July 21, 2003

Freenet Philosophy

A recent announcement about a new Freenet release prompted another look at the controversial P2P project and the philosophy behind it.

Ian Clarke's little project, conceived in 1999 and set up to allow Chinese dissidents to publish without fear of recriminations, has big ambitions.

"Freenet is free software which lets you publish and obtain information on the Internet without fear of censorship"

Another soundbite, this one from a debate between Ian Clark (Freenet) and Matt Oppenheim (RIAA):
"Just as the motor car replaced the horse and cart, so will the Internet replace most of the roles performed by today's recording industry."

As an open source evangelist, my first instinct is to agree. Collaborative filtering, trust networks, semantic web technologies all point to a future where the best middlemen are software.

However what Ian and other technologists tend to overlook is that the creative development process is not a state machine. Art is not something we would ever want to be able to validate against an XML schema. For many artists, the most repugnant feature of the creative industries is the requisite formulaic approach.

Of course there is an ever increasing role for the Internet in media industries but the changes afoot may be more about realignment then revolution. Marginal though it may be, a percentage of the Industries is made up of creative and passionate people. How are the Freenet node owners in a better position to provide support?

"freedom is more important than having professional artists"

This is the nub of the conflict between P2P networking and full-time artists. Professional artists and freedom are not exclusive. I for one want the freedom to create my work and live off the results. So how much money is a living? Enough to simply live or a whole lot more? Art been rarely been about restraint.

The Freenet philosophy espouses a return to patronage and donations as a way for artists to survive. Worthy suggestions but I suspect Elton John may need to revise his flower budget. Metalica certainly did not waste much time in condemning Napter. The result? The pros at Camp Chaoshad a field day.

No easy answers but easy enough to look hypocritical.

Posted by .M. at July 21, 2003 04:38 PM | TrackBack
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