Access to Knowledge in the Age of Intellectual Property
At the end of the twentieth century, intellectual property rights collided with everyday life. Expansive copyright laws and digital rights management technologies sought to shut down new forms of copying and remixing made possible by the Internet. International laws expanding patent rights threatened the lives of millions of people around the world living with HIV/AIDS by limiting their access to cheap generic medicines. For decades, governments have tightened the grip of intellectual property law at the bidding of information industries; but recently, groups have emerged around the world to challenge this wave of enclosure with a new counter-politics of “access to knowledge” or “A2K.” They include software programmers who took to the streets to defeat software patents in Europe, AIDS activists who forced multinational pharmaceutical companies to permit copies of their medicines to be sold in poor countries, subsistence farmers defending their rights to food security or access to agricultural biotechnology, and college students who created a new “free culture” movement to defend the digital commons.
Access to Knowledge in the Age of Intellectual Property maps this emerging field of activism as a series of historical moments, strategies, and concepts. It gathers some of the most important thinkers and advocates in the field to make the stakes and strategies at play in this new domain visible and the terms of intellectual property law intelligible in their political implications around the world.
A Creative Commons edition of this work will be freely available online.
About the Editors
Gaëlle Krikorian is a doctoral student at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris and a member of the consultative board AC27 at the national research agency on HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis (ANRS).
Amy Kapczynski is Assistant Professor of Law at the University of California, Berkeley, Law School. She cofounded Universities Allied for Essential Medicines in 2002.
“Amy Kapczynski and Gaelle Krikorian have compiled what could easily be considered the definitive collection of essays on the Access to Knowledge movement.”—Publishing Research Quarterly
“Like so much within the A2K debates, this comes down to a matter of opinion, political stance, economic position, and more; in short, how one views the present social reality, and what one holds as a social ideal. This collection is vitally important, then, in that there is much here to help us make our opinions more informed ones, even while it illustrates how there are no easy answers to the relevant questions.”—Rain Taxi Review of Books
“It's hard to believe that the 'definitive' book has already been written about a movement as new as A2K. It’s even more unusual for an edited collection of essays to have the power of a monograph. But this collection of essays is both the definitive explanation of the access to knowledge movement and a beautifully constructed conversation about the various ideas, conceptual, political and organizational, that make it up. From Amy Kapczynski’s superb overview, to Yochai Benkler’s brilliant meditation on the commons, to Lawrence Liang's superbly titled 'The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Book,' the central ideas of A2K are laid out with a freshness and power that is remarkable. And the rest of the contributors in the 60+ ! essays gathered here are just as strong. This is a must-have for university libraries, but it is also something that will be read intently, tactically, and sometimes uneasily, in venues ranging from WIPO to the university classroom. Highly recommended.”
—James Boyle, Duke University, author of The Public Domain
“This is the first book of its kind. It comprehensively describes the intellectual contours of a powerful and emerging social movement and serves as a handbook for activism. The A2K movement is disparate and diverse. So assembling a volume that takes account of its various strands and influences is no small task. Gaëlle Krikorian and Amy Kapczynski have selected works from the most influential writers and practitioners of this new distributed politics. I will certainly assign this book to my 250-student survey course next year.”
—Siva Vaidhyanathan, University of Virginia, author of The Googlization of Everything