[Diesen Text gibt es auch auf deutsch]
[This text was also published at TripleC]
Michel Bauwens has made a proposal for a „median choice of socialist licenses“ which is based on the Copyfarleft-License of Dymtri Kleiner. In this post I try to critically analyze his proposal.
At the beginning Bauwens‘ thesis is: „the more communistic the sharing license we use, the more capitalistic the practice“. Being a prominent example the GNU GPL is called a „communist license“. Is there something in that?
At first one has to understand the nature licenses have under the given conditions. Licenses are permissions, thus contracts, „granted by a party (‚licensor‘) to another party (‚licensee‘) as an element of an agreement between those parties“. It bases on the precondition of excluding all other people by the „rightholder“. The power of exclusion given by law can be converted into a „permission for all“ by way of tricky constructions combined with the obligation to put derived works under the GPL as well (copyleft principle).
Herein is nothing communist. The logic of exclusion is partially reversed and therefore new spaces of commons oriented practices can be created. Better than nothing. The license itself only protects these practices against proprietary destructions. From my point of view this can not be more under the given conditions. The outer world is ruled by the logics of valuation and exclusion, and every free zone to self-determine other practices has to be wrested from these dominant logics. Embryonic forms, precisely.
The second part of the thesis „…the more capitalistic the practice“ fails as well. There is no comparative of „capitalistic“. If you replace „capitalistic“ with „commodity-based“, then is becomes even clearer: Something is a commodity or not. Free software, for instance, isn’t a commodity. It can be appropriated and used by everyone, even by big corporations. However, they cannot transform the free software into a commodity, since this is prevented by the GPL. But they can use the software in order to realize their business models in another fields. This free use is a thorn in Bauwens side. He wants the commons to only be commercially used by those who have contributed beforehand.
From my perspective the presentation of the GPL as „communist“ is wrong, but this attribution has the function to propagate a milder license variant which then is called „socialist“: the PPL (Peer-Production-License). This license only grants external access to the resources to those who are using them non-commercially, while internally unlimited exploitation is allowed. The divide intern/extern usually refers to a firm. If external parties want to use the resources commercially, then they have to pay a license fee or make other contributions.
Is only exchange reciprocal?
In order to justify the PPL the argument of reciprocity is claimed. The „communist“ GPL is non-reciprocal, while the „socialist“ PPL demands reciprocity. The word reciprocity nicely blurs what is actually meant: exchange. In fact, the GPL breaks the logic of exchange, while the PPL requires and enforces it — namely not only the exchange logic itself, but the societally valid form of equivalent exchange. Someone who wants to keep „the surplus value into the commons sphere“ has to act that way, whereby „commons sphere“ is a euphemism for an ordinary company.
The notion of reciprocity is misused in an ideologically blurring way. Licenses are never reciprocal, only people can behave that way. Thus, the question can only be whether licenses encourage reciprocity between people or not, and if so, in what way. Then the evaluation of GPL and PPL looks completely different.
The GPL creates and promotes direct reciprocity between people, because no exchange and also no compelled contribution stands between people. By contrast, the PPL limits direct reciprocity by putting exchange or compulsory contributions between people if they want to use resources commercially. But what is commercial? It is the same discussion which has taken place around the NC module of the Creative Commons Licenses. There the insight is: The NC module undermines sharing, and the same applies to the PPL (although trying to dissociate from the CC-NC).
To sharpen the point: Both licenses support reciprocal behavior of people. With respect to GPL it is positive reciprocity, because in this case it only counts how people behave socially and which rules they agree upon in a self-determined way, in order to bring all participants together. Concerning the PPL it is negative reciprocity, since a portion of people are subjugated to the alien form of exchange of equivalents (money) and are excluded from the cooperation to this end. Thus, the GPL is rather in accordance with the commons idea of self-determining own rules than the PPL.
How does the PPL work?
The core rule of the PPL is contained in this paragraph:
You may exercise the rights granted in Section 3 for commercial purposes only if:
i. You are a workerowned business or workerowned collective; and
ii. all financial gain, surplus, profits and benefits produced by the business or collective are distributed among the workerowners
This snippet expresses the abridged critique of capitalism which I elaboratedly criticized elsewhere. In short: The critique is not directed against the way of production — the commodity production — but against the type of distribution within the (basically accepted) commodity production. In this sense the label „socialist“ is well adequate, if one understands socialism as a form of commodity production, where the distribution is organized differently than in free capitalism. This, however, leaves all basic capitalist forms like exchange logic and money untouched (even a state is mandatory in this scenario). This problem — sometimes labeled as fetishism — is simply ignored.
But what does this rule mean practically? The vague term of workerowned business or workerowned collective obviously means cooperatives or firms, where the owners are workers at the same time. The financial gain, surplus, profits and benefits should be distributed among the workers. First, this is impossible and, second, this is not crucial. It is impossible, because part of the income has to be reinvested in order to keep the company competitive. You have to pay homage to the commodity fetish, and doing so the whole income or more (=debt) has to be invested in case of unproductive firms. It is not crucial, because the coercion to exploit and therefore the logics of exclusion completely remain untouched.
More than that: The PPL generally allows cooperatives or worker firms to make use of the resource pool. However, cooperative A is competitor of cooperative B, but does allow B to exploit A and potentually to out-compete A. It is completely ignored, that cooperatives or worker firms are ordinary companies, which have to entirely match the competition criteria of the market logic. Companies are not commons, regardless of whether being a cooperative or a worker owned firm. The intended goal to keep the resources within the commons sphere can not be reached this way.
In principle this is clear to Michel Bauwens, nevertheless he dreams to link „the commons to a enterpreneurial coalition of ethical market entitities (Coops and other models)“ keeping „the surplus value entirely within the sphere of commoners/cooperators instead of leaking out to the multinations“. Smartly commons and cooperatives are intermingled via the involved persons. Hereby a „sphere of the good“ is defined. It is good what contributes to this sphere, and this is the goal of the PPL which „allows commoners to create their own market entities, keeping the surplus value into the commons sphere“. Shortly said: Not the big, but the small ones should get the profit — as shown it is just about a different distribution.
However, this sphere isn’t a commons sphere, instead it is simply a coalition of companies of self-defined „good“ and „ethical“ people. To behave good and ethical is a nice thing. However, it misses the efficacy of the rigid operational mode of commodity production. If you don’t succumb this logic you are out — having an ethic or not. Ethic isn’t a functional core of the market logic, an ethic has to stay externally and therefore finally always gets the short end of the stick. What I find severe is that the efficiacy of exclusive logic is not recognized or underestimated, so that in the end structural problems are veiled as personal deficits or conflicts between people. If a woman with a child has to leave a firm, then not because she reduces the overall performance, but because she allegedly does not fit into the team — this is the practice (personal report of an alternative artisanal firm).
Transformation through counter-economy?
Finally, Michel Bauwens concept of transformation is doubtful. He want’s to create a „counter-economy“ with a „for-benefit circulation of value“. However, this counter-economy is an economy and value is nothing else than this: a societal measure of competitive productivity, which is also valid for a counter-economy, in order to realize „value“ at all.
From my perspective a societal transformation can not happen via building-up a counter-economy. It is not possible to out-compete capitalism (or the bad guys), so being better than capitalism on its own terrain to finally get rid of it. It is a contradiction in terms.
There is not way via changing distribution provided that a transformation is the goal, but there is a way via the enforcement of a new way of production, of a new social logic of producing our livelihood. This new social logic can not be build up using forms of the old social logic, namely the logic of exclusion of commodity production. It is unavoidable that the old logic exploits the outcome of the new logic, because the results can be freely appropriated. But this an external relation while the contrary logics persist on their own. More over: capitalism must create new free spaces to foster the new logics, in order to make them exploitable. But as soon as the new approaches are transformed into old forms of valuation and commodification — meaning in an internal relation — they will decay.
Thus, from my viewpoint the PPL is not about accessing a counter-economy, it is about accessing the economy. This is legitimate but has not much to do with societal transformation. Or, more explicitely: It has as much to do with societal transformation as a stock corparation implementing peer-production within its own walls for competitive reasons (which actually takes places). Here practices get established which can become important in case of a total break down of the old system and then could also function outside the valuation logic. Could.
In order to still present an outlook on how the economy, which is reproduced beforehand, can be left, Bauwens offers:
„Hence, as this process strengthens, and is accompanied by the growth of social and political power, the circulation of capital is replaced by a full circulation of the commons. The phase transition has effectively occured.“
In the end politics should do it. How else can the circulation of capital be replaced by the circulation of commons? But what can this commons circulation be? The state implements commonism by decision? This can hardly be concidered.
So is the PPL bad? No. It is simply a possiblitity to create coalitions of small enterprises and freelancers. If they create products for free use for people who cannot get them other ways, then this is fine. However, others are doing this too, e.g. Microsoft. Insofar it is a general trend when openess becomes a competitive factor. It offers companies and freelancers an opportunity to use a shared pool of resources to better ensure the own existence within the old commodity logic. This is indirectly good for the commons as well, but nothing more.
A new mode of production cannot emerge from these practices. A societal transformation will not be brought forward by the PPL, or indirectly only as much as normal companies do by using peer-production methods to improve their competitiveness. We will even experience completely different models in the future.
The underlying assumption of Copyfarleft is that there is no way to make corporations change in behaviour. The premise that “the more communistic the sharing license we use, the more capitalistic the practice” contradicts not only the past experiences of considerable investments of companies in the development process of free software, but also creates a boundary which will hinder the adoption of open standards in the future. (see for example http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linux_adoption).
„Circulation of the Commons“ is a great vision, but taken seriously it simply means the mutual support of members of an increasing network of associated producers; not on the base of equivalent exchange, but on the base of allocation for flow, automation and unlimited productivity gains by design of social relations. We are far from this goal yet, and we dont even have any one compelling regional example. There is a positive role for politics to play here (therefore the big importance of FLOK as a project), but politics could only play the role of enabler, not of performer. I think it is crucial to show that such a cooperative sector makes a positive contribution to society at large and therefore the adoption of such restrictions as „socialist common trade secrets“ is a very dangerous self – inflicted political mistake imho. Even if this cooperative sector should decide to go beyond exchange, it would have to offer a positive feedback loop to the rest of society.
do we need licenses? Socialist or communist or selfish?
No. Knowledge is always world heritage! And that’s why we should not build blockades itself. Private occupiers of social knowledge never take care themselves to copyrights, when it comes to the application of knowledge. Only then, if they want to take advantage of it, they relate to patent rights and licenses.
But this can never be our interest. That’s why I think that the discussion about all forms of licenses are nonsensical and a waste of time. We ignore all forms of private appropriation of knowledge. And we all make our findings and contributions publicly.
With kind regards, willi
@willi: Sadly, that’s not how it works. If you don’t attach an explicit license note to your contribution, full copyright applies! So everybody else has almost no rights whatsoever.
You can, of course, state that you choose to ignore all laws and copyrights and encourage others to do the same, but not everybody will want to follow suit and doing so could be risky. Potentially expensive „Abmahnungen“ (cease and desist letters?) are a real risk, maybe not in Guatemala, but certainly in Europe and North America.
That said, I’m very much in favor of super-permissive licensing such as CC0 — basically „no rights reserved.“ But that still requires an explicit license statement, so „forgetting about licenses“ is not a good idea.
Why is it not a good idea? Because everything is getting appropriated in this world of property, and especially ideas are on the watchlist of the corporate raiders. You know what that means: it means, that this economy is increasingly built on the prohibition of production; that these prohibitions are not only traded on the stock exchange as the most lucrative commodities, but also enforced with political and military power – like the enclosure of land for economic purpose.
Willi, if you want to fight a battle on your premises, you will loose. Its a grave mistake, (or should I say „Its an outright criminal act to underestimate the enemy?„). If you are somehow serious in your intention to lead local communities to unfold their potential and abilities for global cooperation, then you must understand what is needed to protect them! I still want to believe that this is your goal. But sometimes my doubts are growing.
A good example is biopiracy; people that for thousands of years have worked with certain plants are in the „target clearance radar“ of those who seek to appropriate the utilisation rights. In this case, it is absolutely necessary to bring the battle to the legal field, otherwise something much more dramatical than „Abmahnungen“ is happening sooner or later.
It IS necessary, as Michel Bauwens puts it, to win a „partner state“ to protect the emerging embryonic global cooperative society. And we all have no idea yet how it will precisely work; neither nature nor history hold the answers.
@ Christian: das ist in Guate nicht anders, sogar noch verschärfter, automatisches Copyright gilt bis 75 Jahre nach Tod des Autors und die Justiz macht dort gewöhnlich noch ganz anderen Stress http://www.wipo.int/wipolex/es/text.jsp?file_id=127668
@ Franz: Genau: in short. Commons brauchen Schutz.
@ Stefan: Ich glaube, bei dieser Lizenz geht es nicht darum zur Emergenz einer neuen PW beizutragen, sondern schlicht darum Commons zu schützen und Geld für sie einzusammeln. Will sagen: Es ist gar nicht nötig das so aufzuladen.
@Silke: Da bin ich ziemlich nahe bei dir (und habs ja auch so geschrieben am Schluss), doch nicht ich habe es so aufgeladen, sondern Michel Bauwens hat dies getan. Für ihn ist es das große Transformationsding, und das ist einfach Quatsch.
Aber auch mit kleinerem Anspruch bin mir nicht sicher, ob das wirklich ein Schutz für die Commons bietet und Geld „einsammelt“, sondern schlicht einen effizienteren Marktzugang schafft — was dann aber finally den Commons-Anspruch unterminiert.
@ Stefan: „Sondern Michel Bauwens hat dies getan.“
Da hast Du auch wieder recht. Sehe ich inzwischen gelassen, er hat alle paar Monate neue große Dinger und haut permanent aufgeladene Sätze in die Tasten. Sowas brauchen wir auch – so wie die wachsamen Augen darauf.
here you have mixed important things.
a) how you can be saved from criminal court bandits in your environment
b) what kind of position we basically have to knowledge
That Silke acts here with market mechanisms is clear. She is like Michel Bauwens interested in market-conforming structures.
But you others? Why are you hiding your real thoughts? Or is it all just masquerade, what you write?
If knowledge is always world heritage, then we have nothing more to do with the legal structures in this topic. And Christian, yes, laws for us are not interesting. You in Europe then have to take care how you will be able to pull you out of the mud. And a little bit you are also self-involved.
With kind regards, Willi Uebelherr
@willi: What do you mean by masquerade? Basically, I am with you: »Knowledge is always world heritage«. That’s why we have a super-permissive declaration type of „license“: http://keimform.de/lizenz/
Having a type of license is a question of defense under the existing juridical regime. If you get rid of this regime then you can forget any license.
Licenses as measures for defense against predators, since I agree with you. I respect that. But this must always be clear that these are temporary measures.
Silke Helfrich and Michel Bauwens act here very different. For them, the Commons are only goods objects to participate in the big game.
Masks we use whenever we want to hide our real being. And that can happen in this issue in two ways. I can use the Commons to hide my real interest in market-based mechanisms. Or I can use the Commons and its licenses to hide my real interest for free access to free knowledge.
Here in this circle, we should always act with our real interests. That’s why I read http://www.keimform.de. This is a place where we can talk about our prospects for our future. From the title of this is clear: „Keimform.de – Auf der Suche nach dem Neuen im Alten“.
A market-oriented economy is not our future. Our economy is demand-driven. And focus on local autonomy. The main tool for this is our free communication system for free access to free knowledge for all people.
We always have to get a set of Karl Marx to mind: “ Being determines consciousness“. If people in their mode of existence do not contribute to what they need to live, then this will develop into a specific thought. They are interested in preserving their parasitic existence.
Today, 70 % of the population live parasitically in Germany. In the USA 90%. Similar in Venezuela. However, this means that everything is done to maintain this condition. And theoretically justified.
We put the economy back on its real basis. The production of our material resources. Then arises a mean value of working for Germany of about 6-8 hours per week. Then all have enough time to devote to the free study when they want it. Here we consider healthy middle-aged people. Children and young people want to be active anyway. And most older people as well. (see in german: Gerd Heming http://www.bund-der-pflegeversicherten.de)
This assumes, however, that we resolve all the facilities for senseless destruction of resources. Bureaucracy, military, police, courts, parliaments and the like. We give back the design of sovereignty to the local communities. Societies are then free networks of free communities.
With these my principles there can never be a private ownership of common resources. As a communist, I am always committed to the communities. The individual stands for me in second place. Strong and stable local communities are the basis for the development of strong and stable individuals. With their personal particulars.
The unity in diversity. The unit refers to the production of stable material basis of life. The diversity are the peculiarities of the people around them from family, neighborhoods, communities and regions. We are natural and need the diversity. And not the monotony.
With kind regards, Willi Uebelherr
@ W. Übelherr: „Silke Helfrich and Michel Bauwens act here very different. For them, the Commons are only goods objects to participate in the big game.“
as for the „commons are only goods/ objects“ issue:
recommended reading: http://www.boell.de/sites/default/files/2012-04-buch-2012-04-buch-commons.pdf page 85 ff
Willi, you make assumptions which do not hold in reality. Silke is eager to show a large constituency that commons is not about objects, but about acting together. Michel has undertaken the complex task of working with a state that maybe does not fully understand the needs and dynamics of communities.
The new must be able to grow in the old. Never before in history we had a society that was hostile against autonomy to such an extent, and that has the means to control and destroy everything. We are really challenged to be wise and prudent in thoughts, words and actions, turning enemies into neutrals and neutrals into friends.That has nothing to do with „masquerade“.
Fortunately if you wish we live in a society where everything can be reported and the mask are falling. But ist has to do a lot with the ability to discover and enact synergies.
If we accumulate enemies, we will be crushed and destroyed. We need protective cocoons to show the world the cooperative power of communities. They can, this must be said, easily be disturbed. They are very delicate and sensitive. And yes, you are right, market forces are hostile to them.
And they have to reinvent the world. There is not one single piece of technology that really makes sense in the long term nowadays. There is no healthy community, no natural base, no self – explanatery truth as you put it in front of us. It all needs a lot of consideration and transformation.
So the art is how to make this process happen. There are many different answers, but the principles of the Commons seem to be the centerpiece.
@Willi who writes:
„As a communist, I am always committed to the communities. The individual stands for me in second place. Strong and stable local communities are the basis for the development of strong and stable individuals. With their personal particulars.“
I think most people here see it the other way round.
Only out of the free individuals that can choose their cooperative environments strong and stable local and global communities can emerge.
Christian has made it very easy to focus on the point. For that I am very thankful:
„No rights reserved“.
This i like. With that I very much agree. Everything is free, which we publish. All our thoughts are free.This means that almost all servers work with „no rights reserved“. All documents of all universities as well. Everything from Github, SourceForge, OSDN (Open Source Developer Network), all IEEE documents and RFC’s are free on this basis. „No rights reserved“.
I know there’s a big catch. The desire to act on the market with the ideas of other. The desire to sell the work and ideas of our ancestors and contemporaries. Only this is the point. Not to protect something.
Now I wonder why the PPL don’t have only this sentence: „no rights reserved“ . Or similar with the same content.
i wait patiently for the answers to the question of priority: „Community“ before or after „Individium“. It is the central question in our being. Whether Modern or Post-Modern or anything else. It has something to do with the acknowledgment of our own conditions of existence. And this must answer each person himself. And to carry out the analysis itself.
With kind regards, Willi
There is, in the US, a form of business organization which corresponds to a worker-owned cooperative and which has also some of the characteristics of the corporate form in limiting liability: the Limited Liability Partnership or LLP. The assets contributed to the partnership are the capital of the partnership which is at risk; the assets of the individual partners are not at risk, if the partnership is well-capitalized, as defined by statute and case law.
The difference between a partnership and a corporation which hires waged laborers is that the partners have the potential to share and share alike in the fruits of their labor if that is the way in which the partnership is set up by the Partnership Agreement; waged laborers do not have this potential, they only receive a fraction of the value which they produce. There will always be conflict between waged laborers and the corporation, as the corporation constantly seeks to minimize the cost of labor to increase the amount of capital which it can retain and pay out to shareholders in the form of dividends and return of capital, and similar to the directors and executive officers.
The way in which a partnership can compete successfully against a corporation is to to exploit the differential in incentives and thus secure the harmonious relationship amongst the partners – as opposed to the conflict which invariably results in corporations which employ waged labor. Partners have a greater incentive to produce than does waged labor, and the lack of conflict allows for greater concentration on the goals of the organization itself, rather than internecine rivalry between labor and management.
As a contract, the GPL is unenforceable, because it lacks one of the parts necessary for contract formation: offer, negotiation/acceptance, and consideration. Very many persons contribute in the process of making commodities under a GPL, and each of their contributions has value, however little, and thus all of these persons have a share in the property covered by the GPL. In order to form a valid contract, the subjective assent of all of these persons must be obtained; in practice, this is never the case, so the GPL is unenforceable at law. In contrast, the PPL is enforceable, since all who contribute to the work are members of a partnership, and the partnership forms an entity by which the commodity may be offered in exchange for some other commodity, or for such amounts of equivalent currency or other medium of exchange as may be required for the licensor to pass possession to the licensee; some negotiation may take place or there may be implied acceptance; and the commodity or currency offered in exchange forms the consideration for the contract.
If a corporation includes property under a GPL in its own property offered for licensing or sale, that license or contract for sale is unenforceable up to and including the amount of property under the GPL, because the parties to the GPL are in general, unknowable and untraceable. The situation with a PPL is different, because the identity of the partnership of peers acting as licensor is in fact knowable and traceable, and the partnership of peers may exercise its rights in its property against the corporation/licensee.
The GPL is a „simple license, not a contract“ but in practice it is enforceable. See Doubts Wane Over GPL Enforceability and Is the GNU GPL Enforcable.
The GPL is meant to perpetuate sharing of code (a distribution control) while the PPL wants to perpetuate support for production.
I have responded to Stefan’s critique here: http://p2pfoundation.net/Critique_of_the_Peer_Production_License
The first part was published on the p2p blog, on march 20, here at http://blog.p2pfoundation.net/responding-to-stefan-meretzs-critique-of-the-peer-production-license/2014/03/20
The second part will be published on the 27th.
Finally, this is a very significant intervention dealing with the same issue: http://blog.p2pfoundation.net/from-the-communism-of-capital-to-a-capital-for-the-commons/2014/03/22