If you take the long view, the commodity economy passes through three stages. The first commodifies land, and hence agriculture. The second commodifies capital, and hence manufacturing. The third stage is the commodification of information, and hence the so-called “new economy.” Each phase is what I would call a development of abstraction in the world. Each involves a new property form — landed property, capital, and so-called “intellectual property.”
Each stage is an enclosure of the commons in favor of a private property right. Intellectual property grows out of patent, trademark, and copyright but changes them from a kind of social compromise to a private property right.
Each stage produces a class who own the means of production in the form of private property, and a class dispossessed of what it produces in the first place. Thus we get farmers versus landlords, workers versus capitalists, and as I would put it, a new level of class conflict, between hackers and what I call vectoralists — those who own intellectual property and the vectors which are the means of realizing its value.
I see the formation of a hacker sensibility and ethic as an expression of this new level of conflict over the enclosure of the commons and the subordination of free productivity to the commodity form. So I see Gisle Hannemyr’s story as part of a bigger picture. Intellectual property makes all kinds of creativity equivalent in the eyes of the marketplace. So x amount of your patents are worth y amount of my copyrights.
So while writers, programmers, biologists, or musicians tend to see themselves as separate cultures with specialized ways of thinking, I think there is an over-arching class interest there as well. An interest in preserving the autonomy of the way we labor that farmers and workers have already lost. We are the new front line in a very long struggle.
[...] A manifesto is firstly a way of cutting through a complex world and revealing its complexicty through that simple, polarizing gesture. A manifesto is addressed to a collective interest. It is addressed to “us” against “them.” A Hacker Manifesto is introduced to producers of the new, whether in the arts or sciences, or somwhere in between.
It is against those who would profit by the new enclosure of information within the property form. I argue that strict intellectual property is not in the interests of creators. It is in the interests of those who own the means of realizing the value of what we do.
I don’t offer a program so much as an orientation: think about what you have as a common interest with other producers of information, and beyond that with other producers in general. Think beyond the property form. Imagine new worlds where information not only wants to be free, but is free. I think that’s a whole new horizon for thinking about what justice is, for what the just society could be.