Pit Schultz on Thu, 28 Mar 2002 17:21:37 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> Intellectual Property Regimes and Indigenous Sovereignty

first i do not think that the impulse which seems to make people
reply to this thread is really bad. anyone heard the romantic story of
Milagro Beanfield War?

welcome to the world of biopower

what is wrong about wanting to resist exploitation or solidarize
with people who try to make a buck out of 'indigenous property'
which is anyhow only possible in a postcolonial economical setup. so
let's blame the natives for running casinos, nuclear waste depots,
and trying to make money with their music and medicine, and educate
them to read more slashdot.org ?
it's interesting how easily a certain culture of white boy hacker
ethics can blend into a narrow minded "free software" fundamentalism.
even if local knowledge about a regional biodiversity should become
part of global wisdom, the missionaries of the "linux reformation"
neglect the ethnocentricity of their culture.

instead, the underlying text of richard stallmann just suggests
avoiding the privatization of bioproperty, but his precise rethoric
is rather carefully aimed at a freedom from biotech monopolies
inspired by the anti-monsanto campaigns. stallmann never goes
so far as to become a communist to scrutinize the concept of
intellectual property based on authorship. nor is he becoming a
development helper teaching the workers how to install their own
DNA screening devices and herbal extraction labs. he focuses on
the values of the 'enlightment' and it's traditionaly westernized
audience: the GNU licence allows more choices from within a
juristic context of a ruling regime of intellectual property.
as such his project is reformistic and not revolutionary, which
isn't meant as a judgement here. it is only a question of how
far this possible freedom reaches when it is brought to people
who have to make different choices than software developers.

from a anthropological, so called cultivated, western position,
it is easy to speak negativly about the state when (economic)
power is already organized on the level of the networked states,
international trade agreements, wipo, nafta you name it. intellectual
property relations nevertheless are transfered to be granted on
a supranational level and from there are imposed on the
'wrongdoer states' soon to be included into an 'axis of evil'.
as an end user, it is not clear how to take influence
on the decisions of the WIPO other than through the civil disobience
of neglecting copyright law on a massive scale. on the other hand,
the western focus on the few remaining areas where "original" knowledge
remains, the oral history is being digitized, patented and privatized;
also reflecting our own feelings of cultural loss. and again one risks
to operate with representations of remote struggles instead of
getting involved with the local ones, which might look futile.

only on the basis of intellectual property can a globalized knowledge
economy function which exports its labour intensive sectors
and keeps the logistical keys of control in central hands to generate
maximum revenue. when it comes down to natural resources like gas, oil
or to the field of agraric production the rules of property seem
to be set by the market economy. for third nature, the so called
knowledge economy, the old scientific culture of humboldt's discoveries
in the jungle is transfered to a private technoscientific property
regime. once privatization takes place the business still might fail,
and property including social costs falls back into public hands. it
tends to be the weakest component of a system who has to bear the
burden of a networked failure protection. In the end, knowhow about
the nature of this beast is valued higher than knowhow about herbal

as it was earlier reintroduced by Ken Wark, the question of property
is an important one when questions arise regarding who's "owning nature".
what already seems to be decided on the level of energy resources
reenters the debate as a crisis of knowledge. the debate of global
warming is a test case of the planetary scientific and political system,
the enron scandal, the unclear involvements of the bush government into
energy politics, the role the oil factor plays on the geopolitical
chessboard including afghanistan, brings back into the equation the
industrial modes of production. the burst of the dot.com bubble has
possibly further implications by cutting a line of escape into cyberspace.
a knowledge economy doesn't exist in a cybernetic clean room, disconnected
from the conditions of energy and matter and most of all social relations.
the discourse of law, as the last instance of rationality seems to break
down under its own complexity like the software crisis of the 70ies
when expectations were too high.

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