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Information Feudalism: Who Owns the Knowledge Economy?by Peter Drahos
Synopses & Reviews
How multinational corporations are patenting life itself. Uncovering the story of how a small coterie of multinational corporations came to write the charter for a new global information order, Information Feudalism demonstrates why the world of intellectual property rights, patent regimes, and anti-trust laws is an urgent concern for ordinary citizens. As an ever wider range of everyday activities—from swinging in a swing to traditional farming techniques—are identified and commodified as intellectual property, struggles over the control of information are destined to become crucial battlegrounds in the twenty-first century. A telling example is the five-year courtroom battle fought by a coalition of activists to bring cheap versions of desperately needed AIDS drugs to South Africa—in which time one million people died of AIDS in that country alone. Information Feudalism traces the rise of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), the little-known charter that now governs intellectual property disputes across the globe, through inside accounts of the backroom deals that gave birth to it. Along the way, the book provides a mini-history of piracy, detailed accounts of the political involvement of multinationals like Pfizer, and a thorough set of proposals to establish democratic property rights.
In a few short years, the battle over intellectual property rights has emerged from obscurity to become front-page news. The continent-hopping, three-year court battle fought by activists to bring cheap versions of desperately needed AIDS drugs to South Africa is but one example of how this seemingly arcane area of international regulation has become a crucial battleground in the twenty-first century and is animating activists the world over.
This powerful book is the definitive history of how the new global intellectual property regime—the rulebook for the knowledge economy—came to be. Drawing on more than five years of research and more than five hundred interviews with key figures—including negotiators for First and Third World countries, leaders of multinational corporations, and public-interest experts, Information Feudalism uncovers the story of how a small coterie of multinational corporations wrote the charter for the global information order.
Information Feudalism is an authoritative history of the demise of the world’s intellectual commons, and a potent call for democratic property rights.
Includes bibliographical references (p. -241) and index.
About the Author
Peter Drahos is a professor at the Research School of Social Sciences at the Australian National University. He is the author of A Philosophy of Intellectual Property and, with John Braithwaite, Global Business Regulation.
John Braithwaite is a business regulatory scholar who is an Australian Research Council Federation Fellow at the Australian National University. His major works include Corporate Crime in the Pharmaceutical Industry and Corporations, Crime and Accountability.
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