[iDC] global rights expropriation in the intersection between the industrial and the information ages

Guido Sohne guido at sohne.net
Wed May 23 08:31:00 EDT 2007

The rant below was first posted in August 2003 to the "Information
Society: Voices from the South" mailing list, focusing on issues
surrounding the emerging information society, during the run up to the
World Summit on the Information Society.


Technology has for millennia been transforming the capabilities of the
human being in an inexorable process that is at once empowering and
dehumanizing. Once we were able to speak to another person and be
assured that our words and thoughts were private, intended for only
those that our senses told us were nearby.

Today, we in the Third World, are being monitored and recorded without
our express consent by sophisticated networks and devices that
intercept international voice, email and web traffic. We have also
been deprived of our ability to control who receives our information
by the effects of US and European policies on data encryption.

Without economic and military power, we are compelled to accept this
situation, where other nations conduct themselves to affect us in ways
that are not acceptable to their own citizens. Without a vote, we have
no way to influence those who determine such unjust and exploitative

Those who control the world media have shown that they are willing to
wage information war, a barrage of information carefully selected to
promote certain goals and silence or sideline opinions and positions
that are not favourable. We do not have access to these media. We are
unable to tell our stories and we suffer in enforced silence. We see
television shows that depict wildlife and primitive people, as if to
say that is all that exists. Biased reporters tell our stories,
relentlessly highlighting the negative and disavowing the positive.

We see today, conflict still broiling in Iraq against the background
of an information war campaign telling people that Iraqis are now free
and that the first steps towards freedom are not easy. I believe that
one can only be free by choice, indeed that is to me the very
definition of freedom - the ability to choose.

People come to our lands and 'discover' new medicines and chemicals,
go back to their lands and patent them, only to turn around and sell
it back, taking away our rights to property that was once ours, that
which belonged to a community or to a whole people now belongs to new
faceless and inhuman entities that we call corporations.

As people unravel the human genome, they will then start to patent and
assert rights over things that once belonged to all of humanity. We,
in the Third World, where life began, will be robbed of the secrets of
life itself.

Things have gone too far. Societies which were built on the results of
the scientific revolution, where the free and unfettered flow of
information, publishing of results, replication of results and the
absence of the profit motive changed the lives of billions, have now
created obstacles to the flow and ownership of knowledge. Software
patents, the increases in copyright term and cynical lawsuits that
show complete selfish regressionary reactions to self organized people
working on their own time (SCO vs. Linux) show that the ownership of
knowledge will only result in the interest of the many usurped by the

Developing countries and activists in the developed countries alike
need to realize that they have a common goal and a common enemy in the
selfish and short-sighted corporations that are the next stage of the
immeasurably slow, constant removal of rights, freedoms and choices
that is being made possible by technology in the hands of the few.

Free software and open content have shown that there is another way,
that knowledge is better shared, and that money is made from real work
and not by virtue of having acquired a certain position that enables
one to exploit others. In other words, free software operates by
inclusion whereas the closed knowledge neo-industrial complex operates
by exclusion, leading to their profits.

Given that the centres of production and of knowledge for closed
knowledge actors are almost never in the Third World, given that they
provide no jobs, given that they provide no opportunities to transfer
knowledge to us, given that the deck is stacked for their profit at
our expense, Third World countries should completely reject
intellectual property on the principle that there is no gain in it for
us, on the contrary, it will cost us, directly and indirectly.

Those who do not wish to share their knowledge should keep it hidden
and feast upon it. When someone else finds this knowledge they are
free to do the same, or to share it with others and make it part of
the commons. After all, that was the very path that they themselves
took as they developed, and we should not suffer blindly for it.

We want knowledge, we want information, we want freedom. Hinder us not
and aid us if you will. But dare not call yourselves civilized while
we remain where we are

More information about the iDC mailing list