[Doctorow-L] COLUMN: Terra Nullius: Grifters, settler colonialism and "intellectual property"

Cory Doctorow doctorow at craphound.com
Mon Mar 4 16:47:06 EST 2019

Terra Nullius is my latest column in Locus magazine; it explores the
commonalities between the people who claim ownership over the things
they use to make new creative works and the settler colonialists who
arrived in various “new worlds” and declared them to be empty, erasing
the people who were already there as a prelude to genocide.

I was inspired by the story of Aloha Poke, in which a white dude from
Chicago secured a trademark for his “Aloha Poke” midwestern restaurants,
then threatened Hawai’ians who used “aloha” in the names of their
restaurants (and later, by the Dutch grifter who claimed a patent on the
preparation of teff, an Ethiopian staple grain that has been cultivated
and refined for about 7,000 years).


I gave a keynote based on this essay in January at the “Grand Re-Opening
of the Public Domain” event at the Internet Archive in San Francisco.


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