tethered to the
understanding that wealth and power are
intrinsically linked, and only through the
former can the later be achieved. The
Manifesto is a critique of liberal views of
free software and free culture and offers
structures for radical alternatives,
including copyfarleft and venture communism.


The Telekommunist Manifesto

Dmytri Kleiner, 2010

Extended and reworked from texts by Dmytri
Kleiner, Joanne Richardson and Brian Wyrick,
2004--2008 Foreword

I coined the term "Venture Communism" in
2001 to promote the ideal of workers
self-organization of production as a way of
addressing class conflict. Telekommunisten
is a collective based in Berlin, Germany,
where I have lived since 2003. I first
encountered the term "Telekommunisten"
(which became the name of the collective) in
2005, while visiting the apartment of a
friend. He and his roommate had given the
name "Telekommunisten" to the local area
network used in their apartment to share
Internet access. Telekommunisten had been
used as a derogatory term for Germany.s
former state telephone company, Deutsch
Telekomm, which is now a private
transnational corporation whose "T-Mobile"
brand is known worldwide. The usage of
communist here is intended to cast the
Telephone company as a monolithic,
authoritarian, and bureaucratic behemoth.
This is a completely different sense than
the one in which use the term as a positive
one for engagement in class conflict towards
the goal of a free society without economic
classes, one where people produce and share
as equals, a society that has no property
and no State, and produces not for profit,
but for social value. We are not simply a
collective of worker-agitators working in
the sphere of telecommunications,
Telekommunisten promote the notion of a
distributed communism; a communism at a
distance; a Tele-communism. A venture
commune is not bound to one physic
allocation where it can be isolated and
confined. Similar in topology to a
peer-to-peer network, Telekommunisten is
intended to be decentralized, with only
minimal co-ordination required among its
international community of producer-owners.

My background is in the hacker and art
communities, in which I have been active
since the early 90s. My views have been
developed and expressed in on-line and
off-line correspondence in the course of my
involvement in software development,
activism and cultural production. Although I
have written a few essays over the years,
those who know my work generally know me
personally through encounters in electronic
and physical social spaces. The present work
is a "Manifesto," not in the sense that it
outlines a complete theoretical system, a
dogmatic set of beliefs or the platform of a
political movement, but in the spirit of the
meaning of manifesto as a beginning or
introduction. Matteo Pasquinelli, who pushed
me to undertake this "Manifesto," felt that
my role as a background voice in our
community was too underground and declared
it was "Time to come out" with a published
text. He connected me with Geert Lovink, who
suggested the structure and approach of the
text and offered to serve as editor and,
through the Institute of Network Cultures,
as its publisher.

The Telekommunist Manifesto is largely a
cut-up and reworking of texts produced
and co-produced over the last few years. It
incorporates significant passages from
"Copyright, Copyleft and the Creative
Anti-Commons" produced in co-operation with
Joanne Richardson and originally published
under "Anna Nimmus" on the subsol website.
Much of the text regarding the
commercialization of the Internet is taken
from "Infoenclosure 2.0,"co-written with
Brian Wyrick originally published in Mute
Magazine. Credit is also due to Mute
Magazine editors Josephine Berry Slater and
Anthony Iles, for their work on "Infoenclure
2.0" and "Copyjustright, Copyfarfleft," much
of which is reused here.

This publication is intended as summary of
the positions that motivate the
Telekommunisten project, based as it is in
an exploration of class conflict in the age
of international telecommunications, global
migration, and the emergence of the
information economy. The goal of this text
is to introduce the political motivations of
Telekommunisten, including a sketch of the
basic theoretical framework in which it is
rooted, covering views on political economy
and intellectual property. The text also
covers some broader topics, such as workers
self-organization of production,
anti-copyright/copy-left dissent against
intellectual property, and peer to peer as a
networked application topography, as well as
a set of relations with growing social
implications as networks become more central
to how we produce and share. The
Telekommunist manifesto is also intended to
introduce the reader to some the specific
theoretical components of the project, such
as Venture Communism and Copyfarleft, and to
explain why we have chosen to struggle
against capitalism by way of the
international telephone system.

The economic analytical models employed in
this text are heterodox, based in the
ubiquitous terms of classical political
economy and borrowing from its diverse
theorists and critics. This text is
especially addressed to politically
motivated artists, hackers and activists,
not to evangelize a fixed position, but to
contribute to an ongoing critical dialogue.

In the preface to "A Contribution the
Critique of Political Economy," Marx and
Engels argue "At a certain stage of their
development, the material productive forces
of society come in conflict with the
existing relations of production." What is
possible in the information age is in direct
conflict with what is permissible.
Publishers, film producers and the
telecommunication industry conspire with
lawmakers to bottle up and sabotage free
networks, to forbid information from
circulating outside of their control. The
corporations in the recording industry
continue to forcibly maintain their position
as mediators between artists and fans, while
fans and artists merge closer together and
explore new ways of interacting. Competing
software makers, like arms manufacturers,
play both sides in this conflict; providing
the tools to impose control, and the tools
to evade it. The non-hierarchical relations
made possible by a peer network such as the
Internet are contradictory with Capitalism.s
need for enclosure and control. It.s a
battle to the death, either the Internet as
we know it must go, or Capitalism as we know
it must go. Will Capital throw us back into
a network dark-ages inspired by CompuServ,
Mobile Telephones and Cable TV rather than
allow peer communications to bring about a
new society? Yes. If they can. Marx and
Engels go on to conclude "No social order
ever perishes before all the productive
forces for which there is room in it have
developed; and new, higher relations of
production never appear before the material
conditions of their existence have matured
in the womb of the old society itself."

The Internet represents a powerful platform
for new forms of production to emerge;
however, the rapid commercialization of the
Internet is increasing the centralization of
ownership and control of Internet-based
communications platforms. This is visible in
the consolidation of Internet service
providers by massive international
telecommunications conglomerates. This rise
of Social Media and "Web2.0" have pushed
more free, decentralized "peer to peer
systems to the clandestine margins of the
network while"cloud computing" further
centralizes the infrastructure. If new ways
of producing and distributing wealth do not
emerge to challenge the capitalist order,
ways which are not based on force and
enclosure, it is not only the freedom of the
Internet that will be lost, but the chance
to remake society in it.s image will be lost
with it.

The Telekommunist Manifesto is an
exploration of class conflict and property,
born in the realization of the primacy of
economic capacity in social struggles.
Emphasis is placed on the distribution of
productive assets and their output. The
interpretation here is always tethered to
the understanding that wealth and power are
intrinsically linked, and only through the
former can the later be achieved. As a
collective of intellectual workers, the work
of Telekommunisten is very much rooted in
the free software and free culture
communities. However, a central premise of
this Manifesto is that engaging in software
development and the production of immaterial
cultural works is not enough. The
communization of immaterial property alone
can not change the distribution of material
productive assets, and therefore can not
eliminate exploitation, only workers
self-organization of production can. Venture
Communism is a form of struggle against the
continued expansion of property-based
capitalism; it is a model for worker
self-organization inspired by the topology
of peer to peer networks and the historical
pastoral commons. The Poverty of Networks Peer
to Peer Communism vs. The Client-Server
Capitalist State

The only way to change society is to produce
and share differently.

Capitalism has its means of
self-reproduction: Venture Capitalism. By
using exclusive access to the great
accumulations of wealth resulting from the
continuous capture of surplus value,
Capitalists offer the participants of each
new generation of innovators a chance to be
a junior partner in their club by selling
the future productive value of what they
create in exchange for the present wealth
they need to get started. The stolen, dead
value of the past captures the unborn value
of the future. Neither the innovators or any
of the future workers in the organisations
and industries they create are able to
retain the value of the contribution. This
unretained value forms the wealth that goes
on to capture the next wave of innovation.
This captured wealth is applied by it.s
private owners towards political control, to
impose the interests of property owner on
society at the expense of of interests of
workers. For innovation to be born and
allowed to develop in and for the common
wealth we need Venture Communism. We must
develop ways to create and to reproduce
commons-based productive relationships.

The degree to which the products of labour
are captured by commons-based producers or
by appropriators will determine which kind
of society we will have, one based on
co-operation and sharing, or one based on
force and exploitation. The motivation to
engage in a venture communist struggle
against class stratification could not be
more vital, for not only does our society
face the age-old afflictions of poverty and
injustice, but it becomes increasingly clear
that production levels to sustain the
accumulation of an elite few drive us
repeatedly into war and inevitably towards
environmental catastrophe. Failure to
achieve a more equitable society likely
brings consequences far graver than society
can afford to bear. To succeed the space,
instruments and resources we need must be a
common stock employed in production by a
dispersed community of peers, producing and
sharing as equals.

Politics is not a battle of ideas; it is a
battle of capacities. Ideas are powerful,
and there development and implementation can
certainly have a political impact, however
which ideas are developed and implemented is
determined not by their intrinsic value, but
by the relative power of those whom they
benefit versus those whom they threaten. The
capability to change a social order, for
better of for worse, is rooted in the
ability to impose change, which requires the
wherewithal to overcome competing capacities
for, among things, communication and
lobbying. All capacities are, at their base,
economic capacities to cause change requires
that enough wealth be applied to overcome
the wealth of those who would resist such a
change. Such wealth can only come from
production. New ways of producing and
sharing must always precede any change in
the social order. New kinds of
relationships, if they can create new
productive relations, are needed to
constitute a new economic structure which is
able to give rise to a new kind of society.
No social order, no matter how entrenched
and ruthlessly imposed, can resist being
transformed when new ways of producing and
sharing emerge.

Society is composed of social relationships.
The relations of production constitute the
economic structure of society, on which
arise the legal and political structures
that define it. Relations between buyer and
seller, between tenant and landlord, between
employee and employer, between those born to
wealth and privilege and those born to
precarity and struggle are all outcomes of
the relations of production. These
relationships are a consequence of how
things are produced and shared in society.
Those who are able to control the
circulation of the product of the labour of
others can impose laws and social
institutions according to their interests.
Those who are not able to retain control of
the product of their own labour are not able
to resist.

Capitalism depends on the appropriation of
value for its subsistence and growth. The
disingenuous rhetoric of the "Free Market
Economy" is a smoke screen to justify a
system of privilege and exploitation, better
called the "Casino Economy." There are
certainly some conspicuous winners, but the
odds always favour the house. Any organised
attempt to beat the odds will excluded,
perhaps violently. In a genuinely free
economy, competition among producers would
reduce the price of everything to the lowest
level that it can be produced for. If
everything truly traded in a perfect
"market," then land and capital, like labour
would never be able to earn any more than
the cost of providing it. There could be no
class that is exempt from working as there
would be no income to sustain such a class.
For a Capitalist class to exist, the market
must be rigged, an all markets are.
Capitalism must increase the price of
Capital by withholding it from labour. In
reality, the "free market" is what property
owners want to impose on workers, while
retaining their own privileges. Capital
needs to make the price of labour low enough
to prevent workers, as a class, from being
able to retain enough of their own earnings
to acquire their own property. If workers
could acquire their own property, they could
also stop selling their labour to the
capitalists. Capitalism could not exist in a
free market. The whole idea of the "free
market" is part of the mythology of
capitalism. It is not possible within
capitalism and just as unlikely to exist
without it. "Free" from the coercion of
profit-seeking Capitalists, producers would
produce for social value, not for profits,
as they do in their private and family
lives, and as they have in non-capitalist
communities. This is not to say that a free
society would not have competition or that
it.s members would not seek to benefit from
their own labour, the division of labour
required in a complex society implies
exchange and reciprocity. However the
metaphor of "the market" as it is currently
used would no longer dominate. The "Market
Economy" is by definition a surveillance
economy, where contributions to production
and consumption must be measured in minute
detail, it is an economy of accountants and
security guards. The need to account value
exchange in tiny and reductive lists of
individually priced transactions must be
superseded by more fluid and generalized
forms of exchange. The motive to maximize
profit from ownership, so often the driving
force behind irrational and destructive
production, would give way to a much
stronger motive, doing work that has direct
benefits for our lives and our society,
production that fulfills our real world
needs and desires. Capitalist apologists
will insist that these are one and the same,
that profit is simply the financial reward
for producing what the community needs, but
this relationship is tenuous at best. While
the increased short term price of goods and
services which are in short supply does help
direct production towards these productive
activities, the ability to capture profits
by property owners from this production does
not contribute it, and when profit is the
motive, price can be increased, or costs
reduced in numerous ways that do not
contribute to the fulfilment of community
needs, including predatory, exploitive and
anti-competitive business practices. When
workers are able to form their own Capital,
and thereby retain the entire product of
their labour, the motivations to pursue such
practices fade. Without the need to measure
our consumption and production to appease
the imposers of capitalist control, workers
in a free society may not bother producing
exclusively to maximize profit within a
"Market Economy," they may more often
produce what they want and what their
community needs and share based on mutual
respect. This type of economy does not
resemble a "market." A market is not a free
space. Control of the physical location of
the market has always been the domain of
hierarchy and authority, and proximity to
the market is the textbook example of
unearned income; economic rent. The Market
stall is a physical manifestation of the
division between producer and consumer. None
of these seem like essential characteristics
of a free society. Instead of an idealised
and impossible "Free Market," a workers
economy would be better imagined as a
"Network Economy," where independent
participants exchange according their mutual
desires within the context of a common
platform, not centrally controlled by any of
them, but composed of their own voluntary

Capitalism depends on the State to impose
control into the network economy, to choke
relations through authorized channels, and
thereby capture value that would otherwise
be retained by its producers. Points of
control are introduce into the natural mesh
of social relations. The "Market Economy" is
not an expression of freedom it is the
imposition of the unfree terms of a physical
market-place to society broadly. The
distinction between producer and consumer
must be enforced so that circulation can be
controlled. Hierarchy and authority must
have privileged access. The absurd and
reductionist idea that the we are to
conceptualize our society as a giant
market-place is idea born from the
imagination of Capitalism. A paradise for
the extortionist and the bookmaker. The
means of imposing the relations of the
market-place on all of society is provided
by the State. The State.s traditional role
of mediating between the classes on behalf
of the ruling class depends on its
territorial sovereignty. The State is able
to impose control into the network economy
depends on the fact that the participants
mostly interact within its boundaries, once
the network expand beyond the state, it can
becomes a threat to the State itself, by
undermining the capture of value. The
State.s ability to grant title and privilege
is based on its ability to enforce privilege
with its monopoly on the legitimate use of
violence. Communications based on global
peer networks have a chance to resist and
evade such title and privilege. Social
relations among transnational, trans-local
communities operate within an
extra-territorial space, one where title and
privilege could give way to mutual interest
and negotiation. Modes of production
employing structures similar to peer to peer
networks, have relations reminiscent of the
historic pastoral commons, yet rather than
being located in a specific place, create a
commons that spans the planet, offering our
society a hope for a way out from the class
stratification of Capitalism by undermining
its logic of control and extraction.
Specters of such a potential mode of
production can be readily found. Peer
networks, such as the Internet, and all the
material and immaterial inputs that keep
them running, serve as a common stock that
is used independently by many users. Free
Software, whose production and distribution
frequently depends on peer networks, is a
common stock, available to all. Free
software is produced by diverse and
distributed producers who contribute to it
because the value they gain when they employ
it in their own production is greater than
the value of their individual contributions
to it. Popular attacks on the rents captured
by the recording and movie Industries by
users of file sharing technologies show us
the difficulties faced by those whose
incomes depends on controlling reproduction.
Mass transportation and international
migration have created distributed
communities who maintain on-going
interpersonal and often informal economic
relationships across national borders. All
these are examples of new productive
relationships that transcend the currently
dominant property-based ones. They point to
a potential way forward. Developments in
telecommunications, notably the emergence of
peer networks such as the Internet, along
with international transportation and
migration, create broad revolutionary
possibilities resulting from dispersed
communities with the ability to instantly
interact on a global scale. Our lives and
relationships no longer need to be confined
by territorially bounded nation states.
Though coercive elements in the political
and corporate hierarchy impose ever more
draconian controls to resist our ability to
evade such confinement, we can place our
revolutionary hopes in the possibility that
the scale of change is simply so large that
they can never fully succeed. As bold as the
emergence of peer to peer technologies, free
software and international communities have
been, the obstacles to social change are
daunting. We must overcome the great
accumulation of wealth the Capitalist elite
have at their disposal. This wealth gives
them the ability to shape society according
to their interests. In order to change
society we must actively expand the scope of
our commons, so that our independent
communities of peers can be materially
sustained and can resist the encroachments
of Capitalism.

Whatever portion of our productivity we
allow to be taken from us, will return in
the form of our own oppression.

Chief among the State.s interventions into
the network economy is it.s enforcement of
property. Property is by it.s nature
antagonistic to freedom. Property is the
ability to control productive assets at a
distance, the ability to "own" something
being put to productive use by another
person. Property makes possible the
subjugation of individuals and communities.
Where property is sovereign there can be no
freedom within its domain. The owners of
scarce property can deny life by denying
access to property, or if not out-rightly
denying life, then make the living work like
slaves for no pay beyond their reproduction
costs. In economic terminology, the income
that owners receive, by appropriating the
products of workers is called rent. British
classical political economist David Ricardo
first described Economic Rent in the early
19th century. Put simply, economic rent is
the income the owner of a productive asset
can earn just from ownership itself. The
owner earns Rental income not by doing
anything or making any sort of contribution,
but just by owning. In the terms of John
Stewart Mill, the rent collector earns money
even as he sleeps. Take for example two
identical buildings, one in a major economic
center, and one in a minor city, while both
may be of identical materials, both require
identical amount of work to maintain, in
terms of the costs that must be undertaken
by the owners to bring these buildings to
market at dwellings or commercial spaces
there is no difference. The building in the
major city will however earn more income
than the one in the minor city, not
withstanding the equal amounts of work and
expense undertaking to maintain them. This
difference is Rent. Rent is not collected
for any contribution to production, but
because of legal privilege such as a title
to a valuable location. This does not mean
that the owner does not ever do anything,
only that the value of whatever contribution
they make is not calculated as "Rent." Rent,
in economic terms, is the income earned for
allowing others to use property; ultimately,
this income is derived by claiming a portion
of what they produce as your own. As our
ability to provide for our material
subsistence requires access to the property
that makes up our "means of production" we
must agree to transfer a portion of what we
produce to those that allow us to access
such means, or else we could not live. The
portion of a producer.s productive output
that can be demanded for the right to exist
is the entire total of their productive
output, minus the producer.s subsistence
costs. This is the conclusion reached by
David Ricardo in his 1817 "Principles of
Political Economy and Taxation," and this is
the basic bargaining position faced by all
of us who are born into a world entirely
owned by others.

In his "Essay on Profits," David Ricardo
argues: "The interest of the landlord is
always opposed to the interest of every
other class in the community." This analysis
was not based on social milieu such as upper
class or lower class, but rather based upon
relationship with the factors of production,
landlord or capitalist, and thus is based on
class conflict. As representative of the
emergent Capitalist class, Ricardo did not
intend his critique of land rent to be
extended to the income earned by
Capitalists. Critical commentators like
William Thompson and Thomas Hodgskin, the
best know of the "Ricardian Socialists" did
just that, arguing that profits earned by
Capitalists are just as exploitive and
unearned as the rents of landlords, and from
their work the critique of "Capitalism," a
term coined to draw an analogy with
Feudalism, begins. Thompson and Hodgskin
pointed out that the interests of workers
are opposed to the interests of both
landlords and capitalists. Socialism and all
other movements of the "left" start with
this class conflict as their point of
departure. The belief that producers
themselves should own the means of
production was already common among
socialists of the time, notably among the
supports of Robert Owen and the co-operative
movement. Understanding class as being based
on relationship to the factors of
production, not on categories such as rich
and poor, or noble, clergy and peasant, but
as Capitalist, Landlord, and Worker,
provided a solid intellectual foundation
that allowed a more scientific socialism to
emerge from it.s Utopian roots.

Rent allows owners of scarce property to
drive property-less workers to subsistence.
David Ricardo explains: "The natural price
of labour is that price which is necessary
to enable the labourers, one with another,
to subsist and to perpetuate their race". It
is often claimed that this can be refuted
because of the difference between the
theoretical "natural" price and the actual
market price of labour, but such an argument
is simply an equivocation, Ricardo himself
explains that market price fluctuates.
Subsistence should not be taken to mean the
bare minimum required to actually survive
and reproduce. Even in Ricardo.s time, most
workers were generally not in the position
that if they earned one penny less they
would immediately fall over and die. Rather,
workers, by their very definition, are
unable to earn enough to do anything more
than make a living and struggle to live
according the acceptable standards of their
community. The "acceptable standards"are
established in terms of the canons of taste
and decency established by a predatory
economic elite. Thorstein Veblen, a
Norwegian-American economist and sociologist
who.s work lays the foundation for the
institutional economics movement argues that
it is an essential feature of class society
that in order to live according to our
community standards of respectability all
but the very richest must dispose of
practically their entire income in what
Veblen calls "Conspicuous Consumption" and
"Conspicuous Waste" or else face social
exclusion and further reduced prospects of
upward mobility. "Failure to consume in due
quantity and quality becomes a mark of
inferiority and demerit" Veblen argues in
his 1899 "The Theory of the Leisure Class"

Workers have more than cultural forces
working against their ability to form
Capital from whatever earnings that retain
beyond subsistence. So long as workers do
not have property, whatever wage increases
they gain are swept away by price inflation,
most often as the result of increased money
competition for locations and the increase
of land rents. This is no secret to
Capitalist negotiators and their public
sector collaborators. Reducing real wages by
inflation as an alternative to reducing
money wages works because of the "money
illusion.. As John Maynard Keynes, perhaps
the most important economist of his day and
the founder of modern" macroeconomics"
writes in his 1936 "The General Theory of
Employment, Interest, and Money": "It is
sometimes said it would illogical for labour
to resist a reduction of money-wages but not
to resist a reduction of real wages
[--]experience shows that this is how labour
in fact behaves."Daniel Bell makes this
process clear in his paper "The Subversion
of Collective Bargaining," where he examines
several cases of wage increases won by
collective bargaining and shows that these
do not lead to a change in the general level
of real wealth, inmost cases workers who
received wage increase had not increased
their share of wealth, only wound up paying
higher prices.

Property is not a natural phenomenon, but
rather something that is created by law. The
ability to extract rent is dependent on
one.s ability to control a scarce resource
even when it is being used by somebody else.
In other words, the ability to force that
other person to share the product of their
labour with the property owner. Property is
control at a distance. In this way, rent is
only possible so long as it is supported by
force, which is happily provided by the
State to the owners of property. Without a
means of forcing those who put property to
productive use to share the product of their
labour with the absent and idle property
owner, the property owner could not earn a
living, let alone accumulate more property.
As German revolutionary Marxist Ernest
Mandel claims in "Historical Materialism and
the Capitalist State" (1980): "Without
capitalist state violence, there is no
secure capitalism." The purpose of property
is to ensure that a property-less class
exists to produce the wealth enjoyed by a
propertied class. The institution of
property does not benefit workers. This is
not to say that individual workers cannot
become property owners, but rather that to
do so means to escape their class.
Individual success stories do not change the
general case. As Canadian political
philosopher Gerald Cohen, proponent of
Analytical Marxism, quipped, "I want to rise
with my class, not above my class!"

The current global situation confirms that
it is the case that workers, as a class, are
not able to accumulate property. A study by
the World Institute for Development
Economics Research at United Nations
University reports that the richest 1% of
adults alone owned 40% of global assets in
the year 2000, and that the richest 10% of
adults accounted for 85% of the world total.
The bottom half of the world adult
population owned barely 1% of global wealth.
Extensive statistics, many indicating
growing world disparity, are included in the

It is in the context of this great disparity
of wealth and the struggle between classes
that any investigation of intellectual
property must be understood. Trapped in the
World Wide Web

While computers and digitization have fueled
the flames of disputes surrounding
intellectual property, the networked
applications used to share and collaborate
have also become a contested field. The
revolutionary possibilities of the Internet
lay particularly in the fact that it allows
direct interaction between users, that it
promised to be a platform where freedom of
speech and association was built into to the
architecture. However without most users
noticing, the architecture is being changed
and the topology of the network is being
remade in such a way that not only serves
the interests of Capitalism, but also
enables monitoring and control of its users
on a scale never dreamed of before.

The Internet took the corporate world by
surprise, coming as it did out of publicly
funded universities, military research, and
civil society. It was promoted by way of a
cottage industry of small independent
Internet service providers who were able to
squeeze a buck out of providing access to
the state-built and financed network.
Meanwhile, the corporate world was pushing a
different idea of the Information
Superhighway, producing monolithic,
centralized "on-line services" like
CompuServe, Prodigy and AOL. What made these
different from the Internet is that they
were centralized systems that all users
connect directly to, while the Internet is a
peer-to-peer network and every device with a
public Internet address can communicate
directly to any other device. This is what
makes peer-to-peer technology possible and
is also what makes independent Internet
service providers possible. While both users
of CompuServe and the Internet had access to
similar applications, namely email,
discussion groups, chat groups and file
sharing, users of CompuServe were completely
dependent on CompuServe for access to these,
while users of the Internet could gain
access through any service provider, and
could even chose to run their own servers.
Platforms such as Internet Email, Usenet and
Internet Relay Chat where based on a
distributed structure that no one entity
owner or controlled. This was fine for the
public institutions and NGOs that where the
most enthusiastic adopters of the Internet,
however capitalist investors were unable to
see how such an unrestrictive system would
allow them to earn profits. The Internet
seemed anathema to the capitalist
imagination. The original dotcom boom was
characterized by a rush to own the
infrastructure, to consolidate the
independent Internet service providers and
take control of the network. Money was
thrown around quite randomly as investors
struggled to understand what this medium
would actually be used for, however the
overall mission was largely successful.
There mission was to destroy the independent
service provider and put large,
well-financed corporations back in the
driver.s seat. If you had an Internet
account in 1996 it was likely provided by
some small local company. Ten years later,
while some of the smaller companies have
survived; most people get their Internet
access from gigantic telecommunications

The World Wide Web is a technology that runs
on top of the Peer-to-Peer Internet,
However, it is unlike the classic Internet
technologies mentioned earlier; it is
neither distributed, nor peer to peer. The
web is a Client-Server technology. The
publisher of a website runs the servers and
has exclusive control over the content and
applications their website provides,
including control of who should or should
not have access to it, the users run only a
browser, which is client software used to
access the website. A website is far more
similar to CompuServe than it is to a peer
to peer system. The publisher has full
control of the content and options available
to the users. The web started innocently
enough as a platform for publishing text
on-line Very quickly, however, it became the
focus of the commercialization of the
Internet, from modest beginnings as
companies began to put brochure.s on-line,
the commercial web took off with the
development of e-Commerce. So far, the web
had not yet taken over on-line sharing.
People used the web to browse a bookstore,
but continued to employ distributed
technologies to communicate with other
users. However soon enough the web, funded
by venture capital, would move in and make
websites operated by large corporations into
the primary on-line social platforms. The
Internet itself would disappear behind the
web; the users would never again leave their
browser. Web 2.0 emerged as a venture
capitalist.s paradise where investors pocket
the value produced by unpaid users, ride on
the technical innovations of the free
software movement, and kill off the
decentralizing potential of peer-to-peer

Wikipedia says that "Web 2.0, a phrase
coined by O"Reilly Media in 2004, refers to
a supposed second generation of
Internet-based services, such as social
networking sites, wikis, communication
tools, and folk sonomies, that emphasize
on-line collaboration and sharing among
users." The use of the word "supposed" is
noteworthy. As probably the largest
collaboratively authored work in history,
and one of the current darlings of the
Internet community, Wikipedia should know.
Unlike most of the members of the Web 2.0
generation, Wikipedia is controlled by a
non-profit foundation, earns income only by
donation, and releases its content under a
copyleft. It is telling that Wikipedia goes
on to say "[Web 2.0] has become a popular
(though ill-defined and often criticized)
buzzword among certain technical and
marketing communities."

The free software community has tended to be
suspicious, if not outright dismissive, of
the Web 2.0 moniker. Tim Berners-Leedis
missed the term, saying: "Web 2.0 is of
course a piece of jargon, nobody even knows
what it means." He goes on to note that "it
means using the standards which have been
produced by all these people working on Web
1.0." In reality there is neither a Web 1.0
nor a Web 2.0. There is only an ongoing
development of on-line applications that
cannot be cleanly divided. In trying to
define what Web 2.0 is, it is safe to say
that most of the important developments have
been aimed at enabling the community to
create, modify, and share content in a way
that was previously only available to
centralized organizations that bought
expensive software packages, paid staff to
handle the technical aspects of the site,
and paid staff to create content which
generally was published only on that
organization.s site.

A Web 2.0 company fundamentally changes the
production of Internet content. Web
applications and services have become
cheaper and easier to implement, and by
allowing the end users access to these
applications, a company can effectively
outsource the creation and the organization
of their content to the end users
themselves. Instead of the traditional model
of a content provider publishing their own
content and the end user consuming it, the
new model allows the company.s site to act
as the centralized portal between the users
who are both creators and consumers. For the
user, access to these applications empowers
them to create and publish content that
previously would have required them to
purchase desktop software and possess a
greater technological skill set. For
example, two of the primary means of
text-based content production in Web 2.0 are
blogs and wikis, which allow the user to
create and publish content directly from
their browser without any real need for
knowledge of markup language, file transfer
or syndication protocols, and all without
the need to purchase any software.

The use of the web application to replace
desktop software is even more significant
for the user when it comes to content that
is not merely textual. Not only can web
pages be created and edited in the browser
without purchasing HTML editing software,
photographs can be uploaded and manipulated
on-line through the browser without the need
for expensive desktop image manipulation
applications. A video shot on a consumer
camcorder can be submitted to a video
hosting site, uploaded, encoded, embedded
into an HTML page, published, tagged, and
syndicated across the web all through the
user.s browser. In Paul Graham.s article on
Web 2.0, he breaks down the different roles
of the community/user into more specific
roles. These include the Professional, the
Amateur, and the User (more specifically,
the end user). The roles of the Professional
and the User were, according to Graham, well
understood in Web 1.0, but the Amateur
didn.t have a very well defined place. As
Graham describes it in "What Business Can
Learn From Open Source," the Amateur just
loves to work, with no concern for
compensation or ownership of that work; in
development, the Amateur contributes to open
source software whereas the Professional
gets paid for their proprietary work.

Graham.s characterization of the "Amateur"
has an odd similarity with "If I Ran The
Circus." by Dr. Suess, where young Morris
McGurk says of the staff of his imaginary
Circus McGurkus:

My workers love work.

They say, "Work us! Please work us!

We'll work and we'll work up so many

You'd never see half if you had forty

And while "Web 2.0" may mean nothing to Tim
Berners-Lee, who sees recent innovations as
no more than the continued development of
the web, to venture capitalists, who like
Morris McGurk daydream of tireless workers
producing endless content and not demanding
a paycheque for it, it sounds stupendous.
And indeed, from YouTube to Flickr to
Wikipedia, you.d truly "never see half if
you had forty eyses." Tim Berners-Lee is
correct. There is nothing from a technical
or user point of view in Web 2.0 which does
not have its roots in, and is not a natural
development from the earlier generation of
the Web. The technology associated with the
Web 2.0banner was possible and in some cases
readily available before, but the hype
surrounding this usage has certainly
affected the growth of Web 2.0 Internet
sites. The Internet has always been about
sharing between users. In fact, Usenet, the
distributed messaging system, has been
operating since 1979! Since th, Usenet has
been hosting discussions, "amateur"
journalism, and enabling photo and file
sharing. Like the Internet, it is a
distributed system not owned or controlled
by anyone. It is this quality, a lack of
central ownership and control, which
differentiate services such as Usenet from
Web 2.0.

If Web 2.0 means anything at all, its
meaning lies in the rationale of venture
capital. Web 2.0 represents the return of
investment in Internet start-ups. After the
dotcom bust (the real end of Web 1.0), those
wooing investment dollars needed a new
rationale for investing in on-line ventures.
"Build it and they will come,. the dominant
attitude of the"90s dotcom boom, along with
the delusional "new economy,. was no longer
attractive after so many on-line ventures
failed. Building infrastructure and
financing real capitalization was no longer
what investors were looking for. Capturing
value created by others, however, proved to
be a more attractive proposition. Web 2.0 is
Internet Investment Boom 2.0. Web2.0 is a
business model; it means private capture of
community-created value. No one denies that
the technology of sites like YouTube, for
instance, is trivial. This is more than
evidenced by the large number of identical
services such as Daily Motion. The real
value of YouTube is not created by the
developers of the site, but rather it is
created by the people who upload videos to
the site. Yet, when YouTube was bought for
over a billion dollars worth of Google
stock, how much of this stock was acquired
by those that made all these videos? Zero.
Zilch. Nada. Great deal if you are an owner
of a Web 2.0 company.

The value produced by users of Web 2.0
services such as YouTube is captured by
capitalist investors. In some cases, the
actual content they contribute winds up as
the property of site owners. Private
appropriation of community-created value is
a betrayal of the promise of sharing
technology and free cooperation. Unlike the
dot Com boom era, where investors often
financed expensive capital acquisition,
software development and content creation, a
Web 2.0 investor mainly needs to finance
hype-generation, marketing and buzz. The
infrastructure is widely available for
cheap, the content is free and cost of the
software, at least that much of it that is
not also free, is negligible. Basically, by
providing some bandwidth and disk space, you
are able to become a successful Internet
site if you can market yourself effectively.
The principal success of a Web 2.0 company
comes from its relationship to the
community; more specifically, the ability of
the company to "harness collective
intelligence," as O.Reilly puts it. Web 1.0
companies were too monolithic and unilateral
in their approach to content. Success
stories of the transition from to Web 2.0
were based on the ability for a company to
remain monolithic in its brand of content,
or better yet, its outright ownership of
that content, while opening up the method of
that content.s creation to the community.
Yahoo! created a portal to community content
while it remained the centralized location
to find that content. EBay allows the
community to sell its goods while owning the
marketplace for those goods. Amazon, selling
the same products as many other sites,
succeeded by allowing the community to
participate in the "flow" around their

Because the capitalists who invest in Web
2.0 start-ups do not often fund early
capitalization, their behaviour is markedly
more parasitic as well. They often arrive
late in the game when value creation already
has good momentum, swoop in to take
ownership and use their financial power to
promote the service, often within the
context of a hegemonic network of major,
well-financed partners. This means that
companies that are not acquired by venture
capital end up starved of cash and squeezed
out of the club. In all these cases, the
value of the Internet site is created not by
the paid staff of the company that runs it
but by the users who use it. With all of the
emphasis on community created content and
sharing, it.s easy to overlook the other
side of the Web 2.0 experience: ownership of
all this content and ability to monetize its
value. To the user, this doesn.t come up
that often and is only part of the fine
print in their Facebook Terms of Service
agreement, or it.s the in the URL
of their photos. It doesn.t usually seem
like an issue to the community and is a
small price to pay for the use of these
wonderful applications and for the
impressive effect on search engine results
when one queries one.s own name. Since most
users do not have access to alternative
means to produce and publish their own
content, they are attracted to sites like
Facebook and Flickr.

It should be added that many open source
projects can be cited as the key innovations
in the development of Web 2.0: free software
like Linux, Apache, PHP, Ruby, Python, etc.
are the backbone of Web 2.0, and the web
itself. But there is a fundamental flaw with
all of these projects in terms of what
O.Reilly refers to as the Core Competencies
of Web 2.0 Companies, namely control over
unique, hard-to-recreate data sources that
get richer as more people use them, and the
harnessing of the collective intelligence
they attract. Allowing the community to
contribute openly and to utilize that
contribution within the context of a
proprietary system where the proprietor owns
the content is a characteristic of a
successful Web2.0 company. Allowing the
community to own what it creates, though, is
not. Thus, to be successful and create
profits for investors, a Web 2.0 company
needs to create mechanisms for sharing and
collaboration that are centrally controlled.
The lack of central control possessed by
Usenet and other peer controlled
technologies is the fundamental flaw. They
only benefit their users, not the absentee
investors, as they are not "owned." Thus,
because Web 2.0is funded by the same-old
Capitalism, Usenet is mostly forgotten.
While everybody uses Digg and Flickr, and
YouTube is worth a billion dollars,
PeerCast, an innovative peer-to-peer live
video streaming network that has been in
existence for several years longer than
YouTube, is virtually unknown.

From a technological standpoint, distributed
and peer-to-peer (P2P) technologies are far
more efficient than Web 2.0 systems. Making
better use of network resources by using the
computers and network connections of users,
P2P avoids creating bottlenecks created by
centralized systems and allows content to be
published with less infrastructure, often no
more than a computer and a consumer Internet
connection. P2P systems do not require the
massive data centers of sites such as
YouTube. Distributed systems also tend to
have greater longevity. Usenet has been
subsumed, in some way by Google, who owns
the largest Usenet archive and the most
accessed Usenet web-based client, Google
Groups. However because of the distributed
nature of Usenet, other means of access
continue to exist in parallel, and while its
role as an on-line platform has lost
prominence, many newsgroups remain active,
notably the Church of The SubGenius
newsgroup, alt.slack, continues to be an
important social forum for the popular
US-Based mock religion. The lack of central
infrastructure also comes with a lack of
central control, meaning that censorship,
often a problem with privately-owned
"communities" that frequently bend to
private and public pressure groups and
enforce limitations on the the kinds of
content they allow. Also, the lack of large
central cross-referencing databases of user
information has a strong advantage in terms
of privacy.

From this perspective, it can be said that
Web 2.0 is capitalism.s pre-emptive attack
against P2P systems. Despite its many
disadvantages in comparison to these, Web
2.0 is more attractive to investors and thus
has more money to fund and promote
centralized solutions. The end result of
this is that capitalist investment flowed
into centralized solutions, making them easy
and cheap or free for non-technical
information producers to adopt. Thus, this
ease of access compared to the more
technically challenging and expensive
undertaking of owning your own means of
information production created a "landless"
information proletariat ready to provide
alienated content-creating labour for the
new info-landlords of Web 2.0. The mission
of Web 2.0 is to destroy the P2P aspect of
the Internet and to make you, your computer,
and your Internet connection dependent on
connecting to a centralized service that
controls your ability to communicate. Web
2.0 is the ruin of free, peer-to-peer
systems and the return of monolithic
"on-line services." A telling detail here is
that most home or office Internet
connections in the 90s, modem and ISDN
connections, were symmetric, equal in their
ability to send and receive data. By design,
your connection enables you to be equally a
producer and a consumer of information. On
the other hand, modern DSL and cable-modem
connections are asymmetric, allowing you to
download information quickly but upload
slowly. Not to mention the fact that many
user agreements for Internet service forbid
you to run servers on your consumer circuit
and may cut off your service if you do.

Capitalism, rooted in the idea of earning
income by way of idle share ownership,
requires centralized control without which
producers have no reason to share their
income with outside shareholders.
Capitalism, therefore, is incompatible with
free P2P networks, and thus so long as the
financing of Internet development comes from
private shareholders looking to capture
value by owning Internet resources, the
network will only become more restricted and
centralized. And while the information
commons may have the possibility of playing
a role in moving society toward more
inclusive modes of production, any real hope
for a genuine, community enriching, next
generation of Internet-based services is not
rooted in creating privately owned,
centralized resources, but rather in
creating cooperative, P2P and commons-based
systems owned by everybody and nobody.
Although small and obscure by today.s
standards, with its focus on peer-to-peer
applications such as Usenet and email, the
early Internet was very much a common,
shared resource, Along with the
commercialization of the Internet and the
emergence of capitalist financing, comes the
enclosure of this information commons,
translating public wealth into private
profit. Thus Web 2.0 is not to be thought of
as a second generation of either the
technical or social development of the
Internet, but rather as the second wave of
capitalist enclosure of the Information

The third wave of enclosure is already
coming into view, Cloud Computing provided
by large corporations such as Google and
Amazon, where customers do not own their
physical infrastructure, is further
centralizing the infrastructure of the
Internet, and legislation such as the
"Telecoms Reform Package" presented to the
European Parliament, seeks to make it
possible for service providers (large
telecommunications conglomerates) to decide
which websites their users are able access.
Capital is showing us their vision of the
future of the Internet, and the future looks
a lot like CompuServe: monolithic,
centralized, mediated, controllable and
exploitable, and, naturally, operated by a
few large corporations.

Virtually all of the most used Internet
resources could be replaced by P2P
alternatives. Google could be replaced by a
P2Psearch system, where every browser and
every web server is an active node in the
search process; Flickr and YouTube could
also be replaced by PeerCast, BitTorrent and
eDonkey-type applications, which allow users
to use their own computers and Internet
connections to collaboratively share their
pictures and videos. However, developing
Internet resources requires the application
of wealth, and so long as the source of this
wealth is finance capital, the great
peer-to-peer potential of the Internet will
remain unrealized. In order to develop
alternative ways of producing and sharing we
need an alternative to venture capital and
its logic of capture and exploitation. Peer

Imaging that a "better" copyright system or
a "freer" Internet could exist within the
present system of economic relations is to
misplace the deterministic factors. The
intrinsic truth in arguments against
copyright and the clear technical
superiority of distributed technologies over
centralized ones have not been the deciding
factors in the ultimate development of our
intellectual property system or our global
communications infrastructure, both of which
have gotten more consolidated, regulated and
restrictive. The determining factor is, as
always, the fact that those whose interests
are served by restricting freedom have more
wealth with which to relentlessly push
toward their ends then is available to
resist them. The economic reasons for this
are well understood, this numerically small
class of Capitalists are the beneficiaries
of an unfair distribution of productive
assets that allows then them to capture the
wealth produced by the masses of
property-less workers. If we want to have a
say in the way copyright works (or to
abolish it) or to influence the way
communication networks are operated, or if
we want to make any social reforms
whatsoever, we must start by preventing
property owners from turning our
productivity into their accumulated wealth.
The wealth they use to endorse restrictions
on our freedoms is the wealth they have
taken from us. Without us they would have no
source of wealth, even the great accumulated
wealth from centuries of exploitation can
not ultimately save them if the you are
unable to continue to capture current
wealth. The value of the future is far
greater than the value of the past. Our
ideas about intellectual property and
network topology are ultimately no threat to
Capitalism, who can always co-opt, sabotage
or simply ignore them. It is the new ways of
working together and sharing that are
emerging that have the potential to threaten
the capitalist order and bring about a new

Often discussions of the productive
relations in free software projects and
other collaborative projects such as
Wikipedia attempt to bottle up commons-based
production and trap it within the sphere of
"immaterial production," restricting it
exclusively to the domain where it can not
affect wealth distribution and thereby play
a role in class conflict. Yochai Benkler,
Professor for Entrepreneurial Legal Studies
at Harvard Law School, coined the term "Peer
production" to describe the way free
software, Wikipedia articles and similar
works are produced. Benkler limits his
analysis to the so-called "Networked
Information Economy." The novelty of Peer
Production as understood by Benkler and many
others is that the property in the commons
is entirely non-rivalrous property:
Intellectual property and network
transferable or accessible resources.
Property with virtually no reproduction
costs. Also, another distinguishing feature
of this limited concept of Peer Production
is that the producers in these examples do
not receiver enumeration for what they have
produced since their products are available
for free, for example users of free software
do not compensate the original developers.
Thus they claim that Peer Production is

There is no denying that Benkler.s wealthy
network has a lot to offer. The value of
this information commons to its users is
fantastic, as evident by the millions who
employ Free Software, Wikipedia, on-line
communications and social networking tools,
etc. However, if commons-based
peer-production is limited exclusively to a
commons made of digital property with
virtually no reproduction costs, how can the
use-value produced be translated into
exchange-value? Where is the money to pay
for the production of these valuable things?
Something with no reproduction costs can
have no exchange-value in a context of free
exchange, anybody who wants a copy can
obtain one from anybody that has one. But if
what they produce has no exchange-value, how
can the peer producers be able to acquire
the material needs for their own

The wealthy network exists within a context
of a poor planet. The source of the problem
of poverty does not dwell in a lack of
culture or information but in the direct
exploitation of the producing class by the
property-owning classes. The source of
poverty is not reproduction costs but rather
extracted economic rents, surplus value
captured by way of forcing producers to
accept less than the full product of their
labour as their wage by denying them
independent access to the means of
production. So long as commons-based
peer-production is applied narrowly to only
an information commons while the capitalist
mode of production still dominates the
production of material wealth, owners of
material property will continue to capture
the marginal wealth created as a result of
the productivity of the information commons.
Whatever exchange value is derived from the
information commons will always be captured
by owners of real property, which lies
outside the commons. For Peer Production to
have any effect on general material wealth
it has to operate within the context of a
overall system of goods and services, where
the physical means of production and the
virtual means of production are both
available in the commons for peer
production. By establishing the idea of
commons-based peer-production in the context
of an information-only commons, Benkler is
creating a trap, ensuring the value created
in the peer economy is appropriated by
property privilege. We have found Benkler
standing on his head, and we will need to
redefine Peer Production to put his head
above his feet again.

It is not the "production" in "immaterial,
non-reciprocal" production that is
immaterial. The computers, the networks and
the developers and their places of work and
residence are all very much material and all
require material upkeep. What is immaterial
is the distribution. Digitized information,
source code or cultural works, can multiply
and zip across global networks in fractions
of a second, yet production remains a very
material affair. If Peer Production can only
produce immaterial good, such as software,
and the producers get nothing in return for
such production, if Peer Production is
"immaterial, non-reciprocal" production,
then this form of "production" has no right
to be called a mode of production at all.
First and foremost any mode of production
must account for it.s material inputs or
else vanish, these inputs must include the
subsistence costs of it.s labour
contributors, to at minimum "enable the
labourer.s, one with another, to subsist and
to perpetuate their race" in the words of
Ricardo. "Immaterial, Non-reciprocal"
production can not do so, since to produce
free software, free culture or free soup the
producers must draw their subsistence from
some other source, and therefore
"immaterial, non-reciprocal" production is
not a form of production at all, only a
special case of distribution within another
form of production. "Immaterial,
Non-reciprocal" production is no more a mode
of production than a charity soup kitchen or
socialized medicine. It is simply a
super-structural phenomenon which has
another mode of production as its base.

Rather than placing emphasis on the
immaterial distribution of what is produced
by current examples of Peer Production, we
may note instead that such production is
characterized by independent producers
employing a common stock of productive
assets. This view of Peer Production is not
categorically limited to immaterial goods.
Understood this way, the concept of Peer
Production, where a network of peers apply
their labour to a common stock for mutual
and individual benefit, certainly resonates
with age-old proposed socialist modes of
production where a class-less community of
workers("peers") produce collaboratively
within a property-less("commons-based")
society. Unlike the "immaterial,
non-reciprocal" definition this formulation
can account for its material inputs, its
labour specialization, its means of capital
formation, etc, and also better describes
the productive basis of free software as
well as more closely relates to the topology
of peer networks from which the term is
derived. Further, this formulation also is
better rooted in history, as it describes
historical examples of commons-based
production such as the pastoral commons,
cottage agriculture and cottage industry as
well. As the distribution of productive
assets is so much at the root of the
inequality of wealth and power that
perpetuates exploitive systems, a mode of
production where productive assets are held
in common is clearly a potentially
revolutionary one if it could take root.
However if the form of production can be
contained to the immaterial, if it can be
categorized as immaterial by definition,
then it.s producers can not capture any of
the value they create, and thus Harvard Law
Professors strive to keep it so defined.
However if we can implement ways of
independently sharing a common-stock of
material assets and thereby expand the scope
of the commons to include material as well
as immaterial goods, then direct producers
who employ these assets in their production
can retain a greater portion of their

Peer production is distinct from other modes
of production. Worker.s independently
employing a common-stock of productive
assets is a different mode, distinct from
both capitalist and collectivist modes. The
capitalist mode of production is exploitive
by nature, its fundamental logic is to
capture surplus value from labour by denying
independent access to the means of
production. However, collectivist modes can
also be exploitive. For instance in
Co-operative production, in which producers
collectively employ jointly owned productive
assets, the distribution of productive
assets is likely to be unfair among
different co-operatives, allowing one to
exploit the other. Larger scale collectivist
forms, such as Socialist states or very big
diversified co-operatives can be said to
eliminate the sort of exploitation that can
occur between co-operatives, however, the
expanding coordination layers needed to
manage these large organizations give rise
to a coordinator class, anew class
consisting of a techno-administrative elite
that has proven in historical examples to
have the capacity to be just as parasitic
and stifling to workers as a Capitalist
class. However the community of Peer
producers can grow without developing layers
of co-ordination because they are
self-organizing and produce independently,
and as such they do not need any layers of
co-ordination other than that what is needed
to provision the common stock of productive
assets, thus co-ordination is limited to
allocation of the common stock among those
who wish to employ it. It is no surprise
then, that this sort production has appeared
and flourished where the common stock is
immaterial property, the low reproduction
costs eliminate allocation concerns. Thus
what is needed for Peer production to
incorporate material goods into the
common-stock is a system for the allocation
of material assets among the independent
peers which imposes only a minimal
co-ordination burden. Venture Communism is
such a way. Venture Communism

The core innovation of Copyleft was to turn
the copyright system against itself. The
chief vehicle of asserting control under
copyright is the license the work is
released under, this establishes the terms
under which other are permitted to use the
copyrighted material, thus copyleft uses the
authority of the license to prescribe
freedom, using the authority granted by
copyright to guarantee that access for all
and require that this freedom is passed on.
This is consistent with the copyright laws,
and dependent on them, as without copyright
and the institutions that protect it, there
could be no copyleft. Copyleft effectively
hijacks the apparatus that exists to enforce
intellectual privilege and instead
instrumentalizes it to guarantee
intellectual freedom. Venture Communism
requires that this same freedom be extended
to material productive assets, as such it
seeks to prescribe this freedom to property,
not intellectual property, and the chief
vehicle of asserting control of productive
assets is the firm. Thus Venture Communism
is not based on a license, but rather on a
corporate form: The Venture Commune.
Employing a Venture Commune to share
material property hijacks the apparatus that
exists to enforce privilege to instead
protect a common stock, available for use by
independent producers.

Legally, a Venture Commune is a firm, much
like the Venture Capital Funds of the
Capitalist class, however it has distinct
properties which transform it into an
effective vehicle for revolutionary worker.s
struggle. The Venture Commune holds
ownership of all productive assets that make
up the common-stock employed by a diverse
and geographically distributed network of
collective and independent peer producers.
The Venture Commune does not co-ordinate
production, the peer producers produce
according to their own need sand desires,
the role of the Commune is only to manage
the common-stock, making property available
to the peer producers as they require. The
Venture Commune is the federation of these
workers collectives and individuals workers
and is itself owned by each of them. In the
case that the worker.s are working in a
collective or co-operative, ownership is
held by the individuals that make up the
collective or co-operative individually.
Ownership in a Venture Commune can only be
acquired by contributions of labour, not
property. Only by working is ownership
earned, not by contributing land, capital or
even money: Only labour. Through the
commune, Property is always held in common
by all the members of the Commune. The
Venture Commune is owned equally by all its
members. Each member can only have one
share. Thus, each member may never
accumulate a disproportionate share of the
proceeds of Property. Property can never be
concentrated in fewer and fewer hands.

The function of the Venture Commune is to
acquire property and allocate it to its
members. The commune acquires property when
requested to do so. The members interested
in having this property offer a rental
agreement giving the terms they wish to have
for possession of this property, the Commune
issues a series of Bonds which are backed
with the demanded property-itself as
collateral and the offered rental agreement
as guarantee. This series of Bonds are sold
with a public auction setting the interest
rate. If the Bond sale clears, the property
is acquired and the rental agreement is
executed. The property returns to the
commune whenever those renting it no longer
want to or are unable to meet the agreed
terms, at which point the Commune offers it,
once again at auction, to its members, who
bid on new rental terms. If there is no more
demand for the asset, it is liquidated.
After the Bonds that where issued to acquire
an asset are fully redeemed it becomes fully
owned by the Commune. The remaining rental
income the property earns is from then on
divided up equally among all members of the
commune and paid out to them, proceeds from
liquidated property is likewise divided. In
this way, members using exactly their
per-capita share of the commune.s fully
owned property neither pay nor receive any
payment, since what the pay in rent for that
property will equal what the receive as
their share of this income. Member.s using
more than their per-capita share will pay
more, and presumably be choosing to pay
because they are employing the property as a
productive asset, and thus earning enough to
pay. Conversely, member.s using less than
their per-capita share receive more in
payment then they pay in rent, thus being
rewarded for not hording property. The main
activities of the Venture Commune, managing
bond s and rental agreements do not impose a
high level of co-ordination and, just like
the computer networks that manage the
allocation of immaterial goods, are
activities that are well suited for
computerized automation. Many Venture
Communes could be exist and as they become
interrelated, merge together forming larger,
and more stable and sustainable, communities
of commons-based producers.

Proposing a form of class conflict that
employs a joint stock corporation, bonds,
rental agreements and retains market
exchange of the products of labour will be
shocking to many revolutionaries. It must be
noted that Venture Communism is a only means
of class conflict, it is not an ideal. It is
intended as a means of organizing production
towards the end of building the economic
capacity required to engage in class
conflict. In the words of the IWW, "not only
for everyday struggle with capitalists, but
also to carry on production when capitalism
shall have been overthrown. By organizing
industrially we are forming the structure of
the new society within the shell of the old"
Capitalism, a mode of production where the
worker earns only subsistence while property
owners retain the remainder of the
productive output can only create a society
in which the interests of the property owner
will be reflected in the social institutions
and the interests of the producers
subjugated. As long as producers operate
within the Capitalist mode of production,
they can not change society politically,
because whatever wealth they can apply to
influencing social institutions must come
from the share of the product that they
retain and thus will always be smaller then
the share of the product that can be applied
by property owners to prevent this change.

Any change that can produce a more equitable
society is dependent on a prior change in
the mode of production which increases the
share of wealth retained by the worker. The
change in the mode of production must come
first. This change cannot be achieved
politically, not by vote, or by lobby, or by
advocacy, or by revolutionary violence. Not
as long as the owners of property have more
wealth to apply to prevent any change by
funding their own candidates, their own
lobbyists, their own advocates, and
ultimately building up a greater capacity
for counter-revolutionary violence. Society
cannot be changed by a strike, not as long
as owners of Property have more accumulated
wealth to sustain themselves during
production interruptions. Not even
collective bargaining can work, for so long
as the owners of Property own the product
they set the price of the product and thus
any gains in wages are lost to rising
prices. Venture Communism should not be
understood as a proposal for a new kind of
society, it is an organizational form with
which to engage in social struggle. Venture
Communes are not intended to replace labour
unions, political parties, NGOs and other
potential vehicles of class conflict,, but
to compliment them, to tilt the economic
balance of power in the favour of the
representatives of worker.s class interest.
Without Venture Communism, these other
organized forms are always forced to work
against opposition with much deeper pockets,
and are thus doomed to endless co-option,
failure and retreat. Without Venture
Communism, we can not change society to
better represent the interests of producers.
Not by political means, nor by strike, nor
by collective bargaining. The only way is to
stop applying our labour to property owned
by non-producers and instead form a common
stock of productive assets. This means
taking control of our own productive
process, retaining the entire product of our
labour, forming our own Capital, and
expanding until we have collectively
accumulated enough wealth to achieve a
greater social influence than those that
defend exploitation, making real social
change possible, change that is far greater
than the modest goals of Venture Communism.
A truly free society would have no need for
copyleft, copyfarleft or Venture Communism;
these are only practices around which
workers can unite towards the realization of
their historic role, building a classless
society, a society of equals. Workers of the
world unite! You have nothing to lose but
your chains. You have a world to win. A
Contribution to The Critique of Free

The production of software and cultural
works as a factor in class conflict exists
within the broader context of the forces and
relations of production.

A key distinction that is often overlooked
in discussions of intellectual property is
that property is not a monolithic category.
Immaterial assets must be separated into
producer.s goods and consumer.s goods.
Capital demand is distinct from consumer
demand "Capital" assets, goods that are
employed in production, are different from
Inventory, the stocks of consumables,
products that are the output of production.
Failure to make this distinction propagates
the myth that the success of Free Software
in creating immaterial producer.s goods can
be a template for the production of
immaterial consumer.s goods. Free software
and free cultural works must be understood
in light of this distinction "Copyleft,"
despite its success in creating capital
stocks such as free software, cannot succeed
in producing cultural stocks or provide for
the subsistence of artists. For cultural
works, copyleft must evolve into
"Copy-far-left," which ties the rights to
reproduce immaterial assets with the
economic mode of production employed,
granting free access only to those engaging
in co-operative, commons-based production
and not embrace counterproductive projects
like "The Creative Commons" which represents
a "Copy-just-right" approach that attempts
to fit a more flexible approach to copyright
into a property-based system of capitalist
domination. Free culture can not flourish
within a class stratified society, but
requires a free society, one that produces
primarily for social value, not exchange
value. Copyright is a System of Censorship
and Exploition

The existence of "copy rights" predated 18th
century notions of the author.s right to
ownership. From the 16th to the17th century
royal licenses gave exclusive rights to
certain publishers to print particular
texts. In 1557, England.s Queen Anne granted
an exclusive printing monopoly to a London
guild of printers, the Stationers Company,
because it assured the Crown control over
which books were published or banned. The
first copyrights were publisher.s rights to
print copies, which emerged out of the
ideological needs of absolutist monarchies
to control knowledge and censor dissent.

After the Licensing Act expired in 1694, the
monopoly of the Stationers Company was
threatened by provincial booksellers, the
so-called "pirates" from Ireland and
Scotland. The Stationers Company petitioned
Parliament for a new bill to extend their
copyright monopoly. But this was a different
England from 1557 Parliament had executed
King Charles I in 1649, abolished the
monarchy and installed a republic under
Cromwell, restored the monarchy with Charles
II, overthrew James II in the Revolution
of1688, and, in 1689, it passed the first
decree of modern constitutional sovereignty,
the Bill of Rights. This was now John
Locke.s England. The philosopher John Locke
was among the chief architects of the
liberal state and the ideology of private
property, to Locke property was en extension
of one.s ownership of oneself. As you own
yourself, therefore you own what you
produce. The right to Property is created by
labour. The English Parliament now took a
view consistent with this outlook and The
Statute of Anne, passed in 1710by
Parliament, turned out to be a hard blow
against the Stationers Company. The Statute
declared authors, not publishers, to be
owners of their works and limited the
copyright term to 14 years for new books and
21 years for existing copyrights. The
Statute, which was subtitled "An Act for the
Encouragement of Learning, by Vesting the
Copies of Printed Books in the Authors or
Purchasers of such Copies, During the Times
Therein Mentioned," created a marketplace of
knowledge through competition. The Statute.s
aim was not to create an author.s copyright
but to break the Stationers Company.s

The principal players in what the press
hailed as the great cause concerning
literary property were not authors.
Publishers sued each other in the courts,
invoking the author.s rights as a pretext in
their battle for economic power. The notion
of the author as an originator with a
natural right to own ideas may have been
invented by artists and philosophers, but it
was publishers who profited from it. Laws
are not made by poets but by states, and
states exist to enforce economic privilege,
adopting whatever philosophical
legitimization they find convenient at any
given time. The Statute of Anne codified the
capitalist form of the author-publisher
relationship: copyright was attached to the
author at birth but automatically assumed by
publishers through the "neutral" mechanisms
of the market. Authors had a right to own
the products of their labour in theory, but
since they created immaterial ideas and
lacked the technological means to produce
books, they had to sell their rights to
another party with enough capital to exploit
them. In essence, it was no different than
having to sell their labour. The
exploitation of the author was embedded in
the intellectual property regime from its

There are important differences between
intellectual property and physical property.
Physical property is scarce and finite,
while intellectual property can be copied,
has almost no reproduction cost, and can be
used simultaneously by anyone with a copy.
It is exactly this characteristic of
unlimited reproducibility that requires the
copyright regime to make information into
property. In the long term, the exchange
value of any reproduce-able good is driven
towards its reproduction cost by
competition. Since there are few barriers to
reproducing an information asset, it can
have no exchange value beyond the labour and
resources required to reproduce it. In other
words, it has no long term exchange value of
its own. Thus, owners of this property
(again, not to be confused with the
producers) need laws to prevent this
reproduction. Only by making it illegal for
others to copy it can the owners extract
Rent for the right to copy. Intellectual
Property, including copyright, is the
extension of property to immaterial assets
and information. Copyright is a legal
construction that tries to make certain
kinds of immaterial wealth behave like
material wealth so that they can be owned,
controlled, and traded. In any system of
property, musicians collectively can no more
retain ownership of the product of their
labour than can workers at a textile
sweatshop. The system of private control of
the means of publication, distribution,
promotion and media production ensures that
artists and all other creative workers can
earn no more than their subsistence. Whether
you are biochemist, a musician, a software
engineer, or a film-maker, you have signed
over all your copyrights to property owners
before these rights have any real financial
value for no more than the reproduction
costs of your work.

If property is theft, as Proudhon famously
argued, then intellectual property is fraud.
Property is theft, not in a strictly legal
sense, since the laws of the liberal
capitalist state are the foundations of
property. Property is theft, in the
philosophical sense, as the Lockean concept
of property as an extension of
self-ownership means it is intrinsically
unjust to take what you did not produce.
Proudhon, like Thompson and Hodgskin before
him, argues that the owner of property has
no legitimate claim to the product of the
direct-producers that employ this property.
Without recourse to force, property owners
could not extract any more than the
reproduction costs of the instruments they
contribute to the productive process. A
Capitalist class could not exist without
denying workers independent access to the
means of production, in the words of
American Individualist Anarchist Benjamin
Tucker, the lender of capital is entitled to
its return intact, and nothing more. In this
sense, when the peasants of the
pre-industrial age were denied access to
common land by the new enclosures, it can be
said that their land was stolen, and
further, that being forced into wage labour
as a result of this expropriation, the
institution of property itself, since the
common lands where not previously property,
is an institution of theft. But if physical
property can be stolen, can intelligence or
ideas be stolen? If your land is stolen, you
cannot use it anymore, except on the
conditions set by its new private "owner."
If ownership of an idea is analogous to the
ownership of material property, it should be
subject to the same conditions of economic
exchange, forfeiture, and seizure - and if
seized it would then cease to be the
property of its owner. But if your idea is
used by others, you have not lost your
ability to use it, so what is really stolen?
The traditional notion of property, as
something that can be possessed to the
exclusion of others, is irreconcilable with
intangibles like ideas. Unlike a material
object, which can exist in only one place at
a given time, ideas are infinite and
non-exclusive. A poem is no less a poet.s
poem despite its existence in a thousand

Every expression is an extension of a
previous perception. Artistic creation is
not born ex nihilo from the brains of
individuals as a private language; it has
always been a social practice. Ideas are not
original; they are built upon layers of
knowledge accumulated throughout history.
Out of these common layers, artists create
works that have their unmistakable
specificities and innovations. All creative
works reassemble ideas, words, and images
from history and their contemporary context.
Before the 18th century, poets quoted their
ancestors and sources of inspiration without
formal acknowledgement, and playwrights
freely borrowed plots and dialogue from
previous sources without attribution. Homer
based the "Iliad" and the "Odyssey" on oral
traditions that dated back centuries.
Virgil.s "Aeneid" is lifted heavily from
Homer. Shakespeare borrowed many of his
narrative plot sand dialogue from Holinshed.
This is not to say that the idea of
plagiarism didn.t exist before the 18th
century, but its definition shifted
radically. The term plagiarist (literally,
kidnapper) was first used by Martial in the
1st century to describe someone who
kidnapped his poems by copying them whole
and circulating them under the copier.s
name. Plagiarism was a false assumption of
someone else.s work. But the fact that a new
work had similar passages or identical
expressions to earlier ones was not
considered plagiarism as long as the new
work had its own aesthetic merits. After the
invention of the creative genius, practices
of collaboration, appropriation and
transmission were actively forgotten. When
Coleridge, Stendhall, Wilde and T.S. Eliot
were accused of plagiarism for including
expressions from their predecessors in their
works, this reflected a redefinition of
plagiarism in accordance with the modern
sense of possessive authorship and exclusive
property. Their so-called "theft" is
precisely what all previous writers had
regarded as natural.

Ideas are viral. They couple with other
ideas, change shape, and migrate into
unfamiliar territories. The intellectual
property regime restricts the promiscuity of
ideas and traps them in artificial
enclosures, extracting exclusive benefits
from their ownership and control.
Intellectual property is fraud - a legal
privilege to falsely represent oneself as
the sole "owner" of an idea, expression or
technique and to charge a tax to all who
want to perceive, express or apply this
"property" in their own production. It is
not plagiarism that dispossesses an "owner"
of the use of an idea; it is intellectual
property, backed by the invasive violence of
the state that dispossesses everyone else
from using their common culture. The basis
for this dispossession is the legal fiction
of the author as a sovereign individual who
creates original works out of the wellspring
of his imagination and thus has a natural
and exclusive right to ownership. Foucault
unmasked authorship as a functional
principle that impedes the free circulation,
free manipulation, free composition,
decomposition, and re-composition of
knowledge. The author-function represents a
form of despotism over the proliferation of
ideas. The effects of this despotism, and of
the system of intellectual property that it
shelters and preserves, is that it robs us
of our cultural memory, censors our words,
and chains our imagination to the law. And
yet artists continue to be flattered by
their association with the myth of the
creative genius, turning a blind eye to how
it is used to justify their exploitation and
expand the privilege of the property-owning
elite. Copyright pits author against author
in a war of competition for originality. Its
effects are not only economic; it also
naturalizes a certain process of knowledge
production, de-legitimizes the notion of a
common culture, and cripples social
relations. Artists are not encouraged to
share their thoughts, expressions and works
or to contribute to a common pool of
creativity. Instead, they jealously guard
their "property" from others, who they view
as potential competitors, spies and thieves
lying in wait to snatch and defile their
original ideas. This is a vision of the art
world created in capitalism.s own image,
whose ultimate aim is to make it possible
for corporations to appropriate the
alienated products of its intellectual

The private ownership of ideas over the last
two centuries has not managed to completely
eradicate the memory of a common culture or
the recognition that knowledge flourishes
when ideas, words, sounds and images are
free for everyone to use. Ever since the
birth of the proprietary author, different
individuals and groups have challenged the
intellectual property regime and the "right"
it gave to some private individuals to "own"
creative works while preventing others from
using and re-interpreting them. In his
1870"Poesies," a pair of text discovered and
revered by Surrealists Louis Aragon and
Andre Breton, Uruguayan-born French poet
Comte de Lautreamont, called for a return of
impersonal poetry, a poetry written by all.
He added, "Plagiarism is necessary."
Progress implies it. It closely grasps an
author.s sentence, uses his expressions,
deletes a false idea, and replaces it with a
right one. His definition subverted the myth
of individual creativity, which was used to
justify property relations in the name of
progress when it actually impeded progress
by privatizing culture. The natural response
was to re-appropriate culture as a sphere of
collective production without acknowledging
artificial enclosures of authorship.
Lautremont.s phrase became a benchmark for
the 20th century avant-gardes. Dada rejected
originality and portrayed all artistic
production as recycling and reassembling -
from Duchamp.s ready-mades, to Tzara.s rule
for making poems from cut-up newspapers, to
the photomontages of Hoech, Hausmann and
Heartfield. Dada also challenged the idea of
the artist as solitary genius and of art as
a separate sphere by working collectively to
produce not only art objects and texts but
also media hoaxes, interventions at
political gatherings and demonstrations on
the street. Its assault on artistic values
was a revolt against the capitalist
foundations that created them.

Dadaist ideas were systematically developed
into a theory by the Situationist
International. The SI acknowledged that
detournement -putting existing artworks,
films, advertisements and comic strips
through a detour, or recoding their dominant
meanings - was indebted to Dadaist
practices, but with a difference. They saw
Dada as a negative critique of dominant
images (one that depended on the easy
recognition of the image being negated) and
defined detournement as a positive reuse of
existing fragments simply as elements in the
production of a new work. Detournement was
not primarily an antagonism to tradition. It
emphasized the reinvention of a new world
from the scraps of the old. And implicitly,
revolution was not primarily an insurrection
against the past but learning to live in a
different way by creating new practices and
forms of behaviour. These forms of behaviour
also included collective writings, which
were often unsigned, and an explicit refusal
of the copyright regime by attaching the
labels "no copyright" or "anticopyright" to
their works, along with the directions for
use: any of the texts in this book may be
freely reproduced, translated or adapted
even without mentioning the source.

Digitalization has proven to be much more of
a threat to conventional notions of
authorship and intellectual property than
the plagiarism practiced by radical artists
or critiques of the author by
poststructuralist theorists. The computer is
dissolving the boundaries essential to the
modern fiction of the author as a solitary
creator of unique and original works.
Ownership presupposes a separation between
texts and between the author and reader. The
artificiality of this separation is becoming
more apparent. On mailing lists, newsgroups
and open publishing sites, the transition
from reader to writer is natural, and the
difference between original texts vanishes
as readers contribute commentary and
incorporate fragments of the original in
their response without the use of
quotations. Copyrighting on-line writing
seems increasingly absurd because it is
often collectively produced and immediately
multiplied. As on-line information
circulates without regard for the
conventions of copyright, the concept of the
proprietary author really seems to have
become a ghost of the past. Perhaps the most
important effect of digitalization is that
it threatens the traditional benefactors of
intellectual property since monopolistic
control by book publishers, music labels and
the film industry is no longer necessary as
ordinary people are taking up the means of
production and distribution for themselves.
Free Software, copyright eats itself.

While property itself is created by law,
material assets are scarce and rivalrous by
nature. However, because copyable
information is made scarce only by law, it
can also be made abundant by law. The
practice of using copyright law itself as a
form of dissent against copyright, called
copyleft, grew to prominence in software
development and in the rise of the free
software community.

Free software guru Richard Stallman, the
inventor of the General Public License
(GPL), the first copyleft license under
which a lot of free software is released,
claims that in the age of the digital copy
the role of copyright has been completely
reversed. While it began as a legal measure
to allow authors to restrict publishers for
the sake of the general public, copyright
has become a publisher.s weapon to maintain
their monopoly by imposing restrictions on a
general public that now has the means to
produce their own copies. The aim of
copyleft more generally, and of specific
licenses like the GPL, is to reverse this
reversal. Copyleft uses copyright law, but
flips it over to serve the opposite of its
usual purpose. Instead of fostering
privatization, it becomes a guarantee that
everyone has the freedom to use, copy,
distribute and modify software or any other
work. Its only "restriction" is precisely
the one that guarantees freedom and users
are not permitted to restrict anyone else.s
freedom since all copies and derivations
must be redistributed under the same
license. Copyleft claims ownership legally
only to relinquish it practically by
allowing everyone to use the work as they
choose as long the copyleft is passed down.
The merely formal claim of ownership means
that no one else may put a copyright over a
copylefted work and try to limit its use.

Copyleft licenses guarantee intellectual
property freedom by requiring that reuse and
redistribution of information be governed by
"the four freedoms." These are the freedoms
to use, study, modify and redistribute. Seen
in its historical context, copyleft lies
somewhere between copyright and
anticopyright. The gesture by writers of
anticopyrighting their works was made in a
spirit of generosity, affirming that
knowledge can flourish only when it has no
owners. As a declaration of "no rights
reserved," anticopyright was a perfect
slogan launched in an imperfect world. The
assumption was that others would be using
the information in the same spirit of
generosity. But corporations learned to
exploit the lack of copyright and
redistribute works for a profit. Stallman
came up with the idea of copyleft in 1984
after a company that made improvements to
software he had placed in the public domain
(the technical equivalent of anticopyright,
but without the overt gesture of critique)
privatized the source code and refused to
share the new version. So in a sense,
copyleft represents a coming-of-age, a
painful lesson that relinquishing all rights
can lead to abuse by profiteers. Copyleft
attempts to create a commons based on
reciprocal rights and responsibilities;
those who want to share the common resources
have certain ethical obligations to respect
the rights of other users. Everyone can add
to the commons, but no one may subtract from

But in another sense copyleft represents a
step back from anticopyright and is plagued
by a number of contradictions. Stallman.s
position is in agreement with a widespread
consensus that copyright has been perverted
into a tool that benefits corporations
rather than the authors for whom it was
originally intended. But no such golden age
of copyright exists. Copyright has always
been a legal tool that coupled texts to the
names of authors in order to transform ideas
into commodities and turn a profit for the
owners of capital. Stallman.s idealized view
of the origins of copyright does not
recognize the exploitation of authors by the
early copyright system. This specific myopia
about copyright is part of a more general
non-engagement with economic questions. The
"left" in copyleft resembles a vague sort of
libertarianism whose main enemies are
closed, nontransparent systems and
totalitarian restrictions on access to
information rather than economic privilege
or the exploitation of labour. Copyleft
emerged out of a hacker ethic that comes
closest to the pursuit of knowledge for
knowledge.s sake. Its main objective is
defending freedom of information against
restrictions imposed by "the system," which
explains why there.s such a wide range of
political opinions among hackers. It also
explains why the commonality that links
hackers together -the "left" in Stallman.s
vision of copyleft - is not the left as it
is understood by most political activists.

The GPL and copyleft is frequently invoked
as an example of the free software
movement.s anticommercial bias. But there is
no such bias. The four freedoms required by
the GPL: the freedom to run, study,
distribute and improve the source code so
long as the same freedom is passed down,
means that any additional restriction, like
a non-commercial clause, would be non-free.
Keeping software "free" does not prevent
developers from selling copies
modified with their own labour, and it also
does not prevent redistribution for a fee by
a commercial company, as long as the same
license is passed down and the source code
remains transparent. This version of freedom
does not abolish exchange, as some free
software enthusiasts have claimed, nor is it
even incompatible with a capitalist economy
based on the theft of surplus value. The
contradiction inherent in this commons is
partly due to the understanding of
proprietary as synonymous with
closed-sourced or non-transparent.
Proprietary means having an owner who
prohibits access to information and keeps
the source code secret; it does not
necessarily mean having an owner who
extracts a profit, although keeping the
source code secret and extracting a profit
often coincide in practice. As long as the
four conditions are met, commercial
redistribution of free software is

Software is capital, it is a producer.s
good. As such, it doesn.t need to capture
profit directly in order to be an input into
a productive process that ultimately
captures profit. Software is used in
production. Virtually every office, every
academy and every factory relies on software
in their day-to-day work. For all these
organizations, the use-value of software can
be directly translated into exchange-value
in the course of their normal production,
not by selling the software directly but by
doing whatever business they do, selling
whatever product they sell and using
software to increase their productivity.
Paying for software licenses and agreeing to
the restrictive terms of such licenses is
not in their interests. As David Ricardo
said about landlords, the interest of a
software company like Microsoft is always
opposed to the interest of every software
user. The organizations that use software,
namely schools, factories, offices, and
e-commerce enterprises, collectively employ
far more software developers than the few
companies who sell proprietary software,
such as Microsoft. Thus, free software is
very attractive to them as it allows them to
reduce their individual development costs by
collectively maintaining a common stock of
software assets. Thus, the use-value of free
software is wanted by organizations that can
and do pay software developers to make it,
even though they have no exclusive copyright
on it. Just like Liberal Capitalists like
David Ricardo worked to break the advantages
Landlords had against Capitalists by
attacking restrictions on trade such as the
Corn Laws which increased the price of
industrial inputs, technology giants like
IBM today endorse free software and copyleft
to reduce the costs of their own production
and overcome advantages of Software
companies like Microsoft and Oracle.

Yet, free software was not conceived as
merely a way to reduce the cost of corporate
software development. Richard Stallman
writes on his organization.s website: .My
work on free software is motivated by an
idealistic goal: spreading freedom and
cooperation. I want to encourage free
software to spread, replacing proprietary
software that forbids cooperation, and thus
make our society better.. Since free
software can not directly capture exchange
value, producers of free software must still
sell their labour to provide for their
material subsistence. Copyleft is thus not
able to "make society better" in any
material sense because the majority of the
extra exchange value created by producers of
free software is captured by owners of
material property who are able to provide
for their subsistence. As copyleft cannot
allow workers to accumulate wealth beyond
customary subsistence, copyleft alone cannot
change the distribution of productive assets
or their output. Therefore copyleft has no
direct impact on the distribution of wealth
and power.

Just as copyleft is in some ways a retreat
from the ideological position of
anticopyright, the political position of
copyleft is very much a retreat from the
ideological position of the socialist left,
even when it appropriates arguments against
property from the left it limits the
critiques to the narrow field of immaterial
property. A particularly shameless example
of this is Eben Moglen.s "dot Communist
Manifesto," an insulting pastiche of the
seminal Marx and Engels. manifesto that
invokes the 1848 call to arms for the
working class to unite towards the
abolishment of capitalism only to instead
demand the abolishment of intellectual
property alone. The two 19th century
Materialists would have understood that
abolishing intellectual property would not
free the working class of their chains.
Moglen, Columbia University law professor
and chief consul for Stallman.s Free
Software Foundation, fails to engage with
the issue of the institution of property
itself, and thus has learned nothing from
the position of the revolutionaries he
smugly mimics.

Yet, despite the ideological and political
retreats that copyleft represents, in the
area of software development, copyleft has
proved to be a tremendously effective means
of creating an information commons that
broadly benefits all those whose production
depends on it, and the rise of the free
software movement is rightly an inspiration
to all who strive towards more equitable
forms of producing. The Socialist left
promotes the idea that wealth must be more
justly and equitably shared and controlled
by the people who produce it. Perhaps the
best method of achieving this is through
decentralized, worker-owned enterprises,
co-operatives, and councils. For the same
reason that capitalist organizations support
copyleft software, because it represents a
common stock of use value they can apply to
production, commons-based producers and
therefore all worker self-organized
enterprises can also benefit from such a
common stock of copyleft art and can
incorporate artists in their collective
enterprises. As the International Workers of
the World state in the preamble to their
Constitution (1905) "It is the historic
mission of the working class to do away with
capitalism. The army of production must be
organized, not only for everyday struggles
with capitalists but also to carry on
production when capitalism shall have been
overthrown. By organizing industrially we
are forming the structure of the new society
within the shell of the old."

Free Software, is therefore of inestimable
value for worker.s self-organized
production, giving us a source of valuable
capital, software, that would have
previously been exclusively controlled by
propriatarian corporations and thereby
reduces losses to Rent and allowing us a
possibility to retain a greater portion of
the product of our labour. And perhaps just
as importantly, the free software community
pioneers ways to co-operatively organize
large scale distributed projects, bringing
together internationally dispersed
contributors effectively working towards the
design, development and deployment of
valuable software. In these ways the free
software movement makes important
contributions towards the goal of
"organizing industrially we are forming the
structure of the new society within the
shell of the old."

This is not to say free software has no
revolutionary value, its value has to be
understood in context, and is not applicable
exclusively towards revolutionary aims, but
it also usable towards non-revolutionary and
even reactionary aims as well. The
application of copyleft is only potentially
revolutionary to the degree that it is
employed towards revolutionary aims, and its
applicability is limited to immaterial
producer.s good, intellectual capital such
as software. Just as free software is used
by capitalist organizations, there can also
be situations where worker.s controlled
organizations may chose to use commercial
software, in cases where the freely
available options are less productive than
non-free ones and the increased productive
output is greater than the lost Rent. Such a
choice should be made with caution though,
as not only does the lost Rent contribute to
the capacities of reaction (which can be
avoided, with some risk, by pirating
software), but an opportunity to contribute
to the development of the freely available
is missed.

The question must also be asked to what
degree does "copyleft" really benefit the
free software movement, despite examples
such as Stallman.s formative experience of
having his public domain software privatized
in 1984, there are also ample counter
examples of large scale free software
projects that continue to employ licenses
that allow proprietary redistribution, such
as various BSD based operating systems and
the hugely popular Apache web server. While
a corporation can employ code from these
projects in proprietary applications, it
does so at a cost, by separating their
development from the main free software
project, they have to manually patch or
re-implement code improvements from the free
distribution into their own fork and forgo
help from the free software community in
improving their own proprietary
contributions. Meaning that companies that
chose to make proprietary versions of free
software need a strong business reason to do
so, in practice this rarely happens as
proprietary versions tend to quickly fall
behind the free software versions in
functionality and thereby lose their market

Most successful examples of proprietary use
come from companies whose primary business
is selling hardware, not software, such as
Apple Computer or Juniper routers, both of
which run proprietary versions of software
derived from BSD-based projects. That Apple
and Juniper make their software proprietary,
not to sell the software, but to bundle it
with their expensive hardware, is
demonstrated by both companies efforts to
stop users from legally buying the software
to run on cheaper commodity hardware, e.g.
Apples efforts to thwart the Hackintosh
project and legal action against companies
selling non-Apple hardware preloaded with
legally purchased copies of OS X.

Examples like this demonstrate the emphasis
on freedom embedded within copyleft, Apple.s
actions have not threatened the BSD-based
free software projects they have drawn from,
in fact Apple has contributed to these
projects, however the BSD style license
allows Apple to control their users and deny
their freedom in using their legally
purchased software as they please. They
would not have such an option if their OS
was based on copyleft licensed software such
as Linux, which is published under the GPL.
Free Culture

Despite Copyleft.s beneficial role in
forming a valuable common-stock of software,
it remains problematic when the model is
retrofitted back to the original domains of
art and culture from which dissent against
intellectual property sprung. Cultural
works, unlike software, are a consumer.s
good, not a producer.s good. The distinction
between Producer.s goods (Capital) and
consumer.s goods (Products) is a core
distinction in economic discussion, which
separates the inputs to production into
three factors, Land, Labour and Capital. The
application of these three factors results
in the productive output, the products,
which are the yield of the productive
process, the distribution of these products
among the providers of the three inputs is
income, divided as Rent, Wages, and
Interest, respectively. The balance between
these incomes determines the distribution of
wealth in society. Economic discussions of
property must distinguish between Capital
and Product, which is between producer.s
goods and consumer.s goods. The distinction
is not always obvious when referring to any
particular article, for instance a tractor
would normally be considered a productive
asset, and therefore Capital, however
someone may also purchase a tractor for
recreational purposes, as a sort of
recreational vehicle. In this case this
particular tractor is not really Capital,
however this does not change the fact that
in most cases, the manufacturer of tractors
is funded by Capital demand, not consumer
demand. Capitalism is naturally willing to
fulfill Capital demand, regardless of
whether any profit or made doing so, so long
as it can make a profit from whatever
Consumer demand is being fulfilled in end.

Art is not, in most cases, a common input to
production as software is. Thus it.s demand
is Consumer demand, not Capital demand There
are certainly cases where Artworks could be
considered productive inputs, for instance
sound effects, clip art, music clips and the
like, and the tradition of artists drawing
on the work of their predecessors has been
discussed at length, however when we discuss
the economics of content-based works, like
poems, novels, films, or music, as well as
entertainment oriented software titles such
as games, we are not talking about
producer.s goods, but consumer.s goods.
Owners of property will support the creation
of copyleft software in order to employ it
in production. However, inmost cases, they
will not support the creation of copyleft
art. Why would they? They are not in the
business of giving away consumer.s good for
free. They are in the business of earning
profits by controlling the distribution of
consumer.s goods. Like all copyable
information, content-based works have no
direct exchange value, and unlike software
they rarely have use value in production
either. Use value exists only among the fans
of these works, and if owners of property
can not charge these fans money for the
right to copy, why would they fund the
production? And if owners of property will
not support copyleft art, which is freely
distributed, who will? The answer is
unclear. In some cases institutions such as
private and state cultural funds will, but
these can only support a very small number
of artists, and only by employing a dubious
and ultimately somewhat arbitrary selection
criteria in deciding who does, and who does
not, receive such funding.

The problem is obvious when attempting to
translating copyleft to cultural works.. If
someone releases a novel under a copyleft
license, and Random House prints it and
makes a profit off the author.s work, Random
House has not violated copyleft as long as
the copyleft is passed down. To be free
means to be open to commercial
appropriation, since freedom is defined as
the non-restrictive circulation of
information rather than as freedom from
exploitation. It comes as no surprise that
the major revision in applying copyleft to
the production of artworks, music and texts
has been to permit copying, modifying and
redistributing as long as it.s
non-commercial. Wu Ming claims it is
necessary to place a restriction on
commercial use or use for profit in order to
prohibit the parasitic exploitation of
cultural workers. They justify this
restriction, and its divergence from the GPL
and GFDL versions of copyleft, on the
grounds that the struggle against
exploitation and the fight for a fair
remuneration of labour is the cornerstone of
the history of the left. Other content
providers and book publishers (Verso, for
example) have expanded this restriction by
claiming that copying, modifying and
redistributing should not only be non-profit
but also in the spirit of the original -
without explaining what this "spirit" means.
Indymedia Romania revised its copyleft
definition to make the meaning of "in the
spirit of the original" clearer after
repeated problems with the neo-fascist site
Altermedia Romania, whose "pranks" ranged
from hijacking the domain to
copying texts from Indymedia and lying about
names and sources. Indymedia Romania.s
restrictions include: not modifying the
original name or source since it goes
against the desire for transparency, not
reproducing the material for profit since it
abuses the spirit of generosity, and not
reproducing the material in a context that
violates the rights of individuals or groups
by discriminating against them on the basis
of nationality, ethnicity, gender or
sexuality, since that contradicts its
commitment to equality.

Stallman.s original definition of copyleft
attempts to found an information commons
solely around the principle of information
freedom, in this sense it is purely formal,
like a categorical imperative that demands
freedom of information to be universal. The
only limit to belonging to this community is
those who do not share the desire for free
information, and in any case they are not
excluded but only they refuse to participate
because they refuse to make information
free. Other versions of copyleft have tried
to add further restrictions based on a
stronger interpretation of the "left" in
copyleft as needing to be based not on a
negative freedom from restrictions but on
positive principles, like valuing social
cooperation above profit, non-hierarchical
participation and non discrimination. The
more restrictive definitions of copyleft
attempt to found an information commons that
is not just about the free flow of
information but sees itself as part of a
larger social movement that bases its
commonality on shared leftist principles. In
its various mutations, copyleft represents a
pragmatic, rational approach that recognizes
the limits of freedom as implying reciprocal
rights and responsibilities ??? the
different restrictions represent divergent
interpretations about what these rights and
responsibilities should be. Yet, given the
poor economic condition of the majority of
artists who reserve full copyrights, the
prospect of mutations of copyleft that
restrict commercial usage by way of
including "non-profit" or "non-commercial"
terms improving the economic conditions of
the artists that use seems remote. Artists,
like other workers, have no means to bargain
for anything more than subsistence. The
chief advantage of reserving commercial
rights is the right of the creators to
transfer ownership of there works to the
propertied class whenever the propertied
class finds it in its interests to take
ownership, and, of course, entirely on the
terms dictated by the propertied class. This
is illustrated in "Artists Earnings and
Copyright" by Martin Kretschmer, Professor
of Information Jurisprudence at Bournemouth
University, where he concludes that "The
creator has little to gain from exclusivity"
and in his 2006 study Empirical Evidence On
Copyright Earnings, which states: "Earnings
from non-copyright, and even non-artistic
activities, are an important source of
income for most creators," which includes
many startling statistics. For example, the
median payment distributed by the Performing
Right Society (UK) in 1994 to its copyright
holders was £84.

"Non-commercial" terms are very problematic
for advocates of worker.s self organized
production, as these terms restrict the
ability of non-capitalist enterprises to
reproduce such works, and thus such licenses
are corrosive, not only to the interests of
artists, but to all workers as they are not
compatible with the general objective of the
socialist left: the creation of a worker.s
controlled economy. In order for copyleft to
mutate into a revolutionary instrument in
the domain of cultural production it must
become Copy-far-left. It must insist upon
worker.s ownership of the means of
production. The works themselves must be a
part of the common stock and available for
productive use by other commons-based
producers. So long as the authors reserve
the right to make money with this work and
prevent other commons based producers from
doing so, the work can not be considered to
be in the commons at all and remains a
private work, a non-commercial copyleft is
thereby anon-free license A copyfarleft
license, to avoid being non-free, must not
restrict commercial usage, but rather usage
that is not commons-based. Specifically,
copyfarleft must have one set of rules for
those who are working within the context of
workers ownership and another for those who
employ private property and wage labour in
production. A copyfarleft license should
make it possible for producers to share
freely and to retain the value of their
labour product. In other words, it must be
possible for workers to earn remuneration by
applying their own labour to mutual property
but impossible for owners of private
property to make profit using wage labour.
Thus, under a copyfarleft license, a
worker-owned printing cooperative could be
free to reproduce, distribute, and modify
the common stock as they like, but a
privately owned publishing company would be
prevented from having free access. In this
way copyfarleft remains free in the same
sense as copyleft is free, despite
restrictions on proprietary redistribution,
it only restricts taking away from the
commons, not contributing to it. A
copyfarleft license would allow
commons-based commercial use while denying
the ability to profit by exploiting wage
labour. The copyleft Non-Commercial approach
does neither; it prevents commons-based
commerce while not effectively restricting
wage exploitation, which requires a change
in the distribution of wealth, and only a
license that effectively prevents alienated
property and wage labour from being employed
in the reproduction of the otherwise
free-information commons can change the
distribution of wealth. Copyleft provides a
solid foundation for software in
commons-based productions. Copyfarleft could
potentially provide a workable foundation
for cultural works to also become apart of
the common stock employed by independent

However for Copyfarleft to have an impact,
it would need to be employed within the
context of a nascent worker.s economy that
includes various forms of production,
cultural and material (Art as well as food,
etc.). In the absence of such an
environment, copyleft and its various
mutations have little advantage for the
majority of artists for whom the prospects
of gaining financially by way of commercial
licensing are negligible. For these artists
Anticopyright retains its strong appeal.
Anticopyright is a gesture of being radical
that refuses pragmatic compromises and seeks
to abolish intellectual property in its
entirety. Anticopyright affirms a freedom
that is absolute and recognizes no limits to
its desire. The incompatibility between
these positions poses a dilemma: does one
affirm absolute freedom, knowing it could be
used against one, or moderate freedom by
restricting the information commons to
communities that won.t abuse it because they
share the same "spirit?" While some have
multiplied restrictions, others have
rejected any restriction at all, including
the single restriction imposed by the
initial copyleft. It is the movement around
peer-to-peer file sharing that comes closest
to the gesture of anticopyright. The best
example is the Copyriot blog by Rasmus
Fleischer of Pyratbiran (Bureau of Piracy),
an anti-IP think tank, and the one-time
founders of Pirate Bay, the best known
Bittorent site in the P2P community. The
motto of copyriot is "No copyright. No
license." But there is a difference from the
older anticopyright tradition. Fleischer
claims that copyright has become absurd in
the age of digital technology because it has
to resort to all sorts of fictions, like
distinctions between uploading and
downloading or between producer and
consumer, which don.t actually exist in
horizontal P2P communication. Pyratbiran
rejects copyright in its entirety, not
because it was flawed in its inception but
because it was invented to regulate an
expensive, one-way machine like the printing
press and no longer corresponds to the
practices that have been made possible by
current technologies of reproduction.
However, despite the absurdity of the
fictions on which copyright rests, the
broader political context suggests that
copyleft inspired models also have an
important role to play as outright rejection
of the legal environment is not always
possible when practical considerations are
taken into account. Building alternative
ways of producing and sharing, "building the
new society within the shell of the old,"
requires us to operate within the Capitalist
legal system where the logic of capture and
exploitation is embedded, and while space
for defiant gestures exists, we must also
get on with the business of finding the
forms and structures required to build and
expand the commons, and it seems clear that
restrictions such as those of copyleft and
copy-far-left serve to protect the commons
and keep it free.

Others, such as Joost Smiers, Professor
Emeritus of Political Science of the Arts at
the Utrecht School of the Arts also insist
on the abolishment of Copyright. He argues
that copyright centralizes media ownership
by giving large media conglomerates an
anti-competitive advantage which damages the
position of artists. Artists would benefit
more from a level playing field consisting
of larger number of publishers competing for
their services then from exclusivity of
copyright. Professor Smiers has a valid
point, copyright is a market inefficiency.
It should be abolished. However there is no
reason to believe it will be abolished.
Copyright is far from the only market
inefficiency in the contemporary capitalist
market. Without market inefficiencies,
Capital would be unable to capture any more
than its own reproduction cost in any branch
of industry, the elimination of competition
is central to the logic of Capitalism.
Without unfair advantages, a Capitalist
class of owners could not accumulate wealth
and there could be no Capitalism. Smiers is
correct in his criticism of copyright, he is
also correct when he goes further and
denounces copyright as a form of censorship,
however as with all political ideas, it can
only be implemented when those that support
it can overcome the wealth of those who
oppose it, and that is not currently the
case. So long as copyright continues to
exist, copyleft inspired licenses continue
to be needed to allow intellectual freedom
within the copyright regime. The Creative

The emergence of free software, file sharing
and art forms based upon sampling and reuse
of other media has created a serious problem
for the traditional copyright system. The
music and film industries, in particular,
are in the middle of what basically amounts
to an all-out war against their own
consumers to prevent them from downloading
and sampling their property. It is clear
that digital network technology poses a
serious problem to the recording and film

In the earlier stages of the free software
movement most corporations, especially
software companies, reacted very negatively
to the idea of copyleft, and tried to fight
it with the same aggressive tactics The
Recording Industry Association of America
(RIAA) and its friends are unleashing on the
file sharing community. Most famous of these
was the SCO Group.s legal actions against
companies that use or promote Linux. The
actions of RIAA can be understood in that
same way: it is a conservative reaction to
protect their interests. However, not all
owners of property believe that legal action
can stop new technologies from emerging.
Many believe that the music and film
industry will need to adapt and that
copyright law must be modified for this
changing environment. Thus, just as capital
joined the copyleft software movement to
reduce the cost of software development,
capital is also joining the copyright
dissident art movement to integrate file
sharing and sampling into an otherwise
property-based system of control.

The dissidents of intellectual property have
had a rich history among avant-garde
artists, â..zine producers, radical
musicians, and the sub-cultural fringe.
Today the fight against intellectual
property is being led by lawyers, professors
and members of government. Not only is the
social strata of the leading players very
different, which in itself might not be such
an important detail, but the framework of
the struggle against intellectual property
has completely changed. Before law
professors like Lawrence Lessig became
interested in IP, the discourse among
dissidents was against any ownership of the
commons, intellectual or physical. Now
center stage is occupied by supporters of
property and economic privilege. The
argument is no longer that the author is a
fiction and that property is theft but that
intellectual property law needs to be
restrained and reformed because it now
infringes upon the rights of creators.
Lessig criticizes the recent changes in
copyright legislation imposed by global
media corporations and their powerful
lobbies, the absurd lengths to which
copyright has been extended, and other
perversions that restrict the creativity of
artists. But he does not question copyright
as such since he views it as the most
important incentive for artists to create.
The objective is to defend against IP
extremism and absolutism, while preserving
IP.s beneficial effects.

In his keynote at Wizards of OS4 in Berlin,
Lessig celebrated the Read-Write culture of
free sharing and collaborative authorship
that has been the norm for most of history.
During the last century this Read-Write
culture has been thwarted by IP legislation
and converted to a Read-Only culture
dominated by a regime of producer-control.
Lessig bemoans the recent travesties of
copyright law that have censured the work of
remix artists like DJ Dangermouse (The Grey
Album) and Javier Prato (Jesus Christ: The
Musical). Both were torpedoed by the legal
owners of the music used in the production
of their works, as were John Oswald and
Negativland before them. In these cases the
wishes of the artists, who were regarded as
mere consumers in the eyes of the law, were
subordinated to control by the producers -
the Beatles and Gloria Gaynor, respectively
- and their legal representatives. The
problem is that producer-control is creating
a Read-Only culture and destroying the
vibrancy and diversity of creative
production. It is promoting the narrow
interests of a few privileged "producers" at
the expense of everybody else. Lessig
contrasts producer-control to the cultural
commons - a common stock of value that all
can use and contribute to. The commons
denies producer-control and insists on the
freedom of consumers. The "free" in free
culture refers to the natural freedom of
consumers to use the common cultural stock
and not the state-enforced freedom of
producers to control the use of "their"
work. In principle, the notion of a cultural
commons abolishes the distinction between
producers and consumers, viewing them as
equal actors in an ongoing process.

Lessig claims that today, within the context
of the Creative Commons project more
specifically, the possibility of a
Read-Write culture is reborn. But is the
Creative Commons really a commons? According
to its website, Creative Commons defines the
spectrum of possibilities between full
copyright - all rights reserved - and the
public domain - no rights reserved. Our
licenses help you keep your copyright while
inviting certain uses of your work - a "some
rights reserved" copyright. The point is
clear: Creative Commons exists to help
"you," the producer, keep control of "your"
work. You are invited to choose among a
range of restrictions you wish to apply to
"your" work, such as forbidding duplication,
forbidding derivative works, or forbidding
commercial use. It is assumed that as an
author-producer everything you make and
everything you say is your property. The
right of the consumer is not mentioned, nor
is the distinction between producers and
consumers of culture disputed. Creative
Commons legitimates, rather than denies,
producer-control and enforces, rather than
abolishes, the distinction between producer
and consumer. It expands the legal framework
for producers to deny consumers the
possibility to create use-value or
exchange-value out of the common stock.

This problem of creating "commons deeds" for
works that are not really a common stock is
typical of the Copy-just-right approach
typified by the Creative Commons. Had the
Beatles and Gloria Gaynor published their
work within the framework of Creative
Commons, it would still be their choice and
not the choice of DJ Dangermouse or Javier
Patro whether "The Grey Album" or "Jesus
Christ: The Musical" should be allowed to
exist. The legal representatives of the
Beatles and Gloria Gaynor could just as
easily have used CC licenses to enforce
their control over the use of their work.
The very problem of producer-control
presented by Lessig is not solved by the
Creative Commons "solution" as long as the
producer has an exclusive right to choose
the level of freedom to grant the consumer,
a right that Lessig has never questioned.
The Creative Commons mission of allowing
producers the "freedom" to choose the level
of restrictions for publishing their work
contradicts the real conditions of
commons-based production. Lessig.s has no
basis to use DJ Dangermouse and Javier Patro
as examples to promote the cause of Creative

Lessig.s praise of the Free Software
movement likewise rings false because its
architecture assures everyone
(technologically as well as legally, in the
form of its licenses) the possibility to use
the common resource of the source code.
Despite its claim to be extending the
principles of the free software movement,
the freedom Creative Commons gives to
creators to choose how their works are used
is very different from the freedom the GPL
gives to users to copy, modify and
distribute the software as long as the same
freedom is passed down. Stallman recently
made a statement rejecting Creative Commons
in its entirety because some of its licenses
are free while others are non-free, which
confuses people into mistaking the common
label for something substantial when in fact
there is no common standard and no ethical
position behind the label. Whereas copyleft
claims ownership legally only to relinquish
it practically, the references to ownership
by Creative Commons is no longer an ironic
reversal, but real. The pick and choose CC
licenses allow arbitrary restrictions on the
freedom of users based on an author.s
particular preferences and tastes. In this
sense, Creative Commons is a more elaborate
version of copyright. It doesn.t challenge
the copyright regime as a whole, nor does it
preserve its legal shell in order to turn
the practice of copyright on its head, as
copyleft does.

The public domain, anticopyright and
copyleft are all attempts to create a
commons, a shared space of non-ownership
that is free for everyone to use. The
conditions of use may differ, according to
various interpretations of rights and
responsibilities, but these rights are
common rights and the resources are shared
alike by the whole community and their use
is not decided arbitrarily, on a case by
case basis, according to the whims of
individual members. By contrast, Creative
Commons is an attempt to use a regime of
property ownership (copyright law) to create
a non-owned, culturally shared resource. Its
mixed bag of cultural goods are not held in
common since it is the choice of individual
authors to permit their use or to deny it.
Creative Commons is really an anti-commons
that peddles a capitalist logic of
privatization under a deliberately
misleading name. Its purpose is to help the
owners of intellectual property catch up
with the fast pace of information exchange,
not by freeing information, but by providing
more sophisticated definitions for various
shades of ownership and producer-control.

What began as a movement for the abolition
of intellectual property has become a
movement of customizing owners" licenses.
Almost without notice, what was once a very
threatening movement of radicals, hackers
and pirates is now the domain of reformists,
revisionists, and apologists for capitalism.
When capital is threatened, it co-opts its
opposition. We have seen this scenario many
times throughout history; its most
spectacular example is the transformation of
self-organized workers" councils into a
trade union movement that negotiates legal
contracts with the owners of corporations.
The Creative Commons is a similar subversion
that does not question the "right" to
private property but tries to get small
concessions in a playing field where the
game and its rules are determined in
advance. The real effect of Creative Commons
is to narrow political contestation within
the sphere of the already permissible.

While narrowing this field of contestation,
Creative Commons simultaneously portrays
itself as radical, as the avant-garde of the
battle against intellectual property.
Creative Commons has become a kind of
default orthodoxy in non-commercial
licensing, and a popular cause among artists
and intellectuals who consider themselves
generally on the left and against the IP
regime in particular. The Creative Commons
label is moralistically invoked on countless
sites, blogs, speeches, essays, artworks and
pieces of music as if it constituted the
necessary and sufficient condition for the
coming revolution of a truly "free culture."
Creative Commons is part of a larger
copyfight movement, which is defined as a
fight to keep intellectual property tethered
to its original purpose and to prevent it
from going too far. The individuals and
groups associated with this movement
advocate what has been called a smarter IP,
or a reform of intellectual property that
doesn.t threaten free speech, democracy,
competition, innovation, education, the
progress of science, and other things that
are critically important to our social,
cultural, and economic well-being.

In an uncanny repetition of the copyright
struggles that first emerged during the
period of Romanticism, the excesses of the
capitalist form of intellectual property are
opposed but using its own language and
presuppositions. Creative Commons preserves
Romanticism.s ideas of originality,
creativity and property rights, and
similarly considers "free culture" to be a
separate sphere existing in splendid
isolation from the world of material
production. Ever since the 18th century, the
ideas of "creativity" and "originality" have
been inextricably linked to an anti-commons
of knowledge. Creative Commons is no

The Free Software foundation, publishers of
the GPL, take a very different approach in
their definition of "free," insisting on the
"four freedoms:" The freedom to use, the
freedom to study, the freedom to share, and
the freedom to modify. This is consistent
with the idea of "free" in the history of
free culture, for instance, the journal
Situationist International was published
with the following copyright statement:

"All texts published in Situationist
International may be freely reproduced,
translated and edited, even without
crediting the original source."

Even earlier, Woody Guthrie including the
following note in a1930.s songbook
distributed to listeners who wanted the
words to his recordings had the following

"This song is Copyrighted in U.S., under
Seal of Copyright#154085, for a period of 28
years, and anybody caught singin. it without
our permission, will be mighty good friends
of ours, cause we don.t give a dern. Publish
it. Write it. Sing it. Swing to it. Yodel
it. We wrote it, that.s all we wanted to

In these cases what is evident is that the
freedom being insisted upon is the freedom
of the consumer to use and produce, not the
"freedom" of the producer to control. If
free culture is really intended to create a
common stock for cultural peer-production,
then the framework provided must
specifically be designed in such a way that
can not be used to attack free culture, the
GPL and the terms presented by Woody Guthrie
and the Situationist International pass this
test, the Creative Commons does not.
Moreover, proponents of free cultural must
be firm in denying the right of
Producer-control and denying the enforcement
of distinction between producer and
consumer, Lawrence Lessig and the Creative
Commons, affirm both the right and
distinction of the Producer and as such can
only be considered the sworn enemies of free

One reaction to this has been Benjamin Mako
Hill.s Criticism of the Creative Commons,
along the same lines as Stallman.s, that the
Creative Commons, with it.s combination of
free and non-free licenses, does not define
any single standard of freedom for cultural
works. To address this, Mako Hill and others
undertook the Freedom Defined project and
produced a set of free terms, in the image
of the GPL, for Cultural works. However, the
project failed to address the issues of
applicability of a standard copyleft
licensing approach to cultural works, not
asking if art could be funded from Capital
demand as a producer.s good such as
software, or if it is merely meant to be a
non-commercial activity financed by related
or non-art activity or perhaps by grants. As
a result of not addressing the economic
basis of free culture, the project did not
produce a distinct option for artists more
compelling than the existing copyleft
mutations or anticopyright. To make matters
worse, the Creative Commons responded by
adding to their plethora of conflicting
choices by marking some of their licenses
with a shield stating "Approved For Cultural
Works" when the license is compatible with
the definition of cultural works as defined
by the standard copyleft approach of the
Freedom Defined project. The end result is
despite it.s well-meaning intent, it only
serves to make the Creative Commons even
more confusing, and produced yet more
licensing categories which continue to fail
to address the distinction between software
and art. Artists continue to not use the
licenses, according to Creative Commons
statistics, it is estimated that perhaps
around 16% of Creative Commons licensed
works are licensed under the "Approved"
licenses, the overwhelming majority of the
rest choosing more restrictive licenses,
often with "non-commercial" and
"non-derivative" terms, in other words
non-free licenses that prevent the works
from effectively being part of any
common-stock of cultural works. For free
cultural to create a valuable common stock
it must deny the privilege of the producer
to control the common stock Copyfarleft

[--] Manifesto of The Telekommunisten Network

The first step in the revolution of the
working class is to develop a network of
enterprises where people produce for social
value and share as equals, and to build and
expand the economic size of these
enterprises to raise the organized
proletariat to the position of being the
dominant economic class. Only when workers
control their own production can we win the
battle of democracy.

The proletariat will use its expanding
economic power to wrest, by degree, all
capital from the bourgeoisie, to
decentralise all instruments of production
into a common stock directly in the hands of
those whose production depends on it.

Of course, in the beginning, this cannot be
effected except by means of structuring our
enterprises on the rights of property, and
on the conditions of bourgeois production;
which appear economically insufficient and
untenable, and contrary to our ends, but
which, in the course of the movement, impose
further transformations upon the old social
order, and are unavoidable as a means of
entirely revolutionising the mode of

These measures will, of course, be different
in different communities.

Nevertheless, in most communities, the
following will be pretty generally


Mutualisation of all instruments of
production and application of all rents to
mutual purposes. 2.

Establishment of a guaranteed income
in the form of a dividend paid to each
member of the community equal in amount to
their per-capita share of all mutually
collected rent. 3.

The right to membership of all who
contribute their labour and awarding of
membership only by contribution of labour,
not by inheritance, purchase or transfer of
any kind. 4.

A binding agreement with all member
enterprises to forgo all private ownership
of their own productive assets and instead
take possession of what they need by renting
it from the mutual common stock. 5.

Establishment of a mutual bond market,
where bonds are sold at auction for the
purpose of building the common stock of
productive assets. 6.

Development of resources that put the
means of communication and transport in the
hands of all members. 7.

Provide to all enterprises the
opportunity to acquire and extend the
available instruments of production to the
greatest degree possible. 8.

Equal opportunity of all to
participate and produce. 9.

Abolition of all the distinction
between producers and consumers and and the
transformation of relations from market
based transactions to generalized
distribution, where production of social
value takes precedent over the production of
goods for sale. 10.

Establish knowledge and skill sharing
networks and systems of support for all
members, and provide opportunities to
develop skills by contribution production.

When, in the course of development, class
distinctions have disappeared, and all
production has been distributed in the hands
of a vast association of the whole world,
the public power will lose its political
character. Political power, properly so
called, is merely the organised power of one
class for oppressing another. If the
proletariat during its contest with the
bourgeoisie is compelled, by the force of
circumstances, to organise itself as a
class, if, by means of a organisation, it
makes itself the ruling class, and, as such,
sweeps away by force the old conditions of
production, then it will, along with these
conditions, have swept away the conditions
for the existence of class antagonisms and
of classes generally, and will thereby have
abolished its own supremacy as a class.

In place of the old bourgeois society, with
its classes and class antagonisms, we shall
have an association, in which the free
development of each is the condition for the
free development of all.

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posted by u2r2h at 10:43 AM


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