World is flat

I met a nice man from Luxembourg once. A the Free Culture Research Conference. He worked at the Luxembourg National Library. He lives in legal limbo.

The Luxembourg National Library sees as its mission to preserve and archive old newspapers. They already have a large collection of old newspapers online, dating back to the mid-1800’s. You can search for them, read them (they have this superdreary, really old font and the text is luxembourgian so I can mostly appreciate the aesthetics – of having the train times printed at the top right corner!). Train for Brussels departs at 13:10 on Saturday afternoon. Now. They papers are no longer copyrighted. Other papers are. De Spiegel or Le Monde from the 1950’s for instance. They’re digitizing them as well though, hoping that no one will file a lawsuit (class action? when manymany file at the same time?), and if someone does they’re more or less fucked. So they hope no one cares – he says.

They would need extended collective licenses in two countries: France, and Germany. And Luxembourg and Belgium wouldn’t wrong either, so that’s four. It’s a bit inconvenient for them to manage, so this man was saying it would be easier for them if their activities were legalised by a harmonised European legislation. This is, of course, not possible, because the Union doesn’t really have competence in that specific area. They can only stress competition and collaboration (under surveillance). And this is not possible anyway, because there are no extended collective licenses in France, Germany, Luxembourg or Belgium.

Some time after La Quadrature’s endorsement of Philippe Aigrain’s model of collective cultural sponsorship I thought, people who live in countries where the going has gone really tough, like France, must be more likely to look for a politically feasible quick fix. Philippe Aigrain’s book is not really along those lines, though.

Who will be compensated for what and how are the wrong questions to ask, I think. No kind of fee, tax, flat or not, can be considered compensation. It’s rather about what you want to achieve. You start by setting up a goal, then you work your way there.

There is Flattr, which is rightly considered a very convenient granular financing system for blogs or written material at large. It had the goal of creating a micro-donation system, and the system is widely adapted for almost every blog I know, or care to read, in Sweden.

But more problem formulation:

We know that there is much money in culture. The money is distributed very unevenly. This seems suboptimal if we want a big variety of culture(s) to grow and prosper.

We also know, presumably, that copyright is dead. By analogy, so must related rights be. It seems stupid to perpetuate an uneven distribution of money based on (actually by definition human) rights that don’t exist. So if there is much money in culture it needs to be distributed in a way that is not rights-based. An example of which is… Flattr.

I would boldly state that there is much culture that is not being sponsored by Flattr or its members. Perhaps culture that wont be sponsored by anything Flattresque even. If we’ve been going for a very simple compensation-issue in the past, we’ll be heading for a much more complicated sponsorship or promotion issue in the future. Compensation and remuneration is like… A one-way deal. Sponsorship and promotion can take all sorts of forms. I imagine.

The problems of justice and the solution to all our problems (hark and hear the angels!) are not really my primary, present concern. I know that I’m weak-hearted and soppy and all of that, but licensing issues for archivers are actually a problem. Other statements supporting that claim were, for instance, made at the e-Commons conference in Amsterdam last year. It’s a bit heartless to expect them to collect licenses from each and every individual who’s ever made anything that might be worth saving in an archive or a library. It’s slightly less horrible to create a system wherein which they have to keep track of who’s a member of which organisation and what kind of deal they have with that organisation. The least cruel option is probably making sure there is only the one license that is paid somewhere and then someone else can sort the problem. Librarians and archivers are in the business of librarianing and archiving. It’s good if they can do that, instead of worrying about lawsuits or creating massive databases of potential copyright holders.

I’m not heartless enough to wait for them to go down while we’re waiting for the regulatory revolution in copyright legislation to come. It’s like. It’s here. It causes huge problems. Deal with it.

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  1. mars 11, 2011 kl. 07:54

    ”We also know, presumably, that copyright is dead.”

    :-)

  2. Amelia Andersdotter
    mars 11, 2011 kl. 08:10

    Aaa. Men har jag fel då? :D

  3. mars 11, 2011 kl. 09:58

    What if… we simply found a way to clearly expose WHY some humanity stubbornly tries to dig a tunnel in a dead end of the maze that is destiny?

    Only those digging the tunnel insist on copyright and related mechanisms because they need to collect resources to dig vigorously. Those that could live simply by being ethically awarded recognition for their contribution to the prosperity of mankind could do by simply being flattred on voluntary grounds by like-minded people. Whoever gets more recognition than he needs can simply flattr it away to other meritful people.

    Presumably… your being kinda kind to copyright ;). The problem with copyright, and other kinds of wrongs… is that they are part of the revenue stream that funds the competitive effort of those that insist on the fact that digging those tunnels in a dead end of the maze of destiny is a matter of live and death to mankind. They would starve mankind to feed the effort they ”mathematically” think most promising to save mankind. And as saving mankind is the most honourable effort ever, no sacrifice is too big. There is even competition among various teams with slightly different algorithms for optimal digging ;) … and only one of them can get the Nobel Prize for Saving Humanity, so the competition is merciless.

    Wouldn’t it be time that those among us that are being starved and not dig-crazy simply turn around and explore some other arm of the maze of destiny?

    Coz when freedom is outlawed (everybody is enslaved to help digging)… only the outlaw can be truly free (but beware… there is a job to be done, and one truly ethical can be free but when he is the last one to be freed).

  4. Stefan
    mars 11, 2011 kl. 15:06

    ”… copyright is dead.”

    Obviously.

    There is one fundamental problem of flattr, and all other systems that are based on some kind of popularity measure, it will fail to allocate resources to new innovative or exploratory projects that by their nature attracts a small number of followers. That is those projects that have the highest probability to inspire big leaps in the way we look at the world, and of course also have the highest probability to fail miserably…
    Popularity based allocation systems is by their nature conservative favoring small incremental changes and will have a strong herdlike component where many like the same thing for a while and then change to something else that is the current fad, because that is the way humans behave.

  5. mars 11, 2011 kl. 18:04

    Stefan :
    ”… copyright is dead.”
    Obviously.
    There is one fundamental problem of flattr, and all other systems that are based on some kind of popularity measure, […].

    I’m afraid this is not an inherent problem of flattr, or ”democratic” elections, or any other manmade distribution system… no matter how technically perfect we design those systems, if some psychologic urge drives us towards twisting any instrument we can in order to obtain advantages in Darwins survival of the fittest race… what can be perverted will be perverted, factly, apparently, stealthily,… or brazenly if force is available.

    Better count on it unless you happen to find a cure for Adam biting the apple and its consequences.

  6. Amelia Andersdotter
    mars 12, 2011 kl. 16:54

    Well. Flattr.com is based on a friend/popularity/credibility system. As is Kickstarter.com. But they’re not really based on juridically defined rights, are they?

    I’m not saying that Flattr.com, Kickstarter.com, Amazon.com etc are wrong. I’m saying that we probably need additional systems as well. Why make everything simple and uniform?

    @NingúnOtro: Man-made tunnels are certainly a problem.

  7. Stefan
    mars 13, 2011 kl. 00:28

    @NingúnOtro: That is another aspect that I didn’t think about when I wrote my comment. Another aspect of that problem is that people have a strong incentive to produce content that have the highest reward. With a danger of leading to less diversity and in turn slower development.

    @Amelia: That was my point, but how should systems that distribute resources to important projects that have problems receiving needed resources by other measures look like? How should that selection be done and who should do it? How can we make sure that the selection is done without ulterior motives?

  8. Amelia Andersdotter
    mars 13, 2011 kl. 03:17

    @Stefan: Why would we need to ”make sure” that there are no ulterior motives? We put a system in place that appears to be functioning reasonably well and if ulterior motives appear we change the system. We don’t necessarily need to keep systems for 300 years like we did with copyright before we try to change them. But I believe in change and progression. Not in permanence. Sometimes change is fast, sometimes it is less fast, but the future is definitely there and even more so if we want it and make it.

  9. mars 13, 2011 kl. 12:45

    Amelia Andersdotter :
    @Stefan: Why would we need to ”make sure” that there are no ulterior motives?

    We can not make sure there are no ulterior motives, because we have no way, neither do we want it, to keep anyone from freely having the motives he wishes to select. What we can do, nonetheless, is bring some transparency and understanding into the public at large about statistical correlations which link publicly available little symptoms and small acts to some ranked list of ulterior motives, in such a way as to reward straightforwardness and transparency with trust, and scheming and obfuscation with mistrust… and enable each and everyone to personally apply sound criteria.

    We put a system in place that appears to be functioning reasonably well and if ulterior motives appear we change the system.

    I guess we are having a hard time being pirates and functioning as such because… it functions extremely well ;) . No kidding. Ulterior motives are more than present. What might be harder to agree to is what changes should be introduced and for what reasons… and how to get about it when those that are most likely to oppose them are those in control of key positions.

    We don’t necessarily need to keep systems for 300 years like we did with copyright before we try to change them. But I believe in change and progression. Not in permanence. Sometimes change is fast, sometimes it is less fast, but the future is definitely there and even more so if we want it and make it.

    Nothing changes unless some push for change… and have the necessary vision of the global situation to do NOT LESS than what is needed. We can go on NOT DOING ENOUGH forever, while having fun all the time if possible. It’s easy to fool oneself and continuously being very busy doing NOT ENOUGH.

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