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Author: Hervé Le Crosnier

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The shift to IPR resistance in social movements

It takes a lot of time for social movements to understand the political role of Intellectual Property Regimes. For a long time, especially in France, where I leave, and where Droit d’Auteur is considered as a national treasure, the shift for diverses approach to « protect » authorship, inventorship, and others neighbouring rights in the cultural industry, to a one-size-fit-all « intellectual property » was unknown to social movements, and even to political parties. Just as a reminder, in 1998 the database law, which is clearly in opposition with the very nature of copyright, was passed with unanimity. No political fracture, not even discussion on this subject. It takes until 2005 for the french parliament to have a real debate on IPR… and to discover the very political nature of what was formely seen as « neutral protection for art, culture and innovation ».

We have to thanks the Access 2 Knowledge worldwide movement to be the very first actor for this change, and praise the diverses contributors, and the coordinators Gaelle Krikorian and Amy for the publication of Access to Knowledge in the age of intellectual property book, which document all the aspects of the new emerging opposition in this field.

As far as we follow international negociations, we can discover the very project that such different sectors as Hollywood, the Big Pharma and the Silicon industry wrote in the international agenda during the eighties : to grant a new commercial vision of their activities not only to extend their market, but also to be sure that sharing, which was the heart of culture, of medicine, and of the nascent software community, will be stopped.

IPR is not only a regime of « property », but is also a way to control the user. It’s a long time control of usage of what was once a « property ». And a longer one each time the public domain is eroded. The new networks, the methods of analysis such as in the biochemical industries, and other tools of « the control society » have the capacity to extends surveillance to the user. With the new technics and the new legal background, the ideological stance to see the world through the « intellectual property » scheme, as begin to enter the head of dominants all over the world, creating new battleground for the big players…

For a long time, the debate was in official salons, with soft speak and self-recognition… until the peasant movements (notably The Via Campesina) and the movement of ill-people, mostly people living with AIDS, enter the dance. They join the long time opposition of the Free Software movement, and met the democratic option of librarians all over the world. So they show the very complexity of the subject… and the new need for coordination to confront the ideological, commercial and practical domination and control of « rights owners » and their State’s servants.

That’s the very central role of the A2K movement : to show other social movements how important it is to maintain the free sharing of « intellectual » information, from user to user, from North to South, from voluntary sharing people (the « commoners » as David Bollier name them),… The copernician change in the way to think about IPR that it was to concentrate on « users rights », was the signal that most social movement understood. At the present time, the message of « the Commons » is the proud child of the A2K movement, and it is gaining importance, as the World Social Forum that is to be held in Dakar next week is showing.