Even The Pope Is Worried About The State Of Intellectual Property

from the didn't-see-that-coming dept

The US Constitution clearly states that the sole purpose of intellectual property monopolies is "to promote the progress of science and the useful arts." For quite some time, we've felt that current intellectual property law does not live up to that challenge... and it appears that, of all people, the Pope may agree. Pope Benedict XVI is certainly not subject to the US Constitution, but Roberto Valenzuela alerts us to the Pope's "Caritas in veritate" (Charity in Truth) that just came out today. In it, the Pope discusses what is progress and the importance of economic development, which makes for quite an interesting read, whether you are religious or not. The Pope talks about how economic development, prosperity and economic growth has helped lift many out of poverty and built up nations and created tremendous opportunities for people. However, he is worried about "malfunctions and dramatic problems" in the system. Such as? Well, intellectual property for one thing:
On the part of rich countries there is excessive zeal for protecting knowledge through an unduly rigid assertion of the right to intellectual property, especially in the field of health care
While there's plenty that I don't necessarily agree with, a lot of the talk certainly does appear to be pretty economically literate, suggesting that an overabundant focus on short term profits can do significant harm to long-term economic growth. He talks up the importance of increasing knowledge and research and better sharing the results of that research.

The impact of technology is a constant theme throughout the entire thing, with an entire section focused on technology towards the end, where he does worry that our fascination with technology its own sake often obscures the its overall impact. He talks about the responsible use of technology, but (and perhaps I'm reading too much into it) he doesn't appear to be condemning technological progress, but noting that for its gains to be sustainable, people do need to think about the wider impact. However, I certainly disagree with his assessment that technology for things like social communications can have a direct moral implication, as opposed to being "neutral."

It's a worthwhile (if long) read, no matter where you stand on these issues -- but the very fact that even the Pope is concerned about the excesses of intellectual property being used to harm economic and social development again suggests that this is a problem that is having a pretty wide impact.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Jul 2009 @ 12:11pm

    It's funny that he talks about IP considering you can't take pictures in the sistine chapel since some German company paid to rehabilitate the frescos and in payment they get sole right to recreate them for X number of years.

    So... it's hundreds of years old, but still under copyright?

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