Subject: Re: Examples needed against Soft Patents
From: jean_camp <jean_camp@harvard.edu>
Date: Fri, 31 Dec 2004 13:16:39 -0500
Fri, 31 Dec 2004 13:16:39 -0500
In terms of medicine --  the use of generics and the removal of patent 
protection to enable affordable drug protection in the developing world 
is in policy terms, far advanced compared to free and open code. Civil 
society is far more advanced in terms of coordinating to defeat patents 
in agriculture and medicine. There were people looking at open source 
licenses to see if such licenses can be used for medical situations but 
I don't think it got very far. It might be a productive area of 
inquiry.

The argument with respect to patents and AIDS in Africa is if patents 
are harmful to treatment in the developing world. As early as 2001 
medical companies were arguing that patents were _not_ preventing 
treatment in the developing world. No one seriously argues that patents 
are good for the developing world in the case of AIDS medication.  (Of 
course this is complicated by the fact that brutal mysogency  is the 
largest problem in battling the spread of AIDS, represented most 
perfectly by Mbeki who not only argues that AIDS is not caused by HIV 
but also asserts  that arguing for better rape laws is a bigoted attack 
reflecting a belief in hyper-sexuality of African men. Mbeki will 
someday come to be a verb, meaning the opposite of leadership. )

The patent argument is that the drugs would 'leak' from the developing 
into the developed world and the leakage would reduce incentive to 
invest. Essentially the question is if long term harm to us valuable 
people is worth lots of short term harm to those less valuable people 
and indeed how much if any harm those less valuable people are 
suffering. Of course, the language is far more polite, but that is the 
core debate.

Here is the biggest news in the last thirty days in the medical arena:
RIO DE JANEIRO, Nov 30 (IPS) - The Brazilian government announced 
Tuesday that it would break the patents on several medications to 
prevent the financial collapse of its widely praised public health 
programme that provides antiretroviral drugs free of charge to people 
living with HIV/AIDS.

In terms of politics - if you look at returns on investment, if the 
result is a win then an investment in political processes is extremely 
cost-effective and valuable.  Those billions of corporate welfare are 
the result of millions of political investments.  It makes quite a bit 
of rational sense at the company and industry level. Most of their 
efforts of too cheap and small. Compare their work with the lobbying of 
intellectual property interests. An orders of magnitude smaller 
industry is writing rules for hardware and software. And that is 
because the smaller industry invests in developing a legal framework 
more to its interests.

It is the self-aggrandizing libertarianism and ego that prevents 
effective tech industry organization. Libertarianism supports the idea 
that IT is a boot-strap system with all the brilliant techies creating 
the new frontier in the face of backwards governments. It requires 
ignoring the critical role of government in everything from the 
education of the libertarian speaking to the building of networks. 
Listen to Raymond - then think that  his opinions come from someone 
with a taxpayer supported education and years of government-funded  
paychecks. Now imagine trying to get Raymond and Ellison to shut up. 
Then you have an idea of how difficult it is to lobby for ICTs.

Seriously, the incompetence of the tech industry in the political realm 
  is so amazing that it is an area of academic study. In an example so 
extreme as to almost be funny, the Gates Foundation is a financial 
backer of the Discovery Institute which opposes the teaching of science 
(e.g., evolution) in public schools.  In short, when the tech industry 
does get involved its idiot libertarian orthodoxy tends to ensure 
athlete's mouth in the first degree.

The open code movement is, in general, less bound by this extreme 
orthodoxy (Raymond being an outlier) and thus, I believe, would be more 
successful with fewer funds in the political realm than the closed code 
movement  except that it is aligned against the far-smoother mass 
produced content industry.  If the open code organizations could 
coordinate with the groups fighting for no patents in the developing 
world in medicine and agriculture, open code could be far more 
effective.  Right now the free content banner is not respected, and 
free software is questionable by many political standards but free AIDS 
drugs certainly are respected. Unfortunately the only way for this 
coordination to happen is by slow development of cooperative 
organizational, usually personal,  ties.

-Jean


On Dec 20, 2004, at 11:59 AM, David N. Welton wrote:

> Russell Nelson <nelson@crynwr.com> writes:
>
>> So will there be a "Free Drug Business" mailing list sometime?  Yes,
>> I believe so, and they'll have to face many of the same problems we
>> have faced and will face.
>
> I would posit that the percentage of computer programs that are in a
> position to kill people is much smaller than the position of
> pharmaceuticals in a position to kill people.
>
> -- 
> David N. Welton
> Personal:                   http://www.dedasys.com/davidw/
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> Free Software:              http://www.dedasys.com/freesoftware/
> Linux Incompatibility List: http://www.leenooks.com/
>


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