Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

"A utopian possibility that one should explore to the limit"

Peter Monaghan interviews McKenzie Wark, author of A Hacker Manifesto, in the January 28 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education (accessible only to subscribers). Excerpt, quoting Wark: 'Until the late 60s, one thought of copyright or patent as a kind of limited device, in the context of thinking of knowledge as something that should be shared. Intellectual property turns it into the equivalent of a private-property right. That's equivalent to the enclosure of the commons, in my view....Information has really peculiar qualities. My possession of some piece of it does not deprive you of it. So the usual laws of scarcity don't apply. With the rise of digital technology, for the first time we have something that can, at least in part, really escape from scarcity....That presents a utopian possibility that one should explore to the limit. But what one finds is that we are increasingly shoving information back into the logic of the old economy of scarce things by legal and technical means....If you're a programmer, or a musician, or a philosopher, or a biologist, or a chemist -- those tend to be fairly separate cultural worlds. But all that we make is now rendered equivalent in the marketplace by the privatizing of information, by intellectual property. So the first thing is to see a common interest that isn't really addressed by completely privatizing information. It's not in the interest of the United States or any country to make information available only to those who can pay for it. That's not how you advance science. That's not how you advance democracy.'