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Book review: "Information Feudalism" by Drahos & Braithwaite
By brian, Section News
Posted on Sat Dec 13th, 2003 at 13:34:12 GMT
This is a brief review of the book "Information Feudalism" by Professor Peter Drahos and John Braithwaite. The subject of the book should be of interest to anyone involved in free software.


Information Feudalism - Who Owns the Knowledge Economy?
Peter Drahos with John Braithwaite
October 2002, Paperback, 272 pages, ISBN:1853839175 RRP: 12UKP

This book by Professor Peter Drahos and John Braithwaite of the Australian National University is a spin-off from their previous major academic work "Global Business Regulation" (722 pages) published by Cambridge University Press.

In "Information Feudalism" they focus on the role of patents, copyright and trademarks in creating cartels and monopolies throughout the 20th century in numerous areas of industry -- chemical, pharmaceutical, electronics, biotechnology, software and entertainment. The book draws on hundreds of interviews conducted with major players in business and government, both in industrialized and developing countries.

A large part of the book examines the TRIPS Agreement and explains how representatives from a small number of multinational corporations were able to force their agenda onto developing nations through political lobbying in Washington for trade sanctions against their opponents.

For those interested in free software the book also covers the process by which copyright was imposed on software by IBM and others during the 1980's (Chapter 11, Infogopolies). Although it is not widely remembered today, prior to this period all software was free software --- there was no copyright on software. This is a fairly short part of the book but contains the relevant details.

The final chapters on "Resisting the New Inequality" and "On the Importance of the Publicness of Knowledge" should be of interest to everyone who is concerned about the on-going attempts to appropriate public knowledge for monopolistic purposes.

In these chapters the authors set out their thesis that political power combined with the false idea of a "right" to ownership of knowledge as property, without regard to public welfare, leads to a form of feudalism in an information society.

Conclusion: Recommended

See also a review by Matthew Rimmer of the Faculty of Law, at the Australian National University.

This book was recommended to me by Ciaran O'Riordan via his webpage.

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Book review: "Information Feudalism" by Drahos & Braithwaite | 5 comments (5 topical, editorial) | Post A Comment
[new] Yeh, great book (#1)
by coriordan (#377) () on Fri Dec 19th, 2003 at 22:54:53 GMT
(User Info) http://www.compsoc.com/~coriordan/

Glad you liked it. Before reading this book I couldn't figure out why so many countries signed the TRIPS agreement. Years of research went into the book, so it's not just yet another opinion piece.

It was recommended to me by Martin Keegan of UKCDR. He also recommended "Information Rules!" by Carl Shapiro and Hal Varian but I haven't read that yet.

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[new] Timeless way of building (#2)
by bearware (#353) on Mon Dec 22nd, 2003 at 12:00:12 GMT
(User Info)

I recomend The timeless way of building by Christopher Alexander. It was published in about 1970. He talkes about a Language that belongs to the people, about people who know how to build. He says that some time ago we all know how to build and we knew better that the architects do today. The architects and factorys tell us we can't do it and we give up and forget how, the architects don't tell us. Then they dont tell each other, they have secrets. Then they build for us, and the building does not work. They never now why the building does not work, because they dont live in it. We know but are told that we dont because we are not architects. Then we ask then to knock in down and build a better one. He talks about reastablishing a language of building.

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[new] Direct TV (#3)
by a member of the hurd (#-1) on Sat Jun 12th, 2004 at 21:41:49 GMT

Excellent discussion! Direct TV
Satellite TV

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[new] 1020 (#4)
by laojean (#683) on Fri Dec 3rd, 2004 at 22:43:16 GMT
(User Info) http://www.romanfr.com

So good
23 4<
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[new] r"r- (#5)
by a member of the hurd (#-1) on Wed Dec 15th, 2004 at 10:53:02 GMT

鲜 /--*i googler"r- 鲜 /--*i /-绿A`d摆

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Book review: "Information Feudalism" by Drahos & Braithwaite | 5 comments (5 topical, editorial) | Post A Comment
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