chapter  17
14 Pages

Networking the commons: convergence culture and the public interest


Casting around for a potent metaphor that captures the way two decades of marketization have accelerated the commercialization of public culture, a number of commentators have compared it to the enclosure of common land that began with the new agricultural entrepreneurs of Tudor England erecting fences around previously open spaces and aggressively protecting their extended possessions, with additional penalties for trespassing (see Murdock 2001). For the critical lawyer James Boyle, the corporate push to extend the terms and reach of commercial copyright and impose tougher sanctions on unauthorized use is a ‘second enclosure movement’ fencing off ‘the commons of the mind’ (Boyle 2008). Since 1978 the period before copyrighted material passes into the public domain in the United States has almost tripled, from 32 years to 95 years, producing a swelling chorus of critics claiming that ‘copyright has become too strong’ (Vaidhyanathan 2006: 43). For Lawrence Lessig, another major dissenting voice, by outlawing the remixing and reuse of a wide range of cultural materials the current copyright regime ‘makes it difficult, and sometimes impossible, for a wide range of creativity that any free society – if it thought about it for just a minute – would allow to exist legally’ (Lessig 2008: 18). It is a dramatic narrative with strongly drawn protagonists and a clear central conflict, but it has little or nothing to say about the role of cultural provision underwritten by government, and funded mainly or solely out of central and local taxation.