When we write about “Intellectual Property” and copyright, it is mostly related to the entertainment industry. However, the problems are much broader than some would expect. A study, published by non-profit group The Innovation Group (and released under a Creative Commons license no less), doesn’t pull many punches about IP. Right at the start, it addresses the cause of the problem as many see it, from biotechnology to the music industry.
The current era of intellectual property is waning. It has been based on two faulty assumptions made nearly three decades ago: that since some intellectual property (IP) is good, more must be better; and that IP is about controlling knowledge rather than sharing it. These assumptions are as inaccurate in biotechnology , the field of science covered by this report , as they are in other fields from music to software.
The discussion throughout focuses on how this “Old IP” system harms innovation and consumers. It mentions how the music industry is lobbying for higher penalties for copyright infringement, while they refuse to try out new business models. Similarly, how the movie industry tries to ban and restrict new technology, until they realize they can make money off it.
Perhaps even more concerning, when it comes to biotechnology , medication, treatments, equipment , withholding information or purposefully restricting it will lead to deaths. One example the paper makes on this topic is the lawsuits 39 pharmaceutical companies brought against the South Africa government, for trying to act effectively to deal with the HIV/AIDS crisis there. Such restrictions have undoubtedly hastened the deaths of thousands if not millions.
This study is not alone in stating the problems with patents in research and development. In August, Kenyan medicine-men revealed that they have kept their traditional practices to themselves, because of the fear of patents. With the high costs, and excessive paperwork, filing patents on the techniques is not feasible to them, according to a report in Business Daily Africa. They are worried that companies that find the patent process trivial will patent their techniques, and prevent them from being used.
With them on this is the Pirate Party International, a collection comprised of all the national Pirate Partys) has mentioned that biopatents are a source of concern and an area they hope to change. Swedish Pirate Party Chairman Rick Falkvinge told TorrentFreak: “This shows yet again how Big Pharmacy practices are robbing people of their medicine; only now, they have managed to silence the critical word-of-mouth distribution of indigenous knowledge, through fear of monopolization of traditional medicine. It is high time for the patent system in general, and pharmacy patents in particular, to be exposed and abolished.”
Yet these arguments and studies appear to be falling on deaf ears. Today, a bill aimed at increasing the enforcement of these IP ‘rights’ still further , including the ability for the government to file civil IP complaints without the complaint of the IP holder , got it’s first reading in the US Senate’s Judiciary Committee. With only a few months left of this session of Congress, the lobby groups are almost certainly going all out to get them passed, despite strong opposition. LostÂ (orÂ ignored) in this push is the intent of copyright and patents, which the US Constitution says is to promote progress, which as the study shows, it no longer does.
It also goes without saying that despite this talk of ‘old IP’ and ‘new IP’, there are those that refuse to use the term at all.