[URBANTH-L]CFP/AAA: Social Movements and Intellectual Property Rights: Building a New Intellectual Commons

Thomas Pearson twpear at gmail.com
Tue Mar 4 21:49:03 EST 2008

Please circulate

Call for Papers / Proposed Session
Annual Meeting, American Anthropological Association
San Francisco, CA, November 19-23, 2008

*"Social Movements and Intellectual Property Rights: Building a New
Intellectual Commons"*

This panel features research on social movements and Intellectual Property
Rights (IPR) to examine how movements resist or utilize IPR while creating
alternatives to private control over intangible goods. Recent years have
seen the extension of legal monopolies to areas of life once considered
beyond the private property system, ranging from software codes to genetic
codes. These monopolies seek to "protect" intellectual property by granting
the "right" to exclude others from using, exchanging, transforming,
improving, or at times even understanding the intellectual property in
question. Such "enclosures of the mind" occur through copyright, patents,
trademarks, and industrial designs, for example, all of which fall under the
rubric of IPR. These rights to exclude are secured through a growing web of
national laws, free trade accords, international treaties, and supranational

The underlying processes of privatization, commodification, and
monopolization that accompany the expansion of intellectual property rights,
however, have not gone uncontested. Examples could include such diverse
movements and collective experiments as the Free Software Movement; the
Creative Commons licensing project; the Wikipedia collective; music and file
sharing collectives; pirated CD/DVD vendors' movements; campaigns for
affordable, generic pharmaceuticals; opposition to bioprospecting; movements
against patents over seeds, biodiversity, genetically modified and synthetic
organisms; and struggles against corporate control over genetic information.
Some of these movements seek to carve out a space to promote the exchange
and development of knowledge, often utilizing IPR mechanisms such as
copyright in the process, while others seek to fundamentally challenge the
logic of intellectual property altogether, perhaps struggling to keep "life
itself" beyond the reach of commodity exchange. Still others, such as
informal vendors of pirated DVD movies, sometimes organize to confront the
enforcement of IPR laws.

This panel brings together research that on the surface may appear to treat
different topics, but which ultimately address similar underlying processes.
What insights do we gain into the privatization and monopolization of
knowledge, for instance, by studying the diverse array of movements that
challenge IPR? Under what circumstances do social movements take shape to
reject, utilize, or change IPR in the construction of a new intellectual
commons? In what ways do social movements challenge not only IPR but
concepts such as "rights," "property," and "protection"? What new languages
and strategies are being developed to resist dominant IPR regimes or to
design less restrictive mechanisms for exercising claims over intangible
goods? Does anthropology contribute to such movements, or is the discipline
limited by increasingly corporate academic settings that encourage IPR and
advance enclosures of the mind?

Please send proposed abstracts of up to 250 words to Tom Pearson at
twpear at gmail.com by March 17th.

Thomas Pearson
Doctoral Candidate
Department of Anthropology
State University of New York, Binghamton
pearson at binghamton.edu / twpear at gmail.com

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