Autonomous Commons

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For a number of authors, the Creative Commons does not create a real Commons, and therefore, they propose an alternative Autonomous Commmons approach.


Description

From: Matteo Pasquinelli: The Ideology of Free Culture and the Grammar of Sabotage:

"After an initial honey-moon the Creative Commons (CC) initiative is facing a growing criticism that comes especially from the European media culture. Scouting articles from 2004 to 2006, two fronts of critique can be distinguished: those who claim the institution of a real commonality against Creative Commons restrictions (non- commercial, share-alike, etc.) and those who point out Creative Commons complicity with global capitalism. An example of the first front, Florian Cramer provides a precise and drastic analysis:

To say that something is available under a CC license is meaningless in practice. [...] Creative Commons licenses are fragmented, do not define a common minimum standard of freedoms and rights granted to users or even fail to meet the criteria of free licenses altogether, and that unlike the Free Software and Open Source movements, they follow a philosophy of reserving rights of copyright owners rather than granting them to audiences.

Berlin-based Neoist Anna Nimus agrees with Cramer that CC licences protect only the producers while consumer rights are left unmentioned: "Creative Commons legitimates, rather than denies, producer-control and enforces, rather than abolishes, the distinction between producer and consumer. It expands the legal framework for producers to deny consumers the possibility to create use-value or exchange-value out of the common stock." Nimus claims the total freedom for consumers to produce use-value out of the common stock (like in Free Software) but more important to produce even exchange- value (that means commercial use). For Nimus a commons is defined by its productive consumers and not merely by its producers or passive consumers. She claims that CC licences close the commons with many restrictions rather than opening it to a real productivity. In a new nickname, they are "Creative Anti-Commons."

Both Nimus and Cramer's critiques remain closer to the libertarian tradition with few accounts of the surplus-value extraction and big economy behind IP (in any form: copyright, copyleft or CC). On the opposite among post-Autonomist Marxists a stronger criticism is moved against the ideology implicitly pushed by CC and other forms of a digital-only commonism. For instance activist Martin Hardie thinks that "The logic of FLOSS seems only to promise a new space for entrepreneurial freedom where we are never exploited or subject to others' command. The sole focus upon 'copyright freedom' sweeps away consideration of the processes of valorisation active within the global factory without walls."23 Hardie criticise FLOSS precisely because it never questions the way it is captured by capital and its relations with the productive forces.

In conclusion a tactical notion of autonomous commons can be imagined to include new projects and tendencies against the hyper- celebrated Creative Commons.


In a schematic way, autonomous commons

1) allow not only passive and personal consumption but even a productive use of the common stock - implying commercial use by single workers;

2) question the role and complicity of the commons within the global economy and put the common stock out of the exploitation of large companies;

3) are aware of the asymmetry between immaterial and material commons and the impact of immaterial accumulation over material production (e.g. IBM using Linux);

4) consider the commons as an hybrid and dynamic space that dynamically must be built and defended." (http://www.rekombinant.org/docs/Ideology-of-Free-Culture.pdf)


Discussion

For a number of authors, the Creative Commons does not create a real Commons, and therefore, they propose an alternative Autonomous Commmons approach.


From: Matteo Pasquinelli: The Ideology of Free Culture and the Grammar of Sabotage:

"After an initial honey-moon the Creative Commons (CC) initiative is facing a growing criticism that comes especially from the European media culture. Scouting articles from 2004 to 2006, two fronts of critique can be distinguished: those who claim the institution of a real commonality against Creative Commons restrictions (non-commercial, share-alike, etc.) and those who point out Creative Commons complicity with global capitalism. An example of the first front, Florian Cramer provides a precise and drastic analysis:

To say that something is available under a CC license is meaningless in practice. [...] Creative Commons licenses are fragmented, do not define a common minimum standard of freedoms and rights granted to users or even fail to meet the criteria of free licenses altogether, and that unlike the Free Software and Open Source movements, they follow a philosophy of reserving rights of copyright owners rather than granting them to audiences.

Berlin-based Neoist Anna Nimus agrees with Cramer that CC licences protect only the producers while consumer rights are left unmentioned: "Creative Commons legitimates, rather than denies, producer-control and enforces, rather than abolishes, the distinction between producer and consumer. It expands the legal framework for producers to deny consumers the possibility to create use-value or exchange-value out of the common stock." Nimus claims the total freedom for consumers to produce use-value out of the common stock (like in Free Software) but more important to produce even exchange value (that means commercial use). For Nimus a commons is defined by its productive consumers and not merely by its producers or passive consumers. She claims that CC licences close the commons with many restrictions rather than opening it to a real productivity. In a new nickname, they are "Creative Anti-Commons."

Both Nimus and Cramer's critiques remain closer to the libertarian tradition with few accounts of the surplus-value extraction and big economy behind IP (in any form: copyright, copyleft or CC). On the opposite among post-Autonomist Marxists a stronger criticism is moved against the ideology implicitly pushed by CC and other forms of a digital-only commonism. For instance activist Martin Hardie thinks that "The logic of FLOSS seems only to promise a new space for entrepreneurial freedom where we are never exploited or subject to others' command. The sole focus upon 'copyright freedom' sweeps away consideration of the processes of valorisation active within the global factory without walls."23 Hardie criticise FLOSS precisely because it never questions the way it is captured bycapital and its relations with the productive forces.

In conclusion a tactical notion of autonomous commons can be imagined to include new projects and tendencies against the hyper- celebrated Creative Commons.


In a schematic way, autonomous commons

- 1) allow not only passive and personal consumption but even a productive use of the common stock - implying commercial use by single workers;

- 2) question the role and complicity of the commons within the global economy and put the common stock out of the exploitation of large companies;

- 3) are aware of the asymmetry between immaterial and material commons and the impact of immaterial accumulation over material production (e.g. IBM using Linux);

- 4) consider the commons as an hybrid and dynamic space that dynamically must be built and defended." (http://www.rekombinant.org/docs/Ideology-of-Free-Culture.pdf)


Discussion

Towards an Autonomous Commons From: Matteo Pasquinelli: The Ideology of Free Culture and the Grammar of Sabotage:

"Among all the appeals for "real" commons only Dmytri Kleiner's idea of 'Copyfarleft' condenses the nodal point of the conflict in a pragmatic proposal that breaks the flat paradigm of Free Culture. In his article "Copyfarleft and Copyjustright" Kleiner notices a property divide that is more crucial than any digital divide: the 10% of the world population owns the 85% of the global assets against a multitude of people owning barely nothing. This material dominion of the owning class is consequently extended thanks to the copyright over immaterial assets, so that they can be owned, controlled and traded. In the case of music for example the intellectual property is more crucial for the owning class than for musicians, as they are forced to resign their author rights over their own works. On the other side the digital commons do not provide a better habitat: authors are sceptical that copyleft can earn them a living. In the end wage conditions of the authors within cognitive capitalism seem to follow the same old laws of Fordism. Moving from Ricardo's definition of rent and the so-called "Iron Law of Wages"25 Kleiner develops the "iron law of copyright earnings."

The system of private control of the means of publication, distribution, promotion and media production ensures that artists and all other creative workers can earn no more than their subsistence. Whether you are biochemist, a musician, a software engineer or a film- maker, you have signed over all your copyrights to property owners before these rights have any real financial value for no more than the reproduction costs of your work. This is what I call the Iron Law of Copyright Earnings.

Kleiner recognizes that both copyright and copyleft regimes keep workers earnings constantly below average needs. In particular copyleft does not help neither software developers nor artists as it reallocates profit only in favour of the owners of material assets. The solution advanced by Kleiner is copyfarleft, a license with a hybrid status that recognises class divide and allow workers to claim back the "means of production." Copyfarleft products are free and can be used to make money only by those who do not exploit wage labour (like other workers or co-ops).

For copyleft to have any revolutionary potential it must be Copyfarleft. It must insist upon workers ownership of the means of production. In order to do this a license cannot have a single set of terms for all users, but rather must have different rules for different classes. Specifically one set of rules for those who are working within the context of workers ownership and commons based production, and another for those who employ private property and wage labour in production.

For example "under a copyfarleft license a worker-owned printing cooperative could be free to reproduce, distribute, and modify the common stock as they like, but a privately owned publishing company would be prevented from having free access". Copyfarleft is quite different from the 'non-commercial' use supported by some CC licences because they do not distinguish between endogenic (within the commons) commercial use and exogenic (outside the commons) commercial use. Kleiner suggests to introduce an asymmetry: endogenic commercial use should be allowed while keeping exogenic commercial use forbidden. Interestingly this is the correct application of the original institution of the commons, that were strictly related to material production: commons were land used by a specific community to harvest or breed their animals. If someone can not pasture cows and produce milk, that will not be considered a real common. Kleiner says that if money can not be made out of it, a work does not belong to the commons: it is merely private property." (http://www.rekombinant.org/docs/Ideology-of-Free-Culture.pdf)