[-empyre-] Intellectual property: hacking communities and traditional knowledge

David Golumbia dgolumbia at gmail.com
Sun Apr 27 23:45:44 EST 2014

I'm sorry, I forgot the link to JM Pedersen's work on Stallman and FSF,
"Property, Commoning, and the Politics of Free Software":


On Sun, Apr 27, 2014 at 9:42 AM, David Golumbia <dgolumbia at gmail.com> wrote:

> This is one of the several reasons that I encourage us to think very
> carefully about the links between open source, free software, open access
> and "copyleft" and Left politics; I find them much thinner than most
> suppose. Further, the odd fact that both the Right and the Left support
> this position as if it realizes their political goals--a hallmark, I have
> argued and will continue to argue, of the disturbing influence of
> cyberlibertarianism--should give careful political thinkers pause.
> while the linkages between those views and Left politics are hard to
> establish, the linkages between them and Rightist politics--including the
> very neoliberalism that the rhetoric would seem to suggest they
> challenge--is clear and undeniable. Google supports many of the strongest
> anti-copyright efforts. Figures like Tim O'Reilly, Eric Raymond, Julian
> Assange, Eric Schmidt and many of the most vocal advocates of "open" have
> at best strong ties to the business community and at worst outright
> libertarian politics (or even farther to the Right). The intellectual
> property targeted by copyleft movements, contrary to some of its rhetoric,
> is almost never the most valuable intellectual property in our world
> (corporate secrets, scientific IP in private hands, etc.), which can
> already be protected by other means capital has at its disposal. It's the
> work of academics, individual writers, programmers outside of their
> corporate jobs, and so on--typically, the most precarious people, not the
> least. While it can be tempting to see the efforts of "Big Music" and "Big
> Entertainment" as "big" corporations that individuals should be fighting,
> what is lost in that picture is that those copyright-based industries are
> tiny compared to the worldwide technology and health and scientific
> companies that keep their quiet hands operating in this debate. In both
> cases these interests profit tremendously from entertainment companies
> (see: YouTube, Google) and academics (science & tech) interests being
> forced to give their work away for free. Further, the support of major
> companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon and others for F/OSS, as well as
> their reliance on software developed for free that they now do not need to
> pay for--should raise red flags. And if one digs carefully, one notes how
> specific these companies are in terms of what they do and don't give
> away--and the stuff they make the most money on, they don't give away, or
> even let us see.
> It is correctly noted that the figure most directly responsible for the
> F/OSS movement (although it is not one movement), Richard Stallman,
> considers himself a mildly left liberal, and the differences between Free
> Software and Open Source do fall specifically long lines that look like
> Left vs Right (indeed, Open Source was specifically started as a means for
> making Free Software material more useful and less scary for corporate
> capital). Yet at the bottom of FS is a curious assertion that people should
> not own the products of their labor, and that labor should not be
> compensated. Whatever one thinks of these principles, it is hard--in fact,
> I'd argue it's impossible--to find them in Marx, or even less radical Left
> thinkers, because they seem directly contrary to the notion of unalienable
> labor that Marx and Marxists think is interrupted by capitalism.
> I believe that much of the Left has been sold a bill of goods regarding
> Open Source and Open Access. Yes, there are egregious corporate exemplars
> who make a good story and whose abuses should be curtailed (Disney on the
> one hand, Elsevier on the other). But it's a far cry from saying Disney
> abuses copyright to saying copyright should be abolished.
> One scholar has gone to great lengths, including interviewing Stallman in
> detail, about the connections between free software and Left politics, and
> found the connections almost nonexistent. I strongly encourage anyone,
> especially academics, who support F/OSS for political reasons to read this
> work carefully, as it leaves almost no connections tenable between those
> movements at all, even on Stallman's own terms.
> The indigenous communities are right; much of what accrues to us as
> individuals and communities should not be given away freely, especially not
> in a world where the largest corporate actors then become free to use what
> we do however they see fit, and especially not via mandates that tell
> creators, writers, and academics what they *must* do with their work, in
> the name of freedom.
> David Golumbia
> On Sat, Apr 26, 2014 at 8:16 AM, Zac Zimmer <zacz at vt.edu> wrote:
>> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>> Hi to all, and thanks for the invitation to participate. I'd like to
>> return to some of the issues posed earlier this month, and approach them
>> through the lens of intellectual property.
>> I assume everyone at empyre are familiar with the debates surrounding
>> digital enclosures, digital commons, intellectual property, free software,
>> free culture, etc. Speaking in broad terms, most members of the HASTAC and
>> empyre communities likely reject the neoliberal IP maximalist position of
>> the absolute and universal expansion of corporate-friendly North American
>> norms of intellectual property. On the contrary, our communities celebrate
>> the expansion of the public domain and open source information; some would
>> even go so far as to name the free circulation of information as the source
>> of human creative innovation.
>> There is another organized group that resists the global IP maximalist
>> position and has a very strong presence in the Andean region: indigenous
>> communities. These communities are especially interested in protecting
>> their traditional knowledges (TK) from capitalist appropriation. This leads
>> us to a paradox: on the one hand, the central strategy for protecting TK
>> resides in a process of withdrawing that knowledge from the global market
>> and of creating more barriers to impede capitalist appropriation and
>> exploitation of TK by multinational industry. On the other hand, the
>> central strategy for protecting and advancing a culture of hacking and
>> technological experimentation resides in a position of absolute openness,
>> and a resistance to any barrier—be it technological, legal, or social—that
>> would impede digital innovation.
>> One can understand these two different approaches to globalizing IP
>> norms—the openness of the hacker and the withdraw of the indigenous
>> knower—but the distance between the two positions depoliticizes and
>> deactivates a possible nucleus of collaboration. This is especially true
>> given that within the logic of the World Intellectual Property Organization
>> and bilateral Free Trade Agreements, both worlds—traditional knowledge and
>> critical making—fall under the umbrella rubric of intellectual property. To
>> explore this conflict, I pose the following question: how to connect the
>> struggle to recognize and protect traditional knowledges with the struggle
>> to protect a free and open network conducive to hacker culture?
>> Zac Zimmer
>> Assistant Professor of Spanish
>> 313 Major Williams Hall
>> Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures
>> Virginia Tech
>> Blacksburg VA 24061
>> _______________________________________________
>> empyre forum
>> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
>> http://www.subtle.net/empyre
> --
> David Golumbia
> dgolumbia at gmail.com

David Golumbia
dgolumbia at gmail.com
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au/pipermail/empyre/attachments/20140427/90c06308/attachment.htm>

More information about the empyre mailing list