Friday, 17 February 2012

Intellectual property rights

Copyright and patents have taken a lot of headlines recently, there have been big battles between Apple, Samsung, Motorola and anyone else that wants to weigh in with their patent for a pound of flesh. ACTA has hit a hurdle in Europe with a lack of support and ratification and SOPA has been left largely unsupported in the US.

This is a difficult subject for me. One one hand, my company makes money from its intellectual property, creates job  (mine included) and manufactures in the UK - yes, UK manufacturers DO exist!
On the other hand, I do not appreciate the additional cost of my electronic devices due to costly and otherwise unproductive patent battles. I do not appreciate being described as a criminal for making a backup copy of a CD or DVD or converting it to another format.

There needs to be patent protection to reward innovation. There should be copyright to encourage creativity. I believe the time limits on patents and copyright need to be seriously readjusted. The fact that copyright extends to between 50 and 70 years after the death of the creator in the majority of the world, is ridiculous. Copyright is intended to permit the creator of the work to make a fair profit from their efforts. This may have been a realistic timeframe when transporation speeds were such that creative works would take many years to pervade all of humanity but, with today's electronic communication, it is possible for a work to circumnavigate the globe in seconds therefore it is practical that a creative artist can exploit their art in a very short timeframe. I believe that a creative artist should be able to exploit their art within a single year, possibly less. There may be scope for different mediums to enjoy protection for differing lengths of time, it is a broad subject that requires great discussion.
The bottom line with regards to copyright and file copying on the Internet (I refuse to classify it as piracy) is this: The Internet industry generates a great deal more income than the creative industry, if the best argument from the copyright protection industry is job protection, let's look at the number of people employed in the Internet industry and make a fair comparison.

With regard to patent protection as I stated before, there should be protection for innovation to allow inventors to profit from their creations. Again, the patent protection timescales need to be adjusted along with a rationalisation of patent applicability. They are not currently as long as copyright protection but some of the patents currently under dispute are frankly, ridiculous. There needs to be a test of fairness - if a patent covers an idea that could reasonably be reached by another person, that patent should be blocked. Again, the devil is in the detail and the dispute will come down to what is considered reasonable.