Administrators of the Marxists Internet Archive (MIA) removed the texts based on Marx and Engels’ Collected Works (MECW) from their website on May 1, 2014. The works were taken down in compliance with a directive from the publisher Lawrence and Wishart (L&W) that claims ownership of the 50 volume collection. L&W’s directive sought to retract these works - works by, arguably, two of the most important radical intellectuals that have been deceased for more than a century - from free public access. This incident exposes continuing conflicts at the intersection of intellectual property, labor and digital technologies. More specifically, it demonstrates how legal and ideological discourses of ownership and authorship are mobilized to benefit capital at the expense of public knowledge and even authors themselves. L&W’s claim over these works stem from MECW’s status as a derivative work. An analysis of the history of these works reveals that they are the product of many types of labor including the work done by Marx and Engels, academics, students, translators, publishers and online volunteers. This paper asks: how have economic and political interests shaped discourses of authorship and intellectual property that allow L&W to assert ownership over some of Marx and Engels’ works? In what ways do new production practices and technological changes serve to challenge L&W’s claim? And, what alternatives to the current intellectual property regime can address the needs of knowledge producers and the public?
|Publication status||Published - 2015|