Ken Wark is a “featured commoner” on the Creative Commons Text site in recognition of GAM3R 7H30RY, which is published under a CC Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 license. They’ve posted an excellent interview with Ken where he reflects on writing at the intersection of print and web and on the relationship between gift and commodity economies in the realm of ideas. Great stuff. Highly recommended.
Ken also traces some of the less-known prehistory of the Creative Commons movement:
…one of my all time favorite books is Guy Debord’s Society of the Spectacle. There’s a lovely edition for sale from Zone Books. Today its Amazon rank is about 18,000 – but I’ve seen it as high as 5,000. This edition has been in print for twelve years.
You can also get the whole text free online. In fact there are three whole translations you can download. In the ’60s Debord was editor of a journal called Internationale Situationiste. All of it is freely available now in translation.
The Situationists were pioneers in alternative licensing. The only problem was they didn’t have access to a good license that would allow noncommercial circulation but also bar unauthorized commercial exploitation. There were some terrible pirate editions of their stuff. Their solution to a bad Italian commercial edition was to go to the publisher and trash their office. There has to be a better way of doing things than that.
But in short: the moral of the story is that if you give a nice enough gift to potential readers, they return the gift by buying your stuff. Debord’s works are now classics. Constantly reprinted, a nice little earner for his widow. But it is because of this huge gift of stuff to readers that readers – generations of them – return the favor by buying the works.
Culture has always worked like that. The real question to ask is the reverse: how is anyone except the media conglomerates going to make a living when they have commodified culture to within an inch of its life? How are they even going to make a living off it? It’s never been done before in the history of the world.
The interview was actually done several months ago, before Ken had inked his deal with Harvard University Press, so a few sections regarding future prospects of the book are dated.