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Revolutionary Industry and Digital Colonialism

Revolutionary Industry and Digital Colonialism Fast Capitalism ISSN 1930-014X Volume 4 • Issue 1 • 2008 doi:10.32855/fcapital.200801.002 Revolutionar y Industr y and Digital Colonialism D.E. Wittkower Copyright-based industries have become revolutionary. That is, the machinery of production of digital wares has itself taken on the role of the revolutionary class within the political economy of digital production. The progress of capitalist production in this industry has undermined the conditions of its own possibility, not because it has driven the proletariat to rise against an oppressive system, but because the means of production, through digital media, have simultaneously made communist production possible, and the continued separation of the means of production from the laborer impracticable. I do admit that there is also certainly a new ‘revolutionary class,’ at least potentially. While the question about how to characterize such a class is of great importance, my goal here is to put forth an account with an alternate starting point.[1] I hold that we need not thematically address this class, its constitution, or its nascent class-consciousness in order to give a reasonable, though sketchy, account of what has occurred, for this class has emerged as a result of a technological alteration which is itself revolutionary in a way independent of and prior to the constitution of this class as such. Whereas in Marx’s view capitalism would produce a revolutionary class which would then have the overthrow of capitalism as a task before it, instead, changes in the means of production have made capitalism as an economic system impossible, and it would seem – with regard to capitalism, at least – that the only class- consciousness requisite of our new ‘revolutionary class’ is the realization that the revolution is underway, and that capitalism as an economic institution has been replaced by a façade of its former self, propped up only by legal constructions rather than by a firm and originary grounding in the mode of production. Where the movement of capital was to have undermined the viability of a capitalist society, we see instead that, in the realm of traffic in digital wares, what has occurred is that the conditions for the possibility of capital have been themselves undermined. This, technically, is not a revolution at all, but rather the end of a kind of political-economic “bubble.” Nevertheless, as this does not call merely for a market correction, but instead, a socioeconomic correction, the experience which we are undergoing will be one of a revolutionary character, for while the conditions for the possibility of capitalism have been here undermined, there is yet the ongoing attempt to re-create them through a return to primitive accumulation, and, along with it, an attempt to return to a feudal model. The revolution to come, in other words, is the revolt against feudalism, and for this we will, indeed, need a formulation of the emergent revolutionary class, and it will need to attain its class-consciousness. My purpose here, however, is to describe in its origin and effects the ‘revolution’ – more properly, again, ‘correction’ – already underway, independent of this class. Digital Means of Production To make this case, I will begin with Marx’s Law of the Tendency of the Rate of Profit to Fall, wherein he held that as relative surplus value continued to rise through consolidation, there would be a decrease in the ratio of variable capital to constant capital, which would quite directly imply a decrease in the ratio of profit, a crisis of realization (realization, in this context, being the conversion of the surplus value, created by variable capital, into exchange value within the market), and an increase both in unemployment and in the revolutionary class. He noted Page 3 Page 4 D.E . W it t ko W Er a number of counteracting forces, the most important for our purposes being the cheapening of the elements of constant capital. The absolute decrease in variable capital (i.e., the joblessness produced through an ever greater increase of productivity) which was to have brought about the revolutionary moment, was to occur through the relative decrease in variable capital, which is to say, the increased productivity of the worker which accompanies improved machinery, division of labor, and so forth. However, as this process continues, constant capital itself requires less labor-power to produce, and thus the technological means of production undergo the same general cheapening that the price of labour on the market undergoes. After all, if there is a decrease in the rate of profit, this can mean only that each produced item represents an ever smaller amount of reified labor, including raw materials, and most importantly, machinery. As Marx summarized, The value of the worked-up cotton has not grown in the same proportion as its mass . . . [and ] the same applies to machinery and other fixed capital. In short, the same development which increases the mass of the constant capital in relation to the variable reduces the value of its elements as a result of the increased productivity of labour, and therefore prevents the value of constant capital, although it continually increases, from increasing at the same rate as its material volume. (Marx 1998:234) Thus, depending on the rate of cheapening and the level of efficiency of means of production within a particular industry, it may be that there is, after all, no relative decrease of variable capital, or possibly even a relative increase of variable capital, concomitant with absolute decrease of both variable and constant capital per commodity produced. If the means of production cheapen alongside variable capital, then, instead of describing the effect as a falling employment rate and therefore a falling rate of profit, we could better describe the effect as an increase in productive power which has no necessary absolute loss of either employment or rate of profit. Further, without this loss of employment or rate of profit, the crisis of realization need never come about, since even the laborer herself will actually be able to purchase the goods brought to market. This absolute decrease in the labor-value of constant capital per commodity produced, running in parallel with a similar increase in productivity in the realm of variable capital, thus seems to avert a possible crisis of capital; this being one of the reasons why the late Marx – here, much more a cool-headed economist than a Young Hegelian revolutionary – made only the very weak claim implied in his titling the principle here as ‘the law of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall.’ However, we must take care to look behind the mask of this deus ex machina, for that process which brings an absolute decrease in constant capital in the commodities of a given industry not only restores the viability of consolidated corporations operating in that industry, but also makes the possession of the means of production of that industry ever closer to the grasp of the common wage-earner. The process of the absolute decrease of constant capital, seemingly inevitable for the reasons described above, if unfettered, brings the means of production within the reach of common laborers, at which point they are able to benefit from the use of their own labor-power rather than being forced to bring it to the marketplace, thereby undermining one of the conditions necessary for industrial capital. This possibility was not, as far as I can determine, ever addressed by Marx.[2] The most obvious explanation for this is that the cheapening of machinery which would be necessary to make this a revolutionary effect could not have been foreseen at that time; he would have to have been a mystic or a madman to take seriously the possibility that industrial machinery would be so cheapened that a wage laborer would be able to easily purchase manufacturing capabilities sufficient to compete with capitalist magnates. This possibility has, however, been realized, albeit in a limited scope. As computational devices have become smaller, more reliable, and more powerful, there has been a significant decline in the absolute constant capital that they represent. At the same time, these machines have been able to perform ever more complex operations in an ever smaller and more manageable time frame, and there has been a great increase in capital investment in the creation of ever more complex and effective operational commands. That is to say, as hardware has improved and cheapened, software has been able to represent a proportionally greater capital investment, and it is the peculiar structure of software that provides the core of the changes I mean to address here. Digital Goods and Digital Reproduction Contemporary information technologies are remarkable in that any information entered can be stored and fast capitalism Volume 4 • Issue 1 • 2008 r E volu t iona ry i n Dust ry a n D Digita l Colon i a lism Page 5 reproduced with absolute fidelity. Value can be preserved with minimal means of production – access to the information along with available storage space – and with negligible labor. This means, of course, that there is, practically speaking, virtually no valorization at all in the production of any particular iteration of a file or program, although there may have been labor required to order the information in a manner having use-value, to make this information accessible to information technology, and so forth. Furthermore, this is true of digital files of any kind, whether the idea is stated in a directly executable form or not, that is, whether the digital file is a piece of software or a document. (For this reason, I will not differentiate in the following between these kinds of digital files. Both software and documents are similarly losslessly replicable effectively without marginal cost, and, thus, both are equally subject to the analysis here.) The production and reproduction of digital files is in this way akin to the production and reproduction of ideas, excepting that digital files may be of a level of complexity and/or length greater than the human platform can support. More specifically, digital files are akin to ideas in that, as Thomas Jefferson famously stated, “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” ([1813] 2000). Given the minimal means of production – having an input of appropriate format in order to allow processing, such as a reasonable person speaking or signing our mother tongue; being of sound mind; not being asleep or distracted or so forth – the reproduction of an idea from an outside source is not only usually accomplished with little effort, but furthermore is actually necessary if any use-value is to be found in that information at all. Digital files are also such that their reproduction is a necessary means for and an integral part of their consumption.[3] Certain economically valuable expressions have been encouraged due to the great value of the labour-power expended in their initial production and the vanishingly small exchange value of the product thereby produced. The encouragement of this production, through the artificial creation of governmentally enforced scarcity, allowed for the production of ideas which would have little or no use-value to the producer, and, thus, allowed for the production of intellectual commodities, ideas produced for sale rather than personal use, either in the form of a product, such as a book or album, or in the form of machinery (i.e., software). Now that the means of production of such commodities are greatly and increasingly within public hands due to digital technologies, it has become possible to produce ideas for personal use that are also of value on an industrial scale – that is, as means of production become ever more available, ever more industrial-grade ideas are created for use rather than exchange. Here, if left to their own devices, so to speak, such ideas tend to be shared, rather in the form of a conversation. These non-material means of production, having been invented for personal use, have their reproducibility no longer as a discouragement to their creation, but rather as an accidental bounty, which tends to be given away freely within the community of such unincorporated producers. At this stage in its development, the means of industrial production become themselves revolutionary, bringing about a spontaneous communist economy. Where means of production are not publicly available, industries must be assured of the potential profitability of any socially beneficial activities we might expect them to perform, but where the public has free access to the means of production the public no longer needs to encourage corporate interests to produce in its stead. It is clearly no longer necessary for our society to guarantee the profitability of the production of a word processor, a web browser, or even an operating system, for fine examples of such machinery may be, and have been, produced by the public without commodification. Similarly, it has now become quite easy and ever more commonplace for people to compose, produce and distribute music and video without commodification, and without governmentally enforced monopoly over the works thus created, which monopoly, regardless, seems to present only an indirect and sometimes almost inconsequential incentive to artists themselves, given the extent to which the current system is biased in favor of distributors rather than artists.[4] Digital technologies have made composition and production of such media considerably easier in any number of ways, from digital cameras and video cameras to software tools. In terms of promotion and distribution, peer-to-peer networks are very efficient distribution networks, and web pages can easily serve the function of promotion, advertisement and distribution, as in for example discussion forums, blogs and personal web pages serving as gateways to other sites and/or materials, content specific artist-operated sites, portals open to direct submission by the public, and portals which make free and public domain works available which might otherwise be difficult or impossible to obtain. From Wares to Warez Formerly, it had been easy to institute property rights over objects which had no natural affinity for them – Volume 4 • Issue 1 • 2008 fast capitalism Page 6 D.E . W it t ko W Er ideas, as we have mentioned, are immediately transferable and cannot be seized nor fenced-off once expressed and in this way are quite resistant to the possibility of holding effective property rights. This had been a simple matter only because the cases in which property rights were extended over ideas whose use required significant capital investment (presses, prototypes). Thus, the only parties capable of infringement of a meaningful kind were those who engaged in large-scale production, and were thus few in number, and conspicuous in both manufacture and distribution. With the cheapening and subsequent increasing availability of means of production the number of parties capable of infringement grew explosively, now virtually pervading the public sphere. Small-scale infringement became practical, and the line between significant infringement and insignificant “fair use” has become practically meaningless, for sufficiently widespread “fair use” when given access to the means of production becomes, in effect, a highly distributed large-scale system of production, as is the case in peer-to-peer networks such as Gnutella or KaZaA, or even merely in the collective effect of pervasive and commonplace exchange of digital products in person.[5] Without centralized high-profile producers, and without the need of a centralized large-scale distribution system – for the exchange of non-commodified or de-commodified wares requires neither that they be advertised nor that they be made available for sale – effective monitoring of infringement becomes impracticable. There is no longer the possibility of identifying the single or small number of parties guilty of infringement; instead, there is a huge number of parties which are each responsible for an inconsequential degree of infringement, but which taken together nevertheless threaten the viability of corporations trading in such goods. As discussed in the previous section, with the development of sufficiently advanced digital technologies the means of production have become publicly available, spawning a spontaneous communist economy that seems able to motivate socially necessary labor within this sphere of production without dependence upon capitalist commodification of goods. While this economy does trade in de-commodified wares – that is, wares initially produced from a profit motive, but redistributed, as warez, without a profit motive – the production of non-commodified wares in open-source communities continues to expand, both by means of the creation of goods for use-value and in the move from a commodity-market model of software production into a service-economy model of production. These communist and service-based economies, furthermore, are in competition with the holdovers from these industries’ capitalist past. Thus, we have a rather odd form of class warfare taking place: setting the predominantly middle-class computer-savvy masses, not against the capitalist or upper class, but against large national and multinational corporations themselves. The digital proletariat seeks to seize the remaining means of digital production not yet in their hands and to use these means to produce freely made goods to serve as a replacement for those produced by industrial capitalists. The capitalist holdovers seek to wrest productive power from the public and generally to ensure that as little as possible is available for free, but that as much as possible must be obtained through the marketplace. Unable to act effectively against infringement, capitalist holdovers in revolutionary industries can hope to control the flood only through fear and violence. The MPAA and RIAA have taken legal action under the DMCA against academic researchers,[6] persons running personal web pages,[7] and private citizens.[8] Additionally, they have threatened to hold corporations accountable for the non-business related actions of their employees,[9 ]to hold employees accountable for the actions of their employers,[10] to hold commercial ISPs accountable for the actions of their customers, to hold universities accountable for the actions of faculty and students, and to hold parents accountable for the actions of their children.[11] They have also begun to pressure colleges and universities to monitor students on behalf of the media industries,[12] and to themselves prevent and punish copyright infringement on campus.[13] The MPAA senior vice president of worldwide anti-piracy, Ken Jacobson, accounted for these actions by explaining that “what we’re trying to do is educate the population about what is appropriate, both from an ethical standpoint and from a legal standpoint” (Bowman 2001). Modern-Primitive Accumulation Even if the public interest were best served by preserving intellectual property rights in these cases, the public interest is certainly not served by such widespread and punitive “education” about “what is appropriate.” These actions are not well described as education, but are much better characterized as a process of deliberate and systematic crippling of the productive powers of the public. This is nothing but a return to primitive accumulation as a desperate attempt to prop up a system that the movement of capital no longer reinforces. fast capitalism Volume 4 • Issue 1 • 2008 r E volu t iona ry i n Dust ry a n D Digita l Colon i a lism Page 7 Marx describes primitive accumulation as the metaphorical original sin of capitalism; it is the nonmarket-based seizure of the means of production that forced labourers to sell their labour-power on the market rather than acting as producers themselves. That was necessary in order to put the capitalist system in place, after which time it is able to continue to run as a self-supporting system. As Marx explains, The capitalist system presupposes the complete separation of the labourers from all property in the means by which they can realise their labour. As soon as capitalist production is once on its own legs, it not only maintains this separation, but reproduces it on a continually extending scale. The process, therefore, that clears the way for the capitalist system, can be none other than the process which takes away from the labourer the possession of his means of production . . . The so-called primitive accumulation, therefore, is nothing else than the historical process of divorcing the producer from the means of production. (Marx 1996: 705-6) The capitalist holdovers in revolutionary industries must return to something like primitive accumulation. The means of production having come back into the hands of laborers though the process already described, capitalism has had its legs knocked out from under it by industrial production itself, this being, indeed, the reason why such industries can properly be called themselves revolutionary. In order to re-create this original sin, necessary for capitalist production to be a self-supporting system, those who seek to commodify intellectual products must separate laborers from their newly gained productive powers. This, however, cannot in this case be accomplished by straightforward primitive accumulation, for the capitalist holdovers seek to sell intellectual products, which by their very nature, as we have already discussed, contain within them the means of their own reproduction. The solution sought is then the next best thing: to attempt to ensure that the productive employment of the means of production that can no longer be kept from laborers is as limited as possible, and that the products of this productive employment cannot serve the same functions as the commodified products of corporate manufacturing, thus maintaining an artificial dependency upon capitalist production of intellectual goods. This is achieved by means of what Michael Perelman calls advanced accumulation (1998:78; 2002:45), wherein the public is forced to pay for the privatization of public goods, and by means of a kind of systematic colonization of information itself, wherein an arbitrary and exclusionary system of laws ensures that only large corporations are allowed to fully utilize the means of production commonly available to most members of society. Even these methods, however, will not make capitalist production of intellectual products again possible, for where industry has itself become revolutionary, it seems that a capitalist system becomes impossible. As the term was defined at the outset, a revolutionary industry is an industry that, through a radical cheapening of machinery, has made the means of production available to the laborer, and which has a vanishing small marginal cost in the production of its wares. Under these conditions, communist production has flourished and is currently in open competition with capitalist holdovers within the industry. The force of capital has shifted to support communist models of production, and capitalism only remains possible through legislative measures. The only recourse which the capitalist holdovers have available – other than allowing progress to occur peacefully – is to return to a variety of feudalism,[14] where laborers have access to the means of production, but must hand over all their work to the lords of the information industries, and must obtain all their digital goods, not from one another in a free exchange, but always and only through the mediation of corporate masters, who can thus set arbitrary and exploitative prices. ree W Th ays of Being-Against Technology Cultural industrialists oppose the change implied by and contained within the form of digital technologies in three primary ways: (1) advanced accumulation, (2) systematic colonization, and (3) the attempt to bring about informational feudalism. Michael Perelman defines advanced accumulation in contrast to primitive accumulation, stating that Rather than directly expropriating physical means of production, advanced accumulation is more indirect. It entails the marshalling of public resources to concentrate informational powers in the hands of great corporations or elite individuals. The public resources might be information proper or the means of conveying information, such as the communications spectrum. (Perelman 1998: 78) Within the realm of patent law – his primary concern – Perelman gives a striking and very clear example of advanced Volume 4 • Issue 1 • 2008 fast capitalism Page 8 D.E . W it t ko W Er accumulation soon after introducing the term. With regard to pharmaceutical companies, he points out that they patent information obtained through university research, then sell a product based on this research, which, in the case of a successful product, he elsewhere estimates to generate about a million dollars in sales per day (Perelman 2002:195). Then, “ When challenged [regarding pricing], the corporation will inevitably respond by claiming the need to recoup the expenses of its research, even though public research frequently forms the foundation for much vaunted intellectual property rights,” (1998:80) clearly an ingenious claim when we consider for example, as he points out elsewhere, that “in 1992, the industry spent $1 billion more on promotion of its drugs than on research and development” (2002:131). He continues, In a rather spectacular case, federally funded research was used to map the genetic structure of human beings. Private companies were then permitted to patent these genes. Those that control this valuable information then have the gall to call upon the full powers of the state to protect their intellectual property rights to human genetic material. (1998:80) The case is similar with regard to copyright. Copyrighted material is protected at public expense, the cost of which, now that the means of production are publicly available, is already great and will be increasingly greater. Copyright laws use the time and energy of our elected representatives, and the enforcement of these laws clogs our courts and are conducted in large part at government expense, both domestic [15] and foreign. [16] The “copyright bargain” is, furthermore, no longer a bargain at all, but is rather a seizure, for not only does the public pay to provide and protect the artificial monopolies of intellectual property capitalist industrialists, but the public also pays for these industrialists to bring about legislation and prosecution which prevents the public from free and fair use of the materials thus provided. This process at its base is the transformation of the public domain into capital, both through the use of public funding for private interests and through the privatization of the commons which was supposed to have been given back to the public as the public’s end of the bargain. Advanced accumulation takes from us economic and personal independence and gives us Independence Day in its place. Re-Colonization Furthermore, there is a process of systematic colonization of information itself. In the systematic colonization of information – a process that overlaps to a significant extent with advanced accumulation in terms of both methods and goals – individuals are kept from the full and free use of the means of production already in their hands. In order to outline how this is done in the realm of information, we will begin by looking at the idea of systematic colonization in a conventional sense. Marx, in his discussion of E.G. Wakefield’s England and America, states that We have seen that the expropriation of the mass of the people from the soil forms the basis of the capitalist mode of production. The essence of a free colony, on the contrary, consists in this – that the bulk of the soil is still public property, and every settler on it therefore can turn part of it into his private property and individual means of production, without hindering the later settlers in the same operation. (Marx 1996:755) This presents a problem for the capitalist, for workers no longer divorced from the means of production cannot be pressed into labor. But Wakefield has a solution: How, then, to heal the anti-capitalistic cancer of the colonies? . . . Let the Government put upon the virgin soil an artificial price, independent of the law of supply and demand, a price that compels the immigrant to work a long time for wages before he can earn enough money to buy land, and turn himself into an independent peasant. . . . This is the great secret of ‘systematic colonization.’ (Marx 1996:758-9) But as Marx points out, “this ‘sufficient price for the land’ is nothing but a euphemistic circumlocution for the ransom which the laborer pays to the capitalist for leave to retire from the wage-labor market to the land” (1996: 759). Industries based on or around computers, especially the software industry, are in this way akin to empires. They must struggle in order to ensure that colonists who find themselves surrounded by free and available means of production do not use these means for their own subsistence and independence, but rather to support the motherland. fast capitalism Volume 4 • Issue 1 • 2008 r E volu t iona ry i n Dust ry a n D Digita l Colon i a lism Page 9 The digital consumer is surrounded by rich and arable land. Software may be mined for ore, out of which new competing products may be made. Music may serve as not merely a product to be consumed, but seeds may be saved which can be cultivated into new and attractive varietals. The very look and feel of objects of our digital life, whether .html, .mp3, .mpg, or .exe, may inspire new creations. In order to keep the production of digital objects from obtaining independence from commodification and from the capitalist motherland, corporate peddlers of intellectual property must ensure that colonists in digital lands are largely and for the most part unable to use the seemingly inexhaustible riches surrounding them to become independent producers – excepting if they should obtain sufficient capital to buy their way in. What is the price in this case? It is not a set amount, but the minimum is likely the amount required to acquit oneself of a spurious charge from a corporation employing a legal team. The maximum is 150,000 USD per infringing work, plus actual damages and lost profit projections. Since the minimum price is unacceptably high for private individuals as well as small businesses, the safest bet is to simply pay the fees, even on spurious copyright and patent claims. The other option – and the one followed by top tech companies – is to amass a portfolio of intellectual property claims (spurious or not) that can be used to file counter-suits, forcing reasonable licensing agreements.[17] Thus, the systematic colonization of information is more insidious than the conventional variety, for the price it sets for becoming a producer is so high as to prevent anybody from paying it who has not already become part of the analogical motherland, (i.e., who is not already engaged in capitalistic production of intellectual property and the processes of advanced accumulation) systematic colonization, and information feudalization which are required to make capitalistic production possible after industry has itself become revolutionary. However, systematic colonization of information can be avoided in a way that the conventional variety cannot, for it is not possible to produce land out of whole cloth, so to speak, but it is yet possible to produce digital objects without being subject to the claims of intellectual property. The systematic colonization of infor mation is being accomplished through (a) closed-sourcing, (b) governmentally guaranteed encryption, (c) licensing, and (d) the assumption of copyright. Through these means the digital colonist, while she cannot be separated from her land, is kept as much as possible from mining it, from trading or selling it, and from sustainably farming it.[18] (a) Through closed-sourcing we colonists are prevented from improving upon that which we have purchased,[19] we are kept from a means of learning from the achievements and failures of others, and we are denied a valuable educational tool that would otherwise aid us in learning the tools of commerce. Closed-sourcing prevents us from free use of information that we have obtained in the marketplace; information that in some cases has been taken from the public domain.[20] ( b) Through encryption we colonists are denied access to information which we have legal ly obtained , thus making free use of proprietary and some non-proprietary information not only illegal, as it is under closed-sourcing, but actually impossible. Encryption of commodities, however, can always be circumvented, as I already noted above, for we can always tap into the data flow at the point of display or use. In order to further prevent us from use of these materials, encryption has been granted a legal status (Cf. DMCA anti-circumvention provision, U.S.C Sec. 1201(a)) that criminalizes access to encrypted information, thereby legally denying us not only creative use of but also mere access to information in our possession, such that we do not have the opportunity to do wrong, for under this legal protection of encryption, we may be cut off from even the intended use of products purchased if this use requires circumvention (as used to be the case for Linux users who wished to view a DVD – no CSS-licensed DVD software was available until as late as 2001 (Linux Online 2001), leading to the famous Jon Lech Johansen DeCSS case (Stecklow 2005) – and as is arguably the case now with iTunes-purchased DRM restricted content). Again, the trend in these cases of overprotection is to criminalize fair use rather than risk an erosion of corporate control of consumer activities, thereby removing from the public not only free use of purchased proprietary information, but also in some cases even public domain, copyright free, and non-proprietary information. (c) Through licensing we colonists are prevented from saving seeds from our harvest for replanting, both literally[21] and figuratively. We can be prevented from use of our legally purchased product to make further copies, we can be prevented from lending our copy to friends and relatives, and we can be prevented accessing our copy from more than one location. [22] Through licensing we are stripped of ownership of digital objects, and, placed in the legal status of renter, subject to all manner of abuses and unfair contractual requirements.[23] (d ) Finally, through the assumption of copyright – that material is assumed to be copyrighted over its maximum term without notice to or registration with any centralized database – we colonists are prevented from the use of vast amounts of material that lies entirely fallow; [24] unoccupied and unused resources which the empire would rather fall to decay than be used by independent producers.[25] As Lessig asks rhetorically, “But can’t you just restore the film, distribute it, and then pay the copyright owner when she shows up?” Sure, if you want Volume 4 • Issue 1 • 2008 fast capitalism Page 10 D.E . W it t ko W Er to commit a felony. And even if you’re not worried about committing a felony, when she does show up, she’ll have the right to sue you for all the profits you have made. So, if you’re successful, you can be fairly confident you’ll be getting a call from someone’s lawyer. And if you’re not successful, you won’t make enough to cover the costs of your own lawyer. Either way, you have to talk to a lawyer. And as is too often the case, saying you have to talk to a lawyer is the same as saying you won’t make any money. (2004:224) Of course, if one does not even attempt to make a profit, one may still be committing a felony, [26] and is still liable for damages to the copyright holder, and one will likely be, in the end, just in a worse situation if the lawyers should arrive. Through these four primary avenues, and in other ways less important and too numerous to discuss in detail, the capitalist holdovers have put legal barriers in the way of the use of the digital bounty all around us. The effect is the systematic colonization of information itself: only corporations and economically elite individuals are able to pay the prices required in order to freely put information to use. Only they can afford the expense of a lawsuit, and we mere colonists cannot fight even a spurious and unjust claim of infringement without devastating loss of property and livelihood. Only they can afford to pay the absurd and exclusionary fees attached to legal use of materials, fees that ensure that we colonists cannot ourselves become producers.[27] Furthermore, only they can pay the legislative equivalent of the poll tax: the immense amount of money that must be spent in most cases in order to get legislation on the table, and unless there is first a public uprising, we colonists would certainly be unable to marshal the resources to counterbalance the capital investments of intellectual property corporations in both lobbying and campaign contributions, if we should wish to pass legislation limiting the artificial monopolies of the intellectual property empire. Informational Feudalism As we have already noted, systematic colonization of information is in a way more insidious than systematic colonization of a conventional sort, for it sets the price of free use too high for common laborers. It must do this, for its industry has become revolutionary, and any common laborer can now produce goods on an industrial level; goods which can most certainly rival those of corporate capitalistic manufacture in terms both of quality and quantity, and most assuredly in terms of price. The overall end goal of this variety of systematic colonization is not then to ensure that an orderly and reasonable capitalist economy is created, for fair capitalist competition already brought about the spontaneous communist society that this systematic colonization is intended to disrupt. The overall end goal is instead to bring about a kind of feudalism, for it must to the greatest extent possible transform laborers into mere serfs, for in revolutionary industries a creative and industrious laborer can compete with any magnate. As Lessig explains his version of this parallel, Under feudalism, not only was property held by a relatively small number of individuals and entities. And not only were the rights that ran with that property powerful and extensive. But the feudal system had a strong interest in assuring that property holders within that system not weaken feudalism by liberating people or property within their control to the free market. Feudalism depended upon maximum control. (2004: 267) Lessig is concerned here with the hostility not merely towards those who object to the strong property rights granted over intellectual property but also towards intellectual property rights holders who wish to release their own work into the public domain. This latter form of hostility is exemplified by U.S. Patent and Trademark Office acting director of international relations Lois Boland, who stated that “open-source software runs counter to the mission of WIPO, which is to promote intellectual-property rights,” and that “to hold a meeting which has as its purpose to disclaim or waive such rights seems to us to be contrary to the goals of WIPO.” (Lessig 2004: 265)[28]. This hostility cannot be explained by a commitment to property rights, for as Lessig points out, even if one believed that the purpose of WIPO was to maximize intellectual property rights, in our tradition, intellectual property rights are held by individuals and corporations. They get to decide what to do with those rights because, again, they are their rights. If they want to “waive” or “disclaim” their rights, that is, within our tradition, totally appropriate. (2004:266) This hostility towards any broadening of the public domain does indeed go beyond advanced accumulation fast capitalism Volume 4 • Issue 1 • 2008 r E volu t iona ry i n Dust ry a n D Digita l Colon i a lism Page 11 and systematic colonization, but does not itself constitute informational feudalism. In addition we need to consider contemporary analogs of three other aspects of traditional feudalism: (1) the way in which labor power is the property of the land rather than of the laborer (as is the case in capitalism) or of other humans (as is the case in slavery), (2) the way in which guild structures ensure that laborers are unable to wield their productive power as individuals, and (3) the overall structure within this bipartite system which amounts to an unchanging caste system determining the ability to freely use the means of production which are, however, in the possession of all. In the feudal economy, land is given over to nobles who extract a tribute from those who work and live upon the land. Thus, “Like tribal and communal ownership, it is based again on a community; but the directly producing class standing over against it is not, as in the case of the ancient community, the slaves, but the enserfed small peasantry” (Marx 1932). However, here the means of production assert a kind of dominance over the community for “The serf is the adjunct of the land. Likewise, the lord of an entailed estate, the first-born son, belongs to the land. It inherits him” (Marx 1959). Further, This feudal system of land ownership had its counterpart in the towns in the shape of corporative property, the feudal organization of trades. . . . The gradually accumulated small capital of individual craftsmen and their stable numbers, as against the growing population, evolved the relation of journeyman and apprentice, which brought into being in the towns a hierarchy similar to that in the country. (Marx 1932) In the informational feudalism which the capitalist holdover seeks to bring about there is no clear analog to this bipartite town/country division, but our position as laborers in informational economies takes on aspects of both serfdom and guild membership, and our position as consumers takes on aspects of those freemen who are neither serfs nor guilded, with the exception, of course, that we have means of subsistence not altogether dependent upon informational economies. In informational feudalism, we would be born serfs. Born onto lands already owned by others, we would be able to use our productive force only insofar as we pay tribute to the noble landowners. We could write only insofar as we pay for Microsoft Word, and insofar as we pay for the updates required by the updates of our operating systems, which are in turn required for our continued compatibility with those who have already updated their software. Furthermore, our consumption would be limited to those provided by these lords; we could listen to music and watch movies only by paying tribute to labels and studios. We would be born and live out our lives upon cultural soil already and always ever owned by the few and the powerful. In order to profit from our productive powers to create goods, we would have to join guilds. To publish we would have to prove our worth to publishing houses and agree to their terms. To record and release music, we would have to join a label, for only they would be able to convince (i.e. pay in cash or kind) the radio conglomerates to play our music. To film and release video, we would have to sell ourselves over to the interests of studios or networks, for only they can withstand a charge of infringement. To create software or games, we would have to become a part of a large software company, for only they can stockpile the patents needed in order to negotiate release of applications. In each case, the guild keeps not only the greater part of the profits, but usually also keeps the majority of ownership rights over our products. Others are then born into our products, which we cannot allow them free use of, for our guilds and lords retain ownership of them. Thus, the world which the copyright warriors wish to bring about is not only feudalistic in that it depends upon suppression of making informational goods freely available, but also in that it would establish an unchanging caste system in which only the few could ever freely use resources in the possession of all, and in which the many can only ever use the means in their possession by virtue of their fealty to the few, thereby reducing us to serfs belonging to the very lands we work. As Lessig says, “the question now is whether [information society] will be free or feudal,” just as Roger Garaudy wrote in 1969, when he asked whether digital technologies will “bring about renewed alienation in a technocratic form of totalitarianism, or an unprecedented liberation of the creative potential in man, in each and every human being” (1970:11). This is a question that we have the responsibility and privilege to answer. A complication which we must consider, in framing this question, is that however rhetorically effective and descriptively compelling they may or may not be as metaphors and analogies, ultimately ‘feudalism’ and ‘serfdom’ insufficient descriptions of our emerging relation to productive forces. G.A. Cohen describes “ownership positions of immediate producers” as follows: the serf owns some of his labor power and some of the means of production; the proletarian owns all of his labor power and none of the means of production; an independent producer owns all of both; and a slave owns none of either (1978:65). Cohen Volume 4 • Issue 1 • 2008 fast capitalism Page 12 D.E . W it t ko W Er then goes on to describe the different combinations which do not appear in the standard set, the first of which – (5): he who owns none of his labour power but all of the means of production – Cohen claims “depicts an incoherent set of rights. For if X is the sole owner of all the means of production he uses . . . he is entitled to use them without the direction or interference of another person. Yet (5) also states that X has no authority whatsoever over the disposition of his own labor power” (1978:66). Surely Cohen is right in claiming that this situation is incoherent, and yet in some important aspects this seems to be the regulative ideal for the consumer under informational feudalism. We see this more clearly in his ongoing discussion: (5) is the mirror image of the proletarian . . . The proletarian may do anything he wishes with his labour power, short of violating the general laws of society, and nothing may be done with it without his contractual consent. He may not, of course, work with whatever means of production he chooses, but this follows from the exclusion of illegal behaviour in general. For parity, the person described in (5) should, in virtue of his supposed ownership of means of production, be able to do whatever he wishes with them within the law, yet this is excluded by his being forbidden to work with them as he wills, which is not a general law, but a legal feature of his particular situation. (1978:66) Today, of course, there is a law which forbids from doing “whatever we wish” with the intellectual goods we purchase, and yet it is still the case that we own copies of mp3s, DVDs and applications. And, further, with digital objects it is impossible for us to own the digital consumer object without also always already owning the means of production of it. For these reasons, I hold that it is more appropriate to say of our digital serfdom that, with regard only to our lives in relation to intellectual goods, that intellectual property maximalism moves us towards a situation wherein we could be appropriately said to own all the means of production, and yet not own our labour- power with relation to them; a kind of regional approximation of (5) above. We might describe this situation as the ideal consumer: the ideal consumer has access to the means of production, and yet is unable to do anything with them, and therefore must always purchase in order to consume. Again, a chief example here is the farmer who has every opportunity, but not the legal right, to save seed from harvest to replant; we are prevented from becoming independent producers, not because we have no access to, or cannot afford the means of production, but simply because we are legally prevented from using it, either directly through intellectual property rights, or indirectly through the fear of litigation and collusion of industrial producers.[29] Thus, abandoned by capital, capitalists have used laws intended to bind their hands in order to prohibit productive forces from further development. In doing so, they have appropriated the functionaries of the governments, both domestic and foreign, in order to keep wage-laborers from the productive use of the means of production now within their hands. Through advanced accumulation, they rob the commons at public expense. Through systematic colonization, they prevent our use of that which has been taken from the commons. Together, these work to bring about informational feudalism, in which our lives are lived on their property, and we have no choice but to consume what they provide at the prices they set, to produce only by their fiat, and to sign our own work over to them if this work is ever to reach the public. This program has not yet been completed, and even if it were completed, it would still only be further grist in the mill of history, which, if we sign on to some version of technological determinism, would progress inevitably away both from capitalism and from its regressive neofeudal stopgap as well, towards a future of communal, bazaar-model intellectual production. However, regardless of our views on determinism, this future is already with us in at least an inchoate form – the inchoate communistic economy, spontaneously arisen from the public availability of the means of production, which is embodied within the open source movement and p2p networks. We have yet an opportunity to bring the future sooner rather than later, and with less upheaval now than in the future when feudalism may have gained sway despite the resistance of the means of production themselves. We must resist; we must riot in the online streets, and we must work our digital plowshares into swords. We must rip, we must mix, and we must burn. Endnotes 1. Despite this, I will nevertheless have to refer to this colonists.” class in the following. In order to avoid involvement in debate about its proper name or characterization, I will 2. Although G. A . Cohen is right to assert that, for Marx, use the dummy-term “digital proletariat,” or, later, “we the breakdown of capitalism itself was insufficient to fast capitalism Volume 4 • Issue 1 • 2008 r E volu t iona ry i n Dust ry a n D Digita l Colon i a lism Page 13 establish socialism or communism unless a sufficient 4. For example, Courtney Love argues very effectively level of technological development had been first that even a band with a million-dollar advance, a %20 attained. As Cohen summarizes: royalty rate, which sells a million copies of their album, nevertheless “might as well be working at a 7-Eleven.” Believing that a developed technology was an She introduces this example by asking rhetorically, essential precondition of socialist success, Marx “ What is piracy? Piracy is the act of stealing an artist’s would be pessimistic about attempts to ‘build work without any intention of paying for it. I’m not socialism’ from a baseline of comparative scarcity talking about Napster-type software. I’m talking about and industrial immaturity. But since he thought major label recording contracts.” (2000) Love then goes high technology was not only necessary but on to explain how musicians have been legally denied also sufficient for socialism, and that capitalism ownership, for perpetuity, of the copyright for their would certainly generate that technology, his final music via the Satellite Home Viewing Act of 1999, position was optimistic. (Cohen 1978:206) wherein such creative works were reclassified as ‘works for hire,’ a designation which does not otherwise cover Please do note, however, that this claim that “high creative or original works. technology” is “sufficient” for socialism is still not the claim that I will make here: that digital information 5. The practical similarity between the online exchange technology is not merely sufficient but actually and the personal exchange of digital files is recognized effective – actively revolutionary in important ways – in in references to the “sneakernet.” The term originated bringing about communistic production within its own, with the observation that where it is impossible or admittedly limited sphere. imprudent to exchange such materials on the internet, one can always put on one’s sneakers and exchange the 3. It has been said that for this reason, any attempt files in person; that is, over the “sneakernet.” to protect digital information from copying must necessarily fail. The argument is that the digital 6. Dr. Edward Felten, after receiving a threatening letter, information must be decrypted at some point, for it is was moved to decline to present an academic paper that used in a non-encrypted form. No matter how complex used research garnered from a public challenge funded the system of protection, it will always be possible to by the Secure Digital Music Initiative. As he explained, tap into the data stream at the point of display or use. A nice example of the way in which wares can exploit On behalf of the authors of the paper “Reading this point of contact is presented by programs such Between the Lines: Lessons from the SDMI as ourTunes (http://ourtunes.sourceforge.net/) and Challenge,” I am disappointed to tell you that Blue Coconut (http://husk.org/apps/blue_coconut/), we will not be presenting our paper today. Our which connect at the user-end to iTunes’ music sharing paper was submitted via the normal academic function, allowing a user to download a shared file peer-review process. The reviewers, who were through iTunes, despite the fact that iTunes itself, which chosen for their scientific reputations and provides the streaming of the music file, is specifically credentials, enthusiastically recommended the designed to prevent such downloading. paper for publication, due to their judgment of the paper’s scientific merit. Nevertheless, the A particularly dramatic example is provided by Recording Industry Association of America, the MyTunes, a program which performed this same SDMI Foundation, and the Verance Corporation circumventive function. As John Borland reported, threatened to bring a lawsuit if we proceeded with our presentation or the publication of our paper. as some predicted, the popular software has all but Threats were made against the authors, against the vanished from the Net, and its programmer’s sites conference organizers, and against their respective have gone dark. But this time, it’s not the doing of employers. Litigation is costly, time-consuming, an angry record industry or a conflict-averse Apple. and uncertain, regardless of the merits of the other Trinity College sophomore Bill Zeller, who wrote side’s case. Ultimately we, the authors, reached the program in less than two weeks of off-time a collective decision not to expose ourselves, coding last year, says he simply lost the source code our employers, and the conference organizers to in a catastrophic computer crash. litigation at this time. (Felten 2001) “I was about to release the second version, when Full text of Dr. Felten’s letter, along with the threatening I lost everything,” Zeller said. “I may put it back online, but there won’t be any updates. I don’t want letter from The Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI), to rewrite it.” (Borland 2004) a music industry organization, is available at http:// cryptome.org/sdmi-attack.htm. Full text of the paper The very fact that a college student can circumvent the authors chose not to present is available at that site, corporation-produced DRM systems in his spare time, or at http://www.usenix.org/publications/library/ with a level of commitment as minimal as we see in proceedings/sec01/craver.pdf his comments here, supports the basic intuition that the project of preventing access through the technical 7. For example, Dave Touretzky’s home page, available means of closed-sourcing, encryption, and DRM is at http://www-2.cs.cmu.edu/~dst/. The letter reads, in essentially doomed. part, Volume 4 • Issue 1 • 2008 fast capitalism Page 14 D.E . W it t ko W Er We have received information that you are lawsuit to unmask a peer-to-peer user. unlawfully offering product at the above referenced web site. We have notified your ISP of the unlawful This case represents the entertainment industry’s nature of this web site and have asked for its latest legal assault on peer-to-peer piracy. If its immediate removal. Our letter to your ISP is set invocation of the DMCA is upheld on appeal, forth below for your reference. (Motion Picture music industry investigators or other copyright Association of America 2001) holders would have the power to identify hundreds or thousands of music pirates at a time without The appended letter to the ISP, in this case, Carnegie- filing a lawsuit first. (McCullagh 2003) Mellon University, reads in part It is worth noting that such peer-to-peer users may in The district court’s ruling makes clear that by fact own the material being downloaded, e.g. on CD, providing DeCSS, the above referenced Internet and may therefore be engaging in “space-shifting;” a site violates the DMCA. This conduct may also practice which has been recognized as fair use of legally violate the laws of other countries, international obtained material. However, under the DMCA, this law, and/or treaty obligations. kind of legal action may be taken against what may thus be only apparent infringement. We therefore demand that you take appropriate steps to cause the immediate removal of DeCSS 9. “The Recording Industry Association of America from the above identified Internet site, along (RIAA), the Motion Picture Association of America with such other actions as may be necessary or (MPAA) and songwriters’ associations have drafted a appropriate to suspend this illegal activity. Failure letter expected to be sent Friday to the Fortune 1000 to comply with this measure will subject you to companies, cautioning executives that employees’ liability as described above. song- or movie-swapping could put them at legal risk.” (Borland 2002a) We also request that you: 10. Adobe Systems filed a complaint with the • maintain and take whatever steps are necessary Department of Justice against ElcomSoft Co. Ltd., on to prevent the destruction of all records, including grounds that they were selling ‘a circumvention device’ electronic records, in your possession or control as defined under DMCA §1201(a). Dmitry Sklyarov, related to this Internet site, account holder or a citizen of Russia, and Ph.D. student, and ElcomSoft subscriber, and employee who had been in the United States at the time presenting at an academic conference sponsored in part • provide appropriate notice to the subscriber or by Adobe Systems, was arrested in July 17, 2001, and account holder responsible for the presence of held until December of that year, when he was allowed DeCSS on your system or network, advising him/ to return home. A year later ElcomSoft was cleared of her of the contents of this notice and directing that all four charges of producing a circumvention device, as person to contact the undersigned immediately at well as the charge of conspiracy. (Bowman 2002a) the email address provided above. • By copy of this letter, the owner of the above referenced Internet site and/or email account AT 6:30 ON A WARM MORNING IN JULY 1995 is hereby directed to cease and desist from the NE AR Salt Lake City, Miki Casalino was suddenly conduct complained of herein. (Motion Picture awakened by the ringing of her doorbell. When Association of America 2001) she opened the door, a troop of United States marshals and Novell employees flashed a court A similar letter was sent to John Young, with the order and announced, “ We’ve come to seize your additional demands that he son’s computer.” Although Casalino had no idea her 18-year-old son was illegally pirating Novell’s • advise us of the name and physical address of the and other programs on his bulletin board service, person operating this site; and she was guilty in the eyes of the law. The marshals raided the house, impounded the computer • maintain, and take whatever steps are necessary equipment, and left. Another software pirate shut to prevent the destruction of, all records, including down. (Rothken 1998) electronic records, in your possession or control respecting this URL, account holder or subscriber. 12. (Motion Picture Association of America 2000) In a letter sent to more than 2,000 university 8. The dispute is not about whether the RIAA will be presidents, the Recording Industry Association of able to force Verizon to reveal the identity of a suspected America (RIAA), the Motion Picture Association copyright infringer, but about what legal mechanism of America (MPAA) and other copyright owner copyright holders may use. The RIAA would prefer to trade groups told university officials that large rely on the DMCA’s turbocharged procedures because numbers of students were using college resources they are cheaper and faster than filing a “John Doe” to violate federal law. fast capitalism Volume 4 • Issue 1 • 2008 r E volu t iona ry i n Dust ry a n D Digita l Colon i a lism Page 15 “We are concerned that an increasing and advanced accumulation and systematic colonization, as significant number of students are using university may be clear from a fairly characteristic passage: networks to engage in online piracy of copyrighted creative works,” the trade groups wrote in a letter By reproducing the times tables, growing their sent to universities this week . . . own seeds, using traditional medicines or selling indigenous art [citizens] may be trespassing The letter, which the trade groups asked college on an intellectual property right that has been presidents to send to university legal, financial and appropriated by a large company. . . . This is technological executives, stops short of threatening what we mean by being a trespasser on your own any kind of legal action. (Borland 2002b) heritage. . . . This is what information feudalism means. When Monsanto contractually imposes 13. For example, Cornel l University informed its students obligations on farmers using the lever of its control in 2002 that students may be subject to disciplinary over intellectual property in seeds, Monsanto does actions within the school even if they comply with a act like the feudal lord who allows serfs to till his request to remove copyrighted files. Tracy Mitrano, the land so long as they honor the obligations that are DMCA Agent for Cornell University, warned that his due. (Drahos and Braithwaite 2003:201) without your knowing it explicitly, by downloading The idea of informational feudalism which I am trying [certain file-sharing programs] and the files, your to put forth is somewhat more robust and precise computer is programmed to share it back out into than theirs. This should not be in any way taken as a the international Internet community. You are then criticism of the book, which is well researched and therefore liable to be in violation of the DMCA, argued. My intention in this comment is only to explain even if all you did was download a single song. Each why I do not further reference the work in connection criminal offense carries with it a minimum fine of with the charge of feudalism, and to differentiate my $30,000 and a potential jail sentence. use of feudalism from theirs. Ms. Mitrano also noted: if you don’t like or disagree 15. Bob Kruger, Vice President of Enforcement for with the law, learn more about and take a stand on it the Business Software Alliance (BSA), said “We don’t in the arena of national politics. With implications for like to call [an audit] a raid, but in reality that’s what free speech and academic inquiry, it might just become they are – raids.” He goes on to describe these raids. As the political issue of your generation.” (Miltrano 2002) paraphrased ; Another interesting example is the U.S. Naval Academy, Once the alliance has a judge’s OK, a team of which took possession of about 100 students’ computers auditors--usually BSA accountants with laptops- due to suspicion of copyright infringement: -shows up at the business under suspicion, along with a few U.S. marshals. The auditors check Each student gets a computer when they enter the what software is on each computer, then asks to academy. Illegal possession of copyrighted material see the company’s licenses. For each software use could carry punishment including court-martial for which the firm doesn’t have papers, it’s fined. or a loss of leave, according to academy policy. While each violation carries with it a fine of up The seizure comes just a few weeks after movie to $150,000, Kruger says, the actual figure comes and music industry trade groups sent a letter to down to a dance between BSA lawyers and the more than 2,000 university and college presidents offending party’s chosen representatives. He across the country, including officials at the Naval assures me that the alliance’s intent is to make Academy, requesting help in cracking down on its point via the company’s bottom line: ‘It’s one unauthorized file swapping. (Bowman 2002b) awfully rude way for companies to realize it’s a lot more expensive to violate copyright laws than to 14. I am not alone in using this characterization, see, comply with them. ( Jackson 2001) for example, Information Feudalism (Drahos and Braithwaite 2003). Lawrence Lessig also characterizes 16. There fol low a sampl ing of examples of international the goal of at least some of the “copyright warriors” as governmental support of the Business Software turning the information society into a feudal society, Alliance, a trade group concerned with primarily U.S. noting that already “the trend is toward the feudal.” interests, and with particular US software companies, (Lessig 2004:267) Microsoft in particular. I should also say something about why I do not reference Australia Drahos and Braithwaite’s book to a greater extent in my discussion of informational feudalism to follow. Drahos A coordinated international crackdown saw and Braithwaite do not make a particularly strong case premises across the country raided and computer that the emerging situation is best characterized as equipment seized by the federal police last week, feudalism rather than some other kind of consolidation, although no arrests have been made to date. nor, I should take care to note, do they attempt to, as this is not their project. Their idea of feudalism is exhausted Many ZDNet readers have expressed anger at for the most part by what I will discuss in terms of what they consider to be the police enforcing Volume 4 • Issue 1 • 2008 fast capitalism Page 16 D.E . W it t ko W Er copyright law for big software businesses whose laws, they have bigger things to care about, so own “inherent weaknesses” in software design are the companies took the law into their own hands, the root cause of the problem. Software houses and it’s being allowed to happen. What rights do should “put up or shut up” one reader said and not companies have to become vigilantes (Agent000 be so keen to spend taxpayers’ money. 2001)? Croatia “Personally think the police should keep themselves concerned with bigger cyber crime Microsoft Corp. said it has stepped up its issues like child pornography or Denial of Service crackdown on software piracy in recent months attacks. Not raiding peoples’ homes and taking and announced actions against 7,500 Internet computer equipment just because some software listings for allegedly pirated products in 33 or movie company might lose a bit of money. They countries... need to get their priorities right,” another ZDNet reader from Western Australia said. In Europe, the Middle East and Africa, the company said it has taken action in 2,274 Retired computer engineer Keith Styles from instances of suspected piracy, sending notices to Melbourne agreed: “Let the police do their job Web-site owners asking them to remove products of policing for the community and stop working listed for sale. It has filed four lawsuits and taken for big business corporations. Copyright is a part in 56 raids with law-enforcement officials in business problem not a police problem. Let the that region; in Croatia alone, police in late March [corporations] do their own dirty work” (Lebihan simultaneously raided the premises of 52 alleged 2001). pirates (Buckman 2000). Canada England, Finland, Norway [M]y workplace received a visit from the Software To hear the federal government and piracy experts Gestapo. It’s part of a campaign organized by a describe it, DrinkOrDie, the network of software number of software developers (Microsoft, Adobe, crackers that was the focus of worldwide anti- Symantec and a number of others) to reduce piracy law enforcement action on Tuesday, is the software piracy in the workplace and schools. They al-Qaida of Internet software theft. . . . call themselves CAAST, the Canadian Alliance Against Software Piracy. Although I am no thief, “They come from all walks of life. Many are I understand that companies deserve to be paid successful white-collar business people by day, for their work, but it begs two questions: A) Can and DrinkOrDie members by night,” [the U.S. companies do this? B) How long until they start Customs Service] said in a statement. . . . searching my home? But when the news broke that the Customs Service, A team of middle aged men in semi-formal attire, the Department of Justice and foreign authorities stereotypical tech guys, swept the building, executed at least 100 search warrants in the United checking every computer to make sure that we States, Australia, England, Finland and Norway on weren’t using software that we hadn’t properly Tuesday in an attempt to “d ismantle” DrinkOrDie, remunerated the developer for. We knew they were a lot of people were puzzled. According to the coming, and made sure that our site licenses were evidence available from several cracking sites, in order. From what I know, their lengthy visit Internet newsgroups and members of the Warez – went without a hitch. The men were polite, nicely or “software cracking” – community, DrinkOrDie asking each employee if they could take a moment was small potatoes in the world of software theft. to do an inventory of their workstation. They ran a . . . program that did a quick scan of all applications on the machine, and sent the data to a network server. “Only peasants get caught,” wrote MoRf, a cracker What they did with the data after that, I’m not sure. in Moscow, in an online chat room” (Manjoo 2001). The situation begs another question: why did they give us advanced notice? Granted, we would be Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon pretty annoyed if they showed up out of the blue, but for all they know, we could have unloaded any Microsoft Corporation, a multi-national software pirated apps the night before. Quite simply, they company, last Thursday launched an anti-piracy weren’t there to catch us, they were there to scare campaign to clamp down on piracy within some us. To send a message, ‘the days of pirated software Ghanaian companies. are over. We’re watching you.’ The campaign, the company said , was a nationwide I, for one, was scared, despite my innocence. Here, exercise that had already started in Nigeria and I had men, sent by a company (or a coalition of Cameroon. . . . companies, technically), enforcing the law. The government wouldn’t do anything to enforce the [Mr Franck-Alex Thalmas, Microsoft Anti-Piracy fast capitalism Volume 4 • Issue 1 • 2008 r E volu t iona ry i n Dust ry a n D Digita l Colon i a lism Page 17 Manager in charge of West and Central Africa] All the eleven personal computers (PCs) loaded said companies would be asked to take inventories with the counterfeit computer programmes and of their software pack and licenses to attest the the 29 illegal compact disks (CDs) were seized from their possession as a proof of infringing the legality of the software in usage regarding the law country’s copyright laws, he said. and license agreement. “If we are satisfied about the information provided The businesses that can afford to use legal software must do so in their own and national interest, we would issue a certificate of compliance to give [Jawad Al Redha, Director, Business Software them the authorization to use the software,” he said Alliance (BSA), Middle East] suggested and (Accra Mail 2001). clarified when someone creates a new computer programme and his creation is possessed without Malaysia paying due royalties then it amounts to stealing, “which is neither morally nor legally justified” Following the promise to intensify efforts to (Contact Pakistan 2001). crackdown on software piracy amongst end- users the enforcement division of the Ministry of Singapore Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs yesterday raided the premises of a publishing company Seven raids were conducted in October, across the in Kuala Lumpur for suspicion of using pirated island’s heartlands like Toa Payoh, Ang Mo Kio, software in the course of conducting its business. Marine Parade and Bedok North. This is because . . . activity at the traditional centre of pirated goods, Sim Lim Square, has largely been stamped out “There is just no excuse. Since the beginning of by police action. The raids turned up over 4,000 this month, the Ministry with the cooperation pieces of illegal Microsoft goods. . . . with the Business Software Alliance has advertised extensively in the newspapers and radio to remind Microsoft corporate attorney Katharine Bostick senior managers and company directors of the said in a statement that the pirates wanted to exploit consequences of ignoring the Ministry’s warnings.” the worldwide marketing effort for Windows XP. [said Tuan Mohd. Shahar bin Osman, The State “Not only are these pirates ripping off legitimate Director of Enforcement (Ministry of Domestic software retailers,” she said, “they are exploiting Trade and Consumer Affairs) for Wilayah the creativity, hard work and investment made by Persekutuan.] software developers and industry partners.” . . . According to the Copyright Act 1987, if an The number of people apprehended in the raid organization is found guilty of copyright was not given. However, those convicted of piracy infringement, the company and its director/s may can face up to seven years’ imprisonment (Tsang be liable to a fine of up to RM10,000 per infringing 2001). software and/or up to five years jail term. South Africa Speaking on behalf of the Business Software Alliance, Mr. Chee Chun Woei, Vice-President of [T]he SA [South Africa] Federation Against BSA Malaysia said, “Companies need to be aware Copyright and Theft (SAFACT) has declared war that using pirated software does not simply mean on counterfeiting, saying it will be ‘embarking using an illegal piece of software bought from the on more raids which are expected to lead to streets. Indiscriminate copying from an original convictions’ during 2002. It will also be working CD-ROM is also an act of piracy if the license more closely with other stakeholders, including agreement does not allow it.” . . . software companies such as Microsoft. In complementing the enforcement program of Fred Potgieter, MD of SAFACT - an organization the Ministry, the BSA operates a toll-free hotline which represents distributors such as Ster Kinekor number 1-800-887-800 for reports of the use of and Nu Metro - said his organization along pirated or unlicensed software in organizations. with other business partners such as Microsoft The BSA provides a reward of up to RM20,000 has assisted the South African Police Services, for every piece of information that results in a customs and the Department of Trade & Industry successful enforcement action (Business Software in ‘an increasing number of raids and counterfeit Alliance 2001). product seizures. Pakistan During 2001 SAFACT conducted 680 inspections and led 133 raids. The organization seized 7 584 In the latest move, BSA, the alliance of world’s VCs, 6 714 DVDs, 5 124 CD-ROMs, while a total leading software companies has got another three of 38 cases were finalized... software pirates arrested in Karachi, in assistance with the police. Commenting further, SAFACT’s Potgieter said Volume 4 • Issue 1 • 2008 fast capitalism Page 18 D.E . W it t ko W Er his organization is also working more closely at a fuzzy about the concept of intellectual property grassroots level to combat counterfeiting. rights” seems to be substantiated by a claim, on the part of Amorn, that the pricing structure is unfair “‘ We began an initiative last year which is starting and exploitative. to bear fruit. The major flea markets indicated their willingness to work with SAFACT in combating At Panthip Plaza, a shopping center specializing piracy. This lead to us creating a Memorandum in computer gear, antipiracy raids are a seasonal of Understanding between our industry and the affair. “The police come about twice a year, once flea markets which will see all products being in June or July and then before the new year,” authenticated before the exhibitor is allowed to says Mr. Amorn, who owns eight software stores sell. These are all major steps. that sell mainly pirated compact discs. “ We know because the police tell us. For the software pirates “Our other major objective – besides clamping of Thailand, cat-and-mouse raids are just part of down on flea markets – is to target roadside their business. Copyright infringement, say the traders. This is one of the biggest problem areas pirates, is here to stay. The incentives for buyers when it comes to counterfeit sales,” said Potgieter and sellers are just too great. (Microsoft South Africa 2002). “It now costs as little as 50 cents to produce a Sweden pirate CD,” says an American analyst here. For $10, computer buffs can pick up CDs bundled MindArk AB, the Swedish creators of the 3D with thousands of dollars worth of illegally virtual Universe “Project Entropia” was raided by copied software. “You can buy Oracle’s database 70 officials of the Swedish court, acting on behalf system for $25, whereas it would cost you around of Microsoft and three other software companies. $20,000 to buy the real thing,” Amorn says. “Look at [Microsoft Corp. chairman] Bill Gates; he’s the Microsoft has accused MindArk of infringement richest man in the world.” on their software rights, stating that MindArk is willingly and unlawfully using over 600 programs Dhiraphol Suwanprateep, a Thai lawyer working without license. The raid on the MindArk for the BSA in Bangkok, agrees. “ There is a feeling headquarters in Gothenburg is believed to be the among some people that the pirate software largest operation ever conducted by a Swedish dealers are simply engaged in competitive business court. . . . practices against companies who are charging too much for their product,” he says. Jan Welter Timkrans, the managing director of MindArk AB, said: “MindArk has duly procured “Outright corruption is a factor, too,” says an licenses for all software used in its offices. I would American analyst, who asked not to be named. even go so far as to say that MindArk is one of “There’s a bidding war between private software the companies with the most stringent policies companies and the pirates. They’re both trying to regarding software licenses in use by its employees. buy the police’s support.” “One can expect that Microsoft and the other The BSA maintains that prices and piracy companies are keeping track of what and to whom shouldn’t be linked. “If you have the money to buy their representatives are selling software. In some a car, then you should have the money to pay for cases the registration process involves direct the gas to run it,” points out Mr. Dhiraphol. “ With contact between our company and Microsoft or its computers, it’s the same. If you buy a computer, colleagues. With this in mind, Microsoft must be you have to plan for the cost of software.” assumed to know that what they have stated to the Swedish courts is not the full truth, therefore I must Mr. Tan of the BSA puts the issue in even starker assume that Microsoft must have another agenda terms. “Whether the economic situation is good for their action against Mind Ark.” or bad, people should realize that software piracy is illegal,” he says. Jan Welter Timkrans suggests that Microsoft is trying to disrupt the launching of Project Entropia : Supporting that line, the US government has “All through our development process we have kept been dangling antipiracy incentives. In 1993, track of which companies are visiting our site on the US Trade Representative named Thailand the Internet and without comparison Microsoft has been one of the most frequent visitors.” . . . as a “priority foreign country” and withdrew preferential trade privileges on 16 items. Microsoft of course owns Asheron’s Call, which MindArk says is similar to Project Entropia (PC That hard-line approach brought quick results. By Game News 2002). 1995, Thailand had a new copyright law stipulating penalties of up to four years in prison and fines of ail Th and $20,000 for offenders. . . . Note the implied claim of the journalist; “being At their most extreme fringe, software pirates hit fast capitalism Volume 4 • Issue 1 • 2008 r E volu t iona ry i n Dust ry a n D Digita l Colon i a lism Page 19 back at critics with nationalist arguments. “I don’t Edit] Anakin is a stronger character. His crappy see why we in developing countries should pay the whoops and oops and that stuff is gone. It makes same amount as Americans for software,” said a the kid seem like someone who is strong with the Thai journalist, echoing their argument at a recent force and worth going against the council for as BSA press conference in Bangkok. opposite to the whiny little kid in the original cut.” Realists say piracy will remain a problem for many Jeanne Cole, a spokesperson for Lucasfilm, told years. “We are concentrating on both education Zap2it.com that because no one at the company and enforcement,” Tan says. “The emphasis is on had seen a copy of the re-edited version, they making people understand the value of intellectual couldn’t officially comment about the changes. property. Right now, we’re focusing on businesses, Cole did explain her company’s policy regarding government, and universities.” copyright infringement, though. “Lucasfilm aggressively pursues anyone involved with the Just in case that message doesn’t get through, the unauthorized sale of our copyrighted materials,” BSA has set up a hotline in Bangkok and is handing she said. But Cole also added that Lucasfilm out cash rewards of up to $6,000 for information recognizes the fan following the Star Wars leading to the prosecution of pirates or companies franchise has generated and said the company using illegal software (Yvan Cohen 1997). generally doesn’t pursue fans as long as they don’t go overboard with their adoration. Essentially, 17. “Patents most benefit behemoths with huge patent she said, that means: “as long as nobody crosses portfolios. IBM, the No. 1 holder, has about 20,000 that that line - either in bad taste or in profiting from generate more than $1 billion a year in licensing fees. the use of our characters.” . . . “At the end of the But even giants such as Intel bemoan a system they say day this is about everybody just having fun with forces them to use big chunks of research budgets to Star Wars,” said Lucasfilm’s Cole. “Go be creative” stockpile patents just to use for cross-licensing when (Rodgers 2001). other patent holders threaten them” (Davidson 2004). 20. Copyright-free material may, of course, be 18. In two senses, one figurative, and one literal. incorporated into copyrighted products. However, Figuratively in that updates of software and unnecessary though encryption (or other use of code, such as the backwards incompatibilities, both within versions of a way that .pdf files can disallow copy-and-pasting of single program and between bundled programs, force text), copyright-free material can be copy-disabled us to continual upgrades even when there is otherwise either by the fact of the encryption (if it should be no increase in use-value for us from one version to the difficult to decode) or by the legal protection of the next. This economic dependency is an exact analog encryption method itself (for such processes can be of the economic dependency brought about through copyrighted and patented ). Monsanto’s efforts to minimize actual sustainable farming techniques, as discussed below (see note 21). 21. I refer to Monsanto’s practice of licensing rather than selling seeds. The license includes permission 19. For example, consider the anonymously produced for Monsanto inspectors to show up on the property “Phantom Edit” of George Lucas’ Star Wars: Episode 1 at any time in order to ensure that seeds aren’t being - The Phantom Menace. The reader will note that this saved for replanting. Monsanto’s ‘terminator gene’ is one of the seemingly few cases where the corporate project – cancelled due to public outcry – was an response is reasonable and measured. attempt to enforce this licensing requirement and the dependence produced thereby within the genetic code When asked about The Phantom Edit while itself by making crops become infertile once sprayed backstage at the MTV Movie Awards Saturday with RoundUp, the only herbicide contractually night, George Lucas told Zap2it.com that he wasn’t allowed under the Monsanto license. Monsanto also too worried about it. donates GMO seed to third-world countries, teaching them non-sustainable farming techniques which make “ The Internet is a new medium, it’s all about doing these farmers dependent upon Monsanto products things like that,” said Lucas, who added that it gives and makes these farmers as well as their compatriots people a new creative outlet. “I haven’t seen it. I unable to sell to many European countries, whose laws would like to.” often prohibit the importation of crops from countries growing genetically modified crops. This is then used The general consensus of fans on the Internet seems by Monsanto as an example of philanthropy for public to be that the new edit is an improvement on the relations purposes. original version. . . .JM Dash, one of the site’s most prolific message board contributors, is also one of 22. “Software makers want businesses to buy their the film’s most ardent supporters. “The stuff that products the same way they purchase pens, staples, or automobiles--if you need cars for 10 workers, you buy has been cut out is all about making it a stronger 10 cars.” ( Jackson 2001) But this is true for members of movie and not just some fan cutting out the crap he/ the general public as well – for example, she didn’t like,” he said. “If that were true, it would have just had the Darth Maul sequence looped for two hours.” He also said, “[In the Phantom There are several ways in which you might lift Volume 4 • Issue 1 • 2008 fast capitalism Page 20 D.E . W it t ko W Er intellectual property from software makers. First, holders for that 2 percent who pushed the CTEA you can soft-lift – that is, buy one copy of, say, through. But the law and its effect were not limited Microsoft Office and install it on your home office to that 2 percent. The law extended the terms of system, your laptop, even your kids’ PC. You may copyright generally. also be guilty of LANlifting . That’s when you purchase a single-user license for an application Think practically about the consequence of but load it on your LAN, giving every PC on the this extension . . . In 1930, 10,047 books were network access. published. In 2000, 174 of those books were still in print (2004: 221-2). In addition, you might have a nasty habit of versionlifting . This is when you buy the same 25. “[B]y the time the copyright for these films [viz. number of software packages as the number of PCs those among the earliest protected under the CTEA] you own, but you only upgrade one or two programs expires, the film will have expired. . . . [N]itrate stock and load the latest versions on all your computers. dissolves over time . . . the metal canisters in which they Think a few recent versions lying around the home are now stored will be filled with nothing more than office will insulate you from liability? You’re wrong dust” (Lessig 2004:224-5). (Rothken 1998). 26. “Felony penalties attach when the violation consists 23. of the reproduction or distribution of at least ten copies that are valued together at more than $2,500, or, under Shrink-wrap contracts . . . are the terms and amendments enacted in 2005, when the violation conditions that accompany software distributed involves distribution of a work being prepared for in a retail computer store. Shrink-wrap contracts commercial distribution over a publicly-accessible usually read something like “By opening the computer network” (United States Department of packaging on this box you agree to the terms and Justice 2006). cond itions of the l icense.” The terms and cond itions of the license are more often than not located inside 27. For example, consider this case from Lessig : the box. . . . Click-wrap contracts were developed in response to the massive growth of the Internet In 1990, [ Jon] Else was working on a documentary and Internet technology. A party enters into a click- about Wagner’s Ring Cycle. . . . [In one scene] wrap contract when they click the “I agree” or “I playing on the television set, while the stagehands accept” button which are preceded by terms and played checkers and the opera company played conditions. Examples of where click-wrap contracts Wagner, was The Simpsons. As Else judged it, this can be regularly seen include before you download touch of cartoon helped capture the flavor of what software, before you book an airline ticket online, was special about the scene. before you download music and many more (Callan 2005). Else then contacted Simpsons creator Matt Groening to clear permissions for the incidental use of copyrighted The legality of these types of contract remains in material, who said it was fine, but that he should clear dispute. They may require all manner of waiver of fair it with the production company, Gracie Films. They use, and are usually long, complex, and difficult enough were fine with the use as well, but told him to clear it to find that few end users are aware of the limits of their with their parent company, Fox. “Then, as Else told me, “two things happened. First we discovered . . . that use of purchased goods, leading to a chilling effect on Matt Groening doesn’t own his own creation – or at fair use. There are further problems making true consent problematic, as, for example, that if one should open a least that someone [at Fox] believes he doesn’t own his shrinkwrap licensed product, one cannot return it to own creation.” And second, Fox “wanted ten thousand a retail location because they cannot accept returns of dollars as a licensing fee for us to use this four-point- opened software boxes in order to prevent from copying v fi e seconds of . . . entirely unsolicited Simpsons which the material. Such products must be returned directly was in the corner of the shot.” to the manufacturer if one declines to accept the terms disclosed after purchase, and manufacturers may refuse Else was certain there was a mistake. He worked to accept a return on the same basis, and even if accepted his way up to someone he thought was a vice monetary recompense would be likely to take 8 to 10 president for licensing, Rebecca Herrera. He weeks. explained to her, “There must be some mistake here. . . . We’re asking for your educational rate on 24. As Lessig states the point, this.” That was the educational rate, Herrera told Else. A day or so later, Else called again to confirm The real harm of term extension comes not from what he had been told. these famous works [e.g. Mickey Mouse, Rhapsody in Blue, the work of Robert Frost]. . . . If you look “I wanted to make sure I had my facts straight,” at the work created in the first twenty years (1923 he told me. “Yes, you have your facts straight,” she to 1942) affected by the Sonny Bono Copyright said. It would cost $10,000 to use the clip of The Term Extension Act, 2 percent of that work has any Simpsons in the corner of a shot in a documentary continuing commercial value. It was the copyright film about Wagner’s Ring Cycle. And then, fast capitalism Volume 4 • Issue 1 • 2008 r E volu t iona ry i n Dust ry a n D Digita l Colon i a lism Page 21 astonishingly, Herrera told Else, “And if you quote admittedly be a welcome change from the historic and me, I’ll turn you over to our attorneys” (Lessig ongoing seizure and inappropriate recompense of the 2004:95-6.) traditional and cultural knowledge and flora of peoples in developing nations. Nevertheless, it is not at all 28. To be exact, the WIPO states: clear that strong intellectual property rights are in the best interests of developing nations, especially given The mission of WIPO is to promote through the comparative difficulties in establishing a claim to international cooperation the creation, compulsory licensing through WIPO or TRIPS, and, dissemination, use and protection of works of the just as, in the quote above, it is inappropriate for the human mind for the economic, cultural and social WIPO to assume that it is always in accord with the progress of all mankind. Its effect is to contribute desires and interests of the author to impose exclusive to a balance between the stimulation of creativity rights, similarly it is inappropriate to assume that desires worldwide, by sufficiently protecting the moral and and interests of developing peoples are best served by material interests of creators on the one hand, and signing on to a strong intellectual property regime. providing access to the socio-economic and cultural John Barton points out, for example, that “Devloped benefits of such creativity worldwide on the other countries often proceed on the assumption that what (World Intellectual Property Organization 2004:5). is good for them is likely to be good for developing countries . . . [B]ut in the case of developing countries, This reinforces the implication of the quote above, for more and stronger protection is not necessarily it is stated that it is the work of the human mind that better,” (Mantell 2002) and the report on Integrating is to be protected rather than the rights of the author Intellectual Property Rights and Development Policy or inventor. Similarly, we see that the WIPO seems to from the Commission on Intellectual Property Rights equate stimulation of creativity worldwide with such strikes a note of caution: closed-source protection, as in this passage from the same document: Whether IPRs are a good or bad thing, the developed world has come to an accommodation WIPO increasingly does not stop short of with them over a long period. Even if their promoting all kinds of intellectual property. This disadvantages sometimes outweigh their is only the means to achieve an end, which is to advantages, by and large the developed world has promote human creativity that results in industrial the national economic strength and established and cultural products and services enriching human legal mechanisms to overcome the problems so society as a whole. Thus WIPO is increasingly caused. Insofar as their benefits outweigh their involved in helping developing countries, whose disadvantages, the developed world has the creativity has yet to be adequately harnessed, to wealth and infrastructure to take advantage of the receive the full benefits of the creations of their opportunities provided. It is likely that neither citizens, as well as those of the outside world. of these holds true for developing and least WIPO’s role is to assist them also in the preparation developed countries (Commission on Intellectual and enforcement of laws, in the establishment of Property Rights 2002:6). sound institutions and administrative structures and in the training of appropriate personnel 29. This collusion is not limited to cross-licensing (2004:6). or anti-competitive bundling; we can see a striking example in the possible loss of network neutrality, This statement seems to imply that the WIPO will help which loss would help exclude independently produced developing countries by bringing in strong intellectual content from being able to effectively compete against property rights, and by making developing countries commodified goods produced by the copyright into exporters of intellectual goods, which would industries. 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Wi Po i ntellectual Property Handbook: Policy, law and u se (Wi Po r odgers, a ndrew. 2001. “Phantom Edit Deletes Jar Jar Binks.” Publication n o.489 (E)). www.wipo.int. a ccessed n ovember zap2it.com. a ccessed n ovember 3, 2007 (http://movies.zap2it. 3, 2007 (http://www.wipo.int/about-ip/en/iprm/pdf/ch1. com/movies/news/story/0,1259,---6903,00.html). pdf ). Volume 4 • Issue 1 • 2008 fast capitalism http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Fast Capitalism Unpaywall

Revolutionary Industry and Digital Colonialism

Fast CapitalismJan 1, 2008

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Publisher
Unpaywall
ISSN
1930-014X
DOI
10.32855/fcapital.200801.002
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Fast Capitalism ISSN 1930-014X Volume 4 • Issue 1 • 2008 doi:10.32855/fcapital.200801.002 Revolutionar y Industr y and Digital Colonialism D.E. Wittkower Copyright-based industries have become revolutionary. That is, the machinery of production of digital wares has itself taken on the role of the revolutionary class within the political economy of digital production. The progress of capitalist production in this industry has undermined the conditions of its own possibility, not because it has driven the proletariat to rise against an oppressive system, but because the means of production, through digital media, have simultaneously made communist production possible, and the continued separation of the means of production from the laborer impracticable. I do admit that there is also certainly a new ‘revolutionary class,’ at least potentially. While the question about how to characterize such a class is of great importance, my goal here is to put forth an account with an alternate starting point.[1] I hold that we need not thematically address this class, its constitution, or its nascent class-consciousness in order to give a reasonable, though sketchy, account of what has occurred, for this class has emerged as a result of a technological alteration which is itself revolutionary in a way independent of and prior to the constitution of this class as such. Whereas in Marx’s view capitalism would produce a revolutionary class which would then have the overthrow of capitalism as a task before it, instead, changes in the means of production have made capitalism as an economic system impossible, and it would seem – with regard to capitalism, at least – that the only class- consciousness requisite of our new ‘revolutionary class’ is the realization that the revolution is underway, and that capitalism as an economic institution has been replaced by a façade of its former self, propped up only by legal constructions rather than by a firm and originary grounding in the mode of production. Where the movement of capital was to have undermined the viability of a capitalist society, we see instead that, in the realm of traffic in digital wares, what has occurred is that the conditions for the possibility of capital have been themselves undermined. This, technically, is not a revolution at all, but rather the end of a kind of political-economic “bubble.” Nevertheless, as this does not call merely for a market correction, but instead, a socioeconomic correction, the experience which we are undergoing will be one of a revolutionary character, for while the conditions for the possibility of capitalism have been here undermined, there is yet the ongoing attempt to re-create them through a return to primitive accumulation, and, along with it, an attempt to return to a feudal model. The revolution to come, in other words, is the revolt against feudalism, and for this we will, indeed, need a formulation of the emergent revolutionary class, and it will need to attain its class-consciousness. My purpose here, however, is to describe in its origin and effects the ‘revolution’ – more properly, again, ‘correction’ – already underway, independent of this class. Digital Means of Production To make this case, I will begin with Marx’s Law of the Tendency of the Rate of Profit to Fall, wherein he held that as relative surplus value continued to rise through consolidation, there would be a decrease in the ratio of variable capital to constant capital, which would quite directly imply a decrease in the ratio of profit, a crisis of realization (realization, in this context, being the conversion of the surplus value, created by variable capital, into exchange value within the market), and an increase both in unemployment and in the revolutionary class. He noted Page 3 Page 4 D.E . W it t ko W Er a number of counteracting forces, the most important for our purposes being the cheapening of the elements of constant capital. The absolute decrease in variable capital (i.e., the joblessness produced through an ever greater increase of productivity) which was to have brought about the revolutionary moment, was to occur through the relative decrease in variable capital, which is to say, the increased productivity of the worker which accompanies improved machinery, division of labor, and so forth. However, as this process continues, constant capital itself requires less labor-power to produce, and thus the technological means of production undergo the same general cheapening that the price of labour on the market undergoes. After all, if there is a decrease in the rate of profit, this can mean only that each produced item represents an ever smaller amount of reified labor, including raw materials, and most importantly, machinery. As Marx summarized, The value of the worked-up cotton has not grown in the same proportion as its mass . . . [and ] the same applies to machinery and other fixed capital. In short, the same development which increases the mass of the constant capital in relation to the variable reduces the value of its elements as a result of the increased productivity of labour, and therefore prevents the value of constant capital, although it continually increases, from increasing at the same rate as its material volume. (Marx 1998:234) Thus, depending on the rate of cheapening and the level of efficiency of means of production within a particular industry, it may be that there is, after all, no relative decrease of variable capital, or possibly even a relative increase of variable capital, concomitant with absolute decrease of both variable and constant capital per commodity produced. If the means of production cheapen alongside variable capital, then, instead of describing the effect as a falling employment rate and therefore a falling rate of profit, we could better describe the effect as an increase in productive power which has no necessary absolute loss of either employment or rate of profit. Further, without this loss of employment or rate of profit, the crisis of realization need never come about, since even the laborer herself will actually be able to purchase the goods brought to market. This absolute decrease in the labor-value of constant capital per commodity produced, running in parallel with a similar increase in productivity in the realm of variable capital, thus seems to avert a possible crisis of capital; this being one of the reasons why the late Marx – here, much more a cool-headed economist than a Young Hegelian revolutionary – made only the very weak claim implied in his titling the principle here as ‘the law of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall.’ However, we must take care to look behind the mask of this deus ex machina, for that process which brings an absolute decrease in constant capital in the commodities of a given industry not only restores the viability of consolidated corporations operating in that industry, but also makes the possession of the means of production of that industry ever closer to the grasp of the common wage-earner. The process of the absolute decrease of constant capital, seemingly inevitable for the reasons described above, if unfettered, brings the means of production within the reach of common laborers, at which point they are able to benefit from the use of their own labor-power rather than being forced to bring it to the marketplace, thereby undermining one of the conditions necessary for industrial capital. This possibility was not, as far as I can determine, ever addressed by Marx.[2] The most obvious explanation for this is that the cheapening of machinery which would be necessary to make this a revolutionary effect could not have been foreseen at that time; he would have to have been a mystic or a madman to take seriously the possibility that industrial machinery would be so cheapened that a wage laborer would be able to easily purchase manufacturing capabilities sufficient to compete with capitalist magnates. This possibility has, however, been realized, albeit in a limited scope. As computational devices have become smaller, more reliable, and more powerful, there has been a significant decline in the absolute constant capital that they represent. At the same time, these machines have been able to perform ever more complex operations in an ever smaller and more manageable time frame, and there has been a great increase in capital investment in the creation of ever more complex and effective operational commands. That is to say, as hardware has improved and cheapened, software has been able to represent a proportionally greater capital investment, and it is the peculiar structure of software that provides the core of the changes I mean to address here. Digital Goods and Digital Reproduction Contemporary information technologies are remarkable in that any information entered can be stored and fast capitalism Volume 4 • Issue 1 • 2008 r E volu t iona ry i n Dust ry a n D Digita l Colon i a lism Page 5 reproduced with absolute fidelity. Value can be preserved with minimal means of production – access to the information along with available storage space – and with negligible labor. This means, of course, that there is, practically speaking, virtually no valorization at all in the production of any particular iteration of a file or program, although there may have been labor required to order the information in a manner having use-value, to make this information accessible to information technology, and so forth. Furthermore, this is true of digital files of any kind, whether the idea is stated in a directly executable form or not, that is, whether the digital file is a piece of software or a document. (For this reason, I will not differentiate in the following between these kinds of digital files. Both software and documents are similarly losslessly replicable effectively without marginal cost, and, thus, both are equally subject to the analysis here.) The production and reproduction of digital files is in this way akin to the production and reproduction of ideas, excepting that digital files may be of a level of complexity and/or length greater than the human platform can support. More specifically, digital files are akin to ideas in that, as Thomas Jefferson famously stated, “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” ([1813] 2000). Given the minimal means of production – having an input of appropriate format in order to allow processing, such as a reasonable person speaking or signing our mother tongue; being of sound mind; not being asleep or distracted or so forth – the reproduction of an idea from an outside source is not only usually accomplished with little effort, but furthermore is actually necessary if any use-value is to be found in that information at all. Digital files are also such that their reproduction is a necessary means for and an integral part of their consumption.[3] Certain economically valuable expressions have been encouraged due to the great value of the labour-power expended in their initial production and the vanishingly small exchange value of the product thereby produced. The encouragement of this production, through the artificial creation of governmentally enforced scarcity, allowed for the production of ideas which would have little or no use-value to the producer, and, thus, allowed for the production of intellectual commodities, ideas produced for sale rather than personal use, either in the form of a product, such as a book or album, or in the form of machinery (i.e., software). Now that the means of production of such commodities are greatly and increasingly within public hands due to digital technologies, it has become possible to produce ideas for personal use that are also of value on an industrial scale – that is, as means of production become ever more available, ever more industrial-grade ideas are created for use rather than exchange. Here, if left to their own devices, so to speak, such ideas tend to be shared, rather in the form of a conversation. These non-material means of production, having been invented for personal use, have their reproducibility no longer as a discouragement to their creation, but rather as an accidental bounty, which tends to be given away freely within the community of such unincorporated producers. At this stage in its development, the means of industrial production become themselves revolutionary, bringing about a spontaneous communist economy. Where means of production are not publicly available, industries must be assured of the potential profitability of any socially beneficial activities we might expect them to perform, but where the public has free access to the means of production the public no longer needs to encourage corporate interests to produce in its stead. It is clearly no longer necessary for our society to guarantee the profitability of the production of a word processor, a web browser, or even an operating system, for fine examples of such machinery may be, and have been, produced by the public without commodification. Similarly, it has now become quite easy and ever more commonplace for people to compose, produce and distribute music and video without commodification, and without governmentally enforced monopoly over the works thus created, which monopoly, regardless, seems to present only an indirect and sometimes almost inconsequential incentive to artists themselves, given the extent to which the current system is biased in favor of distributors rather than artists.[4] Digital technologies have made composition and production of such media considerably easier in any number of ways, from digital cameras and video cameras to software tools. In terms of promotion and distribution, peer-to-peer networks are very efficient distribution networks, and web pages can easily serve the function of promotion, advertisement and distribution, as in for example discussion forums, blogs and personal web pages serving as gateways to other sites and/or materials, content specific artist-operated sites, portals open to direct submission by the public, and portals which make free and public domain works available which might otherwise be difficult or impossible to obtain. From Wares to Warez Formerly, it had been easy to institute property rights over objects which had no natural affinity for them – Volume 4 • Issue 1 • 2008 fast capitalism Page 6 D.E . W it t ko W Er ideas, as we have mentioned, are immediately transferable and cannot be seized nor fenced-off once expressed and in this way are quite resistant to the possibility of holding effective property rights. This had been a simple matter only because the cases in which property rights were extended over ideas whose use required significant capital investment (presses, prototypes). Thus, the only parties capable of infringement of a meaningful kind were those who engaged in large-scale production, and were thus few in number, and conspicuous in both manufacture and distribution. With the cheapening and subsequent increasing availability of means of production the number of parties capable of infringement grew explosively, now virtually pervading the public sphere. Small-scale infringement became practical, and the line between significant infringement and insignificant “fair use” has become practically meaningless, for sufficiently widespread “fair use” when given access to the means of production becomes, in effect, a highly distributed large-scale system of production, as is the case in peer-to-peer networks such as Gnutella or KaZaA, or even merely in the collective effect of pervasive and commonplace exchange of digital products in person.[5] Without centralized high-profile producers, and without the need of a centralized large-scale distribution system – for the exchange of non-commodified or de-commodified wares requires neither that they be advertised nor that they be made available for sale – effective monitoring of infringement becomes impracticable. There is no longer the possibility of identifying the single or small number of parties guilty of infringement; instead, there is a huge number of parties which are each responsible for an inconsequential degree of infringement, but which taken together nevertheless threaten the viability of corporations trading in such goods. As discussed in the previous section, with the development of sufficiently advanced digital technologies the means of production have become publicly available, spawning a spontaneous communist economy that seems able to motivate socially necessary labor within this sphere of production without dependence upon capitalist commodification of goods. While this economy does trade in de-commodified wares – that is, wares initially produced from a profit motive, but redistributed, as warez, without a profit motive – the production of non-commodified wares in open-source communities continues to expand, both by means of the creation of goods for use-value and in the move from a commodity-market model of software production into a service-economy model of production. These communist and service-based economies, furthermore, are in competition with the holdovers from these industries’ capitalist past. Thus, we have a rather odd form of class warfare taking place: setting the predominantly middle-class computer-savvy masses, not against the capitalist or upper class, but against large national and multinational corporations themselves. The digital proletariat seeks to seize the remaining means of digital production not yet in their hands and to use these means to produce freely made goods to serve as a replacement for those produced by industrial capitalists. The capitalist holdovers seek to wrest productive power from the public and generally to ensure that as little as possible is available for free, but that as much as possible must be obtained through the marketplace. Unable to act effectively against infringement, capitalist holdovers in revolutionary industries can hope to control the flood only through fear and violence. The MPAA and RIAA have taken legal action under the DMCA against academic researchers,[6] persons running personal web pages,[7] and private citizens.[8] Additionally, they have threatened to hold corporations accountable for the non-business related actions of their employees,[9 ]to hold employees accountable for the actions of their employers,[10] to hold commercial ISPs accountable for the actions of their customers, to hold universities accountable for the actions of faculty and students, and to hold parents accountable for the actions of their children.[11] They have also begun to pressure colleges and universities to monitor students on behalf of the media industries,[12] and to themselves prevent and punish copyright infringement on campus.[13] The MPAA senior vice president of worldwide anti-piracy, Ken Jacobson, accounted for these actions by explaining that “what we’re trying to do is educate the population about what is appropriate, both from an ethical standpoint and from a legal standpoint” (Bowman 2001). Modern-Primitive Accumulation Even if the public interest were best served by preserving intellectual property rights in these cases, the public interest is certainly not served by such widespread and punitive “education” about “what is appropriate.” These actions are not well described as education, but are much better characterized as a process of deliberate and systematic crippling of the productive powers of the public. This is nothing but a return to primitive accumulation as a desperate attempt to prop up a system that the movement of capital no longer reinforces. fast capitalism Volume 4 • Issue 1 • 2008 r E volu t iona ry i n Dust ry a n D Digita l Colon i a lism Page 7 Marx describes primitive accumulation as the metaphorical original sin of capitalism; it is the nonmarket-based seizure of the means of production that forced labourers to sell their labour-power on the market rather than acting as producers themselves. That was necessary in order to put the capitalist system in place, after which time it is able to continue to run as a self-supporting system. As Marx explains, The capitalist system presupposes the complete separation of the labourers from all property in the means by which they can realise their labour. As soon as capitalist production is once on its own legs, it not only maintains this separation, but reproduces it on a continually extending scale. The process, therefore, that clears the way for the capitalist system, can be none other than the process which takes away from the labourer the possession of his means of production . . . The so-called primitive accumulation, therefore, is nothing else than the historical process of divorcing the producer from the means of production. (Marx 1996: 705-6) The capitalist holdovers in revolutionary industries must return to something like primitive accumulation. The means of production having come back into the hands of laborers though the process already described, capitalism has had its legs knocked out from under it by industrial production itself, this being, indeed, the reason why such industries can properly be called themselves revolutionary. In order to re-create this original sin, necessary for capitalist production to be a self-supporting system, those who seek to commodify intellectual products must separate laborers from their newly gained productive powers. This, however, cannot in this case be accomplished by straightforward primitive accumulation, for the capitalist holdovers seek to sell intellectual products, which by their very nature, as we have already discussed, contain within them the means of their own reproduction. The solution sought is then the next best thing: to attempt to ensure that the productive employment of the means of production that can no longer be kept from laborers is as limited as possible, and that the products of this productive employment cannot serve the same functions as the commodified products of corporate manufacturing, thus maintaining an artificial dependency upon capitalist production of intellectual goods. This is achieved by means of what Michael Perelman calls advanced accumulation (1998:78; 2002:45), wherein the public is forced to pay for the privatization of public goods, and by means of a kind of systematic colonization of information itself, wherein an arbitrary and exclusionary system of laws ensures that only large corporations are allowed to fully utilize the means of production commonly available to most members of society. Even these methods, however, will not make capitalist production of intellectual products again possible, for where industry has itself become revolutionary, it seems that a capitalist system becomes impossible. As the term was defined at the outset, a revolutionary industry is an industry that, through a radical cheapening of machinery, has made the means of production available to the laborer, and which has a vanishing small marginal cost in the production of its wares. Under these conditions, communist production has flourished and is currently in open competition with capitalist holdovers within the industry. The force of capital has shifted to support communist models of production, and capitalism only remains possible through legislative measures. The only recourse which the capitalist holdovers have available – other than allowing progress to occur peacefully – is to return to a variety of feudalism,[14] where laborers have access to the means of production, but must hand over all their work to the lords of the information industries, and must obtain all their digital goods, not from one another in a free exchange, but always and only through the mediation of corporate masters, who can thus set arbitrary and exploitative prices. ree W Th ays of Being-Against Technology Cultural industrialists oppose the change implied by and contained within the form of digital technologies in three primary ways: (1) advanced accumulation, (2) systematic colonization, and (3) the attempt to bring about informational feudalism. Michael Perelman defines advanced accumulation in contrast to primitive accumulation, stating that Rather than directly expropriating physical means of production, advanced accumulation is more indirect. It entails the marshalling of public resources to concentrate informational powers in the hands of great corporations or elite individuals. The public resources might be information proper or the means of conveying information, such as the communications spectrum. (Perelman 1998: 78) Within the realm of patent law – his primary concern – Perelman gives a striking and very clear example of advanced Volume 4 • Issue 1 • 2008 fast capitalism Page 8 D.E . W it t ko W Er accumulation soon after introducing the term. With regard to pharmaceutical companies, he points out that they patent information obtained through university research, then sell a product based on this research, which, in the case of a successful product, he elsewhere estimates to generate about a million dollars in sales per day (Perelman 2002:195). Then, “ When challenged [regarding pricing], the corporation will inevitably respond by claiming the need to recoup the expenses of its research, even though public research frequently forms the foundation for much vaunted intellectual property rights,” (1998:80) clearly an ingenious claim when we consider for example, as he points out elsewhere, that “in 1992, the industry spent $1 billion more on promotion of its drugs than on research and development” (2002:131). He continues, In a rather spectacular case, federally funded research was used to map the genetic structure of human beings. Private companies were then permitted to patent these genes. Those that control this valuable information then have the gall to call upon the full powers of the state to protect their intellectual property rights to human genetic material. (1998:80) The case is similar with regard to copyright. Copyrighted material is protected at public expense, the cost of which, now that the means of production are publicly available, is already great and will be increasingly greater. Copyright laws use the time and energy of our elected representatives, and the enforcement of these laws clogs our courts and are conducted in large part at government expense, both domestic [15] and foreign. [16] The “copyright bargain” is, furthermore, no longer a bargain at all, but is rather a seizure, for not only does the public pay to provide and protect the artificial monopolies of intellectual property capitalist industrialists, but the public also pays for these industrialists to bring about legislation and prosecution which prevents the public from free and fair use of the materials thus provided. This process at its base is the transformation of the public domain into capital, both through the use of public funding for private interests and through the privatization of the commons which was supposed to have been given back to the public as the public’s end of the bargain. Advanced accumulation takes from us economic and personal independence and gives us Independence Day in its place. Re-Colonization Furthermore, there is a process of systematic colonization of information itself. In the systematic colonization of information – a process that overlaps to a significant extent with advanced accumulation in terms of both methods and goals – individuals are kept from the full and free use of the means of production already in their hands. In order to outline how this is done in the realm of information, we will begin by looking at the idea of systematic colonization in a conventional sense. Marx, in his discussion of E.G. Wakefield’s England and America, states that We have seen that the expropriation of the mass of the people from the soil forms the basis of the capitalist mode of production. The essence of a free colony, on the contrary, consists in this – that the bulk of the soil is still public property, and every settler on it therefore can turn part of it into his private property and individual means of production, without hindering the later settlers in the same operation. (Marx 1996:755) This presents a problem for the capitalist, for workers no longer divorced from the means of production cannot be pressed into labor. But Wakefield has a solution: How, then, to heal the anti-capitalistic cancer of the colonies? . . . Let the Government put upon the virgin soil an artificial price, independent of the law of supply and demand, a price that compels the immigrant to work a long time for wages before he can earn enough money to buy land, and turn himself into an independent peasant. . . . This is the great secret of ‘systematic colonization.’ (Marx 1996:758-9) But as Marx points out, “this ‘sufficient price for the land’ is nothing but a euphemistic circumlocution for the ransom which the laborer pays to the capitalist for leave to retire from the wage-labor market to the land” (1996: 759). Industries based on or around computers, especially the software industry, are in this way akin to empires. They must struggle in order to ensure that colonists who find themselves surrounded by free and available means of production do not use these means for their own subsistence and independence, but rather to support the motherland. fast capitalism Volume 4 • Issue 1 • 2008 r E volu t iona ry i n Dust ry a n D Digita l Colon i a lism Page 9 The digital consumer is surrounded by rich and arable land. Software may be mined for ore, out of which new competing products may be made. Music may serve as not merely a product to be consumed, but seeds may be saved which can be cultivated into new and attractive varietals. The very look and feel of objects of our digital life, whether .html, .mp3, .mpg, or .exe, may inspire new creations. In order to keep the production of digital objects from obtaining independence from commodification and from the capitalist motherland, corporate peddlers of intellectual property must ensure that colonists in digital lands are largely and for the most part unable to use the seemingly inexhaustible riches surrounding them to become independent producers – excepting if they should obtain sufficient capital to buy their way in. What is the price in this case? It is not a set amount, but the minimum is likely the amount required to acquit oneself of a spurious charge from a corporation employing a legal team. The maximum is 150,000 USD per infringing work, plus actual damages and lost profit projections. Since the minimum price is unacceptably high for private individuals as well as small businesses, the safest bet is to simply pay the fees, even on spurious copyright and patent claims. The other option – and the one followed by top tech companies – is to amass a portfolio of intellectual property claims (spurious or not) that can be used to file counter-suits, forcing reasonable licensing agreements.[17] Thus, the systematic colonization of information is more insidious than the conventional variety, for the price it sets for becoming a producer is so high as to prevent anybody from paying it who has not already become part of the analogical motherland, (i.e., who is not already engaged in capitalistic production of intellectual property and the processes of advanced accumulation) systematic colonization, and information feudalization which are required to make capitalistic production possible after industry has itself become revolutionary. However, systematic colonization of information can be avoided in a way that the conventional variety cannot, for it is not possible to produce land out of whole cloth, so to speak, but it is yet possible to produce digital objects without being subject to the claims of intellectual property. The systematic colonization of infor mation is being accomplished through (a) closed-sourcing, (b) governmentally guaranteed encryption, (c) licensing, and (d) the assumption of copyright. Through these means the digital colonist, while she cannot be separated from her land, is kept as much as possible from mining it, from trading or selling it, and from sustainably farming it.[18] (a) Through closed-sourcing we colonists are prevented from improving upon that which we have purchased,[19] we are kept from a means of learning from the achievements and failures of others, and we are denied a valuable educational tool that would otherwise aid us in learning the tools of commerce. Closed-sourcing prevents us from free use of information that we have obtained in the marketplace; information that in some cases has been taken from the public domain.[20] ( b) Through encryption we colonists are denied access to information which we have legal ly obtained , thus making free use of proprietary and some non-proprietary information not only illegal, as it is under closed-sourcing, but actually impossible. Encryption of commodities, however, can always be circumvented, as I already noted above, for we can always tap into the data flow at the point of display or use. In order to further prevent us from use of these materials, encryption has been granted a legal status (Cf. DMCA anti-circumvention provision, U.S.C Sec. 1201(a)) that criminalizes access to encrypted information, thereby legally denying us not only creative use of but also mere access to information in our possession, such that we do not have the opportunity to do wrong, for under this legal protection of encryption, we may be cut off from even the intended use of products purchased if this use requires circumvention (as used to be the case for Linux users who wished to view a DVD – no CSS-licensed DVD software was available until as late as 2001 (Linux Online 2001), leading to the famous Jon Lech Johansen DeCSS case (Stecklow 2005) – and as is arguably the case now with iTunes-purchased DRM restricted content). Again, the trend in these cases of overprotection is to criminalize fair use rather than risk an erosion of corporate control of consumer activities, thereby removing from the public not only free use of purchased proprietary information, but also in some cases even public domain, copyright free, and non-proprietary information. (c) Through licensing we colonists are prevented from saving seeds from our harvest for replanting, both literally[21] and figuratively. We can be prevented from use of our legally purchased product to make further copies, we can be prevented from lending our copy to friends and relatives, and we can be prevented accessing our copy from more than one location. [22] Through licensing we are stripped of ownership of digital objects, and, placed in the legal status of renter, subject to all manner of abuses and unfair contractual requirements.[23] (d ) Finally, through the assumption of copyright – that material is assumed to be copyrighted over its maximum term without notice to or registration with any centralized database – we colonists are prevented from the use of vast amounts of material that lies entirely fallow; [24] unoccupied and unused resources which the empire would rather fall to decay than be used by independent producers.[25] As Lessig asks rhetorically, “But can’t you just restore the film, distribute it, and then pay the copyright owner when she shows up?” Sure, if you want Volume 4 • Issue 1 • 2008 fast capitalism Page 10 D.E . W it t ko W Er to commit a felony. And even if you’re not worried about committing a felony, when she does show up, she’ll have the right to sue you for all the profits you have made. So, if you’re successful, you can be fairly confident you’ll be getting a call from someone’s lawyer. And if you’re not successful, you won’t make enough to cover the costs of your own lawyer. Either way, you have to talk to a lawyer. And as is too often the case, saying you have to talk to a lawyer is the same as saying you won’t make any money. (2004:224) Of course, if one does not even attempt to make a profit, one may still be committing a felony, [26] and is still liable for damages to the copyright holder, and one will likely be, in the end, just in a worse situation if the lawyers should arrive. Through these four primary avenues, and in other ways less important and too numerous to discuss in detail, the capitalist holdovers have put legal barriers in the way of the use of the digital bounty all around us. The effect is the systematic colonization of information itself: only corporations and economically elite individuals are able to pay the prices required in order to freely put information to use. Only they can afford the expense of a lawsuit, and we mere colonists cannot fight even a spurious and unjust claim of infringement without devastating loss of property and livelihood. Only they can afford to pay the absurd and exclusionary fees attached to legal use of materials, fees that ensure that we colonists cannot ourselves become producers.[27] Furthermore, only they can pay the legislative equivalent of the poll tax: the immense amount of money that must be spent in most cases in order to get legislation on the table, and unless there is first a public uprising, we colonists would certainly be unable to marshal the resources to counterbalance the capital investments of intellectual property corporations in both lobbying and campaign contributions, if we should wish to pass legislation limiting the artificial monopolies of the intellectual property empire. Informational Feudalism As we have already noted, systematic colonization of information is in a way more insidious than systematic colonization of a conventional sort, for it sets the price of free use too high for common laborers. It must do this, for its industry has become revolutionary, and any common laborer can now produce goods on an industrial level; goods which can most certainly rival those of corporate capitalistic manufacture in terms both of quality and quantity, and most assuredly in terms of price. The overall end goal of this variety of systematic colonization is not then to ensure that an orderly and reasonable capitalist economy is created, for fair capitalist competition already brought about the spontaneous communist society that this systematic colonization is intended to disrupt. The overall end goal is instead to bring about a kind of feudalism, for it must to the greatest extent possible transform laborers into mere serfs, for in revolutionary industries a creative and industrious laborer can compete with any magnate. As Lessig explains his version of this parallel, Under feudalism, not only was property held by a relatively small number of individuals and entities. And not only were the rights that ran with that property powerful and extensive. But the feudal system had a strong interest in assuring that property holders within that system not weaken feudalism by liberating people or property within their control to the free market. Feudalism depended upon maximum control. (2004: 267) Lessig is concerned here with the hostility not merely towards those who object to the strong property rights granted over intellectual property but also towards intellectual property rights holders who wish to release their own work into the public domain. This latter form of hostility is exemplified by U.S. Patent and Trademark Office acting director of international relations Lois Boland, who stated that “open-source software runs counter to the mission of WIPO, which is to promote intellectual-property rights,” and that “to hold a meeting which has as its purpose to disclaim or waive such rights seems to us to be contrary to the goals of WIPO.” (Lessig 2004: 265)[28]. This hostility cannot be explained by a commitment to property rights, for as Lessig points out, even if one believed that the purpose of WIPO was to maximize intellectual property rights, in our tradition, intellectual property rights are held by individuals and corporations. They get to decide what to do with those rights because, again, they are their rights. If they want to “waive” or “disclaim” their rights, that is, within our tradition, totally appropriate. (2004:266) This hostility towards any broadening of the public domain does indeed go beyond advanced accumulation fast capitalism Volume 4 • Issue 1 • 2008 r E volu t iona ry i n Dust ry a n D Digita l Colon i a lism Page 11 and systematic colonization, but does not itself constitute informational feudalism. In addition we need to consider contemporary analogs of three other aspects of traditional feudalism: (1) the way in which labor power is the property of the land rather than of the laborer (as is the case in capitalism) or of other humans (as is the case in slavery), (2) the way in which guild structures ensure that laborers are unable to wield their productive power as individuals, and (3) the overall structure within this bipartite system which amounts to an unchanging caste system determining the ability to freely use the means of production which are, however, in the possession of all. In the feudal economy, land is given over to nobles who extract a tribute from those who work and live upon the land. Thus, “Like tribal and communal ownership, it is based again on a community; but the directly producing class standing over against it is not, as in the case of the ancient community, the slaves, but the enserfed small peasantry” (Marx 1932). However, here the means of production assert a kind of dominance over the community for “The serf is the adjunct of the land. Likewise, the lord of an entailed estate, the first-born son, belongs to the land. It inherits him” (Marx 1959). Further, This feudal system of land ownership had its counterpart in the towns in the shape of corporative property, the feudal organization of trades. . . . The gradually accumulated small capital of individual craftsmen and their stable numbers, as against the growing population, evolved the relation of journeyman and apprentice, which brought into being in the towns a hierarchy similar to that in the country. (Marx 1932) In the informational feudalism which the capitalist holdover seeks to bring about there is no clear analog to this bipartite town/country division, but our position as laborers in informational economies takes on aspects of both serfdom and guild membership, and our position as consumers takes on aspects of those freemen who are neither serfs nor guilded, with the exception, of course, that we have means of subsistence not altogether dependent upon informational economies. In informational feudalism, we would be born serfs. Born onto lands already owned by others, we would be able to use our productive force only insofar as we pay tribute to the noble landowners. We could write only insofar as we pay for Microsoft Word, and insofar as we pay for the updates required by the updates of our operating systems, which are in turn required for our continued compatibility with those who have already updated their software. Furthermore, our consumption would be limited to those provided by these lords; we could listen to music and watch movies only by paying tribute to labels and studios. We would be born and live out our lives upon cultural soil already and always ever owned by the few and the powerful. In order to profit from our productive powers to create goods, we would have to join guilds. To publish we would have to prove our worth to publishing houses and agree to their terms. To record and release music, we would have to join a label, for only they would be able to convince (i.e. pay in cash or kind) the radio conglomerates to play our music. To film and release video, we would have to sell ourselves over to the interests of studios or networks, for only they can withstand a charge of infringement. To create software or games, we would have to become a part of a large software company, for only they can stockpile the patents needed in order to negotiate release of applications. In each case, the guild keeps not only the greater part of the profits, but usually also keeps the majority of ownership rights over our products. Others are then born into our products, which we cannot allow them free use of, for our guilds and lords retain ownership of them. Thus, the world which the copyright warriors wish to bring about is not only feudalistic in that it depends upon suppression of making informational goods freely available, but also in that it would establish an unchanging caste system in which only the few could ever freely use resources in the possession of all, and in which the many can only ever use the means in their possession by virtue of their fealty to the few, thereby reducing us to serfs belonging to the very lands we work. As Lessig says, “the question now is whether [information society] will be free or feudal,” just as Roger Garaudy wrote in 1969, when he asked whether digital technologies will “bring about renewed alienation in a technocratic form of totalitarianism, or an unprecedented liberation of the creative potential in man, in each and every human being” (1970:11). This is a question that we have the responsibility and privilege to answer. A complication which we must consider, in framing this question, is that however rhetorically effective and descriptively compelling they may or may not be as metaphors and analogies, ultimately ‘feudalism’ and ‘serfdom’ insufficient descriptions of our emerging relation to productive forces. G.A. Cohen describes “ownership positions of immediate producers” as follows: the serf owns some of his labor power and some of the means of production; the proletarian owns all of his labor power and none of the means of production; an independent producer owns all of both; and a slave owns none of either (1978:65). Cohen Volume 4 • Issue 1 • 2008 fast capitalism Page 12 D.E . W it t ko W Er then goes on to describe the different combinations which do not appear in the standard set, the first of which – (5): he who owns none of his labour power but all of the means of production – Cohen claims “depicts an incoherent set of rights. For if X is the sole owner of all the means of production he uses . . . he is entitled to use them without the direction or interference of another person. Yet (5) also states that X has no authority whatsoever over the disposition of his own labor power” (1978:66). Surely Cohen is right in claiming that this situation is incoherent, and yet in some important aspects this seems to be the regulative ideal for the consumer under informational feudalism. We see this more clearly in his ongoing discussion: (5) is the mirror image of the proletarian . . . The proletarian may do anything he wishes with his labour power, short of violating the general laws of society, and nothing may be done with it without his contractual consent. He may not, of course, work with whatever means of production he chooses, but this follows from the exclusion of illegal behaviour in general. For parity, the person described in (5) should, in virtue of his supposed ownership of means of production, be able to do whatever he wishes with them within the law, yet this is excluded by his being forbidden to work with them as he wills, which is not a general law, but a legal feature of his particular situation. (1978:66) Today, of course, there is a law which forbids from doing “whatever we wish” with the intellectual goods we purchase, and yet it is still the case that we own copies of mp3s, DVDs and applications. And, further, with digital objects it is impossible for us to own the digital consumer object without also always already owning the means of production of it. For these reasons, I hold that it is more appropriate to say of our digital serfdom that, with regard only to our lives in relation to intellectual goods, that intellectual property maximalism moves us towards a situation wherein we could be appropriately said to own all the means of production, and yet not own our labour- power with relation to them; a kind of regional approximation of (5) above. We might describe this situation as the ideal consumer: the ideal consumer has access to the means of production, and yet is unable to do anything with them, and therefore must always purchase in order to consume. Again, a chief example here is the farmer who has every opportunity, but not the legal right, to save seed from harvest to replant; we are prevented from becoming independent producers, not because we have no access to, or cannot afford the means of production, but simply because we are legally prevented from using it, either directly through intellectual property rights, or indirectly through the fear of litigation and collusion of industrial producers.[29] Thus, abandoned by capital, capitalists have used laws intended to bind their hands in order to prohibit productive forces from further development. In doing so, they have appropriated the functionaries of the governments, both domestic and foreign, in order to keep wage-laborers from the productive use of the means of production now within their hands. Through advanced accumulation, they rob the commons at public expense. Through systematic colonization, they prevent our use of that which has been taken from the commons. Together, these work to bring about informational feudalism, in which our lives are lived on their property, and we have no choice but to consume what they provide at the prices they set, to produce only by their fiat, and to sign our own work over to them if this work is ever to reach the public. This program has not yet been completed, and even if it were completed, it would still only be further grist in the mill of history, which, if we sign on to some version of technological determinism, would progress inevitably away both from capitalism and from its regressive neofeudal stopgap as well, towards a future of communal, bazaar-model intellectual production. However, regardless of our views on determinism, this future is already with us in at least an inchoate form – the inchoate communistic economy, spontaneously arisen from the public availability of the means of production, which is embodied within the open source movement and p2p networks. We have yet an opportunity to bring the future sooner rather than later, and with less upheaval now than in the future when feudalism may have gained sway despite the resistance of the means of production themselves. We must resist; we must riot in the online streets, and we must work our digital plowshares into swords. We must rip, we must mix, and we must burn. Endnotes 1. Despite this, I will nevertheless have to refer to this colonists.” class in the following. In order to avoid involvement in debate about its proper name or characterization, I will 2. Although G. A . Cohen is right to assert that, for Marx, use the dummy-term “digital proletariat,” or, later, “we the breakdown of capitalism itself was insufficient to fast capitalism Volume 4 • Issue 1 • 2008 r E volu t iona ry i n Dust ry a n D Digita l Colon i a lism Page 13 establish socialism or communism unless a sufficient 4. For example, Courtney Love argues very effectively level of technological development had been first that even a band with a million-dollar advance, a %20 attained. As Cohen summarizes: royalty rate, which sells a million copies of their album, nevertheless “might as well be working at a 7-Eleven.” Believing that a developed technology was an She introduces this example by asking rhetorically, essential precondition of socialist success, Marx “ What is piracy? Piracy is the act of stealing an artist’s would be pessimistic about attempts to ‘build work without any intention of paying for it. I’m not socialism’ from a baseline of comparative scarcity talking about Napster-type software. I’m talking about and industrial immaturity. But since he thought major label recording contracts.” (2000) Love then goes high technology was not only necessary but on to explain how musicians have been legally denied also sufficient for socialism, and that capitalism ownership, for perpetuity, of the copyright for their would certainly generate that technology, his final music via the Satellite Home Viewing Act of 1999, position was optimistic. (Cohen 1978:206) wherein such creative works were reclassified as ‘works for hire,’ a designation which does not otherwise cover Please do note, however, that this claim that “high creative or original works. technology” is “sufficient” for socialism is still not the claim that I will make here: that digital information 5. The practical similarity between the online exchange technology is not merely sufficient but actually and the personal exchange of digital files is recognized effective – actively revolutionary in important ways – in in references to the “sneakernet.” The term originated bringing about communistic production within its own, with the observation that where it is impossible or admittedly limited sphere. imprudent to exchange such materials on the internet, one can always put on one’s sneakers and exchange the 3. It has been said that for this reason, any attempt files in person; that is, over the “sneakernet.” to protect digital information from copying must necessarily fail. The argument is that the digital 6. Dr. Edward Felten, after receiving a threatening letter, information must be decrypted at some point, for it is was moved to decline to present an academic paper that used in a non-encrypted form. No matter how complex used research garnered from a public challenge funded the system of protection, it will always be possible to by the Secure Digital Music Initiative. As he explained, tap into the data stream at the point of display or use. A nice example of the way in which wares can exploit On behalf of the authors of the paper “Reading this point of contact is presented by programs such Between the Lines: Lessons from the SDMI as ourTunes (http://ourtunes.sourceforge.net/) and Challenge,” I am disappointed to tell you that Blue Coconut (http://husk.org/apps/blue_coconut/), we will not be presenting our paper today. Our which connect at the user-end to iTunes’ music sharing paper was submitted via the normal academic function, allowing a user to download a shared file peer-review process. The reviewers, who were through iTunes, despite the fact that iTunes itself, which chosen for their scientific reputations and provides the streaming of the music file, is specifically credentials, enthusiastically recommended the designed to prevent such downloading. paper for publication, due to their judgment of the paper’s scientific merit. Nevertheless, the A particularly dramatic example is provided by Recording Industry Association of America, the MyTunes, a program which performed this same SDMI Foundation, and the Verance Corporation circumventive function. As John Borland reported, threatened to bring a lawsuit if we proceeded with our presentation or the publication of our paper. as some predicted, the popular software has all but Threats were made against the authors, against the vanished from the Net, and its programmer’s sites conference organizers, and against their respective have gone dark. But this time, it’s not the doing of employers. Litigation is costly, time-consuming, an angry record industry or a conflict-averse Apple. and uncertain, regardless of the merits of the other Trinity College sophomore Bill Zeller, who wrote side’s case. Ultimately we, the authors, reached the program in less than two weeks of off-time a collective decision not to expose ourselves, coding last year, says he simply lost the source code our employers, and the conference organizers to in a catastrophic computer crash. litigation at this time. (Felten 2001) “I was about to release the second version, when Full text of Dr. Felten’s letter, along with the threatening I lost everything,” Zeller said. “I may put it back online, but there won’t be any updates. I don’t want letter from The Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI), to rewrite it.” (Borland 2004) a music industry organization, is available at http:// cryptome.org/sdmi-attack.htm. Full text of the paper The very fact that a college student can circumvent the authors chose not to present is available at that site, corporation-produced DRM systems in his spare time, or at http://www.usenix.org/publications/library/ with a level of commitment as minimal as we see in proceedings/sec01/craver.pdf his comments here, supports the basic intuition that the project of preventing access through the technical 7. For example, Dave Touretzky’s home page, available means of closed-sourcing, encryption, and DRM is at http://www-2.cs.cmu.edu/~dst/. The letter reads, in essentially doomed. part, Volume 4 • Issue 1 • 2008 fast capitalism Page 14 D.E . W it t ko W Er We have received information that you are lawsuit to unmask a peer-to-peer user. unlawfully offering product at the above referenced web site. We have notified your ISP of the unlawful This case represents the entertainment industry’s nature of this web site and have asked for its latest legal assault on peer-to-peer piracy. If its immediate removal. Our letter to your ISP is set invocation of the DMCA is upheld on appeal, forth below for your reference. (Motion Picture music industry investigators or other copyright Association of America 2001) holders would have the power to identify hundreds or thousands of music pirates at a time without The appended letter to the ISP, in this case, Carnegie- filing a lawsuit first. (McCullagh 2003) Mellon University, reads in part It is worth noting that such peer-to-peer users may in The district court’s ruling makes clear that by fact own the material being downloaded, e.g. on CD, providing DeCSS, the above referenced Internet and may therefore be engaging in “space-shifting;” a site violates the DMCA. This conduct may also practice which has been recognized as fair use of legally violate the laws of other countries, international obtained material. However, under the DMCA, this law, and/or treaty obligations. kind of legal action may be taken against what may thus be only apparent infringement. We therefore demand that you take appropriate steps to cause the immediate removal of DeCSS 9. “The Recording Industry Association of America from the above identified Internet site, along (RIAA), the Motion Picture Association of America with such other actions as may be necessary or (MPAA) and songwriters’ associations have drafted a appropriate to suspend this illegal activity. Failure letter expected to be sent Friday to the Fortune 1000 to comply with this measure will subject you to companies, cautioning executives that employees’ liability as described above. song- or movie-swapping could put them at legal risk.” (Borland 2002a) We also request that you: 10. Adobe Systems filed a complaint with the • maintain and take whatever steps are necessary Department of Justice against ElcomSoft Co. Ltd., on to prevent the destruction of all records, including grounds that they were selling ‘a circumvention device’ electronic records, in your possession or control as defined under DMCA §1201(a). Dmitry Sklyarov, related to this Internet site, account holder or a citizen of Russia, and Ph.D. student, and ElcomSoft subscriber, and employee who had been in the United States at the time presenting at an academic conference sponsored in part • provide appropriate notice to the subscriber or by Adobe Systems, was arrested in July 17, 2001, and account holder responsible for the presence of held until December of that year, when he was allowed DeCSS on your system or network, advising him/ to return home. A year later ElcomSoft was cleared of her of the contents of this notice and directing that all four charges of producing a circumvention device, as person to contact the undersigned immediately at well as the charge of conspiracy. (Bowman 2002a) the email address provided above. • By copy of this letter, the owner of the above referenced Internet site and/or email account AT 6:30 ON A WARM MORNING IN JULY 1995 is hereby directed to cease and desist from the NE AR Salt Lake City, Miki Casalino was suddenly conduct complained of herein. (Motion Picture awakened by the ringing of her doorbell. When Association of America 2001) she opened the door, a troop of United States marshals and Novell employees flashed a court A similar letter was sent to John Young, with the order and announced, “ We’ve come to seize your additional demands that he son’s computer.” Although Casalino had no idea her 18-year-old son was illegally pirating Novell’s • advise us of the name and physical address of the and other programs on his bulletin board service, person operating this site; and she was guilty in the eyes of the law. The marshals raided the house, impounded the computer • maintain, and take whatever steps are necessary equipment, and left. Another software pirate shut to prevent the destruction of, all records, including down. (Rothken 1998) electronic records, in your possession or control respecting this URL, account holder or subscriber. 12. (Motion Picture Association of America 2000) In a letter sent to more than 2,000 university 8. The dispute is not about whether the RIAA will be presidents, the Recording Industry Association of able to force Verizon to reveal the identity of a suspected America (RIAA), the Motion Picture Association copyright infringer, but about what legal mechanism of America (MPAA) and other copyright owner copyright holders may use. The RIAA would prefer to trade groups told university officials that large rely on the DMCA’s turbocharged procedures because numbers of students were using college resources they are cheaper and faster than filing a “John Doe” to violate federal law. fast capitalism Volume 4 • Issue 1 • 2008 r E volu t iona ry i n Dust ry a n D Digita l Colon i a lism Page 15 “We are concerned that an increasing and advanced accumulation and systematic colonization, as significant number of students are using university may be clear from a fairly characteristic passage: networks to engage in online piracy of copyrighted creative works,” the trade groups wrote in a letter By reproducing the times tables, growing their sent to universities this week . . . own seeds, using traditional medicines or selling indigenous art [citizens] may be trespassing The letter, which the trade groups asked college on an intellectual property right that has been presidents to send to university legal, financial and appropriated by a large company. . . . This is technological executives, stops short of threatening what we mean by being a trespasser on your own any kind of legal action. (Borland 2002b) heritage. . . . This is what information feudalism means. When Monsanto contractually imposes 13. For example, Cornel l University informed its students obligations on farmers using the lever of its control in 2002 that students may be subject to disciplinary over intellectual property in seeds, Monsanto does actions within the school even if they comply with a act like the feudal lord who allows serfs to till his request to remove copyrighted files. Tracy Mitrano, the land so long as they honor the obligations that are DMCA Agent for Cornell University, warned that his due. (Drahos and Braithwaite 2003:201) without your knowing it explicitly, by downloading The idea of informational feudalism which I am trying [certain file-sharing programs] and the files, your to put forth is somewhat more robust and precise computer is programmed to share it back out into than theirs. This should not be in any way taken as a the international Internet community. You are then criticism of the book, which is well researched and therefore liable to be in violation of the DMCA, argued. My intention in this comment is only to explain even if all you did was download a single song. Each why I do not further reference the work in connection criminal offense carries with it a minimum fine of with the charge of feudalism, and to differentiate my $30,000 and a potential jail sentence. use of feudalism from theirs. Ms. Mitrano also noted: if you don’t like or disagree 15. Bob Kruger, Vice President of Enforcement for with the law, learn more about and take a stand on it the Business Software Alliance (BSA), said “We don’t in the arena of national politics. With implications for like to call [an audit] a raid, but in reality that’s what free speech and academic inquiry, it might just become they are – raids.” He goes on to describe these raids. As the political issue of your generation.” (Miltrano 2002) paraphrased ; Another interesting example is the U.S. Naval Academy, Once the alliance has a judge’s OK, a team of which took possession of about 100 students’ computers auditors--usually BSA accountants with laptops- due to suspicion of copyright infringement: -shows up at the business under suspicion, along with a few U.S. marshals. The auditors check Each student gets a computer when they enter the what software is on each computer, then asks to academy. Illegal possession of copyrighted material see the company’s licenses. For each software use could carry punishment including court-martial for which the firm doesn’t have papers, it’s fined. or a loss of leave, according to academy policy. While each violation carries with it a fine of up The seizure comes just a few weeks after movie to $150,000, Kruger says, the actual figure comes and music industry trade groups sent a letter to down to a dance between BSA lawyers and the more than 2,000 university and college presidents offending party’s chosen representatives. He across the country, including officials at the Naval assures me that the alliance’s intent is to make Academy, requesting help in cracking down on its point via the company’s bottom line: ‘It’s one unauthorized file swapping. (Bowman 2002b) awfully rude way for companies to realize it’s a lot more expensive to violate copyright laws than to 14. I am not alone in using this characterization, see, comply with them. ( Jackson 2001) for example, Information Feudalism (Drahos and Braithwaite 2003). Lawrence Lessig also characterizes 16. There fol low a sampl ing of examples of international the goal of at least some of the “copyright warriors” as governmental support of the Business Software turning the information society into a feudal society, Alliance, a trade group concerned with primarily U.S. noting that already “the trend is toward the feudal.” interests, and with particular US software companies, (Lessig 2004:267) Microsoft in particular. I should also say something about why I do not reference Australia Drahos and Braithwaite’s book to a greater extent in my discussion of informational feudalism to follow. Drahos A coordinated international crackdown saw and Braithwaite do not make a particularly strong case premises across the country raided and computer that the emerging situation is best characterized as equipment seized by the federal police last week, feudalism rather than some other kind of consolidation, although no arrests have been made to date. nor, I should take care to note, do they attempt to, as this is not their project. Their idea of feudalism is exhausted Many ZDNet readers have expressed anger at for the most part by what I will discuss in terms of what they consider to be the police enforcing Volume 4 • Issue 1 • 2008 fast capitalism Page 16 D.E . W it t ko W Er copyright law for big software businesses whose laws, they have bigger things to care about, so own “inherent weaknesses” in software design are the companies took the law into their own hands, the root cause of the problem. Software houses and it’s being allowed to happen. What rights do should “put up or shut up” one reader said and not companies have to become vigilantes (Agent000 be so keen to spend taxpayers’ money. 2001)? Croatia “Personally think the police should keep themselves concerned with bigger cyber crime Microsoft Corp. said it has stepped up its issues like child pornography or Denial of Service crackdown on software piracy in recent months attacks. Not raiding peoples’ homes and taking and announced actions against 7,500 Internet computer equipment just because some software listings for allegedly pirated products in 33 or movie company might lose a bit of money. They countries... need to get their priorities right,” another ZDNet reader from Western Australia said. In Europe, the Middle East and Africa, the company said it has taken action in 2,274 Retired computer engineer Keith Styles from instances of suspected piracy, sending notices to Melbourne agreed: “Let the police do their job Web-site owners asking them to remove products of policing for the community and stop working listed for sale. It has filed four lawsuits and taken for big business corporations. Copyright is a part in 56 raids with law-enforcement officials in business problem not a police problem. Let the that region; in Croatia alone, police in late March [corporations] do their own dirty work” (Lebihan simultaneously raided the premises of 52 alleged 2001). pirates (Buckman 2000). Canada England, Finland, Norway [M]y workplace received a visit from the Software To hear the federal government and piracy experts Gestapo. It’s part of a campaign organized by a describe it, DrinkOrDie, the network of software number of software developers (Microsoft, Adobe, crackers that was the focus of worldwide anti- Symantec and a number of others) to reduce piracy law enforcement action on Tuesday, is the software piracy in the workplace and schools. They al-Qaida of Internet software theft. . . . call themselves CAAST, the Canadian Alliance Against Software Piracy. Although I am no thief, “They come from all walks of life. Many are I understand that companies deserve to be paid successful white-collar business people by day, for their work, but it begs two questions: A) Can and DrinkOrDie members by night,” [the U.S. companies do this? B) How long until they start Customs Service] said in a statement. . . . searching my home? But when the news broke that the Customs Service, A team of middle aged men in semi-formal attire, the Department of Justice and foreign authorities stereotypical tech guys, swept the building, executed at least 100 search warrants in the United checking every computer to make sure that we States, Australia, England, Finland and Norway on weren’t using software that we hadn’t properly Tuesday in an attempt to “d ismantle” DrinkOrDie, remunerated the developer for. We knew they were a lot of people were puzzled. According to the coming, and made sure that our site licenses were evidence available from several cracking sites, in order. From what I know, their lengthy visit Internet newsgroups and members of the Warez – went without a hitch. The men were polite, nicely or “software cracking” – community, DrinkOrDie asking each employee if they could take a moment was small potatoes in the world of software theft. to do an inventory of their workstation. They ran a . . . program that did a quick scan of all applications on the machine, and sent the data to a network server. “Only peasants get caught,” wrote MoRf, a cracker What they did with the data after that, I’m not sure. in Moscow, in an online chat room” (Manjoo 2001). The situation begs another question: why did they give us advanced notice? Granted, we would be Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon pretty annoyed if they showed up out of the blue, but for all they know, we could have unloaded any Microsoft Corporation, a multi-national software pirated apps the night before. Quite simply, they company, last Thursday launched an anti-piracy weren’t there to catch us, they were there to scare campaign to clamp down on piracy within some us. To send a message, ‘the days of pirated software Ghanaian companies. are over. We’re watching you.’ The campaign, the company said , was a nationwide I, for one, was scared, despite my innocence. Here, exercise that had already started in Nigeria and I had men, sent by a company (or a coalition of Cameroon. . . . companies, technically), enforcing the law. The government wouldn’t do anything to enforce the [Mr Franck-Alex Thalmas, Microsoft Anti-Piracy fast capitalism Volume 4 • Issue 1 • 2008 r E volu t iona ry i n Dust ry a n D Digita l Colon i a lism Page 17 Manager in charge of West and Central Africa] All the eleven personal computers (PCs) loaded said companies would be asked to take inventories with the counterfeit computer programmes and of their software pack and licenses to attest the the 29 illegal compact disks (CDs) were seized from their possession as a proof of infringing the legality of the software in usage regarding the law country’s copyright laws, he said. and license agreement. “If we are satisfied about the information provided The businesses that can afford to use legal software must do so in their own and national interest, we would issue a certificate of compliance to give [Jawad Al Redha, Director, Business Software them the authorization to use the software,” he said Alliance (BSA), Middle East] suggested and (Accra Mail 2001). clarified when someone creates a new computer programme and his creation is possessed without Malaysia paying due royalties then it amounts to stealing, “which is neither morally nor legally justified” Following the promise to intensify efforts to (Contact Pakistan 2001). crackdown on software piracy amongst end- users the enforcement division of the Ministry of Singapore Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs yesterday raided the premises of a publishing company Seven raids were conducted in October, across the in Kuala Lumpur for suspicion of using pirated island’s heartlands like Toa Payoh, Ang Mo Kio, software in the course of conducting its business. Marine Parade and Bedok North. This is because . . . activity at the traditional centre of pirated goods, Sim Lim Square, has largely been stamped out “There is just no excuse. Since the beginning of by police action. The raids turned up over 4,000 this month, the Ministry with the cooperation pieces of illegal Microsoft goods. . . . with the Business Software Alliance has advertised extensively in the newspapers and radio to remind Microsoft corporate attorney Katharine Bostick senior managers and company directors of the said in a statement that the pirates wanted to exploit consequences of ignoring the Ministry’s warnings.” the worldwide marketing effort for Windows XP. [said Tuan Mohd. Shahar bin Osman, The State “Not only are these pirates ripping off legitimate Director of Enforcement (Ministry of Domestic software retailers,” she said, “they are exploiting Trade and Consumer Affairs) for Wilayah the creativity, hard work and investment made by Persekutuan.] software developers and industry partners.” . . . According to the Copyright Act 1987, if an The number of people apprehended in the raid organization is found guilty of copyright was not given. However, those convicted of piracy infringement, the company and its director/s may can face up to seven years’ imprisonment (Tsang be liable to a fine of up to RM10,000 per infringing 2001). software and/or up to five years jail term. South Africa Speaking on behalf of the Business Software Alliance, Mr. Chee Chun Woei, Vice-President of [T]he SA [South Africa] Federation Against BSA Malaysia said, “Companies need to be aware Copyright and Theft (SAFACT) has declared war that using pirated software does not simply mean on counterfeiting, saying it will be ‘embarking using an illegal piece of software bought from the on more raids which are expected to lead to streets. Indiscriminate copying from an original convictions’ during 2002. It will also be working CD-ROM is also an act of piracy if the license more closely with other stakeholders, including agreement does not allow it.” . . . software companies such as Microsoft. In complementing the enforcement program of Fred Potgieter, MD of SAFACT - an organization the Ministry, the BSA operates a toll-free hotline which represents distributors such as Ster Kinekor number 1-800-887-800 for reports of the use of and Nu Metro - said his organization along pirated or unlicensed software in organizations. with other business partners such as Microsoft The BSA provides a reward of up to RM20,000 has assisted the South African Police Services, for every piece of information that results in a customs and the Department of Trade & Industry successful enforcement action (Business Software in ‘an increasing number of raids and counterfeit Alliance 2001). product seizures. Pakistan During 2001 SAFACT conducted 680 inspections and led 133 raids. The organization seized 7 584 In the latest move, BSA, the alliance of world’s VCs, 6 714 DVDs, 5 124 CD-ROMs, while a total leading software companies has got another three of 38 cases were finalized... software pirates arrested in Karachi, in assistance with the police. Commenting further, SAFACT’s Potgieter said Volume 4 • Issue 1 • 2008 fast capitalism Page 18 D.E . W it t ko W Er his organization is also working more closely at a fuzzy about the concept of intellectual property grassroots level to combat counterfeiting. rights” seems to be substantiated by a claim, on the part of Amorn, that the pricing structure is unfair “‘ We began an initiative last year which is starting and exploitative. to bear fruit. The major flea markets indicated their willingness to work with SAFACT in combating At Panthip Plaza, a shopping center specializing piracy. This lead to us creating a Memorandum in computer gear, antipiracy raids are a seasonal of Understanding between our industry and the affair. “The police come about twice a year, once flea markets which will see all products being in June or July and then before the new year,” authenticated before the exhibitor is allowed to says Mr. Amorn, who owns eight software stores sell. These are all major steps. that sell mainly pirated compact discs. “ We know because the police tell us. For the software pirates “Our other major objective – besides clamping of Thailand, cat-and-mouse raids are just part of down on flea markets – is to target roadside their business. Copyright infringement, say the traders. This is one of the biggest problem areas pirates, is here to stay. The incentives for buyers when it comes to counterfeit sales,” said Potgieter and sellers are just too great. (Microsoft South Africa 2002). “It now costs as little as 50 cents to produce a Sweden pirate CD,” says an American analyst here. For $10, computer buffs can pick up CDs bundled MindArk AB, the Swedish creators of the 3D with thousands of dollars worth of illegally virtual Universe “Project Entropia” was raided by copied software. “You can buy Oracle’s database 70 officials of the Swedish court, acting on behalf system for $25, whereas it would cost you around of Microsoft and three other software companies. $20,000 to buy the real thing,” Amorn says. “Look at [Microsoft Corp. chairman] Bill Gates; he’s the Microsoft has accused MindArk of infringement richest man in the world.” on their software rights, stating that MindArk is willingly and unlawfully using over 600 programs Dhiraphol Suwanprateep, a Thai lawyer working without license. The raid on the MindArk for the BSA in Bangkok, agrees. “ There is a feeling headquarters in Gothenburg is believed to be the among some people that the pirate software largest operation ever conducted by a Swedish dealers are simply engaged in competitive business court. . . . practices against companies who are charging too much for their product,” he says. Jan Welter Timkrans, the managing director of MindArk AB, said: “MindArk has duly procured “Outright corruption is a factor, too,” says an licenses for all software used in its offices. I would American analyst, who asked not to be named. even go so far as to say that MindArk is one of “There’s a bidding war between private software the companies with the most stringent policies companies and the pirates. They’re both trying to regarding software licenses in use by its employees. buy the police’s support.” “One can expect that Microsoft and the other The BSA maintains that prices and piracy companies are keeping track of what and to whom shouldn’t be linked. “If you have the money to buy their representatives are selling software. In some a car, then you should have the money to pay for cases the registration process involves direct the gas to run it,” points out Mr. Dhiraphol. “ With contact between our company and Microsoft or its computers, it’s the same. If you buy a computer, colleagues. With this in mind, Microsoft must be you have to plan for the cost of software.” assumed to know that what they have stated to the Swedish courts is not the full truth, therefore I must Mr. Tan of the BSA puts the issue in even starker assume that Microsoft must have another agenda terms. “Whether the economic situation is good for their action against Mind Ark.” or bad, people should realize that software piracy is illegal,” he says. Jan Welter Timkrans suggests that Microsoft is trying to disrupt the launching of Project Entropia : Supporting that line, the US government has “All through our development process we have kept been dangling antipiracy incentives. In 1993, track of which companies are visiting our site on the US Trade Representative named Thailand the Internet and without comparison Microsoft has been one of the most frequent visitors.” . . . as a “priority foreign country” and withdrew preferential trade privileges on 16 items. Microsoft of course owns Asheron’s Call, which MindArk says is similar to Project Entropia (PC That hard-line approach brought quick results. By Game News 2002). 1995, Thailand had a new copyright law stipulating penalties of up to four years in prison and fines of ail Th and $20,000 for offenders. . . . Note the implied claim of the journalist; “being At their most extreme fringe, software pirates hit fast capitalism Volume 4 • Issue 1 • 2008 r E volu t iona ry i n Dust ry a n D Digita l Colon i a lism Page 19 back at critics with nationalist arguments. “I don’t Edit] Anakin is a stronger character. His crappy see why we in developing countries should pay the whoops and oops and that stuff is gone. It makes same amount as Americans for software,” said a the kid seem like someone who is strong with the Thai journalist, echoing their argument at a recent force and worth going against the council for as BSA press conference in Bangkok. opposite to the whiny little kid in the original cut.” Realists say piracy will remain a problem for many Jeanne Cole, a spokesperson for Lucasfilm, told years. “We are concentrating on both education Zap2it.com that because no one at the company and enforcement,” Tan says. “The emphasis is on had seen a copy of the re-edited version, they making people understand the value of intellectual couldn’t officially comment about the changes. property. Right now, we’re focusing on businesses, Cole did explain her company’s policy regarding government, and universities.” copyright infringement, though. “Lucasfilm aggressively pursues anyone involved with the Just in case that message doesn’t get through, the unauthorized sale of our copyrighted materials,” BSA has set up a hotline in Bangkok and is handing she said. But Cole also added that Lucasfilm out cash rewards of up to $6,000 for information recognizes the fan following the Star Wars leading to the prosecution of pirates or companies franchise has generated and said the company using illegal software (Yvan Cohen 1997). generally doesn’t pursue fans as long as they don’t go overboard with their adoration. Essentially, 17. “Patents most benefit behemoths with huge patent she said, that means: “as long as nobody crosses portfolios. IBM, the No. 1 holder, has about 20,000 that that line - either in bad taste or in profiting from generate more than $1 billion a year in licensing fees. the use of our characters.” . . . “At the end of the But even giants such as Intel bemoan a system they say day this is about everybody just having fun with forces them to use big chunks of research budgets to Star Wars,” said Lucasfilm’s Cole. “Go be creative” stockpile patents just to use for cross-licensing when (Rodgers 2001). other patent holders threaten them” (Davidson 2004). 20. Copyright-free material may, of course, be 18. In two senses, one figurative, and one literal. incorporated into copyrighted products. However, Figuratively in that updates of software and unnecessary though encryption (or other use of code, such as the backwards incompatibilities, both within versions of a way that .pdf files can disallow copy-and-pasting of single program and between bundled programs, force text), copyright-free material can be copy-disabled us to continual upgrades even when there is otherwise either by the fact of the encryption (if it should be no increase in use-value for us from one version to the difficult to decode) or by the legal protection of the next. This economic dependency is an exact analog encryption method itself (for such processes can be of the economic dependency brought about through copyrighted and patented ). Monsanto’s efforts to minimize actual sustainable farming techniques, as discussed below (see note 21). 21. I refer to Monsanto’s practice of licensing rather than selling seeds. The license includes permission 19. For example, consider the anonymously produced for Monsanto inspectors to show up on the property “Phantom Edit” of George Lucas’ Star Wars: Episode 1 at any time in order to ensure that seeds aren’t being - The Phantom Menace. The reader will note that this saved for replanting. Monsanto’s ‘terminator gene’ is one of the seemingly few cases where the corporate project – cancelled due to public outcry – was an response is reasonable and measured. attempt to enforce this licensing requirement and the dependence produced thereby within the genetic code When asked about The Phantom Edit while itself by making crops become infertile once sprayed backstage at the MTV Movie Awards Saturday with RoundUp, the only herbicide contractually night, George Lucas told Zap2it.com that he wasn’t allowed under the Monsanto license. Monsanto also too worried about it. donates GMO seed to third-world countries, teaching them non-sustainable farming techniques which make “ The Internet is a new medium, it’s all about doing these farmers dependent upon Monsanto products things like that,” said Lucas, who added that it gives and makes these farmers as well as their compatriots people a new creative outlet. “I haven’t seen it. I unable to sell to many European countries, whose laws would like to.” often prohibit the importation of crops from countries growing genetically modified crops. This is then used The general consensus of fans on the Internet seems by Monsanto as an example of philanthropy for public to be that the new edit is an improvement on the relations purposes. original version. . . .JM Dash, one of the site’s most prolific message board contributors, is also one of 22. “Software makers want businesses to buy their the film’s most ardent supporters. “The stuff that products the same way they purchase pens, staples, or automobiles--if you need cars for 10 workers, you buy has been cut out is all about making it a stronger 10 cars.” ( Jackson 2001) But this is true for members of movie and not just some fan cutting out the crap he/ the general public as well – for example, she didn’t like,” he said. “If that were true, it would have just had the Darth Maul sequence looped for two hours.” He also said, “[In the Phantom There are several ways in which you might lift Volume 4 • Issue 1 • 2008 fast capitalism Page 20 D.E . W it t ko W Er intellectual property from software makers. First, holders for that 2 percent who pushed the CTEA you can soft-lift – that is, buy one copy of, say, through. But the law and its effect were not limited Microsoft Office and install it on your home office to that 2 percent. The law extended the terms of system, your laptop, even your kids’ PC. You may copyright generally. also be guilty of LANlifting . That’s when you purchase a single-user license for an application Think practically about the consequence of but load it on your LAN, giving every PC on the this extension . . . In 1930, 10,047 books were network access. published. In 2000, 174 of those books were still in print (2004: 221-2). In addition, you might have a nasty habit of versionlifting . This is when you buy the same 25. “[B]y the time the copyright for these films [viz. number of software packages as the number of PCs those among the earliest protected under the CTEA] you own, but you only upgrade one or two programs expires, the film will have expired. . . . [N]itrate stock and load the latest versions on all your computers. dissolves over time . . . the metal canisters in which they Think a few recent versions lying around the home are now stored will be filled with nothing more than office will insulate you from liability? You’re wrong dust” (Lessig 2004:224-5). (Rothken 1998). 26. “Felony penalties attach when the violation consists 23. of the reproduction or distribution of at least ten copies that are valued together at more than $2,500, or, under Shrink-wrap contracts . . . are the terms and amendments enacted in 2005, when the violation conditions that accompany software distributed involves distribution of a work being prepared for in a retail computer store. Shrink-wrap contracts commercial distribution over a publicly-accessible usually read something like “By opening the computer network” (United States Department of packaging on this box you agree to the terms and Justice 2006). cond itions of the l icense.” The terms and cond itions of the license are more often than not located inside 27. For example, consider this case from Lessig : the box. . . . Click-wrap contracts were developed in response to the massive growth of the Internet In 1990, [ Jon] Else was working on a documentary and Internet technology. A party enters into a click- about Wagner’s Ring Cycle. . . . [In one scene] wrap contract when they click the “I agree” or “I playing on the television set, while the stagehands accept” button which are preceded by terms and played checkers and the opera company played conditions. Examples of where click-wrap contracts Wagner, was The Simpsons. As Else judged it, this can be regularly seen include before you download touch of cartoon helped capture the flavor of what software, before you book an airline ticket online, was special about the scene. before you download music and many more (Callan 2005). Else then contacted Simpsons creator Matt Groening to clear permissions for the incidental use of copyrighted The legality of these types of contract remains in material, who said it was fine, but that he should clear dispute. They may require all manner of waiver of fair it with the production company, Gracie Films. They use, and are usually long, complex, and difficult enough were fine with the use as well, but told him to clear it to find that few end users are aware of the limits of their with their parent company, Fox. “Then, as Else told me, “two things happened. First we discovered . . . that use of purchased goods, leading to a chilling effect on Matt Groening doesn’t own his own creation – or at fair use. There are further problems making true consent problematic, as, for example, that if one should open a least that someone [at Fox] believes he doesn’t own his shrinkwrap licensed product, one cannot return it to own creation.” And second, Fox “wanted ten thousand a retail location because they cannot accept returns of dollars as a licensing fee for us to use this four-point- opened software boxes in order to prevent from copying v fi e seconds of . . . entirely unsolicited Simpsons which the material. Such products must be returned directly was in the corner of the shot.” to the manufacturer if one declines to accept the terms disclosed after purchase, and manufacturers may refuse Else was certain there was a mistake. He worked to accept a return on the same basis, and even if accepted his way up to someone he thought was a vice monetary recompense would be likely to take 8 to 10 president for licensing, Rebecca Herrera. He weeks. explained to her, “There must be some mistake here. . . . We’re asking for your educational rate on 24. As Lessig states the point, this.” That was the educational rate, Herrera told Else. A day or so later, Else called again to confirm The real harm of term extension comes not from what he had been told. these famous works [e.g. Mickey Mouse, Rhapsody in Blue, the work of Robert Frost]. . . . If you look “I wanted to make sure I had my facts straight,” at the work created in the first twenty years (1923 he told me. “Yes, you have your facts straight,” she to 1942) affected by the Sonny Bono Copyright said. It would cost $10,000 to use the clip of The Term Extension Act, 2 percent of that work has any Simpsons in the corner of a shot in a documentary continuing commercial value. It was the copyright film about Wagner’s Ring Cycle. And then, fast capitalism Volume 4 • Issue 1 • 2008 r E volu t iona ry i n Dust ry a n D Digita l Colon i a lism Page 21 astonishingly, Herrera told Else, “And if you quote admittedly be a welcome change from the historic and me, I’ll turn you over to our attorneys” (Lessig ongoing seizure and inappropriate recompense of the 2004:95-6.) traditional and cultural knowledge and flora of peoples in developing nations. Nevertheless, it is not at all 28. To be exact, the WIPO states: clear that strong intellectual property rights are in the best interests of developing nations, especially given The mission of WIPO is to promote through the comparative difficulties in establishing a claim to international cooperation the creation, compulsory licensing through WIPO or TRIPS, and, dissemination, use and protection of works of the just as, in the quote above, it is inappropriate for the human mind for the economic, cultural and social WIPO to assume that it is always in accord with the progress of all mankind. Its effect is to contribute desires and interests of the author to impose exclusive to a balance between the stimulation of creativity rights, similarly it is inappropriate to assume that desires worldwide, by sufficiently protecting the moral and and interests of developing peoples are best served by material interests of creators on the one hand, and signing on to a strong intellectual property regime. providing access to the socio-economic and cultural John Barton points out, for example, that “Devloped benefits of such creativity worldwide on the other countries often proceed on the assumption that what (World Intellectual Property Organization 2004:5). is good for them is likely to be good for developing countries . . . [B]ut in the case of developing countries, This reinforces the implication of the quote above, for more and stronger protection is not necessarily it is stated that it is the work of the human mind that better,” (Mantell 2002) and the report on Integrating is to be protected rather than the rights of the author Intellectual Property Rights and Development Policy or inventor. Similarly, we see that the WIPO seems to from the Commission on Intellectual Property Rights equate stimulation of creativity worldwide with such strikes a note of caution: closed-source protection, as in this passage from the same document: Whether IPRs are a good or bad thing, the developed world has come to an accommodation WIPO increasingly does not stop short of with them over a long period. Even if their promoting all kinds of intellectual property. This disadvantages sometimes outweigh their is only the means to achieve an end, which is to advantages, by and large the developed world has promote human creativity that results in industrial the national economic strength and established and cultural products and services enriching human legal mechanisms to overcome the problems so society as a whole. Thus WIPO is increasingly caused. Insofar as their benefits outweigh their involved in helping developing countries, whose disadvantages, the developed world has the creativity has yet to be adequately harnessed, to wealth and infrastructure to take advantage of the receive the full benefits of the creations of their opportunities provided. It is likely that neither citizens, as well as those of the outside world. of these holds true for developing and least WIPO’s role is to assist them also in the preparation developed countries (Commission on Intellectual and enforcement of laws, in the establishment of Property Rights 2002:6). sound institutions and administrative structures and in the training of appropriate personnel 29. This collusion is not limited to cross-licensing (2004:6). or anti-competitive bundling; we can see a striking example in the possible loss of network neutrality, This statement seems to imply that the WIPO will help which loss would help exclude independently produced developing countries by bringing in strong intellectual content from being able to effectively compete against property rights, and by making developing countries commodified goods produced by the copyright into exporters of intellectual goods, which would industries. 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Wi Po i ntellectual Property Handbook: Policy, law and u se (Wi Po r odgers, a ndrew. 2001. “Phantom Edit Deletes Jar Jar Binks.” Publication n o.489 (E)). www.wipo.int. a ccessed n ovember zap2it.com. a ccessed n ovember 3, 2007 (http://movies.zap2it. 3, 2007 (http://www.wipo.int/about-ip/en/iprm/pdf/ch1. com/movies/news/story/0,1259,---6903,00.html). pdf ). Volume 4 • Issue 1 • 2008 fast capitalism

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Fast CapitalismUnpaywall

Published: Jan 1, 2008

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