Why we need equity-based open licenses

Open licenses leave something important out, nl. equity in the economic process, argues Patrick Godeau.

The excerpt is part of an ongoing discussion which you find here, and Patrick’s own proposal is called the IANG License.

Excerpt:

“The IANG approach is somehow to apply the copyleft principle to economy. That is to say, economic contributions can be given, but not taken away. To guarantee this, all economic contributors should not only have access to accounting, but also have control of it, just like free software contributors can not only access the source code, but also change it. So if a capitalist
company wants to sell ecopyleft works, it must let its customers control its capital.

I think that a big problem with the economy in general is that consumers have no control on it. Multinational companies rule the roost and reign over customers. For example, Stallman was motivated to create the GNU project because a printer manufacturer refused to give the source code of a driver. 25 years later, free drivers may exist for some printers, but the situation has not really improved, free software developers are often obliged to reverse-engineer printer protocols, and customers are forced to buy printers that break down just after the guarantee and can’t be repaired, ink cartridges more expensive than the printer, etc.

Even if the knowledge is copylefted, it is of no help for users as long as means of production are controlled by producers seeking profit. Suppose for example that the patent system is abolished and all pharmaceutical companies are under workers’ control. What would happen? Since we’re in a market economy, these compagnies will probably continue to invest in the most profitable medicine at the expense of billions of people having unprofitable diseases, will continue to spend twice more on advertising than on research, etc.

When working on a license, I think we should always keep in mind the copyleft values of freedom and solidarity. If an economic project is ruled by producers, there won’t be freedom for users to determine its orientation, their only option being to choose a competitor project on the market. The solidarity between producers and consumers is a central value of copyleft, and a raison d’être of IANG is to defend this solidarity also on the economic level. This kind of partnership between consumers and producers is also emerging nowadays for example through fair trade, the Seikatsu cooperatives, etc. But I think that creative works are special because the public is more inclined to donate to artists. Involvement of the public even starts to happen in movie production, as for example with korean netizen funds or Blender open movies. If a 100% open economy will be harder to reach than 100% open
source (even open source software sometimes uses closed source drivers) and some intermediaries may be necessary, I think it’s important that users have a control, in conjunction with producers, so that they can counteract these intermediaries, and make progress towards a more free society.

1 Comment Why we need equity-based open licenses

  1. harsha

    Open licenses leave something important out, nl. equity in the economic process, argues Patrick Godeau.

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