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In the documentary The World According to Monsanto, there's a discussion with Midwest corn farmers (the kind that have a lot more than 1,000 acres) about Monsanto's methods. They said the atmosphere in the area had become appalling. There was no more goodwill or friendship between neighbours. People spied on each other, suspected each other, were ready to snitch on each other or feared being snitched on.

This is not just an effect of simple intellectual property. Seedsmen have always held rights to the varieties they create, so that XXX Seeds is the only company that can sell YYY variety, because they developed that variety. But with GM, the seeds are sold under contract of the Right-of-Use kind that software developers inflict on us: "paying for this software doesn't mean it's yours, just that you have a certain limited right of use". So, the farmer signs up that he may use the seeds and sell the crop, but not keep any seed back to sow again. And the next intensifier is that Monsanto enforces and persists in litigation so as to create a body of case law.

It's IP to the power of ten.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Apr 24th, 2008 at 07:34:41 AM EST
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There has been various systems of rights in traditional plant breeding, but under the banner of Intellectual Property (which I believe is just a few decades old) and with lots of lobbying those rights has expanded to the power of ten.

I suspect that the term Intellectual Property was constructed to shift debate from "what monopoly rights (or exclusive rights) should we as a society hand hand for the good of the society?" to "why should we allow pirates to steal intellectual property?". And it has been very successful.

So I would say that Intellectual Property are traditional rights to the power of ten. And that the EULAs, the terminology (theft, pirates), the surveilliance needed to stop incursions are not accidentaly similar, but similar because it is part of the same intellectual enclosure.

Seeds and other biological processes are the most worrying arena of this enclosure, as it is hard to see a Creative Commons or Open Source movement in seeds. Or maybe I am just not imaginative enough.

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by A swedish kind of death on Thu Apr 24th, 2008 at 08:47:50 AM EST
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