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Controlling the Flow of Information · Thursday May 29, 2008 by Crosbie Fitch

Dan Lockton links to Juan Freire – From the Analogue Commons to the New Hybrid Public Spaces – we make money not art quoting an interesting excerpt:

“Many people are horrified by the fact that knowledge flows continuously. They wouldn’t have any qualms about electricity flowing around us freely but they find the idea of a never stopping flow of information highly disturbing.”

Well, what can I say?

A lot of the angst about losing control over the flow of information arises from the fact that such control (copyright), in enabling an exchange mechanism, is consequently regarded as critical for artists who it is thought have to sell their information (digital art) to their audience using this control.

But it was always an unnatural control. The crown’s interest in controlling the press was subsequently delegated to the press. Today, the press (or corporate publishers), no longer given the simple task of just controlling themselves (and the odd pirate), are now tasked with controlling the entire populace and understandably are saying “Sorry Gov. You can have the job back. They’re your people. You control the information superhighways you built for them. You prosecute them.”

We will see how successful the state is in regulating and exerting control over the Internet, ensuring that no citizen dares exchange information without permission from its rightful owner (without extreme risk of prosecution). This control also coincides with a misplaced belief by government that constraint over the public communications by terrorists and other organised criminals helps dissuade people from supporting their cause or joining their anti-social activity. I’d say it was better to engage in conversation and moderate it, than to stamp it out in preference for warfare.

However, despite the inability of the state and its press to control the public domain, an artist still has natural control – over their private domain. They can still engage with their audience and make bargains to exchange art for money. How? Via the very same uncontrolled communications infrastructure. One that enables them to communicate with their audience and make bargains with them: art for money, money for art.

Do not weep for the state nor their publishers who both believe they must still control the flow of information in the public domain.

All each artist and member of their audience needs is to control their own private domain and to have a free market in which exchanges can be made without interference, whether by the state (monopolies or license fees) or those they’ve unethically privileged (copyright and patent holders).

Unfortunately, there’s going to be a lot of grief as everyone makes the transition, while state and incumbents inevitably fail to prevent it.

Jason said 4011 days ago :

My position is that it is a matter of ethics (not law) that people should acknowledge through attribution the creator of a work. Surely, ideas are free and can only be free, but the fixed expression of an idea is the work of an individual or group.

Can we agree on that principle?

If so, then the only additional concern I have is that there be a real opportunity that creators/artists can earn a decent living from their creations, provided the quality of those creations are deemed good by those who enjoy them. In other words, a writer who writes well, and writes content that appeals to many, should be able to earn enough to pursue that writing full time. Perhaps its better to say: the market should be such that earning enough to write full time is a real possibility.

Do you agree with this second idea as well?

Again … not trying to pick away at you, just trying to clearly understand your position.

Thanks

Crosbie Fitch said 4011 days ago :

Acknowledgement, credit, prominence of attribution, is a matter of respect.

Compulsory acknowledgement denies respect and also creates a burden in many situations (potentially preventing respectful and beneficial use of the art).

What I believe is ethical is a requirement that attribution be accurate and truthful (not necessarily exhaustive). This I believe comes from the natural right to truth, i.e. a right against misattribution, plagiarism, misrepresentation, fraud, deceit, etc.

This also covers misattribution by implication whether through omission or misleading context. So, if when incorporating another author’s work without identifying it as another’s, this lack of attribution or clarification implies the work as that of the incorporating author’s or the author of adjacent works, then this would be unethical.

I wholly agree with your second idea and this forms the basis of the projects that have been occupying me on and off over the last few years (and many others working on non-copyright based business models).

Jason said 4011 days ago :

OK … I’m with you on almost everything you say here.

Still, I don’t see how compulsory acknowledgment is unethical. I think the current punishments and enforcement are unethical, but certainly if a person can ascertain the author(s) of a work, it should be an ethical imperative that attribution be given. No?

I’m glad we agree on the second point. I still have no clear idea how this would work without copyright, but I’m willing to be convinced. (I just reserve the right to be critical!) I think the burden is on those who would seek reform to clearly and convincingly demonstrate that other models will work as effectively, if not more so.

I’ll be following your writings here … best of luck!

Crosbie Fitch said 4011 days ago :

The misattribution through omission that warrants prosecution is that which is significant enough for the public to detect, and where it can be demonstrated that omission constitutes misattribution (for if it doesn’t there’s no harm, at worse only a lack of respect), and where it was either deliberate with intent to deceive or notice of rectification is ignored without good reason.

In all other cases, where omitted attribution goes unnoticed, there’s no complaint arising. Any attribution would thus be a matter of respect by the incorporating artist anyway.

As to convincing people that equitable business models are viable without copyright, yes, this is an urgent matter and must soon be demonstrated – before something just as bad as copyright is instituted such as taxation.



 

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