I'm participating in an online reading list at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University on the History of Intellectual Property in the US. I found this, our first assignment extremely interesting. Hesse describes debates in the 18th century about whether ideas, formally thought of as "divine intervention", should become individual property and how society could balance this with the goal of spreading knowledge in the public interest.
Most interesting was the fact that later in the nineteenth century, when the US had been ignoring intellectual property rights internationally on the basis of it being a "developing nation", a native culture movement grew up, lobbying government to protect local authors from the proliferation of cheap, foreign works by adopting international agreements such as the Berne Convention that had been signed by other countries previously. Apparantly these groups were ignored until the growing publishing houses in the US saw the benefit of adopting international agreements in order to grow their markets abroad.
This debate has strong parallels to South Africa and the local content quota movement that is trying to persuade the SA government to adopt more stringent local content quotas. One example is the South African Music Quota Coalition.
Sometimes I worry that more free content from the US and the West won't do much for the local culture industries, which really need to be developed at this stage in our history. On the other hand, if the content (music, video, literary works specifically) is made available so that we can rip, mix and burn it to suit our own tastes and cultural ideals, the equation becomes more favorable to local development. The interactive, dialogical context in which the work is presented is essential to its sustainable uptake in the local economy.
In other words, give it to me as something that I can shape into my own, or don't give it to me at all. Creative Commons' sampling license is a brilliant example - the idea came perfectly from Brazil.