wade tillett on Thu, 11 May 2000 19:18:40 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Napster Hurts Free Software

"On the whole, you find wealth much more in use than in ownership."

We have been told ownership is the basis of capitalism.  The other basis
is services.  (Goods and services.)  Of course, these lines are not so
clearly drawn. A movie is a good, but is paid for per viewing as if it
were a service.  The service part of a movie is the infrastructure.  A
movie theater, projector, and large screen, which people do not have the
capital to match. 

Then, when vcr's came out, there was a huge controversy about being able
to copy movies.  Once the physical infrastructure, in this case a vcr, a
good easily associated with our ideas of ownership, became readily
available and affordable, the use that this good provided remained the
basis of capital.  There were/are, some meager attempts at making it so
that tapes could not be copied through physical and coded mechanisms, but
on the whole, these are ineffective.  And yet people still rent

So how is mp3 different from vhs? 

The fact is, consumers are never content with what they own.  This is how
videotapes continue to prosper, by the continual production of new movies
concurrent with a continual increase in consumption.  Movie producers want
people to have vcrs because people with vcrs want new movies for their
vcrs. You give away the goods which make people want future
services/production.  But the internet represents a loss of control of
distribution (or so it seems).  Just like vcrs were a loss of control of
distribution (or so it seemed). 

Or is it simply the simulacrum of a loss of control of distribution? 

Remember how apple did so bad and microsoft did so good and ibm tried to
make the vcrs? 

The power structure is in the standard/code/infrastructure.  The power to
be harnessed from this standard is in the production for a continually
increased consumption.  The power is in the production/distribution of
fuel fueling consumption. 

"If you 'take' my idea," writes Lawrence Lessig in his book Code, "I still
have it. If I tell you an idea, you have not deprived me of it.  An
unavoidable feature of intellectual property is that its consumption, as
the economists like to put it, is 'non-rivalrous.' Your consumption does
not lessen mine. Ideas, at their core, can be shared with no reduction in
the amount the 'owner' can consume." 

In fact, ideas, at their core, increase the amount the 'owner' can
consume.  Ideas, like fire, consume more and more.  It is in the
production of new ideas and services for consumption where money and power
is made.  The consumer must not ever be content with the ideas which he
has acquired.  This is the whole point of advertising, massive

And if a 'grassroots' movement for increased consumption, such as mp3's,
fuels the fire, so much the better. 

The de-centralization of distribution leads to a centralization of
production.  Entire industries are de-regulated in order that they can
produce that which can only be produced with unmatched capital.  With
vcr's, any independent movie-maker could cheaply produce and distribute
their own movie, right?  But it is the movies produced with unmatched
capital for production and advertising which everyone watches.  So the
music industry, or the news industry, or the publishing companies, pretend
that it is the end of their power because it is the end of their control
of distribution.  And they use this argument to say that it is ok if they
have mega-mergers because now 'anyone' can distribute.  This argument is
used for all sorts of industry de-regulation, such as the 1996 telecom
act.  All the while at+t is buying up every cable company they can find,
so they can charge for usage of infrastructure. 

Huge software companies and movie and music producers do not really want
to stop 'illegal copying' because this copying increases the overall
consumption of their product.  It is free advertising.  The money 'lost'
to what was already produced is more than gained in future production. 
Stocks are the perfect example.  It isn't the actual usage or distribution
of the product which determines price, but the anticipated future
production, made possible by this anticipation and the increase in stock
prices and overall capital base. 

So how are we manipulating the idea of ownership for capitalism? 

By looking at consumers with a straight face and telling them how awful it
is that they are consuming your product for free, that the consumer really
won this one and got to own something without paying for it, while your
stock and capital base for advertising and production go through the roof. 
You give them your product because it increases your power of production.
(A great salesman makes you think you are ripping him off.) 

Corporations are continually creating an infrastructure for consumption. 
In one of the greatest marketing schemes ever, the consumer paid for the
consumption infrastructure.  People actually bought vcr's.  A device which
sits in the home 'useless' unless consuming new production. 

And now, oh no!, people are downloading mp3's for free! 

(The music industry feigns its alarm as it positions itself for the
greatest increase in consumption of new production ever.) 

Ownership of anything, physical or intellectual, only exists in our mind. 
Ownership is only an idea.  We associate this idea with certain objects or

There is no ownership, only consumption. 

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