File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0103, message 40

Date: Sat, 10 Mar 2001 01:11:09 +0000
Subject: Re: Pomo Marx?

Eric et al...

One of the interesting differences between mainland European versions of
copyright law and the anglo saxon (UK and US) versions is the general
acceptance within the European version, France especially of 'artists
rights'. Intellectual property rights in this frame reside with the creator.
In the UK and US version the tendency has been for the ownership to reside
with the corporations. Hence the curious tendency of writers to in-corporate
themselves to ensure better ownership rights over the work produced. It is
true that little 'art' (of any kind) is commercially viable, in the sense of
producing sufficient income for the collective of creators involved in the
production to survive. Usually the legal structures exist to protect the
corporations (not that this particularly concerns me here, one way or the
other, except in that it is used to defraud the actual creators of products)
But I would maintain that the existence of copyright laws gives us an
interesting starting point from which institutions can be challenged. I
agree however that this is a short term resolution to the problem of
intellectual property rights and ownership. But it seems to me necessary
that in any complex human society some legal framework and protection will
be necessary, from corporations, individuals and communities (I personally
believe that the latter is as dangerous, if not more so than the former). seems to me that you might reply by quoting B. Brecht: "By
trying the defend our 'rights' in a real and quite precise matter, we have
taken at its word  a quite precise bourgeious ideology and we have allowed
the borugeios practice of the courts to catch it out. We have conducted a
lawsuit by noisily making use of representations which are not our
representations but which we had to suppose were the representations of the
courts. It is in losing this lawsuit tha we have discovered  in these courts
representations of a new type which are not in contradiction with the
bourgious practice in general. They are in contradiction only with the old
representations, precisely those representations the totality of which
constitute the great classical bourgeious ideology..." Brecht - cinema
quoted p111 in Edelman Ownership of the image... Brecht was ever the purist,
at heart at least.

As a technological form, structure, the Internet challenges traditional
bourgious concepts of property ownership because of its perculiar and unique
organisation. It began (as the tired story goes) as a design intended to
withstand military attack. To enable it to do so it has no center and almost
an part can operate as as an autonomous segment. The network can continue to
function even if key parts are destroyed. The same design is what makes
control of the network so difficult, but not impossible. Since no part of
the network is essential for communication between others, it is difficult
to regulate and control the whole. This rather democratic model is as
Deleuze and Guattari define it a rhizome, a rhizomic model is
nonheirarchical and decentred network structure. The political function of
copyright in such a network is an attempt to place some constraints and
points of identification on the information within the rhizomic network. I
think that the network is actually structured remarkably similar to the
rhizomic network that seems to have been constructed around printing and to
some extent still is, at least as it was initially constituted. The
imposition of copyright may be an attempt to impose a more heirachical
structure on the network, but look how it has failed to do so in print,
print endlessly attempts to escape from the constraints of ownership by
corporations or institutions. (I almost quoted Cortazar and line of flight
here but restrained myself...).

In these issues I live in eternal contradiction -

A post-modern version of Marx (probably a ludicrous concept but anything
that drags Marx out of the closet of the Marxist lists is useful...) would
require a discussion of the heirachical network models of the broadcast and
narrowcast media - TV, Cable, Satilite and perhaps radio...Fixed points of
transmission but the points of reception are of course diffuse and
undefined. The audience is knowable and identified. Centralised production,
mass distribution, working through stereotypes etc. The dominant method of
cultural distribution in fact, the traditional points of fissure have always
been print and more recently tape. What we are seeing today, is the gradual
emergence of transnationals to establish a new consolidated neo-monopoly
over the new media, new information infrastructure. Arguably it already
exists but these things are of course always temporary - think of Lenin and
his work on monopolies of Railways, banking, electricity and so on. The
reality is that this creates new post-modern form of inequality and
exclusion, I don't think that copyright helps these new varieties of
capitalism rather it hinders the process. Perhaps it shows us how difficult
the rhizomic network is to construct as a pure capitalist structure, the
military warmachine producing some odd social vectors once again, after all
as far as can be seen capitalism has failed to generate any money out of the
network except for the supply of the technological infrasturcture... I
believe that copyright may be important because it has come to represent an
eternal reference to the creator of the work, emphasize that and we are
using it against capitalism's endless desire to appropriate the common
property - the private appropiation of public goods, the sequestation of the
commons. Isn't that what the network represents - in the way that print in a
way also represents the commons.

But in defense of these postmodern forms a small story - a friend of Z {my
wife}told her that as she travelled across the Chinese part of Mongolia last
summer she came across a shack/hut  in the middle of knowwhere. There was a
queue of people outside the building. She went over to see what the queue
was for - food, toilet, brothel etc... But no, inside the building were a
couple of PCs - it was the local internet cafe... I have no idea how it was
connected to the net, but she joined the queue and sent some emails to
friends in London.




Mary Murphy&Salstrand wrote:

> steve:
> Good to hear from you again. I hope we can keep this discussion moving
> along as I certainly want to hear more of your insights.  Let me focus
> on just a few points here.
> The first question you asked is how does the artist survive without
> property rights?  I agree art has always been difficult undertaking.
> So-called serious art, with a few important exceptions, has seldom been
> viable from a market standpoint. It has usually relied upon patronage,
> support from government or religion, careers in academia (this is now
> rapidly changing as the university goes corporate) or it was simply done
> on one's free time. (William Carlos Williams was a doctor, Wallace
> Stevens was a VP with an insurance company, and TS Eliot worked in a
> bank until he become famous, to give just a few random examples.)
> Under the present circumstances I can understand why you would want to
> see the artist's work defended by law so they are not exploited. The
> artist would be a subcategory of general worker's rights.  The reality
> is, however, that most of the intellectual property rights in practice
> tend to serve the corporation far more than they do the individual
> artist.
> Think about songwriters in Motown, for example. They often had to list
> the record producer as a co-writer and share with them the royalties of
> their own music. Similar practice such as these today continue unabated.
> If we must have intellectual property rights, I think we need to find
> ways to make them much more fair than they presently are. The basic
> problem is that this thinking, however, only works in a very narrow,
> short term sense.
> You also raised the spectre of Marx and I also want to explore with you
> some of the various longer range-virtual potentials. I think you would
> agree there are basically two positions that Marxists have had on the
> subject of work (in a very broad and general sense.)
> The first is to see labor as alienated because of surplus value whereby
> the worker is separated from the fruits of labor by the processes of
> capital.  Here, the solution is seen as one of worker's management.  The
> factories should be controlled directly by the workers themselves.
> The other approach is to see work itself as being degrading because it
> is time which is dominated and managed in which the worker becomes a
> means to an end and thereby loses autonomy.  From this perspective, the
> goal is simply to eliminate the work relation entirely, what some have
> called the refusal of work.
> This latter strategy takes place on a number of levels.  One is
> concerned with achieving a Guaranteed Annual Income (above proverty
> level), based on progressive taxation, a national dividend or a number
> of other proposed mechinisms. Another is concerned with assigning pay
> for work that previously has gone unpaid under capitialism, such as
> being a student, mother or housewife.  A third approach is to to reduce
> the work week and limit the total amount of time that must be spent
> working.
> OK, I recognise that in the current climate, all of this sounds
> hopelessly utopian. (Even though France is currently experimenting with
> the 35 work week.)  However, I think these alternatives will become much
> more viable once the full impact of automation is realized from the new
> internet restructuring that is rapidly allowing for direct selfservice
> to consumers and the attendent growth of intelligent systems.
> If this is coupled with a greater militancy with regard to worker's
> struggles (which would include, besides the obvious exploited groups
> like temps and service workers, even the more privileged knowledge
> workers who are already negotiating for more time off.) then there is a
> chance that some signifiant movement in this direction would actually
> begin to take place. (The alternatives are too dystopian to contemplate
> here.)
> In such a world, the elimination or minimalization of intellectual
> property rights would make perfect sense, for then art would be freely
> shared and distributed in the virtual agoric spaces that have already
> been created.  One might as well ask how a shaman in a tribal society is
> rewarded for his or her artistic endeavors.
> This free sharing of information would also permit sociey to achieve a
> true democracy, not the top-down managed democracy that currently
> functions so hegemonically for the power elites, but one that would
> permit an active and participating citizenry to take direct actions.
> Utopian?  Of course it is, but if we continue to give in and compromise,
> allowing the old systems of domination to continue, even though they are
> hopelessly outdated and ultimately counterproductive, what else can we
> expect?
> For my part, I think we should obey the old adage from May 68 to
> "Be Realistic-Demand the Impossible".
> I see this as a general strategy that grows and develops gradually over
> time - not a metanarrative of revolution through armed combat. I also
> think it needs to be developed globally in a way that extends basic
> standards to everyone as a fundamental right.
> What is that old quote from the Balinese?
> "We have no art.  We do everything the best we can."


Driftline Main Page


Display software: ArchTracker © Malgosia Askanas, 2000-2005