Free Culture Forum

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= There is a need, recognized for several worldwide voices, of an international space to build and coordinate a global frame and common agenda for the free culture and knowledge issues; the Free Culture Forum of Barcelona aims to create such space

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"The FCForum is an international arena to build and coordinate action for issues related to free/libre culture and access to knowledge.The FCForum brings together key organizations and active voices in the spheres of free/libre culture and knowledge, and provides a meeting pointto find answers to the pressing questions behind the current paradigm shift.

Facing the powerful lobbies of the copyright industries, the FCForum is a space of proposal’s construction from the civil society for strengthening the citizen’s opinion to face the debate of the creation and distribution of art, culture and knowledge on the digital era." (


From the Wikipedia [2]:

"The Free Culture Forum is an international encounter on free culture and knowledge that took place in Barcelona from October 30 to November 1st 2009. It took place jointly with the second edition of the Oxcars. During the Forum 200 organizations and individuals linked to free culture expressions discuss on the privatization of the creation and the intellectual property and its incidence in the access to the knowledge and the creation and distribution of the art, knowledge and culture. The Forum ended up with the definition of a "Charter for Innovation, Creativity and Access to Knowledge". The main objectives of the Forum are, on the one hand, building networks to optimize the efforts of the different groups and setting common demands against the proposals from industry and governments in their eagerness to control culture and information; and on the other hand reinforcing the self-organization of tools and infrastructures to support free culture. Official observers from the European Community´s Commission for Culture and Education (Valerie Panis), the European Community´s Commission for Consumer Protection (Katrine Thomsen) and Government of Brazil (through its Department of Digital Culture) (José Murilo) were present. The Forum was organised by Exgae, Networked Politics and Free Knowledge Institute." (

3. Simona Levi:

"The FCForum is an open arena for drawing up proposals that can present civil society’s position on the issues of the privatization of culture and access to knowledge. At the annual FcForum participants debate the role of the government in access to knowledge, the creation and distribution of art and culture, and other issues.

The Forum unifies existing documents and builds a unique citizen legal plan for civil liberties in the digital era, a plan that cannot be ignored or rejected. And in particular, the Forum seeks to redefine the economic, educational and political context in order to present a joint response to immediate and urgent threats.

The outcomes of the Forum include (1) the constitution of an internationally valid Charter of Claims (2) the establishment and support of a mobilization network to optimize the efficacy of existing networks (3) casting new light onto the issues, carrying them into the mainstream and (4) the coordination of future actions.

More than 170 leading organizations and specialists from 20 different countries in an international coalition come together in the FCForum to urge respect for the civil rights of citizens and artists in the digital era.

The Czech Republic’s presidency of the European Community was the context for a particularly relevant speech that we presented at the Ministerial Forum for Creative Europe (27/03/09). This speech captured the attention of the EC commission which then took an interest in our

Since then, we have been advising the EU Commission of Culture and Education and other commissions such as those on Digital Agenda and Copyright, as well as several MEPs."



"At last year’s FCForum we created the Charter for Innovation, Creativity and Access to Knowledge, a comprehensive legal compendium that has been adopted as a Charter by many organizations all around the world. The document covers over 20 years of legal proposals for adapting copyright legislation to the digital era, and was drafted by more than 100 specialists and major organizations from twenty different countries.

It has turn into a very effective tool for counteracting reactionary legal proposals from the content industries lobbies as ACTA, the Spanish Law for Sustainable Culture, among others." (


"The FCForum, which takes place in tandem with the 3rd oXcars Festival – the biggest free/libre culture event of all time ; ) –, is a three-day event of international scale in which to organize strategies that encompass different solutions and proposals from around the world, so that they add up and complement each other. It aims to build a shared response to the pressure exerted on governments by the lobbies of a sector of the industry.

On 2010, a key moment of this historical struggle, is crucial a discussion based in how to defend and generate new economic models emerged in the digital era.

This will be 2010 FCForum’s topic.

Before the debate is closed and the legislation only reflects of governments, industries and lobbies interests, it is essential that we provide answers on how free/libre culture can be sustainable." (



The week from October 24th to 28th Barcelona was interacting with the new possibilities of internet freedom. It started off with the Communication and Civil Society, then the oXcars and last but not least the Free Culture Forum.

Digital culture, networks and distributed policy have been discussed in the second edition of Communication and Civil Society at the Open University of Catalunya on October 24th and 25th. On the 25th, as a partition between the two encounters, the fifth edition of the oXcars show recognized alternatives circulating in the network with a spectacular mise en scene: an event held at night at the Apollo Theater, where the alternative world would beat the traditional glamour of the hall.

The next morning began the Free Culture Forum. Two days of talks, discussions, workshops and exhibitions of free knowledge that usually flows through the network and was noew analyzed and shared offline.

October 24-25th: Communication and Civil Society presented the second edition at the MediaTIC building . This year ,and after the work groups sessions, has deepened not only in the role of the network and network culture in the new movement, but what were the chances of institutional reinvention and constituent policy towards an open and distributed policy as major challenges. For example, the role of the European Union before the economic and financial crisis, the use of technology in Iceland to get politics closer to the citizens or the conclusion that while some institutions are trying to be more open, transparent, participative, this does not happen within political parties. As an alternative to negative answers from political parties, democracy 4.0 was presented: “Cooperation + abundance + desktop manufacturing: another way of `manufacturing´ an open source democracy”.

October 25th: The ironic definition of the oXcars as “The First Non-Competitive Awards in the History of Culture” drew attention to the fact that applying competitive criteria to the cultural sphere distorts its very essence. By highlighting different aspects of artistic creation, the “Gala Ceremony” showed that culture exists thanks to all of these complementary approaches that exist side by side.

Different actors of free Internet culture were recognized during a night that also named as this year’s best derivated art work for the infamous restoration of Ecce Homo… though the fact that Mrs. Cecilia now wants to claim copyright for versions of her restoration braought a huge boooh! from the audience.

The ceremony ended with a massive karaoke. First with Ovidi Montllor’s song called ”Perque vull” (Because I want to) and to finish the evening the attendance sang the usual closing song for the oXcars, “Libre” (Free).

October 26-27th : FCForum is an international arena in which actions are built and coordinated with a shared agenda for issues related to free culture and access to knowledge. In the wake of the outbreak of the Arab uprisings, #15M and the Occupy movement, FCForum focused on the key importance of the new techno-political practices and digital tools that were forged along these movements. The 2012 edition focused on organising a united front encompassing solutions and proposals from around the world. It was also about discovering and interconnecting innovative projects linked to transparency, freedom of information, public data and open institutional mechanisms that empower citizens and improve distributed forms of controlling governments." (


The prehistory: Emergence of the Free Culture Movement

Felix Stalder:

"The practice of free culture – sharing, reuse and cooperative production – has always existed in computer networks, long before there was a proper name for it. In the early days, these practices were an extension of the cooperative culture of computer programming. The first multi-player games emerged in the late 1970s and a few years later several of them were accessible over the Internet. Quickly, they became very popular among the then still relatively small group of people who has access to the Internet. Generally, these were open-ended, text-based environments where users would create their own spaces and interact with each other. While there existed a certain sense of ownership over the spaces created individually, there was also a sense of a shared responsibility for the environment as a whole.1 Starting in the early 1990s, artists not directly connected to culture of computer science or hacking began to experiment with the possibilities of the Internet and the potential to create different sets of relationships among artists and the public, based on ideas of interactivity and/or community. Among the pioneering projects was the artist-run network node The Thing, founded in 1991 in New York and quickly gaining nodes across Europe. For much of the decade, the high-tech character of these projects provided both sense of a shared experience and a significant hurdle of much of the cultural world to understand or even participate in these endeavors.Many of the main questions of what is now Free Culture – the relationship between artist and audience, reuse and copyright, economies of sharing, critique of dominant cultural institutions – were beginning to be articulated.

At the turn of the century affordable computers had become powerful enough to support a broad range of (semi)professional cultural production, significantly lowering the barriers to many aspects of making culture. Moreover, the Internet had spread widely throughout society (although unevenly in respect to region and class). Core sectors of the economy at large were changing from the logic of mass production to an ‘informational paradigm’ which demands communicative and creative skills from its workforce and vastly expands the field of cultural production (in the creative industries). Thus more people than ever before had the skills and the means to produce and distribute their own cultural works.

Cultural production at large was being affected by cheap mass (self-)communication, easy conversion between media and decentralized distribution. First, remixing – using existing works to create new ones – has become central to cultural production. Second, subcultures of small or non-commercial cultural producers, long excluded by the efficient distribution mechanisms of the cultural industries, found themselves on the same technological footing with established players and able to connect to audiences of any size. This helped them to increase and improve their cultural output. Third, many of the actions that copyright law granted exclusively to rights-holders – making and distributing exact copies or transformed works – were now being done by masses of people without authorization, not in the privacy of their homes but online (that is, in public). Much of what constituted the new digital mass culture was a violation of copyright law and rights owners – fearing loss of control over cultural works which they regard as their exclusive property – organized to reassert that control. In a series of international agreements (most importantly, the World Intellectual Property Organization Copyright Treaty, 1996) and national legislations (for example, the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act, 1998 and the EU Copyright Directive, 2001) the rights of owners were strengthened. At the same time, litigation against copyright infringement escalated.

The tension between the enforcement of increasingly restrictive laws and the growing popularity of permissive cultural practices rose to the surface and spilled into the mainstream. In part as a response to the aggressiveness of the cultural industries, in part drawing inspiration from the Free Software movement, large numbers of users and producers recognized the need to defend their culture. Their goal has been to protect and advance the freedoms that had defined digital culture from the beginning. In a series of influential books, Lawrence Lessig, a law professor and a leading figure of the Free Culture movement, argued that recent changes in law and technology could easily restrict freedoms and create what he called a permission culture. This would allow owners of past cultural works to grant or withhold permission, at their discretion, to those seeking to create the culture of the present. The effect would be a vast increase in the control exercised by a few over the many, implemented through Digital Right Management (DRM) technologies and ubiquitous surveillance of social communication. This would cripple the potential for the emergence of a read/write culture in which the ability to consume cultural works (read) would be matched by that to produce them (write). For such a culture to flourish, he argued, people need to be able – technically, legally, and socially – to build on and transform the culture in which they live

The Free Culture movement began to take shape. One focus was to develop tools allowing copyright law, as it exists, to support rather than restrict the sharing and transformation of cultural works. Following the lead of Free Software, a series of licenses was developed to enable creators to make their works available freely. Among the first were the Open Content License (1998) and the Free Art License (2000), both based closely on the GNU GPL license. In 2001, Creative Commons (CC) established itself as one of the central hubs of Free Culture, by offering easy-to-use, customizable licenses granting some rights to the public. Works published under a Creative Commons license are always freely usable for non-commercial purposes. Some versions of the license also allow free transformation of the works and others allow commercial use. A combination of good timing, user-friendly implementation and significant support from leading American universities made CC licenses the de facto standard legal foundation of free culture, despite criticism and weaknesses. By mid 2009, it was estimated that some 250 million works had been published under one or other of the CC licenses. This mass adoption of CC licenses shows the breadth of the Free Culture movement.

It took slightly less than a decade to establish Creative Commons as the de-facto legal standard of Free Culture. During the same period, it became increasingly understood at the legal dimension constitutes only one of many transformations connected to free culture. These other dimensions are now becoming increasingly to the foreground." (draft of the essay for Kosmos Journal, 2011)

Establishing the Need and a Program for a FC Forum

Felix Stalder:

"The starting point for the discussion at the Free Culture Forum was a recognition that “in order to develop and grow, the human capacity for creativity requires access to existing culture, knowledge and information. Everyone can contribute to the production of culture, values and wealth on different scales, ranging from very basic to very complex creative contributions. The resources and time required for creative activities also vary in scale. We want to promote ways of liberating this time and these resources so that the distributed potential can be deployed in a sustainable way.”1 Form this recognition, two points can be made. First, it makes no sense to establish strict and hard dividing lines between creators and audiences, because even exceptional artists are embedded in larger social environments that produce much of the innovation that these artists then articulate and digital technology allows to perform small creative productions on top of very large ones (think of editing a blockbuster movie on a home computer and putting the resulting clip up on youtube.). Second, while recognizing the important of highly distributed and modular acts of cultural production, there are also cultural products that require long-sustained individual and collective efforts to be produced. For Free Culture to be sustainable, it needs to be develop frameworks in the full range of creative scales – the very small and the very large and everything in between – can flourish. Its unsustainable to limit free culture to the non-professional (“user generated”) aspects of culture without finding ways of liberating also professional culture. In terms of the small acts, which are part of human nature, the main issues are about removing barriers, in terms of copyright restrictions, lack of technical and cultural skills, but also discriminatory exclusions from public discourse. In terms of developing a professional free culture, one of the main task is to find new economic models that can sustain artists without taking away the freedom of the audiences/users. This is not an impossible task as the free software movement has shown, but it has also shown that it requires significant institutional innovations, which in the field of culture need to be very different from those successfully developed in the field of software.

Of the ten economic models listed in the Declaration and elaborated in the accompanying How-To for Sustainable Creativity, I want to highlight three.

First, “crowd-funding. Enabling individual citizens or entities to contribute to a cultural enterprise by becoming stakeholders. This contribution can take the form of an investment before the work has been created, or via micro or macro credits or donations towards existing works.” Today, there are dozens of infrastructures that enable anyone to begin to raise funding through small (and, of course, large) donations from people interested in seeing a project being realized. Among the most successful platforms is On this platform, creators can publish their projects plans, including the amount of money they need to do it, and people who like to see this realized can pledge money towards it. If the entire sum is being pledged within the announced time-frame, the money is released to the project. As Kickstarter explains, their approach is closest to patronage, since it “is not about investment or lending. Project creators keep 100% ownership and control over their work. Instead, they offer products and experiences that are unique to each project.”4 While kickstarter does not require projects to be realized under a free license and is not directly promoting free culture, it helps to solve one of the crucial chlallenges of free culture. Even if copies can be made and distributed for free, the first copy still needs to be financed. While the classic approach of the cultural industries has been to finance the first copy as investment which generates incomes through the control all subsequent copies, crowd-funding allows to raise money up front. Not as investment, but as kind of community contribution towards something that enough people want to see existing, just for the pleasure its existence and not for any monetary payback. It's kind of a non-capitalist venture financing which requires to build communities from the start, rather than working cloistered and then releasing the finished work into the world. While creating communities is not easy and on kickstarter as everywhere else, many more project are ignored than appreciated, it is a system that allows also for small but devoted niches to be sustainable.

Second, “commons-based strategies and distributed value creation. The providers of commercial platforms for cooperation share their revenues with the creators who produce the material that makes their services valuable, while commoners are able to freely share and exploit the commons.” The idea behind is that there need to be a revenue sharing between the providers of the platform which enables the users on the one hand, and the users who create content and thus make platform interesting and valuable, on the other hand. One of the working models here is YouTube, which has a program to split revenue generated by the platform 50:50 with creators who provide the content. While this has been created primarily to appease major copyright holders, it allows also other creators to generate income. In theory, this represent a balanced recognition that both the platform and the content creator generate value that is monetized in this commercial environment. In practice, however, it instigates a popularity contest replicating the advertisement driven model of television. The popularity contest works on two level. First, in order to make money, one needs to create content that can be associated with ad terms that are popular and thus expensive (their price is determined by Google's very flexible bidding system) and one needs to create content that is popular with the viewers. While hard numbers cannot be provided due to Google's confidentiality agreements, it appears that the amount shared with the users is about $ 0.75-2.50 / 1000 views of a video (and the associated clicks on the add-messages). Thus, this is only a suitable models for a very particular type of cultural works. But for these, it can work.5

Third, “collective financing systems. A flat-rate on internet connections can be consider only if it implies an equitable and democratic resource- pooling system and recognizes citizens rights to share and re-use works freely.” While such a system – a culture flat rate – does not (yet) exist, it is being promoted by parts of the content industry. Within the free culture movement, it is highly contentious, in part because there are many different variations of the flat rate and none of them is worked out in all details or tested under real-life conditions. The industry proposal is to allow file-sharing while measuring downloads and then dividing the sum raised through the flat rate by the number of downloads.6 Within the Free Culture movement, some see this as an acceptable compromise to end the “war on sharing” and avoid the imposition of ever stricter copyright enforcement laws (such as the “three-strikes-and-you-are-out” rules adopted in France under the name of Hadopi).* Most others, however, see substantial difficulties because of the experience with existing collecting societies, because of the built-in bias towards the already popular, and because of the lack of any provisions to allow reuse of works. In the strict form favored by the industry, the flat would extend the producer consumer divide, which is widely seen as antithetical to Free Culture. There are, however, also proposals for a flat rate as a general funding mechanism for digital culture that could supplement other financing mechanisms without the need to measure all downloads and the associated bias towards the popular.7 The latter proposals, however, are still very theoretical and lack even the limited political support that the more strict version of the flat rate have. To avoid confusion between the two type of proposals, the Declaration adopts the term “collective financing system” and specifies numerous conditions under which a levy would be an acceptable form to make free culture sustainable. Thus, the critique elaborated at the FCForum of the flat rate proposals can be viewed as a left-wing critique focusing on social effects of the design and administration, rather than a right wing-critique of the legitimacy of creating a levy in the first place." (draft of the essay for Kosmos Journal, 2011)


Background to the emergence of the Free Culture Movements

Marco Berlinguer:

"In this article my aim is to give a picture of the experiences which represent the background of the FCF, presenting some its salient characteristics and achievements. In the second part I will discuss some questions of wider contextualisation, with the intent of encouraging deeper research on such issues within the Transform! network.

What we call here the Free Culture Movements comprises a wide range of experiences mainly emerging in the framework of the internet and the digital revolution. Although they developed independently, they are in effect loosely aligned along similar patterns and show a mutually reinforcing dynamism – or a “viral spiral”, as David Boiler puts it.

All these movements emerged as a practical and cultural critique of what has been called “the second enclosures movement” the northern state-aided aggressive policies of extension of Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) to knowledge, culture, information, communication (and even organisms and data). Resistance to these policies emerged with practical experimentations of different approaches to the regulation of property in the digital era and of how production can be organised in a networked world.

Following Felix Stalder, we can group these movements in three different clusters: the Free Software movement focusing on software code, the Free Culture movement focusing on cultural goods, and the Access to Knowledge (A2K) movement focusing on the access to knowledge-intensive goods.

The first to emerge and the most consolidated is the Free and Open Source Software movement (FOSS).

Its roots are in the 1980s, when it started to take shape among programmers and software researchers as a reaction to the increased “enclosures” of software coding, which frustrated their habit of freely sharing, investigating and improving software. Two steps have been crucial in the taking shape of the FOSS. First, when Richard Stallman, founder of the Free Software Foundation, “hacked” the copyright laws, reverting their scope, to release a new license in 1989 – the General Public License, GPL – which instead of protecting the right of the producer, protects the access of the user to the “source code” and her/his freedoms to “run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve” the software (Stallman, 1996). Crucially, GPL includes two further clauses: that whoever distributes copies or improvements of GPL software must to do so under the same license and a prohibition to hybridise GPL software with property software. GPL licence – under which most free software is released today – provided an institutional framework shielding an environment in which Free Software could develop in a cumulative and expansive way. The second decisive step came in the early 1990s, when in a surprising – structured and at the same time self-directed – organisation of cooperation, Linus Torvalds prompted a large, open, dispersed and self-assembled community of voluntary developers to complete a very complicated technical project: the first free operating system (Linux). Since then Free Software has massively expanded in many fields of application. Together with its cousin, the Open Source Software (a more commercial-friendly section of the movement) it contributed to the creation of “a new institutional ecology” composed of volunteer communities, non-profit foundations, public bodies and commercial actors “actively using and contributing to the common resource (the code basis) in the pursuit of their individual goals and strategies”. Within it, an alternative economic model emerged which “focused on solving unique problems, rather than selling identical copies”, and which was regulated by new social norms combining “the competition for personal recognition among peers with collaboration in solving shared problems”. Today the FOSS is a technical, economical, political and cultural power: hegemonic among the servers running the Internet; widely adopted by people, public administrations, firms, large corporations; increasingly endorsed by a significant segment of the same IT-industry. Culturally it became a source of inspiration in many fields; politically it proved its strength in 2007, when it succeeded in blocking a change in software patent law in the EU-Parliament, for the first time ever arresting the more than two-decades-long cycle of expansion of intellectual property protections.

The same conditions which, in the beginning of the 1990s, had made possible the take-off of Free Software – the diffusion of software among programmers of personal computers networking through the platform of the internet – were made use of more extensively. The diffusion of means of “cheap mass (self-) communication, easy transformation and decentralised distribution” within a population rich in communicative, cultural and creative skills turned to reshape every field of the production of cultural works, information and knowledge. Three main phenomena emerged: a massive entry and empowerment of new, micro, not commercial or outsider producers (previously marginalised by the distribution mechanisms); remixing – using existing works to create new ones – as a central approach to cultural production; and mass and public (online) infringement of copyright terms by making and distributing unauthorised copies of digital cultural products. Together they produced a de facto serious crisis of the copyright regime and of the culture and media industries.

The attempts to defend the copyright regime produced escalations of repressive actions which up to now have been clashing with the creative invention of new solutions to bypass controls. At the same time, partly as a reaction to this escalation, partly drawing inspiration from the Free Software movement, a loosely organised movement emerged, especially at US universities, to affirm and protect the democratic potential of this new cultural environment. The basic tenets of this movement are that in the new digital environment the attempt to protect the business model of the 20th-century culture industry inevitably clashes with a revolt against the “artificial scarcity” this imposes and risks bringing about a world of pervasive surveillance and mass illegality, while dramatically reducing the potential of democratic and creative expression in culture. Also, in the taking off of this movement we can identify two emblematic moments. One step followed the example of the GPL licence and pursued the use of the existing copyright laws to design licences which supported rather than restricted the practice of sharing and transforming cultural works. In 2001, this research culminated in the release of a set of new licences, the Creative Commons (CC), under which cultural goods are released freely usable for non-commercial purposes11 and which have since then been massively utilised (250 millions works published by mid-2009 under one of these licenses)12, once again showing how a diffused alternative attitude to cultural production was emerging under the radar of the interests of political regulators. The second emblematic experience was the development of the Wikipedia project. Originally planned in the wave of as a commercial venture, Wikipedia had to change its model completely in 2001 in connection with the crash of the bubble of the new economy. In this way, it turned out to be another demonstration – after the success of the FOSS – of the emergence of a new paradigm of cultural production, utterly surprising both for its forms and for its effectiveness. But – like Linux for Free Software – Wikipedia is only the most popular case. In all the fields of cultural production numerous free culture initiatives are under way, experimenting with tools, practices, regulations and new economical models, which aim to regulate differently the balance between the right of the creators – to be socially and economically recognised and to control their works – and the right of the community to access and build upon cultural works and expand over time their common pool of resources.

A third cluster of struggles and initiatives has developed around the Access to Knowledge (A2K) movement, behind which lies a loose coalition of mainly civil society organisations, scientists, educators and governments of the South. Once again, the converging focus is the struggle against the policies of maximisation of IPRs, this time for their limiting effects on the access to knowledge-embedded goods, like drugs, education and science. Critiques are based on principles of global justice; but increasingly also voices are raised contesting the rationality of these policies for the blockages they create in terms of economic efficiency and potential development. One emblematic moment for the A2K movement was the fight over access to anti-retroviral drugs during the 1990s, when a new class of drugs to fight HIV/AIDS had become available, but were sold in developing countries at prohibitively high prices. When in 1998 the South African government amended its laws to facilitate the import of generic versions of the drugs which cost 10 times less, it was sued by 39 of the largest pharmaceutical manufacturers, supported by US and EU governments. The successful issue of the struggle in 2001 led other developing countries to pass similar legislation and to become increasingly vocal.

A second successful development of the A2K movement was achieved around the access to scientific publishing. In this case, it emerged in reaction to the continuous and unjustified increase in the last two decades of the prices of commercial scientific journals, which created unbearable barriers for universities, public libraries and scientists, and not only in the poorer countries. Such a situation also clashed with the tradition of freely sharing scientific works, which likewise is a fundamental means of submitting scientific work to scrutiny and to facilitate the further development of research results within the scientific community. This movement coalesced around the creation of open access journals (OAJ), which are having a deep impact on the market of scientific journals, also because they seem better to reflect the logic of scientific publishing. But numerous other Open Access initiatives are spreading in education, school textbooks, university courses, effectively combining the pursuit of principles of social justice and the conviction that sharing is also the best policy to knowledge improvement and development. Finally, one needs to remember that, though up to now with no consequence, the A2K arguments even broke out at the OECD, which undertook a scrutiny of the problematic burdens that the policies of pervasive patenting are creating for technological and scientific innovation, cooperation and advancement, thus recognising the validity of the paradoxical consequence of IPR-policies, which has been called “the tragedy of the anti-commons”.


FC movements have developed rapidly, effectively democratising crucial layers of our society, such as software, culture and knowledge. For that reason alone the would merit our appreciation. Yet, the struggle around the institutional architecture of these terrains is far from being won. IPR-policies and control of media represent crucial stakes and pillars for the powers that be. Signs of possible authoritarian turns abound in these terrains as in our societies at large. And indeed the surveillance power which allows the control of the new pervasive digital flows, through which our life is increasingly organised, casts further shadows on our future, justifying serious worries, and opens up very new political problems, still to be adequately framed.

However, concluding this survey, I would like to suggest some areas of research which the potential expressed by these experiences can help to further explore.

When we started Networked Politics, we wanted first of all to deepen the comprehension of the problems that had emerged in the innovative forms and principles of organisation in the global movements. It was in this way that we came to discover parallels with the organisational forms that had emerged in the Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) movement, as well as with various experiences of web communities of collaborative production, like for example Wikipedia. Here there is a first cluster of issues which – I think – ought to be looked at more deeply. These experiences have contributed to re-framing and managing, in rather weird ways, very complex problems related to the aggregation and coordination of communities of highly individualised members, the management of (diffused) conflicts and new styles of leadership. They experimented with the potential opened up by the new technologies for more accessibly distributed, more decentralised and finer tuned and differentiated capacities, knowledge, needs and aspirations of the protagonists involved. There isn’t any general working model there, but they offer a very rich field of concrete – sometimes very effective – experiences to better understand the current reshaping of fundamental political problems.

This goes together with a second question we have often dealt with, that is, why these “networked forms” are emerging in so many movements and indeed in so many aspects of present-day society. Of course, technology matters. But the emergence of the network as dominant socio-economical paradigm has preceded (and well transcended) the technological dimension (and the weakening of the institutions centred on the nation-state). There are other forces at work which themselves contributed to shaping the technological transformation, at least in so much as they have been shaped by it. Discussing this issue – within the limited but stimulating seminars we organised in the “Networked Politics” project – we arrived at the conclusion that these forces have one of their fundamental roots in the movements of the 1960s and 70s and specifically in two salient facts: the shake-up of the Fordist, patriarchal, hierarchical institutions of post-war capitalism and the (connected) repercussions of the massive expansion of higher education22. This, whether it is convincing or not, refers to another set of problems. We need to better conceptualise the anthropological transformation which underlies these new patterns of social relationships, because such an exploration could facilitate a deeper understanding of the ambivalent and confused “transition” we are trapped in.

Which leads us to a third area of issues: The movements analysed in this article have been emerging from the very core of societal innovation of the last decades. How do we call this? Post-Fordism? Knowledge economy? Informationalism? Cognitive capitalism? I could continue listing terms, which have, indeed since the 1970s, been proposed to capture this new reality. However, in my opinion the fact that we do not have a consolidated concept of the “thing” has to do with a still hybrid, highly contradictory and unresolved phenomenon, which characterises forms of production, social relationships and institutional forms we are living in. Let’s put it simply. We are still living in a capitalist society; and in the last twenty years, one major change has been a qualitatively new importance of information, communication and knowledge in the economy, and in society at large. The point which I want to raise here is that these two frameworks are overlapping, but they do not necessarily coincide. On the other hand, there are various tensions and many open problems. The FC movements can help us to explore them.

I will list here just three, in a very schematic and tentative way:

First, where knowledge, information and communication play a central role, the processes of production appear intrinsically and more immediately social. They benefit and rely on flows and networks of production which go beyond the formal boundaries of any specific organisation (not to say single individuals). This gives more prominence to the forces of cooperation and of mutual interdependence and presses any institution to experiment organisational logics based on the openness to the “outside”. This is, for example, one reason for the success of open source within a growing segment of IT-industry. More significantly this “openness” is the logic behind the internet itself: an open architecture is its initial conception and the secret of its incredible (and fundamentally unplanned and decentralised) development.

But there is also another aspect of this social nature of production that needs to be noted: in many senses, the flows of production appeared to have shifted away from the formal boundaries of what is traditionally considered productive work, to spread into society at large. The gargantuan literature in business and media studies about the increasing blurring of the divide between consumer and producer has to do with this phenomenon. But just consider Google’s model of value production – that is, offering for free online services and platforms of social networks, to then exploit the user- generated data and contents in various ways – and you get one emblematic example of this shift.

In any case, the general problem which emerges here is that the social nature of these processes seems to put pressure on any regulatory, governance and account system closed within the boundaries of formally isolated organisations. This is well reflected in the proliferation of mechanisms of governance that stems from the necessity of regulating frames of the collaborative action of a multiplicity of protagonists who are autonomous and so not governable by simple authoritative mechanisms. But, more deeply, this configuration also brings people to question the adequacy, legitimacy and efficiency of the property regimes as we know them, be they private or state ones. The increasing rediscovery of the notion of commons by the FC movements – and indeed beyond these movements – has its roots here. Though yet arguably indefinite, it reflects the search for a new conceptual guide in the design of new institutional frameworks more attuned to these relations of production.

Let’s now turn to another aspect: the nature and organisation of work. When we look at the qualities which need to be mobilised and at the forms of organisation of production in these spheres, we observe an increasing importance of attitudes and capacities such as creativity, flexibility, development of information, continuous learning, problem-solving, initiative, communicational and relational skills, decision-making, attention, experiential/practical/”tacit” knowledge. Now, what makes these qualities peculiar is that they are embedded in the individuals and are not easily reproducible and controllable through planned command or automated mechanisms. Moreover, they depend on motivations which are not easily reducible to the monetary ones, as is recognised in the same management literature and experience and as the experience of FC-movements widely confirm. The necessity to deal with such a workforce and processes of production has been indeed one of the major sources of the crisis of the Fordist organisation of production and of innovation in management styles. But the puzzle of the governance of these productive forces – which reflects a blurring of entrepreneurial and managerial functions and of dependent work – is far from being solved. However, there is another dimension where the experience of the FC-movements is interesting. There are experiments of a different kind around these problems and these potentials. These experiences have contributed to re-frame and manage in a different way complicated problems related to the meshing and mobilisation of different motivations, non-hierarchical division of labour, collaboration and coordination, and so on. And quite interestingly, they have done all this by experimenting with new notions of what constitutes property, working on the basis of a distributional/sharing – rather than exclusive – approach to property, conceiving themselves as producing common resources.

There is, finally, a third cluster of problems which I would like to highlight in this brief and very incomplete map. The increased immaterial and social nature of the processes of production and of products is creating a series of problems in the systems of measures. Economists, policy-makers and business literature are struggling to define new parameters for the measure of the value of capital, of work, of wealth, of productivity. Such problems are evidently further complicated by the digital revolution, which made it possible that a digital product, once created, can be potentially reproduced “easier, faster, ubiquitously and almost free”; and which, moreover, is subversively creating social practices that are exploring an economy based on principles like, “not scarcity, not rivalry, not exclusivity”, that is something which evidently troubles basic rules both of economy and of the control of the appropriation of value. In this lies another clue that fundamental difficulties are emerging, which point toward what could be called a crisis of the system of value – which, indeed, has many other roots, well beyond this realm.

All this doesn’t mean that these problems are not solvable in principle within a capitalist framework. We can already observe innovative mechanisms of accumulation which effectively deal with these novelties. What is more dubious is that they can be managed without fundamental changes in the institutional framework.

To conclude then, let me refer to an earlier historical sequence: Fordist forms of production, to be deployed in a non-destructive way, required the invention of a new institutional framework, which crystallised in the Keynesian revolution; which, in turn, to be effectively deployed required the invention of a new system of (public and private) measures and accounts, which culminated in the famous – and today widely contested concept of – Gross National Product32. Doesn’t this resonate with the present?" (

The Charter

Charter for Innovation, Creativity and Access to Knowledge


The Sources of the Charter

• draft document A2K 2005 (

• Necessary and Urgent Measures to Protect the Knowledge Society by eXgae (

• Consumer International. IP-watchlist09 (

• Proposal made to the ONU´s World Organisation for Intellectual Property made by Amigos del Desarrollo (Friends of Development) (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Cuba, Ecuador, Egypt, Iran, Kenya, Perou, Dominican Republic, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania and Venezuela) (

• Asking for an open internet in Europe (

• The Norwegian principles NRA.(

• FCC 4 first principles (

• Julius Genachowski’s speech from 21 Sept adding principle 5 & 6(

• PiratPartiet Principles (

• Adelphi_Charter (

• BlackOutEurope (

• Carta Europea de los Derechos Ciudadanos en la Era Digital (

• The Budapest Open Access Initiative, 2002,

• The Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities, 2003,

• Capetown Open Education Declaration, 2007,

• Open University Campaign, Wheeler Declaration, 2008,

• Declaration on Libre Knowledge:

• Free Software Definition:

• The Trivandrum Declaration, Free Software, Free Society, 2005,

• Indian Free & Open Source community Charter:

• Franklin Street Statement on Freedom and Network Services:

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