Date : October 15, 2018
There is one group of people delirious with joy about everything digital, and the other side gloomy with a sense of doom. Is there a middle way? We’d dare to suggest there is, but first everyone must realize that there is no clear answer in this debate. Let’s start by acknowledging the fact that both sides have some excellent viewpoints. This debate runs into a tough terrain because two important principles collide: legal protection for intangible works against free expression and exchange of ideas. IP disputes have always involved the fundamental tradeoff between these two principles.
The most revolutionary voices have suggested that there is no such thing as a right to own intangible ideas and therefore, the whole thought of limited grants of monopolizing is unfair and should be cast aside. To this line of thinking, the cost of protecting IP is just another cost of monetizing, so why give it a cover to socialize it?
Of course, the people in this group acknowledge that there is value in ensuring that innovators are rewarded rightfully for their intellectual creations. After all, at the end of the day the theory that limits terms of protection provides entrepreneurial spirit with an incentive to generate products and ideas to make human life better. A very good argument is that a world, where there is no IP protection, talented individuals would be discouraged from producing vital goods or ideas (imagine life without pharmaceuticals or genetically altered food to feed a big population).
Another group of people who firmly believes in “ protect- everything – under- the-sun” go too in lobbying excessive terms of protection which go beyond any realms of possibility of motivating creators, who often are deceased and seek to expand what is covered by copyright and patent law in the first place. One begins to ridiculously believe that record companies would be adamant about the right to copyright the 12 – bar blues chord progression if they could get away with it. This kind of aggression in protection schemes would require IP policing and would greatly discourage entrepreneurial spirit.
Companies like IBM accumulating giant patent portfolios, KFC and Coca Cola protect their ingredient through trade secrets for their products. These examples help us understand how companies gain great competitive advantage and amass huge wealth at the same time this is needed in order for them to compete in the marketplace.
So concisely speaking, the problem we face when it comes to issue of IP and the internet is how to keep a balance between artistic and entrepreneurial incentives in the interest of user community in a free, unhindered exchange of ideas and products. Again, there are no easy answers, but the following principles can be directed to channel the debate and maybe create a common ground:
Slowly and gradually there is a shift in the global intellectual property regime from protectionism towards developmental. Though, it will take time, it would go a long way in reducing the distortions especially on issues of public interest such as access to medicines to patients, free access to information to all, farmers access to new technology & resources and education to all.
 Morin, Jean-Frédéric. “Paradigm shift in the global IP regime: The agency of academics, Review of International Political Economy, vol 21-2, 2014, p.275” (PDF).
 WTO (2013): Intellectual Property; Responding to least developed countries’ special needs in intellectual property; https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/trips_e/ldc_e.htm
 Robert J. Shapiro; Nam D. Pham. “Economic Effects of Intellectual Property-Intensive Manufacturing in the United States” (PDF). Sonecon.com. Retrieved 2015-08-17.