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Intellectual property breaks down into:

The first mention of the term "intellectual property" was in 1967 with the formation of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), although certainly the concept of intellectual property was around since the 17th century. The concept of intellectual property is (abstractly) an outgrowth of the EnclosureMovement? in Britain. However, the advent of the printing press and the PrintCulture? that came with it was what created the idea of propriety of ideas. Both PatentLaw? and CopyrightLaw stem directly from the press. To quote Eisenstein:

Fixity also made possible more explicit recongition of individual innovation and encouraged the staking of claims to inventions, discoveries, and creations. It is no accident, I think, that printing is the first "invention" which became entangled in a priority struggle and rival national claims. Arguments over Gutenberg versus Coster or Jenson set the pattern for later "Columbus Day" type disputes. One might compare the anonymity of the inventor of spectacles with later disputes over Galileo's right to claim priority in the case of the telescope. (Eisenstein, 1983, p. 83)


Studying intellectual property is very mindbending and mindnumbing. The only right answer is one that is sympathetic to the 300 years of experience we have, but that seems to be unwelcome on the Internet. That being said, it's foolish to be overly sympathetic to the current regime, as they are already too powerful and no longer require sympathy, but a BalancingForce--but not an overthrowing force. -- SunirShah

"Only right answer"? At least in US law, Copyright started as a way to balance the interest of content creators with the public interest in the dissemination of ideas. It has been distorted in recent decades to favor corporate content publishers over the public domain. But there is increasing public interest and political activism on the side of the public domain.

Siva Vaidhyanathan's Copyrights and Copywrongs is an excellent intellectual history and overview of the issue. Siva is looking to define an academic field of study in the area. From a recent blog post: http://www.nyu.edu/classes/siva/2004_03_15_blogarchive.html#107938853716331487

I have been trying to name the emerging field of study that so many interesting scholars have been contributing to over the past decade: a scholarly partner to the Free Culture Movement.

Here is an attempt. Let me know if you think it has legs:

The Anarchist in the Library is my latest contribution to a growing interdisciplinary field of scholarship known as “Critical Information Studies.” Economists, sociologists, linguists, anthropologists, ethnomusicologists, communication scholars, lawyers, computer scientists, philosophers, and librarians have all contributed to this emerging field. Critical Information Studies interrogates the structures, functions, habits, norms, and practices that guide global flows of information and cultural elements. Instead of being concerned merely with one’s right to speak (or sing or publish), Critical Information Studies asks questions about access, costs, and chilling effects on, within, and among audiences, citizens, emerging cultural creators, indigenous cultural groups, teachers, and students. Central to these issues is the idea of “semiotic democracy,” the ability of citizens to employ the signs and symbols ubiquitous in their environments in manners that they determine.

-- AdinaLevin

Nice! I have to say though that we're all PostModern librarians here at the Faculty of Information Studies. Well, I am more so than most. "Critical information studies," as you call it, is definitely the push for the future. -- SunirShah

"Only right answer"? In the sense that it's pointless to try to change the system without understanding the past, and understanding a social history requires sympathy of those involved, and whence comes charity, and charity is to be valued above all things in the art of productive argumentation. For example, AssumeGoodFaith. -- SunirShah, a BarnRaising zealot.

Ah, I misread what you said to mean "one right answer." -- may try refactoring to clarify. -AdinaLevin

Not sure about Eisenstein, but I think the intro mixes patents and copyrights way too carelessly. In An Economic Review of the Patent System by Fritz Machlup (1958) as cited in Abbot, Cottier and Curry The Internation Intellectual Property System, Commentary and Materials, Part One, p. 225, the early history is introduced as follows:

The oldest examples of grants of exclusive rights by kings and rulers to private inventors and innovators to practice their new arts or skills go back to the 14th century. Probably the first "patent law," in the sense of a general promise of exclusive rights to inventors, was exacted in 1474 by the Republic of Venice. In the 16th century, patents were widely used by German princes, some of whom had a well-reasoned policy of granting privileges on the basis of a careful consideration of the utility and novelty of the inventions and, also, of the burden which would be imposed on the country by excluding others from the use of these inventions and by enabling the patentees to charge higher prices.

Nowhere is patent law and linked to the printing press in that passage. Similarly, to link copyright law with propriety of ideas is to equally misleading. LawrenceLessig clearly traces copyright law back to the power of booksellers. [1] Yes, the printing press features in the text, but that doesn't seem like the important part today.

I'd either remove the pointers to history -- unless you want to expand on this printing press issue, but then more info is needed -- or replace them with a more detailed account of both patent law and copyright. But those could go on the respective pages, so I don't think you need to do it here. I like WIPO as the intro, please keep that.

-- AlexSchroeder

Globalization vs. IntellectualProperty

Given developing nations' plus large markets like China and India, many fear that IntellectualProperty is a moot subject. The Internet connects these players to our markets whether or not they abide by our social rules (CommunitySolution, LegalSolution). They only need to abide by the Internet architecture (TechnologySolution) without any accountability (VulnerabilityToCommunity; qua. the international community). Since IntellectualProperty is only a convention, and one that goes against human nature's instinct, it might just be moot faced with this force of nature.

That might bring us back to an OralCulture age of TradeSecrets, guilds, secret recipes and methods, that was pre-academic, pre-printing press, and less capable of supporting growth and progress. That dystopic vision is why people are afraid. Some may float the idea of disconnecting non-compliant countries from the Internet. While you can never disconnect whole countreis completely, you can certainly reduce the bandwidth to uncompetitive levels. This imperialist perspective may grow in volume over time, but it will take too long to implement to matter (and possibly it may become harmful).


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