So-Called Bloodless Wars: Intellectual Property in the Military

An Interview with Noam Chomsky, by Carl Whithaus

Open Books to Represent Intellectual Property

CW: Do you think that not only the control of portals but also of intellectual property fits in here? In this issue of Kairos, Chris Anson and Shawn Neely’s webtext, "The Army as Textual Community: Exploring the Concepts of Attribution, Appropriation, and Shared Goals," looks at issues of collaboration and intellectual property in the army. And Geof Carter and Bill Williamson’s webtext, "Diogenes, Dogfaced Soldiers, and Deployment Music Videos," examines the way soldiers are using YouTube to create self-representations in terms of music videos.

[This special issue of] Kairos is trying to look at the way folks are using the Internet not just to talk about the military or to get around the state, but even within the military some acts of self-representation step outside of a strict command–control structure.

Chomsky: I would assume that if it’s in the military then intellectual property rights won’t be a major issue, because they have punitive measures available. Ex-CIA or ex-military people are under threat if they reveal something because they have committed themselves not to.

CW: So it wouldn’t relate to the issue of intellectual property?

Chomsky: It might be there. But again, I am not speaking from any knowledge, just guessing. The punitive capacity of the military and the intelligence would probably overwhelm any legal issues on property rights.

[Author's Note: Chomsky indicates that the threat of punishment restricts what individual members of the military can say; however, military academics do publish regularly and, within their publications, debates about intellectual property and its relationship to 21st-century conflict are not uncommon. For instance, Small Wars Journal has covered a wide range of military issues related to intellectual property ranging from Google's forceful response to cyberattacks from within China in January 2010 to Cheryl L. Smart's argument that Al-Qaeda had transformed from an organization into "a brand name" by 2005. In addition, military personal do keep blogs and some of those blogs lead to book publications after their deployment. Jonathon Trouen-Trend's Birding Babylon blog, written during his 2004-2005 deployment, lead to the publication of his book Birding Babylon: A Soldier's Journal from Iraq. Military officers are not only able but encouraged to publish material that analyzes intellectual property issues related to 21st-century warfare; they are also able to publish accounts of their service in theaters of war. These examples do not suggest that there are no restrictions on what military personnel may say about warfare, but they do indicate that intellectual property is an important category related to military discourse that runs the gamut from national security issues to individual soldier's ownership of, and ability to profit from, their war experiences.]


Chomsky's face and glasses with lines Introduction
West Point Cadets Training U.S. Military Officers
Philipines The Conquest of the Philippines
Flying Drone IT in the Early 21st Century
Binary Numbers Cyber Section of the Pentagon The Cyber Section of the Pentagon
Lt. General William Caldwell's name on a uniform Blogs and Schizophrenia
Red Block indicts current page Intellectual Property
partial Israeli flag Israel
Circuit Board High Tech Corporations
War Photograph War Images
Chomsky Closing

Note: The complete audio recording of the interview is available to listen to as you browse the edited webtext.