May 3, 2012

Intellectual Property - Breaking the Rules...

If Intellectual Property is a fundamental right (such as physical property), it strikes me as rather odd that it can be limited in time. Patents are normally limited to 20 years. Books and recorded music have protection times varying between 70 and 90 years.

If we are talking fundamental rights, could such be limited in time? That is something that goes with no other negative rights. Either a right is for ever or not at all.

The alternative, time limited rights, would give us an unpredictable and rather unpleasant society.

Putting this into the concept of Intellectual Property – I guess even the most hard core IP-lobbyists would agree that everlasting, infinite copyright and patents could result in some really troublesome consequences.

This is a clue that Intellectual Property cannot be a fundamental right. Every time politicians, record companies or lobbyists try to mess around with protection times, they undermine their own claim for the sanctity of Intellectual Property rights.

One does not fiddle around with fundamental rights. They are not relative nor negotiable.

Then we have the fact that alleged Intellectual Property rights conflict with fundamental rights such as freedom of speech, the right to privacy and some aspects of property rights.

A good rule of thumb is that fundamental rights are not in conflict with each other.

There are strong reasons to be suspicious about Intellectual Property rights. They do not behave as any other rights.

This leads me to believe that there is something fishy about Intellectual Property. That it is not a fundamental right at all. It might be described as a positive right – that is, a privilege but not a proper part of the fundamental set of rules that build society.


kalpanaganeshm said...

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Gunnar said...

very interesting take on this - I think I agree, and I hadn't thought of it in this way before. Cool!

Anonymous said...

You are pointing at the troublesome fact that copyright is a two-in-one law. There are no problem what so ever with the part that recognizes the author as just that, that fundamental right can last forever since anything else is a lie.

The other part about the monopoly that copyright gives the author can not be a fundamental right, just like you argue. and it isn't. The UDHR does not state anything about time limits, just that "Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author."

How we then define in law what those legitimate interests are, is what kind of privilege we think the author shall enjoy, and that is not carved in stone.