LeWeb London: John Perry Barlow

John Perry Barlow, Co-Founder, Electronic Frontier Foundation

Leweb London 2013 - Day2
Photo by:Luca Sartoni – http://www.heisenbergmedia.com/

I’ve been a hippie since sometime in 1965,when I quit being a beatnik. I’m fine with it, as part of what it’s meant, is that I know which side I am on in the struggle between certical and horizontal, religion and net and authority from consensus. I started writing songs for a band called the Grateful Dead, and there was also something that we did that was practical. By it’s nature, hippie is often someone who has done a bad job, but for us, it was practical. We started out early letting people sharing the concert. They could not take, as we’d played it already. They started, and there was resistance but we said what the hell, reproduce the tapes. And that was the viral marketing. By the time we quit in 1995, we could fill any stadium in the US. because we had shared our music.

THis led me to understand the economy of the virtual world in a way that few can do today. There is a difference between atoms and bits. Atoms have a value, a relationship with space-time scarcity. To make things valuable, then make it scares, as De Beers does with diamonds (which aren’t really rare). But when you talk about ideas etc, familiarity is much more important than scarcity. If I had the largest diamond in my pocket, it is valuable because it is scarce. If I had a song in my head, it is valueless until it is shared. It is in my best advantage to share. I have been trying to get a whole load of folks/institutions t understand this for the last 25 years.

I wrote in 1985 that it was extremely difficult to get people NOT to share anything that they found valuable and interesting if it could be reproduced and distributed at zero cost. The desire to share information that is interesting is fundamental

We are at the interesting point where the forces of the past, about controlling information, are vigorously trying to claim what can be known, keep as theres and make it harder for us to claim the possibilities that are here. That anyone on this planet will have the means to know anything about anything that interests them. The access will be there. We are coming into the ability to convey a right that no-one has thought before, the right to know. If there is a right to know, the human race will advance more, as we will seek the truth.

I was talking to Jimmy Wales…about wikipedia. Talking about what he was going to do…warned that he would still have this pile of disinformation and slander etc. Wales thought he was right but it was worth a try. Now he goes to Wikipedia to look at something he knows something about and finds, to his satisfaction, that there is good stuff on there and it grows. We care so much about knowledge and the truth and that we are doing this

We are willing to go to a lot of unpaid trouble to make it available to anyone about what is the truth about stuff, eg molecular biology. A few years ago I went and got a British Library card. I wanted to write the dot communist manifesto, even though I’m a rightwing republican. If you look at the Communist Manifesto know, it is more true and germane than it ever was. It is easier to share songs than cars. Marx thought there would be a revolution and all that was solid would melt into air and that is what is happening and stuff is not properly subject to property and sharing is easy. We now need to kill a few things, institutions and that is good.

As a musician I find it ironic that a record label talks about piracy when that is what they have done to us. But thinks about thing.s If you use content, ask if there is a container. Now we are taking something and turning it into a noun that can be owned. The word consumer, what is the word. When reading or listening, I’m not consuming. It is when eating, but not an idea. A consumer is about placing us into a subservient position which is where the institutions want us to be.

Asked what law he would change? He would abolish the idea of intellectual property, a very recent idea. It used to be a licence, a limited term to exploit the idea. It is impractical to own this stuff. There are other relationships to this stuff that we can have. But we will have to wait for things to get really bad before that happens

How will you make a living? He gets asked this question all the time. He gave away their songs all the time, and still made a decent living. The Dead Heads had access to all their music, but all of their studio records went platinum. I’m talking about musicians getting paid. If you have a model to strip them of their work and for something else to own the songs, then they don’t get paid!

People fail to recognise what sharing goes on all the time. Ask people if they would give up their assets or their relationships, then assets will go. Relationships are squishy…they are all about sharing.

We are still in the middle of a bloodbath around this and it will get worse before it gets better. The online dimension is extremely powerful and can express itself, (even if sometimes horrible) but it has meaning. We will still see horrible stuff, horrible crimes, but liberty resides in the rights of the person you find most odious and you have to defend that. But on other hand, you have wikpedia, you get works being put out there, not locked behind ownership.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Comments are closed.