Piracy Bests ITAR
nobody at REPLAY.COM
Sun Feb 18 16:04:00 PST 1996
The Economist, 17 Feb 1995, p. 17.
Should foreigners' intellectual property always be
Is it right to expect governments, especially poor ones,
to honour new World Trade Organization rules on
Some economists have made a good case that slack
enforcement of such rules may sometimes do little harm.
Local firms benefit by acquiring pirated technology more
cheaply than the real thing; consumers acquire affordable
high-tech products and close copies of branded goods.
Although the original producers of the intellectual
property lose out, it is sometimes hard to tell how much.
They might anyway have sold nothing in a poor country at
rich prices. And provided that counterfeiters make
reasonably faithful copies, piracy is free publicity: how
many Chinese would know about Microsoft's latest
programs, or listen to Michael Jackson's new album, had
they not been able to buy illegal imitations? ...
It is not always obvious what theft is. Much in patent
and copyright law is arbitrary. But who says American
copyright law is correct? More to the point, why should
China accept America's view of how a drug design, say,
should be accorded patent protection?
In some cases, the interests of rich and poor countries
are clearly at odds: one side has all the property. There
seems to be no objective standard to appeal to.
Eventually, this may change: as poor countries produce
more innovations themselves, their own inventors will
demand greater protection. Meanwhile, the lot of many
intellectual-property producers will not be a happy one.
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