Management Information Systems
Do we need to fundamentally rethink the concept of IPR and develop a new policy/legal framework to ensure open technological progress?
IPR stands for intellectual property rights. Intellectual property refers to unique creations of a person’s mind. It refers to the inventions whether literary, names, designs, music, images or any artistic work. Intellectual products and information have increasingly become the basis for economic activity. However, the currently existing restrictions limit the free flow, use and re-use of data and information. These restrictions grow more severe everyday and are set in form of copyright and patents. If these trends of legal suits blocking the free flow of information do not cease, technology development shall be seriously retarded in growth. I indeed believe that the concept of intellectual property rights needs to be redrawn and implement a framework where there shall be open sharing of technological resources.
I believe that the current system needs to change for if it does not the future shall develop in quite retarded pace due to the lack of information that it so desperately requires. The intellectual property rights are put into four broad categories in America, trademarks, patents, copyright and trade secret. The rights are further divided into two categories where patents and copyright are in one while trademarks and trade secrets are in the other. The first group is observed as a non-contractual institution, which is clearly enforced on individuals. This is so because all the patents and copyright rights are structured by the government and no creator of any original work ever gave their consent towards the acceptance of any obligation of blocking the free use of their material by everyone (Tian, 2008).
Trade secret on the other hand is based on the law of contract. It involves the making of an agreement by multiple parties to keep information, which is industrially crucial secret. It is a very important principle in the industrial sector. Trademark is the right given to a company to bear a unique name or brand to avoid confusion in the brand name space. Back to copyright, it covers only the specific literal work as the published one. Patents are much more powerful than the copyright and have the authority to prevent anyone to use a manufacturing process, an invention or an idea, unless authorized by the patent holder. I see the current system of intellectual property rights as a remnant of monopolistic privileges. Good property rights, I believe, should seek to evolve to meet the newly emerging needs; however, the American property rights create scarcity through state propelled actions.
I believe that the patent and copyrights are not rights that have always been there. The intellectual property rights have caused several problems. The rights to property like the copyright and the patent rights are constructs that are quite artificial in nature and are enforced by the governments for political purposes. The so-called rights interfere with actual fundamental rights known as property rights. For instance, if I walk to a shop and purchase a book, a machine or a compact disk that contains information or software, it changes ownership to become mine. This is by the virtue that I have paid an amount of money to change the ownership rights attributed to it. This also gives me express rights over it and therefore I can change its form, giving it as a gift to a friend, modify it, toss it away, resell it, destroy it, store it, make copies of it, use it for any purpose I so please or break it open to view its inside mechanisms (Revesz, 2008).
With the copyright protection, I become restricted to do whatever I please with the item. My freedom is curtailed over my legally acquired property. Moreover, when it comes to patents, the situation gets worse since free people get limited in their free use of their brains. This is because the ideas that they think of have already been thought of by other people who patented them. Harvesting ones fruits of creativity is limited since if the intellectual efforts or inventions had been patented by someone else the idea, even if slightly different, becomes obsolete. Most people who invent and try to solve life’s problems do not research to see who had previously solved the same problem, they just set out and work out the problem and find solutions to their problems. Much later is when they are sued after the discovery that someone else had already solved the same problem, this is utterly wrong.
If the property rights were fair, any person should have been allowed to use any resource in their disposal to solve any problem and create items that they would sell freely. It should be noted that several humans can think simultaneously and having any of them obtain a license blocking all the others is an outrageous contradiction of the freedom of thought. Another problem that suggests the rethinking of the concept of IPR and developing a new one is the artificial scarcity that it brings about. Property rights are known to be the means by which scarce resources are being managed. This creates the ability to create an optimal as possible compromise given the barriers. This policy applies to items that are scarce and thus have a non-zero price attributed to them (Mu, 2008).
The intellectual property rights system however, enforce strict and artificial barriers that restrict the free flow of and use of information causing a scarcity that is quite damaging to commerce since a lot of wealth could be created using this information. The prevention of free flow of information results in the pirating of this data resulting in the loss of revenue by publishing companies. This difficulty encountered in enforcing these so-called rights show explicitly just how unreasonable and artificial they are. Arguments against barriers restricting free distribution of information include the fact that the sharing of information cannot be classified as theft. This is because, if a person copies information, the original owner does not lose the information and they do not get restricted from exhausting its utility. Moreover, another person can obtain the same utility from it.
The prohibition of information transfer just makes the sharing costs go lower and lower and therefore the efforts of the governments to restrict it makes the situation worse for the right holders they so desperately seek to protect. Instead, the ever-advancing technological capabilities should be used to make the flow of information easier to everyone. Intellectual products are created for the people to utilize them in the various areas where they relate. Failure of the intellectual material to reach the most people it can is indeed a failure. The creation of artificial scarcities brings more harm than good to the market. The other problem where I feel that the IPRs are oppressing the people is where the government is confused on its job to protect the people (Machlup and Penrose, 1950).
The perception that the government should always do good is a problem. This is because most governments including the American one involve themselves in commerce and enacts decisions that decide which activities to approve and which to restrict which is a good move. However, most of these interventions have side effects that are quite difficult to predict and end up worsening the problem that was initially intended to be fixed. The justification offered by most governments concerning the intellectual property rights is that companies need a time span that is protected to reap the benefits of their innovation. In this period, the company is meant to have more time to develop new products that they would not have if they did not have it. Here, the government does not consider the well-being of the whole public and just some interest groups (Palmer, 1989).
The negative side effect of slowing down innovation and progress is what the government creates. This creates blockages in all fields especially the information technology field. The intellectual property rights, as clearly shown above need to be converted to just and fairer rules that do not interfere with property rights. The public are however required to speed up the process and make the governments of the world understand that information is the driver of all and without the freedom to use it, only retardation shall follow the world. A remedy needs to be created for the situation since as modern as life goes so does the demand for information increase. This shall then translate to an increase in empowerment for the people. The legal system is good but it should not oppress the people, which it was made to protect.
Machlup, F. and Penrose, E. (1950). The Patent Controversy in the Nineteenth Century. J. Econ. Hist. 10 p.1, 16
Mu, Ramkumar. (2008). Intellectual Property Rights Demystified. India: New India Publishing.
Palmer, T. G. (1989). Intellectual Property: A Non-Posnerian Law and Economics Approach. Hamline Law Review 12, p.261-304.
Revesz, J. T. (2008). Trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights. New York, NY: Media and Publications, Productivity Commission.
Tian, Y. (2008). Re-thinking intellectual property: the political economy of copyright protection in the digital era. New York, NY: Camden, MO: Taylor & Francis.