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Indigenous IPR (was: Re: <nettime> Dark Markets: Whose Democracy?)
Sean Smith on Mon, 14 Oct 2002 19:54:03 +0200 (CEST)

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Indigenous IPR (was: Re: <nettime> Dark Markets: Whose Democracy?)

i have to say i can't understand the attitudes towards indigenous and 
collective intellectual property rights (IPR) that are frequently 
propagated here; they seem to be based on wilfull misunderstandings of a 
remarkably straightforward argument, which goes like this:

1. indigenous ppl across the world tend to be disenfranchised and disempowered.

2. indigenous ppl often possess intellectual property which is valuable to 
other actors (usually transnational corporations (TNCs));  (examples of 
this are too numerous to name; for brief introductions see John Frow's 
essay on the gift and the commodity in _Time and Commodity Culture_, and 
the frequent publications by the RAFI network (www.RAFI.org).

3. most of this intellectual property is collectively held;

4. IPR currently only protect individual rights;

5. there is no necessary reason why IPR only protects individual rights; 
its exemplar, real property rights, can readily account for collective 
ownership (joint and several ownership, anyone?)

6. without collective IPR these indigenous communities will get screwed by 
the TNCs (and others); (again, see the vast array of literature for 
countless examples where this is actually happening).

7. if there was a way to develop collective IPR, then these same indigenous 
communities would have access to real, valuable, fully transferable property;

8. social and political power remains linked to property rights;

9. hence, with collective IPR, indigenous communities would possess devices 
to enable social and political self-determination.  whether these 
communities chose to sell this property, retain it or restrict their use 
would be their own decision, as it is for all property owners.

coda: sure, it would be nice to get past property rights (all property IS 
theft, after all), but surely a better conception of properrty is 
collective ownership anyway? and where is the sense in not extending 
property rights to marginalised ppls whilst not restricting the exercise of 
property rights of powerful actors, such as TNCs?all that does is 
legitimate the ongoing exploitation of indigenous ppls.

i can't understand what is controversial about this?
Dr. Sean Smith
Research Fellow, Mobile Technologies,
Department of Sociology,
University of Surrey.
ph: +44 (0)1483 686 966
m:  +44 (0)7786 511 042

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