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PINotes / Copyright
Copyright information for https://github.com/pinotes/pinotes.github.io and https://pinotes.github.io
All writing first-published by MIM-Orchid through this website is in the public domain from the moment it appears.
That does not mean somebody didn’t write it, that MIM-Orchid doesn’t have ways to prove authorship or that it or PINotes was the first publisher, or that MIM-Orchid doesn’t have the ability to embarrass people if they want to be silly. It just means MIM-Orchid will not be taking anyone to court, making a complaint or trying to take down material on the basis that it owns it. MIM-Orchid wants people to be able to share the ideas without worrying about copyright, getting MIM-Orchid’s permission, or even attribution, though MIM-Orchid is not opposed to attribution. Simply “Proletarian Internationalist Notes” or “PINotes” would be fine in most cases. There may be permission or attribution requirements with some articles with bylines and some old material without bylines; this document pertains to new material provided by MIM-Orchid first.
Copyright means nothing in practice to MIM-Orchid as far as any new material from MIM-Orchid is concerned. Copyright ownership wouldn’t help with disseminating the ideas in MIM-Orchid’s case regardless of ideas about what encourages “creativity” under capitalism or what is good for journalistic or academic careers. Another issue is realistic enforceability. Even if too many copies could affect search engine rankings and decrease visits to this site, there is ultimately very little MIM-Orchid would be able to do about it by claiming ownership to the site operators or hosts. This website is an underground publication, and there is nothing MIM-Orchid would want to do via a proxy to prevent reproduction of material by means of lawyering, and even what could be done with laws like DMCA without lawyers would involve too much or be very limited. Reserving any of the rights available to MIM-Orchid under copyright laws would be confusing. Anyone can always discourage abuse of their own or someone else’s work in the public domain just as anyone can discourage abuse of the Bible, Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days, or Marx’s Capital, but that is different from asserting copyright ownership and then not being able to do anything with that legally. People need to understand clearly what is and what is not good practice for an underground movement or underground part of a movement. It’s regrettable that some people with controversial opinions might not actually be able to use rights others have, but that’s how things are as with many things in radical politics.
One might think copyright ownership would offer some protection against adversarial use of MIM-Orchid material if the enemy knew ey would be breaking the law. Apart from the fact that authorized paper copies of copyrighted literature can be bought and then sold or used legally (or illegally), the fact of the matter is many agencies are unlikely to have internal ethics people or lawyers who spend their time worrying about infringing copyrights owned by agency targets who are unpopular and unknown and may have de facto second-class citizenship. There is already a history of the state infiltrating revolutionary movements and using their resources under false pretenses. So there may just be some individuals with a mental obstacle to infringing on a copyright, but we are talking about people who are ethically challenged to begin with. Also, much infiltration comes from people who are not working with the state officially (or working semi-independently of their reactionary organization for the purpose of doing dirty tricks unaccountably in the first place) and may even think of themselves as helping the oppressed. Such people might distribute MIM-Orchid material even if MIM-Orchid did retain copyright ownership. How to approach that correctly fundamentally has nothing to do with assertions of ownership.
In forfeiting copyright, MIM-Orchid makes it crystal clear that it is trivial to take MIM-Orchid or PINotes material, copy it, even mutilate it. It is also very easy technically to put up a copy of this site with insertions and deletions. So, people need to pay careful attention to what could be departures in line or aberrations in practice.
There is already much bourgeois infiltration of the communist movement. MIM-Orchid’s offerings’ being in the public domain may embolden some people, but things cut both ways if the writing truly has a revolutionary edge to it.
To use an analogy, in open source software there is the “Unlicense” encouraging wide distribution of work placed in the public domain. Sure, somebody can copy a repository and add anything, delete or mess with the revision history to an extent, revise previously completed sections of code (including in ways contrary to original goals though presented as improvements, which they may or may not be), and do whatever else, but the real deal will become clear over time, maybe years of time. The analogy isn’t perfect, because software involves procedures and functions with a definite output (speaking loosely) for the most part, whereas this website is itself the output of a changing process. Program behavior can appear as sensitive to small changes right away. A crucial difference in political writing can take months or years to become obvious. Maybe a better analogy would be the incorporation of open source software into larger projects that can have various goals and their own logic. Again, differences become apparent when people train themselves to see them.
It is true that a state actor could infiltrate an open source project’s contributors or contributors’ computers/networks to insert or delete code maliciously. If the project is less known or there is little scrutiny, the consequences may not be discovered for years. That is an interesting metaphor for revolutionary politics in the First World, but neither a more restrictive open source license nor the proprietary software model is a guarantee against harmful revisions. Even a small maker of closed-source software can be infiltrated or develop problems internally as a large company can. Maoists have always said that not everything is about external threats. More important than who somebody is at this time, or what their relationship with the words is, is what they are saying, the “code” they are writing or trying to inject.
MIM-Orchid understands why a prisoner already in certain situations might want to own a copyright. There would be more reasons than just money reasons. MIM-Orchid is not in that situation.
MIM-Orchid also understands somewhat the situation of people who have been selling books and other literature full-time for many years already without too many apparent problems. There is a time and a place to start a print literature distribution outlet run on a business model. MIM-Orchid isn’t in that time and place. In any case, it is now very easy for imperialist country people to get a cheap printer or make copies with or without permission. The environment has changed from what it was decades ago.
In the First World, asking for change or a small donation for a paper has more of a mental effect on everyone involved, and less of a financial benefit. Anyway, asking for a donation for distributing a paper—though not encouraged with PINotes—doesn’t have to involve copyright ownership. Those who put too much emphasis on fundraising or copyright open themselves up to more bourgeois political or ideological influence.
There is still to a great degree a bourgeois stage of struggle in the Third World because of invasions, colonialism, and class polarization on a global scale together with the extent of U.$. dominance, but in the First World context one can almost tell what the nature (bourgeois or opportunist) of an organization’s positions on various questions is going to be just by looking at its approach to copyright, distribution, and authorship. Many things are connected because there is an underlying bourgeois ideology of people many of whom were never Marxist to begin with.
A general idea about needing to build a particular organization through money and ownership could be an impediment to doing away with copyright. There could be an underlying denial of class structure if people in the First World do not really need to ask other parasites for money, let alone people in the Third World. One might imagine MIM-Orchid wanting money from English-speaking readers in Africa, or non-workers in the First World, because of the content of PINotes, but that is not the case. Since the neurons and muscle cells behind MIM-Orchid could be located in the First World and that is the impression many might get anyway, it would be problematic to sacrifice security (or discourage others to sacrifice security) for donations or to sell literature. That is because of the MIM line on imperialist super-profit making almost every non-lumpen citizen in the First World have an exploiter-level income or living standard. Either First World people are rich and have the money and time to spend on writing, procuring and publishing literature, or they aren’t. There is a point at which appeals for much more money invite government or bourgeois money to keep on doing something useful to a government or class. In the Third World, the masses who have experienced the serious consequences of imperialist country meddling rightly suspect “CIA” (an imperialist country intelligence or diplomatic agency, military, or assisting organization) when a large operation appears unaccountably. In the First World, there are few with the training, objective interest and accountability needed to reliably discern counterproductive influence via fundraising. It is not that the citizens of democracies need to know every financial detail of revolutionaries (the real ones likely not spending taxpayer money favoring a particular group of imperialists in a country), as Liberals suggest. Rather, it is harder for the masses—who barely exist in the First World to begin with—and recipients themselves to tell the source of money when the general level of wealth is so high. At the same time, the difference between a millionaire and a government bankrolling an organization with a line that itself reeks of CIA, Pentagon or State Department influence will not be of utmost importance all the time as such organizations can be accurately assessed by their own members or others even if the ultimate sources of donations are known.
Printed publications have traditionally been a source of funds. There might be good, non-financial reasons (security, not overemphasizing scattered party-building, avoiding disruption of public opinion work with sectarianism) to not put old printed theory and movement literature on the Internet right away. With widespread Internet access, though, there are fewer reasons than before to not make new material available on the Internet. In the early 1990s, enemies could waste an organization’s resources by requesting free literature through the mail so it could have been necessary to ask for payment or work. Today, most people in the First World have Internet access and don’t need to receive literature by postal mail as prisoners do. Over time, deliberately restricting the availability of literature could have adverse consequences.
Many things are less expensive when purchased in bulk. In the past, that was a better justification for accepting donations for bundles of papers in return. With cryptocurrencies, it is possible to do this without a P.O. box now, but there are still security issues with centralized distribution, and many electronic payment methods considered anonymous such as Bitcoin are actually pseudo-anonymous, unsafe for many users in practice, or no better than mailing in cash for literature that needs to be delivered to a physical address regardless of donation method. A paper distribution outlet could be operated without claiming copyright, but it is not clear to MIM-Orchid at this time that leaving or handing out papers would lead to more readers than a single sheet with a web address and suggestions for visiting it securely. People should be able to independently print such sheets without worrying about copyright or feeling MIM-Orchid may have a monopoly on the distribution of some print edition of PINotes. This uncopyright notice and not accepting donations may help clarify things in that regard.
There is a difference between “free” and “public-domain.” New writing on this website is both free and public-domain, but one could sell a printed book containing the writing, for example, and charge whatever without any of the money going to MIM-Orchid, or sell access to the same exact text on another website. Competing distributors would find they can’t charge much more than cost, and a PINotes article costs nothing. Copyrights can be useful in making exclusive agreements for printing and selling and could allow an incentive for somebody to print and distribute literature offline. There are now a variety of ways to get copies of text, including print on demand with businesses that are not less competent security-wise than many bookstores. This is not the 1980s, where if somebody didn’t go through a publisher, or self-publish in print, people might not have read eir ideas widely. Despite advances in technology produced through super-exploitation, many in First World imperialist countries are still stuck in the 1980s in attempting to apply 1980s ways of doing things to the Internet as if there were no other way to spread science or create public opinion.