Something I should have noted last week: the Adelphi Charter was launched in Australia, at an event organised by AEShareNet. To quote from the Charter website:

‘The Adelphi Charter was prepared by an International Commission of experts from the arts, creative industries, human rights, law, economics, science, R&D, technology, the public sector and education.
The Charter Office is based at the Royal Society of Arts in London which is concerned with innovation in the arts, sciences and industry.’

The Charter, which was formally launched worldwide in October 2005, is really a simple bunch of principles, that sound a lot like common sense – unless you’ve been in the IP debate for a while, in which case it sounds like a foreign language, so far is it from the ordinary parlance. In a way, the Charter advocates a return to simple, important principles in an area that far too often descends immediately to an unhealthy level of detail and qualification. You can see a ‘January 2006’ report here.

The principles of the Charter are worth quoting in full:

  1. Laws regulating intellectual property must serve as means of achieving creative, social and economic ends and not as ends in themselves.
  2. These laws and regulations must serve, and never overturn, the basic human rights to health, education, employment and cultural life.
  3. The public interest requires a balance between the public domain and private rights. It also requires a balance between the free competition that is essential for economic vitality and the monopoly rights granted by intellectual property laws.
  4. Intellectual property protection must not be extended to abstract ideas, facts or data.
  5. Patents must not be extended over mathematical models, scientific theories, computer code, methods for teaching, business processes, methods of medical diagnosis, therapy or surgery.
  6. Copyright and patents must be limited in time and their terms must not extend beyond what is proportionate and necessary.
  7. Government must facilitate a wide range of policies to stimulate access and innovation, including non-proprietary models such as open source software licensing and open access to scientific literature.
  8. Intellectual property laws must take account of developing countries’ social and economic circumstances.
  9. In making decisions about intellectual property law, governments should adhere to these rules:
    * There must be an automatic presumption against creating new areas of intellectual property protection, extending existing privileges or extending the duration of rights.
    * The burden of proof in such cases must lie on the advocates of change.
    * Change must be allowed only if a rigorous analysis clearly demonstrates that it will promote people’s basic rights and economic well-being.
    * Throughout, there should be wide public consultation and a comprehensive, objective and transparent assessment of public benefits and detriments.

I think people would do well to pay attention to these principles.