Ingenio “Patent” Campus?

Hello lovely Permies,

Due to my posting of the entire Permaculture Designers Manual , commonly known as the permaculture bible, I received a swift take down notice from Tagari Publications and Scribd which I respectfully followed.  It is my opinion that this book is so important that it should be made  completely free on all the myriad internets.  We’re living in a time of extreme ecological and social crisis and the tools needed to fix the crises must be made available to everyone not just those with the economic  privilege to afford them.  Please see the letters below and also please comment if you think the designers manual should be liberated onto the internet.  I feel this debate gets at the very heart of the permaculture ethic of “fair share” and  I will post any further correspondence with Tagari here and elsewhere.

Join the campaign by tweeting for the liberation of the permaculture manual on twitter @gaiapunk #permieliberation




My first letter from Tagari:

ATTENTION: Evan Schoepke

Pursuant to 17 USC 512(c)(3)(A), this communication serves as a statement that:

I am the exclusive rights holder (being the Publisher) for the book titled: Permaculture: A Designers’ Manual written by Bill Mollison.
ISBN 0 908228 01 5 and first published in Australia in 1988 and reprinted in 2004, 2009 by Tagari Publications, Australia.

These exclusive rights are being violated by material that has been available upon your site at the following URL(s): and
I have a good faith belief that the use of this material in such a fashion is not authorized by the copyright holder, the copyright holder’s agent, or the law;

Under penalty of perjury in a United States court of law, I state that the information contained in this notification is accurate, and that I am authorized to act on the behalf of the exclusive rights holder for the material in question.

I may be contacted by the following methods:
Phone: (Aus) 61 + 3 6445 0945
Fax: 61 + 3 6445 0944
Address: 31 Rulla Road, Sisters Creek, Tasmania, 7325, Australia

I hereby request that you remove or disable access to this material now and in the future as it appears on your service in as expedient a fashion as possible. Thank you.

Lisa Mollison

My reply:

permaculture logo

Okay Tagari,

the book is gone,
I have lost the battle,

however I do know of other places you could find it online for free.  As a practicing certified urban permaculturalist I believe this event brings up a interesting philosophical debate.  This book is the permaculture bible and I know that Tagari publishers is sole legal guardian of it’s legacy.  In fact I love Tagari, and everything it stands for, what it’s doing with the money it earns, all of it. But, I still think the book should be released onto the internets for free!  Why? Well, because if there is anything Bill has shown me it is that we definately don’t have the gaurentee of permanence to solve the ecological and social crisis that we are facing.  I feel that perhaps I come from a new and starkly different generation that believes in a type of movement building that allows for the funding of projects by lots of people paying a small amount instead of a few privileged folks paying a lot of money.  I would really love to read Bill’s book on fermentation, supposedly his best work, but it’s also very expensive.  I’m not saying Tagari should let go of all it’s copyrights but I am asking if the time has come for the designers manual to be liberated, what do you think?  Someday I’m sure the designers manual will be available free in the public commons and that could make a very large impact, lets hope that day does not come too late.  Will the field continue to lie open to every intellect (ingenio patet campus) regardless of income?  I’m interested in your response and wish the very best with all the amazing and inspiring work your doing now and in the future.
With the greatest respect for Bill, Lisa, Tagari, and the entire global permaculture network,
Have a fair share day!,
Evan C. Schoepke
Gaia Punk Designs
713 Division ST
Olympia WA, USA
A new reply to my letter of  Nov 10th

Hi Evan

Thank you for your response and we appreciate you removing the book from the internet. We know there are several versions available free and we are trying to get them removed. If you would like to direct us to the free books that you know of then this would be of great assistance to us.

In regards to your questions about making the book free of charge – All end of year profits from the sales of Tagari Publications books go to the Permaculture Institute which in-turn assists several organisations that have limited funds, knowledge and resources. Bill Mollison and the Permaculture Institute have worked tirelessly with many organisations over the years and regularly donates funds and books to people who have limited resources, so if the book was available free then this would drastically effect this assistance plus the future of any sales, re-prints and new material written by Bill.

We try to keep the costs of all our books to a minimum but there are costs associated with printing, publishing and distributing our titles, and if the books don’t generate any income I’m sure you could foresee the outcome for Tagari Publications and the Permaculture Institute.

Bill Mollison is now 82 years old, he still writes, teaches and supports many organisations. Bill has dedicated much of his life to this cause and is a valuable entity to all involved, but without finances Bill would not be able to continue with his teaching, writing and community assistance.

Tagari Publications will be re-printing The Book of Ferment and Human Nutrition in the next few months (due to sales of our other titles). Current stocks are limited or nil throughout the world  and therefore book stores and second hand dealers plus private owners have realised its value and increased the price significantly. When Tagari Publications have new stock we will be selling the book for approx. $46.00 AUS.

Thank you again for your response and please view our website in the near future for information regarding our stocks of Ferment and Human Nutrition.

My new response:

Dear Tagari,

On behalf Punk Rock Permaculture thank you for quickly replying to my letter.  I agree that Bill, Tagari, and the entire Permaculture Institute need and deserve as much revenue and funding as possible.  I also thank Tagari for all the desperately needed work it’s doing to make permaculture accessible to the developing world and many low income folks.  It is exactly because of my desire to see a fruitful and prosperous permaculture network and thus a fruitful and prosperous Tagari that I whole-heartedly disagree completely and respectfully in regards to your previous letter.  I feel Tagari would sell many more books once the manual could be made easily accessible in many languages.  I can see that Tagari is in a position to keep to business as usual.  Unfortunately, (and perhaps fortunately) the world is not!  Please see this video of famed blogger, and post scarcity guru,  Cory Doctorow on why being open pays.  I will continue to work and advocate for the release (or re-release) of the designers manual onto the net simply because I also ardently believe in earth care, people care, and fair share and I know permaculture is set of ideas whose time has come.  Sometimes progress looks punk…
P.S. I look forward to reading Ferment and Human Nutrition at a affordable price, again thank you very much and keep up the awesome work.
Cory Doctorow being introduced by the founder of Ibiblio which hosts the international permaculture network list serve..

21 thoughts on “Ingenio “Patent” Campus?

  1. I am also a certified permaculture designer. Requiring payment for the Designer’s Manual is really assuring that the work will continue to impact our movement. If you watch someone’s checkbook, you can tell where their heart is. If something isn’t paid for, the heart isn’t as involved and the results aren’t as lasting. We finally only value what costs us something!


    • I agree and yet disagree…
      There are innumerable things that we find value in everyday that we never paid for. The greater vastness of human knowledge was never paid for. Much of the inspiration for modern permaculture comes from picking through indigenous cultural knowledge and was never “paid” for, and previous to copyright law was shared freely to ensure human survival. I too also enjoy freely giving my money to the permaculture movement as I did when I did my PDC. I simply feel Tagari, the permaculture movement, and folks without as much economic privilege would benefit immensely. Giving out a free e-book only helps sell more paper books and that has been proven by innovative authors such as Cory Doctorow over and over
      again. We are are at a survival crossroads and honestly it is my opinion permaculture is not spreading fast enough to avert the loss of biodiversity we are facing. The latest issue of permaculture activist (energy decent) was as doomy as they come so what is the ecological and social cost of not spreading healing knowledge quickly as destruction increases exponentially?


  2. Although I respect your enthusiasm to get the word out, I honestly don’t see why you believe you can exploit others hard earned copyrighted works? They’re not free for the taking. You ARE free, however, to spend YOUR whole life building your expertise in a given area , to write a book, and then to choose to publish it free on the internet if you want.


  3. It’s great to see this debate taking place here. I only wish I would have saved or printed a copy of the book while it was still online. I work at a library and we offer many titles for free, albeit the original copies were bought or donated. Every time somebody checks out a copy of “Introduction to Permaculture” by Mollison, which we have in our collection, someone gets to read and benefit from that knowledge for “free” (libraries do cost money to operate), but Mollison doesn’t get a cut. People can share and trade and pass on physical copies of books, why not digital? I agre with GaiaPunk that this is knowledge that should be in the commons.


  4. I agree with you! This work is too valuable to hide behind an IP wall. Dispersing the book for free as an ebook (still charging for the printed book) and allowing others to freely share and translate it would certainly produce more interest and could produce more revenue if implemented correctly. Make sure to add a strong message in the ebook communicating everything that Bill and Tagari are working for and a convenient link to make a donation.

    The question isn’t who owns the property but rather how can this work be distributed to produce the greatest positive impact (even financially for Bill and Tagari)?

    Evan, you are hitting a vein of different thinking between generations. Generations before ours feel that IP laws protect their property and are an essential means of doing business. Our generation (and a few others from earlier generations) believe that IP laws just hinder progress and innovation. People will find a way around the controls put in place and the most successful businesses going forward will be those that openly share their property and find novel ways to generate profit from it.


  5. Of course everyone should read Mollison’s book & more people should embrace its teachings. Isn’t that the real problem with the system? Is publishing a free copy from a publisher going to solve it? It seems that your time and efforts could be spent promoting that books like this and Cradle to Cradle exist. I can’t imagine Joe Strummer wanting you to take from a like minded entity. He once said “I preached everything in my life with a punk rock attitude. In fact, ‘punk rock’ means ‘exemplary manners to your fellow human being.” Tagari is, in a sense, a “human being”…so long as we live in a capitalist world.


  6. How does an author give support this type of book and charge for it like open source software? They can’t be compared. This book is building a lifestyle, not a product with shelf life.


  7. There are already so many free resources provided on the web and at libraries. I have noticed a pattern here on this site of people thinking they can take what they want for free. That doesn’t seem like a very sound idea. With all the Squatters, anarchists and thieves…what value do you think your ‘good’ work really has?


  8. I think the best way to frame this debate would be — would you rather have $100 in cash or the Designer’s Manual? It all comes down to how one manages their finances, and let’s face it we’re not taught how to do that… People waste their money on all sorts of silly and useless things — I would say, the solution to this problem, especially for those yearning to own the book, yet see their finances can’t provide it, would be to keep track of every amount of money one spends, down to the cent — then one may see a lot of their money is going to useless things as it is. And surely, a lot of us would agree that The Designer’s Manual has a lot more to offer than $100 really ever could… If you still think that’s a silly way to frame it, Gaia’s Garden is only about $20 and has TONS of useful information.


  9. Come and help us build a new and free version over at (search permaculture design). If a business’ last legs are through legal protectionism and not through adapting to the times, then its weak and a target to pests and disease. Of course they would sell more copies if a digital version was free! Further, if they dumped it all into the wikibook so we could all update and improve it, they can continue to sell a paper version of that one too! I’d value their paper version of the wiki more!


  10. Another way to frame this debate is with the library example I pointed out above. Authors do not get paid every time a book gets checked out from the library, yet who among us would say that libraries are bad for authors? There are many writers I’ve discovered at the library and have later bought their work. On the flip side there are writers whose work I’ve bought and then gone and found older material by them in the library. And their are many, many writers whose books I’ve read from the library and never bought a thing by them. Still, I value their work. What about all the used book stores and book stalls? They don’t pay royalties to authors for selling secondhand copies.

    Like the music industry, the publishing industry must change. Everyone stands to benefit.


  11. The author can “support the product” by doing exactly what they are already doing, charging people for seminars, design services, certifications. Its one thing to have the info, entirely another to put it into practice, that’s where the human expertise enters the equation.

    Ultimately its the author’s choice to determine how their intellectual property is disseminated, but given the magnitude of the situation and the potential help such info can offer, I might be more apt distribute it freely, but that’s me.


  12. Dear Evan,

    Clearly your hart is in de right place. But is seems you expected Bill Mollison to object to spreading his life’s work for free on the Internet. Did you ask him beforehand?

    I feel it’s unfortunate that the discussion is now about free access to information, about ownership of ideas, intellectual property. While important issues, it now looks like Bill Mollison and the permaculture institutes and PDC graduates (who share the copyright on “permaculture” are opposed to sharing the concepts, knowledge and experience as described in Permaculture: A Designers’ Manual. And that Bill in particular is the bad genius in all of this. Perhaps not the most productive situation?

    Maybe we could separate the issues of IP and the frustration with the legal consequences of your well intended but precipitous action?

    In my experience Bill is a very generous person – as are most permies, no doubt including you. Surely with this much generosity going around this can end in abundance.


  13. I couldn’t agree with Leo more. There is so much generosity going around, there has to be a win-win solution to this situation.

    I agree with Evan as well. I am a believer in the idea that making information open tends to be beneficial to the copyright holder. Just email any author on and ask them. Almost every author who has had the guts to serialize and freely publish their novels in a podcast form has seen amazing growth in their hard-copy book sales. Many publishers are beginning to learn this fact as well. I attribute it to the fact that despite the amazing technology of the day, there is still something to holding a real book in your hands.

    Perhaps, rather than making the entire Design Manual free and available all at once, baby steps would be more practical? Maybe Mr. Mollison and Tagari would agree to publish the first chapter or two in a free eBook, or even as a small series of podcasts (or both)? I certainly would love to listen to Mr. Mollison, or Geoff Lawton, or perhaps several of the more renowned permies read the first chapter or two from the Manual, or from Intro to Permaculture, or both. I think there is enough material in just those small parts to inspire many like-minded individuals to purchase the actual books. And it wouldn’t be giving away the meat and potatoes of the Manual, just the core principles and overviews, which are already very available on sites like

    If anyone from Tagari is keeping track of this site, I think you should investigate something like that a little further. Evan, let me know if you hear from them on anything like this. Or if you don’t, I’ll join you in asking for at least a limited release.


  14. The last poster really said it. Tagari has a few large paper products, but if they were willing to digitize more of their library, they would have a huge catalog: PDC videos and audio sets, surveys of individual property designs, business documents, a large number of Bill’s and others’ permaculture articles, audiobooks versions of things, etc etc. Tagari’s distribution model is severely limiting the dissemination of their works, and surely their profits as well. If they sold the Manual as a PDF for $1, I bet they would make more money per annum from those sales than from all hardcopy sales, from which they probably make $50 or less in profit each.

    They could be selling digital copies of out-of-print works every day of the week for a small price, and make more money that way than saving up for another print run. If they had several dozen digital products going for 99 cents each, of high quality and packaged well, they would surely reap much more profit than trying to rely on sales of a few short-run printed materials. And as has been said above, since they are such a niche producer, they would undoubtedly draw in a great deal more hardcopy sales from all the publicity of a cheap internet sales presence.

    Information wants to be free, because it is digitizable and therefore easily reproduced. There is no point in trying to “protect” it. The law on this point is simply unenforceable and backward. Moreover, it would be to Tagari’s great enrichment to recognize the true nature of their resources. They would surely profit from a more creative approach to “publishing”.

    I am ever more suspicious of Mollison’s business legacy. If his foundation and income in old age actually relies so much on publishing profits, its other ventures must have failed, such as property holdings, added-value and land production systems, equipment rental, vacation rentals, and above all, income from teaching courses and design services. How could this be? How could an organization advocating such a robust and industructable money-making system rely on feeble book sales?

    “Gratis and libre” is the pathway to money. I would say Leo has the right idea in “asking for permission” first, and that something could have probably been worked out with Tagari. But that is obsolete now, in that PDCs and Manuals hit the torrents a few years ago. Now Tagari might learn from this episode, spread the word digitally, and make some real money! Get those awesome lectures from the 80s on iTunes Bill! Join the Long Tail already sheesh.


  15. To Evan, Big A, and anyone else interested;

    I am strongly considering making a written proposal to Tagari requesting something very similar to what Big A wrote in the above comment, and what I wrote in the comment above that. As I have a little background in internet marketing, I’m also considering volunteering my services to help them with distribution and marketing of their digital property. If anyone reading this post is interested in joining me in this effort, please email me via kyle AT permiehomestead DOT com. I welcome your ideas and insight as I move forward with this proposal.


  16. Haha it’s very ironic because even Mollison himself describes this same digital-analog long tail publishing option, way back in 1985! I’ll have to find the quote from the 40+ hour PDC lecture but he’s talking about a mystery or sci-fi novel author who serialized his work via floppy disk and nets a few hundred Gs that way, which stimulated appetite for the paperback! Wacky.

    I’d like to help but I can’t be too involved, busy months ahead. I can pass on some files though.


  17. It looks like someone else wrote about this whole situation on their website… I don’t usually trawl for “permaculture” stuff but searching around tonight I found this:

    Also I wanted to point out that in the second letter from Tagari, the writer says Mollison is 82 years old. In case anyone wanted to know, he was born on May 4 1928, as far as I can tell from his autobiography.


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