Literary Collaboration and Control
Benjamin Mako Hill

I'm most famous around these parts for my work on free software, which, for people who know me, is all about freedom for me.

My Division II was on literature, technology and intellectual property policy and it sought to place itself at the intersection of literature and technology. Napster for books is on the horizon. There's a storm brewing.

Right now, the most interesting question for me is What does it mean for a piece of text or data to be free?

Most people end up approaching this question for the perspective of economy or freedom or copyright or technology but I try to draw a really multi-faceted approach to it that ties in pieces of all three.

My analysis tries to argue for collaboration through control. Control is not unique but arguing form a perspective of control is useful.

Control is more effective and more precedented than we admit. I trace everything from the Talmud, KJV through Raymond Carver and T.S. Eliot.

Example is the story of the Webster's 1913.

But to get back to my storm. I think it's near at hand.

Literature is being control in a way that works fantastically--as long as you're in the 19th century. Mainstream distribution companies and industries are based around highly individualized systems of control. The law works great as long as you ignore advances in technology and shifts in authorship. The distribution methods for book have keep things out. Why isn't there better OCR? But it's at hand. A 1.1GB e-book file on BitTorrent three weeks ago is now 2.2GB and it's not slowing down. Now the power of this is great. You can change, adapt, work with etc.

Mako Hill
Last modified: Tue May 20 07:29:41 PDT 2003