29 January 2007

Acceptable Intellectual Property

Although open genomics is one of the key areas of this blog, posts on the subject are few and far between. This is really a reflection of the fact that the whole area receives relatively little attention in the media. This makes articles that reflect on issues of openness and associated topics - notably intellectual monopolies - particularly welcome.

Here's one in the New York Times, which points to this very interesting paper entitled "Acceptable Intellectual Property":

Beginning in the 1980s and increasingly in the 1990s, decisions about intellectual property became visible and contentious public issues. A variety of actors—including many NGOs, academics, scientists, industry groups, and governments—now view decisions about intellectual property not as rational outcomes of an autonomous process of legal reasoning, governed by precedent and safely left to appropriate experts, but as political choices with profound stakes. Aside from a small band of libertarians, virtually no one contends that the answer is to dispense with intellectual property entirely. But there is a growing sense that the intellectual and institutional foundations of IP policy are too weak to manage its newly recognized political dimensions. Nowhere is this more true than in biotechnology, where controversies about the ownership of knowledge and biomaterials have generated profound public anxiety. This brief discussion paper outlines the sources of tension that animate these concerns and reflects on the capacity of existing institutions to reconcile them.

It's short, sweet and to the point: well worth reading. (Via Against Monopoly.)

Update: As so often is the case, the best commentary on this comes from Jamais Cascio, who also coins a fab neologism in this context:

Genetic Rights Management (GRM) is copy-protection for genes, a direct parallel to Digital Rights Management for CDs, DVDs, and other media.

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