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back to article Antigua calls for pirates to return to Caribbean

Antigua and Barbuda - a nation of 70,000 in an area roughly half the size of San Francisco - has formally requested that the WTO allow it to suspend its intellectual property obligations to the United States, AP reports. Although many in the US have mocked tiny Antigua'a case against the US with a shrug of the shoulders, the …

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Typical!

The US administration isn't winning so they decide to change the game. My older brother used to do this when we were kids. I'd say 'checkmate' and he would say 'Ah, no you can't do that. Didn't you know about the rule that says....(insert hastily made up rule here)... so actually I win.'

I wonder if I can 'change my commitments' on my mortgage repayments because I don't want to pay them any more?

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Anonymous Coward

If Brazil can, so can Antigua

Brazil's done the whole tit-for-tat thing ever since the US became more discriminatory towards visitors from Brazil. When the demand was made that visitors had to be fingerprinted, Brazil opted for the same.

Except they don't have the high-tech options of fingerprint scanners, so ink and paper would have to do. And it has infuriated plenty an American who get incensed by the mere prospect of being treated like a common criminal ("don't you know who I am? I'm a citizen of the UNITED STATES!"). Yet those same Americans do not realise that that is exactly how Brazilians, or any other foreign citizens feel when they are made to give their fingerprints on immigration.

Antigua - Go for it. It is time the US learns to play by the same rules that it sets for others. If the US does something, do it back to them, and more. Do it legally, but make them pay. It is only fair.

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The American Problem

It's one of those wierd things about America, in that it just seems to have a very negative attitude towards poorer neighbours trying to get an economic leg-up. You have to ask just how much longer the US can get away with being so aggressive in it's pursuit of people running perfectly legitimate businesses just because they break their domestic laws. Laws, by the way, that arguably are uncompetitive and so should be repealed.

As for Antigua, I hope they get their day in the sun on this. Personally I have no interest or desire to indulge in gambling, but America has no right to bully and interfere with a nation attempting to improve its economy. Columbian Marching Powder aside of course............

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Anonymous Coward

free movies/music i'll buy that for a dollar!

speaking on behalf of a number of moralistic few spanking newsgroups for all they can.

Isn't this what we are doing already?

posted by a.n.other leicester haines

let the mpaa/riaa cease and desist correspondence begin

any chance of some cheap hardware to go with that?

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A pound of flesh... Not!

All the huffing and puffing the political talking heads made about internet gambling is simply a ruse, a smokescreen, to cover (or uncover in reality-land) the hypocrisy. They're either too stupid to figure out a way to TAX the golden goodies on operations that don't regularly grease the palms and wheels of the American political Mafia, so its just easier to cry wolf, shed crocodile tears for the "victims of gambling", and shut the whole thing down. Or it could be that the major gambling interests didn't like the competition and calling in their markers had their "enforcers" do the dirty work. (gotta love the metaphors).

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The Dutchy of Grand Fenwick?

Is Antigua the "mouse that roared" here? Could they have found the loophole that the rest of the world (and many in the U.S.) have been looking for to force the U.S. to fix broken IP laws? Or will it simply get the U.S. to fix the gaming laws that are intended to prop up the American brick-and-mortar casino industry?

In any event, some good can come of this, either in a sweeping reform of IP or in allowing online casinos. I hope.

On the other hand, there is precedence of the U.S. gaming industry taking a dim view of someone that impacts their profit line...our old friend Fidel has been paying for THAT transgression for nearly 50 years...

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Anonymous Coward

High time the rest of the world suspended US property rights too

Why can't the UK apply for permission to suspend US property rights until such time as the USA promises to charge no more for its sales to UK buyers than it does to USA buyers?

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Because we all want zero IP protection...

It takes large sums of money to develop IP. Why would anyone invest so many resources into developing things if they have no protection against theft which guarenties their ability to recoup the initial investment?

China, UK, EU, etc are not going to support the abolishment of IP protection because it is central to the global economy and it would devestate every nation if protections against IP theft were lifted.

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Anonymous Coward

Next Steps

Antigua has a legitimate gripe here, and indeed, by most objective measures, should actually win this fight. However, if there is an Antiguan victory here, it will be short-lived.

Why?

Because within weeks of internet gambling being allowed again, some lobbyist group will pay for an intelligence report stating that revenues are being diverted to "Terrorist-Friendly" organizations. This will prompt a military invasion and bombing of "strategic" targets (e.g. Telecom Hubs, Power stations, etc) and Antigua may someday become the 51st state.

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It would be fabulous if Antigua just operated as an IP "haven"

There are offshore tax-havens; why not an offshore IP haven. In particular, protection from patents would be a wonderful thing for the world - and a great business opportunity for Antigua.

Actually, I think the UK should unilaterally withdraw from international patents, i.e. No patents, neither foreign nor domestic, will be enforced within the UK (and in return, we won't expect foreign countries to enforce ours). The result would be a huge inward investment, both of manufacturing, and of invention.

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The real issue here

The real issue here is that the US wants to offer casino gambling, but not allow internet gambling. The US is being punished for "protecting" local industries under the WTO rules, because bricks-and-mortar casinos are being treated as indistinguishable from online gambling sites.

Try applying this line of thinking to other issues... since the state of California has legalized growing marijuana for medical patients by deputized agents of local towns, Antigua could theoretically argue before the WTO that Antiguan marijuana should be allowed for sale throughout the US. Shouldn't a signatory of the WTO be able to say that certain products (ie; guns, prescription medication, prostitutes) are prohibited from internet sale to their citizens?

The only way to eliminate Antiguas case under the current WTO rules would be for the US were to eliminate all forms of gambling. This is an issue of legal autonomy for WTO members - should they get to allow certain sin industries to operate in strictly regulated ways, or should they be compelled to cater to the lowest globalized denominator?

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Anonymous Coward

Hmm

I can understand movies and music. But why would anyone want Micro$uck$ software?

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Erm, No.

If you refer to earlier articles on this subject you will notice that the US's most egrerious violation of WTO rules, and the one upon which Antigua built it's case, is the fact that the US permits online gambling on horse racing operated by US-based firms, but prohibits foreign suppliers from doing the same. It has nothing to do with Casinos whatsoever. The US can comply with the WTO ruling either by allowing foreign operators to compete on equal terms, or by banning internet gambling entirely.

There is nothing to stop the US prohibiting certain goods being sold to its citizens online, providing that it treats foreign and domestic suppliers equally.

As for marijuana - don't be rediculous. Firstly, WTO rules only apply to fully commercial goods, which medical marijuana isn't (yet). Secondly, the fact that the sale of a good is permitted in one jurisdiction of a signatory doesn't mean that it must automatically be allowed in all jurisdictions. The WTO does recognise the concept of sovereign political subdivisions.

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Of course the UK said nothing...

Blair was too busy kissing Bush arse to actually try to defend the interests of the people who voted him and pay his salary.

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Anonymous Coward

Title

Richard Neill is clearly a fool. If we abandoned IP domestically no one would develop it in the UK. Inventions are only worth something because you can sell them. If someone can copy them without paying for the right, there is no point. I sure as hell wouldn't right a book, invest money in a medicine etc. if i thought someone else could copy me a day later. Another example of someone mistaking an opinion for a thought.

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So let them gamble

The US allows online gambling on US horse races. Let Antigua do the same. Of course they would also have to collect taxes on the winnings, remit those taxes to the IRS and report the income, just like they do in the States.

Online gambling is also a tax haven for US bettors. No body reports their winnings and you can bet that they don't self report. That's the real axe to grind.

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re: Horse Racing

Antigua is looking to offer more gambling than merely horse racing. The horse racing issue came up because it's an area where the courts found the US had failed to establish a "moral defense" for prohibiting online gambling...

from http://www.aoga.ag/wto.html:

"Fourth, the Appellate Body found that the US could not invoke a "moral defense" to its violation of the GATS. Under Article XIV of the GATS, a country can violate the terms of the free trade treaty if the violation is necessary to protect "public morals" or maintain the "public order." In order to establish its so-called morals defense, the US was required to meet a two-part test: (1) prove that the three federal statutes were necessary to protect public morals or maintain public order and (2) satisfy a legal balancing test, referred to as the "chapeau." With respect to the first element of this morals defense, the Appellate Body determined, over Antigua's objections, that the three federal statutes were necessary to protect public morals or maintain public order. With respect to the second element of this defense, the Appellate Body ruled that the US did not establish the chapeau. The Dispute Panel had found several reasons why the US could not meet the chapeau. The Appellate Body disagreed with some of the Dispute Panel's reasoning, but nevertheless ruled that the US could not establish the chapeau because the US either sanctioned or permitted "remote gambling" in the US, primarily in the form of off-track account deposit wagering on horse races. The Appellate Body noted that there were several companies in the US that provided telephone and Internet betting services on horse races. These companies were sanctioned to provide these services by the Interstate Horseracing Act ("IHA"). The Appellate Body concluded that the US could not justify why it permitted US-based companies to offer remote gambling in the form of telephone and Internet account deposit wagering while the US prohibited Antiguan companies from offering the same type of gambling services. By making this finding, the Appellate Body held that the US could not prevail on its morals defense - technically known as its Article XIV defense."

This is really a strawman argument. Antigua isn't trying to earn the right to bet on US horse races - it's trying to win the right to host poker tournaments, sports betting, and the like. If the US were to outlaw remote betting on horse racing, Antigua will likely point to a less egregious example (ie; state lotteries posting winning numbers online) as a reason why Antiguan businesses should be able to circumvent US prohibitions.

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Regime Change?

I think even with all the other commitments, the US government and military can take on the Royal Antigua and Barbuda Defense Force...it only has 170 members. And they'll say it is to prevent terroristic threats against vital American business...

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Silver badge

Will it be different this time?

Although I don't have any personal desire for free software or music, I think Richard Neill got it right when he said an offshore ip haven is the way to go.

Certainly I hope Antigua does well here, but I'm afraid that they will be squashed. The US can, and will, do whatever it wants. Anyone can be found to have weapons of mass destruction and the press can be manipilated. They will do whatever it takes. So what can you do? Will it be different this time?

I dream that Antigua will become an IP haven and that this will lead to better laws. Perhaps even bring down the RIAA a notch or two. Could this be the new home of the Pirate Bay? Could the RIAA end up fighting on line gambling? There are many interesting possibilities.

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IP is all that UK has left

we have very little manufacturing left (apart from specialist "craftsmen")... in the UK, we survive on service industries and the creation of ideas. Therefore, inevitably, we have to support the USA in order to garner support for protection of our IP.

note that I am greatly against software patents but strongly in favour of sorting out copyright in Europe.

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No no and no

"Although I don't have any personal desire for free software or music, I think Richard Neill got it right when he said an offshore ip haven is the way to go."

No, the UK is a world leader in medical research. In other words we make some of the best drugs on the planet, most of the cancer drugs available today were developed in the UK by UK companies. It costs billions to make these drugs, and the only way to get the investment back is through protecting the IP.

Remove IP protection and Company A brings out a drug that cures a form of cancer, it costs them £500 billion, but as there is no IP protection Company B makes an identicle product, with no R&D costs. Company A can't recoup its costs so goes broke, end of research into cancer drugs from Company A.

The US will have no option now but to back down, the gambling industry might be big, but the software, medical and every company which uses IP is a darn sight bigger (and would themselves be forced to move from the US to protect their IP if the US didnt back down, so the US will lose trillions in tax dollars)

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Atypical of the Yankees

Atypical of the Yankees , for they have a history of ignoring almost every treaty they have negotiated and formally ratified from the Treaty of Ghent in 1815 onwards! , and have routinely flouted all international rules with absolute impunity or care!, and recognize no international border except their own!

Now undoubtedly under the next round of Trade Agreements these Yankee pirates and thieves , will include a future provisional exclusion clause which will allow them to automatically ignore any independent WTO rulings against them , and further require all trading nations are to abide by all US Laws and Statuates absolutely, even if they are contradictory to the local laws , and will then retroactively apply them to the previously ratified and signed trade agreements , as they will argue each new successive new agreement along with additional sub clauses automatically overrides all past WTO Trade agreements without any renegotiation required to be performed by past reciprients!

But then again , how long will Antigua last ? , if these pesky Yankees then apply the Cuban style blockade conditions ? or invade them Grenada Style? For afterall they believe the Monroe Doctrine still applies , except now instead of South of the border , the rest of the world is their personal fiefdom!

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Antigua should learn from Canada's mistakes

Antigua is doing the right thing here. The USA does not care if you are "right" and they do not honour treaties or Free Trade agreements that do not fall in their favour. Canada has had a long history of trade disputes with the USA, most recently over softwood lumber, and the USA lost every court case and even lost in the NAFTA panel (which is dominated by US judges), and yet they refused to remove their illegal trade actions. Unfortunately for Canada, we elected a spineless Conservative government who caved into ALL US demands immediately after being elected and our lumber industry paid for it with tens of thousands of jobs and a cap on how much we are allowed to export to the US. Antigua should definitely stick to its guns and turn the screws on the Americans, anything else just wont work.

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Anonymous Coward

@Title

I don't think revoking IP in the UK would be such a bad thing . I mean essentialy if people were more concerned with community they would innovate not for profit but for the betterment of society . Sure you may not get paid in money, but who says a monetary market is better than a total service economy. Internally it would be plausible in a perfect world, you may still have to import and export using money when dealing with less free states. Though as we don't live in GNU world (shame) we have to compromise so maybe we should have IP rights which require all works to become public domain once the IP holder has farmed a certian amount of money for them or a time period of say 36 months has passed . As it is at the moment the draconian IP laws in the UK are both anti-community and anti-democratic not to mention counter creative .

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An American's input

I whole-heartedly agree with Antigua's stance, and am disgusted with the way my government treats other countries and treaties.

All you america-bashers out there, remember, some of us poor american citizens do not agree with our government, and many of us are disgusted with them. But, unfortunetly, there isn't much we can do.

Oh, and if anyone knows a decent country where an American-trained EMT can immigrate and get a similar job easily, let me know, PLEASE!!!

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Gamble on this, Antigua

Even though we, the US Press a.k.a. Hollywood, have a substantial portion of our standing army in Iraq, we can still deploy enough Texas fundies to have everyone on Antigua raped, tortured, murdered and unmentioned on the Nightly News within a week or two.

(C) 2007 ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, FOX, MPAA, RIAA, DISNEY, GOP

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Anonymous Coward

IP is the lifeblood of modern nations

How many awesome Chinese video games have you played this year? What is the hottest new state of the art action adventure film out of South America? What is the latest groundbreaking CPU designed in Russia? What lifesaving and innovative new drug has been developed in Cuba?

The answers to all these is none, and the reason is because these places don't respect or reward development of IP or the rights of the investors who take the enormous gambles required to make the delightful things of our time. Anarchists who enjoy all their pirated movies and games may thing the world is a big buffet of fun stuff people make for them, but all those things will go away if the incentives to the developers disappear.

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Shut up about IP already!

the IP thing is just a way to threaten something the US would take seriously. Do you think it would make the news if Antigua threatened to stop buying Coca Cola?

The silly arguments over whether IP is a good thing or not misses the point entirely and the people who rant about it incessantly are helping the US administration by creating a smokescreen making the issue look like its about communism and 'stealing' from American citizens etc so they can side step the issue.

The only point of issue here is can the US sign up to a trade deal, use their power to get the rest of the world to agree to some unpalatable parts then change their mind and try to re write the deal because there is something in it they don't like.

Do you think this is fair or not?

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RE: IP is the lifeblood of modern nations

What would you answer to this:

How many awesome Russian video games have you played this year? -- In fact quite a lot of world-class games and sotware are developed in Russia.

What is the latest groundbreaking CPU designed in China? -- It is catching up all the developed nations in terms of advanced manufacturing and soon will bypass all of them if not already.

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Anonymous Coward

India takes on the US too

Good work by Antigua. It is very intresting to see that the world is now starting to put the Yanks in their place. On a recent trip to India, I read about the government in Bangalore withdrawing all forms of tax breaks at hotels for US diplomats posted there. The reasoning: since Indian diplomat dont get any sops when they go to DC why should the Americans get any. Intrestingly, tax breaks will continue for all non-US diplomats :)

You cant do anything but admire the guys in India Silicon Valley taking on the US. Now that Blair is out, what can we do in the City to make our voice felt

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The US asked for it.

In many other sectors the US a quick to complain to the WTO when another nation breaks the free trade laws, so it is normal that other nation take action when the US break the same laws. Laws need to apply to everybody, not just countries outside of the US.

Also if Antigua starts selling cheap american movies (remember that this would only apply to US IP, not the rest of the world) there would be some justice in that. After all hollywood was the one who promoted region coding on DVDs, which is nothing but a way to circumvent the free trade laws (another case of US "we can ignore the free trade laws when they are not to our advantage").

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Anonymous Coward

@IP is the life blood of modern nations

So do you think the designers of stone age tools, or the innovtors who constructed the Hanging Gardens of Babylon we doing it becasue they were going to reap tghe rewards of IP. NO IP did not exist they either did it out of faith or for personal necessity or for community benefit. If anything IP would of only of served to stifle the devlopment of humanity in such cases.

Having an ignorant narrow understanding of existance would naturally lead you to believe that IP is the only option, but pre 16th Century copyright of anyform did not exist. There were and ARE better options than IP .

With regards to this debate about IP hijacking the main point of this report.. your probably right . We should really be discussing how the US rides roughshod over international economic law for the benefit of the 10% of Americans who are in power.

But just as the Dread Scott was just one element of the bigger picture in struggle for the abolition of slavery. So this event is just one piece of the puzzle in the struggle for a better, fairer and freerer way of life in the 21st century.

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Cuban medicenes anyone?

It took about 20 seconds to find a letter from a Congressman McGovern (MA) about Cuban medical research:

"As you know, drugs and medical devices developed by Cuba are not available to Americans. This includes vaccines for heart disease, cancer, hepatitis-B and meningitis-B, although for the latter a special protocol is being negotiated because the drug is so needed and desired by the U.S. medical and pharmaceutical community. Common areas of research requiring clinical trials, such as sickle cell disease, are also denied from engaging in joint clinical trials. Cuba has also developed fetal monitoring equipment that is being used in Canada, the United Kingdom and twenty other countries, but not the United States."

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Cuba

Nobody sticking up for the Yanks?

Everyone always blames them, I mean they are whiter than white aint they or was that just KKK propoganda

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Anonymous Coward

Kudos to Tom Wilkinson

Well spotted. I was gonna look that up, but you've saved me the trouble. One only has to look at the Open Source community to see that IP is totally unnecessary to improvement, innovation and growth.

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US IP

The point here however is that, since the US is disrespecting trade agreements with pretty much the rest of the world, the rest of the world could take the step and abolish US IP rights. This means that IP registered in any country but the US is still protected by the government and the WTO, but that IP produced in the US has become essentially free for all.

This in its turn will result in companies leaving the US, leaving them to go broken (Admittedly, they're doing this quite effectively without our help). Taking these steps should be a last measure, but if the US does not change its behaviour and laws to comply with international agreements and regulations, the rest of the world gets to choose between getting stomped on repeatedly or taking such action.

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Anonymous Coward

At last

I am very happy for Antigua, standing up for itself. Its about time other countries took note, and did the same.

America wants everybody to play by its rules and use its moral code, or at least they would if they had one. America is always changing the rules, trying to surpress native industries, it either dosnt understand, or thinks helps in anti "moral" behaviour.

As childish as it is, the only way to play this game is, to fight fire with fire, that means we treat America as it treats us:

Started finger printing Americans visiting this country, after all, America has weapons of mass destruction and a fantical religous element, so we need to do this for reasons of "homeland security", the visitor could have accidentally talked to a possible bad guy at some point when they were both 4 years old.

Start charging americans at least 20% more for our products, be that software, music, film, actors, drugs, electronics etc etc, then we do local buyers.

Apply a "Kyoto" tax to all us goods, just because they wont sign up to decent environmental acts or try to water them down.

Oh and we most stop America randomly Extraditing citrzens just because they are making a profit on something an American couldnt figure out how to make a profit on. (Online gambling).

And if that dosnt work, suspend our trade agreements with America, and start acting on behalf of the people that live in this country!

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Anonymous Coward

Title

The problem with the notion of intellectual property is that while it may naturally exist it is not in that natural sense sufficient for those who wish to profit from it. If you wish to keep an idea to yourself as your sole possession, it is quite easy to do. Don't write it down, don't speak of it, don't use it in any sense which publicises it. If you wish to make money from it, and must thereby reveal it, then that is the natural way of things.

In fact, I do have some sympathy with the idea of a limited monopoly on any genuine innovation. I think it does encourage progress and the spread of knowledge and it seems right to reward those who contribute to the improvement of humanity. The key words are 'genuine' and 'limited'. Too many patents seem to be trivial or frivoulous or obvious rather than really creative. And the granting of a patent is not a fundamental right. It is an incentive the state provides in order that progress is encouraged. Where the general good requires it, patents should not be granted. Note the word: 'granted', i.e. given.

Copyright, too seems a reasonable measure to reward artistic endeavour. One difficulty with copyright is the stretching of the term 'limited' to the point where the actual creators of a work must be long dead. How then does the continuation of the copyright encourage them to create new works? Another is the assignment of copyright to corporate bodies rather than people. Though this must be allowable I suppose, it should not lead to the extension of copyright periods towards the lifetime of a corporation. But the worst is allowing copyright application to a technical work instead of an artistic one.

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Do you listen to what you're saying?

I love the idea of legally pirating American IP (particularly TV and film) but all of this talk of how great a world would be without IP and how Britain should scrap it is just silly.

Who would develop new medicines? spend millions developing software? fund films? or indeed spend money researching or making anything? The fairies?

American companies, like everyone else currently charge too much for their IP, £20 for a DVD is a rip off and films on itunes aren't much better but the solution isn't to abolish IP protection completely.

Yes it would be great if we could all have all of the IP we want for nothing, but who is going to pay for it? Have the little leprechauns given you guys a pot of gold that you haven’t told the rest of us about?

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Pharma and IP

Just one more post on the whole IP diversion. Various people have been defending pharmaceutical companies because IP means that they will fund research into new drugs. The problem is that noone seems to question why the only new drugs they are developing are to treat such life-threatening conditions such as erectile dysfunction, and obesity. The current generation of anti-malarial drugs are nearing the end of their effective life span as new drug resistant strains emerge.

If IP was 'working', then surely drug companies would have the 'incentive' that they need to research new ways of treating diseases like this, that kill literally millions of people every year.

This does not even touch on the sizeable amount of government and charity funded research that eventually ends up profiting these companies who end up with a monopolistic patent.

There is always more to the story than a first glance reveals...

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