Talk:Equity-based Licenses

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Further Discussion

The full debate is listed in the discussion pages of the IANG License

Patrick Godeau

Dmytri Kleiner a écrit : > > The IANG license, I feel comes very close to realizing the sort of > license I thing the peer-production license should be, with the > understanding that there would need be more explicit clauses limiting > certain forms of "Economic Contributions," particularly to avoid > allowing property holders to extract surplus value.

I agree that avoiding the appropriation of surplus value is a crucial requirement, but in my view, it is avoided precisely by allowing economic contributors, especially customers, to control the economy. Customers wouldn't extract surplus value from themselves.

> > Such a license would adequately cover what I describe as endogenic > usage of common-stock. > > This still leaves open the question of what terms to apply to exogenic > usage. > > For groups of peer-producers that want to simply forbid exogenic > usage, this is not a problem, but for most artists this is simply not > an option. > > For instance, how many recording artist would agree to a license that > forbid commercial radio stations or night clubs from playing the music?

Actually, radios and night clubs don't read licenses, they pay a fee to collection societies, and play all the music they want, assuming that all music is affiliated to these societies.

> > Obviously, since the number of radio stations and nightclubs that > would qualify as commons-based peer producers and thus qualify for > free usage is small,

There is however a number of non-profit radios (and webradios), whether state-owned or associative. In fact I think they are more numerous than commercial radios, even if the number of listeners may be lower. Some already use commons licenses (BBC, Arte).

> a commons license for popular art forms must also specify some sort of > non-free terms for exogenic usage by private radio stations and > nightclubs.

I don't think it would be wise to include non-free terms in a free license. Anyway, if authors want to have special terms, nobody can stop them from distributing their work under a different license, possibly in parallel with the free license.

> > But, as a common-stock is owned in common, it can not be the > "original" artist privately that benefits from such non-free terms, as > is the case in Copyleft Non-Commercial, as that asynchronous > relationship between the "original author" and other commons users > means the creation is not actually a part of the commons. The non-free > terms must benefit the commons as a whole, and not any "orginal author."

I agree, but for me "commons as a whole" should include users, and "asynchronous relationship" is no more desirable between authors and users, than between original and secondary authors.

> > But as commons-based peer production is made up of autonomous > individuals and groups of commons based producers, how can any temrs > benefit the "commons as a whole." > > In possibility is employing a Collection Society such as GEMA, SoCan, > etc. > > > > Of course, there are problems with this approach, and the function of > such a society must be clearly defined, some risks immediately come to > mind: > > - The society may be hyper-vigilant in collecting and thus be too > aggressive in claiming that certain usage is exogenic and therefor is > disqualified from having free access. > > - The society may become too closed and not recognize or welcome new > peer-producers into it's membership. > > - The internal structure of the society itself could become corrupt > and non democratic. > > These risks must be mitigated by explicitly creating terms in the > license that define the operations of such a society quite clearly.

I believe that the terms of the IANG license already mitigate these risks. The society, as an Economic Project, would be submitted to direct democratic management, dismissibility of mandates, and open accounting. But most of all, it would not be controlled by those having a financial interest in it, but by the final users (who will presumably make the majority of economic contributors) thus limiting the risk of corruption.

I see other problems, however. One difficulty will be to explain to radios, night clubs, etc., that they must subscribe to another collection society, without dissuading them from playing copyleft music. Another problem, maybe harder, will be to explain to existing collection societies that they must restitute money collected for authors not affiliated with them. Some well-known musicians had lots of difficulties with this. (However, some collection societies are making progress towards open content licenses, see <>.)

> > It also mitigated by having several such societies, not just one, so > that the reputation of a society would attract producers to the best > operated ones.

For this reason, the IANG license deliberately does not define precise management rules, but only gives basic principles. Each Economic Project can have its own rules, as long as they comply with the principles and are controlled by the participants.

But I see another problem with your approach, which prevents to have several societies. If producers want to create a derivative work, they should use the same collection society, or else the benefit of the commons would be broken. I think that it is a limitation of freedom and diversity.

> > Assuming such societies could exist, and could represent the > commons-based producers, they could then license exogenic usage under > non-free terms, and use the funds collected to benefit the commons > broadly, including: > > - Funding infrastructure projects that increase the productivity of > the commons, including capital for production, distribution and > archiving. > > - Providing grants and awards for producers.

I think this is another reason why producers should not totally control these societies, which would inevitably lead to a centralization of power in the hands of the most influential producers. See for example the Sacem, a collection society having monopoly in France, where a top earning author has 14 more votes in general assembly. See also how best selling authors bargain for each disk sold twice the royalties of less known authors.

I think we have at least the same goal, to extend the commons from immaterial creation to material economy, and to preserve these commons from appropriation. However our approaches may differ on some aspects. There is surely room for improvement in IANG and I hope we can make a better IANG 2.0, but for changing important rules, you may need to convince me first, of course ;-) Interestingly, when I started to think about this project (around 2000) my approach was much similar to yours. But as the project matured, I've come to think that the economy of copyleft should not be managed only by producers, but also by consumers. I'll try to explain why I think it's a better approach in the sense of freedom, equity, solidarity, in short, copyleft.

> In venture communism I promote the concept that all who apply their labour > to property are entitled to be among the mutual owners of that property, > perhaps something like that can be a clause. >

This is a fair remark, I should probably add something like this in IANG 2.0. However the most important thing is not who owns, but who decides, and the license already states that decisions about the work belong to all who contribute to this work. Also, the material work is not the creative work, and I don't see why for example the printing press operator should have a say in the story of the book, except if s-he is admitted in the creative project. But I agree that this operator should have a say in the economic project.

> >> The rationale behind these definitions is that the economy of public >> works should be public, and managed by all those who contribute to it, >> including customers through their purchases and subscriptions. These are >> not exchanges in the sense of market economy but rather contributions to >> a gift economy. Of course, the IANG items will be sold on the market, >> but seller and buyers will not conflict but share the same economic >> entity, like in mutual societies, cooperatives, associations. >> > > In my mind the distinct characteristic of a Maussian "Gift Economy" is that > value is placed on relationships, and not on individual transactions. > > [...] > > Further, as the information covered by a peer-production license is > common-stock, there would be no direct purchases or subscriptions, rather > the commons is a common input to production of goods and services. > > As such, it is import that we insist that the exchange value captured by > deriving goods and services from common-stock is captured by it's "work > contributors" and not owners of rent-capturing property.

My view is that exchange value should not be captured at all, by no one, not even by work contributors. One could call this "ecopyleft", which is to economy what copyleft is to information, a guarantee against privatization. This is why I wrote about "gift" economy, because everyone can give to the commons, but no one can take from. I didn't intend to refer to Mauss or potlatch, it would be more like an ordinary association, where associates contribute what they will, without a necessary reciprocation.

> > So, while a recording artist can not capture exchange value directly from a > recording, a night club or radio station owner can. The trick is how to > make sure this exchange value is equitably shared among all the work > contributors, and not appropriated by property owners. > > This is why the possibility of "economic contributors" is extremely > limited, basically outright donors and perhaps interest free lenders can > really be considered "contributors," and even these two are problematic, > because the donation and/or interest-free loan must benefit the commons as > a whole, not simply the "original creator," in order to directly be a > contribution to the commons. >

Your "commons as a whole" is only the producers, while for me the commons should include producers and consumers, the latter being presumably more numerous than the former, thereby making sure that exchange value is not inequitably shared or appropriated.

Also note that a private investor contributing to a IANG economic project, as a legal entity, has only one vote, so a multinational company equals a single customer. And finally, as stated in article 6.2, there is no obligation to admit a contributor.

> I still do not see customers qua customers as contributors, Workers are > already covered under "work contributors" so "economic contributors," imo, > should be limited to donors and possibly interest-free lenders. >

Customers are however the most important economic contributors, because without them, the economic project couldn't exist (except if the producers only produce for themselves, which would be of limited public interest).

Also, one should note that the Creative Project is different from the Economic Project. Participation rules are designed so that contributors should decide about what they contribute. So creative contributors decide about artistic orientations, while economic contributors decide about prices and payments.

> >> On the contrary, opening economic participation to the public will make >> it really public and driven by public interest, since if the creation >> has some use value, users will form a majority, even if probably only a >> minority of them desire to participate. >> > > My view is that this public interest will in most case be manifested in > work contributions by individuals and groups joining the project and > contributing to it directly. >

This is not necessarily true. For example, free software hackers have an interest in technical skills and programming tricks, that is opposed to most users interest in simplicity. Even if some recent Linux distributions have become more or less useable, there is still a strong resistance towards user friendliness.

> >> The fact that producers own their working tools does not change anything >> regarding the relation with public. >> > > The "public" is nothing more that the extended community of producers. >

A user is rarely a producer in the sense of creation. I doubt that all the listeners of Jamendo compose music, or that the millions of Firefox users all contribute code. (In fact there are about 1000 developers for 100 millions users, a rather low ratio.) But no one knows better than the public what are the needs, what should be developed, what investments would be necessary, etc.

> > >> Cooperatives (I happen to work in >> one) operate in a market economy, their interest are in conflict with >> customers about price, and they compete against other companies, even >> other cooperatives. >> > > They also share public goods, and the amount of common-property the employ > in there production could be greatly increased. I do not think that > competition and markets cause problems so much as private property and > economic rent. >

I think that the market, which values competition and profit, is by nature opposed to copyleft, which values cooperation and giving. If we want to transpose copyleft into economy, I think we should be careful with the market. As you noticed, reproducible information cannot have direct exchange value of its own, so in this game, authors will always lose.

> >> Purchasing a work that is available for free is already a committed act. >> We should have a model that encourages this act, not restrain it. >> > > Sure, it is not donations that I think we should restrain but rather the > ability of property owners to extract rent. > > > >> Fortunately, this is not possible for a public to capture surplus value >> from themselves. This is why the public should not only have financial >> information, but also drive the economy of copyleft. >> > > It is possible, as in my example with a radio station or a night club being > able to capture surplus value from a recording, even without having any > copyright on it. >

Whether the recording is ecopyleft or copyright, if authors want to distribute it to private broadcasters, they must deal with them, possibly through the collection society. If this society is managed by both music producers and consumers, the broadcasters will be more obligated to stick to their role of intermediaries, and not abuse their position. On the contrary, if producers handle collecting on their own, they will be faced at the same time with the broadcasters, with their public (market relation of obligatory reciprocation), and with themselves (conflict for distribution of income).

> > I think one key topic I would like to emphasize is that the "public" is a > collection of producers, and that in a property-based society, a portion of > the total goods produced by these producers is appropriated by > non-producing property owners, and that this reduces the amount of wealth > the producers can share and exchange with each other. >

For me, the public is mostly comprised of users, who rarely contributes to the production. For example, the majority of people who have heard about free software think it's just software that is free (as in free beer). However, some contribute, either to copyleft creations, or to their financing (the latest Wikipedia donation campaign raised $1 million in 2 months). The question is, how to make sure that these contributions are not appropriated. The IANG approach is somehow to apply the copyleft principle to economy. That is to say, economic contributions can be given, but not taken away. To guarantee this, all economic contributors should not only have access to accounting, but also have control of it, just like free software contributors can not only access the source code, but also change it. So if a capitalist company wants to sell ecopyleft works, it must let its customers control its capital.

I think that a big problem with the economy in general is that consumers have no control on it. Multinational companies rule the roost and reign over customers. For example, Stallman was motivated to create the GNU project because a printer manufacturer refused to give the source code of a driver. 25 years later, free drivers may exist for some printers, but the situation has not really improved, free software developers are often obliged to reverse-engineer printer protocols, and customers are forced to buy printers that break down just after the guarantee and can't be repaired, ink cartridges more expensive than the printer, etc.

Even if the knowledge is copylefted, it is of no help for users as long as means of production are controlled by producers seeking profit. Suppose for example that the patent system is abolished and all pharmaceutical companies are under workers' control. What would happen? Since we're in a market economy, these compagnies will probably continue to invest in the most profitable medicine at the expense of billions of people having unprofitable diseases, will continue to spend twice more on advertising than on research, etc.

When working on a license, I think we should always keep in mind the copyleft values of freedom and solidarity. If an economic project is ruled by producers, there won't be freedom for users to determine its orientation, their only option being to choose a competitor project on the market. The solidarity between producers and consumers is a central value of copyleft, and a raison d'être of IANG is to defend this solidarity also on the economic level. This kind of partnership between consumers and producers is also emerging nowadays for example through fair trade, the Seikatsu cooperatives, etc. But I think that creative works are special because the public is more inclined to donate to artists. Involvement of the public even starts to happen in movie production, as for example with korean netizen funds or Blender open movies. If a 100% open economy will be harder to reach than 100% open source (even open source software sometimes uses closed source drivers) and some intermediaries may be necessary, I think it's important that users have a control, in conjunction with producers, so that they can counteract these intermediaries, and make progress towards a more free society.