Saturday, November 04, 2006

Four models of Intellectual Property Regulation

Ars Technica has coverage of the forthcoming Gower report on IP in the UK. It suggests there are (at least) 4 possible approaches to IP regimes.

The study details four models which balance these competing interests in different ways. First, there's the American model, where knowledge is understood solely as an asset. Some fair use, parody, and public domain rights are recognized, but consumer rights are restricted, copyright terms are extended, and DRM trumps fair use. This is because knowledge is viewed as a form of property, not a social good. As the study notes, there is a danger in this approach: "Where IPRs [intellectual property rights] are understood as comparable to conventional property rights, public domain could potentially disappear altogether, just as the enclosure movement eradicated common land all over the UK in the late 18th century."

The second model currently describes the UK, where knowledge is an asset first and a public resource second. This means that producers are generally protected first, and while more consumer rights may be upheld, the relationship between DRM and fair use is not resolved, and copyright terms may be continuously extended.

The third model is that of a society where knowledge is first seen as a public resource and only secondarily as an asset. Comparing this to the "open access" movement in academic publishing, the authors note that such an approach is not anti-business. Under this model, public interest is the basis for IP policy, copyright terms are not extended, and fair use trumps DRM.

Finally, the fourth model is "cyber-socialism," where knowledge is seen only as a public resource and copyright is not allowed. The profits of creativity are returned to the public and a "new ethic of playfulness and voluntarism" is the norm. The authors see these ideals at work in open source projects like Linux and Wikipedia, but point out that "it is not clear how such a model could be used to fit in investment-heavy models of innovation and creativity, such as the development of drugs or films." |Link|

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