The Effects of the Open Source Movement on the Development of Politics and Society | Transform!

Knowledge Is a Common Good

By Marco Berlinguer

Introduction

In October 2009, Transform! co-promoted the first Free Culture Forum (FCF). The FCF is one of the first attempts to create an international space of networking and strategic reflection for a wide range of movements that have emerged across the world in different fields and are related to the production, access, circulation and management of cultural works and knowledge goods. It concluded an intense three days’ work with the release of a Charter for Innovation, Creativity and Access to Knowledge, which condensed demands, principles and concrete actions to differently regulate the legal, political and economical challenges posed by the revolution taking place in the way that knowledge, information and culture are created, accessed and transformed. At the same time it offers a useful map of the crucial struggles, the issues at play and the dangers1.

For Transform! the participation in this initiative represented the consolidation of a path we started in 2004 with the project “Networked Politics”2, through which we progressively established contacts with these experiences and came to explore a wide range of issues mainly related to two critical new terrains of contemporary politics: the new organisational forms of collective actions and the implications of an economy increasingly based on information, knowledge and communication.

In this article my aim is to give a picture of the experiences which represent the background of the FCF, presenting some its salient characteristics and achievements. In the second part I will discuss some questions of wider contextualisation, with the intent of encouraging deeper research on such issues within the Transform! network.

The Free Culture Movements

What we call here the Free Culture Movements comprises a wide range of experiences mainly emerging in the framework of the internet and the digital revolution. Although they developed independently, they are in effect loosely aligned along similar patterns and show a mutually reinforcing dynamism – or a “viral spiral”, as David Boiler puts it3.

All these movements emerged as a practical and cultural critique of what has been called “the second enclosures movement”4 the northern state-aided aggressive policies of extension of Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs)5 to knowledge, culture, information, communication (and even organisms and data). Resistance to these policies emerged with practical experimentations of different approaches to the regulation of property in the digital era and of how production can be organised in a networked world.

Following Felix Stalder6, we can group these movements in three different clusters: the Free Software movement focusing on software code, the Free Culture movement focusing on cultural goods, and the Access to Knowledge (A2K) movement focusing on the access to knowledge-intensive goods.

The first to emerge and the most consolidated is the Free and Open Source Software movement (FOSS). Its roots are in the 1980s, when it started to take shape among programmers and software researchers as a reaction to the increased “enclosures” of software coding, which frustrated their habit of freely sharing, investigating and improving software. Two steps have been crucial in the taking shape of the FOSS. First, when Richard Stallman, founder of the Free Software Foundation, “hacked” the copyright laws, reverting their scope, to release a new license in 1989 – the General Public License, GPL – which instead of protecting the right of the producer, protects the access of the user to the “source code”7 and her/his freedoms to “run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve” the software (Stallman, 1996). Crucially, GPL includes two further clauses: that whoever distributes copies or improvements of GPL software must to do so under the same license and a prohibition to hybridise GPL software with property software. GPL licence – under which most free software is released today8 – provided an institutional framework shielding an environment in which Free Software could develop in a cumulative and expansive way9. The second decisive step came in the early 1990s, when in a surprising – structured and at the same time self-directed – organisation of cooperation, Linus Torvalds prompted a large, open, dispersed and self-assembled community of voluntary developers to complete a very complicated technical project: the first free operating system (Linux). Since then Free Software has massively expanded in many fields of application. Together with its cousin, the Open Source Software (a more commercial-friendly section of the movement) it contributed to the creation of “a new institutional ecology” composed of volunteer communities, non-profit foundations, public bodies and commercial actors “actively using and contributing to the common resource (the code basis) in the pursuit of their individual goals and strategies”. Within it, an alternative economic model emerged which “focused on solving unique problems, rather than selling identical copies”, and which was regulated by new social norms combining “the competition for personal recognition among peers with collaboration in solving shared problems”. Today the FOSS is a technical, economical, political and cultural power: hegemonic among the servers running the Internet; widely adopted by people, public administrations, firms, large corporations; increasingly endorsed by a significant segment of the same IT-industry. Culturally it became a source of inspiration in many fields; politically it proved its strength in 2007, when it succeeded in blocking a change in software patent law in the EU-Parliament, for the first time ever arresting the more than two-decades-long cycle of expansion of intellectual property protections.

The same conditions which, in the beginning of the 1990s, had made possible the take-off of Free Software – the diffusion of software among programmers of personal computers networking through the platform of the internet – were made use of more extensively. The diffusion of means of “cheap mass (self-) communication, easy transformation and decentralised distribution” within a population rich in communicative, cultural and creative skills turned to reshape every field of the production of cultural works, information and knowledge. Three main phenomena emerged: a massive entry and empowerment of new, micro, not commercial or outsider producers (previously marginalised by the distribution mechanisms); remixing – using existing works to create new ones – as a central approach to cultural production; and mass and public (online) infringement of copyright terms by making and distributing unauthorised copies of digital cultural products. Together they produced a de facto serious crisis of the copyright regime and of the culture and media industries.

The attempts to defend the copyright regime produced escalations of repressive actions which up to now have been clashing with the creative invention of new solutions to bypass controls10. At the same time, partly as a reaction to this escalation, partly drawing inspiration from the Free Software movement, a loosely organised movement emerged, especially at US universities, to affirm and protect the democratic potential of this new cultural environment. The basic tenets of this movement are that in the new digital environment the attempt to protect the business model of the 20th-century culture industry inevitably clashes with a revolt against the “artificial scarcity” this imposes and risks bringing about a world of pervasive surveillance and mass illegality, while dramatically reducing the potential of democratic and creative expression in culture. Also, in the taking off of this movement we can identify two emblematic moments. One step followed the example of the GPL licence and pursued the use of the existing copyright laws to design licences which supported rather than restricted the practice of sharing and transforming cultural works. In 2001, this research culminated in the release of a set of new licences, the Creative Commons (CC), under which cultural goods are released freely usable for non-commercial purposes11 and which have since then been massively utilised (250 millions works published by mid-2009 under one of these licenses)12, once again showing how a diffused alternative attitude to cultural production was emerging under the radar of the interests of political regulators. The second emblematic experience was the development of the Wikipedia project. Originally planned in the wave of dot.com as a commercial venture, Wikipedia had to change its model completely in 2001 in connection with the crash of the bubble of the new economy. In this way, it turned out to be another demonstration – after the success of the FOSS – of the emergence of a new paradigm of cultural production, utterly surprising both for its forms and for its effectiveness13. But – like Linux for Free Software – Wikipedia is only the most popular case. In all the fields of cultural production numerous free culture initiatives are under way, experimenting with tools, practices, regulations and new economical models, which aim to regulate differently the balance between the right of the creators – to be socially and economically recognised and to control their works – and the right of the community to access and build upon cultural works and expand over time their common pool of resources14.

A third cluster of struggles and initiatives has developed around the Access to Knowledge (A2K) movement, behind which lies a loose coalition of mainly civil society organisations, scientists, educators and governments of the South. Once again, the converging focus is the struggle against the policies of maximisation of IPRs, this time for their limiting effects on the access to knowledge-embedded goods, like drugs, education and science. Critiques are based on principles of global justice; but increasingly also voices are raised contesting the rationality of these policies for the blockages they create in terms of economic efficiency and potential development. One emblematic moment for the A2K movement was the fight over access to anti-retroviral drugs during the 1990s, when a new class of drugs to fight HIV/AIDS had become available, but were sold in developing countries at prohibitively high prices. When in 1998 the South African government amended its laws to facilitate the import of generic versions of the drugs which cost 10 times less, it was sued by 39 of the largest pharmaceutical manufacturers, supported by US and EU governments15. The successful issue of the struggle in 2001 led other developing countries to pass similar legislation and to become increasingly vocal16.

A second successful development of the A2K movement was achieved around the access to scientific publishing. In this case, it emerged in reaction to the continuous and unjustified increase in the last two decades of the prices of commercial scientific journals17, which created unbearable barriers for universities, public libraries and scientists, and not only in the poorer countries. Such a situation also clashed with the tradition of freely sharing scientific works, which likewise is a fundamental means of submitting scientific work to scrutiny and to facilitate the further development of research results within the scientific community. This movement coalesced around the creation of open access journals (OAJ)18, which are having a deep impact on the market of scientific journals, also because they seem better to eflect the logic of scientific publishing19. But numerous other Open Access initiatives are spreading in education, school textbooks, university courses, effectively combining the pursuit of principles of social justice and the conviction that sharing is also the best policy to knowledge improvement and development. Finally, one needs to remember that, though up to now with no consequence, the A2K arguments even broke out at the OECD, which undertook a scrutiny of the problematic burdens that the policies of pervasive patenting are creating for technological and scientific innovation, cooperation and advancement20, thus recognising the validity of the paradoxical consequence of IPR-policies, which has been called “the tragedy of the anti-commons”21.

Conclusion

FC movements have developed rapidly, effectively democratising crucial layers of our society, such as software, culture and knowledge. For that reason alone the would merit our appreciation. Yet, the struggle around the institutional architecture of these terrains is far from being won. IPR-policies and control of media represent crucial stakes and pillars for the powers that be. Signs of possible authoritarian turns abound in these terrains as in our societies at large. And indeed the surveillance power which allows the control of the new pervasive digital flows, through which our life is increasingly organised, casts further shadows on our future, justifying serious worries, and opens up very new political problems, still to be adequately framed.

However, concluding this survey, I would like to suggest some areas of research which the potential expressed by these experiences can help to further explore.

When we started Networked Politics, we wanted first of all to deepen the comprehension of the problems that had emerged in the innovative forms and principles of organisation in the global movements. It was in this way that we came to discover parallels with the organisational forms that had emerged in the Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) movement, as well as with various experiences of web communities of collaborative production, like for example Wikipedia. Here there is a first cluster of issues which – I think – ought to be looked at more deeply. These experiences have contributed to re-framing and managing, in rather weird ways, very complex problems related to the aggregation and coordination of communities of highly individualised members, the management of (diffused) conflicts and new styles of leadership. They experimented with the potential opened up by the new technologies for more accessibly distributed, more decentralised and finer tuned and differentiated capacities, knowledge, needs and aspirations of the protagonists involved. There isn’t any general working model there, but they offer a very rich field of concrete – sometimes very effective – experiences to better understand the current reshaping of fundamental political problems.

This goes together with a second question we have often dealt with, that is, why these “networked forms” are emerging in so many movements and indeed in so many aspects of present-day society. Of course, technology matters. But the emergence of the network as dominant socio-economical paradigm has preceded (and well transcended) the technological dimension (and the weakening of the institutions centred on the nation-state). There are other forces at work which themselves contributed to shaping the technological transformation, at least in so much as they have been shaped by it. Discussing this issue – within the limited but stimulating seminars we organised in the “Networked Politics” project – we arrived at the conclusion that these forces have one of their fundamental roots in the movements of the 1960s and 70s and specifically in two salient facts: the shake-up of the Fordist, patriarchal, hierarchical institutions of post-war capitalism and the (connected) repercussions of the massive expansion of higher education22. This, whether it is convincing or not, refers to another set of problems. We need to better conceptualise the anthropological transformation which underlies these new patterns of social relationships, because such an exploration could facilitate a deeper understanding of the ambivalent and confused “transition” we are trapped in.

Which leads us to a third area of issues: The movements analysed in this article have been emerging from the very core of societal innovation of the last decades. How do we call this? Post-Fordism? Knowledge economy? Informationalism? Cognitive capitalism? I could continue listing terms, which have, indeed since the 1970s, been proposed to capture this new reality. However, in my opinion the fact that we do not have a consolidated concept of the “thing” has to do with a still hybrid, highly contradictory and unresolved phenomenon, which characterises forms of production, social relationships and institutional forms we are living in. Let’s put it simply. We are still living in a capitalist society; and in the last twenty years, one major change has been a qualitatively new importance of information, communication and knowledge in the economy, and in society at large. The point which I want to raise here is that these two frameworks are overlapping, but they do not necessarily coincide23. On the other hand, there are various tensions and many open problems. The FC movements can help us to explore them.

I will list here just three, in a very schematic and tentative way:

First, where knowledge, information and communication play a central role, the processes of production appear intrinsically and more immediately social. They benefit and rely on flows and networks of production which go beyond the formal boundaries of any specific organisation (not to say single individuals). This gives more prominence to the forces of cooperation and of mutual interdependence and presses any institution to experiment organisational logics based on the openness to the “outside”. This is, for example, one reason for the success of open source within a growing segment of IT-industry24. More significantly this “openness” is the logic behind the internet itself: an open architecture is its initial conception and the secret of its incredible (and fundamentally unplanned and decentralised) development.

But there is also another aspect of this social nature of production that needs to be noted: in many senses, the flows of production appeared to have shifted away from the formal boundaries of what is traditionally considered productive work, to spread into society at large. The gargantuan literature in business and media studies about the increasing blurring of the divide between consumer and producer has to do with this phenomenon. But just consider Google’s model of value production – that is, offering for free online services and platforms of social networks, to then exploit the user- generated data and contents in various ways – and you get one emblematic example of this shift.

In any case, the general problem which emerges here is that the social nature of these processes seems to put pressure on any regulatory, governance and account system closed within the boundaries of formally isolated organisations. This is well reflected in the proliferation of mechanisms of governance that stems from the necessity of regulating frames of the collaborative action of a multiplicity of protagonists who are autonomous and so not governable by simple authoritative mechanisms. But, more deeply, this configuration also brings people to question the adequacy, legitimacy and efficiency of the property regimes as we know them, be they private or state ones. The increasing rediscovery of the notion of commons by the FC movements – and indeed beyond these movements – has its roots here. Though yet arguably indefinite, it reflects the search for a new conceptual guide in the design of new institutional frameworks more attuned to these relations of production.

Let’s now turn to another aspect: the nature and organisation of work. When we look at the qualities which need to be mobilised and at the forms of organisation of production in these spheres, we observe an increasing importance of attitudes and capacities such as creativity, flexibility, development of information, continuous learning, problem-solving, initiative, communicational and relational skills, decision-making, attention, experiential/practical/”tacit” knowledge. Now, what makes these qualities peculiar is that they are embedded in the individuals and are not easily reproducible and controllable through planned command or automated mechanisms25. Moreover, they depend on motivations which are not easily reducible to the monetary ones, as is recognised in the same management literature and experience and as the experience of FC-movements widely confirm. The necessity to deal with such a workforce and processes of production has been indeed one of the major sources of the crisis of the Fordist organisation of production and of innovation in management styles. But the puzzle of the governance of these productive forces – which reflects a blurring of entrepreneurial and managerial functions and of dependent work26 – is far from being solved27. However, there is another dimension where the experience of the FC-movements is interesting. There are experiments of a different kind around these problems and these potentials28. These experiences have contributed to re-frame and manage in a different way complicated problems related to the meshing and mobilisation of different motivations, non-hierarchical division of labour, collaboration and coordination, and so on. And quite interestingly, they have done all this by experimenting with new notions of what constitutes property, working on the basis of a distributional/sharing – rather than exclusive – approach to property, conceiving themselves as producing common resources29.

There is, finally, a third cluster of problems which I would like to highlight in this brief and very incomplete map. The increased immaterial and social nature of the processes of production and of products is creating a series of problems in the systems of measures. Economists, policy-makers and business literature are struggling to define new parameters for the measure of the value of capital, of work, of wealth, of productivity. Such problems are evidently further complicated by the digital revolution, which made it possible that a digital product, once created, can be potentially reproduced “easier, faster, ubiquitously and almost free”30; and which, moreover, is subversively creating social practices that are exploring an economy based on principles like, “not scarcity, not rivalry, not exclusivity”, that is something which evidently troubles basic rules both of economy and of the control of the appropriation of value. In this lies another clue that fundamental difficulties are emerging, which point toward what could be called a crisis of the system of value – which, indeed, has many other roots, well beyond this realm.

All this doesn’t mean that these problems are not solvable in principle within a capitalist framework. We can already observe innovative mechanisms of accumulation which effectively deal with these novelties31. What is more dubious is that they can be managed without fundamental changes in the institutional framework.

To conclude then, let me refer to an earlier historical sequence: Fordist forms of production, to be deployed in a non-destructive way, required the invention of a new institutional framework, which crystallised in the Keynesian revolution; which, in turn, to be effectively deployed required the invention of a new system of (public and private) measures and accounts, which culminated in the famous – and today widely contested concept of – Gross National Product32. Doesn’t this resonate with the present?

Notes

1) Released as a work in progress open to further developments (beginning with the next FCF planned for this year), it can be consulted at: fcforum.net.

2) http://www.networked-politics.info

3) See David Boiler, “Viral Spiral”, The New Press, 2008.

4 )See, for example, James Boyle, The Second Enclosures Movement and the Construction of the Public Domain”, at: http://www.law.duke.edu/pd/papers/boyle.pdf

5) Intellectual property rights include a variety of legal rules that prevent people from having free access to the use of various kinds of knowledge and information: patents restrict the use of inventions; copyrights prevent the duplication of intellectual products and artistic creations; trademarks protect the use of brand names.

6) This short presentation of the FC movements heavily relies on an article by Felix Stalder, though I have to add that the article is much richer and theoretically denser than this presentation. Quotes were extracted from that article. For consulting it, see: Felix Stalder (in press). Digital Commons. In: Keith Hart, Jean-Louis Laville, Antonio David Cattani (eds). The Human Economy: A World Citizen’s Guide. Cambridge, UK, Polity Press.

7) In computer science, source code is a collection of statements or declarations written in some humanly readable computer programming language. In proprietary software it is “enclosed”, it is not readable. In such a way you cannot understand how it works and what it does. The problem is a double one: lack of transparency and the impossibility to copy or improve it.

8) As of August 2007, the GPL accounted for nearly 65% of the 43,442 free software projects listed on Freshmeat, and as of January 2006, about 68% of the projects listed on SourceForge.net.

9) Or, to use the rancorous words of Microsoft top executives: in a “viral” and “cancerous” way. In 2001, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer referred to GNU/Linux as “a cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches”. The GPL has been described as being “viral” by Craig Mundie, Microsoft Senior Vice President.

10) Copyrights were strengthened by a series of international agreements – most importantly, the World Intellectual Property Organization Copyright Treaty (1996) and legislation like, for example, the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act (1998) and the EU Copyright Directive (2001) -, the intensification of litigations and the implementation of technologies of ubiquitous surveillance of social communication, like the DRM (Digital Right Management). Up to now they have not succeeded in arresting the crisis. One of the most popular legal and technical inventions to bypass these controls have been the systems of P2P file sharing, which create puzzled and fragmented networks of exchange of micro pieces of files and which further boosted the popularity of these “permissive” and “illegal” cultural practises of sharing music or film.

11) Some versions also allow free transformation of the works, and others for commercial use. See:creativecommons.org

12) wiki.creativecommons.org/Metrics

13) Just to give some data, in the English-language version only, the encyclopedia contains more than 3 million entries, cooperatively and voluntarily written by 10 million registered users and countless anonymous ones. Financed mainly by donations, Wikipedia is actually one of the most popular and comprehensive online reference sites, used by about 330 million people every month.

14) The Charter released in the FCF lists a variety of ways of achieving sustainability developed by initiatives based on free culture principles, some more consolidated, some still experimental: “The economy models for sustaining cultural production include among others: non-monetary donations and exchange (i.e. gift, time banking and barter); direct financing (i.e. subscriptions and donations); shared capital (i.e. matching funds, cooperatives of producers, inter-financing / social economy, P2P-banking, coining virtual money, crowd funding, open capital, community based investment cooperatives and consumer coops); foundations guaranteeing infrastructure for the projects; public funding (i.e. basic incomes, mutualized fundings, grants, awards, subsidies, public contracts and commissions); private funding (i.e. venture investment, shares, private patronage, business investment infrastructure pools); commercial activities (including goods and services) and combination of P2P-distribution and low cost streaming. The combination of these options is increasingly viable both for independent creators and industry”. The Charter also promotes the principle of combining several sources of finance, as a way of guaranteeing independence of the creators. For a concrete example see also:www.archive.org/details/netlabels

15) This prompted an international campaign of protest. But, as it was, when a South African court pressed the pharmaceutical companies to open their books and prove the research costs they claimed to have suffered, they preferred to withdraw their suit. See: “Yale University Shares Profits from AIDS Drugs”, Le Monde diplomatique Feb. 2002, available at http://www.mindfully.org/Industry/Yale-University-AIDS-ProfitsFeb02.htm.

16) This culminated, in 2007, in the adoption of a “development agenda” at the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), a sub-organisation of the United Nations, which recognised the “benefits of a rich public domain” and of “protection of traditional knowledge”. As for the defeat of software patents in the European parliament, this represented a second political victory in getting knowledge regimes other than IPRs officially recognised. See: www.wipo.int/ip-development/en/agenda/recommendations.htm. The scandalous case of drugs, indeed, reveals the existence of a second vast and wider front of potential and actual massive infringements of IPR-regimes in developing countries, which goes well beyond the drugs issue and which is going to be – in terms of the practices of file sharing online – very difficult and costly to police.

17) Prices have risen four times faster than inflation since 1986. Seewww.earlham.edu/~peters/fos/overview.htm

18) In OAJ, the same principles of rigorous scientific review are applied, but the accepted papers are made digitally available online, free of charge and often released under a CC-license. OAJ were initiated with the Budapest Open Access Initiative in 2002, but soon followed by an increasing number of similar initiatives. In April 2010, 4,868 journals were listed in the census of the directory of Open Access Journals. See: www.doaj.org

19) OAJ seem to work, because scholars traditionally do not earn money from their journal articles, which they write for prestige, research or career interests. OAJ better answer to problems created by the exponential growth of published knowledge, lowering costs of production, archive, retrieval and dissemination, while expanding readerships, and thus the visibility and utility of the works published. The increasing influence of the A2K arguments is also reflected in an increasing number of policies adopted by public, non-profit – and sometimes private – funding bodies, which require that research funded by their grants are made freely accessible.

20) See the 2004 OECD Declaration on Access to Research Data From Public Funding at:www.oecd.org/document/0,2340,en_2649_34487_25998799_1_1_1_1,00.html

21) The tragedy of the anti-commons is a neologism coined by Michael Heller to describe a coordination breakdown due to the existence of numerous rights holders who fail to coordinate to achieve a desirable end. It applies to projects which involve the use of many patented techniques and components and which fail to negotiate effectively with all the patent holders at once. “The Tragedy of the Anticommons”, Harvard Law Review.

22) A similar connection is richly deployed also by Boltanski and Chiapelo in their important book; see Boltanski and Chiapelo, The New Spirit of Capitalism, Verso 2005.

23) In some ways, Castells also argues in this direction, when he distinguishes between mode of production (capitalist) and mode of development (informationalism), though he considers too much of this overlapping as having been solved. See Manuel Castells, The Rise of the Network Society, Blackwell Publishing Ltd, Oxford, 2000.

24) See Bruce Perens, The Emerging Economic Paradigm of Open Source, 2005, at:perens.com/Articles/Economic.html

25) Of course, it can be argued that the frontier between living and dead labour, to use Marx’s notion, shifts continuously; that nothing is completely new about this situation; that the expropriation of skills and knowledge and its incorporation in machines and planned division of labour continuously progresses. For a good line of arguments about this, see: Ursula Huws, “Material World: The Myth of Weightless Economy”. I think this argument is valid. Nevertheless, in contemporary capitalism the structural instability and dynamism of all the references – technological, cultural, geographical –, the continuous shift of opportunities, the strategic role of innovation and its structural integration in the process of production, give to these qualities of the workers an undoubted new and structural importance.

26) Yann Moulier Boutang, Cognitive Capitalism and Entrepreneurship. Decline in Industrial Entrepreneurship and the Rising of Collective Intelligence, 2007, availabe at: http://www.economyandsociety.org/events/YMoulier_Boutang.pdf

27) There is a lot of complaining among the managers of companies, especially when they heavily depend on knowledge and creativity, who believe they are “tapping into the 25 or 30 percent of what their employees have within them”. And it is sufficient to look at the shelves of a bookshop dedicated to management to get a sense of the importance that is given to the problem of mobilising the motivations of the “team”. As has been said, the issue at stake here is to win the “worker’s soul”. For an interesting analysis of these processes of production, see: Maurizio Lazzarato, Immaterial Work, available at:www.generation-online.org/c/fcimmateriallabour3.htm.

28) As Weber poses it: if they “have found a way to tap a greater percentage of human creative motivation (if only a 10 percent extra), then the question of how to generalize and expand the scope of that experiment becomes a very interesting one to a much wider group of people”. Steve Weber, The Success of Open Source, Harvard University Press, 2004.

29) This is one of the conclusions of the excellent book by Steve Weber, The Success of Open Source, Harvard University Press, 2004.

30) Matteo Pasquinelli, The Ideology of Free Culture and the Grammar of Sabotage, available at: http://www.generation-online.org/c/fc_rent4.pdf. Pasquinelli is an acute critic of what he calls the “Ideology of Free Culture”. There are four aspects of his critique which are important: the usually missing conceptualisation of capitalism; the connected removal of the problem of labour exploitation; the obliteration of the fundamental and persistent role of material production and of its asymmetrical relation of power with the immaterial sphere; the emergence of new forms of accumulation in the immaterial sphere different from the ones founded on the IPRs.

31) Putting aside the complex issue of how finance relates to these processes, the same Open Source model, when adopted by commercial companies, represents a case of this kind. The model of Google and of the commercial social media is probably one of the most interesting examples. An interesting discussion of these models is by: Tiziana Terranova, who frames the concept of “free work” (which means both self-chosen and not paid), to capture the way the commercial social networks produce value, exploiting a wide range of spontaneous behaviour of their users. But traces of this can be identified also in other sectors, like media, fashion, marketing, advertising and even in consumption behaviours. See: Tiziana Terranova, Cultura Network, Manifestolibri, 2006,

32) Much critique, since the 70s, has been accumulated toward the irrationalities of the GDP-system, of which the problems considered here represent only one of the sources. That the problem has reached a critical dimension is demonstrated by the recent promotion of official initiatives by governments, like the British and the French.

Source: http://transform-network.net/journal/issue-062010/news/detail/Journal/knowledge-is-a-common-good.html

 

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4 Responses to The Effects of the Open Source Movement on the Development of Politics and Society | Transform!

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  2. Poor Richard says:

    I. An important distinction between Free Software and Free Culture:

    “Free Software’s fundamental document is Richard Stallman’s Free Software Definitions (FSD) [3]. At its core, the FSD lists four freedoms:

    1. The freedom to run the program, for any purpose;

    2. The freedom to study how the program works, and adapt it to your needs;

    3. The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor;

    4. The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements to the public, so that the whole community benefits;

    “When a piece of software’s license provides these freedoms, the software is considered free software. When a piece of software’s license does not, it is not free. A requirement for attribution does not violate the four freedoms; hence, a license requiring attribution can be free. A non-commercial use clause restricts the first freedom; as a result, licenses barring commercial use are considered non-free — for better or for worse. After these fundamental freedoms are satisfied, FOSS is license agnostic.” ( http://mako.cc/writing/toward_a_standard_of_freedom.html )

    A binary, black & white test of freedom seems retarded to me. Some humans can process higher logic, such as “degrees of freedom”.

    The main conflict between definitions of free software and free culture is the non-commercial clause, which if anything (IMHO) helps free software or free culture to stay as free as possible. Commercializing “free” software (get your free software here for 99 cents per minute) seems like an oxymoron to me.

    Is it just me?

    On the other hand, preserving attribution could make apportioning financial gains downstream (if any develop somewhere along the line) a fairly simple matter, especially if the honor system is the default mechanism.

    Since “free” software now underpins many a giant corporation, I have to wonder just who is defending this “freedom to commercialize” and why.

    I find myself in more sympathy with the non-commercialization and conditional (fair) commercialization heresies of the free culture upstarts than with the brand of “freedom” the FSD purity posse is pushing. Where have I seen that kind of rhetoric (“A non-commercial use clause restricts the first freedom”) before?

    Oh yeah — from right wing crooks and liars like the Koch brothers.

    II. The Second Enclosures Movement

    The exclusivity of property is a special case even under capitalistic private property regimes. All ownership is in fact conditional–the “bundle of rights” is always divided at least between a private owner and the state, and in more cases than not it is also divided among multiple private parties. Thus there is nothing novel in the second enclosures movement other than what might be called the “customary defaults” in the distribution of rights among various stakeholders. It is important to note that enclosure can operate in the public interest and for the good of the commons as well as against. The devil is in the details.

    See “Disenclosure of the commons”

    http://almanac2010.wordpress.com/2010/10/11/disenclosure-of-the-commons/

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