Koyaanisqatsi in Cyberspace
Koyaanisqatsi is a Hopi Indian word that translates into English as 'life out of balance,' 'crazy life,' 'life in turmoil,' 'life disintegrating,' all meanings consistent with indicating 'a way of life which calls for another way of living.” While not wishing to suggest either that the international regime of intellectual property rights protection scientific and technical data and information is “crazy” or that it is “in turmoil”, this paper argues that the persisting drift of institutional change towards towards a stronger, more extensive and globally harmonized system of intellectual property protections during the past two decades has dangerously altered the balance between private rights and the public domain in data and information. In this regard we have embarked upon “a way of life which calls for another way of living.” High access charges imposed by holders of monopoly rights in intellectual property have overall consequences for the conduct of science that are particularly damaging to programs of exploratory research which are recognized to be critical for the sustained growth of knowledge-driven economies. Lack of restraint in privatizing the public domain in data and information has effects similar to those of non- cooperative behaviors among researchers in regard to the sharing of access to raw data-steams and information, or the systematic under- provision the documentation and annotation required to create reliably accurate and up-to-date public database resources. Both can significantly degrade the effectiveness of the research system as a whole. The urgency of working towards a restoration of proper balance between private property rights and the public domain in data and information arises from considerations beyond the need to protect the public knowledge commons upon which the vitality of open science depends. Policy-makers who seek to configure the institutional infrastructure to better accommodate emerging commercial opportunities of the information-intensive “new economy” – in the developed and developing countries alike –therefore have a common interest in reducing the impediments to the future commercial exploitation of peer-to-peer networking technologies which are likely to be posed by ever-more stringent enforcement of intellectual property rights.
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