I’m going back to Free Culture Forum, a collaborative project around visions for the new information society organised by Spanish alternative collecting society eXgae, tomorrow. My (Swedish) accounts of last year’s forum are here, here and here. If last year’s forum resulted in a Charter on creativity and innovation, this year’s forum is meant to more seriously address the economic aspects of the information society, not the least of which is how to finance culture.
The origins is a radical critique of free culture and, of course, the natural interest of eXgae to present alternatives to SGAE onslaught in Spain.
Present at the forum is Volker Grassmuck, currently of GPOPAI at São Paolo University and Philippe Aigrain, from sopinspace.com, both proponents of collective licensing models for financing culture in the digital economy. For a Swedish audience, this is parallel to kassettersättningen, with the suggested model instead being a very low fee on broadband connections later to be distributed roughly according to musical work popularity. A similar proposal from EFF, also present at the forum, entails a voluntary license which would allow users to ”make peace with their creators” (pun intended). Volker Grassmuck, living in interesting times, is seeing this idea unfold as a political proposal in Brazil where a €1.50 levy on internet connections has been suggested as a renumerative effort towards authors and artists.
eXgae, the forum organisers, were formed as a critique of Spanish collecting agency SGAE and representative of free artists in Barcelona, are critical of the licenses since they don’t conform with the wishes of their members. Now, to relate to Spanish free artists, it helps to know that SGAE is more hated than the tax office. Spanish municipalities conspire against SGAE because of their predatory licensing. To compare, the Swedish collecting agency SAMI once harassed a pizzeria.
A part victory for Spanish municipalities is the ECJ verdict on SGAE and levies applied on blank media for public institutions and commercial entities. They are disqualified since a levy is there to compensate private copying, which, according to the court, can’t be undertaken by a company or a public institution. I didn’t yet see a civil society analysis of the IPKitten revelation that ECJ now says authors likely suffer harm from private copying. I wonder primarily if the court really means ”authors”, not ”rights holders” (to be understood as the entity commercialising the economic right, rather than the entity that provided the creativity), and what the nature of the harm is suggested to be. Josep Jover, the lawyer who secured the victory against SGAE, is running for Piratas de Catalunya for the elections in November.
The arguments for a collective license are relatively clear: with an acknowledged renumeration scheme, ”society contract”, between COPYSWEDE and the Swedes, SGAE and the Spaniards or ECAD and the Brasileiros, we do not get three strikes, law suit based business models or universal surveillance. I’m expecting more discussions on levies and blank media taxes over the course of the weekend.