The Statute of Anne, 1709, probably the first complete copyright statute

Readings for Artworkers is a series of seminars at the Free/Slow University of Warsaw. Another meeting will provide an opportunity to discuss copyright and the consequences of its extension. We will also take a closer look at the idea of intellectual property.

Partisans of introducing copyright and patents as well as extending the period of their validity claim that it is in the interests of creators, discoverers, cultural development and technical progress. These claims are, however, nothing more than rhetorical devices, which constitute an element of lobbying campaigns. We all know that it is large corporations, publishing, pharmaceutical or IT companies that benefit most from intellectual property rights. In the era of recognising knowledge as one of key factors of productivity, exclusion from knowledge is on the increase, to a very large extent as a result of safeguarding the so-called intellectual property rights. In search of new areas of exploitation, the capital is forcing its way also into this domain.

How can one own knowledge? Who benefits from intellectual property rights? What are the social consequences of their imposition? These are some of the questions that we will tackle during the readings. 

Intellectual property emerged in the 18th century England in the context of the debate on copyright. The term entered international discourse during the campaign promoting international copyright in the 19th century. The campaign, with England and France as the most active participants (main exporters on the literary market), resulted in the foundation of Bureau fédéral de la propriété intellectuelle (Federal Office for Intellectual Property) in 1888 in Switzerland. In 1967 the UN established the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), representing the interests of the owners of copyrights, patents and trademarks. In 1994 the WTO, acting upon the initiative of the USA, forced its members to sign the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, against the interests of numerous knowledge importing countries. The term intellectual property became common, implying that one can become an owner of intangible goods (idea, sign or patent) analogously as they can acquire the right of ownership of tangible objects.

Teresa Święćkowska

Lawrence Lessig, Free Culture, chapter Property: LINK
Christopher May, Thinking, buying, selling: Intellectual property rights in political economy. New Political Economy, 1998, Vol. 3, Issue 1: PDF
Marion von Osten, Such views miss the decisive point… the dilemma of knowledge-based economy and its opponents: PDF