I just came from an interesting if perplexing session led by 4 New School students as part of Mobility Shifts. I didn’t see the whole presentation but I did catch a discussion focused on Intellectual property and these students’ desire to promote more ‘open source’ approaches at The New School.
It was perplexing because while they readily acknowledged that individually each of them are busy IP ‘pirates’, which is to say that like all other young people they often download music, photocopy textbooks, share software etc., and despite the fact that they also spoke of how vulnerable individual students are to litigious attacks by the RIAA and other IP warlords, that when I suggested that they should band together in a coordinated student revolt like those that have happened in many other countries this year, they reacted with real nervousness, and offered many different dubious reasons why this is simply not possible. This was disappointing.
Because I think an IP revolt is desperately needed. As Michel Bauwens has explained, our allegiance to the regulatory infrastructure of IP is part of a toxic paradigm and is directly responsible for much of the environmental destruction in the world today. For as he pointed out, we operate as if the natural resources of the world are infinite, plundering them without a thought for the future, while of course they are actually very limited. And on the flipside we operate as if ideas were limited, regulating and containing their production through copyright, patent law and lawsuits, whereas in fact our imaginations are infinite. Ideas are the one thing we have more of than we can possibly ever use. And this fundamental confusion is at the heart of our ecocidal crisis.
Doing away with IP, or at least actively and aggressively challenging its hegemony, is going to be an essential step in reversing this destructive and exclusionary paradigm and building a sustainable future for all.