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Archive for 'Copyright/IP'

Richard Stallman on “Intellectual Property”

photo of Guy James

Guy James
30th May 2015


Richard Stallman, high priest of open softwareI know Stallman is not everyone’s cup of tea but he does have a way of breaking down apparently complex issues so that they can be easily understood. And once you have read his opinions about so-called ‘Intellectual Property’, you may start to wonder how we ever came to lump together three disparate concepts under one heading (hint: it benefits large corporations):

It has become fashionable to toss copyright, patents, and trademarks—three separate and different entities involving three separate and different sets of laws—plus a dozen other laws into one pot and call it “intellectual property”. The distorting and confusing term did not become common by accident. Companies that gain from the confusion promoted it. The clearest way out of the confusion is to reject the term entirely.

Read more here: ‘Did You Say “Intellectual Property”? It’s a Seductive Mirage’

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Posted in Activism, Cognitive Capitalism, Copyright/IP, Open Access | No Comments »

On the Commodification of Human Discovery

photo of David Bollier

David Bollier
13th May 2015


Not so long ago, the language of “intellectual property” (IP) was the only serious way of talking about creative works and inventions.  Copyright and patents provided the default framework for explaining how someone’s bright idea grew into a marketable product, and how that in turn contributed to economic growth and human progress. It was a neat, tidy, reassuring story.  It had an irresistible simplicity – and the endorsement of the ultimate authority, government.

And then…. the pluriversal realities of life came storming the citadel gates!  Over the past fifteen or twenty years, the monoculture narrative of IP has been attacked by indigenous cultures, seed activists, healthcare experts, advocates for the poor, the academy, and especially users of digital technologies.  It has become increasingly clear that the standard IP story, whatever its merits on a smaller scale, in competitive industries, is mostly a self-serving, protectionist weapon in the hands of Hollywood, record labels, book publishers, Big Pharma and other multinational IP industries.

We can thank the authors of a new anthology for helping to explain how the standard IP narrative is profoundly flawed, and how an array of challengers are showing how knowledge-creation so often emerges through social commons.

Free Knowledge:  Confronting the Commodification of Human Discovery, edited by Patricia W. Elliott and Daryl H. Hepting, provides a refreshing survey of the many realms in which corporations are enclosing shared knowledge — and a sampling of commons that are democratizing the production and control of knowledge. (The book is published by University of Regina Press, and is licensed under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND license.)

It’s an apt moment for this anthology, about fifteen years after the explosion of open source software, Creative Commons licenses and new genres of online collaboration like wikis, blogs and social networking. The world has changed immensely in this short period, and yet there haven’t been many broad book-length appraisals of the IP scene for a while. So why not pause and reflect more deeply on the many “other ways” of understanding knowledge?

Free Knowledge explores the social dynamics of indigenous cultures in maintaining agroecological knowledge and artistic design….the role of farmers in maintaining the biodiversity and robustness of seeds….the role of open access scholarly journals in liberating academic knowledge….and the ways in which freely shareable knowledge is important to our ecosystems, in helping us develop a post-carbon economy.

The essays in the volume take on some of the ritual catechisms of the IP bar, free-market economics and western modernity by reminding us that all creativity and knowledge are ultimately based in social life.  Their free circulation is critical to creating value. Once knowledge is objectified and hoarded as a market asset, it starts to degrade, sometimes with disastrous consequences.

As Keith Aoki, an early legal commenator on plant genetics, wrote:  “The irony is that germplasm’s value stemmed precisely from its non-commodification.  Plant genetic diversity has been an invaluable resource to humans in preserving and developing a reliable food supply, and farmers could openly access germplasm for thousands of years in local and decentralized fashion.”

The commodification of seeds through patents – and the patenting of living organisms from bacteria to genetically engineered mammals – amounts to an arrogant imposition of scarcity economics on natural abundance. IP regimes are no assurance of access, social equity or ecological stewardship. IP in the hands of industry is mostly about proprietary control and private gain.

For too long, the larger implications of the marketization of knowledge have been ignored.  But now that we’ve seen the harm caused by the patenting of “breast cancer susceptibility genes” and life-saving drugs, it’s time to develop more humane alternatives to antiquated IP laws.

Free Knowledge not only reviews the many unpleasant impacts of over-reaching, ethically challenged IP laws, it explains their deeply flawed epistemology for conceptualizing knowledge.  No, the “lone genius” is not solely responsible for new creative works; a legacy of culture and science is a critical factor as well.  Valuable knowledge is often created by entire communities over generations, or through networks of collaborators — consider free software communities, open design networks and indigenous societies.  Why can’t IP law take these realities into account?

The imposition of intellectual property norms on us, often through violent government coercion and trade treaties, inflicts a great deal of harm. It needlessly withholds life-saving drugs from those who can’t afford them. It marginalizes and degrades the cultures that have been the historic stewards of biodiversity. It changes how people relate to the land and each other.  It locks in an exploitative, extractive relationship between humans and ecosystems.

Free Knowledge is a welcome survey of such alarming impacts of IP law. For a new generation that missed an earlier generation of progressive IP tracts, the book is also a valuable introduction to some salutary alternatives.


Originally published at bollier.org

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Posted in Commons, Commons Transition, Copyright/IP, Featured Book, Original Content, P2P Books, Sharing | No Comments »

How vehicle makers are trying to lock out farmers and drivers from ownership

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
24th April 2015


Excerpted from Kyle Wiens:

“JOHN Deere and General Motors want to eviscerate the notion of ownership. Sure, we pay for their vehicles. But we don’t own them. Not according to their corporate lawyers, anyway.

In a particularly spectacular display of corporate delusion, John Deere—the world’s largest agricultural machinery maker —told the Copyright Office that farmers don’t own their tractors. Because computer code snakes through the DNA of modern tractors, farmers receive “an implied license for the life of the vehicle to operate the vehicle.”

It’s John Deere’s tractor, folks. You’re just driving it.

Several manufacturers recently submitted similar comments to the Copyright Office under an inquiry into the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. DMCA is a vast 1998 copyright law that (among other things) governs the blurry line between software and hardware. The Copyright Office, after reading the comments and holding a hearing, will decide in July which high-tech devices we can modify, hack, and repair—and decide whether John Deere’s twisted vision of ownership will become a reality.

Over the last two decades, manufacturers have used the DMCA to argue that consumers do not own the software underpinning the products they buy—things like smartphones, computers, coffeemakers, cars, and, yes, even tractors. So, Old MacDonald has a tractor, but he owns a massive barn ornament, because the manufacturer holds the rights to the programming that makes it run.

(This is an important issue for farmers: a neighbor, Kerry Adams, hasn’t been able to fix an expensive transplanter because he doesn’t have access to the diagnostic software he needs. He’s not alone: many farmers are opting for older, computer-free equipment.)

Over the last two decades, manufacturers have used the DMCA to argue that consumers do not own the software that powers the products they buy.

In recent years, some companies have even leveraged the DMCA to stop owners from modifying the programming on those products. This means you can’t strip DRM off smart kitty litter boxes, install custom software on your iPad, or alter the calibration on a tractor’s engine. Not without potentially running afoul of the DMCA.

What does any of that have to do with copyright? Owners, tinkerers, and homebrew “hackers” must copy programming so they can modify it. Product makers don’t like people messing with their stuff, so some manufacturers place digital locks over software. Breaking the lock, making the copy, and changing something could be construed as a violation of copyright law.

And that’s how manufacturers turn tinkerers into “pirates”—even if said “pirates” aren’t circulating illegal copies of anything. Makes sense, right? Yeah, not to me either.

It makes sense to John Deere: The company argues that allowing people to alter the software—even for the purpose of repair—would “make it possible for pirates, third-party developers, and less innovative competitors to free-ride off the creativity, unique expression and ingenuity of vehicle software.”

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Posted in Anti-P2P, Copyright/IP, P2P Manufacturing | No Comments »

Defending Free Software Against Privatizers

photo of David Bollier

David Bollier
13th March 2015


Christoph Hellwig

Christoph Hellwig

How can you protect a commons of software code from free riders who attempt to take it private for their commercial gain?

The traditional answer has been copyright-based licenses such as the General Public License, a legendary legal hack on copyright law that ensures the perpetual “shareability” of all licensed code. The GPL requires that third parties make any derivative software programs freely available to everyone and that they use the same license, thus ensuring that all future downstream uses of the code will also remain shareable.

But what happens if a company simply ignores the GPL and continues to free ride?  We are about to find out.

After a long period of alleged non-compliance with the GPL, the software firm VMware is being sued by the Software Freedom Conservancy, a nonprofit home and infrastructure for free, libre and open source software projects. Most companies respect the GPL and other open source licenses, which is why this lawsuit is a rare enforcement action.

The Software Freedom Conservancy reports that it attempted to reason with VMWare, a $36 billion company traded on the New York Stock Exchange, before finally realizing that the company had no intention of complying. The last straw came when VMWare demanded that that lawyers sign a nondisclosure agreement just to discuss settlement terms.

The plaintiff is German Christophe Hellwig, a key developer of the Linux kernel in this case,  The lawsuit was filed in a German court last week. The Conservancy describes Hellwig’s experience this way:

Christoph is among the most active developers of Linux. As of Feburary 19, 2015, Christoph has contributed 279,653 lines of code to the Linux kernel, and ranks twentieth among the 1,340 developers involved in the latest 3.19 kernel release. Christoph also ranks fourth among those who have reviewed third-party source code, tirelessly corrected and commented on other developers’ contributions. Christoph licenses his code to the public under the terms of the GPL for practical and ideological reasons.

VMware, a company with net revenue of over $1 billion and over 14,000 employees, ignored Christoph’s choice. They took Christoph’s code from Linux and modified it to work with their own kernel without releasing source code of the resulting complete work. This is precisely the kind of activity Christoph and other kernel developers seek to prevent by choosing the GPL. The GPL was written to prevent this specific scenario!

…..What point is there for companies to make sure that they’re compliant if there are no consequences when the GPL is violated? Many will continue to ignore the rules without enforcement. We know that there are so many companies that willingly comply and embrace GPL as part of their business. Some are temporarily out of compliance and need to be brought up to speed, but willingly comply once they realize there is an issue. Sadly, VMware sits in the rare but infamous class of perpetually non-compliant companies. VMware has been aware of their noncompliance for years but actively refuses to do the right thing. Help us do right by those who take the code in the spirit it was given and comply with copyleft, and stop those don’t.

Here is a FAQ about the lawsuit.  The court ruling promises to be a landmark not just in clarifying the scope and enforceability of the GPL, but in showing that FLOSS users have the will and capacity to defend their software commons.  So, in this spirit, consider a contribution to the legal fund for enforcing the GPL, and consider joining the Free Software Conservancy.

Why care about the GPL? Check out the recent blog post by Mike Linksvayer, former Creative Commons Chief Technology Officer, “Six reasons for GPL lovers, haters, exploiters and others to enjoy and support GPL enforcement.”

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Posted in Anti-P2P, Commons, Copyright/IP, Culture & Ideas, Original Content, P2P Legal Dev., Peer Property | No Comments »

Island in the net or an alternative to the net?

photo of Manuel Ortega

Manuel Ortega
8th March 2015


Could new free systems, thought of as alternatives to Facebook and Twitter, and with a distributed structure, create a different logic and dynamic from these born on centralized services?

Mar_de_floresAt the end of 2010, we published several posts on the nature and the consequences of the FbT-model, that is, socialization on Facebook + Twitter. The conversations that fed these posts were born of the question of whether new, free systems, thought of as alternatives to Facebook + Twitter and with a distributed structure, could create a different logic and dynamic from these born on centralized services.

We knew well the general dangers of centralized services, but beyond that, it became clear and obvious that the FbT-model had serious consequences for the culture that was born on the Internet. Little by little, it endangers the birth of conversational communities, and consequently limits the birth of new identities and social models.

Three years later

Not long ago, we installed two nodes of GNUsocial, one of these alternative systems. The two nodes are lamatriz.org and pluvio.net. In these first days of experience with GNUsocial, we learned a lot and begin discover interesting and important contributions to the above-mentioned conversation.

David: On the other quitter nodes, I think there is less sharing of links than on Twitter, and more characters and conversation.

Jacinto: How nice to have a space for calm conversation without all the noise.

First David and later Jacinto made reference to the existence of conversations in the nodes of GNUsocial. Reading their messages and rereading past posts, I believe I have found the key to understanding where this difference comes from.

It’s curious that when service is thought of for a real community and the software on which it is based is released… it loses its centralizing role (like Facebook’s), because it focuses on the building of an “island in the net,” provides tools for others, and distances itself from the totalitarian idea of making an alternative to the net.

Translated by Steve Herrick from the original (in Esperanto)

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Posted in Commons, Copyright/IP, Culture & Ideas, Free Software, Networks, Open Content, Original Content, P2P Development, P2P Technology, Social Media | No Comments »

Guerrilla Translation: Welcome Back, and Looking Forward

photo of Stacco Troncoso

Stacco Troncoso
26th February 2015


Reposted from GuerrillaTranslation.org, my partner Ann Marie Utratel describes Guerrilla Translation’s journey in the last year and gives an overview of our new websites and our plans for 2015.

GT supercollage

Images from some of our articles

We know it may have seemed as if we’ve been inactive, or even as if we’d given up. Nothing could be further from the truth, so let me tell you a bit about our feverish year. Stacco attended the 2014 OuiShare Fest in Paris, France, and we were voted one among five winners. Together, we attended the subsequent OuiShare Acceleration Week in Paris. The two of us with Guy James helped represent the P2P Foundation at the OpenEverything Convergence held in Dublin and Cloughjordan, Ireland in September. With Arianne Sved and Susa Oñate, we developed our member screening and testing processes, and open governance model. The latter is directly inspired by the work of Enspiral (the group that developed Loomio); we had the chance to meet Ben Knight and Hannah Salmon of Loomio when they visited Madrid in the autumn. Stacco, with help from the team, built our GT wiki full of information for both public view and internal reference. Stacco also appeared on national Spanish television to talk about the project. We’ve subtitled the interview in the video below.

Arianne headed up a conference in Barcelona centered on a universal basic income proposal for Spain, participated in her local Guanyem and Podemos circles, and was even a local Podemos citizens’ council candidate. Carmen Lozano Bright came on board near the end of the year, and helped greatly with strategic planning for the relaunch. Carmen also received an ECF research grant for a project called P2P Plazas; Guy and I helped her during the proposal stage. Carmen will also lead one of our upcoming special projects centered on David Bollier’s book “Think like a Commoner”. Again with Guy, we got involved in some other related synergistic initiatives including FairCoop. I had an article published in STIR magazine. To finish off the year, the three of us hackathoned our way through building and launching the Commons Transition platform, wiki and e-book! And the entire team (including Lara, Rocío, Cristopher, and Georgina) prepared all of the new translations.

It was a truly action-packed year full of surprises, lessons and connections. Individually and as a team, we intensified our participation in the fields we’re passionate about, and developed new relationships with like-minded people. We aren’t a very large team, though, so between these events, we actively engaged some new collaborating members. Being a collective means that we always need to work on our collaborative relationships, and sometimes things don’t work out as hoped. In the end, we’re grateful for the experience and the work. Finally, in the autumn of 2014, we began working in earnest to re-launch the site with a number of objectives in mind. Allow me to take you through our recent changes and near-future plans.

We hope you like our redesigned web magazine; we’ve made a lot of changes with our readers in mind. Our original site presented a generous selection of translations, transcriptions, and other texts – roughly 100 pieces in total, ranging from 500 to 9,000 words, plus an abundance of subtitled videos. But with the constraints of our WordPress theme and other limitations, we had both target languages (Spanish and English) lumped together. Also, the menus and other factors made navigation less than ideal. We simply outgrew our original site. To address these obvious flaws, we spent several months creating two new, separate sites: guerrillatranslation.org for target English content, and guerrillatranslation.es for target Spanish (tell all your friends!)

guyj_profile02

Guerrilla Translation, FairCoop and P2P Foundation superhero, Guy James

We’ve preserved the large, “widescreen” image effect in the featured content section, which includes long-form narrative texts with a healthy shelf life. The revamped menus now make the site more navigable and logically organized. We’ve also created a dedicated space for our subtitled videos. We’ve updated and enlarged our static content pages, including our Founding Principles and FAQ, author pages and our regular team bios.

Since launching in 2013, we’ve never had a means to receive any donations for our pro-bono work; we now have a donations page. You can also learn about the services we offer as a complement to our pro-bono work here on this page.

We’re especially proud to share this series of generous testimonials from some of the authors we’ve worked with.

We worked very hard this year on our mission to share information with our peers worldwide, and to help change the overall narrative of our times by incorporating new stories that carry human and environmentally-grounded values.

Looking forward to what we intend to do in 2015, it’s hard to imagine our plates being much fuller, but an abundance of choices is not something to complain about. Here are some of our plans and intentions:

  • Developing a project in collaboration with the author David Bollier, using his book “Think Like a Commoner” in a Spanish translation as a pilot self-publishing and co- or crowd-financed project.
  • Some of us will continue working with the P2P Foundation on a regular basis, including maintaining the Commons Transition site, developing the commons-based reciprocity license (“Copyfair”) project, and collaborating with general management and fundraising strategizing, among other activities.
  • We’ll keep expanding our collaboration with our friends in the Catalan Integral Cooperative, FairCoop, las Indias, DIWOland, Shareable, MediaLab-Prado, la Plataforma por la Libertad de Prensa, Platoniq/Goteo, and many others. As different as these groups may seem, we’ve had the benefit of direct relationships with them all, and have learned a lot about their common ground, collaborative spirit and rich diversity.
  • Ongoing participation in the customized development of specialized value-tracking software for our unique economic redistribution model, in conjunction with Mikorizal Software, Sensorica and other players.
  • Team-building and -strengthening, striking a balance between being selective (regarding skills, independence/teamwork flexibility, commitment, reliability and time management) contrasted with the level of inclusion and cohesive, familiar dynamics we prefer.
  • Finally, I will be joining the Platoniq and Goteo teams for a six-month international project.

Thank you for being part of our growing circle of readers, authors and translators. We hope you enjoy our work and feel moved to share it widely, and we welcome your feedback.

Ann Marie Utratel

Co-founder, Guerrilla Translation

Ann Marie presents GT at the Ouishare Acceleration week

Ann Marie presents GT at the Ouishare Acceleration week

PPLicense mockup small
Produced by Guerrilla Translation
under a Peer Production License.


Backgound image to “Welcome Back and Looking Forward” side widget by Sami Farin


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Posted in Activism, Collective Intelligence, Commons Transition, Copyright/IP, Culture & Ideas, Ethical Economy, Featured Project, Original Content, P2P Collaboration, P2P Company Watch, P2P Development, P2P Labor, Sharing | No Comments »

The Soaring Use of Creative Commons Licenses

photo of David Bollier

David Bollier
19th February 2015


Creative-Commons-Icons

Creative Commons has just issued a report documenting usage patterns of its licenses.  It’s great to learn that the number of works using CC licenses has soared since this vital (and voluntary) workaround to copyright law was introduced twelve years ago, in 2003.

According to a new report, the State of the Commons, recently released by Creative Commons, the licenses were used on an estimated 50 million works in 2006 and on 400 million works in 2010.  By 2014, that number had climbed to 882 million CC-licensed works.  Nine million websites now use CC licenses, including major sites like YouTube, Wikipedia, Flickr, Public Library of Science, Scribd and Jamendo.  The report includes a great series of infographics  that illustrate key findings.

For any latecomers, CC licenses are a free set of public licenses that let copyright holders of books, films, websites, music, photography and other creative works choose to make their works legally shareable.  The licenses are necessary because copyright law makes no provisions for sharing beyond a vaguely defined set of “fair use” principles.  Copyright law is mostly about automatically locking up all works in a strict envelope of private property rights.  This makes it complicated and costly to let others legally share and re-use works.

The CC licenses were invented as a solution, just as Web 2.0 was getting going.  It has functioned as a vital element of infrastructure for building commons of knowledge and creativity.  It did this by providing a sound legal basis for sharing digital content, helping to leverage the power of network-driven sharing.

The licenses have also helped commoners develop their own alternatives to conventional, proprietary forms of corporate culture – Hollywood, commercial television, the major record labels, the big book publishers. Instead of a system that separates producers from consumers, and privileges the power of (corporate) intermediaries in market-based culture, CC licenses have enabled commoners to collaborate among themselves, generating a bottom-up flow of mostly noncommercial creative content.

A big issue in many free culture circles is how “free” are the licenses.  Some CC licenses prohibit commercial and derivative uses of a work, which makes them “less free,” while other licenses that allow both adaptations of a work and commercial use are “free.”  (“Free as in freedom, not as in free beer,” as Richard Stallman famously put it.)  According to the new CC report, roughly 56% of the 882 million CC-licensed works out there allow for both adaptations and commercial uses of a work (“free culture licenses”).  This percentage is up from 40% in 2010.  A full 76% of works counted allow adaptations, and 58% allow commercial use.

A breakdown of license usage showed these interesting numbers:

CC0:4%

CC BY:19%

CC BY-SA:33%

CC BY-ND:2%

CC BY-NC:4%

CC BY-NC-SA:16%

CC BY-NC-ND:22%

Usage of CC licenses around the world fall into these inter-continental percentages, as this infographic shows:

The international proliferation of the licenses has spurred an interest in all sorts of initiatives to make government information, scholarly journals, culture and educational curricula more accessible to people.  Fourteen countries have made formal national commitments to open education through legislation or projects that “lead to the creation, increased use, or improvement of open educational resources by requiring an open license like CC BY.  Open textbooks – i.e., CC licensed and therefore more easily shareable and inexpensively produced – have saved students over $100 million.

For years, there were CC licenses for more than 170 legal jurisdictions around the world.  This was the only way to make the licenses legally enforceable.  But as the legal terms of the licenses were gradually adapted to the laws of more than 35 countries, there has been a greater convergence of licensing terms transnationally.  To reflect this, Creative Commons in December 2014 released Version 4.0 licenses that are designed to be more useable by the global user community.

The new licenses include new provisions related to database rights, personality rights, and data mining – provisions that have already been endorsed by the European Commission for use by public sector institutions, and by the White House for federal government datasets.

The CC report concludes with a few warnings about the threats to the sharing of information and culture. These include things like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a treaty that, if passed, will extend copyright terms by another 20 years beyond its current, mandatory term.  In other words, a giveaway worth billions of dollars to existing copyright holders (primarily large corporations) that will do little to serve the public.  Creative Commons also hopes to improve the technologies that will enable wider usage of its licenses.

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Posted in Commons, Copyright/IP, Culture & Ideas, Open Access, Open Content, Open Models, Original Content, P2P Art and Culture, Sharing | No Comments »

Essay of the Day: Free Software and the Law

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
28th January 2015


* Article: Free software and the law. Out of the frying pan and into the fire: how shaking up intellectual property suits competition just fine. By Angela Daly. Journal of Peer Production, Issue 3, July 2013

From the Abstract:

“Free software is viewed as a revolutionary and subversive practice, and in particular has dealt a strong blow to the traditional conception of intellectual property law (although in its current form could be considered a ‘hack’ of IP rights). However, other (capitalist) areas of law have been swift to embrace free software, or at least incorporate it into its own tenets. One area in particular is that of competition (antitrust) law, which itself has long been in theoretical conflict with intellectual property, due to the restriction on competition inherent in the grant of ‘monopoly’ rights by copyrights, patents and trademarks. This contribution will examine how competition law has approached free software by examining instances in which courts have had to deal with such initiatives, for instance in the Oracle Sun Systems merger, and the implications that these decisions have on free software initiatives. The presence or absence of corporate involvement in initiatives will be an important factor in this investigation, with it being posited that true instances of ‘commons-based peer production’ can still subvert the capitalist system, including perplexing its laws beyond intellectual property.”

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Posted in Copyright/IP, Featured Essay, Free Software, P2P Legal Dev. | No Comments »

SELC and Shareable Kickoff Campaign to Save Seed Sharing in the U.S.

photo of Stacco Troncoso

Stacco Troncoso
26th January 2015


SaveSeedSharing

Reposted from our friends at Shareable, please share the following article, written by Cat Johnson, as widely as possible.


Neil Thapar first encountered seed issues in law school when he worked with the Center for Food Safety against genetically-modified food. But it was a season spent working on an organic farm in Santa Cruz, California when he began to understand, first-hand, the importance of seeds as a foundation of our agricultural system. He explains, “When I came off the farm I said, ‘If I’m going to be a lawyer, I’m going to be a lawyer doing things that I think are making a positive difference.’”

Thapar is now the point person for Save Seed Sharing, an advocacy and education campaign to protect and promote seed sharing in the U.S. He’s leading the campaign for the Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC)—where he’s a staff attorney—and campaign partner Shareable.

At the heart of the seed issue, which started in June when agriculture officials in Pennsylvania cracked down on the Joseph T. Simpson public library’s seed library, is that a number of states are now applying laws meant for big, commercial seed producers to small, citizen-run seed libraries. According to SELC, “in order to give out member-donated seeds, the Simpson Seed Library would have to put around 400 seeds of each variety through impractical seed testing procedures in order to determine quality, germination rate, and so on.” The concern among seed activists is that seed libraries (about 300 in the U.S.) will be regulated out of existence if this trend continues.

“The goal [of seed sharing],” says Thapar, “is to preserve and promote genetic diversity by having people grow tons of different plants all over the place rather than having one single crop being grown on a massive scale that becomes more and more susceptible to a shock to the system and it will be harder and harder to recover from.” He adds, “It represents a strategy that we have to follow if we want to develop a more resilient agricultural system.”

For the Save Seed Sharing campaign, SELC is partnering with Shareable, Richmond Grows, several other organizations including Seed Matters, SeedSavers Exchange, and concerned citizens. The campaign is designed to educate people about seed sharing issues, support seed sharing communities, and reform overzealous seed laws. The campaign goals are:

The tactics to be taken for the campaign are as follows:

Key resources for the campaign are an online petition urging state officials to protect seed libraries from inappropriate regulation; an in-the-works guide to seed libraries that will include best practices, how to start a seed library, how to introduce people to the concept of seed libraries, and how to train seed librarians and library users; and a set of policy recommendations for people to use to change seed laws and engage city and state officials in supporting seed libraries.

For Thapar, the best case scenario for the campaign is to gather 10,000 signatures on the Save Seed Sharing petition; pass laws in at least two states this year that amend the seed law to support seed libraries and explicitly exempt seed libraries from seed laws; and that other states look to those laws as models and incorporate the changes into their state seed laws. Ultimately, what he would like is that this becomes the new standard for what a seed law is and that the amended draft gets put into the Revised Seed Law, a model bill that the Association of American Seed Control Officials creates.

“If we could get an explicit exemption in there,” says Thapar, “that would really have a lot of effect in terms of protection and the stability that seed sharing would have moving forward.”

Please sign the petition today to help protect seed sharing in the U.S.

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Posted in Campaigns, Copyright/IP, Culture & Ideas, Food and Agriculture, Open Content, P2P Collaboration, Peer Property, Sharing | No Comments »

Four bets on change that will come in 2015

photo of David de Ugarte

David de Ugarte
17th January 2015


manifestacion

  1. Bruce Sterling said back in 2002 that the new political movements that would reflect the social changes that were taking shape with the start of the century would have “passion for the vote.” In the English-speaking world, we had an advance this year with Loomio, and in our cultural surroundings, with the release of the code of Democracia OS. But things are already moving politically and socially with the founding of Podemos and the debates on how to create mass online participation.Bet 1 2015 will be the year hundreds of municipalities start up the first systems of citizen co-government using the Internet.
  2.  

  3. We began 2014 with mandatory single servings of olive oil, a law that sought transfer rents from small producers and restaurants to oil multinationals. The cherry on top of the electric reform was to make us pay big electric companies for the solar energy we produced ourselves, and we closed 2014 with the AEDE tax and the government saying that “the Government created the legislation just the way the editors of the mass media proposed it.” In 2015, things will be clear even to the most blind: the only future project Big Business is capable of in our day is trying to capture more and more rents through the State. Imagination is only useful for feeding a self-interested nationalism in which, at best, innovation means that multinationals get grants to compete against the young and the innovative.Bet 2 With this narrative and this political collusion, Big Business will become even more unpopular in 2015. The startup narrative will go from an uninspiring media mantra to being denounced as pure and simple speculation in jobs.
  4.  

  5. In contrast, the technological revolution is moving more than ever. If it doesn’t seem to fascinate the major media any more, that’s because what interests them and what they support are technologies that recentralize power, especially economic power. They give the cold shoulder, and sometimes bared fangs, to new technologies and social practices that redistribute power. But, even though there’s no hype, these things are unstoppable. With the pioneers of the direct economy maturing and opening factories in the middle of industrial desertification, the idea of crisis of scale will become part of social debate, and industrial policies driven by citizen participation will focus on new models of production.Bet 3 If last year was the year of collaborative consumption, this will be the year of the emergence of a direct economy that brings the industrial world closer to the P2P mode of production.
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  7. In an environment of alternative reflections and P2P movements, if in 2014 the rise of Syriza and Podemos served to show that a change of scene was starting to happen in Europe, 2015, with the forseeable electoral triumphs of “new Left,” will bring the focus back towards what that scenario allows. The P2P Foundation will go into greater depth with its “Open Coop” model with allies like the CIC and its own interpretation of the phyle, initiatives born at the periphery of the Anglo-Saxon world like Enspiral and Sensorica wll turn platform models that serve as an interface between the market and hacker networks and SMEs into a “replicable system.” Meanwhile, our own, dear An?ovoligo will continue growing and organizing networks and activities after its debut last October.Bet 4 In 2015, the topic among activists and researchers of P2P and other alternative models will not be theoretical debate, but rather in the practical organization of networks and little transnational “clusters” of cooperatives and P2P collectives with a view to creating a space productive of their own, a phyle. We will likely see — and have — big slip-ups and many attempts that come to nothing, but also the first seeds of a new kind of networks that are able to “take care of” their members beyond sporadic solidarity.

Translated by Steve Herrick from the original (in Spanish)

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