"Ownership and belonging" conferencia de Magnus Eriksson
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Uno de los miembros de Piratbyrån (Oficina Pirata) hablará sobre propiedad de las ideas y pertenencia de los individuos a las comunidades de conocimiento. Inglés con traducción secuencial.
Un dels membres de Piratbyran (Oficina Pirata) parlarà sobre propietat de les idées i pertinença dels individus a les comunitats de coneixement. Anglès amb traducció seqüencial.
One of Piratbyran (The Pirate Office) members will talk about ownership of ideas and belonging to knowledge communities. English.
Texto de Magnus Eriksson
• About PB och Sverige
Let me begin by saying a few words about Piratbyrån, as I'm sure not everyone is familiar with it.
Piratbyrån is a bunch of people from Sweden. Internationally we are most known for creating the
bittorrent tracker - The Pirate Bay.
But in Sweden, we are mostly known as one of the dominant figures of the file-sharing debate. Not
at least because of The Pirate Bay, and the controversies surrounding that, we have a rather active
debate on file-sharing and copyright in Sweden - in the press, on tv, in blogs, in seminars, in the
academia and in everyday lives.
This was not the case when we first started out back in 2003.
First we must understand that Sweden was and is very proud of cultural industries. From the present
idea of the Swedish music export (branding and income) to the film history with Bergman (a golden
age they hope to re-create). There is an almost arrogant pride to it.
What you had in the mainstream press at the time was the antipiracy-lobby portraing piracy as the
anti-thesis of a healthy cultural climate. (reduce income, prevent re-bergmanisation)
Provocative to see potential in file-sharing. We saw it as a good thing. It created a dynamic cultural
climate and the free sharing as something future society would have to build on.
So who is in Piratbyrån? Depending on how you define it you could say we are anything from 5 to
thousand of members.
Piratbyrån does not consist of a given group of people, but the links and exchanges between people
- it works as a network. And in a network, some links are strong. These create the necessary trust
needed to keep the consistency of the network. They hold it together. There needs to be some sort of
core. This would be to view Piratbyrån as an organization.
Most links are weak. The create the necessary links to other groups, networks, cultures and scenes.
Without them, Piratbyrån would only be an internal matter for a group of friends. This would be to
view Piratbyrån as an ongoing conversation.
We have different degrees of nearness and distance. Nearness allows for exchange of ideas.
Distance allows for independant development and fresh outlooks. The oscillation between these is
what creates a dynamic network.
This way of working clashes with the mass media logic and their perception of us, social
movements and politics.
The mass media and others influenced by that way of thinking often ask....opinions, goals,
solutions, for or against, representing the Other side.
....We work through networks. The object is not an opinion, a program - like a political party. But
experimentation, development, activity, production. For our self and for others.
This also calls for a new kind of ethic that is not based of formulating a goal or a common moral
Therefor it is useless to be for or against file-sharing. A copy is immoral - if it has good or bad
consequences can only be decided on a case by case basis. We avoid these generalising claims. The
network is not just a way of organizing people or information but also the ideas themselves. There
is no output outside of the network, it can't be represented. What we do today is not me representing
Piratbyrån but we create an instance of this network here today. So ideas have to begin at one point
in the network and then spread, not try to grasp the whole thing at once. (So there is not a solution
to the question of "how will artists make a living in the future?", only different cases of artists
making a living and ideas and concepts you can extract from those cases.)Our focus has not been critique of copyright laws or reforming laws
but show how we already in many ways are beyond copyright.
Despite the law, despite what is being done to enforce it - habits are changing, culture is changing,
economies are changing.
The interesting things seem to happen in the grey zones. Between private and public, legal and
Not what the law says, but what is socially, techically possible. The law, or at least the enforcment
of the law, obviously have a strong impact on what is possible, but an investigation of it can't begin
from the perspective of the law.
Thinking “after copyright” means abolishing the dream about the One solution, as a singular model
replacing copyright that will work for all kinds of artistic practice. Such a model has never existed
and will never exist. The conditions for different cultural practicies are too different.
But there are tendencies.
If you are interested in the future of the cultural industries -
The more pressing issue than the economical impact of file-sharing is the general impact of the
abundance of information, the surplus of information we have today and what to do with it.
How to find ways to create meaning from a situation of cultural superabundance. We have access to
more information and culture that we can ever digest.
Within 15 years or so, we will have reached the point when every cheap pocket-size storage devices
will be able to hold all recorded music ever released – ready for direct copying to another person’s
[Bill Drummond] Ex-klf and music business hacker. The 17 - a performance that is forgotten.
We have a paradox here.
On the one hand - Copyrighted material is our world, our memories and our environment. Someone
owns them and controls them, yet through file-sharing we have access to them. They are already
downloaded, out there in the network. And as Bill Drummond says - this is a good thing.
On the other hand - These works are unable to create meaning on their own. Simply because of their
accessibility. They are fragmented memories - that needs to be completed.
• Anti Piracy
But lets hold that thought for a moment.
Even if this is a more interesting and pressing issue than the economic impact of file-sharing and it's
meaningless to talk about imaginary losses of profit due to file-sharing if you don't grasp this - we
still have anti-piracy. We still have a copyright industry, concerned with short-term profits,
protection of immaterial resources. Still those who want to conduct business the same way they did
before the internet. In fact it's more aggresive than ever.
- incriminates facilitation of copyrighted material - Pirate Bay killer - but affects all services that
provide sharing of files.- Border searches of storage devices.
Anti-Piracy is about more than a business model. To some extent - piracy seems just as an excuse.
The war on piracy being a sort of micro-version of the war on terror, where all sorts of enforcments
are created in their name. But it's also a matter of control. The copyright industry of course wants
people to be creative and do what they want - otherwise there wouldn't be any new music or
lifestyles. But they also want to control this creativity, make sure the value that it creates ends up
under their control and is turned into profit for them. They want to make culture and
So what is it that they're trying to do?
Reduce culture to content.
They want to define "creativity" as the ability to create as many reproducible end products as
Any performative aspects are seen only as neglected, viewed as marketing or only secondary. Any
positive impact file-sharing might have on them are ignored.
That perspective is not only boring and sterile, it is also dangerous for the very idea of internet as a
communication medium. Internet is only distribution.
Not simply about money but about controling desires. Content is managable, quantifiable,
predictable - easy to own.
But this is not what is heard from them.
No matter what question is posed to them - "Does Anti-Piracy really work?" - "Aren't your business
models obsolete?" - The answer is alway the same:
(All I know is that...Maybe, but...)The rights holders must be compensated for the workeffort they
put into making the works.
First of all, the answer is problematic in itself. Do they really mean that anyone that create
something should be compensated? No, it must only apply to some. Is a free download enough to
And should it really be the amount of work they put in they should be compensated for? No, the
value of a work of art can not be measured by work hours.
Even more problematic is when this answer is linked with tougher laws and harder enforcement.
Because they haven't understood the problem om information abundance, they can claim that harder
enforcment will lead to better compensation for artists. When studies show that the most active file-
sharers are also the most active media consumers and when the most important thing for business
and brands today is that they can gain the trust of consumers or users, that they can build
relationships, to make people want more than a digital copy - it is clear that another strategy is
needed. Anti-piracy destroys trust. Trust in the media corporations and trust in the legal system
On the other hand if you have trust, you can do what Nine Inch Nails did and both give their new
album away for free downloads and at the same time release - and sell out - a $300 limited edition
box of the album.
But although anti-piracy is an absurd response, what is the problem they are trying to get at
although they fail?I believe it can be formulated like this:
Certain people, or rather a lot of people, generate value - things, knowledge, communication,
culture, software, in a way that we, our society, recognize as valuable, as important, but have no
way or measuring and compensating - no way of valuing individual efforts.
Market economies fail to measure it. (It's to fast, to distributed, to complex, to micro) There can't be
a monetary transaction with every exchange.
Equating them with analog counterparts can't measure it. (Saying that a song distributed for free
equals a loss of the market value for that song)
Work hours can't measure it. It's too dynamic an non-linear.
Distribution systems can't measure it - either state program or initiated otherwise.
Right now we are in a phase, maybe a transition phase, where the economy around these activities -
digital information - are centred around complementary activities. The immeasurable value
generates measurable value in traditional markets. For example, the a song being distributed in file-
sharing networks (which can not be said to be the same as if it would be purchased.) generates extra
value for live concerts. Blogging lead to advertizing or presentations, lectures. So the digital content
is not end products but hyperlinks to other markets. This is the attention economy.
- exclusive grant of access to archives is their business model. Prevents attention.
- archives loose in importance.
I have many of my favorite movies stored on a hard drive. I never watch them. I open the drive,
look at the files, and say: oh, so much to see. Oh, so little time. What to do?
The liberating feeling of loosing an mp3 library. the importance of forgetting when you can store
everything. The importance of the present when you have access to the entire past. The importance
of context when you have access to content
Meaning is not created by the data, but the Metadata. Remembering linked to experiences, the
present, context. In news media, a blurry picture from a mobile phone taken at the instance an event
happens is more valuable than a high-quality, moving image taken half an hour later.
But maybe complementary activities is the wrong way to put it. First of all, it presents it as if the
archived content is the primary activity and the real-time event the secondary. For example that
music is really about recorded music and live music is only a complement to this. This is not the
case. In fact such an idea has only a recent history. Earlier it was recorded music that was seen as a
threat to the employent of musicians.
But calling it complementary activity also presents the two as separate. As if a failure to create a
market in the digital domain creates an economy that return to traditional markets, such as live
music that remains unchanged by the digital transformations (as Drummond suggests, that which
can't be listened to everywhre). But that live, direct, un-copyable experience is not the same as it
was before the digital came. What we're saying here today does not stay here. It is not to be seen as
an analogue event separate from the digital archive. This is important to remember because at first they seem disconnected. The archive is about
remembering, storing, filtering out what is to be remembered. The event is about forgetting, letting
go, wasting time. But today they incorporate a memory as well.
All of these events are always archiving. To take part in them is to take part in the primal scene of
archivization, of the establishment of a new archive, or of a new section of the networked archive
we call Internet.
Maybe this is even more the case the less that event is directly - technologically - archived, thus
allowing the participants to speak for the archive, to become guardians of it. To give it their
interpretation. The more an event is wasted, forgotten - the more meaning the stored fragments of it
gets - the louder they speak. (Maybe there will be an informal dinner afterwards that is not recorded
- and the people participating there will have the opportunity to give their interpretation of that
Archives are created by archiving events - their primal scene is in the foreground. (ex youtube
(documenting events), facebook (information is linked to events), sartorialist (meaningful only
because someone wore the style on the street. We can suspect that its fake, this would make it less
meaningful. Or maybe it is right here, between what is real and imaginary that the interesting things
happen), stureplan.se (wannabe celebs going out only to be archived))
Feedback loop between digital archives and events. Between the remembering and accumulation of
archives and the forgetting and waste of participating in an event.
One could be pessimistic and say that events are never experienced directly because of this - you
are never really in the moment. Only experienced to look good in the archive. This is certainly true
for some and it's very important not to forget the waste of time and energy involved in events. This
event is located somewhere between a real-time event and an archivization. What would be the
difference to see this live or to see it as recorded? But a more optimistic view is that these events
can be intensified due to this link to digital archives. Different events can be connected, they can
build on each other, become viral. (Fixies)
Lets turn back to economics - this time to the macro level, because here is where this is connected
to the global economy. Because if the economy of the information age is not to be found in selling
digital information, in granting access to archives, in copyright - it is exactly here - in the links
between events, experiences and the symbolic. This is what drives the so called creative economy
on a regional and city basis.
We have today is a global competiotion between cities and regions for qualified work, companies,
tourists and finance. As these become more mobile, cities all over the world compete to keep and
attract these flows of goods, people and money.
Distinctive marks. This is certainly true for Barcelona. When manufacturing moves to cheaper
countries, something else has to be installed in its place.
Using old catalan history as symbolic capital together with new spectacular architecture and an idea
of a Barcelona lifestyle to attract tourists and commers and distinguish the city from other european
cities - city branding.
In this, creative activities have a key role, from the grand architectural projects to small scale,
alternative or independent scenes, events and projects. All get caught up the creative industry game.They become symbolic capital connected to the experience of Barcelona, which will give the city a
So events happen, cultures form, networsk take shape in Barcelona.
These are supported and turned into symbolic capital creating an archive of what Barcelona is.
This is used to attract tourists, money etc to barcelona.
The development has its downsides. First of all, the feedback effects of having more tourism
and money coming in to Barcelona.
It often leads to increased real estate prices, more traffic, expensive living and more global brands
takning the place of distinctive businesses.
From a strictrly economic stand point this has long term negative effects since the city loses its
distintivness and the attraction that was based on Barcelona NOT being like other cities. These new
events rewrites the archive for the worse.
Not at least about the history, the archive, the symbolic. The experience of coming to Barcelona is
sustaine by a story of the history of the city and the lifestyle associated with it.
But he archiving is not done by the people that took part in the archiving events. These are often
based on alternative communities, squatters, that developed self-organizing networks before this
Whose history is envoked when the symbolic capital of Barcelona is to be increased.
Who are the guardians of this archive? What happens to the movements that potentially can create
another story, another archive - or that are a part of the story told?
This scenario is not unique for Barcelona, but is at the moment a very influencial discourse in
European policy that goes under the name on creative industries or creative industry policies. Since
it is a reaction to a post-industrial situation, it will probably only be more influencial the more
manufacturing is moved away from Europe.
The basic idea is that the cultural economy or rather the creative economy - the economy based on
innovation, creativity, design etc. - takes on a crucial role in an economy that can't support itself on
Two forms of CI
One is where culture is directly profitable through IP - thus supporting copyright.
Two is where culture is only indirectly profitable. Tourism or companies.
Either the general climate of CI and its outputs attract tourists or migration which boost the
economy through commers or real estate.
Or a well developed CI attracts etablishments of companies, either to hire people from the CI or as a
"listening post" to find styles, desires and markets.
The question is what kind of grey zones this opens up. What kind of comination of freedom and
resources can be gathered.
The networks of CIs are created in grey zones, before the talk about CI.The creation of meaning happens in self-organizing networks. It can not be produced by
corporations, advertising or artists alone. (The end of the billbord, buzz marketing. Fashion industry
and street styles). What companies can try to do is to facilitate this meaning-creation, take part in it.
This of course has to be analyzed but there is no use in totally rejecting it. This would be to have a
totilizing view of commersialism. There are cracks, possibillities for hacks. This does not mean that
you have to buy into the whole idea of creative industries, but the fact is that there are new
connections that are possible.
Creative industries as a cathalyst for discussions, formation of networks, cooperations and conflicts.
So, in all of this, how does the future look for D.I.Y. media or D.I.Y. culture - this spontaneous, self-
organizing culture that creates the cultural meaning, the symbolic capital.
Previous attempts at DIY media were stuck in the home ro small circles, as private resistance to
mainstream media, because there were no distribution system. Today there is an opportunity to have
a real impact - the tools are there.
But that DIY is not restricted either to the home or to private distribution networks also mean that
DIY cannot avoid engaging with the rest of the cultural industry. There is no outside anymore.
Dependent on businesses - not at least IT as plattforms, on standardised formats
Dependent on living conditions provided by the public sector - cost of living, access to spaces,
We will see more active efforts from the public sector and companies to engage with this self-
organized culture. The public sector needs it both for branding as symbolic capital to distinguish
themselves and to solve social problems, to communicate, to reach out to communities they can't
Companies need to use external resources - they need special competence, they need someone to
create meaning, give credibility.
Companies value local, unique initiatives - the opposite of what was thought to be commersial
CI can be used to think in new ways and form new alliances. Not only between different
independant networks but between them and the city and commersial actors.
CI is a discourse in the exact sense of the word. A way of talking and thinking that generates effects,
that can be used for different purposes, but one that is not easily escaped.
Copyright is not only a law that can be reformed or abolished - it is a way of viewing culture and
So what is needed today, and is already happening, is both a new language of media that is not
focused on end products and does not seperate between archive and event.
And a new way of organizing and networking. With companies and the public sector - making use
of their resources, but also being able to work without them - self-organized and self-sustained.Today we have formed one particular blend of archivization and experience, made possible by a
particular way of communicating, networking and resource gathering. There are infinite ways of
doing it differently.
So, I end the same way Bill Drummond ended his letter:
Please accept my invitation to embrace the unknown opportunities of what lies ahead in whatever
way excites you.