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October 15, 2005 | Suw Charman Anderson

Launch of the RSA's Adelphi Charter on Creativity, Innovation & Intellectual Property

Professor James Boyle John Howkins Sir John Sulston Paul Crake, Chair These are my notes from the speeches given to introduce the Adelphi Charter at the RSA, on Thurs 13 October. John Howkins The question that was in mind 3 or 4 years ago when they had the idea for the charter was a very simple question. Getting question right is essential for getting the right answers. What is intellectual property for? What is the purpose of intellectual property? Of copyright and patents? Hard to come up with an IP policy unless you know what you're doing it for. Several answers come to mind. The first answer is that they are to incentivise people, to motivate people to create work. This doesn't stand up to examination: e.g. algebra, the world wide web. Paintings didn't used to be copyrighted and yet the same amounts of skill etc. have been put into older paintings. The argument that if you make something you should have protection so you can make money of it seems like a good answer. Reward is important, but it doesn't really do it. Third argument is counterintuitive. It's to enable people to have access what others make. To use it and have access. E.g. patents require you to publish your work. How do you compromise and balance between the two? How do you decide where the limits are? IP - hardly any debate going on, hardly any evidence. There's a claim that we should have longer copyright term but there's no evidence one way or the other. RSA now producing some principles that would fit the public service that they identified to help creativity and innovation. No body likes the phrase 'intellectual property', it is a divisive phrase. So that's why they renamed it the Adelphi Charter. The charter is in two parts: - a set of principles that should be the foundation of any IP policy, that they should sustain a society's creativity and innovation - a list of public interest tests that they hope the government will adopt and subject their legislation to. [A short film describing the charter was then played.] Professor Jamie Boyle Alternatives to monopolies is prizes. Goal was to be banal, to make points that no one could argue with, but which in this bizarre world at the moment are seen as extreme. For example, the point that law and policy should be based on evidence and facts. What we should learn is not hostility towards IP, what it is is a tool which is constantly being re-examined. Is it doing its job? Some examples of applying the principles. In the US, you used to get 28 years copyright with 28 registered renewal. That was abolished and it became automatic. But only between 7 and 11 per cent were renewing. This means 89 per cent didn't want a renewal, so abolish balance for just 11 percent of people and content is locked up. Benefits small, costs high. Should never have happened. Software patents. Requires inventor to disclose details to a level that allows people to recreate things entirely. Information that might have been secret comes eventually into the public domain. Open source. Distributed creativity, GPL. Robust model, and economically robust model. US/WIPO says they are promoting IP rights not giving them away. But IP rights are a tool not an end. Broadcaster's Right. Another layer of rights above and beyond copyright where broadcasters have rights over what they broadcast. Theory is that broadcast will collapse without it, and that webcasters need it too. But 100 countries haven't adopted this existing right, but looking at what happened in those countries, to examine real evidence is anathema to the policy makers. Sir John Salston Wasn't always aware of the principles that we're discussing now. Involved in the Human Genome Project. The task of sequencing was completed a couple of years ago to the level currently possible, but understanding it is another matter. DNA is a 3,000 million letter code. Have a mass of knowledge that needs sharing and using for centuries to come. Some implications of it now is that we're better at medical, diagnostics where DNA has a bearing. Will be new drugs, new therapies, but that's not why it was done. It was the done because wanted a full understanding. Doing this was inevitable, but what was not inevitable was that the library was going to be open, because they only narrowly avoided a monopolistic source for this data which would have required a hefty fee to access this information. Having a proprietary monopolistic database at the centre of a business plan would have destroyed communication in this whole field, because it would have required to be successful a clamp down on the sharing of information. So scientists would be unable to talk to those who had not paid a fee, or even each other. This had an effect on Salston, that they had only so narrowly managed to get this information into the public domain. This attempt to privatise the human genome has many parallels which need fighting. Excessive enclosure throttles research and innovation, ethics, widens gap between rich and poor specially on a global scale, and this economic imbalance that arises as the rich enclose and get richer should give people pause. All endeavors of the human race. What are we here for? Exploration, research and understanding. So important not to throttle activities by focusing on what is marketable. Lynn Brindley, Chief Exec of the British Library There is evidence that some of the rubbish of 100 years ago is the centre of research today, and the role of libraries has been to look after that, and provide access. But what is that role in the digital age. The Charter provides a set of principles and a framework in which practical work can sit. Used to be that the scholarly information chain was very clear. But the internet has blown that to bits, so how do you cope with that? A particular issue is statutory mission to be the intellectual and scientific memory of the nation. What does that mean digitally? UK has taken some steps in terms of legal deposit, but it's complex, taking a long time, need to balance public's rights and those of the copyright holders. If we don't crack that there'll be no access to this material in 50 to 100 years time. Cory Doctorow, EFF Social contract for creativity and public access has ruptured. Napster came, but within months, was gone. The response to the response has been clear. Now 1 in 50 lawsuits in the US is the record industry suing a fan. The contract we're being offered now is unilateral and is being renegotiated without our permission. Industry sees value in everything, and there is value, but they are trying to get access to that value which before was on the public side of the copyright bargain. DRM is an attempt to make a grab at that public side. The Adelphi charter is a social contract that explicitly spells out the public side of the copyright bargain. [There was a Q&A afterwards, but I've not taken notes from that. Bit too verbose for me to distill out the points.] The RSA have published the charter in a pretty little pdf on their Adelphi Charter site, but frankly PDFs are a pain in the arse, so I'm copying the whole thing here, in toto.

Adelphi Charter on creativity, innovation and intellectual property Humanity

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