Choice of license
The purpose of this page is to facilitate a discussion about the choice of Copyright, or, as it were, the kind of Copyleft that AktiviX as a collective will use for this Wiki. The GPL and the associated GNU Free Documentation License has been very successful for Linux; other Free/Libre Open Source Software (F/LOSS) "tribes" resting upon licensing model permutations of the GPL, such as the Apache Software Foundation have also been successfull and are essential elements of Cyberspace. The Apache software is run on almost 70% of all the world's webservers. The sky is wide open for experimentations and the elaborations of Copyleft licenses by the Creative Commons project show that articulations of property rights in a Global Information Society can take an infinite variety of forms only limited by our own imaginations (and political repression and corruption, of course)! If code is law and the architecture liquid it should be possible to build anything?
A copyright license can take many forms. Copyright, as a concept, is related to rights in general and to property rights in particular. Property rights are about social organisation: how can people relate to each other and to the objects that surround them?
There is a comprehensive overview of conventional theories of property on Wikipedia. If you are really into finding out how we ended up in this miserable system, perhaps look in an old book by John Locke, whose arguments for private property rights, in its time, was a revolutionary concept that assigned rights to individuals: the right to the fruits of your labour when you mix it with resources to create stuff/object/artefacts/food - before this caitalist notion of individuality people were peasants in a feudal system that asserted the rights of the monarchs/aristocrats to everything under the sun.
The philosophical frameworks that historically have been used to advocate, justify, and legitimise privatisation and enclosure are:
- Aristotelian "distribution of care"
- Utiliarian "efficiency and optimisation of happiness"
- Lockean labour incentive and individual rights
- Hegelian "recognition - or bridging of the subject and the object"
The stories told by these philosophers, if one takes a look, in various ways expressed the need for certain limitation on privatisation - and as such, the global capitalist class of today stands without a philosophical foundation.
Perhaps the biggest swindle in the world today is that the economy, the trading and exchange systems that we are all at the mercy of are based on "scarcity", but was there ever scarcity? Perhaps the challenge rather lies in the word "distribution".
In the digital realm of course there simply is no scarcity and noone tries to belie it, - it is too obvious, the peasants have found out that there is a lot of stuff to go around. So they use the legal system and technology, just think of the anti-social behaviour of RIAAA, in an attempt to control "the free flow of information" that is a prerequisite for the survivial of ideas. So they claim property, but what does it mean? See also these cases for an idea of how absurd the abuse of the legal system...
...and the abuses of technology discussed here...
Colloquial language suggests that property is a thing or an object; but property rights are not really objects as such. Rather property rights should be understood as some sort of articulations that makes it possible for people to live together without too much friction in a material world. Property rights such as those used in the liberal/capitalist market economy are based on exclusion: if this is my car it is my right to exclude you from using it (and a whole range of other stipulations and restrictions, as well as permissions are possible for the proprietor). The Free Software concept of property rights, or the Free Software configuration of ownership is different. The genius of the basic Free Software document, which is in effect the constitution of the Free Software community, namely the GNU General Public Licence (or simply the GPL), is that it subverts the exclusionary logic of private property rights and bases its property rights (in this case copyright) around distribution instead (see for instance this paper (.pdf)). That is the concept of Copyleft. Copyleft is a particular Copyright. It is radically different, but it is a Copyright, since it deals with issues that a creator or inventor may have with her work.
The criticism of and resistance to property and rights
Some people have their reservations with regards to Copyleft. It perpetuates the concept of Copyright they claim, and thus by implication also the very idea of property and rights. "Propery is theft!", as Proudhon exclaimed, and no matter of if we are talking about reformed "property rights", or even more so, they have to be abolished. There are some things to be said for this view, to be sure. Put everything in the public domain. It is particularly easy to be supportive of this view when discussing contributions to a Wiki (or other digital creations), but what if it comes to your home, your bed or your pet? On that note, it seems possible to argue that at least due to a few thousand years of conditioning to have "our own" houses, rooms and beds there is much to be said for a minimum of protection of "some individual possessions". It is this kind of protection that is at the heart of the claim that "property rights" is a means of social organisation.
The debate about "what to do concerning property and property rights?" can take two different trajectories, at a minimum...
- we can follow the idea that property is theft and that it is referring directly to control over objects as such (an idea perpetuated by capitalist conditioning: It is MY property, mine!), not to mention the problems of rights in general, such as the with human rights. Along this road we must seek, then, the abolition of all property rights and trasnfer all wealth to "a public domain". How we are going to organise a community or society will have to be developed along the way presumably through trial and error in the spirit of Feyerabend's call for an anarchistic epistemology. It does seem, however much we may take this project to heart, that at some point in the process a new name for articulations about how people can relate to each other and to the object around them in order to share the material and creative wealth around them. Would it be that we were reinventing the wheel?
- or we take the view that property rights is a legal and philosophical concept, or a matter of jurisprudence, that should be understood as a tools or a means to an end of social organisation. It should be possible to include in a set of property rights also anarchist sentiments about organisation, why not? In fact, there is much to be said for an anarchistic articulation of property if we agree that anarchism is primarly about organisation. This view can be found in Malatesta's work and in the contemporary anarchist figure Colin Ward... ""Faced by the eclipse not merely of anarchism but of the mainstream of socialism I think it important to stress, as I did twenty years ago in the book Anarchy in Action, that anarchism is not a theory of utopia but a theory of organisation. I agree with Paul Goodman's remark that "A free society cannot be the substitution of a 'new order' for the old order; it is the extension of spheres of free action until they make up most of social life". Quote lifted from here.
Is this is a conflict between reform and revolution? Is Copyleft merely a reform that reinforces an oppressive system? Or is Copyleft a revolutionary hack with a snowball effect that will bring down capitalism?
Is this about ideology - or rhetoric vs. interpretation?
Another viewpoint would be that "Hey, we don't want to have anything to do with those capitalist bastards, and we want to protect our community rhough property rights that include all of us, let's us share our ideas, creations and wealth, but let's configure our property rights so that they excludes them. In other words: we do not want to put our stuff in the public domain for we are building a community in which there is NO space for Bush, Murdoch and Branson.
Here we see how property rights could be used to delineate an anti-capitalist coomunity or to draw a boundary that excludes certain groups of people who are considered harmful to the future of the planet.
In any case, let us look at the options that Copyleft provides within the context of property rights, social organisation and the problem of privatisation.
The way in which the GPL subverts the concept of property might have significant implications for public policy analysis, recommendation, articulation and implementation. The issue at hand concerns privatisation, or rather alternatives to privatisation, which has become the dominant trend in the era of globalisation under the umbrella of "neo-liberalism". There is a long history to this process within Western/European philosophy, dating back to a dispute between Plato and Aristotle. Especially for something like the last 150 years there has been a debate within Political Philosophy where on the one hand there was a conservative/liberal movement for private property rights based on exclusion and on the other a communist idea of common property in order to include "everyone" and to "alienate" no one. In between there was something called Social Democracy, but that suffered tremendously with the Third Way - a kind of "politics" performed by opoortunists like Tony bLIAR. And since 1989, there has been a growing consensus that "communism has failed" as a model for social organisation. Whether this is theoretically valid and whether what was exercised under Stalin and the likes were *actually* communism or not is not the question here. The situation is that state ownership is no longer taken very serious as a model for social organisation, as that may be articulated in public policies. Hence, we are left with just outsourcing all public provisions and demands to be supplied by "the market". With the arrival of Richard Stallman and the GPL the puzzle suddenly returns new results: there are more under the sky than just capitalism or communism. Property rights in the form of Copyrights, more specifically Copyleft, open a whole new playground. The GPL, so to speak, has broken the code of property and only the imagination is the limit to how we may conceptualise property rights as a fundamental means of social organisation in the digital age.
More reading can be found on the websites of the Free Software Foundation, Creative Commons and The Libre Society. See also the the work of Elinor Ostrom, Lawrence Lessig and Michael Taylor. Unfortunately Taylor and Ostrom have not yet joined the Free Culture in Cyberspace and made their work available for download. So go to a library and read a book!
AktiviX is a network, a collective, or a group in formation of people that has come together through a realisation of the exciting explorations possible between traditional political activists and hackers: free tools for a free culture for a free world - or how can we have free minds of we don't have free information?
The need for a license for the Wiki contributions makes sense in at least three major ways: (i) to organise our collaborations in a way that minimises the potential for conflicts about ownership, both internally to AktiviX and with concerns to external "actors"; and (ii) to play with property rights to gain a better understanding of this basic legal aspect of social organisation and to do so through experimental, collaborative self-organisation. Moreover, (iii) by discussing, choosing and testing one or more licenses and by providing feedback to those who create them, AktiviX actively engages with and contributes to the Copyleft movement, which is part of the "movement of movements for globalisation from below", as is also the Dissent network.
In brief, there is a need for decision making within AktiviX about licensing of the stuff contributed to the Wiki (and other collorative environments that may emerge) in order to avoid future conflict, to experiment and to make a political statement: another property system is possible!
Aims and Terms
It could be said that property rights, in this case Copyrights, are so fundamental to social organisation that a boundary of a community is drawn up with them. The Free Software community is a good example, as well as the higher echelons of corporate power and wealth, who fight to protect their property through all means. While it is well adviced to avoid fundamentalism and other fanatic behaviour, such as racism and xenophobia, it is also well adviced to draw the boundaries of your community. These can be inclusive and exclusive in so many ways.
Questions it might make sense to ask: where do the boundaries of the AktiviX community go? Where do we want them to go? There are many commons, which do we want to join? Who do we want to share with? How do we want to share? What do we not want to share? Who do we not want to share with? Can sharing be limited at all from a moral perspective? Is it immoral to share with Big Corporations.
The GFDL can also be conseidered as the original or default Copyleft license for text in cyberspace. FDL, as a license, is translated from the domain of software (code) to human language documentation about the software (text, incl. prose).
The obvious alternatives to FDL are provided by Creative Commons. CC licenses offer combinations of certain restrictions and permissions as well as an infrastructure for an open participatory revision through user feedback and discussion.
A viewpoint could be that AktiviX endorses the work of the Free Software Foundation and supports the GNU GPL, but considers it relevant to use a CC license, because CC intends to go beyond software in the wider realm of the intellectual commons, and since the FSF is probably better off keeping its expertise strongly focused on the struggle around the GPL (or the question concerning ownership of software code). [THIS IS A STATEMENT THAT DOES NOT ADEQUATELY REFLECT THE DISCUSSION ON THE MAILINGLIST AND HAS TO BE DISCUSSED REWRITTEN OR DELETED OR REPLACED OR AGREED TO OR]
The question of where and how to draw the boundaries of the AktiviX community seems to have to balance on the hand a problem or threat somewhat similar to recuperation and on the other the wish to let an idea travel as far as possible with as little constraints as possible. Activists experience and rhetoric vs. hacker experience and rhetoric.
Social movements and radical ideas or icons have throughout history been subverted for better and worse and there is a strong sentiment that can be called anti-capitalism to which many political activists protest passionately, but there is also a hacker idea of sharing with the big corporate players, (if they play along with the rules and because they are needed for acceleration), to gain a stronger position against conservative forces that see the GPL as a threat to their property (see Groklaw; Lessig's blog; and Free Software Act for more legal stuff).
These are two ideas between which there are tension, but which should be able to reach a common ground. This common ground, or license, however, may not be written yet. Help us write it!
These licenses have been suggested as the licenses that articulate the positions of what we can call, very loosely, the "anti-capitalist activist" ethics and the "hacker" ethics...
- anti-capitalist version
- hacker version
Some of the differences have been outlined on these threads:
- ( I don't think there is any difference between the two as the difficulty of defining commercial is a problem. Anyway the viral nature of the share-alike makes the license particularly worrying to any corporation! -DMB)
- copyright configuration: licensing commercial use?
In effect we are faced with a question about what "commercial" actually means in the CC language and how to relate to differences in commercial activities.
It seems that "commercial" might mean any kind of selling and trading where money is involved begging further "analytic breaking down" into categories that are about what kind of commercial activity. This may be defined by intentions, morals and values or code of the organisation performing that activity, since there is a big difference between Seeds for Change and IBM, for instance.
Consider this excerpt...
On Thu, 2004-07-08 at 22:28, ANON wrote...
""I have done so myself, by - for example - giving Roblimo/Newsforge permission to reprint my articles. They are doing it for profit; I know that. My default license is a non-commercial CC license. But when I give someone else written permission to use my work, they have a separate license. Is that prejudiced? Yes, it is. Is it fair? I think so. Is it ethical? I think so. Is it profitable? Sometimes.""
- the response...
""So, we agree on the principal matters, I believe.
You also do like to be able to be prejudiced according to your own reason, but for you the switching of license is a possibility because you is only you. The co-operative or volunteer collective cannot practically sit in the fench like the Sovereign individual. A group, based on consensus decision making structures can by virtue of its nature not be expected to be able to incorporate everyone's sentiments without infringing upon others', and therefore compromises must be made sometimes by someone.
The collective must comprehend something common, something that gives the same peace of mind as you gain individually through the social organisation of your creative property. How can they do it if 75 people of whom 25 can be contacted have 50 different opinions about whether Newsagency XYZ should be allowed to spread their material for a meagre profit that was to be returned into local youth programmes? I should say yes. My partner in crime, a fellow member of the collective, might stand strong on her feminist anti-capitalist refusal to nurture bonds with hierarchical or non-horizontal organisations. If we're to share a project, and both our sentiments are to be realised we need either: (i) a more profound taxonomy that specifies what particular kind of "commercial activity" we want to exlude from our community; or (ii) we need a label for organisations that can accept and trust. By analogy we need a label reflecting the original ideas of "organic" or "ecologic" or really like "bio-dynamic", but as we know they are fully overrun by lobbyists and turned into a corporate white/green and blue sky wash. So those ideas are dead and gone, since state power = wall street + pentagon.
What is an appropriate, sustainable format for commercial activity? Is there such a thing as anarchist business?
Getting on with it
The information, viewpoints and stuff that has been thrown together here will be presented at Aktivix:Aktivix II. The questions that need to be considered are along these lines, but what answer we are looking only time can tell...
Does anyone object to using a version of a Creative Commons license, the exact details to be decided on by AktiviX as a collective?
- If so, why?
- Are you quietly accepting?
- Are you not speaking out because you are unsure and need more time to better understand the issues at hand?
- Do you need more suggestions or help?
Assuming that there is wish to migrate to a CC license, the question becomes:
- Do we choose between the two proposed licenses?
- and if so, how do we make that decision?
Should AktiviX stay with the FDL?
- And if, then why?
Or do we choose not to choose, because the options available cannot adequately cover the grounds we desire?
- and if, how do we articulate our "perfect" license?
All depending on time, input and intentions either of these options may be the "right one".
To conclude this discussion piece, another excerpt...
""Well, along comes Lessig, Peace be Upon Him, who is a well read constitutionalist lawyer in economic and financial matters, and sees a great career and book market sector in doing simply the "right" thing: expand the GPL in to other realms of cultural production. A great reform, but we want more. We want the death and destruction of neo-liberal and global capitalism, -- so, we won't share with those profit-tribes of old. I suppose that Creative Commons hold an interesting position: to which degree is CC willing to endorse strong anti-capitalist sentiments through articulation and offer community protection of those ideals? Will CC be recuperated seamlessly? Or shall the free flow of ideas prevail?""
--k40z 04:40, 8 Jul 2004 (BST)
""Activix should not use FDL and not use CC, because none of those are free software licences. If you believe in free software and like the GPL, please use the GPL for your creation. Email me if you want to know more."" - MJR