Intellectual property rights: we are cornered.

A tangle of arguments proliferated around the concepts of “collective intellectual property” and the “just and equitable distribution” of its benefits. The tangle emerged because most of those whose forebears created the genetic wealth that is so greatly desired by the wealthy and their powerful corporations find the concept of (intellectual) property a quite foreign one. Their view is that we are the custodians of nature and its wealth, but it is not our property.

This view is not confined to non-western social systems. In her article, Camila noted that “the foundations of our present scientific development were created under an explicit assumption that knowledge is a common good that is created for the common good.” But she observed that the “exchange [of knowledge] between scientists, which is a basic tool for accelerating the creation of knowledge, is being systematically dismantled,” and with it public science that is “characterised by free access, free creation and working for the common good.”

Opposing these trends the logical next step is to reject intellectual property altogether, she says. Why has this not happened? “Why,” she asks, “do we continue to negotiate, attempting damage control through accommodation, accepting being governed by rules that we know to be extremely damaging? Have we lost hope? Are we afraid? Do we feel cornered?”

Here is the crux of the whole story. We are witness to the collapse of an entire system of values and its replacement, under the pressure of a now globalised privatisation, by another based exclusively on the cash relationship. It is a system already torn by internal weaknesses and contradictions, but within which we ARE cornered.

– Exerpted from The summit to summit merry-go-round by Erna Bennett, 2002, published by GRAIN.