Does Intellectual Property Go Against Traditional Views Of Knowledge In India?

from the sharing-is-caring dept

With India in the middle of its process of revamping its copyright laws due to pressure from Western nations (just a few years after it revamped its patent laws, also due to pressure from Western nations), Quentin Hartman points us to an interesting writeup by Venkatesh Hariharan taking a look at the status of intellectual property in India today and how it seems to conflict with the traditional view of knowledge and sharing knowledge in traditional Indian society. He notes a wonderful hymn that he learned as a child:
Wonderful is your gift of knowledge
the more we share, the more it grows
the more we hoard it, the more it diminishes
But, unfortunately, due to intense pressure from the US and other countries, India has been pushed into implementing US-style intellectual property regimes, in many cases leading to ridiculous results. The article reminds us of the story we've covered previously about the guy who claims IP rights over popular yoga techniques.

The article makes an amusing aside that I hadn't considered before, but should serve as an interesting rejoinder to those who constantly show up with the refrain of "don't like how our IP system stops you from copying? then make your own music/movies/software/novels, etc.." It points out that India's own IP system appears to be quite derivative from the American system. So for all of those "make your own!" folks out there, why isn't India allowed to "make its own" IP regime in the way that fit with its own goals? And why is the US pressuring other countries, such as Canada to make a "derivative" IP system, rather than allowing it to "make its own"?


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    Mike C. (profile), May 14th, 2010 @ 6:05pm

    Okay... I'll bite...

    Come on Mike - the answer is easy...

    "But they need to do this to support international treaty obligations"

    Sarcasm aside, I tend to fall more in the camp of "ideas should be shared". It's not because I want everything for free (I'm a programmer and like getting paid for my work) but because I see ideas in the frame of Jefferson's candle/flame analogy.

    If I light my candle from your flame, we both have flame. If yours goes out, you can relight from mine and vice versa. If you hoard yours and yours goes out, we all lose because noone has a flame.

    In a way, free exchange and expression of ideas without hindrance is akin to a distributed backup. The more people that have access to the same idea, the greater the chance the knowledge will never be lost. In the end, isn't that the goal of progressing the "useful Arts and Sciences" - to make sure that knowledge is advanced and not lost?

     

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      Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2010 @ 9:03am

      Re: Okay... I'll bite...

      "ideas should be free" and "I want to get paid for my work" are two entirely separate concepts. The way you've worded your post, it seems you are relating them on economic terms.

      The latter makes complete sense economically as you are monetizing a scarce resource. The former involves throwing in artificial limitations that have extremely questionable benefit and has been shown time and again to have very troubling disadvantages.

       

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      Niall (profile), May 17th, 2010 @ 4:55am

      Re: Okay... I'll bite...

      There seems to be a lot of grey areas around the value of "I made it, it's mine" versus "work-for-hire" - it seems that the one has some magical power to be protected forever, whereas the other is ripe for exploitation by some corporation and leaves the poor creator in the same shoes as the rest of us poor working mugs who get paid a so-called day's wage for a day's labour. So that whole definition should be looked at more closely.

       

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    John Duncan Yoyo (profile), May 14th, 2010 @ 6:38pm

    If they copy us we should sue....

    The obvious violations of our intellectual property being appropriated by other countries and incorporated into their laws is an affront to the very idea of intellectual property. We should sue their sari's off.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 14th, 2010 @ 6:44pm

    The United State's behavior is non sustainable. We are building an empire and becoming more authoritarian and history doesn't look favorably towards tyrant empires.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 14th, 2010 @ 6:46pm

    When I was younger I learned that sharing was caring and then I grew up and I learned that sharing was stealing.

     

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    NAMELESS.ONE, May 14th, 2010 @ 9:14pm

    @2 then @4

    and are you sitting on a toilet?
    WHO made that we should give that fmailly forever trademarks and copyrights and see where you take your next dump

    LOL
    lets go all the way and do this as insanely as possible until all society grinds not only to halt but utterly falls apart

    @4 hi tam,
    and ill say this you didn't grow up
    you degraded into a trollaristic goblin whom sits by the bridge waylaying lil children of ideas and fun and stealing the money form all that try to pass the bridge
    WELL... I SIR NAMELESS ONE am to the rescue
    I shall slay the great troll and toss him into a TOILET (see @2's reference ) and give back to the poor.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 15th, 2010 @ 2:01am

    The article makes an amusing aside that I hadn't considered before, but should serve as an interesting rejoinder to those who constantly show up with the refrain of "don't like how our IP system stops you from copying? then make your own music/movies/software/novels, etc.." It points out that India's own IP system appears to be quite derivative from the American system. So for all of those "make your own!" folks out there, why isn't India allowed to "make its own" IP regime in the way that fit with its own goals? And why is the US pressuring other countries, such as Canada to make a "derivative" IP system, rather than allowing it to "make its own"?

    And you accuse other people of putting up straw men? Wow.

    I mean, I don't even know where to start on this, because the assumptions underlying the assumptions are all wrong. It's a Gordian knot of absurdity.

    First, you have to assume that intellectual property is applied to systems of policy and governance, which would be pretty exceptional (cue somebody digging up the exception). But OK, fine, let's allow the exception.

    Then, you have to assume that everyone with intellectual property is - by virtue of having it - motivated to restrict the creation of derivative works. Of course, this is also ridiculous. A holder of IP can restrict the creation of derivative works if he/she wants to, but they can also encourage and authorize them. The foundation of copyleft (which fully relies on IP protections to control the use and distribution of downstream derivative works) is based on this. In fact, you would assume that if the creator of some IP-protected thing (in the stretched analogy, an IP policy itself) could benefit from its being distributed and used widely, then they would want to encourage duplicate and derivative works.

    And hey, that seems to be exactly what's happening here! The U.S. believes that it is advantageous that other countries have similar IP policies, and so it is encouraging them to create their policies based on the U.S.'s. I'm shocked! Oh, wait, not really, because that's exactly what you'd expect to happen.

    So for all of those "make your own!" folks out there

    I don't know who the "make your own" folks are. Do they have a headquarters? A newsletter? Perhaps I can contact them by calling 1-800-BOGEYMAN?

    Anyway, I think usually the "make your own" argument comes up when someone really really wants to do something derivative, but can't get (or doesn't feel like getting) permission. I have never seen it come up when someone has explicit permission or encouragement to copy or derive.

    (Cue some busybody spending an hour searching for an obscure post somewhere on the Web where somebody said something vaguely like "make your own" when permission already existed). Before you Google Warriors go off to find this guy, please do have a read.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, May 15th, 2010 @ 6:16am

      Re:

      'Then, you have to assume that everyone with intellectual property is - by virtue of having it - motivated to restrict the creation of derivative works. Of course, this is also ridiculous. A holder of IP can restrict the creation of derivative works if he/she wants to, but they can also encourage and authorize them.' - in fact, many companies which hold ip are more than willing to get it used in order to recover their costs to produce it to start with. mike often forgets that licensing is one of the keys of ip ownership, a way to convert ideas into cash without having to actually produce anything but the idea. there is no benefit in coming up with something amazing and then never using it, nor doing anything to recoup the costs. for an mba, he often seems to miss very obvious (and functional) business models, especially models that have been in use for a very long time already.

       

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        Jose_X, May 15th, 2010 @ 6:32pm

        Re: Re:

        You are both missing the fact that the US is pressuring India to imitate us, and the reason is to serve the interests of a small group having disproportionate influence over US policy. The US is effectively saying, if you innovate within your laws, we will penalize you.

         

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        Jose_X, May 15th, 2010 @ 7:01pm

        Re: Re:

        >> in fact, many companies which hold ip are more than willing to get it used in order to recover their costs to produce it to start with

        Of course, after they have recovered their costs a few times over, many still want much more... and it's not unheard of they would claim their "expenses" continue to rise.

        Also, never mind that many do exercise the power of monopolies to dictate their own justice (eg, eliminating uncooperative or powerful competition) and/or do gain significantly more licensing leverage than otherwise would be possible by appealing to the injunction potential.

        Monopolies lead to sloth. It kills a nontrivial amount of competition and new works (with copyrights.. or potentially a very great amount of competition with patents when we talk about information works like software) and with it innovation.

        Since I am particularly more antagonistic to patents than to copyrights, it would be easier to reply to your comment more accurately if you specified what class of IP you were talking about. While various classes of patents have become a complete embarrassment on the human race, copyrights' main problem is their extremely long duration period.

         

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          Jose_X, May 16th, 2010 @ 2:33pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          >> Since I am particularly more antagonistic to patents than to copyrights

          I come to this copyright issue from the software world. In the software world, unlike in the art world, you typically don't see source code ("their work") unless it happens to be open source (meaning the license allows you to do almost anything with it already). Consequently, I am accustomed to not seeing "the work" that matters.

          Patents hit me hard because after you resolve happily that you don't need "their work" and will build your own from scratch, you then find out that the unconstitutional patent law allows other people to snatch away what you took much time and pain to create. Further, the broad patents mean you sometimes are stuck without an ability to properly solve the problem -- eg, the round wheel is as good as it gets (and not to mention that sometimes standards and interoperability interfaces are patented).

          Let's contrast the software world to the "art" world, which is an area I never worried too much about (until recently) in terms of the creator perspective.

          In the art world, people see "their work" all the time. You then become more pre-occupied with the fact that it is inefficient not to be able to leverage other people's work directly. [I'll keep the fair use shady area out of this.] You have more time to see how bad it is that a great many components of culture cannot be used in many ways. You see that even if you go back many decades, you still can't use these things. Thus, the patent bite never really gets you, but you become more in tune with the unfairness of simply monopolizing works, and for very VERY long periods of time. It is very inefficient.

          My view now is that I would like to see art copyright removed or made quite short. It is inefficient; however, I can strike a compromise (remember, I was willing to simply start from scratch and rewrite software). The compromise, though unfair and inefficient, is possible thanks to CC licenses (most powerfully with CC-sharealike and similar copyleft licenses). In effect, we can start creating new culture starting from today and leave hollywood, disney, and the rest behind -- maybe our great great great great great great grandchildren will be able to sing Happy Birthday without drawing an instant $30,000 fine. [Also, I would like software copyright to stay or else a copyleft law to exist to protect the public commons from unfair exploitation.] As for patents, if patents were to be used with art, literature, etc, then people would really REALLY get angry, I think.

          So to recap, the concepts of patents as implemented (scope is over broad class of works that infringe simply for having certain properties outlined in the patent claims) makes it worse than copyrights, generally. We don't want patents, especially in areas ripe for contribution by many folks! On the other hand, copyright restrictions are more damaging in the art world than in the software world, generally, because copyright restricted software source code is usually not even shown, is a newer field (so the commons is not that far behind), and it does not become a part of culture where the specific details become a part of people's thoughts and communication (as is the case for art).

           

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      Jose_X, May 15th, 2010 @ 7:23pm

      Re:

      >> Then, you have to assume that everyone with intellectual property is - by virtue of having it - motivated to restrict the creation of derivative works. Of course, this is also ridiculous. A holder of IP can restrict the creation of derivative works if he/she wants to, but they can also encourage and authorize them.

      For things like software patents (and to a lesser degree other patent types), the mere potential for restriction is a theft of our human essence. It is insulting and would violate a number of sections of our Constitution.

      For the case of copyright, I think what you point out suggests how valuable it would be to support groups that use licenses such as Creative Commons licenses and reject works that are controlled by control freaks. The Internet has made the Creative Commons approach particularly useful. [Even more useful is the GPL source code requirement approach.] This is why moving forward, I make extra effort to create, use, and encourage the growth CC and similar works.

      >> First, you have to assume that intellectual property is applied to systems of policy and governance

      Well, as pointed out here http://www.techdirt.com/article.php?sid=20071023%2F234958&threaded=true&sp=1#c215 , don't we value our IP in these areas? Why do we want to help other countries rip us off?

      OK, "because we are nice folks" would be a good possible reason. In which case, we should be exporting nice things that actually help others out.

      Or are we being two-faced and actually seek to poison others under the pretension of kindness? Isn't there a special place reserved among the damned for people like "us" in this last scenario?

       

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      Hephaestus (profile), May 16th, 2010 @ 9:14am

      Re:

      "I don't know who the "make your own" folks are. Do they have a headquarters? A newsletter? Perhaps I can contact them by calling 1-800-BOGEYMAN?

      Anyway, I think usually the "make your own" argument comes up when someone really really wants to do something derivative, but can't get (or doesn't feel like getting) permission. I have never seen it come up when someone has explicit permission or encouragement to copy or derive. "

      When ACTA gets signed into law you will see this "make your own" IP Rules come into play. Restrictive societal systems always breed ways around the system, new systems, and in the end the collapse of the restrictive system. Right now we have the Creative commons. If it is packaged, re-branded, and promoted properly could be the the new IP.

      The amount of collaboration, remixing, and derivative works (Think youtube anime music videos) people are doing now is increasing at ~20% a year. When this fair use is made a criminal offense it will devalue the works of the large scale copyright holders as people move towards open liscences. The trend is clearly visible and mirrors the CDC study on cell phone (see page 3 for the chart). We are at the 2004-2005 levels for people only using CC and free works to do remixing. As more big name stars go the free or open route it will accelerate this.

      It doesnt bode well for the copyright maximalists.

       

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      Mike Masnick (profile), May 16th, 2010 @ 10:46am

      Re:

      I don't know who the "make your own" folks are. Do they have a headquarters? A newsletter? Perhaps I can contact them by calling 1-800-BOGEYMAN?

      Or by just reading our comments:

      http://www.techdirt.com/article.php?sid=20100118/0300547791#c50

      http://www.techdirt. com/articles/20100207/2246518070.shtml#c73

      http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20100219/0328158237.s html#c212

      http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20100430/1218009261.shtml#c385

      http://www.techdirt. com/articles/20100426/1725249183.shtml#c479

      I was referring to those people who use the "make your own" refrain in our comments repeatedly.

       

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    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, May 15th, 2010 @ 4:53am

    I Made A Comment On This Exact Same Point ...

     

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    Alatar, May 15th, 2010 @ 5:33am

    Interesting practices

    Interesting way of dealing with a challenge. Let's compare those two things : differences in wages and in IP laws between countries :

    - "In China and other countries, people are paid less than $60/month? The answer is, of course, to lower the wages in Europe and in the US, coz, you know, we can't force decent minimal wage laws to them. And if you're not happy with your wages being so low, be happy your job hasn't already been shipped overseas. We cannot force them..."

    - "In some countries, IP laws are more consumer-friendly? Of course we can use all our power in order to have stricter laws passed there, and we will pressure them all the way and threaten them through trade agreements, until they adopt Orwellian copyright laws. We CAN force them!".

    So it seems sometimes US and EU governments are "powerless" and "can't act", and sometimes, in the exact same kind of situation, only in a different field, they do have the power to act. If someone can explain such a difference in treatment to me...

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2010 @ 5:35am

    all i could think of when i read this story was 'buggy whip'. mike, you of all people should care less how things were done before. i think this sort of story is proof that you will go against your own beliefs just to find some way to slam copyright. what you are suggesting is to stick with an old and slow system just to avoid copyright? Luddite.

     

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      abc gum, May 16th, 2010 @ 8:49am

      Re:

      "mike, you of all people should care less how things were done before"

      Except this story is not about mike, did you read it?

       

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        Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2010 @ 10:29am

        Re: Re:

        They don't know how to read. Tragic, really.

         

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        Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2010 @ 2:11pm

        Re: Re:

        i know mike didnt write it. i also know that mike is posting it with some pretty clear support for the concepts. 'The article makes an amusing aside that I hadn't considered before, but should serve as an interesting rejoinder '. next week this will be linked with the imfamous 'we have already shown that india is far advanced when it comes to the ip concepts' or something similar. if everyone called him out on it, he would ignore it and move on. amazing, isnt it?

         

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          abd gum, May 16th, 2010 @ 3:00pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          The article entitled "Knowledge and Property, a View from Another Civilization" made points that are well articulated and easy to understand. I see that you have not addressed any of them.

           

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            Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2010 @ 3:18pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            That's what happens when your principled stance rests on a bedrock or foundation of shiny plastic discs.

             

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            Anonymous Coward, May 17th, 2010 @ 8:43am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            i am sorry. i didnt see the rule that in order to comment on mikes pendulum swings that i must also write a complete dissertation on the underlying articles he might link to. please point me to the rule book so i can understand it better.

             

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    Betond the First World, May 17th, 2010 @ 1:04am

    WHO??????

    You make the assertion that the US is pushing India into US-type Us laws. Many in US are questioning their own laws, all the way up the chain to Secretary of Commerce Locke. So, I want to know WHO the US is pushing China. I would like to do an expose on such groups. I wrote a quite lengthy article entitles, "Does India Need the "Indian Bayh-Dole Act," the treatise being that essentially no one in India wants this legislation. See article at:
    http://www.beyondthefirstworld.com/?page_id=223&paged=2 second artcle on the page.
    Terry Young
    Editor

     

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      Anonymous Coward, May 17th, 2010 @ 9:34am

      Re: WHO??????

      mr young, perhaps you want to consider the concept that countries like china and india are moving towards more stringent copyright rules because they realize that it allows them to move forward, rather than staying as isolated islands of poverty? the majority of indian citizens still want a caste society and deny education to many of their own people, allowing and even encouraging them into a life of poverty, ignorance, and early death. i dont think the west has much to learn from india on enlightened choices.

       

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    Terry Young, May 17th, 2010 @ 6:55pm

    Is the "Indian Bayh-Dole" Right for India

    I wrote a paper 3 weeks questioning if India should follow the ways of the west and pass the "Indian Bayh-Dole Act" this session of Parliament. I concluded that it should not pass this law as it fails to address any IPR issues in India and will only make the problem worse. See the article, "Does India Need the 'Indian Bayh-Dole Act?'" at
    http://www.beyondthefirstworld.com/?page_id=223&paged=2

    It is the 3rd articles down the page.

     

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