Hello Aymeric, Armin, Jon,

Some brief comments to the discussion, I will try to
(at least partly) answer Aymeric's question as well -

> Yet in your original post, you are "zooming" into a precise moment in
> time:
>> By the turn of the millennium there was a lot of excitement about the
>> possibilities of media art and free software and open content. The  
>> tone
>> had been set by the Wizards of OS conference in Berlin 1999, to my
>> knowledge the first event to ask "how can methodologies from free and
>> open source software development be applied to other domains, such as
>> content production and media art."
> This is precisely within this particular time range that my question  
> was
> framed. In your opinion, what is it concretely that artists and
> intellectuals found attractive in free software and open content?
> Despite all the proto-copyleft practices they might have been been
> experiencing with, what is it in the free software copyleft that
> suddenly seems to be so exciting and novel from an artistic  
> perspective?

Firstly, about the specific time period of late 90s / early 2000s -

I thought that this was a very interesting time period, in the sense  
the potential of social / networked media had not really been discovered
by mainstream media and big corporations but there was a lot of
grassroot activism and technology development going on in that domain.

Some years ago I started to work on a piece of text that would describe
some of the key characteristics of this era and through many twists and
turns in my research process I ended up reading a lot of texts from
the 1920s and 30s. I've mostly studied a Finnish author Olavi  
( and the group around
him called Tulenkantajat ('The Flame Bearers'). In short - Olavi & co
were curious about the difference between the reality presented in
the official media (books + newspapers) and the reality in flyers that
were posted around the cities and given from hand to hand. They
were also inspired by the writings of D.H. Lawrence and the fact that
since his 'explicit' texts were not published by companies, he was
just publishing and disseminating the books himself and there were
pirated copies of his books sold in many stores. They were also
inspired by Georges Duhamel, who in his book Défense des Lettres was
concerned about the fact that various image and sound based medias
and 'machines' would take the place of books in the society.

I won't dive deeper into this direction but the basic point I wanted to
make is that the 'Roaring' 20s might offer an interesting comparison
point to 'Dot Com Boom' 90s, in terms of technological / cultural  
and the political climate. I'm currently reading some of Rodchenko's
own writings, comparing them with contemporary texts about 'hacker  

And to comment more specifically Aymeric's question about why
copyleft license has been popular amongst artists -

For the past 10 years I was involved in organising Pixelache festival
(I've just left that post) and we often had discussions about what are
uniting factors of Pixelache participants.... and in my opinion the best
answer we came up with was that people share a similar 'attitude'
or 'approach' to how (creative) work should be done, and how this
should also affect the logic of our organisations and even our  
Some thoughts related to this came out from Digital Craftsmanship  
we organised in 2009 ( Also the wikipedia
definition of Critical Design ( 
is related to this.

About this attitude - I recently visited mobilityshifts conference in  
( where Florian Cramer gave a presentation (the  
was recorded, the recording are going to be online soon, I hope).  
compared the content and aesthetics of Occupy Wall Street and
Steve Jobs memorials - the messages and aesthetics were strikingly  
The main point of his talk (which dealt with education) in my  
was that the characteristics of 'rebel entrepreneurs' / 'activist  
investors' and
'resilient' / 'struggling' activists are both embracing the idea that  
as individuals
we have to learn to survive in tough conditions, that we have to have  
over the tools we use, that we need open structures that can adapt to  
situations. Florian's presentation was a kind of 'warning' for  
activists - that
we should be more specific about what structures should become more
open and in what way.

So, finally, to get back to Aymerics question... The reason(s) why  
artists want
to use copyleft might be:
1 - Since there has been a great genuine transformation in information
technologies, some artists might find that using copyleft gives some
concrete positive benefits (I think this group is a small minority)
2 - Artists might find copyleft licence to be a way to associate their
work with certain discourses / attitudes / organisations / people,
so instead of a licensing model it's used as a kind of brand
3 - Artists might use copyleft in the hope that it's a better way to
protect their work from commercial exploitation (and most of them have
nothing to loose since they are not generating income via copyrights  

The options (2) and (3) are related to Florian's presentation -
there are currently tons of artists/designers out there who don't have a
way to make their living in the traditional domain of copyrights
and big companies, and therefore they are (more or less desperately)
associating themselves with all kinds of 'open' and 'collaborative'  
tools and platforms.... In some cases this is the best solution, in
some cases people should fight for the steady jobs and structures
that exist and not be willing to work for free and/or in unbearably
flexible conditions.



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