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Monday, 22 March 2010

Pirate Party UK's 2010 manifesto

The 2010 election manifesto of the Pirate Party UK has just been published this evening, making the PPUK what the IPKat believes to be the first party to declare its hand before this year's General Election in the United Kingdom. This manifesto, as the party's name suggests, has a great deal to do with intellectual property, concerning which it states:

"Copyright and Patents
Our copyright law is hopelessly out of date. The Pirate Party wants a fair and balanced copyright law that is suitable for the 21st century.

Copyright should give artists the right to be the only people making money from their work, but that needs to be balanced with 'fair use' rights for the public. We will legalise use of copyright works where no money changes hands, which will give the public new rights;

A new right to format shift (for example, buy a CD then copy it to an iPod - which is currently illegal);
A new right to time shift (record a TV programme for watching later) and
A new right to share files (which provides free advertising that is essential for less-well-known artists).
Counterfeiting, and profiting directly from other people's work without paying them, will remain illegal.

When copyright was first introduced, the government decided it should protect new works for 14 years. Ever since then, lobbyists have spent huge sums of money buying longer and longer extensions to copyright. Currently copyright carries on for more than 70 years after the author of a work dies. We want to speak up for the majority of people who believe that taking money from lobbyists in return for biased laws is wrong. We believe that in this fast moving world, 10 years of copyright protection is long enough. Shorter copyright will encourage artists to keep on creating new work, will allow new art forms (such as mash-ups) and will stop big businesses from constantly reselling content we have already paid for. Our 10 year copyright length will include a renewal after 5 years (allowing works that the creator is no longer interested in to fall into the public domain after 5 years). An exception will be made for software, where a 5 year term will apply to closed source software, and a 10 year term to open source, in recognition of the extra rights given to the public by open source licences. We will remove the loophole in copyright law that allows 'restarting the clock' by simply moving content to a new format, or making a small change to it.

We also recognise the need to warn the public about Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) technology. We believe the public needs to be protected from products that can be remotely turned off by the manufacturer, or products that 'phone home' and would therefore stop working if the manufacturer went bankrupt, or that are 'region coded'. We will therefore introduce a mandatory warning label on products that include DRM which will warn purchasers of the defects built into these products. We also pledge not to introduce any new blank media taxes.

We believe that patents exist to reward the inventors of truly outstanding ideas, not to allow big businesses to stifle competition with an ever-growing tide of trivial, incomprehensible, overreaching patents. We will stop the abuse of patent law by raising the bar on how innovative an idea has to be before it can be patented, and by prohibiting patents on software, business methods, concepts, colours and smells. We will require a working model to be provided to the patent office before a patent is granted, and we will strictly enforce the current rule that patents are invalid if they are "obvious to someone skilled in the art". We will allow more competition in the manufacturing of patented devices by introducing a system of compulsory patent licensing, and we will provide exemptions to patent law for non-commercial use, personal study and academic research.

Pharmaceutical patents are a major problem for the world. We need to strike a better balance between the need to pay for drug research, and the need to end the postcode lottery that UK citizens suffer when patented drugs are too expensive for the NHS. We need to tackle the problem of preventable deaths in the third world caused by high price of patented drugs. We will achieve this by abolishing drug patents, which will reduce drug costs drastically, since all drugs will become generic. This will save the NHS a massive amount of money, and part of that saving will be used to subsidise drug research. The pharmaceutical industry currently spends around 15% of its patent drug income on research; we will replace that with subsidies to the value of 20%, increasing research budgets, while still saving the NHS money. This policy of making all drugs generic will create a massive opportunity for industry to make profits, employ more people, and save lives by encouraging the manufacturing newly generic drugs in this country for sale to the third world.

Government copyrights are increasingly becoming a problem for society, with data such as maps and postcodes being jealously protected by government departments. We will introduce a new right of access to government funded data, requiring the release of all maps, statistics and so on that have been paid for by the taxpayer in open formats, under a Creative Commons or similar licence, giving the public access to research that they have already paid for. An exception will be made for cases that genuinely have national security or privacy concerns. This will include the output of the BBC, which is funded by the licence paying public and should therefore belong to the licence paying public. We will amend the BBC's charter to prevent the BBC from using DRM technology, and to require the BBC to release all their content under a Creative Commons licence. We pledge to maintain and expand the current list of important national events that cannot be exclusively broadcast pay TV services, and we pledge to put into action the government's existing but widely ignored Open Source Action Plan, which would encourage the use of free software in the public sector, saving money, and making the UK less reliant on foreign software suppliers".
The IPKat proposes to give space to the positions on IP taken by all the parties standing in the forthcoming elections, but does not propose to comment on them himself. He feels that it is important for people to know the plans and aspirations of those who wish to be their elected representatives.

Merpel adds, it's interesting to know at least what it is that troubles people about the way the IP system works to the extent that they are prepared to enter the political process in order to press for legal reform. Also, this is a demand for reform from the ground upwards, rather than the institutionalised lead-from-the-top sort of reform that we have come to expect. How do institutions such as the World Intellectual Property Organization engage with the Pirate Parties of this world, she wonders.

12 comments:

Nils said...

Whew. I was afraid that the Pirate Party wasn't going to protect inventors. Now that I know that they support protecting "truly outstanding inventions" I feel a lot better. Awesome dudes!

Dave said...

And there I was, worried that this was going to be ill-thought out and full of holes. Finally a manifesto in which we can all have faith!

I'd normally make a substantive comment, but in this instance it'd be like shooting fish in a barrel.

Arthur Sleep said...

Clearly they haven't even taken time to understand what a patent is!

I would however like to see the line of inventors at the IPO wheeling their inventions out for inspection. Just think of the backlog then!

Anonymous said...

Is it April 1st (April Fools day) already? Surely the Kat is having a laugh at our expense?

Working in the BioTech Patent sector, I am looking forward to providing the Patent Office with a working model of every invention. Things could get a bit messy...

Simon Bradshaw said...

It's a pity that I've already set the exam questions for the undergraduate patent law course I teach, as otherwise I would just reproduce part of this and ask the students to indentify the misconceptions, flawed assumptions and logical holes in it.

Apparently this manifesto was assembled by inviting suggestions from PPUK activists and then having an internet vote on them, so in all fairness it can't be laid at the door of any one individual. But it is a horrible warning about the so-called wisdom of crowds.

What is most frustrating for me is that I actually have some small measure of sympathy for a few of the concerns highlighted in that manifesto. I'm what might be called a Laddieite (not a luddite!) who takes a view that is not so much IP-minimalist as against the seemingly endless expansion of IP rights. There are real questions to be asked about the duration of copyright and the scope of patents, for instance. But heaven help us, for if this represents the state of discourse on fundamental IP policy we are hardly likely to see any intelligent engagement on the subject soon.

Anonymous attorney said...

Well, some of the above may be good for a bit of a laugh (such as their perception of what patents cover, and making embodiments - would the embodiment have to cover the whole scope of the claims?), but they do make some good points. Copyright duration is currently obscenely long, particularly for literary works. And the inventive step for patents isn't currently very high (which makes my job easier). The format/time shifting is also overdue. There are many vested interests that would like to keep tightening the copyright laws, and they are the ones who can afford to fund the lobbyists.

Anonymous said...

Probably we are witnessing the start of a political platform, as the ecological movement was years ago. At that time ecology and environmental protection were only an issue for some few idealistic followers and now it is found in all major political movements.

It would be safer to start correcting some excesses in IP law than to wait that the crowds take over the lead.

Dave said...

I agree wholeheartedly on level of inventive step, format shifting, copyright duration (particularly for performers - I wish my boss would pay me 50 years after I left work) and the scope of patent rights. And as you rightly identify, it's often a matter of "who can afford the most effective lobbying".

But such absolute blinders as "legalising the use of copyright where no money changes hands" can't go without mockery. I can just see the business model - the "Ryanair cinema". Free movie, but the popcorn/toilets/ comfortable seats/drinks/ticket printing costs will kill ya.

It also fails to recognise basic commitments under international treaties.

Not to mention the 20% research subsidy for pharma, balanced by no patents. Presumably they haven't worked out that, if everyone can copy it, no-one will bother to develop it in the first place, and all the pharma companies will just pack up and go an make non-pharmaceutical products instead?

And there I was, saying I wasn't go to go into substantive detail. Still, there are plenty of fish left in the barrel...

Chris H said...

Er.. isn't there already a time-shifting exception for copyright (s.70 CDPA)?

And if patents for concepts are prohibited that probably doesn't leave very much that could be patented (as all patents are, in a sense, for new concepts)...

Potentially a few nuggets of wisdom buried in a huge dungpile of nonsense.

Andrew Robinson said...

I'm actually very excited to read Simon Bradshaw's comment that "heaven help us, for if this represents the state of discourse on fundamental IP policy we are hardly likely to see any intelligent engagement on the subject soon." because it gives me a chance to say I'm not happy with it either, but we are a very open party, and we are aware that what is most needed is "intelligent engagement on the subject". I want you to talk to us, and help us have that intelligent engagement.

As some of you might be aware, yesterday there was a march on parliament protesting about the digital economy bill. It might surprise you to know that as Pirate Party leader, I wasn't there. At the time of the demo, I was at the Counter 2010 conference on counterfeiting and Piracy Research in Manchester, listening to Annette Kur from the Max Planck Institute lecture on best practice in challenging counterfeiting.

If our manifesto worries you, I quite understand, but I would say that perhaps this should worry you more: I spoke to the organisers of
Counter 2010 and asked them why the Pirate Party movement had 5 delegates (including one MEP elect) at the conference, but the other parties were not invited. I was told that all the other parties were invited, but had not replied.

As an anonymous commenter suggested, I do believe that "we are witnessing the start of a political platform, as the ecological movement was years ago", if fact I would go a step further and point out that this platform already has representation at the European Parliament, and was able to generate 10,000 letters to MPs expressing concern over the prospect of the Digital Economy Bill going into 'wash up'.

Time to end on a soundbite (I am a politician after all)... I consider my job as leader of the fledgling PPUK to be to build a party that people like the readers of this blog could feel comfortable joining. I know some of you will be laughing when you read that, but I hope a few of you will consider helping us get a little bit closer to that goal, for everyone's benefit.

Andrew Robinson said...

Thanks for taking the time to look at what the Pirate Party UK are saying. I'm not at all surprised to see that people much better informed than us are picking holes in our manifesto. If the message that "It would be safer to start correcting some excesses in IP law than to wait that the crowds take over the lead." is acted on in parliament, then we've made a big, big step towards our objectives.

It is, as I'm sure practitioners in this field know better than anyone, fiendishly difficult to talk about copyright and patents in a language that the general public can relate to, and therefore the broad statements in our manifesto will have loopholes and gray areas.

I's like to answer a few of the points raised, not in a political argumentative sense, but in an honest attempt to work with skilled people in the field to start a debate that helps us uncover the "few nuggets of wisdom buried in a huge dungpile of nonsense." and polish them up. Yes, we openly admit that our position "fails to recognise basic commitments under international treaties.", because international treaties can be unhelpful and outdated. The US survived very well outside the Berne convention for a very long time, and several far eastern countries have proved the economic benefits of lax application of international law. Yes, s.70 CDPA does provide something near identical to our explanation of the impact of turning copyright into a commercial exploitation right, our dissatisfaction with the narrowness of the word 'broadcast' in that statute was lost in the process of boiling down our thinking on it into a user-friendly manifesto pledge. I'll make sure we don't make this mistake again. Yes, we do realise that biotech patents would have a problem with our approach, but that's intentional, we are against biotech patents. Yes, we realise that covering all claims of a patent in a physical model is difficult, that's entirely intentional, it's our proposed solution to overbroad and vague submarine patents.

(continued in next post due to comment size limit)

Soon to be European Patent Attorney said...

"We believe that patents exist to reward the inventors of truly outstanding ideas"

Common misconception. People like to believe that Edison woke up one day and "invented" the light bulb. Well, that never happened. He just "improved" it by a tiny bit, which, yes, turned out to be the bit that would actually make it work. But all the other nventor before him also added "tiny bits" that might not have bee "truly outstanding ideas" but that made it possible for Edison to solve the last issues and get a working bulb!

So who "invented" the bulb? I am not sure all the merit, and all the patents, should go only to the last guy..

"tide of trivial, uncomprehensible, overreaching patents"

well, European law already does not allow that. If this is indeed the case (can any example be provided here?), it would make more sense to actually enforce the law rather than change it, wouldn't it?

"We will stop the abuse of patent law by raising the bar on how innovative an idea has to be before it can be patented"

mmmhhh, it took a few centuries to get to the actual definition of what "inventive" means. Granted, this might not be perfect. I truly believe that it allows some applications that are not necessarily genius ideas to get through. But the current definition has a recognized meaning and this guarantees equal and fair treatment of all interests involved. Any example on how a more restrictive definition of "inventive" would be very much appreciated.

"and by prohibiting patents on software"

done already

"business methods"

done already

"concepts"

like what? Has somebody tried to patent happiness?

"colours and smells"

I would love to see a patent granted on a smell ;)

"We will require a working model to be provided to the patent office before a patent is granted"

As others have mention, this would turn out to be pretty cool! From a patent attorney perspective I would enjoy assembling the last bits of a hybrid car before sending it to the EPO by DHL.

"and we will strictly enforce the current rule that patents are invalid if they are "obvious to someone skilled in the art"."

So we do agree that the law is already there and needs no change? I am confused...

"exemptions to patent law for non-commercial use"

already done

"personal study"

already done

"academic research"

already done.

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