From Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Production I.G, 2002
Any work, of art, of writing, in any media, if it is in the least bit interesting, becomes at some point an adventure. Usually, the adventure happens in the making, before the work is finished. “The work is the death mask of its conception’’, says Walter Benjamin. But sometimes the adventure begins, or continues, after the work is finished, reanimating it with fresh problems. That’s what happened to me.
I wrote a book once about intellectual property. Basically, I am against it. As I wrote in this book, called A Hacker Manifesto: “Information wants to be free but is everywhere in chains’’. The digital – an age old property of information – is an idea whose time has finally come. The relation between digitally encoded information and the material in which you find it – the page, the screen, the disc, the drive – is now perfectly arbitrary. Pretty much the same information could be on this page or that disc or that website. A weird ontological property of information, something in its very being, is now fully active in the world – and causing all kinds of trouble. Not least for authors. Not least for me.
On the one side, a vast social movement has arisen that intuits the significance of digital information as a social fact. In its more public and self conscious forms, this social movement includes Creative Commons, the Open Source and Free Software Movement. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Submerged out of sight is a vast culture of file sharing, whether using torrents or plain old cds passed from hand to hand. This private, pervasive new economy – a gift economy in which the artifact is nothing and its digital information everything – might be an even more significant part of this social movement than its more publicly declared aspects.
On the other side are the entrenched interests of the corporate world which, particularly in the ‘overdeveloped’ rely more and more on their portfolios of trademarks, patents, copyrights and on trade secret law to stay in business. In A Hacker Manifesto I argue that these corporations are the legal expression of a new kind of class interest. No longer a capitalist class, but a vectoralist class.
Caught between the social movement of free culture and the corporate interests of this vectoralist class are what I called the hacker class. Not just computer hackers, but anyone who makes new information, whether as a scientist or artist or writer or musician.