Copyrighting Culture: The Political Economy of Intellectual Property

By Ronald V. Bettig | Go to book overview

8
Intellectual Property and the Politics of Resistance

Critical political economy of communications falls within the larger field of critical theory. Taking inspiration from Marx, the bulk of the researchers seek to form a coherent and systematic critique of capitalism. This critique is relentless and "ruthless" but not without normative principles.1 Capitalism is measured against the yardsticks of economic efficiency, equality, and fairness and is found to fall short on all these dimensions. The final analysis conjures up the image, to borrow from cartoonist JA Reid, of the "Marxist pessimist" who insists on seeing the glass as "half empty."2 Certainly, much of the evidence presented in the foregoing chapters, with their focus on power-elite structures and the logic of capital, demonstrates powerful structural forces shaping the global economic environment within which the creation of intellectual and artistic works takes place. The historical overview, beginning with the origins of capital, shows how the law of intellectual property follows the expansionary logic of capital. The domain of private intellectual property continues to expand but not without struggles and resistance.

The purpose of any critique of existing political-economic structures is based on the expectation that its argumentation is convincing and that changes must be made to bring about the "good society" in which the normative principles of efficiency, fairness, and equality are more closely approximated in "reality." There is no blueprint for building such a society. But the human potential to bring about such a society certainly does exist. Evidence of this abounds in a broad range of struggles and actions to resist the continuing enclosure of the "intellectual commons." In this concluding chapter I take the view of Reid's "Marxist optimist," who sees the glass "half full, by briefly cataloging various forms of political resistance within or against the institution of intellectual property.


Resistance to the Law of Copyright

It is possible to find numerous forms of resistance at the individual and organizational levels of analysis. The author of a popular underground booklet stated

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