Some Personal Observations Regarding the CopySouth Workshop:

Trivandrum, Kerala, December 2008. Trevor Batten,  Manila  January 2009

SECTION I.  Conceptual Contexts:

1.0  A Personal Story?

I'd like to construct myself a beautiful house -but how should I build it?

Where should I put the walls, the stairs, the doors and the windows? With how many rooms on how many floors? What shape should the roof have -and what materials should I use?  What should the furniture look like -and where should I place it all? I'm not even sure if I want a special, unique, kind of house that attracts attention -or if I want it to be like everybody else's house.

At present, my house is an unwritten book, an empty canvas waiting to be painted -rather like a computer without a programme.

It seems I need a "story" to provide the enviroment which will supply the conceptual materials that I need to build my house: Because if it will be shaped by these materials then I won't have to make so many difficult decisions myself. Luckily, there are many stories to be found: mystical, mythical and factual historical stories told by family and friends, remembered stories told out of my own experience, economic stories told by my wallet, stories of life and death, physical weakness and endurance -also of materials and nests told by the plants and animals that live around me -and of course the stories told by the other houses I see around me.

These "stories" are all complex "systems" of moving parts involving interactions between various players with different characters and characteristics, with different skiils and different aims, intentions, loves and lives.

Without these stories -how would I have any idea how to build my house?

If we all had the same stories -how could I recognise my own house?
If I had to pay for all these stories how could I ever pay for my house?


2.0  Meta-Conceptual Conciderations:

Experience shows that the most important and difficult part of any problem solving activity is usually the question of how to define the problem.

Perhaps the question is not is copyright "good" or "bad" -but what are the limits of its validity?

To be honest, I don't really care if a bunch of people get together and decide that they want to introduce a whole raft of copyright laws for themselves. I don't even really care if people want to go head hunting -or to spend their lives raping and pillaging. What does concern me -is what happens to me and those others who do not wish to get involved with those activities? ...Perhaps also the question "What better things are there to do?"?

 Is it possible to live in a world where everybody has the freedom to live as they choose without upsetting others? If not, then what is the best compromise we can make?

So am I free to choose or reject copyright (or any of its variations or alternatives)?

Personally, I suspect I am not free to decide -and this is what upsets me.

So a basic "problem" is the question of "freedom":
-How does one define freedom and how can one realise it on a global scale?

A second basic problem is more practical:
-How can one discover the undiscovered, imagine the unimagined and think the thought that has not yet been thought of?

(and how will other people understand these thoughts afterwards?)


3.0 Commodified Ownership and Social Control;

Economic activity is firmly rooted in the concept of "ownership". How can one trade that which one does not own -unless it is stolen? Even a service economy must assume that an individual "owns" his own time and is free to sell it in terms of physical and/or mental labour.

The copyright system is based on the concept of the "creator" owning their creative work,-putting them in a position to exploit this ownership directly -or by selling it to others who might exploit it more profitably.

  •  How public is the public domain?
  • By "digitizing" printed material the "digitizer" can gain copyright over the material -even if in the public domain)
    • who "owns" the material? What about the company who made the digitzer?
  • Huge "leakage" of public money and services to commercial systems who take advantage of the public system for little payment.
    • via copyright
    • via exploitation of publicly funded educational and physical communication infrastructure
  • International rules of competition demand that international companies can compete freely
    • social practices of public library stopped because not open to "fair" commercial competition
    • "Price dumping" by international companies is allowed to undermine local economies
  •  Who "owns" a cultural community?
  • Indigenous cultures easilly become invisible through loss of autonomy and "integration"
  • Indigenous cultures are often fragmented and spread over various externally imposed administrative systems
  • Indigenous cultures and languages are now becoming recognised and preserved
  • The right to "communal property" is now being recognised
  • Is "recognition" simply a step towards (a destructive) integration?
  • Who has the right to "recognise" indigenous communities (and how did they get this right)?
  •  Who "owns" a cultural tradition?

-What happens when cultural practices becomes problematic?
  • Can the communal sharing of tasks, and a reciprocity of work also lead to corrupt "tit for tat" systems?
  • How much is "corruption" simply an adaption of local culture to external influences?
  • Who defines the standards by which social and cultural practices are evaluated?
  • Who decides which cultural practices are acceptable -and which are not?
  • Is cultural co-existance possible within the current global political-social-economic system?

-Who or what defines a "Community" -and on which grounds?
(who owns the "Commons"?)

-How does the populace relate to their (regional or nationa) government?
-As "mass" to be controlled?
-As community to be supported?
-As group to be economically exploited?
-As group to be ignored?

-How much diversity is desirable (ot possible) before it degenerates into chaos?


4.0 Reconcidering Social Values:

What is the (social) value of Art (and Culture)?

-Acient compilations of existing wisdom financed by local rulers to spread (religious) knowledge
-Original Universities created to accumulate, develop and disseminate knowledge
-Aids personal advancement (in what way)?
-Contributes to social development (in any community)?
-A medium for simulating and exploring social conditions?
-A medium for determining social identity?
-A tool for social conditioning?
-A commodity for commercial exploitation?

What is the (social) value of Aesthetics?

A question of proportion?


Defining "difference" and how to deal with it


What is the (social) value of Knowledge?

Is knowledge always "power"?
(power for whom)
Is "knowledge" also a form of conditioning and indoctrination?
(is "access to knowledge" always good?)

Does everybody
-need to know everything?
-want to know everything?
-able to know everything?

Do people have different strategies for thinking and learning?
(Practice and Theory)
(Question and Answer)
(Individual Research)

Do people have different "roles" to play in society?

How does one communicate (without bias or distortion)
 complex (or esoteric) ideas
 to a mass public (with different belief systems)
who all think, act and feel differently?

Possible problem of "over conceptualisation" by intellectuals with a highly mediated (and politicised) world-view -when faced with the pressing practical problems of "other"countries and cultures.

There is an acute danger of the cultural theories and cultural statistics of those who need to study culture undermining the cultural existance of those who need live their culture.

An Interest in "preservation" is a danger signaling potential exploitation and perhaps extinction

Do communities really need outside "experts" to explain their problems, histories and their way of life?

What is the (social) value of Economics?

Commercial Systems: Symbiotic or Preditory?

-Economy: balancing need with greed?
(Giving according ot one's abilities, recieving according to one's greed?)

(is there really a "free" market)
(Is a "free" market a "fair"market?)
(do we need reformation -or revolution?
(what alternatives are there?)

Commercial companies act as "creative linguistic systems"
  -i.e. changing the physical and conceptual "landscape" within which we all live.
  • -Brain drain in poor countries as (well trained) immigrants support US economy (and the other "developed" countries)
    • increasing the developmental differential
    • producing products that many cannot afford
    • creating new commercial "lifestyles" that can be promoted worldwide
  • -Urban Shift as poor move into cities or go abroad looking for work
  • -Urban displacement as reletively well paid techno-workers push out poorer workers
    • destroying social communities
    • creating cultural confusion
    • undermining resistance to (unhealthy) consumer products
  • -Selling a foreign owned company to another foreign owned company can avoid local taxes
  • -Repatriated money "dies" (is no longer available to the source country -only the "investing" country)

(do we want these changes?)
(do we have a choice?)

How do political democracy and economic democracy relate to us and to each other?
(Who has the "right" to speak for others?)

In a social partnership are the "stakeholders" trully representative
-or are they self-appointed (and self-promoting)?

The Game of Supply Push and Consumer Pull:

If an Economy is a game of action and reaction between supply and demand.
Then, like any game, the outcome is dependant on the rules of the game.
So, do the rules of the game favour an outcome
that is consistant with the needs of the comminity
 -or does the game only favour certain players?

There is a huge difference globally between the cost of products in terms of "time worked" to buy any specific product.

-In one town 10 months deposit to rent a house -in another town 2 months deposit.

(Interest on loans and rent costs reflect ratio between those who have capital and those who don't)

When very young or very old -one is unable to earn ones cost of living -but the costs remain the same, independant of ones ability to pay.

(need for diferential payment system for basic essentials of life?)

Tangable labour (physical work) is paid just once -but intangible labour Conceptualy creative work) is paid multiple times

(although the original creator may get less than the "rights holder")

Like any game, the rules are defined by:
What are the rules of the game, who defines them -and with what right?

Perhaps the Financial Crisis is a window of oportunity for changing the rules

What is the (social) value of Publishing?

What is the (social) value of Copyright?

A (considerable) source of income for those who buy and exploit creative products.

Who owns and controls the "information" flow? (who makes a profit from it?)

If copyright is a form of "income distribution" -then in which directions is the income distributed?

The collecting agencies make a profit
The distributer
make a profit
The tax system makes a profit
A few "international" artists make a profit.

 In practice, few artists (worldwide) get a reasonable income from copyright.

 The "publisher" usually owns the copyright.
Is it a bad system -or just badly administered?
 (structural or incidental failure?)

patents and copyright protecting commercial brand names promote interests of global companies
 (commercial collectivism)
Various local conditions in different countries are being undermined through global exploitation
 (national aspirations -human rights)

Dominating giant commercial dinasaurs prevent cultural diversity through global marketing of local products after converting them into standardised international commodities, often at prices which the original producers cannot afford to pay.

When Intellectual Property law is introduced by external agencies into counties with no internal historical IP tradition (or perhaps even opposing traditions) the perception, language and policies get dictated by the global IP industry.

Social, economic and cultural Protection -for whom, against what?

For the author, "moral rights" can be more important than "economic monopoly rights"

-assertion of authorship
-preserving integrity of text
-preserving the right not to be published
-preventing unwanted appropriation (and exploitation)?
-preventing unwanted cherry picking?

-Perhaps similar system needed for social groups:
-preventing unwanted external interference with self-determination?
-preventing unwanted external interference with internal social structure?
-how does one protect "good" things and prevent "bad" things (censorship)?
(who makes decision and how?)

What about
  •  -limitations on interference from global political or commercial systems
  •  -shared communal systems which limit individualistic competition
  •  -alternatives to the "nation state"

How should artists, intellectuals, shamans, etc. be paid?
-What drives these people?
Social Altruism?
Aesthetic Conciousness?

Who profits most from their skills?
(in what way?)

(Can one copyright a political system -and charge people for using it?)

What is the (social) value of Piracy?

Difficult to discuss without adopting the language and concepts pre-defined in the discourse established by the  proponents of "Intellual Property".

  • -providing income for those that normally would have none?
  • -developing (experimentsl) social structures that are forbidden by "normal"practice?
  • -how can society evolve if social experimentation is severely limited (for whatever reason)?
  • -how did the current "economic elite" get its "start capital"?
    • When did government sponsored "privaters" (Francis Drake) become outlawed "pirates"?
    • As a "developing" country the US was once strongly opposed to copyright and patents
    • Perhaps your "pirate" is my "freedom fighter"
  • IP piracy doesn't cost rights owner real money -just fictional income
  • IP piracy may increase interest in, and sales of, authorised product.
    • In many poor countries, the cost of imported branded and copyrighted goods are prohibitive


4.0  The Question of Choice:

What is there left to choose in a Democracy?

Surely, democratic choice implies some level of Political and cultural Self-determination (depending on the scale of the political unit concerned -ie. national, regional, tribal, organisational). Without the freedom of self-determination, (and the right to deviate from other social-economic systems) what is there left to chose from?

Culture: "Tool" or "Commodity"?

What is trully the social and cultural value of "art"? (what do we mean by these terms?)
Does separating "cultural" values from "economic" values undermine culture as a living set of responses to local conditions?

Could "culture" actually be a conceptual and practical response to local "economic" conditions -which by separating the two (paradoxically) reduces "culture" to a non-functional "lifestyle" product that can easily be commodified?

How does one decide which artistic/intellectual/social activites have value -and deserve social support (or other forms of "special treatment")?

Accepting Multiple "realities:

What are the characteristics of the "reality" that a community constructs for itself?
(how is that "reality" experienced)
(how does this "reality" relate to others in the vicinity?)

Interfacng Multiple Ontologies:

Problem of interfacing different conceptual/cultural systems
-Breaking through the conceptual barriers imposed by language ansd social conditioning.....

Difficulty in finding the language to express the various problems in a way that permits a coordinated understanding and approach -without forcing everything into a potentially innapropriate pre-concieved ideological framework

Under what conditions is something valid?
How does a phenomenon impact upon (interact with) different environments?

Trevor Batten,  Manila  January 2009