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Here is a great opportunity for you, as citizens of the world, to make a difference by putting your brains to good use and making a stand for the kind of world you'd like to see your kids raised up in.

And what is this? The WIPOUT essay competition. Tired of multi-national corporations' increasing control over our lives, a group of individuals got together to see what they could do. The final straw was an essay competition started by WIPO - the World Intellectual Property Organisation - in March this year.

The competition asked for people to submit entries with the title "What does intellectual property mean to you in your daily life?" As WIPOUT points out: "It is obvious that WIPO is expecting a number of self-congratulatory essays detailing the plentiful benefits of intellectual property (IP)."

It goes on to suggest that essays entitled "I can't purchase anti-HIV drugs because of patent law" or "As a farmer, I can't get access to patent-protected seeds for planting" or "As a teacher, I can't distribute materials to my students due to copyright restrictions", may not make the shortlist, so it has decided to create an opportunity for essays with exactly the same title but a slightly more critical approach.

It is even offering prize money that currently stands at £1,500. Not only that but some big names have given the competition their endorsement including Noam Chomsky, The Treatment Action Campaign of South Africa, the Gene Campaign of India, barrister Michael Mansfield, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Center for the Public Domain. We're so taken with it that we've pitched in as well.

As opposed to the vast majority of such competitions, entries will be made available on WIPOUT's Web site and can be submitted in English, French, Spanish or German with a maximum length of 2,000 words. It started yesterday and four essays are already up, including one of how one woman and her boyfriend found themselves on the wrong end of Time Warner's ire and entered a Kafkaesque world despite having done nothing wrong.

The organisers also make it clear that they are not after the abolition of intellectual property, or are even against IP in itself, simply "the excessive protection of IP and how it is accorded trumping power over other values and social priorities such as access to medicines, to education, and to the sharing of ideas and information."

The competition will run until 15 March 2002 and the winning essays will be announced on the same day as WIPO's winners - 26 April 2002.

One endorser pointed out that the US Patent Office has just granted a patent for "both hand hair cutting method". We reported just this week that Network Associates had been granted a patent for "Method and System for Providing Automated Updating and Upgrading of Antivirus Applications Using a Computer Network" - something that companies have been doing for years. And let's not forget the recent Dmitry Skylarov debacle.

Noam Chomsky said the contest is necessary to remind people that "this harsh regime [of Intellectual Property Rights] is designed to grant multinational corporations control over the technology of the future. It really is a scandal."

So if you really want to do something, make people sit up and listen rather than be overrun with company hype, propaganda and freedom-stifling lawsuits, write an essay. Write it intelligently or wittily or in your own unique style and enter it.

Go to the WIPOUT site if you want to know more. ®

Related Links

WIPOUT's site
WIPO's competition

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