Here's a great article by Seth Shulman for MIT's Technology Review about protecting our intellectual future:
Intellectual-Property Ecology: Owning the Future.
Posted by Lisa at February 16, 2002 03:13 PM | TrackBack
Let’s consider this environmental analogy. As recently as the 1960s, there was no “environment” in the broad sense of the word. Sure, some conservation groups like the Sierra Club had long been in the wilderness protection business. And Rachel Carson’s landmark Silent Spring, published in 1962, brought the misuse of pesticides to public attention. But still, even with rallying points like the Cuyahoga River catching fire in Cleveland in 1969, the people who worried about such things tended to see them as disparate issues. Like water pollution. Or overpopulation. It wasn’t until 1970 that such groups finally came together at the first “Earth Day.”
Now, fast-forward a few decades and jump into that intangible, amorphous realm we call “intellectual property.” There is a growing catalogue of worries about IP issues—from the emergence of overly broad “business method” patents to heated charges that proprietary claims on pharmaceuticals stifle affordable access to medicine in the Third World. A day hardly goes by without a high-profile intellectual-property battle heading to court. Meanwhile, university researchers are griping that open, collegial dialogue is being eroded by proprietary interests and secrecy as professors vie to create startups and get rich.
These issues are interwoven because they all involve balancing similar kinds of private and public needs in a knowledge-based economy. And yet, the various parties—from the League for Programming Freedom to the American Library Association—have tended to work in isolation on their own narrow sets of issues. But the parochialism is fading as parties learn they’re arguing about the same issues. Which is why the Duke meeting could go down as a watershed: it marked the start of an organized movement to protect the conceptual commons.