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April 4, 2012

Culture of Hope

Forum d’Avignon is an annual get-together in France to talk about culture, by which most of the attendees (and especially President Sarkozy who came to give a speech) mean how they can squash the Internet and retain their stranglehold on culture. A little harsh? Maybe, but not entirely unfair. I went last year, and both Jamie Boyle and I felt so oppressed by the relentless Internet Fear exhibited by the other presenters that we felt obliged to say, “You know, there are some good things about the Internet also.” We also both found a cadre of fellow travelers among the attendees and a handful of the other presenters, including many of the conference organizers. (Here’s a set of my posts from the Forum.)

The Forum today invited a set of people to respond to four questions. The first question is: “1. Does culture / creative imagination give you a reason to hope?” With the above as context, here is my response:


Of course! If not culture, then what would give us reason to hope?

There are a few elements coming together that make this an especially hopeful time…and a few elements that I take as cold water being thrown in the face of hope.

The elements of hope include: (a) the scale of content, (b) the intense inter-linking of that content, (c) the growing open access to that linked content, and (d) the new forms of collaborative sociality that are emerging that (e) value difference and disagreement.

(a) The scale means that we now have works that can matter to us in any way we can imagine, rather than relying upon centralized authorities to decide what counts. Of course, from those centralized sources we have gotten great works of art, but we have gotten far more gross, coarsening, commercial crap. (b) The fact that these elements are linked means that we can now explore ideas all the way to the ends of our curiosity. It also means we can continuously derive new meaning from this interlacing of ideas. (c) Open access – the growth of outlets that may or may not be peer-reviewed and edited, accessible to the world for free – means that our best ideas are not locked up where only the privileged can view them. (d) The availability of these works on the very same medium that enables us to form social networks around them – the fact that the Net is equally good as a means of distributing content and as a social medium is unprecedented – has spurred innovative new ways of working and being together. Some of these new social forms have tremendous power, and are tremendously engaging; we can do things together that we never before thought possible. (E) Finally, the Internet only has value insofar as it contains and embraces differences and disagreements. A culture that does so is far more robust and far less oppressive than a culture homogenized by a timid sameness – the sort of lack of adventure characteristic of mainstream media.

Against this we have old industries that benefited from the scarcity of works and the difficulty of distributing them. They view culture as the set of cultural objects, and believe that they are entitled to continue to restrict and control access to them. They say they are doing this in order to support the artists, but they in fact are pocketing most of the artists’ wages in the name of services we no longer need these industries to provide. Culture flourishes when it is open, abundant, connected, engaged, and diverse. Such a culture supports artists of every sort. The culture of hope is just such a culture.


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November 21, 2011

[avignon] What I learned at Avignon about the Internet

So what did I learn at the Forum d’Avignon about the fate of the Internet in Europe?

It’s of course impossible to distill the entire conference, especially since much of the benefit was getting to meet some fascinating people. And, it’s impossible to feel confident about these lessons because the event consisted of 450 invited guests, so my sample was skewed, even though there was an attempt to achieve balance across cultures, beliefs, and genders. (Fully half of the attendees were women.) Nevertheless, …

Within this set of policy makers and large industry players, there is a conviction that the Internet is primarily a threat that has put all of culture and creativity at risk.

Why do they see it that way? Many of them are content publishers. To them, the Net looks like a competitive publishing medium that connects cultural content to consumers via search engines. Although the conference puts this concern in terms of the failure of the Net to connect consumers to worthy objects of culture, virtually all the public discussion was about the economic threat the current purveyors of mass culture feel. They believe that without the strictest enforcement of copyright, creators won’t be able to earn a living, and thus the Net will kill culture. The idea that the Net is actually the greatest engine of culture in history was expressed only three times, each time by Americans. [The next day: That last sentence is an overstatement. Americans expressed this idea the most directly and forcefully, it seems to me, but not solely.]

Authors rights were taken at the Forum as an economic imperative and as a moral imperative. There is no sense at all that those rights might be usefully balanced with the rights of “consumers” and makers. None. Zilch. Fair Use — granted, an American concept — was raised once in passing. (Victoria Espinel, Obama’s IP Czar, mentioned it, very positively.) The attendees were so convinced that authors’ rights are supreme that they left the conference convinced that there is consensus on the topic. Indeed, the conference ended with a summary of the ministerial summit on culture that was held in parallel with the first day of the conference: All the stakeholders agree on the supreme importance of fighting piracy. Of course, that ministerial meeting [Later: it was called the Cultural Summit, I have learned] included no users at all. So much for “all the stakeholders.” (I pointed this out to the person who convened the meeting (which I was not at, of course), and he said that the government representatives were there to represent users.)

Because of their view of the Net as a publishing medium, and because of the abundance of content on the Net, the dominant paradigm of the Forum views Google as the center of the Net. The participants thus wondered what sort of legislation is required to enforce “search neutrality” against Google. Now, there is no denying that Google is a center of the Net, and its algorithms have a great deal of effect on which pages are seen. But the participants at the Forum had what seemed to me to be a monomaniacal focus on Google, which makes sense if you’re thinking of the Net as a pile of content mediated by an index. They seemed to have no sense that there are living networks of people recommending and linking outside of Google’s search box. And for many of us, the transformative effect of the Net has been as a social place, not as an information medium.

Based on random interactions, it seems to me that at this meeting the small coalition that supported users’ rights as well as authors’ rights consisted of Americans, librarians, and students. Had there been more hackers here, I suspect they’d join our little band, but engineers, geeks and techies were woefully under-represented.

Overall, quite depressing, with the most profound anti-Internet sentiment coming from President Sarkozy in an 1.5 talk and discussion he favored us with.

Vive l’internet ouvert!

[All errors in French due to Google Translate.]


It is true that European Commissioner Neelie Kroes attacked the focus on copyright as misguided. Many in the media seem to have heard this as a call for copyright reform. (Here’s my live-blogging of her remarks.) I did not. I thought she was fully backing the rights of authors and strong copyright protection, but saying that we need to do more to create business models that create more money for creators. I did not hear Neelie suggesting copyright reform. I hope I’m wrong.


James Boyle on three frames for copyright

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November 19, 2011

[avignon] [2b2k] Robert Darnton on the history of copyright , open access, the dpla…

NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. You are warned, people.

We begin with a report on a Ministerial meeting yesterday here on culture — a dialogue among the stakeholders on the Internet. [No users included, I believe.] All agreed on the principles proposed at Deauville: It is a multi-stakeholder ecosystem that complies with law. In this morning’s discussion, I was struck by the convergence: we all agree about remunerating copyright holders. [Selection effect. I favor copyright and remunerating rights holders, but not as the supreme or exclusive value.] We agree that there are more legal alternatives. We agree that the law needs to be enforced. No one argued with that. [At what cost?] And we all agree we need international cooperation, especially to fight piracy.

Now Robert Darnton, Harvard Librarian, gives an invited talk about the history of copyright.

Darnton: I am grateful to be here. And especially grateful you did not ask me to talk about the death of the book. The book is not dead. More books are being produced in print and online every year than in the previous year. This year, more than 1 million new books will be produced. China has doubled its production of books in the past ten years. Brazil has a booming book industry. Even old countries like the US find book production is increasing. We should not bemoan the death of the book.

Should we conclude that all is well in the world of books? Certainly not. Listen to the lamentations of authors, publishers, booksellers. They are clearly frightened and confused. The ground is shifting beneath their feet and they don’t know where to stake a claim. The pace of tech is terrifying. What took millennia, then centuries, then decades, now happens all the time. Homesteading in the new info ecology is made difficult by uncertainty about copyright and economics.

Throughout early modern Europe, publishing was dominated by guilds of booksellers and printers. Modern copyright did not exist, but booksellers accumulated privileges, which Condorcet objected to. These privileges (AKA patents) gave them the exclusive rights to reproduce texts, with the support of the state. The monarchy in the 17th century eliminated competitors, especially ones in the provinces, reinforcing the guild, thus gaining control of publishing. But illegal production throve. Avignon was a great center of privacy in the 18th century because it was not French. It was surrounded by police intercepting the illegal books. It took a revolution to break the hegemony of the Parisian guild. For two years after the Bastille, the French press enjoyed liberty. Condorcet and others had argued for the abolition of constraints on the free exchange of ideas. It was a utopian vision that didn’t last long.

Modern copyright began with the 1793 French copyright law that established a new model in Europe. The exclusive right to sell a text was limited to the author for lifetime + 10 years. Meanwhile, the British Statute of Anne in 1710 created copyright. Background: The stationers’ monopoly required booksellers — and all had to be members — to register. The oligarchs of the guild crushed their competitors through monopolies. They were so powerful that they provoked results even within the book trade. Parliament rejected the guild’s attempt to secure the licensing act in 1695. The British celebrate this as the beginning of the end of pre-publication censorship.

The booksellers lobbied for the modern concept of copyright. For new works: 14 years, renewable once. At its origin, copyright law tried to strike a balance between the public good and the private benefit of the copyright owner. According to a liberal view, Parliament got the balance right. But the publishers refused to comply, invoking a general principle inherent in common law: When an author creates work, he acquires an unlimited right to profit from his labor. If he sold it, the publisher owned it in perpetuity. This was Diderot’s position. The same argument occurred in France and England.

In England, the argument culminated in a 1774 Donaldson vs. Beckett that reaffirmed 14 years renewable once. Then we Americans followed in our Constitution and in the first copyright law in 1790 (“An act for the encouragement of learning”, echoing the British 1710 Act): 14 years renewable once.

The debate is still alive. The 1998 copyright extension act in the US was considerably shaped by Jack Valenti and the Hollywood lobby. It extended copyright to life + 70 (or for corporations: life + 95). We are thus putting most literature out of the public domain and into copyright that seems perpetual. Valenti was asked if he favored perpetual copyright and said “No. Copyright should last forever minus one day.”

This history is meant to emphasize the interplay of two elements that go right through the copyright debate: A principle directed toward the public gain vs. self-interest for private gain. It would be wrong-headed and naive to only assert the former. B ut to assert only the latter would be cynical. So, do we have the balance right today?

Consider knowledge and power. We all agree that patents help, but no one would want the knowledge of DNA to be exploited as private property. The privitization of knowledge has become an enclosure movement. Consider academic periodicals. Most knowledge first appears in digitized periodicals. The journal article is the principle outlet for the sciences, law, philosophy, etc. Journal publishers therefore control access to most of the knowledge being created, and they charge a fortune. The price of academic journals rose ten times faster than the rate of inflation in the 1990s. The J of Comparative Neurology is $29,113/year. The Brain costs $23,000. The average list price in chemistry is over $3,000. Most of the research was subsidized by tax payers. It belongs in the public domain. But commercial publishers have fenced off parts of that domain and exploited it. Their profit margins runs as high as 40%. Why aren’t they constrained by the laws of supply and domain? Because they have crowded competitors out, and the demand is not elastic: Research libraries cannot cancel their subscriptions without an uproar from the faculty. Of course, professors and students produced the research and provided it for free to the publishers. Academics are therefore complicit. They advance their prestige by publishing in journals, but they fail to understand the damage they’re doing to the Republic of Letters.

How to reverse this trend? Open access journals. Journals that are subsidized at the production end and are made free to consumers. They get more readers, too, which is not surprising since search engines index them and it’s easy for readers to get to them. Open Access is easy access, and the ease has economic consequences. Doctors, journalists, researchers, housewives, nearly everyone wants information fast and costless. Open Access is the answer. It is a little simple, but it’s the direction we have to take to address this problem at least in academic journals.

But the Forum is thinking about other things. I admire Google for its technical prowess, but also because it demonstrated that free access to info can be profitable. But it ran into problems when it began to digitize books and make them available. It got sued for alleged breach of copyright. It tried to settle by turning it into a gigantic business and sharing the profits with the authors and publishers who sued them. Libraries had provided the books. Now they’d have to buy them back at a price set by Google. Google was fencing off access to knowledge. A federal judge rejected it because, among other points, it threatened to create a monopoly. By controlling access to books, Google occupied a position similar to that of the guilds in London and Paris.

So why not create a library as great as anything imagined by Google, but that would make works available to users free of charge? Harvard held a workshop on Oct. 1 2010 to explore this. Like Condorcet, a utopian fantasy? But it turns out to be eminently reasonable. A steering committee, a secretariat, 6 workgroups were established. A year later we launched the Digital Public Library of America at a conference hosted by the major cultural institutions in DC, and in April in 2013 we’ll have a preliminary version of it.

Let me emphasize two points. 1. The DPLA will serve a wide an varied constituency throughout the US. It will be a force in education, and will provide a stimulus to the economy by putting knowledge to work. 2. It will spread to everyone on the globe. The DPLA’s technical infrastructure is being designed to be interoperable with Europeana, which is aggregating the digital collections of 27 companies. National digital libraries are sprouting up everywhere, even Mongolia. We need to bring them together. Books have never respected boundaries. Within a few decades, we’ll have worldwide access to all the books in the world, and images, recordings, films, etc.

Of course a lot remains to be done. But, the book is dead? Long live the book!

Q: It is patronizing to think that the USA and Europe will set the policy here. India and China will set this policy.

A: We need international collaboration. And we need an infrastructure that is interoperable.

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[avignon] Day 2, First session: Debate: “IP is a universal value”

The morning session begins with a debate between Olivier Bomsel (head of the ParisTech Chair of Media and Brand Economic) and James Boyle (law prof at Duke, and one of the founders of Creative Commons). It is moderated by Patricia Barbizet, managing director, Financièr Pinault. The question is whether “intellectual property” (a phrase that already skews the discussion, of course) is a universal value. (Disclosure: I come in thinking that “IP” is not a universal value, and is not even a fully coherent value. And I am and admirer and acquaintance of Jamie Boyle.)

NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. You are warned, people.

Patricia: We should try to find a common view among artists and regulators [and audiences/participants? and culture itself?] and across cultures. We want to try to avoid dogmatism. We want a constructive and pragmatic dialogue.

James begins. He sketches three agendas to try to frame the debate. First, the enforcement agenda starts from the idea that copyright becomes more needed as it becomes cheaper to copy. As copy costs approach zero, control should approach infinity, according to this view.

Second, the development agenda starts from the needs of human beings, especially those in the developing world. It stresses flexibility in copying, acknowledging that the US and Britain used to take looser view. E.g., Dickens called America a nation of pirates.

Third, the boring agenda: It demands empirical evidence. It says we have strong intuitions about what technologies will do, and those intuitions are almost always wrong. It seeks balance, democratic dialogue, is somewhat upset by IP policy to be set by treaties, the texts of which are often classified, which is hilarious, as if there would be rioting in the streets over anti-circumvention policies. [He’s being ironic.] The boring agenda is humble. You will hear little about it today; it is poorly represented at international conferences. The European Database Directive was spposed to create more databases, but there have been fewer and the prices have gone up. I hope the boring agenda will find a litle space here today.

Patricia: Is Creative Commons the future? James: CC is based on copyright. It allows users to set their own terms. E.g., you can download James’ book for free because his publisher and he agreed that would drive attention to it. CC goes to scientists, artists, musicians, and asks if they would like to share their work. Many say yes, they’d like to help build a commons. But CC is a private attempt, which addresses our culture’s ignoring of the value of commons. You used to know that the works of your generation would come into the public domain within your lifetime. You could adapt them, translate them, etc.. Now, the works of everyone in this room will not be available for such usage in our lifetimes. Extending the lifetime of copyright beyond the lifetime of authors does not incentivize the dead authors to write more, although the US Congress doesn’t agree.

Olivier: Economics by modernizing ownership theories in the ’60s, plus the info revolution that began in the ’70s, has rolled all prior thinking and law into IP. It’s not necessarily what the Founding Fathers were talking about. We’re in a new phase, using new property theories. Then we can ask whether [theories about?] copyright and brands are independent. [I’m having trouble understanding the translation.] One of the features of the Net is that it’s the first tool that enables you combine various things…publication for anonymous audiences. The question of who speaks, who curates, the environment of the expression is very important. Let me finish this line of reasoning by saying that the 19th C idea of publishing is to make public and known. “Make known” obviously leads you to the issue of brands, because it means linking to this expression a certain number of identifiers and words that give meaning to the expression. [Sorry. but I’m pretty much transcribing. It doesn’t make sense to me either, which is certainly a translation problem.] I think there’s a real issue. What do we mean by publish? It means posting on a Web page. It means releasing signs into an accessible space. But, signs if they go no further than that are nothing more than noise, unless your an archivist and taking a very deliverate approach to identifying a particular form of expression, most consumption of meaning is via names, proper nouns. The author can only be identified as such when he has been authorized by a publisher: “Yes this is an author, I put his name next to mine onf the Web page in which I put his content.” All this is much more complicated than this.

Patricia: So you need both publishing and distribution. Olivier: I wasn’t invited to conferencs such as this until I published a book, and got co-branded.

Q: In the past, creators were not necessarily linked to the financial side. The Net turns things on its head. The creator is the bourgeois owner?

Olivier: Ownership is never popular. It is asymmetric. Society gives someone an advantage, and society then asks whether it was right to do so, and whether the collective destiny should be sacrificed by granting individuals sovereign power. [New translator!] This might shock libertarians or primitive communists.

James: Pres. Sarkozy ways that the rights of authors stands in opposition to the Anglo tradition. But one should look at the arguments in France about the Author Rights after the French Revolution. Diderot v. Condorcet. Diderot thought the author’s rights were eternal and natural, and should be easily transferrable to publishers. Condorcet said some things similar to what Olivier said: It is a question of liberty, stopping people from uttering the words of others. He said we should have something like a brand, e.g., this is the James Boyle authorized version. What we have is not as perpetual as Diderot’s, although it’s getting there. It’s also not Condorcet’s that consists of a right of paternity and attribution. So, the tradition of Authors Rights has always had the same concern as the Anglo tradition: The rights of authors are good but how far should they extend. That is the question. The French do not perfectly respect traffic laws. We could have embedded governors that enforce compliance. It would save lives. But would the cost of enforcement be worth it. I think not. And that is the question we should be addressing. It is not am atter of “I love piracy,” but “How far the enforcement? What are the costs?”

Olivier: If you create too many incentives for technology to get around the law, it then becomes unenforceable. And I think that James is trying to open up as an avenue. If you create more responsibility for enforcement of law, you can make the enforcement much more effective and less costly.

Now Bruno Perrin summarizes an Ernst & Young report that the Forum commissioned on IP laws in G20 countries. How are these countries are using the technologies and approach the new risks. [Back to the bad translator.] He shows a map that shows a fairly consistent framework in these countries: Copyright lasts from 50 to 70 7ears. [Well, 70 years after the death of the author.] Countries with harsh enforcement don’t necessarily find less piracy. The most universal factor is the new proven risk to reputation, and of course this involves brands. Audiences and artists respect more and more trustworthy [something]. IP remains the key element when it comes to creating innovation, and it is the interest of all to protect it. (The report is available openly.)

A lawyer [no name in program or intro; sorry] There are differences among IP rights among countries, resulting from those that have civil law and those with common law with copyright. There’s moral right in copyright companies, but moral rights cannot be ceded between living persons in those countries. We’re talking here about the right of the author to be recognized as the creator of the work, and the one who can guarantee its integrity. That can be ceded in copyright countries, but the author would nto be able to control how the work will be used later. Then there’s common law which is a different approach. [Yes, it’s my fault that I have to rely on a translator, but I wish I could rely on this translator :( ] [A longer string of words is emitted from the translator.]

Patricia: Piracy. Sarkozy said the good thing about France’s piracy laws is that it has informed a generation that works have prices.

Bruno: We tried to come up with a list of the arguments used by pirates so we could counter them and put an end to them. We were pleasantly surprised by them. Five out of 8 are connected with distribution problems: where, when, how, ease, interoperability. Then there’s the failure of the users to understand their obligations, but education can deal with that. The question of censorship by governments. Then there’s the question of price, which is justifiable [?] but there’s a response to that coming through when it comes to legal free offerings and streaming. [Another stream of compressed words from the translator.] To beat the pirates, you have to come up with a better service.

Patricia: Why are users, producers, and access providers entering into alliances?

Bruno: You have to talk about money. Here’s a chart that shows that in the past four years, the new players are telecom operators, and major media groups. The stock market cap and net cash have increased for these new players. Meanwhile, headcount has only gone up 1%. Excessive power is not a good thing. Consumers are becoming more demanding. [Another stream of seeming-words] We’re confident that things are happening.

Patricia: To sum up: IP is a universal value. It develops differently in different countries. This leads to alliances among stakeholders who had little interaction. Now they are forced to come together [word schmeer] protection diversity coming together.

Now there is a roundtable:

  • Fedle Confalonieri, Mediaset Italy

  • David Drummond, VP Google, USA

  • Victoria Espinel, IP enforcement coordinator, Office of Mgt and Budget, USA

  • Francis Gurry, Managing Dir., World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)

  • Neelie Kroes, VP of the European Commission

  • Elisabeth Niggeman, Managing Director, National Library, Germany

Patricia: Francis, do you think the current agreements are adapted to the digital age?

Francis: The international agreements are the last recourse. They are a starting point, that dates back to the 19th C, but there are gaps to be filled particularly when it comes to the rights of the different stakeholders. There’s a conf next year about actors’ rights and audio-visual materials. Third, there are quite a lot of questions that have not yet reached the level to be dealt with international agreement. [The good translator!] There are orphan areas that haven’t been discussed yet.

Patricia: There are new conceptions arising…

Francis: Yes. Law is just one part of the solution. For instance, yesterday we talked about facilitating access to creative work — making legal access as easy as illegal access. For that you need a new infrastructure, one not based on territories. I’m talking about global licenses that now require having to go through national levels. At the end of the day, we have to strive for a global market because the tech is global.

Patricia: People used to follow the rules of their countries. Then there were multinationals. This led to new apoproaches on a mltinational level. You’re suggesting it’s important to have consensus or at least multi-cultural dialogue. Or always differencves that have to be preserved?

Francis: We have to have a functional convergence so the tech functions. At the same time there can be certain areas preserved for national policy. E.g., we’re currently negotiating improved access for the blind; this is an exception in the copyright law. Next week we should be able to reach an international agreement that lets there be an exception in France (for blind-accessible works) available in other French-speaking countries. That currently doesn’t exist.

Patricia: Elisabeth Niggemann, how do you feel about the current legislation. Does it enable you to make available all works available to the public?

Elisabeth: I would have said yes when I entered as a librarian. But things have changed dramatically because of the digital revolution. People expect to find everything on line. Click and access. We can’t play our role. E.g., our library is only 100 years old. Everything in our stacks has been given us by publishers and music industry. About 25M media. Because we only started collecting in 1912, almost everything is under copyright. What can I do? Almost nothing, because of copyright. I’m not complaining, merely citing. We have to open up what we have in our stacks. If not, we’ll keep them sage, but they’ll be hidden, forgotten, not used. The treasures of our heritage have to be used and re-used, and we have to build on it. And this is really at risk.

Patricia: Should we enlarge the provisions? Is it legislation? Collective license?

Elisabeth: It’s a mixture of all that. We need money to digitize everything so it’s available. On the other hand, publishers make beautiful things, and it’s good that they give their metadata. But the big gap is the 20th centure, a black hole. Nobody earns anything from it, and it’s under copyright. Legislation could enable us to deal with orphaned works in the printed world. Researching the legal availability of orphaned works is expensive and difficult. It’d be good to have licenses that give money to the creators. We need a mi of legislation that backs these licenses, but also licenses that are worked on by the stakeholders that comes to a compromise so that everyone can gain from these works that are out of circulation and out of commerce.

Patricia: Do countries agree about orphan works? Do we all agree that it’s a black hole?

Elisabeth: I’d like to believe it’s a common view. Of course, the stakeholders won’t always share the same views and approaches and how much it’ll cost to buy a license. Controversy in the details, but we all share more or less the same view. It’s still an issue how you can do a cross-border license. I can imagine licenses being granted nationally because we have collecting societies. But how do you do it internationally? Within EU, yes, but globally it’s a big problem.

David: As one of the architects of the Google Books Settlement, we hope there’s a common view. But it didn’t work in the US. Legislation is required. There are lots of obstacles but we should do it. We get that people didn’t think our approach was good, but the black hole remains.

Patricia: But Google is signing more agreements…

David: A misconception is that Google is all about free content. But we’ve always had partnerships with content creators. “Traffic acquisition costs” in our annual report = content creators who embed our stuff. The content creators, including large media companies, make money out of this. Billions of dollars generated with content creators. Now, it’s turned out that the advertising/free models hasn’t worked that well. E.g., the news industry. Media industry and Google are headed toward distribution models that include paying for content. We sell e-books. Our OnePass project lets you subscribe to news. And we just launched Google Music which sells music through deals with the music industry.

Patricia [lightly]: I think many of us are so startled by the size of the figures in Google’s accounts that we miss the details. Yesterday, Sarkozy talked about Google…

David: We’re an indexer. We crawl the Web. If people don’t want it searched, we don’t crawl it. We are attempting to provide as much info to users as we can. We believe in openness in software. Android is open. The Chrome browser also.

Patricia: People use Google to find creations…

David: It’s important that artists have all the options to make their works available for pay, for free, etc. There’s tremendous amounts of info for free. But if you want the best, it’s expensive, and creators need to be compensated for that. We want to bring the great offline works online, but you can only do that if you have a model that compensates creators.

Neelie: Someone told me that yesterday was frightening and then exciting. When I was a small girl, I thought “What would I do if I didn’t have fear?” We should do our job, but not be afraid. We are talking about a digital single market. We should use the privilege of the digital single market. It is global. But we are open to imagination, and that should be our lead role. I am in completely in favor of a decent remuneration for creators. I agree with Sarkozy that we if we don’t feed the artists, it is over.

Patricia: We all agree. [really?]

Neelie: Many many artists are living on a thousand euros a month, which is not enough. That’s true for 97.5% of one of the collecting societies. We need to go to back to the basics. Put the artists in the center, of copyright law and our entire policy on culture and growth. We need out of the box thinking. I was startled when Sarkozy called HADOPI an “awareness tool.” It’s about piracy. Also, I’m a strong believer in the Cloud. That gives a possibility of tackling the problem better.

Patricia: Do Americans and Europeans agree about the cloud?

Neelie: Maybe. Let me be a politician. I cannot explain to Europeans why iTunes isn’t selling films in Europe, or why Spotify is introduced this week in Belgium but not elsewhere. We have to educate our children.

Patricia: Are we dreaming that our children are learning not everything is free?

Neelie: The main thing is to that people have options. Politicians need to listen to arguments, such as in the E&Y paper, but politicians have to translate them into policy. If your start is that artists should get a decent remuneration, then you go from there to try to provide options. If people can’t buy or download what they want, they think politicians are not doing their jobs.

Francis: When the Net started there was a lot of resistance among rights owners. Now it’s different. I appreciate the E&Y arguments. We do need to create the infrastructure for a global digital market.

David: I agree. Technology can be an aid here. E.g., Youtube fingerprints copyrighted material when asked. Infringers an either take it down or let it stay up with ads and make money out of it. [Will someone please say something about Fair Use]

Elisabeth: The Bern Convention says copyright exists from creation. When I see Wikipedia and more, I think we can keep global agreements and still do something voluntarily.

Fedele: If you’re doing the same job, you need the same rules, and the revenues have to be the same. Our job is far more banal than monks copying works: television. If Google uses tech to keep an eye on content, there’s streaming. The European audio-visual industry has a turnover of about €92B euros. About half go into the products. I agree with Sarkozy. I’m old, been around. I can put myself into the shoes of the newcomers. I remember what happened in France with the Fifth TV channel. You couldn’t have many commercials, Sundays off. We were the forerunners, although we were pirates at the time, although we were paying copyright for US materials. It’s all culture, and it needs to be protected. I’m not saying we need Big Brother, but when you look at the financial side of programs such as this, you have to be careful of the investments. If you want to take our content, you have to pay. So, let’s do it in that way.

Patricia: [bad translator] What’s your reaction to piracy?

Fedele: We believe in technology because programs especially for young people will have their web sites, put in the ads, make money. Quite clearly we have to adjust our offerings to the different platforms. Our business model is based on copyright and exclusivity. Recently in the EU there was a question about a game of football in Turkey or Greece. We and Skye and other bidders pay something like 100M euros to have all the championship games. In Turkey you can broadcast the same game as us that we have exclusive rights for. If they can do that, the system collapses. What is ours should be seen as ours.

Patricia: Laws? Regulations?

Fedele: Neelie Kroes has the mandate. The EC says every users should be digital by 2013, and we support that. That’s wonderful. If you want to get people to forget about things being free, it’s education. HADOPI is a step in the right direction. It’s like a speed limit on the motorway. [Cf. Jamie Boyle’s point] Everyone in business would like a monopoly, but we’re realistic. It’s up to politics and step in and regulate.

Patricia: What’s your next move, Victoria, since you’re in charge of policy for the US gov’t.

Victoria: My job is to oversee IP overall for the US, which is broader than copyright. E.g., trade secrets, patents. But I’ll focus on copyright. We need a combination of approaches. The Obama administration has been supporting having the public sector come together voluntarily to take actions to reduce infringement. We think this is flexible and sustainable. We’ve had 3 voluntary agreements reached this year, two about copyright, to try to quarantine sites that are bad actors. We are trying to gather data. We need an empirical basis to see if our approach is working. We need to know if it’s not working. We also feel this is just one part of the solution. We’ve increased law enforcement. We focus on sources of supply, not on consumers: businesses built with the intention of distributing infringement product. There is a public awareness gap and we’d like to educate consumers. We need to be doing more cooperatively with other countries. We need as a govt to be encouraging an environment that provides legal alternatives consumers find appealing. The Cloud is raising issues already raised by the Internet, putting it on steroids. Any debate that says the Cloud is good or a danger is overly simplistic. You can have Cloud services built to be legal or not. The Cloud’s capacity and flexibility makes it easier to build legal services that are what consumers want. To the extent people are building Cloud services with the intention of dedicating them to illegal activity [interesting two qualifiers] we will go after them. When I began, I though we would not need many changes. But after a review, we made 20 legislative suggestions to Congress, although most were not about copyright. One was to increase penalties (which is not entirely accurate, she says). We think the max penalties for copyright is appropriate where they are. We are concerned where IP infringement is tied to particularly egregious conduct, such as supporting terrorism or organized crime; judges should have the discretion to increase penalties. We’re seeing some truly gruesome examples of ties between organized crime and IP theft. We are particularly concerned about this. The second place we think our laws could be strengthened is with respect to streaming sites. Our focus is on distributors. When sites are built for distributing illegal content, we think that should be subject to criminal penalties. Our law is ambiguous about streaming, and we think it should be clarified.

Neelie: This debate is missing the fact that people should be allowed to use the Internet. We’ve focused on piracy. Education is important. But we also have to offer alternatives, for most people are not interested in illegal actions. I completely agree with the White House that much can be done voluntarily.

Victoria: We are keenly aware that enforcement of IP on the Net can have an impact on free speech, fair use, due process, and these are extremely important to our administration. They have to be respected and protected and made a priority.

Q: [bad translator] I run a small govt called Naive. Liability, responsibility, voluntary agreements, fear … these words keep coming up and are important. Internet operators have a cultural responsibility. I propose universal cultural contribution. Internet operators could pay a few pennies for the use of eac work. Track each usage.

A: [tax person from E&Y] Taxation has a major influence on how a cultural industry is run. Studies show taxes are a major lever used by countries. [String of translator gibber] Managing digital rights is a very complex system.

A: Neelie: I was intrigued by the interview with Frederic Mitterand in Le Monde. I agree with his proposals. But we should be strict; member states should be make their own reservation. It’s not just telecom providers. [This must be insider EC baseball.]

Q: [spotify] We need time. Music has small margins and we need huge volumes for things to work properly. We need time to get things up and running.

Q: I’m a publisher. Fedele talked about the economics side. We’ve talked about fear. We have 1500 authors, of which 50 have a significant level of remuneration. The rest are frightened about losing the little they have. We need a rebalancing of the economic conditions, or else fear will take over. I have an author who wants to publish but not in one particular country for political reason. Do we think of the author’s rights or the consumers’ rights?

Q: [from Viviendi] Condorcet was not against intellectual property. “Any privilege is awkward in the face of liberty…It is harmful to the rights of others …” [didn’t get it]. Condorcet has people do not create books for money, but if he doesn’t get money, he has to find another way of making a living.

James: We’re forgetting that Internet has been wonderful for authors. More people are authors on the Net than ever before. Question: Would some of the proposals not make the Internet more like Minitel than the Internet. Minitel: Totally controlled. No creativity.

Q: [robert levine] I am the author of the book Free Ride. It’s avalable on a pirate site in Brazil that also sells farm equipment. David, Google has matching algorithms, but did you only offer it to media companies that were willing to do a media partnership. If the solution is tech, why can’t sites like this and ThePiratesBay be taken out of search results for Google.

A: [david] Links to pages with infringing content are taken down.

Q: I’m from the Italian copyright authority. We are going to try to adopt a law to fight piracy. I’ve been disappointed today. The question is, as we see it, is: We don’t have the time to get involved with philosophical debate. The telecom operators are avoiding their responsibility. The EC isn’t saying anything.

Victoria: As an American, we love the Internet. When I started this job, I spent a lot of time outside of DC talking to companies that had a range of views on these issues. I was struck by the level of fear, anger, distrust. They were very emotional. That’s true on both sides of the debate. That’s an extremely unhelpful dynamic. We’d like to see better cooperation come out of these voluntary agreements. At the end of the discussion if there’s true participation, the level of trust and fear go down. We can’t let fear freeze us. We need to tackle the issues.

Fedele: We’re not afraid either. If you’re an entrepreneur you see everything as an opportunity. We were pirates. One starts up as an arsonist and ends up as a fireman.

Q: The pirates make sure that my films don’t get pirated for two weeks. That’s the type of loyalty. Google tells me how to find the pirated films. The telcos charge for the download. Lots of money is being made, but the artist isn’t making money.

Francis: The end of the day, the point of the tech is to enable us to communicate. The artist is king.

Q: [me…except I didn’t get called on: Author’s rights, sure. But what are you doing to institute and expand Fair Use to protect the rights of readers/re-users?]i


November 18, 2011

[avignon] afternoon session

Notes on the first afternoon session. I was in the first half of this, which I am not blogging. It was ably moderated by Eric Scherer of France TV. (He looks ahead for them.)

NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. You are warned, people.

Eric asks Cynthia Fleury (philosopher): What would the Net be like without curating? We would never find out. There is no walk in the woods without a path. The idea is that this puts innovation on the periphery. But it should be in the center. 45% of Net users speak English. The typical user is male, under 35, a graduate. The network architecture revolves around the US. Only 2% [of what] is accounted for by African countries. Cultural diversity is limited, affecting curation. There are positives: A more open public space. We are all our own media, as Castells has said. Chomsky’s logic is still there, however. Friedman’s statement that the world is flat is wrong; the Internet creates more concentration and relief through curation because these aren’t open systems. FB brings you into contact with people you already knew. At the same time there is no culture without cultural co-creation. There is a utilitarian approach here; people go through three pages of Google and stop. Also you’re under pressure of breaking news, rumors, low-quality voice. So curation is important. So use different search engines, go beyond the 50th page of results. But, as PAscal says, the ground has to be prepared — you have to be open and ready to discovery. I am interested in our ability to destructure mediation — go straight to a source, bypassing the authorities. Demediation. Then you remediate: you check what you have against what the mainstream media say about it.

The former head of Google France gets asked if someday we’ll know more about the Google ranking algorithms? He says the algorithm will enter the public domain in 2014. They’ll try to keep it secret as long as possible. There’s so much at stake that it is a strategic choice by Google to say as little as possible.

Can there be neutral listing? Cynthia: No. Maybe there are good reasons to become transparent.

Gilles Babinet (Pres. opf French National Council of Digital and Eyeka). Google is a Western thing. But emerging cultures have lots and lots of mobiles. Also: I find fascinating the polarization of Net and the art. When you create a new web site, you are close to artistic creation. You have to avoid this idea that art and the Net are partitioned. It’s like the Salon that didn’t want the Impressionists; that what we have to avoid.

Gilles: I don’t know if any other country has as rich a cultural heritage as France. The French National Council ought to be making the most of it. As Pres. Sarkozy said, trying to control things is reactive and will cost more energy than it’s worth.

Cynthia: What’s most interesting about Internet: The balance between expertise and transmission. If you have successful curating, it means money to some, and learning and power to others. That’s the history of transmission. We need to have a certain amount of lack of understanding because that’s what keeps us interested and pulls us forward. The Internet is calling expertise, intellectualism, and commitment into question.

Gilles: The Americans tells us they need to find a way to protect cultural goods just as they protect technical goods.

Cynthia: Obviously I agree with that. Indigenous knowledge must enjoy IP protection. It’s crucial to know who the author of a work of art is. And it has to be passed over into the public domain.

1 Comment »

[avignon] President Sarkozy

They move us into the grand hall — vaulted ceilings — for a talk by Pres. Nikolas Sarkozy. Sarkozy has not exactly been a friend of the Internet. The last time I heard him talk was at LeWeb when he was a candidate. Among the three candidates who spoke there, Sarkozy’s talk was clearly the most hostile to the Internet, viewing it primarily as a site of gossip and slander.

NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing A SIMULTANEOUS TRANSLATION badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. You are warned, people.

President Sarkozy: I was going to give a prepared speech but instead will speak off the cuff. Never before have cultural protagonists — politicians, heads of gov’t — had to make so many efforts to come up with imaginative, new responses to the challenges that humans have never had to face before. I know my presence here surprised some observers. Why talk about culture in such a crisis? Because culture is the bedrock, and the bedrock of our response. The French response to the crisis is to invest massively in culture and anything having to do with culture. That is the French way of doing things. France believes that cultural goods are essential goods. That is the basis of the choices we have made. To live, man needs to feed himself, be healthy, and needs culture. France is the only developed country that has not cut into its cultural budgets — and around in Europe cultural budgets are being cut 20, 30, 50% — but we have increased those budgets.

I’m an optimist. The world has never needed cultural protagonists the way we do now. You give life sense, you build links, you create collective sense. The offshoot of globalization is that citizens need a sense of belonging to their country. What better way than through the adhesion to one’s culture.

Why have we had to show such boldness? Because all cultural protagonists are facing a crisis of distribution. This is a matter of extreme seriousness, if we consider — as I consider — it is no service to culture to say that it is free for all. The disappearance of traditional distribution methods threatens traditional culture itself. You used to go to a record store or a DVD store. That is shattered. So, we have to reengineer a viable economic model from A to Z. This is not simply a matter of imaging. You have to be courageous. I will be blunt. I have always believed that there would be no form of creation if there were no longer to be respect for upholding and respect for copyright and author’s rights. This is of the essence and shapes all the rest.

Bon Marche invented the very concept of author’s rights. A musician has ownership over the music he writes. An author has ownership over the book he publishes. To deny the ownership of artists on their work amounts to negating all forms of creation. What was the status of creators before they had ownership? They were simply court jesters. Those were the lucky ones. Your predecessors long ago might find a benefactor who fell in love with a particular musician’s works and would protect him. What enabled artists to break out of that yoke? What give musicians and writers independence and freedom? What enabled them to recovery their ownership. Copyright. The idea that you could live on the benefits of what you created. There is no independence when you rely exclusively on the genersoity of benefactors.

I am determined not to accept that a tech revolution, even as positive as the Net in other respects, should call into question the ownership rights of a creator over his or her works. To challenge that is to acknowledge anuy economy of culture.

Why is it so complex? I remember the 2005-6 debate where people on my side said you shouldn’t defend these ideas even if they’re right because youth will rise up against you. But one should not renounce one’s beliefs simply because you have to explain things to people before you persuade them. I even had people say I would lose this election if I did not understand this extraordinary revolution that has turned all on its head. We imposed, against much resistance, legislation (HADOPI) against piracy and to protect author’s rights.

I don’t want there to be any ambiguity, so I want to respond to those who ultimately believed what I believe, but decided not to defend a just idea for political reasons.

First, I was indeed elected as president. One can uphold copyright without alienating the majority of people. People are down to earth and can understand if you explain it.

Second, I was told I lost that war. Piracy is part of people’s lives, I was told. When I saw certain sites where daily newspapers were offering their articles free and people weren’t buying the paper any more. How little respect you have for what you do! And how stupid to think that people would pay for what they would get for free. Within a few months of HADOPI, there was a 35% drop in privacy, so the battle wasn’t lost. The internet society has to be guided by rules, just as real society is. The great USA went about it our way. NZ, S Korea likewise. The battle is not lost.

Now we have to tackle the streaming web sites and there is no reason not to do so. What was ambiguous was that p2p pirating was based on an ideology that was based on an initially positive ideology: sharing. The approach wasn’t in and of itself negative. On streaming sites the ideology of sharing has gone out the window; they’re about making money.

They claimed I’m a fanatic. But HADOPI is just a means to an end. Tech is evolving, so the law must too. All we want to do is protect author’s rights. Once the principle of protecting author’s rights is enshrined, why not?

And at the Digital E8, I said lets invite the Net giants to talk with us. I was told that they’d think we’re trying to gag them. When you invite people to talk, you’re not gagging them. So, we sat down and talked, and there was no tension. The idea is not to protect our backyard but to pull these worlds together. The Net revolution is a phenomenally positive development, but we need to talk. And to utter the forbidden word: Taxation. [Google pays no taxes in France.] I cannot accept that these companies pay no taxes in France. You can’t have all your clients in one customer and your team in another customer, and pay taxes ina third country where the taxes are the lowest.

We can support this Net revolution while still talking with Google, Zuckerberg, Microsoft, and talk about author’s rights, taxations, the fact that the latest Marakesh bombing was done by someone who discovered how to make a home-made bomb on the Internet.

In our mind, there isn’t an opposition between the Net world and cultural world. There is a need to get together, speak the same language, lay the foundations for an economy that is viable for Net giants and creators and that doesn’t ruin what the creators create. Culture is an investment that will get us out of this crisis, not a mere expenditure that one can cut back on. Culture is not a luxury. So, I felt it my duty to be here you in this beautiful city, even though there are heavier burdens to shoulder.

Q: I’m a Bollywood actress and writer. I am French. I am also Indian. Completely both. For me culture means the ability to choose among our own passions, and not the ideas that are fashionable. For this we need cultural diversity. So: What is culture?
A: For me, culture is meaning. “Culture is the response one gets when one wonders what one is doing on Earth?” [He’s quoting someone I couldn’t get.] What gives our life meaning. There is a spiritual and cultural answer to this. Culture is the only area in which there is no notion of progress because culture is the only way man has found to better his condition. When you go to L’escaux Caves you realize it’s the Sistine Chapel of the time — the same sense of transcendence, getting man out of the Kantian chains that bind us. If I take off my head of state cap, I would simply say that culture is an investment. France welcomes 20M tourists a year. What would France be without its culture? If I look at it as a politician, culture is what binds a society. It is the lifeblood. It is why men and women do not know one another share common emotions. Without culture there is no sense of nationhood. If I were to speak as a reader or listener, culture is emotion. A special sort of emotion experience by the composer or writer, but that has universal value. The more personal the feelings expressed, the more unique, the more universal. And, to come around full circle, how can you define culture as what it is not. It is not that extra bit of soul — I hate that expression — for the well-fed society that can afford it. It is not part of the whole. It is the whole. From culture you achieve cohesiveness. You don’t have life and then the spangle of culture. Culture is our identity. Finally, what is culture not? It is the very opposite of sectarianism, of the accepted dogma, of conservativism, of the sheep mentality, of the Pavlovian reflex, of the automatic geographical alignment, of the concern for image at whatever cost.

Q: I am an American anthropologist from India. It is music to my ears to hear that music is a necessity. If there were no investment in culture, my discipline would disappear, which would not be a sorry for the world, but would be for us anthropologists. When you make it clear that culture is a non-negotiable priority even or especially in this time of fiscal crisis, how can make this argument in other countries? Can you draw on your experience with other locations?

A: Need only look at what has happened throughout the world. When the Spanish steel industry was swept around, the city of Bilbao was ruined because its economy rested on it. They made a tremendous wager, betting on architectural quality (Frank Gehry) and culture (Guggenheim Museum). Bilbao generates 220 million euros because of this. Bilbao was saved by cultural investment. When Germany reunited, they decided that the capital would be in Berlin, and built an exceptional capital. Culture is what Berlin has to offer. They’ve had a time attracting companies to Berlin, so real estate prices have stayed low, attracting artists. But 13% of the jobs in Berlin are in the arts and culture. Liverpool’s response in the crisis was to invest massively in cultural terms, and it worked. The cities of the Ruhr are another example. I have had to make painful decisions in Moselle [?] and Metz [spelling!] where 30% of jobs were military. We had to redeploy bases and barracks once my predecessor, Chirac, abolished compulsory military service. So, we abolished military jobs. The implications were colossal. So, we decided to build the Bourbon [?] Center in Metz. It received more than one million visitors. We’re going to dig our heels on this. We’re going to build a Louvre in Lens [?], which has suffered two brutal revolutions: the collapse of the mining industry and the textile crisis. That will project will be a success. We’ll have the museum of the Mediterranean in Marseilles. The Impressionists housed in the ___ museum, the dream I have is of a magnificent museum in Normandy. When the crisis befell us, we came up with a plan to relaunch the economy which included 400B euros worth of additional money for culture. I think there were 83 cathedrals needed to be restored, of hwihc 50 have been restored. And the living arts! Art is always living art — people go on stage and perform. We have not touched one penny of that money. It is our certainty that the best way to respond to the crisis is to invest in culture, just as in aerospace. And if you look at the history of art, creation has never been better than in countries that feel good about themselves. The two phenomena are intimately interconnected. When I look at French cinema, I think Thank heavens our predecessors set up systems that I have done everything to protect. That’s why the French film industry is not in the situation of some of our neighbors that have seen their film industries go down the drain. I may be bold but I have a sense of risk.

Q: [A film maker – Vanya [?]] Barbara Hendricks this morning said that art is as important as air and water, and you said the same. I am a member of Culture and Diversity. Our goal is create cultural opportunities for poor kids. We want to bring them toward art and art schools, but often the importance of art is often quite removed from their lives. They receive art passively through tv, internet and films. But they have little opportunity to be active. What can we do?

A: Look at the extraordinary way the US puts films, music, etc., at service of their economic interests. The brands take root. I’m not saying it’s deliberate, but it works. There’s a steamrolling effect. The generosity of French artists and film directors is equaled elsewhere. We are very happy to screen American films and show American artworks. We do want our American friends to remember that there are other countries. That’s another debate. Reciprocity has to exist in the cultural industry. Beyond exchange. We have to be able to defend this principle. It’s not just the under-privileged. The privileged don’t always appreciate culture. We want to use this extraordinary instrument — the 5,000 colleges in France — to create the new audiences for opera, theater, film, etc. We have started a program where we by the rights to 200 films and make them available to all these colleges. This was not a way of competing with the film industry, but the idea was that if you start watching films in college, you will continue as an adult. We have 264 national theaters, 600 theater troupes, a huge reservoir of plays. But where are the audiences? I’d like to see these plays, once they have toured, to go to the colleges and schools, to shape and form the audiences of tomorrow. Take opera. The cost of a seat is pretty prohibitive, yet the operas are full. I’d like to buy up the rights to these operas and enable these shows to play in schools and colleges. Then there are underprivileged. We’re taking an initiative bringing exhibitions…going out to meet the people. In one case only 19% had ever been in a museum. We’re trying to decentralize, e.g., the Mobile Pompidou exhibition. It’s a simple stage under a tent so people aren’t intimidated. Suddenly they lay their eyes on a Picasso. Can you imagine the effect? That work of art now is not foreign. It’s part of one’s village. Culture is too often sensed as foreign. Whatever you background, when you set your eyes on a work of art, you appreciate it. There is no pre-determinism. Art’s value should be self-evident. You walk down the street and see something beautiful. You don’t need to be told or have it explained. The more you know the more you need to be told. When it’s simply about emotion, nothing needs to be explained to you. [Wow is that false. And it’s inconsistent with his Net views. If we respond to art without training, then why hasn’t the Net clustered around works of art?]

Q: How about free access to museums?

A: I don’t think that’s the ultimate response because you don’t respect what is free. Everything has a price. Everything has a value. There has to be a bit of an effort for there to be pleasure. But we have for 18-25 and teachers access to museums should be free. The number of visits as a result of this decision: 2.7M youths have gone in. Teachers: 500K. Culture is an amazing, fantastic domain that holds true. You have to be pragmatic, generous, open-minded. I am against access to museums being free because they need to sustain themselves. But for young people and teachers this was a good move. If teachers don’t get into the habit of going to museums, how can their pupils learn.

Q: [a Swedish student] Ever since I was a child, I wanted to make a difference. First as a poet. Then wanting to become the Sect’y General of the UN. My generation was born into the Internet. We invented Facebook, Skype, and Spotify. This has changed how we communicate and interact, across borders. From my point of view, these are great developments. Culture is beautiful and is in all that we do and are. Everything that isn’t developing is degenerating. Values are changing. Why is the defense of IP fundamental in your policy? Isn’t it in opposition to access to culture you’ve stood up for? Isn’t the fight against piracy a hopeless case.

A: I see haven’t persuaded all of you. An artist who wants music to be disseminated free of charge always has that option. I am challenging the pirating of works who do not want that. Who would buy the film or music if you can access it free of charge. There is now a quite cheap offering on the market. It’s right that you should pay less for a record or CD you buy on the Internet. For music we’re going to set up a system comparable to the CNC system we set up for film. I want providers to contribute musical creation just as a certain number of actors contribute to creation in the film industry. Just as there’s a national film center (CNC) there should be a national music one, which should be partially funded by the providers. When there are no writers or music, what is your generation going to get? For music there has to be composers, for films etc. If they don’t have ownership, what will they become of them? The famous will remain in the catalog until their rights fall into the public domain. If your first film or record is not enough to live on, how will you do the second? I asked Zuckerberg — who is remarkable and I admire — if he’d like his work pinched, and he said “Of course not.” Explain to me why a famous author or film maker should have fewer rights than those who are not famous. Go ask Google or Microsoft. Don’t tell me I’m not in favor of the free market! We should fight harder for author’s rights! I think it’s beginning to sink in. I know in Sweden, regulation is a dirty word. We defend our rights, but we’re not refusing the Internet. France is where the Net has developed the fastest and the most. Let us not ask the wrong questions. Illegal streaming sites are doing untold damage and I fully intend to fight them. I do not want to see profit made from the simple theft of other people’s work, just as in the national bond issue, I have earmarked a lot of money so Frederic Mitterand can digitize what are in the French national libraries. Big companies wanted to do it, but we said no. Freedom needs laws. Not too many regulations, but when there is no regulation, it is those who have the most clout and fewest scruples win.

Q: When we try to understand the current revolution, we should look back to the Printing Revolution. Technological rev is not only a change in tools, but influences all levels of culture.: distribution, production, communication, and sharing of culture. We have to rethink all aspects concurrently. We need mediation and explanation. With my students we explore other economic models, or a global license. Shouldn’t we try to reconcile technology and our culture in a period of massive piracy?

A: Yes, it’s a massive revolution, but that shouldn’t lead us to turn our backs on our democratic traditions. We have to find the right balance. On a global license: I am completely against this completely crazy idea. I believe that the identification between the author and his work is of the essence. If we all into some kind of melting pot, we are denying everything that is individual and specific. No one is defending this crazy idea. We are indeed facing challenges. E.g., digital TV that puts on the same screen the traditional, regulated services and the Internet world, which is not regulated and that does not contribute to the film industry the way the traditional services do. The latter will be stealing audience share. So we are going to have to work on how to regulate digital, connected TV era. Or, cloud computing: There again, what happens to your private copy that no longer needs to be uploaded? The battle against illegal downloading will become a matter of the past because in cloud computing there won’t be any need to download anything. But as I said initially, we’re ready to have a third or fourth version of our anti-piracy laws. We believe in protecting author’s rights and them getting individual remuneration for their work. The ways and means of doing this will change, and no one could not say that the Net is not a major step in social connection. But we don’t want our democratic principles thrown out the window. Of course we have to regulate and do it within a framework. It takes 3 mins to download a film. We want to be flexible but stick to our fundamental principles.

Q: [economist] I work on the economics of art and culture. You’ve today demonstrated how clearly you understand the connection. You’ve made the tax system a priority in your own cultural policy. The VAT on some cultural goods has risen in France. Is this consistent with your support of culture.

A: For France, the VAT on the same goods should be the same, whether hardcopy of digital versions. I understand the problems that may arise out of this for the European Commission. But as of Jan 1 2012 we’ll apply reduced VAT for hardcopy goods. Why should it be 7% on the Net and 19.6% for hardcopy. The globalization caused by the Net leads to major distortions in competition, which we cannot accept. So, I’m requesting that VAT on digital and ebooks be the same, at a reduced rate. It will be implement on Jan 1., and I hope that the European Commissioner will not come down to us too hard. This is a personal message to her. I do not understand that there should be a VAT differential to books, films, records, music, because in my mind cultural goods are the same and should have equal standing. In France cultural goods are considered to be essential goods, like food. Now, why we have increased VAT from 5.7 to 7% on cultural goods, is a way of protecting that sector; VAT in France is 19%. I cannot ask the French to tighten their belts and hear one sector complain about a rise from 5.7 to 7%. We have maintained VAT at 2.2% for living arts and press. So let no one say we’re being unfair to culture. We have protected the cultural area ferociously. We have smoothed the burden across the board. I hope the EC lets me work calmly on the record industry. I take this very seriously. Your memories are of smell and music. The systematic destruction of the music industry I cannot simply shrug off. That’s why I’m thinking about reduced VAT for music, as I’ve done for films.


[avignon] Forum d’Avignon intro, and second session

The Forum d’Avignon is an annual meeting of invited guests, heavily from the French culture industries, with a handful of Internet people sprinkled in, and interesting international representation. It is a high end conference for sure: beautiful hotels in beautiful Avignon, a welcome reception in the historic and ornate Town Hall, dinner in the Palais de Papes — the Palace of Popes, a visit from Pres. Sarkozy in a couple of hours. The sessions themselves are held in a long hall lined with seats facing one another. The overall topic this year — the 4th annual Forum — is “investing in culture.” The sessions consist of group interviews in the middle.

James “Jamie” Boyle is here, I’m very happy to say. He speaks tomorrow. They sat me next to him at dinner last night (yay!) and among other wise things, said that conferences always have narratives. It’s not yet clear to me what the narrative for this Forum is, although I have apparently been asked to play the role this afternoon of The Bringer of Discomfort, or possibly, He Who Should Be Heard Once and then Ignored.

I am very appreciative to have been brought here (expenses paid). And I am double appreciative to be one of the relative few people who are given a chance to speak. But I have to say that this conference cries out to be an unconference.


Antoine Gosset Grainville makes a case for investing in culture.

Urbanist Charles Landry says that culture needs to move into the center again because of the rapid pace of development and globalization. The right question is: What is the cost of not thinking about culture, art, design, green, etc.? So, of course we want a lot of artists. But we also want interesting and provocative art.

Vincent Frosty (investor) has looked at who is investable and at 50 cultural projects. They’ve found that cultural and non-cultural investments are treated roughly the same.

Charles: Urban engineers think of city-making in terms of creating infrastructure, vs. the sensory experience of cities. Hardware is not the totality of life. The engineering approach can sometimes be insensitive, although engineering is a wonderful discipline. E.g., Chicago Millennial Park that transformed a parking lot. A city is a place of meeting, transacting, exchange, etc. Cities are aiming at reinventing the art of conviviality. That’s how culture is reinvigorated. This is intangible, confounding accountants. Creative city-making is a paradigm shift. The best cultural policy: 1. Link us to enlightenment. 2. Life our spirits; empowers us. 3. Entertains us. 4. Employability. 5. Economic impact.

[Why is it not clear here that when it comes to culture, the Internet is the new city? It is where culture is happening and accelerating, even though from the outside it looks like a warren of pickpockets, drunks, and prostitutes.]

Vincent: My policy guidelines: Open to partnerships. Sustainable beyond the creators.

Charles: I looked at 6 European cities. All have used culture in one way or another. Often they use old buildings. Culture is increasingly embedded into the economy in subtle ways, and new forms of working that are less hierarchical.

Vincent: Demand is strong for culture. But culture alone is not going to get us out of the economic crisis.

Charles: We want to create conditions in which ordinary people make the extraordinary happen.

Vincent: Viviendi has made cultural enrichment a target by which executives are measured.

Now new people come to the panel. David Throsby is an Australian economist. Jochen Gerze is an artist. Syhem Belkhodja is a Tunisian choreographer.

David: How do economists regard culture? “Cultural capital” has economic and cultural value. Expenditure on culture is an investment in culture. Now we can use the methods of economic analysis. Five examples: 1. Bengarra Dance Company in Australia turns aboriginal people’s stories into contemporary dance. It’s a risky investment, but the payoff is that it contributes to the viability of the dance company, plus the obvious cultural payoff. 2. A new museum (“M9”) in the city of Maestra next to Venice, with cultural benefit plus economic payoff in increased tourism, etc. 3. Skopje in Macaedonia is investing in the old bazaar in its historic center. Local businesses benefit, with an important social payoff because before the investment there was a lot of inter-ethnic conflict there. Now it’s a social space. 4. In Papua New Guinea, basket weavers using traditional methods are making products sellable on the international market, especially empowering women. 5. The National Theatre Live project in the UK transmits live performances to cinemas all over Europe. Finally, we need a model of the cultural economy that puts the core creative artists at the center. [Liked this until that last point. I would have preferred a networked model, rather than the concentric circles David displayed.]

Jochen: Much of what we’ve heard this morning is true and useful. But we’re making a mistake by basing ourselves on the Renaissance view of art in which you bid people to stand in admiration of a work and keep their mouths shut. Democracy informs our cultural practices. E.g., I did a year-long project called “Two Three Streets,” an artistic project in the public space. Today’s art always raises the question of whether it is art. So, we invited people to spend a year rent-free in exchange for contributing to a common text to be written, and to change a street in three cities in the Ruhr area [?]. 1,500 people applied from all over the world. 78 [?] participants were accepted, between ages 17 and 90. Changing a street in a disadvantaged part of town…that is not an art project. For a year, 800 people participated in writing a shared text. The Net brought them together, 16 languages, 3,000 pages. It sold out. An ebook is being prepared, and instead of being sold for 80 euros it will cost around 8 euros. In 1837 Novalis said: “Perhaps one day we shall write, think and act in common. Someday perhaps an entire nation will create a work of art.” Some have stayed on to continue the community work of this project, not as art but as an economic, social, and cultural project. Art can affect an entire culture, but not necessarily by artists. It is like aspirin that dissolves into the entire system.

Syhem: The elections in Tunisia have made it harder than ever to talk about culture. Women had some freedom under the old dictator. 28 yrs ago when I started dancing, women could not participate in politics, but we could have our own cultural spaces. It was hard because it is an Islamic culture, but you just had to cheat a little, and talk about entertainment or majorettes rather than dance. To my dismay, after the revolution I realized that perhaps we’d been naive and they’d exploited us. In 2002 I organized a contemporary dance festival, working with Martha Graham and others, and I called the whole dancing clan and …[translator fails]. I’m a moderate, modern Muslim and think that women are free. [Sorry, but the translator is incomprehensible.] In 2006, I said we have to make it free of charge. 24 Koranic channels today. I respect the decision of the voters, but out of 4M voting, only 1.6% voted for the Islamicists. It’s not a lost cause. [The French speaking audience applauds. But the translator pretty much gave up. [Afterwards my friend and moderator Eric Scherer vouched that she was fantastic. I wish I could have understood it.]]

Moderator: Jochen, what do you think the potential role of art is in learning democracy?

Jochen: Whatever happens has an impact on art. Art cannot survive unchanged in a changing world. Art is not there to accompany life. It has to be part of an honest dialogue; we have to get away from the tiresome culture of privilege.

Syhem: New tech is great, but what about the ethics for someone who speaks out? Thanks to the new tech, the Tunisians are holding their heads high. We were pioneers without any foreign help. It’s important that we not break the link [not clear to me which link]. You have to understand influence. If there’s a move away from your values in Egypt, or Libya, but you have to remember there are values out there. It’s not through oil and petrodollars that you can convince people of your values.

Moderator: Today we have the Greater Paris plan. [He introduces someone without naming him, and he’s not listed in the program.]

Person: Greater Paris is a paradigm shift. It is a fruitful encounter bringing together an economic side — clusters of businesses and universities — and then the transport cluster. We have links between suburbs and habitat. Housing has to be intelligent. Culture is going to be like the blood feeding the different organs.