[permaculture] Intellectual property

Leo Brodie leobro at comcast.net
Fri Nov 13 11:48:36 EST 2009

Regarding the discussion of intellectual property, I believe there's another layer that hasn't been discussed here. It's not such a black-and-white issue.

I've written and published several books myself, and I agree that in the current economic paradigm, the creator of the intellectual property should have the right to profit from that work. The accepted principle is that an author has no incentive to spend the time and energy creating the work if someone else can give away copies for free. It's the same principle that a farmer who builds a farm and grows food should not have someone else come in and reap the harvest or share the harvest with others.

Although the concept of intellectual property is less than 200 years old, the principle is a direct result of the ownership paradigm, which probably began with the introduction of agriculture. In the current economic paradigm, authors who want to spend a few years writing a book still need to feed themselves and have shelter. This requires money, or at least the ownership of land, which also requires money. 

So while I side with the author in this case, I also desire to envision an alternate world, a better world. It's often referred to as a "gift economy." It's a world where the idea of "ownership" or "property" has no meaning. Imagine this author lives in a world where no one owns the land, and everyone contributes to the harvest, simply because that is our tribal nature. Now this author is free to write a book without concern for feeding himself, but simply out of the joy of sharing. It follows that this author would no more think of the book as his property than is the land, or the rivers, or the air.

"Care for the earth" is inconsistent with the notion of owning it. "Care for the people" is inconsistent with the notion that some people own the land and others don't.

I realize this is a huge oversimplification. But I also suspect that it seems like an oversimplification precisely because we're mired in a cultural story that private ownership is natural. What if we had a different story, where ownership was a bizarre idea?

- Leo Brodie

More information about the permaculture mailing list