Response to “Free Culture” reading


Occhi di gatta

Since my personal computer is down, I have to put this blog up in rough form until I can refine it later.  Just need to get it in unrevised for now.


“The forces for FM, largely engineering, could not overcome the

weight of strategy devised by the sales, patent, and legal offices

tosubdue this threat to corporate position.For FM,if allowed to

develop unrestrained, posed…a complete reordering of radio

power…and the eventual overthrow of the carefully restricted

AM system on which RCA had grown to power.


The above is typical behavior of conglomerates (i.e oil companies and car manufacturers) when there is technology that can actually benefit the public; like electric cars, but is threatening to existing big businesses.

Regarding the power to stifle technological change, if corporations can do it to protect their business, then the public can and should do it to protect theirs.  The public just has to be aware of the issues and to be organized. 

“These values built a tradition that, for at least the first 180 years of

our Republic, guaranteed creators the right to build freely upon their

past,and protected creators and innovators from either state or private

control.The First Amendment protected creators against state control.

And as Professor Neil Netanel powerfully argues,11copyright law,prop-

erly balanced, protected creators against private control.”

I think the above is vital to the cultural and intellectual evolution of any society.

“I don’t believe in gods, digital or

otherwise. Nor is it an effort to demonize any individual or group, for

neither do I believe in a devil, corporate or otherwise. It is not a moral-

ity tale. Nor is it a call to jihad against an industry.

This can be used as an excuse not to evaluate the pervasive nature of capitalist corporations; their far reaching impact on the civil liberties of a democratic populace.  This is a restraint on macro or meta-analysis.  It is limiting the ability to “understand the source of this war”, hence the “capacity to resolve it soon”.

Governments’ support of capitalist ventures trumps it’s support of the public good and aspirations.

‘There has never been a time in our history when more of our “culture” was as “owned” as it is now.’  The idea of cultural proprietors is problematic.

I think the laws in this country on “property rights” favor corporations over the public interest.  With the airline example it was not the public, but the burgeoning airline industry that was protected.

Corporations hide behind claims of being a “person” whose rights are can be violated.  Corporations are not persons with human sensibilities.  Board members are not respecters of public interest, but rather to the shareholders interest. 

We allow it because we are afraid to challenge the premise that “free markets” should be free to earn profits at the expense of the public good.  We are also cowed into complacency because individually, separately, we don’t have the financial means to legally challenge big corporations.  We cannot sustain long litigation like corporations can.

The idea that knowledge itself is a commodity that can be copyrighted smacks of a curtailment of civil liberties; the right to know, learn, and pursue a fulfilled life from knowing and learning.  Copyrights taken to extremes will trample upon our civil liberties.  Perhaps the onus should be on the “creator” of content to protect the material.  If there are leaks, then so be it, it becomes public knowledge.  This obsession of hording knowledge to make a profit is obscene.  In my philosophy of life, no one owns knowledge.  We are all just discoverers of knowledge by grace.  We are lucky to become students of those who are revealers of that which was revealed to them.  No one owns land, we are custodians, as Native Americans would put it, and we till the land so that all can prosper equally.  How then do I reconcile this view with “property rights” and with our right to know and grow from that knowing? I will concede that a creator has the right to preserve his/her creation as is and prevent another from profiting from the original creative artifact, piracy.  I don’t think that right extends to include modifications of the original.  We should be able to apply any existing knowledge in modified form to any purpose that does not harm the public. 

Perhaps the Japanese production of doujinshi copies, or “derivative works” celebrates this distinction.

 Everyone would be worse off if doujinshi were banned, so the law does not ban doujinshi. 

The question of what is “intellectual property” and what is public domain is set arbitrarily and changes with the times.  This says that usually the one with the most power wins.  It is not something set by government according to and ethical standard.  So what should that ethical standard be? 

I side with democratizing positions, that will, taken to their fullness of development, limit the unrestrained tendencies of corporate greed, avarice, insensitivity, self-centeredness, and inhumanity.  These vices make corporations sound human, but they are not.  The effects they have on real people make it feel like someone is doing us wrong.  It is we ourselves, who are complicit, acquiescent, cowed in this arrangement, that are doing it to ourselves.  We have to decide to push the democracy that we profess to believe in to work for the collective good.  Corporations by nature are non-democratic.  They are autocratic, and will seek their own aggrandizement at the expense of others so long as we allow them to go unchecked.  If we lose our democratic principles and cultural expressions at the behest of corporations, it’s because we allowed it, and shame on us.

I have not forgotten that the technological gains of this country were  based on the ill gotten gains of taking land from Native Americans, and on free labor of Africans.  These two things built the American economy from the ground up, and allowed for venture capitalism.  The initial capital for investment was capital by dispossession.  This first piracy, the taking of the original,  has never been compensated for, so it is hard for me to empathize with claims of intellectual piracy juxtaposed to the material and intellectual impoverishment of traditionally oppressed groups.  Also, Africa has been raped of its property by colonial powers.  I cannot envision the rational for African countries to respect international intellectual property rights when these African countries have been and continue to be exploited for their resources. 

I could get over this mental block once these injured parties have been compensated for these loses.  Until then, Robin Hood lives!  Steal knowledge and capacity to produce anti-viral drugs from drug companies and give them to Africans who are dying from AIDS!  Of course the establishment has always wanted to stifle or altogether eliminate all would be Robin Hoods and their sympathizers.

I guess if one is not satisfied with the social effects of corporations ruling public space, dictating what is the public good, and determining the laws that govern society, then that person will have a tough grappling match with concepts of “intellectual property rights”.

Electronic p2p sharing, where it is difficult to say that someone is profiting monetarily from this sharing of content regardless of the content, should not be a prosecutable offense. 

If we could gain infinite energy by harnessing the sun’s energy; if we could easily terraform planets, thus alleviating pressures from the scarcity of land and mineral resources; would we then have such egocentric notions of property rights?  Should the fact that we can’t do these things yet dictate that we should value egocentric notions of property rights?  I agree with the thinking that we should consider more what is to be gained by all in society through the free sharing of culture and knowledge, over and above the egocentric model of trying profit from the sale of culture and knowledge.  Of course this is a brave new would I’m talking about.

If people could no longer control the profit from creating content, would people stop creating content?  Would content producers become obsolete, or so lack incentive that their creative sense would undergo atrophy and extinction?  I think not.  I think the people complaining are more those who profit by the creative work of others, than those who themselves do the creating.  Creative people live more for the joy of creating and refining their ideas, than for the profit motive.

“Should tools that enable others to capture and spread images as a way to cultivate or criticize our culture be better regulated? “ My answer: Nah.

In our tradition, as the Supreme Court has stated, copyright “has never accorded the copyright owner complete control over all possible uses of his work.”  I think that’s a movement in the right direction. 

“Instead, the particular uses that the law regulates have been defined by balancing the good that comes from granting an exclusive right against the burdens such an exclusive right creates.”

Seeking the balance, a never-ending prospect.  I applaud the effort.

“Instead, as Thomas Jefferson said (and as is especially true when I copy the way someone else dresses),“He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me.”

I totally agree.  The profit motive obscures much of what is communal, collective, integrating, democratic, and beneficial to society progress as a holistic body evolving to its highest and noblest levels.  We must change our consciousness and must put checks and balances on corporate greed that retards our societies.




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