richard barbrook on Fri, 29 Jun 2001 14:19:58 +0200 (CEST)

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Announcing the
Counter Essay Contest
May 2001

In March, the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) announced that
it was establishing an international student essay contest asking the
(see excerpts of release below.) It quickly became obvious to us what type
of essays WIPO wanted. Anyone who answered that intellectual property (IP)
" I can't purchase anti-HIVS drugs because of patent law" or,
" as a farmer, I can't get access to patent-protected seeds for planting"
" as a visually impaired person, I can't read books due to copyright
restrictions" or,
" as a teacher, I can't distribute materials to my students for the same
reason" or,
" I was fired from my job because I was a whistleblower"
or, a thousand other similar responses would not be winning a prize from
WIPO, no matter how articulate or well-argued such an essay was. And, once
again, the negative consequences of IP would go unchallenged in a flood of
congratulatory rhetoric.

And so what is the solution? Set up a counter/alternative essay contest, ask
exactly the same question as WIPO, encourage a range of rather more critical
responses, create a website where the essays can be posted and viewed, then
find some judges, and, at the end of the contest, award some (admittedly
modest) prizes. And that is what a group of us who teach, study, produce,
use, and research intellectual property are now in the process of doing.
Currently composed of 20 people in five countries (UK, US, Canada,
Australia, and The Netherlands), our group thinks such an essay contest, the
public recording of personal testimonials, provides a good occasion to
intervene in the international political, economic, and social debate about
IP which has "moved to centre stage---and will stay there" as The Economist
magazine recently commented.

 The essay contest and the web site will be launched simultaneously on 4
Sept. 2001. The contest closes 15 March 2002 and the winner announced on 26
April 2002, the same day that WIPO announces its winners.

 In addition to the counter essay contest, the web site will also feature a
section of short news items and brief opinion pieces on harmful and negative
developments across the entire IP spectrum: trade marks and freedom of
speech, copyright in music,  proprietary computer software, parodies of
works, patents in plants, genes, and pharmaceuticals, the effects of IP on
economic/cultural development,  users' rights and fair dealing/fair use,
"whistle blowing" and trade secrets, designs, right of publicity, etc. We
extend a special invitation to contestants and those interested in IP from
countries of the South to join in and to highlight the effects of the over-
protection of intellectual property on peoples and countries which are
outside of the European and North American domination of intellectual
property dialogue. And, by the way, we also want to have some fun!

As part of this year long project, we are also approaching several
publishers and expect to publish a book containing the winning entries, plus
a selection of other essays.

To be clear on the purpose of this contest and this committee: we are not
saying that individuals and corporations that produce intellectual property
do not deserve some reward for their efforts. We are strongly opposed,
however, to the over-protection of IP and according it trumping power over
other values and social priorities such as access to medicines, to
education, and to the sharing of ideas and information.

Some further details :
1) The question: "What does intellectual property mean to you in your daily
2) Essays can be submitted by anyone; that is, you do NOT have to be a
student, though, of course, entries from student of all ages are encouraged.
And contestants retain rights in their own submissions.
3) The maximum word length is 2,000 words; shorter submissions will not be
4) Initially (and purely because of limited resources), we will be accepting
essays in English, French, Spanish and German ; those speaking other
languages and those willing to judge in other languages are encouraged to
contact us and we will work together to get more languages into the contest.
5) Our contest website will also have links to other IP-related sites and
6) We are in the process establishing an international panels of judges and
would invite further nominations.

 Between now and Sept 1, there is a lot of work to be done and we are only a
small committee of volunteers with limited money and contacts. Perhaps you
might like to
* join our committee and help in the organisation (publicity, sponsors,
* receive more information
* endorse this contest and campaign and/or sponsor this contest and provide
some financial support for prize money
* offer your website as a mirror to the main contest website or set up
reciprocal links between your site and ours.

Please contact:
Alan Story, Kent Law School, University of Kent , Canterbury UK , CT2 NS

More details and contest particulars, including website address, will follow
later in the summer.

IP Counter Essay Contest Committee


* Treatment Action Campaign (HIV/AIDS, health care - ) South
*  EBLIDA (European Bureau of Library, Information and Documentation
Associations - ), The Hague, The Netherlands.
*  GENE CAMPAIGN ( ), New Delhi, India.
* RTMark (brokerage for anti-corporate activism - ) UK
*  Negativland  (experimental-music, radio and video collective,
anti-corporate/copyright artist  activists USA.
*  The Third World Network (, Penang, Malaysia
*  Critical Lawyers' Group, Kent Law School( ) Canterbury,UK.
*  The Register ("Biting the hand that feeds IT" online magazine-, London, UK.
*  Specialized Systems Consultants, Inc. (publishers of Linux Journal -, USA
* Hypermedia Research Centre, University of Westminster (, London, England.

*  Peter Drahos (IP Professor), Queen Mary and Westfield College, London,
*  Noam Chomsky, Boston, Mass., U.S.A.
*  Udo Schuklenk, (Head of Bioethics, Co-Editor BIOETHICS), University of the
Witwatersrand , Johannesburg, South Africa.
*  Paul van Buitenen, (auditor/whistleblower of European Commission fraud;
Readers' Digest "European of the Year"), Luxembourg.
*  Doug Henwood, (editor/ publisher, Left Business Observer) ) USA.
*  Peter Lurie, Deputy Director, Public Citizen's Health Research Group,
Washington, USA
*  Michael H. Davis (IP Professor), Cleveland State University,
Cleveland-Marshall College of Law,  Cleveland, OH, USA.
*  Ann Bartow ( IP Professor), Univ. of South Carolina School of Law ,
Columbia, SC, USA
*  Eben Moglen ( Professor of Law & Legal History) Columbia Law School,
General Counsel, Free Software Foundation,  New York, New York, USA.
* Michael Mansfield QC (barrister, honorary president, the Critical Lawyers'
Group), London, UK.
*  Ray Patterson ( IP Professor), University of Georgia Law School, Athens,
Georgia, USA
*  Peter Jaszi ( IP Professor) Washington College of Law, American
University, Washington D.C., USA
*  Rod Dixon (visiting Professor of Law), Rutgers University Law School,
Camden, New Jersey, USA
*  Miltos Manetas, visual artist, ,  USA
*  Maryly Snow (visual artist & chair, Visual Resources Association
Intellectual Property Rights Committee), Berkeley, Ca. USA.
*  Ram Samudrala (Computational biology (genomics and proteomics) professor),
University of Washington, Seattle, Washington , USA
* David Sorkin (Center for Information Technology and Privacy Law, The John
Marshall Law School) Chicago, Illinois, USA
*  Michael Ashburner ( Biology Professor), Dept. of Genetics, Cambridge
University, Cambridge, UK.
*  Brian Martin (Science, Technology & Society) University of Wollongong,
*  Deborah Halbert ( Political Science Professor), Otterbein College,
Westerville, OH, USA

WIPO PRESS RELEASE  (March 200l) -  The first ever World Intellectual
Property Day takes place on 26 April 2001, the date in which the Convention
establishing WIPO (the World Intellectual Property Organisation) entered
into force in 1970. WIPO member states decided at their last annual meeting
to designate this date for special activities to highlight the importance
and practical use of intellectual property in people's lives. As part of a
series of events, WIPO has launched an international essay competition open
to university students. The 2000 word essay must address the question "What
does intellectual property mean to you in your daily life". It can be
submitted in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian or Spanish. A prize
of 1000 Swiss francs will be awarded for the best essay in each language.
Entries must be sent to the WWA by December 1, 2001. The winners will be
announced on World Intellectual Property Day next year, that is, on April
26, 2002. For further information, please consult  .

Alan Story
Kent Law School
University of Kent
Canterbury Kent U.K
CT2 7NS.
44 (0)1227 823316

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