If copyright won't work, try copyleft

GOA, India

If copyright doesn't work in the less affluent world, try copyleft. This is no joke, and a wide network of corporates, campaigners and senior officials are to meet this month-end in the national capital to look at new paradigms of creating and sharing knowledge. Titled "Owning the Future: Ideas and their role in the digital age", this symposium in India is being jointly organized by prestigious institution of higher education IIT (Indian Institute of Techonology) Delhi and open source software corporation Red Hat, on August 24-25, 2006.
If copyright doesn't work in the less affluent world, try copyleft. This is no joke, and a wide network of corporates, campaigners and senior officials are to meet this month-end in the national capital to look at new paradigms of creating and sharing knowledge. Titled "Owning the Future: Ideas and their role in the digital age", this symposium in India is being jointly organized by prestigious institution of higher education IIT (Indian Institute of Techonology) Delhi and open source software corporation Red Hat, on August 24-25.

This 'invitee only' event is expected to bring in some 150 technologists, policy makers, legal experts and leaders from the Free Software and Open Source communities "to examine whether our current policies on copyrights, patents and the like promote or hinder innovation".

"All the speakers have confirmed," Red Hat India's Mumbai-based head for Open Source affairs Venkatesh (Venky) Hariharan told this writer. Organisers said the meet "will seek to examine the notion of intellectual 'property', the emerging philosophy of 'copyleft', and 'Free and Open Source Software'.

Dropping a hint of where they stand, they said these issues could have a "significant impact on the 21st century"

Copyleft is a play on the word copyright and is the practice of using copyright law to remove restrictions on the distribution of copies and modified versions of a work for others and require the same freedoms be preserved in modified versions.

Growing surreptitiously via cyberspace and the GenderIT.org. ">internet

, copyleft has been applied to fields like software, documents, music, and art. In some cases, the application has been immensely successful, as in the case of computing where an entire operating system has been built through this means.

This is the second such symposium organized by Red Hat. The first was held in Raleigh, along with the University of North Carolina.

Red Hat said confirmed speakers would include policy planners, National Knowledge Commission chairman Dr Sam Pitroda, prominent Indian academicians, Software Freedom Law Centre's Eben Moglen, and the Centre for Public Domain's James Boyle.

More surprisingly, the organisers managed to rope in promises of participation from prominent proponents behind such projects, including from Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and ibiblio founder Paul Jones.

Wikipedia -- en.wikipedia.org -- is an international Web-based free-content encyclopedia project. It allows anyone to edit its content, and yet retains a amazing amount of credible, useful info. Currently, Wikipedia has more than 4.6 million articles, including 1.3 million in English alone.

ibiblio is one of the oldest WWW Internet websites and a large conservancy of freely available information, including software, music, literature, art, history, science, politics, and cultural studies.

There is a growing network -- with unlikely allies such as Allahabad high court judge Yatindra Singh, seeds campaigner Vandana Shiva, and others -- who argue that restricting knowledge in tightly-guarded vaults and proprietorial formats isn't in the interest of humankind overall.

Red Hat international vice president Michael Tiemann is also expected to attend this event, as are representatives of the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library, an Indian initiative to fight off attempts to copyright or patent knowledge known in this part of the world for generations.

Organisers argue that over several millennia, India has had a rich tradition of intellectual inquiry. From mathematicians who calculated the orbit of the earth around the sun with astonishing accuracy to traditions of yoga to ayurvedic medicine to literature and the arts.

In a context where the pursuit of knowledge has been considered a noble endeavor, "how do these traditions fare in the digital age where 'Intellectual Property' (IP), the intangible assets of knowledge and ideas, has become a pervasive idea that encompasses varied fields," they ask.

One ally is the internet, a tool that has "created an unparalleled ability to disseminate intellectual expression... based on the principles of collaboration, community and shared ownership of intellectual resources."

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