Friday, November 06, 2009

How might P2PU do without copyright?

"I swear, by my life and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man's copyright, nor ask another man to live for mine."
Steve Forester, in discussion with Minhaaj Rehman and others on the Resist-Copyright list, Nov 2009.

The Peer to Peer University is discussing copyright at the moment, and have invited comment from people who have something to say on the matter. They're looking for "1 pagers" to bring into their meeting for consideration and debate within the P2PU team.

The argument that I am going to try and make is that P2PU should actively resist copyright. So the question should not be which copyright license to use, but how to not use copyright at all?

I've been writing and acting on the topic of copyright in education for 6 years now. A seemingly short time, but pretty much the duration as it applies to copyright in education. Most of that time has been explaining and promoting the use of the Creative Commons Attribution License as the best choice for educational organisations. Not because it "enables" sharing (we shouldn't, and don't need a license to share) but because it was a logical compromise between the prevailing restrictive licenses at the time, and the objective to remove all bureaucratic costs over the free use and reuse of information and expression - especially educative. At that time, educational organisations and their contractors were following the Free Trade lead of corporatisation and privatisation, and at that time corporations and private organisations believed ownership and restricted access to information and media was the only way to protect their "property", competitive edge and/or income. Free software, open source, Wikimedia, OurMedia, Youtube and Google, and Creative Commons was to gradually show otherwise is possible.

The moral and even economic arguments for free and unrestricted information is as old as the Internet itself. The so-called CopyLeft offered a temporary enabler in the face of overwhelming restrictions, while the rest of us slowly came to terms with what new economic models where being made possible. Corey Doctorow took advantage of the Creative Commons star and showed how openness in book authoring is beneficial even to the old models of publishing. Many universities eventually saw the moral and economic advantage of open access to their information. Yochai Benkler academically legitimised what many in the popular sphere had been practicing for years. Google and the social media providers generally, showed that the Gift Economy can be happy bedfellows with the Market Economy.

The point here is not that copyright restricts or enables this new economy, copyright is merely temporary within it. The Gift Economy, Information Economy, free information world, what ever you want to call it, is driven by profound human will and desire, ages old, to know and communicate. This will, combined with digital formats and the Internet, completely decimated business models that relied on the preventative costs of production and distribution, and now they rely on the protectionism of copyright alone. Copyright is merely a nuisance to a truer force for free information, certainly not an enabler.

And so, we wait for groups and organisations to recognise the freedom that individuals enjoy regardless of copyright laws and protectionism. Look to the success-at-the-time of Napster and Pirate Bay for models of such freedom, and learn from their eventual weaknesses. As well, consider corporations like Google who boldly flaunt their disregard for copyright, helping the rest of us to push out and enjoy that freedom. Groups like the Peer to Peer University should join direct and indirect activist such as these and reject copyright as a defining policy over their activities. Their reasoning for such a stance should be abundantly clear by now, none-the-less there will be die hard and wanna be bureaucrats out there who simply cannot envision an operation free of copyright, and so a strong statement, coupled with a defiant stance in the face of what remains of such conservatism is necessary.

P2PU wants to be a network, made up of individual action and responsibility. As such P2PU should not impose a particular copyright policy on these individuals, instead focusing on the facilitation of the free exchange of learning and educational advance. Further, P2PU should not even recognise copyright as a legitimate governing force over the free exchange of learning or educational advance, and so it follows that it will not take action for or against any individual in the network based on copyright.


Sean FitzGerald said...

Great stuff, but I'm left wondering what practical steps can P2PU and other institutions (and individuals?) take to resist copyright?

Anonymous said...

I just sent to P2PU the following, as my 1 page contribution to the discussion:

I hope P"PU will share all the "1 pages" in a single URL.

- Teemu L.

Steve Foerster said...

Hi Sean, I think P2PU could take an impressive stand against copyright simply by saying they don't recognize it, and as such those who run courses through them (1) are welcome to use information regardless of source, and (2) can expect others to feel welcome to do the same.

Failing that, though, I have no idea why they'd try to shoehorn all their participants into one particular license. What kind of openness is that?

Philipp Schmidt said...

Thanks for thoughts on this Leigh and Teemu. We have received brilliant responses from a group of smart people and will be working through the arguments in our workshop this week. Probably Friday 13th is P2PU license day.. We will also make all contributions available in one place after the workshop. P

zotz said...

I have another take. I think that, given the goal, a better tactic is to BY-SA everything now and push for copyrights to be abolished.

Until copyright is gone, you will be providing gratis materials for the copyright forever crew. I have a feeling thay are fine with this.

Some thoughts on a "Copyright Offensive"

Crosbie Fitch over at Digital Productions speaks a good bit to life without copyright.

all the best,