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<nettime> Indigenous IPR
Eric Miller on Tue, 15 Oct 2002 21:49:29 +0200 (CEST)


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<nettime> Indigenous IPR


re: intellectual property, I'm wondering about the interesting contrast
between this thread and the recent file-sharing debates on Nettime.

Specifically: we frequently read the argument that "information wants to be
free" in regards to IP protected content from Western content producers and
corporations.  It's OK to take this content, the argument goes, because
there is no direct harm to the IP stakeholders, and the dissemination of the
information contributes to the greater good of society.  This statement is
therefore true: Though the IP stakeholders may lose out on direct revenue,
they receive benefits through other channels connected to the improvement of
society as a whole.

There also appears to be a consensus that it is NOT OK for Western entities
to leverage indigenous sources for IP, even though the same conditions
apply: namely, that there is no harm done to the indigenous sources, and
that the reuse and dissemination of the information gained is for the
greater good of society. This statement is therefore NOT true: Though the IP
stakeholders may lose out on direct revenue, they receive benefits through
other channels connected to the improvement of society as a whole.

And we don't seem to be talking about situations where a Western IP entity
plucks a ready-to-go product from a Third World society...clearly, there's
an ethical obligation there to compensate the source.  The argument seems to
be that if the raw material comes from an underprivileged source, they
deserve compensation by virtue of proximity to the resource (regardless if
they had knowledge of its potential usefulness).  By contrast, a Western
producer of intellectual goods has no real ownership right over their
product, regardless of the effort required to produce.

At a fundamental level, the unstated difference simply seems to be that one
group has wealth and power and therefore doesn't deserve IP protection.  The
other group doesn't have wealth or power, therefore they do deserve IP
protection.  

So how does this shake out?  Or are we just redistributing wealth here?
 
Eric

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