The Expansion of Property Rights Brought about by TRIPS Is a Modern Version of the Enclosure Movement
Jackson, Anthony, Mullan, Nigel, Soundings
The hand that signed the treaty bred a fever, And famine grew, and locusts came; Great is the hand that holds dominion over Man by a scribbled name. Dylan Thomas
At the end of the eighteenth century the British crown declared Australia 'an uninhabited and unsettled land'. Subsequent commentators and judges invented the concept of Terra Nullius, which effectively legalised what has now more or less been recognised as a grand theft:
After a long court battle non-Aboriginal law not only refused to recognise our claim to our land, it also refused to acknowledge we were ever there! Citing a doctrine called 'terra nullius', a judge said in 1970, that we were an 'uncivilised people with no recognisable system of law', that we had no 'proprietary interest in land' and that we passed through the land but did not own it.
It was not until 1992 that the Australian Federal Court nullified the concept of terra nullius and created a legal precedent for future land rights claims.(1)
Terra Nullius may have been technically nullified (though the land rights claims of Australian First Peoples and many others worldwide are largely still outstanding); but a new legal fiction--vita nullius--is now emerging on the global scene. This new and expanded form of theft is an attempt to assert that life itself is 'unsettled and uninhabited', and as such is open to proprietary interest. Instead of seeking legal justification for enclosing of land, the doctrine seeks the enclosure of living systems through patents, under the auspices of Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, coded under the innocuous acronym TRIPs.
The TRIPs treaty was signed by more than 100 government ministers under the auspices of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in 1994, and passed mostly unnoticed. Introduced as part of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATTS), the treaty specified a wide range of internationally binding legal requirements for intellectual property. In doing so, it not only radically strengthened monopoly privileges over intellectual property patents; it also paved …
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Publication information: Article title: The Expansion of Property Rights Brought about by TRIPS Is a Modern Version of the Enclosure Movement. Contributors: Jackson, Anthony - Author, Mullan, Nigel - Author. Magazine title: Soundings. Volume: 37. Publication date: Winter 2007. Page number: 127+. © Lawrence & Wishart Spring 2008. COPYRIGHT 2007 Gale Group.
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