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Free software movement and post-capitalistic society

Introduction:

The purpose of this article is to determine if the possibility of free software movement causing a new post-capitalistic society exist. In order to answer that question we are going to follow these steps:

- Define capitalism
- Define it's problems
- Focus on information technology and determine if and why is capitalism handling it improperly
- Determine the relations between capitalism and free software movement
- Can and how can free software movement cause a new "post-capitalist" society?

What is capitalism?

While there are multiple capitalist ideologies they all share common grounds by which we can generally define capitalism.

It can effectively be summed up in the following definition:

"Capitalism is a social system based on the recognition of individual rights, including property rights, in which all property is privately owned. Under capitalism the state is separated from economics (production and trade), just like the state is separated from religion. Capitalism is the system of of laissez faire. It is the system of political freedom."

This definition is taken from the capitalism.org site that promotes the capitalist ideology of objectivism propagated by the Ayn Rand. While objectivism can be considered as only one of the capitalist "sub-ideologies" this definition effectively represents the core ideals of capitalism as a whole. Other capitalist ideologists such as liberals or libertarians would generally agree with the stated definition, but would only disagree on specific details involving these general ideals (such as the amount of states involvement in free market regulation).

Let's observe these general ideals more closely in order to understand them better as I am going to analyze them further in this article:

Individual rights: According to capitalism, every individual has a right to act upon his own "selfishness" creating new enterprises in order to produce more wealth for oneself. In this process, the one is entitled to the rights to privately own the means of production and distribution as well as the wealth (goods, products, money etc.) that it produces. Bluntly said, the main driving force to a capitalist individual is money and profit with it's loss being a failure. These rights are supposed to apply to all individuals, and the eventual success or failure is dependant purely on the ones ability and efforts.

Free market and free trade: The economical environment that is needed to allow such pursue of private interests is free market ruled and self-regulated by free trade and competition. For a market to be free it has to be separated from the state. This means that the state should not be involved in economy in any other way but to protect free trade and competition against negative forces that may undermine it (such as monopoly). Such economy (independent from state) is often represented by the phrase "laissez faire"

In such a setup you are obviously getting two sorts of people, producers and consumers. Producers produce goods that the consumers demand competing with other producers to better satisfy these demands. Whatever producers do, they do it in order to achieve more profits. Companies and corporations that mostly represent these producers as virtual entities are employing an "ordinary" workers for a flat monthly payment.

This ideology is by capitalists believed to lead to generally greater amounts of wealth for everyone in a society. That is, according to them, a natural result of pursuing a natural self-interest. As capitalism is a mainstream social system in most western countries for a considerable amount of time, it has indeed proved that it can generally produce great amounts of wealth and cause great general and technological advancements. However, does this fact makes it the ultimate social system as for now and the future? Let's examine the negative sides of capitalism.

Problems of capitalism: Faulty ideology or corruption (or both)?

Capitalism promised a better life standard for everyone caused by the general increase of wealth through constant pursuing of self-interest. And while for some, that life standard has indeed increased, we cannot exactly say that this promise has been fully satisfied.

One of the major problems in our capitalistic society is exactly the opposition to equality, the inequality of wealth distribution. While the successful rich capitalists continue to generate more wealth that they privately own, it is not being as proportionally distributed to everyone else including the very employees of such a successful business entity. And even though those employees could in some cases get a better salaries if the company goes well, it is in no way to be even comparable to the increases of wealth for the "top dog".

The capitalists usually respond very cold to notions of such inequality. They seem to totally stand behind it ideologically even though they might not be "glad" because of these trends. They are still trying to justify it. Their arguments are that, bluntly said, those who have the greatest amounts of wealth completely deserve it even if they have 500 times as much as an ordinary man. They would say that it is so because the one who runs a company has to make all decisions, has to use the reason to advance further and thus, his efforts are worth more than the efforts of physical worker who only has one job in a company to do without being required to make any decisions about it. The capitalists seem to very much value the intellectual work over physical one. But is it the inequality of these proportions really justifiable this way? Is it really that intellectual work of reasoning by a company owners is THAT more worth than the "plain old" daily work?

I don't think so. The capitalism was supposed to bring more wealth to the whole society, but it is instead proving the now old saying: "rich get richer, poor get poorer". While a capitalist might claim otherwise, poor people are in many cases not responsible for their situation themselves and they don't deserve their "destiny" because they missed chances or didn't used their reasoning, many if not most of them don't ever get such chances and as they must survive they MUST take a daily job and satisfy themselves with what they get out of it. Not everybody can be an entrepreneur, and it would seem like capitalists suppose exactly this faulty notion.
However, while being the major one, inequality of wealth distribution is not the only problem with capitalism, but other problems might be what's contributing to it.
To sustain a fair free trade economy it is neccesery to have a competition in the market. Competition is something that can, in capitalism, cause a better overall life standard. The amount of competing entities is proportional to the amount of equally distributed wealth. If you for example have only two competitors in a given market, the only "enemy" that one has is the another competitor, so they cut prices or improve their product in order to beat it, which is good for consumers. But if you have ten of competitors in a market then they all have nine "enemies" to beat. In this case, at least theoretically, prices as well as profits would go down much lower getting closer to the standard of the majority of ordinary people. So, more competitors means more equality. But it has almost become natural that sooner or later, there is only two of the most powerful competitors in a market whose wealth is way beyond the standard of ordinary people. And it can very well lead to a monopoly. In such cases, the government plays a role of preventing this monopoly by antitrust suites, however, only preventing a monopoly does not comes as a solution to inequality as even two or three competitors is not enough to keep the market saturated enough.

And all that I said above was in a presumable context of capitalist ideology in action. We haven't yet touched the corruption part. The above could prove that capitalism as such is faulty, but it is not the only problem that we have today with it. This faulty ideology hasn't been completely satisfied yet (even if it is, it would still remain faulty). The reason for this is corruption, corruption meaning everything that violates the original ideology. The original ideology requires that the state stays uninvolved in a market, but the trend is showing the opposite. State is regulating more and more causing more damage than ever. I think that the very patenting system is wrong in general (not only software patents) and I already consider it to be the over-involvement of state regulation that actually creates monopoly instead of protecting the market against it. And for those hot-heads supporting a "mixed market" between socialism and capitalism.. it cannot be mixed without doing even more harm. Mixing socialism with capitalism only brings even greater involvement of the government with the free market and usually leads to more problems.

And this is the point where we can finally enter the information technology area as this is exactly the one area of human production where capitalism fails the most. From one side, capitalist idealism tends to treat software as material product as it can be owned, which is in itself a fiasco. And then, to make things even worse, the almighty state comes in with software patents. Meanwhile, the intellectual property laws bring even more restrictions to the free flaw of information, again, under the fatal presumption that information can be owned. What is the result of all this is not individual rights and freedom, but breaking that very freedom.
When it comes to handling information and information technology, capitalism contradicts itself because information ownership must lead to monopoly as it is a monopoly in itself. And monopoly is supposed to be the enemy of capitalism, right?

So, speaking of problems of capitalism we are not speaking only about faulty ideology in itself nor only about it being an unreached ideal due to the constant corruption, but we are talking of both combined. Neither the ideology is "right" nor it's satisfaction is full.
To clarify this better, the capitalist ideology for which I say is faulty is such in two points:

- that "stateless" economy brings equal share of wealth - not true, both "stateless" and state-controlled economy aren't solving the issue of inequality and both presumptions are already being proved.
- that everything is property and can be owned - not true as information cannot be owned

Let's dive deeper into the information technology.

Information technology:

I already stated that information cannot be owned and that presuming that it can capitalism handles it improperly. Now, I want to explain why is that information cannot be considered as property.

When something is your property you can sell it, that is, trade it for money or something else. Once you trade it you don't own it anymore, you own what you got for it (money or another item). This very well applies to material products. However, information is not a material item. Once you give it away, you don't loose it in order to get something instead of it, it still stays right there in your head. Therefore, trading information is impossible, it can only be shared, but not traded or sold. Another thing you can sell is your work as you have the right to get compensated for the time and effort you invested in it. And some information that you have, an idea, an innovation, might be a product of some effort from your side for which you have the right to get compensated. However, since information cannot be sold, attempting to sell information to compensate for your investments in it is not a right way to do it. Instead of that, you can charge for a service of providing the information in a material information carrying medium such as books or CD's or through providing a download service. By providing an information through a distribution service you are not selling an information, but a distribution service and the price can be for only that distribution service or for both it and the medium on which you are carrying it. However, selling a distribution service cannot involve restricting further redistribution as that means a monopoly on that information and would mean that you are not only selling a service but the right to fully utilize the information being provided by that service which includes the right of others to provide the same service. Sharing and sharing alike is the only right way to handle information and the same goes for software which is in itself an information technology or "technological information", that is, an algorithm and code. The fact that software as a technological information is functional does not change anything as any information can be functional in one way or another. For example, engineering blueprints are functional when used to construct something. Cooking recipes are functional when used to cook a tasteful meal. And software, or code is an information that is functional when compiled and ran by a computer. It's all the same. And therefore, as software is information, it should be treated as such. It is therefore clear that proprietary software that does not allows sharing and full use of the source code is completely and dead wrong.
The consequences of proprietarization of software are severe. When users are restricted to use, share, study and modify software, they lack an essential set of freedoms and that results in dividing users or breaking the law (so called piratization). Mass piratization in many countries just show how important and essential is the freedom of users to share, so important that if they don't have that freedom, they are ready to break the law and "forcefully" get it themselves. This only shows how unnatural proprietarization of software (and any information) is. Now, talking about piratization of software, piratization occurs only with closed source binary versions of software. Some may therefore argue that it is not information in essence that they "forcefully" share since they don't have source codes, but it is. The fact that the information is crypted in such form that it is not readable to human doesn't makes it something different from information as it is a form of information that only computer can read. It would be like you got a cooking recipe in Russian (and let's say you don't understand Russian), but you have a friend that knows Russian and can use the recipe to make a meal. In this example, you are the one getting a binary copy (and you don't understand binary), but you have a computer that does and will perform a function you need this software to perform. However you turn it, there is no proof against the fact that software IS information and that it must be shared, and it must be shared with the source code and the freedom to share alike.

Is free software movement anti-capitalism?

Now when we have determined the reasons why information cannot be owned and traded and that software IS information, let's navigate to the world of people who realize this and fight for information and software freedom.
Free software movement, started by a revolutionary figure, Richard Mathew Stallman (RMS) when he attempted to write an operating system that would be free in a way every information should be, free to run, study, modify and share. Of course, it's the GNU project which, after merging with the linux kernel, became GNU/Linux. RMS created General Public License actually using the copyright law against it (in a manner of speaking) in order to create a protected framework in which software can be free (as in freedom). This license is today being used not only for software, but for other types of information and digital arts for which the same principle (of impossible ownership and trade) applies.

Now, we want to determine if free software movement as such is or isn't against capitalism.
The important issue to resolve before we examine free software movement in this matter is the difference between the popular open source movement and free software movement.

Basically, free (as in freedom) software and open source software are in most cases the same. When I say "in most cases" I mean that open source initiative sometimes approves software licenses not acceptable to free software movement.
However, the main and most important difference between open source and free software is in that free software movement propagates ethical and moral principles of freedom as the most important principle behind all free (as in freedom) software while open source movement is more pragmatical promoting benefits of that the free software development model brings over the principles of freedom. Open source movement tends to treat free software more likely as just another business model or another option to choose from than as the "right choice". It therefore tends to accept proprietary software, and naturally capitalism, having no ethical nor moral restraints from it. Free software movement is very different in this matter as it believes that proprietary software IS wrong and therefore would be a wrong choice for everyone that makes it, and that free (as in freedom) software is the only ethically and morally right choice.

This makes open source movement clearly pro-capitalistic and it is nothing to wonder when they laugh at anyone that mistakenly talk about open source as anti-capitalism. They are just promoting a very efficient business model based on free software. They are, as RMS would say, coming to the right conclusion for the wrong reasons. But exactly these wrong reasons are what makes open source movement nothing more radical than just an initiative for more beneficial capitalistic business model. I therefore wouldn't even call them a movement at all. Many actually do consider them as just a faction of the free software movement, but a rather popular one, which is not to wonder due to the fact that we're still living in a capitalistic society driven by efficiency and profit (self-interest).

Okay, so open source is pro-capitalist, what is free software movement then?

To consider free software movement anti or pro capitalist, we should determine if there is something in the free software ideology that would contradict to capitalist ideology. I think you don't have to break your head thinking before you come to the conclusion about this as free software movement propagates the fact that software is information and that it isn't and can't be property which makes it un-tradeable while capitalism tends to treat everything as property.

But, wait a second here.. Is it really true that capitalist ideology says that information can be considered as property? According to my research it doesn't say anything about it. Capitalism is about individual rights, including the right to private property, but it doesn't specifies if information can or cannot be considered as property. You see, we could say that the original capitalist ideology does not provide any guidelines to what exactly can or cannot be property. It seems that it just assumes that everything the one creates is property. But if it does makes such assumption, it is clearly wrong and free software movement can be considered as anti-capitalism. But if it doesn't makes such assumption and rather expects people who apply this social system to the society to judge about the matter, than we could say that free software is not against ideal capitalism, but against the actual capitalism as people indeed got it wrong considering information to be property. The proof of that is proprietary software and software patents.

However, software patents and patents in general and intellectual property laws are imposed by the state and can be considered as over-involvement of state in economy which is again not pro-capitalist as capitalist ideology clearly states that the state should only have a minimal involvement in economy. But then, not every capitalist would agree on how much exactly should state be involved. And this is something that can cause a mess in the mind.

However, one thing is clear. Free software movement IS against current social structure whether we call it a true capitalism or corrupted capitalism. Whether original capitalist ideologists would consider information as property or not, I think it is not important anymore as we, in the current present, are now the ones to determine what would be ideal for the whole society in an information age. We should therefore level our understanding to the present issues and... present people. What I mean by "present people" is that if majority of present capitalists agree that information can be property, and it would seem that they do, then free software movement is either anti-capitalist or those capitalists are not capitalists at all. If capitalism is "all about" individual rights and current capitalists are against software freedom, than they are against capitalist ideology.

However, as I believe most capitalists calling themselves as such are against free software because they believe it's anti-economy and as the current capitalistic system (be it corrupted or ideal) is to many of them acceptable, then the free software movement is presently anti-capitalist.

And face it, be it ideal capitalism or not, the system that we have today is being called capitalism and free software movement is fighting it. Then, how else should we call it, than anti-capitalist. One other point that supports this notion is the fact that even ideal capitalism puts profit and individual self-interest in the first place, while free software movement puts freedom and the good for all mankind on the first place at the same time respecting the self-interest of an individual.

The conclusion to this question would than be that free software movement is anti-present-capitalism and possibly anti-ideal-capitalism. The latter is arguable, but the one might wonder if arguing about it would have any important purpose. If free software movement is against the current social system (being called capitalism), than toward what kind of "post-capitalistic" society is it fighting for?

New "post-capitalistic" society:

The purposes of pursuing the new society should be obvious. They include solving the problems of present capitalism, bringing more freedom and justice to every individual and synchronize the overall social system with the true ethics and morality. Actually, the true ethics and morality should be the main standard by which we judge anything. It should be the main guidelines for which if we follow them would lead us to the best possible society of free people, free minds and equality in every manner. It would seem that many people overlook these simple facts, get dragged into debates, politics, philosophy etc. while at the same time loosing sight of logical probing of things and reality against ethics and morality. I mean, everything that the one does can be probed and questioned in order to see if it sits as right or wrong. We, as a human beings, have logic and concieosness that enables us to simply know if something is wrong or right, but we somehow pollute or simply forget it confusing ourselves and everybody around with foundationless politics and philosophy. An example to this may be any of the information related laws we have today and the way they are being justified. For example, the software patent law is being justified by arguing that software creators need to protect their creation so that they can get compensated for their investments in it. What they seem not to see is that the very software is an information and what they try to patent is an idea which cannot be patented. They don't see the immorality and unethicity of such an act as well as the negative repercussions that it must cause. They are stabbing the sword into the very capitalistic software industry, not to mention the damage that they create to "non-capitalistic" free information world being incubated inside capitalism, the free software movement.
And that's what is the theory I want to present here, the new social system has already began it's forming. It is being incubated inside the existing social system, present capitalism. It is the free software movement which may, according to this theory, lead to the free information society.
And why don't you think about this a moment, before you just dismiss the possibility. This "theory" makes every possible sense.
Free software movement is using current social system with current laws against themselves (like shifting the poles) in form of GPL creating a protected space in which information can truly be free contrary to the rest of the society in which information is being restricted and considered as ownable property. While open source "faction" (as formerly described) looks at this as just the integral part of present capitalist society actually integrating this space deeper into the system, free software movement is "hostile" against the rest of the system (not accepting it as the right choice) which makes it's tendencies toward domination, domination of information freedom, that is, a new free information society. Open source is radical in integrating with the current system, while free software movement is radical in "nuking" the whole system using it as the weapon against itself. And what's funny, open source could even be considered as the secret secondary weapon (not intentionally) that will get into every pore of the current system, just to nuke it from the inside when the free software movement reaches it's critical mass.
While sounding a bit "fantastic" it is very far from fantasy. As we dive more into the future, information is gaining on importance and everything else is increasing it's dependency on information. The reason for this is, of course, internet, information technology and technology in general. Even today, almost everything is made according to certain "blueprints" which is an information. In order to "protect" innovations, information is being restricted by patents and copyright. Imagine that the free information movement (free software movement) reaches even these fields (and it's already beginning to) making pressure against ALL information restrictors including both ALL patents and copyright and all intellectual property laws. Immagine that they succeed and that these laws get terminated, THAT would already be the beginning of a new free information society. In today's terms, free information society would be similar to capitalism as it wouldn't object trade and economy at all, it would only object trade of information and information-like contents. Let's see how would this society function:

Everything that could not be traded, would not be traded. This includes all information, digital music, digital art (including textual art). The main principle by which you can determine if something can or cannot be traded is the same principle by which we determined that information cannot be traded and therefore cannot be property. It could be called a "tradeability principle": If you don't loose what you trade, it cannot be traded!. If you attempt to sell a copy of software, you wont sell it because you still have it (your copy). Selling software (information), digital music (binary information), digital art (binary information) and anything that can be seamlessly reproduced is not selling, it's rather robbing the other guy. And is there a worse way to rob someone than when you "sell" it to him, and still forbid him to do with it whatever he wants (proprietary software licenses)! In the free information society, attempting to trade the un-tradeable would be a crime.

What can be traded is books, CD's, DVD's etc. as information carrying media which is not selling an information, only providing it on a certain medium, it is selling the medium. Also, if you provide it as commercial download on the internet, you are not selling information either, but a download service (you are loosing bandwith and space which you had to pay for, so it goes with the tradeability principle).

In the free information society, everything that comes up as tradeable according to the "tradeability principle" or that you do loose what you sell (getting something instead), can be traded. So, your house, your car, bike etc. would be tradeable. However, the blueprints for a house, bike or car should be free and not-saleable. That is exactly what can lead to the more equal distribution of wealth as in the society where every information flows freely, everyone can build anything that someone in the whole humanity invented. And no, it is not unfair for the inventor as the inventor still holds the right to never disclose the information until he gets some advantage. Not disclosing the information into the flow is completely OK, but once you disclosed it, it must flow freely.

The free information society MUST be progressive as the technology progresses. When and if nano-technology enables people to reproduce material products out of information blueprints entered into computer, those material products will gain the same characteristics as information and would not be trade-able anymore. This is the turning point in which society will have no use for money and will therefore abandon it, but the wealth would be most equally reproduced. This is of course a very far future (if it is the future), BUT don't forget that the free information society can function in the very today's term with the todays technology.

This is not utopia, and I repeat, THIS IS NOT UTOPIA!!! And again, this is not utopia because right now, right here, if all information and other untradeable matter (according to the tradeability principle) would be free as in freedom to use, copy, modify and share, we would all be much better off than now, and I mean ALL (businesses functioning according to this, innovators, workers, artists etc..)

This possible society is already being studied in oekonux project (www.oekonux.org). The reffered to it as GPL society but looking for a new name. Just to propose an idea, we could call it an infoliberism which is the slogan between two recognizeable words, information and liberty, but is not using the often misinterpreted word liberalism using liberism instead (shorter term). Infoliberism of course refers to the "free information society". This is something everyone should fight for and something that can provide a coherent goal to the dispersed so called anti-globalization movement (also called anti-capitalist movement) which organized these great mobilizations (Seattle, Genoa, global anti-war in iraq etc.). They lack a common goal, and free information society is exactly what can be the driving force to them as it would have the same tendencies and effects.

CONCLUSION:

Wether the present social system is the ideal capitalism or not it is being refered to as capitalism and it shows most of the characteristics of "true" capitalism. It indeed has many problems mainly leading to the inequality of wealth distribution and outcoming inequality of all people. The greatest challenge to capitalism is information technology and handling the information properly in general. The improper regulation of information is probably one of the biggest causes for capitalism failing in fullfilling it's promise to bring equal wealth and rights to all. The improper handling of information is in the fact that present capitalists as well as the "capitalist" state treats information as property which it clearly cannot be. It is simply so because information cannot be traded. It should therefore be allowed for it's free flow. Free software movement is recognizing this, and unlike similar open source "movement" it radically tends to change things. It can therefore very well be considered as the "virus" inside present capitalist social system that tends to transform it from the inside into free information society.

In free information society (that I here named infoliberism) all economy should be judged by the "tradeability principle" (if you don't loose it, you can't trade it) to determine of the "object" can or cannot be naturally traded. The new society should be progressive, following the progress of technology in case that it enables other, material matter, to be untradeable in order to treat it as such. This uncertain but possible progression of free information society would be the cause of money becoming obsolete. Finally, such society is NOT an utopia and considering it as such is in order to dismiss it is a harm to you and your whole society. Therefore I invite you to give it some thought, probe everything that's been written here and only then post some comments and critiques.

Thank you
--Danijel Orsolic
Discuss it here!

Danijel Orsolic is a free software movement advocate and enthusiast and the founder of libervis.com, a free software and open source community center.
This article is licensed under GNU Free Documentation License which means that you are free to copy and share it as long as you credit the original author and keep the license note.

Comments

Capitalism X IP

 

At the root of it, I think the question is not really about "intellectual property". What matters is:

- does information have value? does producing information have value?
- should a person be allowed to "get paid" (collect, make a living of, etc.) for the act of producing information?

Our current system says "yes" to both questions. But as ideas (information), different from material goods, can be shared/"stealed"/copied without significant costs, "losing value", the system provides artifficial ways to ensure the decided right of one getting paid for producing information.

Aside, copyright is "almost" a property, as if it is not published, no one can use it (i.e. I can keep it to myself, "destroying" it, mostly like material stuff).

Patents on the other hand, are an abuse... (at least in the current form)

(Obs.: sorry, have only skimmed the article... my 3 cents anyway...)

Re: Capitalism X IP

In essence, information never had such value in a manner you are reffering to it. Information is flowing seamlessly between human beings. In the past, people sold books, not information, only books that are material carrier of information. Today, that material carrier is only cheaper (internet and other media), but information as such never had any trading value. And to not mess things up, information can havel "value" as it can be a life saviour or death bringer, but it has nothing to do with the economical value of trading.

Copyright is wrong (maybe less than patents, but still), something like copyleft is much better as it allows for the natural flow of information, not for owning it.
Patents are wrong in any form.. not just the present form.

More comments are welcome.
Thank you
Daniel

Re: Capitalism X IP

 

Hello Daniel,

your article is really good. I just wanted to say that I've visited that site you mentionned, capitalism.org
Well, I've been puzzled by what I read. At first I thought the author was living in the 19th century, but I realized it was much worse than that.
Take that from somebody who is pro free markets, and rather liberal on many aspects of the economy: this guy is as much blindfolded by his own theory and logic system than communists can be. :hum:
It is sad to find such a mental development on a theory with no inclusion of "the real world thing". He has some points, especially whe he talks about the fondations of capitalism. But he's way out about the other things, like his hate of government, his beliefs in self-regulations, and so on.
It is scary to find such people and such ideas. I thought the last ideologies died around 1990 in Europe...

Charles.

Re: Capitalism X IP

Thank you Charles. That site, capitalism.org, basically seemed as the good source for learning some essential understanding of capitalism. The site is based around the Ayn Rand theory of objectivism and represents all the essential ideals that capitalism really stands for.

I don't know much about the owner of that site and i haven't read all of the sites contests as i read some other resources on capitalism, but i don't think anyone should "hate" government... It is clear that government intervention in free market should be minimal, but it can't be without it's regulation. My opinion is that government is currently over-involved. It regulates monopoly through antitrust laws at the same time "spuring" monopoly by patent laws. It kind off starts to get too much control over free market.
Basically, any governmental involvement in free market that includes restricting of the information free flaw (such as patents, IP laws etc.) is invalid.

And one more thing, i got some interesting comments all over other sites (osviews, osdir etc.) on this article. I won't detailize my answers to them just now, but i will only say this: i am not strictly anti-capitalist and i am definitely not pro-socialist, anarchist or anything like that. The social system i am propagating and calling "post-capitalist" is actually very similar to capitalism, actually, it IS basically capitalism, but the reformed one, reformed in such way that it excludes information from what it considers as property.
In order to answer those comments and any other possible rebuttalls i will probably write another article focusing specifically on the issue of "why information cannot be property" that will enable for a much more detailed analization of that issue than provided in this more general article. Then, if you read this article and will read that one, you should have a complete undersanding of the free information society (could also be called reformed free information capitalism).

Regards to all
Danijel Orsolic

Re: Capitalism X IP

 

In essence, information is mostly all that has ever had value (versus its media).
Also, I think in the past information had much less potential for capitalization. In the past people just were less profit-minded (just as the world was "less capitalist"), or simply had much less opportunity (insignificant markets, or no considerable way to implement stuff, for example) to profit off it.

Information has value just because "it can be a life saviour or death bringer", and because that has nothing to do with the economical value of trading, is that we put artifficial value to it, to promote it and our development. It's like a mapping of "real value" -> "economical value", for the motives of fitting it into our current economical scheme.

I wouldn't say copyright allows the ownership of information, it would be patents which allow that. Copyright mostly allows one to limit (re)distribution of a very specific "thing". (But for an abusive amount of time, currently.)

In the case of computer programs, the distinction between binary/source allows for the (bad) effect of only binary form being ever available. That's bad. I think proper copyright registration of computer programs requires (or should) the archival of the source code, but that is relatively too much work for a fast pacing evolving thing as software is. I'd consider this a good argument in favour of opensource/FreeSoftware.

Patents have promoted the development of much useful stuff. For one correction, the protection period should be shortened, as today evolution is simply faster than in the past. For another, software should never be patentable.

Currently, "IP protection" is being abused. Hopefully, things will end up being sorted out.

I'm not sure I'm being much understandable, but anyway...

Re: Capitalism X IP

I think you are getting one thing wrong here, but i don't wonder as i haven't really explained it in that much detail (which i'll do soon in another article).

Information has value, but it is not and CANNOT be an economical value, that is, trading value. From the sellers point of view, he is "selling" an information without actually loosing it while he does get money or another item for which he is trading it. From the buyers point of view, he has to pay to get that value (in form of information) and that's it.

Now think about this: for the information to be free, only information as such is free. It is free as in freedom. What i mean is that if you are selling information as such you are automatically treating as if it was a property which can't be anything else but a monopoly over that information. That is why trading information "as such" is not a valid trade at all. It simply cannot be done without involving monopoly over it.

The only way you can do economic business with information is to keep it free (as in freedom).

This is how it goes then:
You as a seller are not selling an information, but a service of providing it (distribution service) which means that you will only charge money for that service, not for information "as such". This is the value you are loosing (as it should be) in order to get something instead of it. The values you loose can be bandwith (if download), medium (cd/dvd etc.), a written book etc. The buyer get's the value of information but also the freedom to share it further. This is the real trade, a trade that is not a trade of information, but rather a service which involves it's distribution as service can be traded and information can't.

It's all about balance, trading information leads to disrupting this balance by allowing one side to get more than looses and even still have a monopoly over what he doesn't loose.
Trading only the services of information distribution leads to the value balance being satisfied as the seller indeed looses value without having a monopoly over information and the buyer get's the value he payed for along with the same freedom of sharing.

I hope you understand this. Value of information is not economical and trying to make it so artificially can never lead to succesfully satisfied economical value balance. That is why information can't be trade. what can be traded is service of it's distribution.

Thank you
Daniel

Re: Capitalism X IP

 

Basically, most you say is right. Information does *much* more good when it's free. The problem is: producing useful information costs. If you argue that information would still be produced even if it could only be free, you're rigth, but it would likely be at a slower pace (i.e. longer timespan to allow for the dilution of the cost). Why would that be better? Just so that information is "free" from the beggining? Even if people would be (and are) willing to pay for it, if it is not free?

Again, mostly all you say is right, people know that, even capitalists. That's why IP protection has time limits. The problem is this has been corrupted by forever expanding time limits (by unscrupulous/stupid/totally selfish "capitalists"). Would you be taking time to think/discuss/worry about this, if copyrights expired in 5-7 years?

Also, we can look at Creative Commons, for some folks who have thought about these issues and came out with conclusions and pratical solutions, that many people are now agreeing with. They propose, practically, licenses imposing a copyright with much shorter expiration.

Thank you, too.
cya

Re: Capitalism X IP

I wouldn't say that information would be produced at a slower pace when being free. Free software movement actually provides a proof of this. When information can be freely shared and even modified it allows for actually faster information reproduction, but from the same reason it's production.

But when you stiffle the flow of information, knowledge of society is more closed than it is open which obviously leads to the slower progress and the progress depends on "producing" information.

You somehow seem to judge copyright laws as valid in it's "ideal" form basically saying that it would be good if reformed. But if that law will still allow individuals to have a monopoly over any information even for ONE day, i wouldn't support it. And while one day might sound funny, existence of any system that allows owning information for any, even funny period of time can lead to greater evils.

I am very clear about this. All information should be free to share, study, use and modify just as GPL licence enables it for software. GPL is a genious thing. It is exactly the way how all information should be treated, exactly! And this is not a conclusion brought about "just like that". I gave it some serious thought and research and in any case it is not hard to grasp the fact that it is true.. All information should be handled as GPL handles software. That's it.

Creative commons uses the current copyright system in a similar manner as GPL does. Some of it's licences are actually the same in terms as GPL, but they are not doing anything too revolutionary. They are just giving a choice as you can use creative commons to forbid some uses which GPL would not, which i consider a "wrong choice". GPL is what's revolutionary. Today it uses copyright against itself, tommorow it may be the LAW :-)

Anyway, i use creative commons for this site, but the terms are actually the same as with GPL. You are free to share all content of this site (unless stated otherwise and except forum posts as it's posters choice) and even modify it provided that everyone else you give it too or the modified version get's the same freedoms and provided that you give proper credit (attribution).

Thanks
Daniel

Re: Capitalism X IP

 

I wouldn't say that information would be produced at a slower pace when being free. Free software movement actually provides a proof of this.
But I didn't said that. I said "... if it could only be free ...". I also acknowledged that information is much better when free.

But if that law will still allow individuals to have a monopoly over any information even for ONE day
Well, it's not law which allows that, it's nature, and it allows that for any indetermined period. At least before we develop mind reading. You mean published information. But the goal of copyright is exactly to promote the development and publishing, so that creations don't keep monopolized forever in somebody's mind/shelf/garage/etc..

And I think I can say I too gave some serious thought and research to this, for some years now (but my opinions are never final).

Today it uses copyright against itself, tommorow it may be the LAW
Yeah, so much for FREEDOM. Then we could have the infamous "thought police", just to make sure no one would keep knowledge unshared! Eye

Re: Capitalism X IP

Quote:

I wouldn't say that information would be produced at a slower pace when being free. Free software movement actually provides a proof of this.
But I didn't said that. I said "... if it could only be free ...". I also acknowledged that information is much better when free.

I apologize for misreading you.

Quote:

But if that law will still allow individuals to have a monopoly over any information even for ONE day
Well, it's not law which allows that, it's nature, and it allows that for any indetermined period. At least before we develop mind reading. You mean published information. But the goal of copyright is exactly to promote the development and publishing, so that creations don't keep monopolized forever in somebody's mind/shelf/garage/etc..

And I think I can say I too gave some serious thought and research to this, for some years now (but my opinions are never final).

Today it uses copyright against itself, tommorow it may be the LAW
Yeah, so much for FREEDOM. Then we could have the infamous "thought police", just to make sure no one would keep knowledge unshared! Eye

Keeping information for yourself is not a harmful monopoly, if it can be considered as monopoly at all. This is actually the only right that enables the innovator to gain some advantage over their innovations, by not disclosing it just yet. The point is that once disclosed, it has to flow freely because otherwise, the innovator has a harmful monopoly over the information.

And i don't see that the right to keep it secret does any significant harm to a society as he is still bound to use this information for the betterment of society by founding a company in a free market (but where all information is free as in freedom) and thus eventually releasing this information to the free flow.

So, the natural "monopoly" you are mentioning here is no way to justify copyright which extends this "natural monopoly" to the unnatural state causing the real harm. The incentive to publish is always there. People always tend to show of their work to other people instead of just keep it for themselves. I know i am like that, its natural actually.

The wholepoint about the ethics of free information society i am talking about could end up on being natural as the true ethics itself is objective and natural as such, and free (as in freedom) information is in accordance to those ethics. Information "wants" to be free, naturally. Smiling

Thank you
Daniel

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