an organization for a good future
In 1998 I registered wifo.org (wayback June 2000 copy) with the intention of using the platform to mock the World Intellectual Property Organization and promote the study of production of nonrivalrous goods, with a decided bias against government-granted monopolies in such goods. My battle against life in the late 90s was mostly a losing one, so I never carried through.
Anyway, I now recommend you sign the Geneva Declaration on the Future of the World Intellectual Property Organization AKA “Proposal for the Establishment of a Development Agenda for WIPO” offered by Argentina and Brazil to the WIPO General Assembly last week. I’m not thrilled with all of the language, but upon first read it looks quite excellent given my low estimation of UN documents. Excerpt:
At the same time, there are astoundingly promising innovations in information, medical and other essential technologies, as well as in social movements and business models. We are witnessing highly successful campaigns for access to drugs for AIDS, scientific journals, genomic information and other databases, and hundreds of innovative collaborative efforts to create public goods, including the Internet, the World Wide Web, Wikipedia, the Creative Commons, GNU Linux and other free and open software projects, as well as distance education tools and medical research tools. Technologies such as Google now provide tens of millions with powerful tools to find information. Alternative compensation systems have been proposed to expand access and interest in cultural works, while providing both artists and consumers with efficient and fair systems for compensation. There is renewed interest in compensatory liability rules, innovation prizes, or competitive intermediators, as models for economic incentives for science and technology that can facilitate sequential follow-on innovation and avoid monopolist abuses. In 2001, the World Trade Organization (WTO) declared that member countries should “promote access to medicines for all.”
Humanity stands at a crossroads – a fork in our moral code and a test of our ability to adapt and grow. Will we evaluate, learn and profit from the best of these new ideas and opportunities, or will we respond to the most unimaginative pleas to suppress all of this in favor of intellectually weak, ideologically rigid, and sometimes brutally unfair and inefficient policies? Much will depend upon the future direction of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), a global body setting standards that regulate the production, distribution and use of knowledge.
As you could guess from my description of a “World Intellectual Freedom Organization” I’m very interested in “models for economic incentives for science and technology that can facilitate sequential follow-on innovation and avoid monopolist abuses.” I admit that I’d never heard of compensatory liability rules or competitive intermediators. Google knows of only a few documents with the former term, excepting copies of the aforementioned declaration.
Using Liability Rules to Stimulate Local Innovation in Developing Countries: A Law and Economics Primer (PDF) appears to be the paper describing compensatory liability rules. At a glance it appears CLR is akin to a compulsory license for subpatentable innovations (which under the current regime are all too often patented). Sounds like a reasonable potential reform.
Google also knows next to nothing about competitive intermediators, which appear to be an invention of the authors of A New Trade Framework for Global Healthcare R&D. The proposal seems to amount to R&D funded by a payroll tax. Very boring.
The X-Prize has raised the profile of innovation prizes immensely, but they are an old idea that has deserved resurrection for a long time. I recommend starting with Robin Hanson’s Patterns of Patronage: Why Grants Won Over Prizes in Science (PDF). I’ve donated a small amount ($122.45 — can you guess why?) to the Methuselah Mouse Prize and will donate more to this and other science prizes in the future — I’m very keen on the concept.
Compensatory liability rules, innovation prizes, or competitive intermediators are only three of many interesting ideas in this vein. I’ll write about others in the fullness of time.