links for 2006-10-30


The latest Debian updates to sid have fucked up my iBook. I can have it boot and not use the network, or not boot and presumably use the network. Which is a bit Schrodinger.

This has driven home how good Debian was precisely up to this moment. 😉

Update: It tries to make the ramdisk but the boot process can’t find the ramdisk?

E: linux-image-2.6.18-1-powerpc: subprocess post-installation script returned error exit status 2
E: linux-image-2.6-powerpc: dependency problems – leaving unconfigured

Post parameter wrong in script?

Anyone? 🙂

I Recall A Time But It’s Long Gone

First and Last and Always, Floodland and Vision Thing by The Sisters of Mercy have been reissued on Rhino Records. The albums all have additional tracks (b-sides, cover versions, and demos), new liner notes, and new typos on the covers. You can, and should, buy them from any online record store.
The stand out addition is the full version of “Never Land” on Floodland, a track that lead singer Andrew Eldritch has always denied the existence of. Their cover version of Hot Chocolate’s “Emma” and the First & Last era B-Sides are welcome additions as well.
This is music as it should be. Wildly, vividly, stupidly brilliant. Ironic and cynical yet heartfelt and entertaining. Timeless yet possible at no other time. It has, it must be said, a good beat to it. Even Vision Thing sounds better second Bush round.
If any record companies have been considering paying Eldritch the large sums in unmarked notes he’s demanding for another album, now would be a good time.

links for 2006-10-29

links for 2006-10-27

Future of Copyright: Roundtable 3 – Law, regulation and the future

This looks like it was an excellent debate.

The Open Rights Group : Blog Archive » Future of Copyright: Roundtable 3 – Law, regulation and the future

Can copyright protect art from becoming a business activity. What I don't mean is can certain individual artists use copyright to protect their works against business, but can copyright be used to protect the commons? Lots of contemporary artists have the primary concern of their resistance to business. Is copyright forcing people to be small commodity producers, when this is not what they want to be.

Historically, art is either a business activity or a distraction for the independently wealthy. It is as dangerous to see art as not being a business as to see it as only a market. The humorous description of art as “middle sized dry goods” serves as a useful illustration of what the extents to art’s relation to the market should be, from both sides.

An essay in Art & Language New York’s journal “The Fox” from the 1970s discusses the state-funded art of what was then Communist Yugoslavia and describes how the absence of any necessity to either the production or consumption of art created mediocrity through bureaucracy.

Bureaucratic attempts to induce and manage the creation of culture, to guarantee the creation of cultural value, whether state or corporate bureaucracy, destroy cultural value. This can be used both as an argument for markets and as an argument for art’s autonomy. There is no contradiction, it is only when art has no necessity or becomes ideologically instrumentalized that there is a problem. Sadly both are the case in the contemporary art market.

All this said, in the UK some of the most successful artists and musicians of today started out being supported by the state, on unemployment benefits.

The answer is no. Introduced race relations act and sexual discrimination act in the late 60s, but things might not be worse but are not much better. Law is part of a social system and so reflect social values. What law tries to do is channel social and political conflict into what lawyers see as technical disputes. It's interpretations of rules. To the extent that copyright is associated with two or three major cultural or philosophical ways in which the world has arranged itself in the last 300 years, of property, rights, these things are a part of a coherent development that's lasted 100 years.

You are asking copyright law to do something revolutionary. People thought in the 60s that you pass a race relation act and racism goes away, and we've seen it doesn't.

But it helps. The social change that those acts are a reflection of are protected by them.

If the property right is so over-valued and its transmission is like shares in a company instead of the rights of an individual creator then the kind of exploitation we've described becomes an easy shot. Can we minimise that?

The question was can we use copyright law to have a revolution, and the answer is no.

Exactly. Copyleft is reform. It is unlikely to bring about a revolution, but it can prevent a collapse. It can be disruptive, and this disruption may appear revolutionary. This disruption is more a restoration than the creation of anything new. Which is disappointing to radicals and to venture capitalists. But it is vitally important to artists.


The Owls Map” by Belbury Poly is very good. It’s the synth music you almost remember from your 1970s schooldays (even if you didn’t have them) but with undercurrents of The Wicker Man. Tangerine Dream, Jarre, Kraftwerk, they’re not English but they are from the same logical universe as Tomorrow’s World and complement the incidental music-style warmth and whimsy of some of the other reference points of this sound. There’s also hints of the evils of morris dancing and just a dash of real old folk sung by real old folk . The production is cleaner and less radiophonic workshop this time. I preferred the more analogue sound quality of “The Willows” but this is good stuff.  Music with its own mythology and a rich, nuanced sound. Ghost Box are definitely onto something.

links for 2006-10-25

Lessig’s Sandbox

This sharing economy is not meant to displace the commercial economy. Its purpose is not to force Madonna to sing for free.

Free Software is not meant to displace the commercial economy, which has benefited greatly from it. But this is not about displacing or working with commerce, it is about Freedom.

The next challenge is to figure out how this sharing economy interacts with a traditional commercial economy.

Freedom and commerce are not separate magisteria. This sharing economy interacts with commerce by commercial actors having Freedom and not denying it to individuals.
The Gift Economy, as it used to be known, is a reification of one of the possible products of Freedom. As its proponents argue it is a more efficient method of production. And this more efficient means of production can be applied to culture very successfully as Wikipedia shows. But it is important to not confuse this benefit with its causes and to try to substitute other causes such as money or politics.

Copyleft projects are just part of free culture. We need to defeat DRM, protect and extend Fair Use, ensure that consumer rights are not ignored, defend fair speech, oppose censorship, and ensure that the Internet is not over-regulated. Copyleft has a part to play in all this. Copyleft projects do not need walling off in the mysterious gardens of reputation or sharing. So we need more than CC for Free Culture, but we do not need CC to do less than copyleft.

CC will never become a part of that commercial economy. But it is important, I believe, that we play a role in enabling this crossover. The alternative is a world we’re seeing too much of all ready: large entities that create sandboxes for “sharing,” but then effectively claim ownership over everything built within that sandbox. This is, in my view, not a sharing economy. It is instead simple sharecropping.

And the greatest tool it has is the NC licence, which creates nothing if not an immense sandbox.

It is telling that Lessig regards the creators of a YouTube viral advertisement using NC music without observing the licence then paying the musician when they got caught as a success story. It is a success story for the New Permission Culture, not Free Culture.

More New Permission Culture

In my perspective, Creative Commons is not about non-commercial use, but about open culture. I am trying to make Magnatune a good example of how the commons does not exclude commercial use. There needs to be incentives for artists and great people to share, and to use Creative Commons. It seems that CC is now battling to find the balance between what is ‘commercial' and non-commercial'. But from Larry Lessig‘ book, Free Culture, I reckon that the controversy of ‘commercial versus non-commercial' use, is actually the battle of ‘permission culture versus open culture'.
John is absolutely right about this, and it is immensely disheartening to see the mistakes that Lessig is currently making.
But Magnatune makes music available noncommercially for free. You have to ask permission to use it commercially. Magnatune therefore excludes commercial use from their ‘commons’, pushing it into a proprietary licence system. This is a permission culture.

If we believe, Lessig-style, that artists need financial incentives to produce work, this permission culture is actually a disincentive.

And there are so many problems with commercial ventures acting as a gatekeeper for permission. What happens in five years time when Magnatune shut down and I cannot get a proprietary licence with the same low overhead any more? What happens if I do not become a Magnatune artist and wish to pass on my freedom (sic) to a third party? What happens in seventy years time when the musicians are dead and my grandchildren wish to use the now orphan works? What happens if I am not a multimillionaire and all those thirty dollar economic permissions will stop me performing my “Endtroducing” or my “Paul’s Boutique”?

The measures being proposed by Lessig are the very ones that killed sampling artistically in the 1990s. Incentivizing “producers” killed production.

Lessig is falling into the trap of trying to reproduce the supply-side
economics of big media. Middlemen need financial incentives. Artists need to make a living. There is an important difference there.

We need a distributed, rights based culture to protect the conversation of
culture when things go wrong. Not a centralized, permission based economy to
incentivize distributors when things are going right.

I have a very different definition of the ‘commons' actually. The ‘commons' is
a pool of culture, made available for you to reuse without needing to seek
permission from the original creators, at a reasonable price.

This is an unusual definition of a ‘commons’. Although the “original creators”
cannot refuse artistic permission, the system can refuse economic permission.
This is an economic permission culture rather than an artistic one, but it is
still a permission culture.

I think it is all right to charge the price, as long as the price is not the
barrier to reusing it.

This is one of the foundations of Free Software. But Free Software gives freedom generally to paying users, whereas NC requires extra permission to charge the price that makes the work usable in an economic context (or for the artist to offset their costs).

If the work is NC, permission will always potentially be a barrier to use unless, like Lessig currently, we take a “let them eat cake” view of free culture as an economically inexplicable ghetto of reputational or gift economics.

If we are discussing a free culture or an open society, Lessig’s New Permission
Culture simply doesn’t fit. It is harder to get people to use street performer
protocol or whatever than to get them to add a cashback link to their NC work
that no-one will ever use and that won’t work when they change hosts. But we
need to do the hard work of freedom rather than look for easy technological
fixes and close approximations.