Patent on Human DNA

Christopher Gunn 1k1mgm at
Sun Nov 19 21:46:00 MST 1995

Chris Burford <cburford at> writes:

>The patenting of "intellectual property rights" is one of
>the most obscure, and one of the most important battle lines
>(imo) of the present stage of the struggle for the socialising
>of the world capitalist economy.

What's happening with "intellectual property" is the equivalent
in terms of information of the expropriation of the commons in
terms of agricultural resources, and, as yeoman thinkers, we're in
a heap of trouble.  We're looking at a future in which both access
to and use of knowledge will be metered and charged.  In a certain
sense, access to information has always been for a price, but once
you knew it, it was yours.  Even the capitalist laws reflected (and
protected) that view of things:  copyright protected expression,
patent protected technique, neither protected ideas.  The current
developments in "intellectual property" are plainly intended to
create ownership of ideas themselves.  And technology makes it
possible to monitor their use.  Is someone watching this post to see
if I've violated their copyright?  There's no reason to assume that
there isn't, and, in a few years, it's pretty safe to assume there will be.

I don't know what Marx said specifically about patents, copyright,
etc.;  I would definitely be interested in finding out.  It's safe to say
that in a society based on commodified knowledge, there will be
no Marxes toiling away in the British Museum.  I am as alarmed
by the totalistic commodification of knowledge--more, really--
than the other current antics of multinational capital.

To the extent that commodity relations are social relations, then
they're really about information *anyway*.  But the presence of a
domain of information and knowledge that's at least partly
un-commodified has been important to the survival of Marxism
and left options.

Christopher Gunn                Molecular Graphics and Modeling Laboratory
1k1mgm at       University of Kansas
Phone: 913-864-4428 or -4495    Malott Hall
                                Lawrence, KS  66045

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