[permaculture] Re: Information ownership

permage Permage at ziplip.com
Sat Mar 30 16:22:37 EST 2002

The discussion on ownership issues (information, seeds et al) has been an interesting one with plenty of substance. I must confess that when the Thilo discussion thread first got underway, I thought the whole thing was a setup. A carefully crafted ‘dispute’ by likeminded individuals to highlight issues raised earlier by Mollison-permaculture-copywrite threads and Flick-indigenous knowledge distribution threads. I kept waiting for the final "gotcha ya’all" post. I was wrong. It was apparently quite genuine. I offer my apologies guys.

The discussion on information ownership/distribution are critical to the development and ‘maturing’ of these neo-paganist cyber-communities. (yeah I know, junk jargon, but it does roll of the tongue quite nicely)  How to use this internet medium to share much-needed information and at the same time, protect and recognise the valuable input of individuals, including their right to earn a living from that work? The discussion should also recognise the importance of this information source to those who may not have the means or resources to ‘pay’ for knowledge. Such as those engaged in projects in developing countries etc.

I am glad to see that the discussion has developed  beyond personalities clashing. There has been very little 'flaming'. That in itself says a lot for the ‘maturity’ of this email list. These are important issues that may not have clear solutions. They need to be explored. 

This also touches on the Plant Database development which spawned a separate email list. Lots of people wanted the information resource. But not too many wanted to do the work of creating it.  Open source/copyleft concepts are valuable but sometimes seem to be vague on more pragmatic isssues like how one receives just compensation for work invested in development work. (beyond the ‘feelgood’ fuzzies of dong something for the common good.)

A number of writers such as Toby and Graham have crafted excellent replies on this topic. In part, the discussion seems to rest on the development of an ethical framework for ‘life’ within our cyber-community. (Interesting that Mollison  included ethical guidelines as part of ‘Permaculture’) The fundamental issue of how to maintain the integrity of ethics in the company of others who may not respect or refuse to recognise those ethical boundaries?

To touch on analogy from the earlier discussion on indigenous knowledge, to desert aboriginals, knowledge of the location of scarce water sources were critical to their survival. Sharing of this knowledge was done with those who understood that these were survival resources that had to be sparingly used and protected for the common good of all. This ethical integrity fell apart when the information was shared with (some) white settlers who then abused the water source by using it to water cattle and horses. The water  source was dug out, fouled and a scare resource destroyed for short term gain. A survival resource lost to people who depended upon it.

Globalisation/corporatisation would see all resources locked up and controlled on a strictly user-pay principle. Ethics replaced by artificially inflated dollar values with emphasis on ‘interest’ on borrowed funds creating permanent dependencies. Anarchists (creative edge of chaos?) would perhaps see the dissolution of all such ‘ownership’. Many years ago Tofler (Alvin) wrote of the social emergence of ‘prosumers’ (cf. Consumers/producers) who would creatively ‘homestead’ idealogical landscapes utilizing emerging technology.  

Somewhere amongst all of this is the mythical (?) ‘common man’ who is simply trying to get by, raise a family, and preserve his environment as best he/she can. How do we all work together to give everyone who desires it, the tools/resources to achieve sustainable freedom and independance? Difficult questions.......

This probably doesn’t add much to the discussion. More so intended as an expression of appreciation for the fine discussion thus far. It has been most interesting and thought-provoking. Thanks.

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