Until a 1998 federal court decision, a Minnesota publisher claimed a monopoly on access to all federal court decisions. A Texas company recently filed a patent on a kind of rice grown in India for centuries. Other businesses now claim ownership of mathematical algorithms embedded in software, valuable public lands acquired for five dollars an acre, and icebergs that they plan to transport and sell as fresh water.
In Silent Theft, David Bollier argues that a great untold story of our time is the staggering privatization and abuse of our common wealth. Corporations are engaged in a relentless plunder of dozens of resources that we collectively own-publicly funded medical breakthroughs, software innovation, the airwaves, the public domain of creative works, and even the DNA of plants, animals and humans. Too often, however, our government turns a blind eye-or sometimes helps give away our assets.
Amazingly, the silent theft of our shared wealth has gone largely unnoticed because we have lost our ability to see the commons. Spooling out one outrageous story after another, Bollier skillfully weaves together debates about the Internet, the environment, biotechnology, and the communications revolution. His fresh and compelling critique illuminates a rarely explored landscape in our political and cultural life.
Crisp and revelatory, Silent Theft is a bold attempt to develop a new language of the commons and, in the face of a market order that knows no bounds, to outline an ambitious new project for reclaiming our common wealth.