Saturday, 14 February 2009

IP absolutism continued

Another piece of evidence for the proposition that intellectual property laws are growing out of control. Business Daily Africa has this article questioning the assumed advantages of private ownership of the fruits of publicly-funded research. It's a regrettable fact, I think, that with greater understanding of intellectual property laws has come an increase in the desire of its owners to control it, often well beyond the limits within which it is supposed to operate. This morning, browsing in a charity shop, I chanced upon a DVD of a film which I remembered (inter alia) for the reason that a public-sector client of mine wished to use the power it thought its trade marks conferred on it to extract some licensing fees from the filmmakers. That is not, in my world, what trade marks are all about, and I hope that this remains the case in other worlds too.

And here is another commentator writing on much the same theme. I'm putting these links in so that i can easily find this material again later, but it also serves to enable readers (of whom it seems I have a few) to see it for themselves. I don't see so much comment in favour of stronger intellectual property rights: rights owners, especially corporate or institutional ones, are being sucked into the IP vortex, while users increasingly ask what the point is. And if the point of intellectual property law is lost sight of, it will really be out of control.

I like the description of IP as "the mercantilism of our time" - another useful phrase that I can employ. However, I recall that back in the early eighties a return to mercantilism was seen by many as an attractive solution to a number of political problems - I remember it being seen a a panacea for the problems of British shipping, and as a candidate in an election in a port, that had a certain resonance for me. Maybe i was wrong then, but I certainly don't see the trend towards IP absolutism as any sort of panacea for our present problems.

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