Felix Stalder on Mon, 1 Nov 2010 11:48:55 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> free culture and the culture flatrate

I spent the last few days at the Free Culture Forum [1] in Barcelona, 
which was focusing on sustainability of free culture.                 

One of the main themes of the discussion was the culture flatrate and
the collecting societies. In part because the main organizer of the
forum, exgae, is in a high-stakes fight with the Spanish collecting
society, sgae. In part, because the notion of a culture flatrate
appears to be gaining some ground politically. I use the qualifier
'appears' on purpose, because I haven't seen it at all, but others,
who are more deeply plugged into the back channels of the policy
process, are saying so.

The discussion, though, was rather unproductive, confusing and
exhausting, mainly because the two concepts are mutually exclusive.

Free Culture, in its most basic notion, is about the resources and    
rights available to every individual to make a contribution of his    
or her choosing to culture (a distributed system of meaning) and to   
communicate their activities to anybody he or she wishes to. It is    
an transformative view of culture were the input and output of the    
productive process are not categorically distinct, implying that      
existing cultural artifacts and processes are part of the resources   
available to everyone.                                                

The culture flatrate, on the other hand, is about raising money
for remunerating creators for their works that others consume. The
two groups need to be kept distinct. Otherwise it would become
impossible to decide who should be paying whom and the whole mechanism
would morph into something like a general basic income. It's an
object-centered view of culture, with a particular notion of the work,
as discrete (i.e. one work ends before the next begins) and stable
(i.e. the work doesn't change over time) so to establish a long-term
relationship between author and work, a relationship that even
outlives the author by 70 years (i.e. the full duration of copyright).
Such works are then registered and their travels through society need
to be tracked in a system that interprets each step in their orbital
movements as an act of consumption.

A culture flatrate is not about providing resources at anyone's
disposal to add to distributed systems of meaning, but about efficient
means of delivery and renumeration for the consumption by the many of
circumscribed works created by the few. It is, in a way, radio2.0.

Within the discussion at the Forum, there were several people who     
argued for the culture flatrate as a means to end the "war on         
copying". They were all very knowledgeable of the past and current    
policy initiatives and scared of the weapons of mass destruction that 
are amassed to wage this war. They may well be right, but from the    
point of Free Culture, accepting the flatrate is like killing oneself 
for the fear of death. No matter how weak one might see one's own     
position, this is always a rather poor strategy.                      

So, what to take from all of this? Something rather simple: Free      
Culture cannot be financed by a culture flat rate. In Free Culture    
reading and writing are overlapping activities and one cannot count   
copies for income.                                                    

In a way, this is all painfully obvious. Now, after three days of     
discussion, even more so.                                             

[1] http://2010.fcforum.net/en

--- http://felix.openflows.com ----------------------- books out now:
*|Deep Search.The Politics of Search Beyond Google.Studienverlag 2009
*|Mediale Kunst/Media Arts Zurich.13 Positions.Scheidegger&Spiess2008
*|Manuel Castells and the Theory of the Network Society. Polity, 2006 
*|Open Cultures and the Nature of Networks. Ed. Futura/Revolver, 2005 

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