Bill Mollison copyright statement

eric + michiko emstorm at
Sun May 30 12:32:05 EDT 1999

Doug wrote:
> However, his copyright statement really turns me off and I'm not
> sure why.

I had a similar reaction, but I think the last part of the post had the

from Scott's post, Bill wrote:
> It would be refreshing if people wanting to publish would create their own
> material and did not plagiarise mine.

I do have a problem with such strong protection of one's ideas (beyond
death?), but I can also understand how Bill must feel when there are lots
of people blatantly profiting from his labors.  I also feel that it's hard
to complain about a copyright on "permaculture" when we aren't coming up
with equally brilliant and useful ideas.  The idealistic part of me would
like to see a free sharing of brilliant ideas from many sources, and I
understand (grudgingly accept) the current situation for what it is.  

Bill may also be concerned about the bastardization of Permaculture by poor
teachers or others representing Bill's work with his name still attached.

It does, however, bring up a tricky problem.  When the term "Permaculture"
and associated curriculum is copyrighted, what can be permaculture without
being "Permaculture"?  In other words, aren't new ideas and twists on old
ones easily incorporated into "Permaculture"?  And do they also, then,
become protected?  Is it possible to know which ideas are Bill's and which
are someone else's?  In a PDC this distinction is not made, and in fact the
impression often given is that permaculture is a growing body of ideas.
How different must a new curriculum be in order not to infringe on the
copyright, and can that then still be labeled Permaculture?  If only Bill's
ideas and curriculum can be Permaculture, then it becomes an obstacle to
Pc's growth as an idea.  Instead of growing into something new / different
/ better, Permaculture must stagnate (though perhaps useful details will
"fill in" the overall framework) while others create new ideas with new
names.  This does not seem to be in the best interest of creating a more
sustainable human culture on Earth.

[Note:  I do not question that some plagiarize, copying text verbatim or
using illustrations.  This shows a lack of creativity and honesty.  Credit
should be given where it is due.  And a simple rewording or change of
examples is not sufficient to avoid plagiarization, in my opinion.]

This also seems to have some connection to the "problem" of the PDC and the
way it is taught.  I can't put my finger on the connection at the moment,
but there is something about the protection of ideas, reluctance to change,
and the "top down" way of teaching; competition vs cooperation?  Perhaps
someone else can elaborate.

Perhaps if we were all better at acknowledging sources and/or coming up
with new ideas we wouldn't need to worry about protecting ideas.

Eric Storm

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