Intellectual property has become such a hot topic that it needs to be doused with some history. Strange as it may sound, this is an argument developed convincingly in Lewis Hyde’s “Common as Air,” an eloquent and erudite plea for protecting our cultural patrimony from appropriation by commercial interests.
The history that Hyde invokes goes back to the Middle Ages, when villagers enjoyed collective rights to common lands, but for the most part it is situated in the era of the founding fathers. Hyde invokes the founders in order to warn us against a new enclosure movement, one that would fence off large sectors of the public domain — in science, the arts, literature, and the entire world of knowledge — in order to exploit monopolies.
This quote, cited in the article, from one B. Franklin of Philadelphia, PA:
“That as we enjoy great advantages from the inventions of others, we should be glad of an opportunity to serve others by any invention of ours, and this we should do freely and generously.”
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