Published October 1st, 2003

When anyone creates a new idea, their new idea should be given some form of protection to allow commercial development. I doubt most people would argue with that basic premise. The United States government and large corporations have increasingly taken this to an extreme that I do not support. For example, Disney has successfully extended their copyrights on Mickey Mouse, even though he was created more than 75 years ago. When copyright law allows any corporation to control an idea for such a long time, I think it stifles innovation. The claim to protect and reward innovation is one of the key arguments for supporters of copyright law. When one idea is controlled by one group it stops others from even approaching it for fear of being sued by the original inventors. When these copyrights are extended for entire centuries it stops entire fields from developing further.

Genetics Technologies ( ) , an Australian company has patented non-coding DNA. Non-coding DNA makes up about 95% of a humans DNA, and was originally thought to be unimportant. Recent research has found that there may be more to learn about non coding DNA, but this research has been destroyed by Genetic Technologies enforcing its patent on non coding DNA and requiring even public universities to buy expensive licenses. It baffles my mind how a single company can stop promising research into genetics which could yield the greatest medical discovers ever. Copyright law should never allow a company to exploit something that every human on this planet has, their own genes. Furthermore, I believe publicly funded universities should be exempt to all copyright laws as long as all research is released under the public domain. If a project is publicly funded by the tax payers, why shouldn’t the tax payers benefit directly instead of a major multinational company. In this day and age, knowledge is power, so knowledge that the American tax payer bought should be given back to them.

Copyright and Patents are needed for a capitalistic society, but when they are kept for long times, and when they decimate innovation they should be revoked. If the United States continues down the road of exclusive long term patents it will further stifle an already struggling economy. If patents and copyrights lasted only 3 years, companies would rush products to market faster, instead of trying to collect royalties as their main business. When a companies only priority is to stifle development, it is a problem for the entire country, and I think it should be closely regulated by the Federal Government.

Written by Paul Querna, CTO @ ScaleFT. @pquerna