The Journal of Peer Production - New perspectives on the implications of peer production for social change New perspectives on the implications of peer production for social change
Reviews (Think global, print local) image

Review A

Reviewer: Anonymous

1. Is the subject matter relevant?

Yes, case studies can be helpful. However, most of the paper is about the Peer Production License. It seems, that the case study is only a vehicle to promote and discuss the PPL. This is not or only only very vaguely covered by the title.

2. Is the treatment of the subject matter intellectually interesting? Are there citations or bodies of literature you think are essential to which the author has not referred?

Assuming that the subject matter is twofold – crowdfunding the translation of texts and relevance of the PPL – both subjects are interesting and worth to discuss.

Especially concerning the PPL, references to critiques of the PPL are missing. The authors indirectly mentioned some criticisms, but these seem not relate to the PPL but to the CC-NC, and they are not cited, but only indirectly reported (page 10, 1st paragraph). Explicit debates and critiques on the Copyfarleft approach and the PPL are completely missing, e.g. and 

3. Are there any noticeable problems with the author’s means of validating assumptions or making judgments?

Following the page order here are some noticeable problems (referring to page/paragraph):

2/2: It is not clear what is meant by „value“ or „use value“. Are the notions referring to a Marxian approach or to mainstream economics?

3/3: The economic model of the Guerilla Translation Cooperative is not clear, what does „compensated for their pro-bono effort through paid agency work“ mean? 

5/2: „Social Return“ seems not correct, on the it is „collective benefit“.

5/5-6/1: „The campaign was not solely focused on Spanish speakers“ but on „400 million native Spanish speakers“ – this makes no sense or is misleading.

6/1: It is not clear, why and in what sense the proposed model is a „challenge to the standard narrative of market economics“, since the model is explicitely made to make profit by market activities (sell books etc.).

8/3: The cited snippet of the PPL is neither explained nor discussed. What does „worker-owned business“ mean? How can the distribution of profits among worker owners be guaranteed – it seems, that this is impossible due to the necessities of profit withdrawals like investments, reserves, etc. Who is controlling it? Etc. 

8/4: The statement that PPL is an „explicitly anticapitalist license“ is not justified, since the capitalist character does not disappear if the profit is collectively instead of individually appropriated.

8/6-7/2: The cited Kleiner arguments are well done, but are miseading here: The alternative to be explained (coming from Bolliers book) is not CC-NC vs. PPL, but Copyleft vs. PPL. Moreover, the last sentence referring to Kleiner again, saying that Copyleft is better for „productive or capital assets“ is unclear – what do the authors want to say with that? All businesses, including cooperatives, have productive assets, and lots of them have capital assets too.

8/3: The „Approved for Free Cutural Works“ Creative Commons license is not explained. Here, the real conflict between Copyleft and Copyfarleft is mentioned, but very drivel. Additionally, some statements are not valid: CC-by-nc-sa does not per se mean, that others cannot exploit the content, you only have get permission first, which is completely an option if you have a consortium of agreed equal interests (as mentioned by the authors). Then referring to Non-NC CC licenses PPL is alleged to limit commercialization, which is obviously is not true since PPL explicitely allows it. On the other hand, the viral aspect of the Copyleft approach is completely ignored, where most Copyleft critiques argue, that this viral aspect prevents or limits commercialization since the derivatives have to be freely accessible too.

11/1: „Copyfair licensing“ should be explained.

11/3: It is not convincing, that the license change was responsible for the boost of the crowfund contributions in the first round. Approaching the deadline such final sprints are very normal. The low contribution rate within the second round also indicates, that the license was not the relevant point here.

7/5, 9/3, 10/4 etc.: It is argued, that PPL is not primarily used to foster the proposed production and distribution model, but as an „ideological statement“. This seems true, but from that follows, that the entire artile is not about a case study but about that ideological statement. Consequently, there is not lessons learnt from using the PPL for better acting within the realm of the commons which might the reader expect.

4. Is the article well written?

From my limited English capabilities the article seems to be well written.

5. Are there portions of the article that you recommend be shortened, excised or expanded?

My basic recommendation is to split the article into two parts, one about the crowdfunding campaign and the distribution model, and one discussing the licence issue in depth and including the license debate mentioned above (part 1).

Review B

Reviewer: Anonymous

I have very much enjoyed reading this article and want to see it published in JOPP in a revised version. I like the activist approach. The subject matter is highly relevant and very interesting. It is relevant as it has the potential to contribute to a development that could significantly strengthen the (digital) commons. It has important implications towards a commons oriented political economy. Therefore, the project/experiment deserves to be circulated widely. However, I don’t think that this article is ready for publication in its current form.

 The authors claim that they don’t have a specific research question “since, in an intrinsic case study, the case itself is of primary interest.” I don’t agree with this position for 2 reasons. Firstly, I think that every case study needs some form of critical analysis. A mere description is not just not good enough. Secondly, the authors indicate indirectly that they do have a research question. In the abstract they write: “We conclude by arguing that this intrinsic case should build bridges across languages and cultures.” However this remains a claim, it is not presented as an argument.

 This claim could easily be turned into a research question: Can this experiment serve as a template or an example that could strengthen commons based practices in the field of writing, translating and printing? Could it disrupt traditional capitalist practices in this field/ Could it be a game changer? If so, why? If not, why not? If this research question would be systematically applied the authors would have to inspect and evaluate the process of their experiment. What went well? Where are obstacles etc.

I would strongly encourage the authors to undertake such a critical evaluation. Among many others some points to reflect on could be the following:

  • crowdfunding: It is important to develop an analysis of crowdfunding in an age where most people struggle to get by, where all the money is with the 1% etc. What are the limitations of crowdfunding not just for this experiment, but for other projects that could follow? It seems to me that it was rather work-intensive to secure crowdfunding with Goteo
  • a budgeting of the project: Around 9000 Euros were available for this project. How was the money spent in detail? In particular I would be interested in the valuation of the work of the translators, as their work is particularly time intensive. Have they received enough money? Would they be happy to get involved again for a similar project?
  • how much labour (time) has been invested by the authors on this experiment? Would they be happy to invest their time and voluntary labour in similar projects in the years to come?
  • much of an analysis that discusses the possibilities of a wider implementation of this experiment will have to carefully study different forms of labour invested in this project. The authors may find the following article useful:

 My final point refers to the discussion of the copyright license. I am a fan of Kleiner’s copyfarleft license and think it is useful to discuss its implementation in detail. However the pages on the licensing don’t work well for me in their current form. Rather than promote a license (and make it more visible) that is only used by the P2P Foundation at the moment it might be useful to ask why this is so. Are there any examples where a Creative Commons license has been exploited by business to generate profit? I don’t know of such an example and would be surprised if they exist. Whatever is available for free online is difficult to be used for capitalist purposes. So this section should critically discuss the potential for the implementation of such a license in a more general way.

The value of the Peer Production license should also be discussed specifically for the translated version of Bollier’s book. What can be gained to translate a book that has been published under a CC license under the Peer Production license? I don’t see why this would add value. If the authors disagree with me on this point that would need to make a case for this.

 I hope that some of the points I have raised are helpful to turn this important article, which at the moment is mostly descriptive, into a more analytical and reflective piece.