GREED BREAKS THE SACK
IN FAVOUR OF A FREE CULTURE OF CITIZENS WHO SHARE:
10 solutions/facts plus one.
A citizen response to the recent attacks on freedoms in the name of an incoherent concept that carries the name “intellectual property”.
Over the last few months we’ve witnessed several attacks on freedoms in the name of an incoherent concept that carries the name “intellectual property”.
. We also recently had the chance to read the manifesto “Rights for All on the Internet” (available in Spanish on the website of Spain’s RIAA equivalent, the SGAE ), which is being perpetrated by the self-baptised “Coalición de Creadores e Industria de Contenidos”, or “Coalition of Artists and the Content Industry” (an umbrella group bringing together five of the country’s main royalty management associations and cultural industry corporations – SGAE (artists), Egeda (audiovisual production), Promusicae (music producers), Adivan-Adican (video distributors and importers) and FAP (intellectual property) –, which are, in turn, the Spanish lobby of the major US film producers and distributors: Disney, Universal, Paramount, Sony Pictures, Fox and Warner), and their declarations on the supposed damage that filesharing or P2P networks are doing to culture.
This response has been written by housewives, businesspeople, internet users, lawyers, judges, “distinguished” intellectuals, programmers, unemployed people, professionals, scientists, artists, artisans, workers, grandparents, teenagers, citizens in general – we are part of the millions of people who use these networks in Spain. We would like to take the opportunity to clear up some of the things this “Coalition”, in extremely bad faith, are trying to distort through their declarations.
“The Coalition” and their like want to play a game in which the dice are loaded. Their stance is simply the bluff of an industry that wants to change the rules at the last moment in order to win the game.
The main problem is that there’s more than economic dividends at stake. We’re also playing for the very idea of what culture is and for the right to access to information (which has taken us a couple of centuries to gain).
WHEN I SAID CULTURE…
We say the dice are loaded because this “Coalition”, and the cultural industry in general, uses the words “culture” and “creative production” according to their own interests, in an attempt to redefine these concepts for their benefit and their own, strictly financial interests.
When they say “culture”, they mean “entertainment industry”. When they say “cultural production” they are talking about the “commercial exploitation of some of their member’s royalty rights”. Basically, they’re talking about business dealings. When they talk about “pirates”, “plunder” and “pillage”, they are referring to each one of us.
Only the intentional impoverishment of these concepts for their own interests could be behind these declarations.
Apologies for the depressing comparison, but to change intellectual property legislation in accordance with these distortions would be like changing the coastal protection legislation for the benefit of a group of real estate developers. Culture and beaches belong to everybody, and the crisis in the cultural and real estate industries shouldn’t make us loose site of our shared heritage.
EVEN SO, IT MOVES…
A social phenomenon that is so widespread (13 million households and 70% of all Internet users, that is, an absolute majority of the Spanish population) can’t be written off in such a simplistic way, specially not by trying to make society aware of its “bad practice” through fear, defamation threats and, as their latest campaign attempts to do, by changing legislation to get the Courts that suit them.
In Spanish history, we have a flagrant example of a private institution that managed to impose its point of view on society. It was called the Inquisition, and it managed to impose its own interests for centuries through book burning, by banning science and condemning thousands of people to death.
It also managed to hold Western cultural and technological progress back for a couple of centuries.
Although at least during that period there was no arguing about the definition of “culture” (culture=religion).
But enough of comparisons with other centuries. Let’s return to the present – the information society.
THE INFORMATION SOCIETY
As we will see later, there is no way the information society can coexist with the reforms proposed by “the Coalition” and the cultural industry in general. In fact, the information society would disappear only to be replaced by an “entertainment industry society”.
More than at any other moment in history, the digital age allows everybody access to the free circulation of knowledge and multiplies opportunities for learning and creativity, for the benefit of all humanity.
Times have changed – all citizens have to be able to benefit from all the advantages offered by the Network of Networks through the horizontal exchange of information and culture. We have to adapt our means of cultural production to this new form of democracy, and not the other way around. Copying and its benefits are behind all of this.
CULTURE: IMITATION AND COPY
Why is copying demonised when it is the basis of all learning?
We don’t live in isolation, we live in a network. We are constantly communicating, from the moment we’re born and are socialised we continuously absorb knowledge by imitating, copying and sampling. There’s no other way to do it. Knowledge comes about through imitation and copying.
That’s how our cultural imaginary is formed, and then it becomes our source of inspiration and allows the creation of new ideas, works of art, theories, etc. Any kind of cultural creativity or new knowledge is based on this received tradition, which means that no new creation is completely original or even possible without the existence of this collective heritage.
This is extremely familiar ground for the big multinational companies in the cultural world, which have always reaped profits from folktales and traditional music and thus plundering our common heritage and the creativity of those who create through the simple act of communicating and storytelling.
In the digital, communication age, “digital” is our shared memories and the networks that connect them.
“Digital” material is what the contemporary memory is made from.
If anything deserves to be called plundering it is the desire to greedily make money from our natural way of learning – copying – at the very moment that it is flourishing.
This technological transformation is often compared to the invention of the printing press, which revolutionised the diffusion of culture through its capacity to produce copies in a way that was much faster than ever before, and more faithful to the original than the most highly-valued copyist of the time. Books that had been kept in monasteries an available to a privileged few were brought within reach of the public, in spite of the powerful opposition of a minority, motivated by personal interests. It’s true that copyists lost their jobs and had to go into a new line of work, but who would be able to ban the printing press today?
Something similar is happening in the digital age. The new technology even benefits the entertainment industry, that small section of cultural production that is fighting for its own private interests to the detriment of the rest. Today, they are the minority who oppose the new printing press, unfairly holding back the increasing free circulation of knowledge.
PIRACY DOESN’T EXIST, PARENTS ARE THE PIRATES
It’s simplistic and biased to try and divide the Spanish population into those who copy and those who buy, because we all do both things at once.
It’s like saying that those who cook without buying recipe books are gastronomic pirates.
How many times do we have to say it? The fact that I use the Internet to compile music and that this turns me into a music lover feeds my desire to go to concerts and buy my favourites on CD. Only the record industry’s insatiable delirium could possibly think that people have to buy the thousands of records available now, when they decide to consume.
It’s not true that if we share we will stop appreciating artists and originals.
Have people stopped buying El Quixote just because it’s in the public domain? Do people no longer by it because parents can pass their children copies that had belonged to their grandparents?
Will people stop going to the cinema to see a new Almodóvar movie and be moved (those who are moved by new Almodóvar movies)? Will Almodóvar no longer be a millionaire? Highly unlikely. Will he be a bit less of a millionaire? Does the entire country really have to care about the fluctuations of Almodóvar’s millions?
Culture is bound to keep producing community, emotions and wealth, as well as investments, as it always has and always will. It will keep copying itself to produce new originals, and maintain its power to attract people wherever it pops up.
In the digital age, more and more people will dedicate themselves to culture based on what they learn directly from others through the net.
People won’t stop appreciating those who create. Just the opposite, they become more familiar and closer to us. We all become creators.
We are losing appreciation, but not for the artists – for the middlemen.
SO LET’S TALK ABOUT THE MIDDLEMEN: THE (RE)STRUCTURE
Until recently, the culture industry was the main intermediary between artists and audiences. This intermediary is now the Internet.
This is the period of highest levels of production and consumption of audiovisual media in history.
I can carry an mp3 player with thousands of songs in my pocket. On MySpace I listen to new songs by music groups from far-flung corners of the world.
Does this mean I’m being detrimental to the diffusion of culture?
The business opportunities that emerge from the greatest levels of audiovisual consumption in history are immense. But the game rules involve active users that access information directly, without turning to the slow, expensive system of middlemen.
In a world of consumer-producers in which everybody can easily access culture and its means of transmission and production, the culture industry as we know it has entered a dead end street. It has to restructure itself.
It is up to the companies themselves to restructure the industry in an innovative way, by investing in the new possibilities rather than trying to hold them back, without hindering fair competition and the creation of new jobs in the way it is doing now.
Citizens shouldn’t bear the costs of this restructure through indiscriminate and legally dubious levies. And the industry shouldn’t paralyse the progress of society in general, destroying its creative ecosystem just when it is flourishing like never before, making citizens pay once again.
THE LAMENT OF THE WEEPERS: RECORD SALES ARE FALLING
They could well be.
But there is no decline in the opportunity to undertake new investments and make money (which is what ultimately concerns them).
A local example: Rodolfo Chiquilicuatre (Spain’s abominable Eurovision representative) has earned millions of euros without selling a single record, mostly through the sale of ringtones and the thousands of hits on his videos and copies and off-shoots on sites like YouTube. Could a phenomenon like this have existed without the Internet and mobile technology? Does anybody have the nerve to say he hasn’t generated money? Haven’t consumers been the main distributors of this product?
The restructured culture industry will keep making money, that much is clear.
Record sales are falling? Yes. Audio tape sales fell too.
It’s absurd for the culture industry to want to remain the same, as though the Internet had never been invented.
It’s not in crisis, that’s a lie. SGAE (the Spanish RIAA equivalent) makes record-breaking profits year after year. While the professional weepers mourn the losses that we Internet users are causing through something that no Spanish law has classified as a crime, the rights management associations are living through a golden age.
If street vendors start offering CDs by an unknown group along with Madonna CDs, it will mean that the profits of culture are finally being distributed more fairly: Madonna will keep selling millions of records and travelling on her – perhaps slightly smaller – private jet, and the unknown group, who deserves to have its talent recognised without passing through any company’s profitability filters, will have the chance to grow and become known, to gave audiences at their concerts, generating culture, knowledge and economy.
LOST PROFIT IS COUNTING YOUR CHICKENS BEFORE THEY HATCH
Digital information is the memory of our time. If I buy a record or a book, or watch a consumer product on TV, I have every right in the world to make a private copy for non-profit purposes and share it.
It would be absurd and impossible if someone asked me to wipe my memory of the film I’ve just seen. It would be even more absurd if I had to pay every time I talked about it. Attacking digital copying is like banning people from talking to other people about their memories, not allowing people to repeat what they’ve heard, stopping people from lending books to friends or humming a song. Basically, it means banning communication in the communication age. Strange, right?
One of the cornerstones of the lament of the industry weepers is the idea of “lost profits”. The theory goes like this: if I download a song, I’m not buying it, therefore that revenue is never produced and this is known as lost profits.
Let’s do the maths:
Say I’ve bought (yes, bought) an mp3 player with a capacity to store 40,000 songs. If I had to fill it by acquiring the music through an online sales platform like iTunes, which charges an average of 1 euro per song, it would cost me 40,000 euros. But being a responsible consumer, I should really buy the entire records by my favourite artists from a local music store like VIRGIN (note: this is joke, but local music stores died out 20 years ago). A new release costs approximately 22 euros, which would imply an outlay of 88,000 euros, or around 15 million pesetas in the old currency.
How horrifying to realise that the most valuable thing we own are the contents of our mp3. We stop sleeping, frightened, thinking of the hordes of thieves who could steal our prized treasure. But this is all a lie, or rather, a fantasy: the fantasy of the farmer who counts his chickens before they hatch and imagines how much money he will make from them. The calculations of the culture industry and royalty management associations are absurd, simplistic and malicious. If they were realistic, we would have fortunes in our pockets. We would be millionaires on one thousand euro salaries who store everything and nothing on a few data bits.
One of the basic laws of the economy (especially for non-essential goods and services) is that products cost whatever users are prepared to pay. The industry’s greedy desire to extract profit from everything that moves doesn’t realise that if their idea of taxing all exchanges were implemented, it would die of thirst, a victim of its own desires.
In the times we are living in, our wealth lies in information and culture. We have previously unimaginable levels of freedom of expression. Thanks to P2P, we can be millionaires in terms of the millions of people we can share our thoughts with or sing a song to. With millions of others, we can listen to Amy Winehouse’s latest record and then write something completely different. This is the social wealth we want to talk about – about the kind of society it builds, the kind of creative people it shapes and the benefits it generates.
SELLING THE CAR TO BUY PETROL
Here is an example:
Viacom takes legal action against YouTube because Viacom isn’t happy about excerpts of its programs being posted on the Internet (even though it’s recognised as “the right to quote”). What is it so unhappy about?
Maybe it doesn’t like the fact that a program it has already broadcast is reproduced as memory – YouTube is a “digital memory”, a collective archive of users – thus bringing more advertisers and audiences to Viacom? Or perhaps it’s complaining about the money it’s not making when people re-watch the excerpt without generating the profit that would never be generated if it wasn’t possible to re-watch it for free? Internet users are their own best publicists. They do it well, and for free. If Viacom had to carry out the same operation, it would probably end up being less “profitable”.
This is what the obsession with lost profits means: selling the car to buy petrol.
NEVER AGAIN WITHOUT P2P
Although they try to give a different impression, the Internet is full of artists. Only a tiny percentage of them have any connection to the culture industry.
If P2P networks are criminalised, we all lose: we lose freedom, we lose privacy (it’s not science fiction: a court ruling has recently ordered YouTube to
reveal the identities of millions of its users in order to protect the
“lost” profits of the multinational Viacom), we lose wealth and freedom of expression. Everybody knows this. Why do we have to keep repeating it? What interests are being defended?
Those who want to apply the Sarkozy model that criminalises filesharing on the net (P2P) totally overlook the thousands of artists who allow their work to be copied by using free licences. They also ignore the privacy of all Internet users and the democratic benefits of breaking the control of information. The biggest communication tool ever created by human beings, the library of Babel that humanity has long dreamed of, could end up becoming the largest form of social control ever created.
Restricting P2P networks doesn’t defend a few poor millionaire artists and the helpless entertainment industry. It limits, fragments and holds back the tool that has changed the way we understand the world.
Do we really want to follow in the footsteps of Pakistan, China, France and Sudan?
Do we want to live in a country in which governments are afraid of their citizens?
Will we allow Mickey Mouse to condition the future of knowledge and culture?
Therefore, we hereby DEMAND:
10 necessary and urgent measures to protect and boost the knowledge society for the good of everybody (every single person, really ;))
When it comes to drawing up legislative policies, States should keep in mind that royalties first emerged as an incentive to creation and as such they are a medium, not, as the entertainment industry would like them to be, the goal (Celia Blanco contribución ).
1. That any restrictions placed on filesharing (P2P) networks or other protocols be considered to be an act of obscurantism and an attack on the fundamental democratic rights guaranteed by our constitution and by innumerous international treaties. Our rights to knowledge, to learning, to access to culture and to freedom of experssion would be seriously undermined if the tools currently available to society were to be restricted.
2. That authors shall be able to manage royalties arising from their own work. Considering that royalty management bodies are private entities and, just like consultancy or cleaning services, they should be able to be used or not, according to the way we decide to live our lives, we ask that royalty management associations become what they really are:
private entities that ONLY AND EXCLUSIVELY manage the “accounts” of their members, that is, the exploitation rights of a certain percentage of artists. That free competition be permitted as with all private entities, and that under no circumstances should royalty management bodies be allowed to delve into the privacy and the pockets of citizens and even less to use public assets and land for their own private benefit. That authors and editors should not be represented by the same entity, as in the days of vertical unions, that all members have the right to vote. And, above all, that royalty management entities should only manage registered works, thus allowing the use of free licences. That in no case should private entities manage non-individualisable moneys, (such as the digital levy in Spain, if it continued to exist), given that it violates its own statues.
3. That author/creators be paid equitably (15% of the budget for the activity they are involved in), whether or not they are members of a royalty management body. That, if they so wish, artists be paid mainly for their creations and not for the exploitation they generate. This will prevent the use of royalties for the precarization of the waged labour in the creative sector, that is, prevent the non-payment of fair wages in exchange for hypothetical earnings through royalties.
4. The immediate abolition of all “digital levys” that indiscriminately sanction everybody in the name of “compensation for artists” and attempt to penalize activities that are in no way criminal. Abolition of the concept of compensation for private copies, with full acceptance of the right to private copy as an intrinsic part of human memory since the invention of the Internet.
5. That artworks become part of the Public Domain within periods that are of benefit to creativity and society. To allow more than one generation to live from somebody’s work is a way of encouraging parasitism and creative stagnancy, and of deactivating reinvestment, In particular, considering that a measure designed to favour individuals ends up actually benefiting multinationals that distort original creations. We ask that works become part of the public domain within a reasonable period of time, according to the kind of work, with a maximum of 30 years. That all creative work that uses material obtained from the public domain is to have a “sharealike type” copyleft licence that makes it impossible to privatise the use of its results, which will revert to the commons. Likewise, all works created with public moneys, in as much as the commons is considered to be their “producer”, will be obliged to use this same type of licence. Obviously, the economic exploitation of the works in both of these cases would still be permitted.
6. That there be no requirement to seek an author’s permission for the reproduction, transformation or diffusion of artistic, scientific or technical works that have already been presented publicly, when the purpose is educational, teaching or scientific research in the public sphere, as long as the author’s name is included and all moral rights respected. That this use be subject to “share-alike” formulas in order to avoid undue appropriation. The defence of the right to private copy and fair use of works should be firm and absolute, given that copying is the very base of learning and culture. Author/creators are indebted to shared culture and for this reason their contributions to Culture do not have to be subject to any form of compensation beyond their own commercial use of their work (sales, fees and royalties related to said sales or performances…).
7. Likewise, when the copyright for any kind of work is held by government institutions, such work should immediately become part of the public domain for any purpose whatsoever.
8. That the “right to quote” be defended in all cases as a vehicle for the democratic development of the information society, in all cases in which the material quoted has already been made public in advance, whether it is quoted for educational or scientific reasons, or for purely informational or creative purposes.
9. That the concept of “missed losses” should be eliminated from anything relating to cultural production, as should the mandatory nature of payment for public communication and payment for private copy.
10. Considering that the secrecy of communication is guaranteed by State Constitutions and International Human Rights Treaties, that the data traffic received or generated on the Internet should not be able to be manipulated, hindered, distorted, deflected, prioritised or delayed in accordance with the kind of content, protocol or application used, the source or destination of the communication or any other circumstances unrelated to its purpose (“Net Neutrality”) that is not based on public interest issues and without a court order. In all cases, any other limitation or restriction entails a curtailment of the right to freedom of expression (the right to send and receive information without any limitations other than those established by law). This is one of the foundations of democratic societies, recognised by all international bodies. We ask that this traffic be seen as the private communication that it is, and us such, that a court order be required if it is to be monitored, traced, archived or have its content studied in any way. It is up to judges, in accordance with the applicable legislation and by due process of law, to determine the cases in which there has been an offense and to establish the appropriate penalty in accordance with the Principle of Proportionality. These provisions are already in place in the Criminal Code.
And one more thing:
Because free and collaborative culture is the Culture of our time, because it’s a fact, because there’s no turning back….
The awards that will sweep the Grammys, the Goyas, the Max…
The 1st non-competitive awards in the history of Culture…
The 1st international Culture awards in the digital society…
eXcellence is sharing
Tuesday October 28, 2008, Sala Apolo – Barcelona
Multiply and spread.