Discussion on Lincoln University’s policy for intellectual property – deemed worthy of its own acronym IP (also IPR where the ‘R’ stands for ‘Rights’ which perhaps indicates the, um, sensitivity of the issue) – is wending its way through the bureaucratic labyrinth. Maori students are invited to engage in this debate as contributors, mediators and kaitiaki of matauranga Maori or Maori knowledge. Of course whether we (and our whanaunga) can engage in such a debate in a manner cognisant with our needs and wants is perhaps too tortuous a challenge for students and staff to take up (again).
What is clear is that IP originates from what German philosopher of technology, Friedrich Rapp, calls the ‘psychological event’ of invention, a separate phenomenon from the concrete embodiment, i.e. the construction (and sale) of things with ownership rights defined in patents, copyright etc. Debate following the recent (and most excellent) Post Graduate Conference revolved around this subtle change, from intellectual ‘capital’ to ‘property’. Post-grad students have a significant role as researchers and therefore inventors of IP and (potential) wealth which, as history does record, can be variously and viciously appropriated.
There seems to be an unspoken assumption that our physical science colleagues are the ones to be most affected by any policy. I think any such a process is surely worth the professional attention of any social scientist worth her salt. Who gets what, and how is such a decision reached? Well, once German philosophers are involved, we can assume that clarity is akin to an earthy suspension in dihydrogen oxide.