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New Left Review I/219, September-October 1996

John Frow

Information as Gift and Commodity

‘The current phase of capitalist development’, says Gareth Locksley, ‘is one characterized by the elevation of information and its associated technology into the first division of key resources and commodities. Information is a new form of capital’, [1] Gareth Locksley, ‘Information Technology and Capitalist Development’, Capital and Class, no. 27, Winter 1986, p. 91. and as such it undergoes a change of form: rather than being deposited primarily in an interlocking ensemble of open ‘library’ systems with minimal entry requirements, it is increasingly managed within a system of private ownership where access is regulated by the payment of rent. [2] Ibid., p. 89. One point at which it is possible to see this change crystallizing is in the protocols relating to intellectual property in the recently concluded gatt round. [3] The Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade was concluded on 15 December 1993 and ratified by over 120 countries in Marrakesh on 12 April 1994.

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