04.26.08

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European Conference Against Intellectual Monopolies (and Other Interesting Readings)

Posted in Europe, Finance, Free/Libre Software, Intellectual Monopoly, Patents at 11:30 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Monopoly has money

There is a lot more to intellectual monopolies than just software patents. The broader and lesser-scientific aspect which is knowledge can be subjected to similar mistreatment.

It’s more than just encouraging to find that a conference called “Free Knowledge, Free Technology” is being launched. There is a correlation between knowledge, culture and technology, but with the exception of countries like Brazil, this tight connection is often misunderstood. Regarding the conference, here is its description. [Via FSDaily]

The Free Knowledge, Free Technology Conference (FKFT) is the first international event which will centre on the production and sharing of educational and training materials in the field of Free Software and Open Standards. With the objective of promoting Free Software and the sharing of free knowledge, the FKFT 2008 Conference will bring together hundreds of people from different continents including government representatives, school and university teachers, IT companies, publishers, and NGO’s. By gathering together people from all these groups, we aim to stimulate both present and future collaboration between diverse disciplines, sectors and countries, through the medium of free software programs and the sharing of successful experiences related to free software and free technologies.

Economics too are affected by the freedom of expression and exchange of ideas. Blakenhorn goes as far as concluding that Novel prize winner Stiglitz supports this assertion. For further validation consider the fact that another Nobel prize winner, Professor Maskin, has been a critic of software patents.

Why is he [Stiglitz] the official economist of open source? Because his main point supports the open source thesis, which is that breaking monopolies on information is essential for free trade and economic growth.

Lastly, here is another take on intellectual monopolies in general, [via Glyn Moody]

These opinions are almost certainly not shared by the wider community of consumers, businesses, economists, legislators, and policy-shapers. At the highest level, there are those who no longer believe that all property is theft but appear to make an exception for IP. Since every newly created work builds upon the words, the thoughts, the ideas, and the knowledge created by countless others in their furtherance of humanity, any attempt to ring-fence an item of IP, and exclude others from it is an attempt to misappropriate part of the common intellectual heritage of mankind. Since knowledge and information can be shared with others without depriving oneself of them, there is no loss to oneself if such an act of sharing takes place.

At a lower level, there are those who accept the existence of IP rights, but reserve their criticisms and their hostility for specific manifestations of it: the enforcement of copyright against large-scale private copyists, the use of trade mark rights to carve up markets so that genuine goods cannot be imported from a country where they are sold cheaply for resale in another country where they fetch a better price; the theft of traditional knowledge and culture which is then repackaged as copyright- or patent-protected property; the patrolling of industry by unproductive patent trolls, intent upon securing a rent where they create no value; death by patent monopoly for millions in the developing world who, in the unlikely event that they can even access vital medicines, cannot afford them. To the IP professional and his clients, this list can appear depressingly endless.

[...]

This study makes one thing quite clear: attitudes toward IP rights focus principally upon their negative qualities and do not connect them with that which is positive. Thus, new medicines save lives, while patents kill; music is cool, while copyright is a clamp; brands are brilliant, while trade marks are tools of trade manipulation. It is too much to hope that the public at large will wake up one morning, enlightened at the beneficial, positive, and above all necessary role played by IP rights, but we can at least aspire to teach that, between that which they praise and that which they condemn, there is a powerful causative connection.

With the rise of a more connected society (means for sharing), there seems to be this thirst for breaking the chains which achieve little more than protecting the established and driving away new entrants. Are intellectual monopoly rights ethical at all? The question seems rhetorical.

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