Wednesday, July 19, 2017


PROPERTY IS THEFT was written on John Reed's door in Warren Beatty's film 'Reds'. Have been having an argument about Property Rights and Human Rights. My Devil's Advocate proclaims that Property Rights are a Human Right. I see a clash between the two. That only those with privilege get to have Property Rights, by means of gender, race, education, religion, title, wealth, etc., from which they exclude the Other, who are women, children, indigenous, nomadic, illiterate, poor, those Many who labour for the wealth creation of the Few.

If I were male I could claim Versailles, Irish Georgian mansions, Saltaire, as my ancestral privilege. But these are best as humankind's patrimony, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, not mine.

Today the battle is raging in America and in Europe to tax links on the Web. But after WWII there was the Florence Accord and the Nairobi Protocol ( in international law forbidding the use of customs duty on the scholarly exchange of information, on books, films, etc. As an author I find it is now the publishers and the libraries with manuscripts who profit from our research, not ourselves, blocking us from sharing the world's intellectual inheritance. Copyright for authors is become meaningless though it is our intellectual property that we seek to share with others with just sufficient return as our livelihood. At the French Revolution monastic libraries with their manuscripts were seized by the State so that they could become France's great Bibliotheque Nationale and bibliotheques municipales. But now one finds oneself forced to pay reproduction rights if one attempts to share their holdings with the congregation of Benedictine nuns who wrote them and from whom the manuscripts were seized at the Revolution, the nuns themselves imprisoned, awaiting the guillotine.

I and my library signed the Budapest Open Access Initiative, the BOAI. These are the principles of the Republic of Letters. That our scholarship is to be generously shared and made freely accessible. Not swallowed up into capitalistic profit-making concerns that pay themselves, strangling academic libraries economically with huge subscription payments, and not paying the authors from whom they profit. Where profits are disproportionate there needs to be a fair sharing instead, not today's austerity of the many for the benefit of the few, We don't need to accept, to our detriment, the Orwellian world of 'Citizen's United', which is really 'Corporations United' against 'We, the People'. We need our intellectual commons, free democratic education, access to land, the World Wide Web, for the common prosperity of the globe.