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伊本·莫格勒: 网络共产党宣言

伊本·莫格勒: 网络共产党宣言

艾伦·斯沃茨 aaron swartz 1986-2013

今天88期
有哪一个新数码社会之自由的倡导者不被駡为盗版者、无政府主义者、共产党人呢?难道我们还未发现,许多抛出这些绰号的人只不过是当政的小偷?而他们关於知识产权的言论,只不过是试图在必然的社会变革中保留他们不正当的特权。不过,争取自由的运动本身已经被全球化的一切势力公认为一种力量。
*原文标题 The dotCommunist Manifesto,发表於2003年1月。作者伊本·莫格勒(Eben Moglen)是美国哥伦比亚大学法学院教授。
 
一个幽灵,自由信息的幽灵,在跨国资本主义中间游荡。“全球主义”的一切势力:美国微软公司(Microsoft)和迪斯尼(Disney)、世界贸易组织(WTO)、美国国会(U. S. Congress)和欧盟委员会(European Commission),都为驱除这个幽灵而结成了并非神圣的同盟。有哪一个新数码社会之自由的倡导者不被駡为盗版者、无政府主义者、共产党人呢?难道我们还未发现,许多抛出这些绰号的人只不过是当政的小偷?而他们关於知识产权的言论,只不过是试图在必然的社会变革中保留他们不正当的特权。不过,公认的是,争取自由的运动本身已经被全球化的一切势力公认为一种势力。现在是我们向全世界公开说明自己的观点,并且拿我们自己的宣言来反驳他们关於自由信息幽灵的童话的时候了。
 
一、知识产权的拥有者与知识的创造者
 
遍及全球的自由信息运动宣告了一种新的社会结构的到来,它诞生於资产阶级工业社会转型之中,凭藉的正是该社会自己所创造出的数码技术。至今一切社会的历史都是阶级斗争的历史。自由民和奴隶、贵族和平民、领主和农奴、行会师傅和帮工、资产阶级和无产阶级、帝国主义者和从属国,一句话,压迫者和被压迫者,始终处於相互对立的地位,进行不断的、有时隐蔽有时公开的斗争,而斗争经常性的结局是整个社会受到革命改造或者斗争的各阶级同归於尽。 
 
工业社会产生於欧洲势力的全球性扩张,带来了现代社会,但它并没有消除阶级对立。它只是用新的阶级、新的压迫条件、新的斗争形式代替了旧的形式。但是,资产阶级的新时代却使阶级对立简单化了。整个社会似乎分裂成为两大敌对的阵营,分裂成为两大相互直接对立的阶级:资产阶级和无产阶级。但大致说来,革命并未真正发生。事实证明,所谓的“无产阶级专政”,无论是在其曾经存在过的地方,还是在人们声称会出现的地方,都没有让自由得到真正的实现。相反的是,资本主义倚仗其科技的力量为自己确立了某种程度的共识。发达社会中的劳动者随着工业的进步同步发展,其生存状况并没有随着其所属阶级的境况日益恶化。贫困化的速度赶不上人口增长和财富增长的速度。经由福特主义生产方式实现的理性化的工业生产,不但没有把产业工人推向赤贫的无产阶级状态,反而将他们变成与大批生产相匹配的大众消费者。对无产阶级的教化於是成为资产阶级自保性方案的一部分。由此,普及教育和废除对童工的剥削便不再是无产阶级革命的计划,而演化为资产阶级社会的道德标准。教育的普及使得工人在各种媒体面前成为有文化的人,继而在各种媒体的不断刺激下更多地消费。录音、通话、活动影像、以及广播和电视诸多技术的发展,不仅改变了工人同资产阶级文化的关系,也深刻地改变了这种文化本身。
 
以音乐为例。在过去的人类历史中,音乐是一种极难保存的、非商品化的社会过程。它在特定的时间和特定的地点出现,生产和消费同步进行,其创造者和消费者也难以明确区分。录音技术的发明,使得音乐成为能够保存的商品,可以远距离地传送并与其创造者分离。音乐成为消费的对象,它为新的“知识产权的拥有者”提供机会,追加额外的消费,也创造了大众性消费的欲望,并驱使这种需求能够为知识产权的拥有者带来更大的收益。
 
由移动影像所催生的整个新兴媒体也是同样的道理,短短几十年内,它就对人的认知能力进行了新的引导,它不放过每个工人日常生活的空隙,好向他们灌输如何加强消费的信息。每年都有成千上万的此类广告从每个儿童的眼前经过;虽然童工已经被从操作生产机器的奴役状态中解放出来的,但他们又进入了新的奴役状态,他们被迫去照管那个庞大的消费主义机器。
 
由此,资产阶级社会的空间变得不再那么狭窄,它开始有能力容纳它本身所创造的财富。周期性生产过剩的荒唐瘟疫也得以治愈,再也没有过剩的文化、过度的给养、过量的工业产品和商业活动。然而,资产阶级除非对生产工具,从而对生产关系和总体的社会关系不断地进行革新,否则它就无法生存下去。生产的不断变革,社会关系的不停动荡,永远的不安定和变动,这就是资产阶级时代不同於过去一切时代的地方。一切固定和僵化的关系以及与之相适应的素被尊崇的观念和见解都被扫除,一切新形成的关系还不到固定下来就已变得陈旧。一切坚固的东西变得烟消云散。
 
随着数码技术的应用,大众消费文化支撑下的大众消费性生产带来了新的社会状态,给阶级对立赋予了一种新的结构。资产阶级,由於生产工具的迅速改进,由於通讯交通的日益便利,把一切民族甚至最野蛮的民族都卷到它的文明中来了。商品的低廉价格,是它用来摧毁一切万里长城、征服所有野蛮人中最顽强的仇外心理的重炮。它迫使所有的民族——如果它们不想自取灭亡的话——认可资产阶级文化,认可资产阶级的知识产权。它强制性地向所有的民族推广所谓的资产阶级文明,要求他们都变成资产阶级。一句话,资产阶级要按照自己的面貌创造一个世界。
 
然而,恰恰是那些被它用来进行交流和教化的工具,造就了反抗资产阶级自身的条件。数码技术导致了资产阶级经济领域的变化。如今,在生产体系中居於主导地位的商品——作为文化性的消费品,不仅包括售出的商品、还包括对於购买什么和如何购买的指导——以及所有其他形式的文化和知识,其边际成本几乎等於零。任何人、每个人都可以从所有的作品和文化中获益:音乐、美术、文学、技术信息、科学、以及其他各种形式的知识;由社会不平等和地理隔离所造成的屏障得以消散。从前的地区与地区之间、国与国之间的隔离和自给自足,也被全方位的交流和人与人之间的普遍依赖所取代。这不限於物质产品,知识产品亦是如此。个人的智力创作可以成为共有财产。於是,现有的资产阶级生产关系和交换关系,资产阶级的所有制关系,这个曾经彷佛用法术创造了如此庞大的生产资料和交换手段的现代资产阶级社会,像一个魔法师的学徒一样不能再支配自己用法术呼唤出来的魔鬼了。
 
所有这一切变化,迫使人们不得不用冷静的眼光,来重新审视自己的生活状况、以及自己与他人之间的关系。现代社会面临着这样一个简单的事实:如果所有人占有知识成果的成本,无论这种知识是审美的还是功用性的——即每个人取得知识的每次增长所带给人类的全部价值的——与一个人独占资源的成本相同,那么独占资源便不再合乎道义。假如当年罗马帝国能够用与供应凯撒的餐桌相同的成本来喂饱所有人民,那么一旦有人陷於饥饿,人民就会以暴力的方式除掉凯撒。
 
但是,资产阶级的所有权体系要求按支付能力分配知识和文化。虽然互联网技术的出现使得一些不同於资产阶级所有权体系的传统得以存活,其中包括创造者和支持者之间的自愿结盟,但这种自愿结盟被迫参加一种不公平的竞争,因为它不得不与那种资产阶级所有权所统辖的、具有支配性地位的大众传媒竞争,而大众传媒的所有权体系正是以侵占大家在电磁频谱中的公共权力为基础的。在数码社会中,知识生产的工人阶级——艺术家、音乐家、作家、学生、技术员、以及其他试图通过复制和修改信息来改善生活境况的人——他们认为可行的理念与资产阶级迫使他们所接受的价值理念之间存在着根本的冲突,这一冲突一旦被激进,就势必产生新的阶级意识。这种新阶级意识的自觉性,就是打倒所有权的前提。
 
数码社会在资产阶级不自觉的推动下取得发展,在创造者之间革命性联合的过程中,消解了他们在竞争状态下的孤立。知识、技术和文化的创造者开始意识到,他们不再需要那种以所有权为基础的生产结构,不再需要那种以支付能力为基础的分配结构。他们之间的合作,连同其无资本生产的无政府主义模型,使自由软件的创造成为可能,而创作者可以藉此实现对未来产品的技术控制。网络本身也藉此摆脱广播主体和其他带宽所有权的控制,为一种新的分配体系提供场所;他们摒弃层级控制,用同行之间的平等合作,去取代音乐、影像等软产品的强制性的分配体系。大学、图书馆等等相关的机构成为上述新阶级的同盟,担负起知识分配者的历史角色,帮助所有的人获得越来越开放的知识资源。从所有权的控制下解放出来的信息,也将工人从机器看管人的强制性角色中解放出来。自由信息使工人得以重新分配自己的时间,不再接受资产阶级文化强加与人的那些无聊消费,不再把自己的时间浪费在这一类消费中,而是用於培养自己的思想和技能。随着工人逐渐意识到自己的创造力,她将不再是一个被动的、陷入资产阶级社会的生产和消费体系中不可自拔的消费者。
 
不过,我们还必须看到,资产阶级在它已经取得了支配性统治的地方已经把一切封建的、宗法的和乡村的社会关系都破坏了。它无情地斩断了把人们束缚於尊卑关系中的形形色色的封建羁绊,它使人和人之间除了赤裸裸的利害关系,除了冷酷无情的“现金交易”,就再也没有任何别的关系了。它把宗教虔诚、骑士热忱、小市民伤感等各种情感上的升华,淹没在利己主义计算的冰水之中。它把人的尊严变成了交换价值,用一种没有良心的贸易自由代替了形形色色的其他自由。总而言之,它用公开的、无耻的、直接的、露骨的剥削代替了由宗教幻想和政治幻想所掩盖着的剥削。面对工人阶级对於自身解放的深刻诉求,资产阶级所有权体系必然会进行垂死的挣扎,尤其是如今的工人阶级,因为他们直接拥有知识和信息资源,开始超越了先前那种狭隘的大众文化消费者的角色。
 
资产阶级所有权借助它最偏爱的自由贸易的工具,试图唤回曾一度给它带来恐惧的生产过剩的危机;为了不顾一切地诱使创造者成为工薪消费者,资产阶级所有权利用地球上一些地区的物质匮乏,把它们变成生产廉价商品的资源地,并反过来用这些廉价商品贿赂它最珍贵的财富——即最发达的社会中受过良好教育的技术工人——而不再去贿赂野蛮民族,以求它的技术工人在文化上顺从地受其支配。在这个阶段中,工人或创造者仍然分散在全球各地,他们由於必须相互竞争而处於分裂的状态。创造者偶尔在斗争中也会得益,但那是暂时的。他们斗争的真正成果不在於眼前的成功,而是在於他们之间越来越广泛的联合。这种联合由於现代工业所造成的日益发达的交通工具而得到发展,这种交通工具把各地的工人和创造者彼此联系起来。只要有了这种联合,许多性质相同的地方性的斗争就能汇合成全国范围的斗争,进而成为阶级斗争。而一切阶级斗争都是政治斗争。中世纪的市民依靠的是乡间小道,他们之间的联合花了几百年才完成。这个目标,现代的知识工人们利用网络只要几年就可以达到了。
 
二、自由与创造
 
资产阶级不仅锻造了置自身於死地的武器;它还创造了将要运用这种武器的人――数码时代的工人阶级,即创造者。这些工人掌握了一定的知识和技能——使这些知识和技能创造社会价值和交换价值,它不仅不必沦为单纯的商品,还能够集合起来进行以自由为目的技术生产——他们不再仅仅是机器的附属品。无产阶级曾一度由於无知和地理隔阂,成为产业大军中不起眼的、用后即弃的组成部分。但如今这些创造者掌控了人类的交流网络,既保留了自己的个性,又借助种种由他们自主设计安排、更符合他们的利益和自由的、而非是资产阶级所有制所勉强容忍的交流体系,向人类贡献他们的智力劳动所创造出的价值。
 
然而,在这些创造者成功地建立真正的自由经济的同时,资产阶级也将其所谓的“自由市场”和“自由贸易”强加於社会的生产结构和分配结构。尽管资产阶级已做好最后的准备,预备用暴力的方式保卫他们用暴力建立的制度(当然他们极力隐藏这种暴力),但是他们一开始总还是要诉诸於他们偏好的强权机制——法律。就像法国的旧政权曾经相信,即便在社会的现代化过程中,法律的保守力量也能替他们维持封建财产;资产阶级文化的产权的拥有者们也同样梦想,他们的产权法能在他们自己释放的冲击力面前竪起神奇的屏障。在生产资料和交换手段发展的一定阶段上,封建社会的生产和交换关系,封建的农业和工场手工业组织,一句话,封建的所有制关系,在当时已不再适应相对发达的生产力。这种关系已经在阻碍生产而不是促进生产,它变成了束缚生产的桎梏。它必须被摧毁,它於是被摧毁。自由竞争起而代之,并带来了与之相适应的社会制度和政治制度,带来了资产阶级的经济统治和政治统治。
 
但“自由竞争”从来都只是资产阶级社会的愿望,这种期望时不时就会跌入资本主义追求垄断的内在逻辑里。资产阶级的财产所有制正是垄断概念的例证,即在实践层面对资产阶级法律所宣称的自由信条的否定。在数码社会中,就在创造者们建立真正自由的经济活动形式之时,资产阶级的财产信条和资产阶级的自由信条之间的冲突也开始凸显出来。要保护各种观点和思想的所有权,就要求压制技术自由,这也意味着压制言论自由。国家的力量会被用来禁止自由创造。科学家、艺术家、工程师和学生创造和分享知识的活动也要被阻止,以免他们的观点在文化生产、分配的体系中对知识产权的拥有者的财产造成危害。正是在这些知识产权的拥有者的法庭中,创造者们最清晰地辨识出他们自己的阶级身份。知识产权的拥有者与创造者之间的冲突便肇端於此。
 
但是,资产阶级的财产法终究不是对抗资产阶级技术发展的魔法护身符:即便魔法师的学徒将他的扫帚挥舞不停,水面也还是会继续上升。在技术领域,随着新的生产和分配模式冲破过时的法律枷锁,资产阶级的所有制也终将溃败。历史上,每当某个阶级在争取到统治之后,它总要让整个社会服从於其发财致富的条件,企图以此来巩固这个阶级已经获得的地位。知识工人只有通过废除自己目前的占有方式,从而废除全部现存的占有方式,才能真正成为社会生产力的主人。这是为了自由而做出的革命奉献:为了废除对思想的私人所有权,为了知识的自由流通,为了重新让文化成为人类共享的象徵公地。
 
对於文化产权的拥有者,我们要说:一听说我们要消灭知识私有制,你们就惊慌起来。但是,在你们的现存社会里,私有财产对十分之九的成员来说早已不复存在,因为这些人(创造者)的雇主已经占有了他们的智力果实,其占有方式恰恰是通过专利、版权、商业机密等等形式的“知识产权”的法律。这十分之九的人类对电磁频谱具有同等的权利——电磁频谱本来是可以象徵性地收费,赋予所有人取之不尽的自由交流、相互学习的机会——但这一生俱来生的权利,被资产阶级从他们手中夺去,然后再以广播和电讯类消费品的形式返还给他们,并被索以高价。这十分之九人类的创造力找不到出口:资本主义文化的商品大海在“传播业”寡头的推波助澜下,淹没了他们的音乐、艺术和敍述表达,要求他们保持缄默、被动,要求他们消费而不是创造。
 
简言之,你们唯恐丧失的那些财产其实是掠夺来的财产,它在极少数人那里存在,正因为它在所有其他人那里并不存在,所以你们才指责我们,是说我们要消灭你们的那种所有制。这种制度存在的必要条件恰恰就是,这种财产对於社会绝大多数人来说并不存在。有人反对说,一旦我们废除对於思想和文化的私有产权,人们的创造精神则得不到“刺激”,就会停滞,而所有的人都会成为懒惰的俘虏。
 
按照这一逻辑,在资产阶级出现之前,音乐、艺术、技术抑或学问都无从产生,因为只有资产阶级发明出这样的的道理,让一切知识和文化都服从於金钱交易的法则。面对自由生产、自有技术、自由软件,以及由此发展起来的技术的自由分配,资产阶级的道理根本是不愿意承认一个有目共睹和无可辩驳的事实,它让事实从属於教条。他们认为,资产阶级经历的那个短暂的全盛期的知识生产和文化分配,才是人类唯一可能的社会结构。其实,以往的和当下的事实都证明恰恰相反。
 
因此,我们要对那些知识产权的拥有者说:你们在认识上的错误在於,你们把现存的生产关系和现存的所有制关系下的社会形式,当作是永恒的自然规律和理性规律,因此看不到,所有这一切不过是在生产进程中不断在产生和消亡中的历史关系。你们的错误并不奇怪,其实,所有一切已经灭亡的统治阶级都曾经这么想过。当我们说到古代财产所有制的时候,你们似乎能明白;当我们说到封建财产所有制的时候,你们似乎也能明白;一旦说到你们资产阶级自己的财产所有制的时候,你们就无论如何不明白了。
 
我们的理论结论,依据的不是这个或那个普世改革家所发明或发现的思想或原则。我们的结论来自於当前的阶级斗争,来自於就在我们眼前发生的历史运动,它是对这些活生生的关系的概括。
 
每当人们说,观念会给社会带来剧烈的变革,他们只不过是在陈述如下事实:即新社会的因素已经酝酿在旧社会之中,而旧观念的瓦解是与旧的生存状态的瓦解同步发生的。我们这些自由信息社会的创造者,要一步步地从资产阶级手中夺回全人类共有的继承权,我们要收回所有在“知识产权”的名义下被盗取的文化遗产,收回电磁波传导媒体。我们决心为自由言论、自由知识和自由技术而战。我们推进这场斗争的措施在不同的国家里当然会是不同的;不过,下列措施应是普遍适用的:

1.废除一切形式的对於思想和知识的所有权。
2.取消一切排他性使用电磁波段的许可、特权及权利。废除一切永久性占有电磁频率通路的权利。
3.发展能够使人人实现平等交流的电磁频谱设施。
4.发展社会公共性的计算机程序,并使所有其他形式的软件包括其“基因信息”,即源代码成为公共资源。
5.充分尊重包括技术言论在内的所有言论的自由。
6.保护创造性劳动的尊严。
7.实现在公共教育体系的一切领域,让所有的人都平等地、自由地获取公众创造的信息和所有的教育资源。
 
我们要通过以上以及其他措施,发动一场解放人类观念的革命。我们要推翻当前的知识产权体系,建立一个名副其实的公正社会。在这个社会里,每一个人的自由发展,同时就是所有人的自由发展。
 
王宇琦译 钟雨柔、刘禾校(作者授权所有人以各种形式对此文进行全文拷贝和发行,但务请保留此项声明。)
 
附录:

英文原版
The dotCommunist Manifesto
Eben Moglen*
January 2003
A Spectre is haunting multinational capitalism--the spectre of free information. All the powers of ``globalism'' have entered into an unholy alliance to exorcize this spectre: Microsoft and Disney, the World Trade Organization, the United States Congress and the European Commission.
Where are the advocates of freedom in the new digital society who have not been decried as pirates, anarchists, communists? Have we not seen that many of those hurling the epithets were merely thieves in power, whose talk of ``intellectual property'' was nothing more than an attempt to retain unjustifiable privileges in a society irrevocably changing? But it is acknowledged by all the Powers of Globalism that the movement for freedom is itself a Power, and it is high time that we should publish our views in the face of the whole world, to meet this nursery tale of the Spectre of Free Information with a Manifesto of our own.
Owners and Creators
Throughout the world the movement for free information announces the arrival of a new social structure, born of the transformation of bourgeois industrial society by the digital technology of its own invention.
The history of all hitherto existing societies reveals a history of class struggles.
Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, bourgeois and proletarian, imperialist and subaltern, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that has often ended, either in a revolutionary re-constitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.
The industrial society that sprouted from the worldwide expansion of European power ushering in modernity did not do away with class antagonisms. It but established new classes, new conditions of oppression, new forms of struggle in place of the old ones. But the epoch of the bourgeoisie simplified the class antagonisms. Society as a whole seemed divided into two great hostile camps, into two great classes, directly facing each other: Bourgeoisie and Proletariat.
But revolution did not by and large occur, and the ``dictatorship of the proletariat,'' where it arose or claimed to arise, proved incapable of instituting freedom. Instead, capitalism was enabled by technology to secure for itself a measure of consent. The modern laborer in the advanced societies rose with the progress of industry, rather than sinking deeper and deeper below the conditions of existence of his own class. Pauperism did not develop more rapidly than population and wealth. Rationalized industry in the Fordist style turned industrial workers not into a pauperized proletariat, but rather into mass consumers of mass production. Civilizing the proletariat became part of the self-protective program of the bourgeoisie.
In this way, universal education and an end to the industrial exploitation of children became no longer the despised program of the proletarian revolutionary, but the standard of bourgeois social morality. With universal education, workers became literate in the media that could stimulate them to additional consumption. The development of sound recording, telephony, moving pictures, and radio and television broadcasting changed the workers' relationship to bourgeois culture, even as it profoundly altered the culture itself.
Music, for example, throughout previous human history was an acutely perishable non-commodity, a social process, occurring in a place and at a time, consumed where it was made, by people who were indistinctly differentiated as consumers and as makers. After the adoption of recording, music was a non-persishable commodity that could be moved long distances and was necessarily alienated from those who made it. Music became, as an article of consumption, an opportunity for its new ``owners'' to direct additional consumption, to create wants on the part of the new mass consuming class, and to drive its demand in directions profitable to ownership. So too with the entirely new medium of the moving picture, which within decades reoriented the nature of human cognition, capturing a substantial fraction of every worker's day for the reception of messages ordering additional consumption. Tens of thousands of such advertisements passed before the eyes of each child every year, reducing to a new form of serfdom the children liberated from tending a productive machine: they were now compulsorily enlisted in tending the machinery of consumption.
Thus the conditions of bourgeois society were made less narrow, better able to comprise the wealth created by them. Thus was cured the absurd epidemic of recurrent over-production. No longer was there too much civilisation, too much means of subsistence, too much industry, too much commerce.
But the bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionising the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society. Constant revolutionising of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air.
With the adoption of digital technology, the system of mass consumer production supported by mass consumer culture gave birth to new social conditions out of which a new structure of class antagonism precipitates.
The bourgeoisie, by the rapid improvement of all instruments of production, by the immensely facilitated means of communication, draws all, even the most barbarian, nations into civilisation. The cheap prices of its commodities are the heavy artillery with which it batters down all Chinese walls, with which it forces the barbarians' intensely obstinate hatred of foreigners to capitulate. It compels all nations, on pain of extinction, to adopt its culture and its principles of intellectual ownership; it compels them to introduce what it calls civilisation into their midst, i.e., to become bourgeois themselves. In one word, it creates a world after its own image. But the very instruments of its communication and acculturation establish the modes of resistance which are turned against itself.
Digital technology transforms the bourgeois economy. The dominant goods in the system of production--the articles of cultural consumption that are both commodities sold and instructions to the worker on what and how to buy--along with all other forms of culture and knowledge now have zero marginal cost. Anyone and everyone may have the benefit of all works of culture: music, art, literature, technical information, science, and every other form of knowledge. Barriers of social inequality and geographic isolation dissolve. In place of the old local and national seclusion and self-sufficiency, we have intercourse in every direction, universal inter-dependence of people. And as in material, so also in intellectual production. The intellectual creations of individual people become common property. Modern bourgeois society with its relations of production, of exchange and of property, a society that has conjured up such gigantic means of production and of exchange, is like the sorcerer's apprentice, who is no longer able to control the powers of the nether world whom he has called up by his spells.
With this change, man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind. Society confronts the simple fact that when everyone can possess every intellectual work of beauty and utility--reaping all the human value of every increase of knowledge--at the same cost that any one person can possess them, it is no longer moral to exclude. If Rome possessed the power to feed everyone amply at no greater cost than that of Caesar's own table, the people would sweep Caesar violently away if anyone were left to starve. But the bourgeois system of ownership demands that knowledge and culture be rationed by the ability to pay. Alternative traditional forms, made newly viable by the technology of interconnection, comprising voluntary associations of those who create and those who support, must be forced into unequal competition with ownership's overwhelmingly powerful systems of mass communication. Those systems of mass communication are in turn based on the appropriation of the people's common rights in the electromagnetic spectrum. Throughout the digital society the classes of knowledge workers--artists, musicians, writers, students, technologists and others trying to gain in their conditions of life by copying and modifying information--are radicalized by the conflict between what they know is possible and what the ideology of the bourgeois compels them to accept. Out of that discordance arises the consciousness of a new class, and with its rise to self-consciousness the fall of ownership begins.
The advance of digital society, whose involuntary promoter is the bourgeoisie, replaces the isolation of the creators, due to competition, by their revolutionary combination, due to association. Creators of knowledge, technology, and culture discover that they no longer require the structure of production based on ownership and the structure of distribution based on coercion of payment. Association, and its anarchist model of propertyless production, makes possible the creation of free software, through which creators gain control of the technology of further production.[1]  The network itself, freed of the control of broadcasters and other bandwidth owners, becomes the locus of a new system of distribution, based on association among peers without hierarchical control, which replaces the coercive system of distribution for all music, video, and other soft goods. Universities, libraries, and related institutions become allies of the new class, interpreting their historic role as distributors of knowledge to require them to offer increasingly complete access to the knowledge in their stewardship to all people, freely. The liberation of information from the control of ownership liberates the worker from his imposed role as custodian of the machine. Free information allows the worker to invest her time not in the consumption of bourgeois culture, with its increasingly urgent invitations to sterile consumption, but in the cultivation of her mind and her skills. Increasingly aware of her powers of creation, she ceases to be a passive participant in the systems of production and consumption in which bourgeois society entrapped her.
But the bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his ``natural superiors,'' and has left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous ``cash payment.'' It has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervour, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation. It has resolved personal worth into exchange value. And in place of the numberless and feasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom--Free Trade. In one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation.
Against the forthcoming profound liberation of the working classes, whose access to knowledge and information power now transcends their previous narrow role as consumers of mass culture, the system of bourgeois ownership therefore necessarily contends to its very last. With its preferred instrument of Free Trade, ownership attempts to bring about the very crisis of over-production it once feared. Desperate to entrap the creators in their role as waged consumers, bourgeois ownership attempts to turn material deprivation in some parts of the globe into a source of cheap goods with which to bribe back into cultural passivity not the barbarians, but its own most prized possession--the educated technological laborers of the most advanced societies.
At this stage the workers and creators still form an incoherent mass scattered over the whole globe, and remain broken up by their mutual competition. Now and then the creators are victorious, but only for a time. The real fruit of their battles lies, not in the immediate result, but in the ever-expanding union. This union is helped on by the improved means of communication that are created by modern industry and that place the workers and creators of different localities in contact with one another. It was just this contact that was needed to centralise the numerous local struggles, all of the same character, into one national struggle between classes. But every class struggle is a political struggle. And that union, to attain which the burghers of the Middle Ages, with their miserable highways, required centuries, the modern knowledge workers, thanks to the network, achieve in a few years.
Not only has the bourgeoisie forged the weapons that bring death to itself; it has also called into existence the men who are to wield those weapons--the digital working class--the creators. Possessed of skills and knowledges that create both social and exchange value, resisting reduction to the status of commodity, capable collectively of producing all the technologies of freedom, such workmen cannot be reduced to appendages of the machine. Where once bonds of ignorance and geographical isolation tied the proletarian to the industrial army in which he formed an indistinguishable and disposable component, creators collectively wielding control over the network of human communications retain their individuality, and offer the value of their intellectual labor through a variety of arrangements more favorable to their welfare, and to their freedom, than the system of bourgeois ownership ever conceded them.
But in precise proportion to the success of the creators in establishing the genuinely free economy, the bourgeoisie must reinforce the structure of coercive production and distribution concealed within its supposed preference for ``free markets'' and ``free trade.'' Though ultimately prepared to defend by force arrangements that depend on force, however masked, the bourgeoisie at first attempts the reimposition of coercion through its preferred instrument of compulsion, the institutions of its law. Like the ancien régime in France, which believed that feudal property could be maintained by conservative force of law despite the modernization of society, the owners of bourgeois culture expect their law of property to provide a magic bulwark against the forces they have themselves released.
At a certain stage in the development of the means of production and of exchange, the conditions under which feudal society produced and exchanged, the feudal organisation of agriculture and manufacturing industry, in one word, the feudal relations of property became no longer compatible with the already developed productive forces; they became so many fetters. They had to be burst asunder; they were burst asunder.
Into their place stepped free competition, accompanied by a social and political constitution adapted to it, and by the economic and political sway of the bourgeois class. But ``free competition'' was never more than an aspiration of bourgeois society, which constantly experienced the capitalists' intrinsic preference for monopoly. Bourgeois property exemplified the concept of monopoly, denying at the level of practical arrangements the dogma of freedom bourgeois law inconsistently proclaimed. As, in the new digital society, creators establish genuinely free forms of economic activity, the dogma of bourgeois property comes into active conflict with the dogma of bourgeois freedom. Protecting the ownership of ideas requires the suppression of free technology, which means the suppression of free speech. The power of the State is employed to prohibit free creation. Scientists, artists, engineers and students are prevented from creating or sharing knowledge, on the ground that their ideas imperil the owners' property in the system of cultural production and distribution. It is in the courts of the owners that the creators find their class identity most clearly, and it is there, accordingly, that the conflict begins.
But the law of bourgeois property is not a magic amulet against the consequences of bourgeois technology: the broom of the sorcerer's apprentice will keep sweeping, and the water continues to rise. It is in the domain of technology that the defeat of ownership finally occurs, as the new modes of production and distribution burst the fetters of the outmoded law.
All the preceding classes that got the upper hand, sought to fortify their already acquired status by subjecting society at large to their conditions of appropriation. Knowledge workers cannot become masters of the productive forces of society, except by abolishing their own previous mode of appropriation, and thereby also every other previous mode of appropriation. Theirs is the revolutionary dedication to freedom: to the abolition of the ownership of ideas, to the free circulation of knowledge, and the restoration of culture as the symbolic commons that all human beings share.
To the owners of culture, we say: You are horrified at our intending to do away with private property in ideas. But in your existing society, private property is already done away with for nine-tenths of the population. What they create is immediately appropriated by their employers, who claim the fruit of their intellect through the law of patent, copyright, trade secret and other forms of ``intellectual property.'' Their birthright in the electromagnetic spectrum, which can allow all people to communicate with and learn from one another, freely, at almost inexhaustible capacity for nominal cost, has been taken from them by the bourgeoisie, and is returned to them as articles of consumption--broadcast culture, and telecommunications services--for which they pay dearly. Their creativity finds no outlet: their music, their art, their storytelling is drowned out by the commodities of capitalist culture, amplified by all the power of the oligopoly of ``broadcasting,'' before which they are supposed to remain passive, consuming rather than creating. In short, the property you lament is the proceeds of theft: its existence for the few is solely due to its non-existence in the hands of everyone else. You reproach us, therefore, with intending to do away with a form of property, the necessary condition for whose existence is the non-existence of any such property for the immense majority of society.
It has been objected that upon the abolition of private property in ideas and culture all creative work will cease, for lack of ``incentive,'' and universal laziness will overtake us.
According to this, there ought to have been no music, art, technology, or learning before the advent of the bourgeoisie, which alone conceived of subjecting the entirety of knowledge and culture to the cash nexus. Faced with the advent of free production and free technology, with free software, and with the resulting development of free distribution technology, this argument simply denies the visible and unanswerable facts. Fact is subordinated to dogma, in which the arrangements that briefly characterized intellectual production and cultural distribution during the short heyday of the bourgeoisie are said, despite the evidence of both past and present, to be the only structures possible.
Thus we say to the owners: The misconception that induces you to transform into eternal laws of nature and of reason, the social forms springing from your present mode of production and form of property--historical relations that rise and disappear in the progress of production--this misconception you share with every ruling class that has preceded you. What you see clearly in the case of ancient property, what you admit in the case of feudal property, you are of course forbidden to admit in the case of your own bourgeois form of property.
Our theoretical conclusions are in no way based on ideas or principles that have been invented, or discovered, by this or that would-be universal reformer. They merely express, in general terms, actual relations springing from an existing class struggle, from a historical movement going on under our very eyes.
When people speak of ideas that revolutionise society, they do but express the fact, that within the old society, the elements of a new one have been created, and that the dissolution of the old ideas keeps even pace with the dissolution of the old conditions of existence.
We, the creators of the free information society, mean to wrest from the bourgeoisie, by degrees, the shared patrimony of humankind. We intend the resumption of the cultural inheritance stolen from us under the guise of ``intellectual property,'' as well as the medium of electromagnetic transportation. We are committed to the struggle for free speech, free knowledge, and free technology. The measures by which we advance that struggle will of course be different in different countries, but the following will be pretty generally applicable:
  1. Abolition of all forms of private property in ideas.
  2. Withdrawal of all exclusive licenses, privileges and rights to use of electromagnetic spectrum. Nullification of all conveyances of permanent title to electromagnetic frequencies.
  3. Development of electromagnetic spectrum infrastructure that implements every person's equal right to communicate.
  4. Common social development of computer programs and all other forms of software, including genetic information, as public goods.
  5. Full respect for freedom of speech, including all forms of technical speech.
  6. Protection for the integrity of creative works.
  7. Free and equal access to all publicly-produced information and all educational material used in all branches of the public education system.
By these and other means, we commit ourselves to the revolution that liberates the human mind. In overthrowing the system of private property in ideas, we bring into existence a truly just society, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.
 

*  Professor of Law, Columbia University Law School.
1  The free software movement has used programmers throughout the world--paid and unpaid--since the early 1980s to create the GNU/Linux operating system and related software that can be copied, modified and redistributed by all its users. This technical environment, now ubiquitous and competitively superior to the proprietary software industry's products, frees computer users from the monopolistic form of technological control that was to have dominated the personal computer revolution as capitalism envisioned it. By displacing the proprietary production of the most powerful monopoly on earth, the free software movement shows that associations of digital workers are capable of producing better goods, for distribution at nominal cost, than capitalist production can achieve despite the vaunted ``incentives'' created by ownership and exclusionary ``intellectual property'' law.
 

 

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