These remarks were given by David Bollier at the Free Culture Forum [www.fcforum.net] in Barcelona, Spain, on October 30.
This conference takes place at a time of great promise and great peril. Great promise, because we have the opportunity to secure what I call the Digital Republic. And great peril, because the 20th Century content industries show few signs of recognizing the legitimacy and value of the digital commons and its principles of openness, participation and decentralized control.
“You just walk into the mountain,” I was told. And so I walked up to Schlossberg, a large hill that overlooks the city of Graz, Austria, and into a tunnel carved out of sheer rock that extended dimly into the distance. I stepped gingerly onto the metal grating that formed a inclined walkway, and proceeded in amazement for more than 100 yards. The air had the sharp tang of rock dust. I came to a huge open space — a 150-foot “auditorium” with a 40-foot ceiling — again, carved out of sheer rock.
Imagine what would happen if you took down road signs and traffic signals. More accidents would surely result, or at least significant confusion and slower traffic. Or would it? The surprising thing is that a number of cities around the world have actually done this, and experienced dramatic declines in traffic accidents.
Should nations and indigenous peoples be able to protect their cultures against the global market power of Hollywood, American TV and pop music? Tomorrow, the 190 nations that belong to Unesco (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) will vote on a treaty to authorize precisely that. Every Unesco-member nation except one is expected to support the treaty, ponderously known as the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expression.