The EcoPort Foundation
CABI/FAO/GPPIS Relations
You are at: EcoPort Foundation: List of Footnote Clauses: CABI/FAO/GPPIS Relations
Questions, comments and suggestions: t.putter@ecoport.org

CABI publishes and sells a Compendium of Plant Protection Information on CD-ROM. It usually 'buys' the information which it then sells as part of a commercial, cost-covering enterprise. This process of converting information into a commercial commodity creates a dispensation wherein CABI claims copyright to the product.

This led to a situation wherein CABI could use the public domain information in GPPIS, and not only sell it, but claim copyright to it within the CABI Compendium framework. This was clearly contrary to the spirit and intent of the basis upon which FAO/GPPIS was asking authors to share their ideas and information. The FAO/GPPIS idealism, in effect a pledge by FAO to provide a framework and programme wherein sharing would be unfettered by the 'friction' of copyright and become cost-free to end-users because contributors were not paid, was therefore fundamentally endangered by the inherent shortcomings of the public domain regime of intellectual property rights management.

A process wherein information in the public domain could systematically be converted into a copyrighted commodity, uses the public domain as a source for a commercial sink. At least in principle, it holds the potential to 'suck' information out of the public domain and to place it behind the 'bars' of copyright, thereby enabling the person or institution doing this, to earn for itself, but not for the original creators of the now-traded commodity, a source of income. (The fact that the commercial enterprise is conducted only to cover costs, is neither here nor there: the costs of the original author are still not part of the cost-recovery calculations. The financial benefits of claiming the virtue of being 'not-for-profit' are not shared even-handedly.)

In the light of this unavoidable result of placing ideas and information in the public domain, EcoPort, on behalf of its members, instiututed a copyleft regime of intellectual property rights management which does, for example, make it 'illegal' for products such as the CABI compendia on CD-ROM to 'use' Ecoport information.

This sui juris transition from public domain to copyleft required the pivotal transition that was part of the rubicon transition from GPPIS to EcoPort. It effectively prevented all post-GPPIS use of EcoPort information from being sold commercially, and, indeed, explicitly placed all old public domain data previously in GPPIS under copyleft protection.

Since GPPIS has been discontinued as both a public Internet service and a CD-ROM product, and because the content of GPPIS is only a fraction of what is in EcoPort under copyleft protection, the potential opportunity for abuse of the generosity of EcoPort authors to make their information available at no charge to end-users has been stemmed. And, there are few better explanations for the existence of the EcoPort Foundation: it is the formal institutional framework to protect the rights of volunteer knowledge workers in perpetuity.

EcoPort authors and the Foundation view information as the currency of the New Economy and because of its fungible nature, they generously aim to provide the catalyst of free information to drive the process of learning which has to be the fundamental process of personal emancipation and acceptance of responsibility to sustain Our Common Future.