Barlow, John Perry. “Intellectual Property, Information Age.” Copy Fights:  The Future of Intellectual Property in the Information Age. Eds. Thierer, Adam and Wayne Crews. Washington, D.C.: Cato Institute, 2002. 37-43. Print.

  • Barlow begins by noting that since the Telecommunications Reform Act of 1996 the consolidation of media content and capital has coalesced around five large institutions that control the majority of the world’s entertainment media as well as a lot of scientific and technical intellectual property.  B. notes that this is a problem and goes on to highlight the commodification of expression:  “in an economy where the principle article of commerce is indistinguishable from speech, efforts to control that article of commerce will inevitably control speech” (38).
  • Barlow highlights how the process of digitization is not only allowing the proliferation of traditional cultural artifacts but also allows corporations to copyright information that was once readily available in the public domain.  Acts like DMCA even prevent reproduction of a text by reading it aloud because that is an unauthorized reproduction!?! WOW.
  • Barlow argues that the proliferation of intellectual property actually increases its value because it generates shared spaces between minds. . . shared spaces that result in an “ecology of ideas” (38).  This inverts the traditional, industrial/modern era articulation of the scarcity-value relationship.  When dealing with information products the relationship is instead based on a correlation between familiarity and value – not scarcity and value.
  • Barlow uses a biological/physiological metaphor to explain the importance of intermixing (whether that be chemicals, molecules, atoms, or ideas).  He notes that “Life grows out of difference” and that to mix is to create things anew; however, when intellectual property is controlled by five or so institutional corporate bodies this intermixing becomes very difficult. . . and isn’t healthy for anyone (40).  We should be encouraging sharing on the internet (the “most fertile ecology of mind that has ever been created”) because that is where innovation comes from.

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