Sunday, November 22, 2009

Intellectual Copyright

I have argued elsewhere about the re-use of other authors' material in Indian texts. I argued that the concept of 'intellectual copyright' has to be re-thought in ancient India (and in whatever pre-XVIII century country, as far as I know). This has massive ethical and philological implications, I believe, since to assume that knowledge obviously becomes part of a common reservoir influences one's compositional habits and worldview in general. I am not saying that classical Indian authors were not selfish or not ambitious, I am just suggesting that our concept of authorship and of 'intellectual property' may not fit with theirs.
Vandana Shiva has often expressed her worries about the sort of Indian (poor) farmers willing to buy crops from Monsanto or other companies which accept to be paid only after the harvest. Those farmers, she maintains, are not really aware of the fact that they are buying patented 'basmati rice' and that they will have to buy new corns every year (plants are hybridised). They cannot realise it –follows Shiva– because the idea of patenting a plant does not fit within their mental landscape. Interesting enough, Shiva concludes "This is known as 'biopiracy', the piracy of the knowledge and resources of the poor by the rich". Biopiracy is promoted, most notoriously, by U.S. laws and by WTO agreements that globalize Western-style "intellectual property rights" (Vandana Shiva, Tomorrow's Biodiversity, p. 132; Stolen Harvest, p. 89).
I do not share her attitude, but it is interesting to see the same argument implemented in a very different context.

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