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Re: <nettime> copy=right
Michael H Goldhaber on 10 Mar 2001 22:36:14 -0000


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Re: <nettime> copy=right


Felix undoubtedly made a good effort to "cut out the ideological bits," in his
quote of the Economist article  (shown below for context ) but inevitably they
remain:

1) " But of course, if every country allowed drug piracy, no one would be
prepared to invest the necessary millions to invent new cures,..."
Actually governments (as opposed to private corporations) invest quite a
lot as it is to achieve these results. All sorts of schemes can be thought
up to support drug research and testing (often the main expense) without
the patients who need them having to pay accordingly. And "piracy" is a
pretty loaded term all by itself.  It could equally well apply to the
actions of the drug companies, who regularly rack up huge profits at the
expense of the ill and dying.

2) "In other words, it can expropriate the inventor's intellectual
property." Again, calling a patent "intellectual property" rather than a
right granted by a particular country for reasons of the public good (as
is specified for instance in the US Constitution) is a totally ideological
formulation.

3) " Drug firms fear that if their products are sold at low prices in poor
countries, smugglers may buy crate-loads and ship them back to rich
countries, where they could undercut legitimate sales" here again
"legitimate" is just what is or should be at issue.

My point of course is that in the field of "intellectual property"
ideology is incredibly thick and encrusted. One should not calmly read
these things without deconstructing them.

Best,
Michael H. Goldhaber

Felix Stalder wrote:

> . The case of patents on drugs indicates the extent
> to which copyright impact directly on the lives of millions of people.
> Below is an excerpt from a recent Economist article on a recent court case
> in South Africa where pharamceutical are challenging the government's
> intention to make generic drugs for AIDS accessible. I cut out the
> ideological bits and what remains is a good expose of the basic tension and
> the things that are at stake.
>
> http://www.economist.com/agenda/PrinterFriendly.cfm?Story_ID=531884
> <....>
> As it is, few people condemn developing countries, such as Brazil and
> India, for allowing local firms to steal the recipes for patented drugs
> from Western drug firms. Because they have no research costs to recoup,
> manufacturers of generic drugs can charge much lower prices. This allows
> poor people access to potentially life-saving medicines, which is obviously
> a good thing. But of course, if every country allowed drug piracy, no one
> would be prepared to invest the necessary millions to invent new cures,
> which would be a calamity.
>
> A court case that started on March 5th in South Africa may throw some light
> on this murky ethical conundrum. The following day the case was promptly
> adjourned until April 18th. But when it resumes, it will attract an
> enormous amount of attention because it is likely to be set a precedent
> that many other third-world countries will follow.
>
> An alliance of some 40 pharmaceutical firms is suing the South African
> government over a proposed law that would reduce their patent rights. The
> government's argument is that hundreds of thousands of South Africans die
> every year from diseases, such as AIDS and tuberculosis, that could be
> cured, prevented or alleviated with drugs. Many of these drugs are
> unaffordable, because of patents, which give the inventors of a drug a
> monopoly for about twenty years. Therefore, in order to save lives, the
> government should sometimes be allowed to infringe these patents.
>
> This, the government wants to do in two ways. First, it wants to allow
> "parallel imports". This means that if it can find cheaper supplies of a
> patented drug abroad than it can find in South Africa, it can import them
> without the patent-holder's permission. This usually means importing a drug
> from a country that has relatively weak patent protection and where the
> patent-holder has reduced prices to compete with copycats. Second, it wants
> to allow for "compulsory licensing". That is, it can license a generic
> manufacturer to make it more cheaply. In other words, it can expropriate
> the inventor's intellectual property. The producers of generic drugs are
> already responding to this: Cipla, an Indian drug maker, said on March 8th
> that it has asked the South African government for permission to supply the
> country with generic copies of patented AIDS medicines.
> <...>
>
> Drug firms fear that if their products are sold at low prices in poor
> countries, smugglers may buy crate-loads and ship them back to rich
> countries, where they could undercut legitimate sales. This is possible,
> but safeguards in rich countries are stringent. A far worse worry is the
> mounting pressure in the drug companies' most important markets, notably
> America, for cheaper drugs. American pharmaceutical companies have just
> come through a big row about the relatively cheaper cost of drugs in
> Canada. If consumers learn that pills that cost $10,000 a year in America
> cost only $700 in Africa, they will demand similar discounts.
> <...>
>
>

--


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