Scientist who recovered ancient sounds may be hostage of shadowy terrorist group

1 April 2006

A respected small-circulation California newspaper, the Bolinas Sentinel, reported today that a previously unknown group of Native activists calling itself the Indigenous Intellectual Property Liberation Commando claims to have taken a prominent scientist hostage. In a communique issued last night, the IIPLC explained that it kidnapped Dr. Aquiles Decibile at his vacation home in Bolinas and is holding him until the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) recognizes the group's intellectual property rights in 6500-year-old sounds reportedly extracted by Dr. Decibile and colleagues from ancient pots in a Belgian laboratory. "The sacred words of our ancestors belong to us, not to him," said the document, copies of which were released to the newspaper by Bolinas authorities.

News that a team of scientists led by the archaeologist Philippe Delaite had found a way to recover sounds from ancient pottery samples was first aired on Belgian TV. (2 min. MPEG-4 file.  The interview is in French and includes sample of recovered audio.)  The original discovery of ancient sounds in pottery is attributed to the scientist R.G. Woodbridge, who published his path-breaking research in 1969 in the Proceedings of the IEEE. Woodbridge is considered the founder of the young science of archaeoacoustics.

Audioscope image of sounds recovered from ancient pot.

WIPO has called a special meeting to decide whether 6500-year-old sounds of everyday life should be considered proprietary or part of the public domain. Attorneys from the Walt Disney Company are expected to argue that a mere 6.5 millennia of copyright protection do not provide artists and writers with sufficient incentive to continue creating.

Police detectives from Bolinas are investigating the alleged kidnapping. Updates to this story will be posted here as information becomes available.