Intellectual Property is Murder

by Kevin Carson

Among the terms of a so-called “free trade agreement” between the European Union and India is a requirement for “data exclusivity” which will eviscerate India’s generic drug industry.

“Data exclusivity” means that the clinical trials conducted before marketing by company that originally produced the drug cannot be applied to meet the safety or efficacy requirements for the generic version. Each separate company that wants to market a generic version of a patented drug will first be required to conduct its own clinical trials as a precondition. This directly contradicts one of the arguments commonly put forward by patent apologists — that patents are an antidote to trade secrets because they require openness as a condition of obtaining a patent.

This won’t just be a death sentence for people in India who can’t afford to pay tribute to the owners of state-granted patent monopolies. It will spell the doom of people in such countries as South Africa and Brazil, where the distribution of cheap medicine for treating HIV has depended on the output of India’s generic drug industry.

Let’s be clear on something: Those who call this abomination a “free trade agreement” are liars. It’s like calling the Nuremberg Laws a civil rights act. The people in the drug industry and their lackies in Washington and Brussels heap coals of fire on their own heads every time the words “free trade” come out of their filthy, lying mouths.

Those who claim that drug patents are necessary to recoup the expenses of developing drugs are wrong. The patent system skews R&D toward gaming the patent system rather than developing the most effective drugs. First of all, there has been a dramatic shift away from fundamentally new kinds of blockbuster drugs, because it’s much more cost-effective to put money into tweaking the formulas of drugs whose patents are about to expire just enough to qualify for repatenting them — so-called “me, too drugs.” Second, a great deal of the basic research on which drug development is based is carried out at government expense in publicly funded universities. Around half of the overall cost of drug R&D is taxpayer-funded. And in the United States, under the terms of legislation passed in the 1980s, the patents on drugs developed entirely at taxpayer expense are given away — free of charge — to the drug companies that produce and market them. Third, most of the actual R&D cost for developing drugs comes, not from testing the version of a drug actually marketed, but from securing patent lockdown on all the other major possible variants.

Another example of the same phenomenon is Monsanto’s patents on “high-yield varieties,” one of the ostensible benefits of the so-called “Green Revolution.” Such varieties, as Frances Moore Lappe has pointed out, are more accurately called “high-response varieties.” That is, they’re not hardy or resilient under the normal conditions experienced by local peasant subsistence farmers, like native varieties that were developed over the course of many generations to be hardy under local conditions. Rather, they’re engineered to produce high yields under artificial conditions like heavy applications of expensive synthetic fertilizer and government-subsidized irrigation water.

“High-yield” seeds like Monsanto’s genetically modified varieties, in other words, are ideally suited to the needs of large-scale cash crop agribusiness on plantations owned by sundry landed oligarchies around the Third World — usually on land stolen from evicted peasants whose traditional titles to subsistence plots were nullified — with preferential access to government-subsidized irrigation. So Monsanto’s seeds are associated with a particular business model which is rendered artificially profitable by the state against subsistence production. The practical effect is to shift production from widely distributed small subsistence holdings to large-scale commercial production for the export or urban markets. Under pressure of eviction (essentially a modern-day reenactment of the Enclosures) and state-subsidized competition, people who were formerly able to feed themselves on their own land now lack the purchasing power to buy food from the landed oligarchs’ agribusiness plantations.

And Monsanto’s patents, which criminalize saving seed, add insult to injury by insuring that the seeds remain too expensive for any small producer who might otherwise be able to afford them.

The words “intellectual property” should be emblazoned on the standards of two horsemen of the apocalypse: pestilence and famine.

Violating copyright and patent claims is sometimes called “theft” by apologists for IP. The exact opposite is true: “Intellectual property” is theft. But more than that, it’s murder.

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6 responses to “Intellectual Property is Murder

  1. I would deeply love to send Mr Carson, and all the other ruralist romantics, to eke a living as a subsistence farmer in Africa; deprived of his computer, mobile phone, transport (does he ride a bicycle, one wonders, and keeping away from those evil roads?); his shop bought clothes, tools, food and all the other conveniences of modern life.

    Whatever the argument about how Enclosure occurred; and it is far from the simplistic land-theft-by-Parliament narrative beloved of the back-to-the-landers, the reality is that subsistence farming and localism are economic suicide. A nation of farmers can produce little else; it has few people spare to make computers, clothes or motor cars. It is a recipe for eternal poverty.

    Small farming is simply less economically efficient than industrial farming. I remember on a comment thread here Mr Carson trying to claim that it is more efficient, instead, in crop density. Whether or not that is true, it is irrelevant. What matters is what system produces more crops-per-person (as with any production, that is what matters) and the answer is industrial farming. That is a simple fact.

    I find the continued promotion of this romantic greenist bullshit in the face of economic reality really very very depressing. The man has no fucking clue about the economics of production. But who cares so long as he can blame it all on “government water”?


  2. The problem I have with Monsanto is the kind of people who oppose and execrate them. It’s rather like Thatcher reading the Guardian every morning in order to define the day’s policy decisions. Anyway, how could even as wicked an outfit as Monsanto, worse clearly than Lenin and Stalin, “criminalise saving seed”? How could they prove it biologically, “beyond reasonable doubt”, in any case? (It’s not as easy as you scientists think.) You’ll have eaten the stuff before they can get their lawuers out to your dorp.

  3. In the days of the interwebby-thingy, it’s rather hard to see how the old idea of “intellectual property” can actually survive – I mean, in the way whereby you could sue someone in, say, China, for copying your clever idea and selling it for 50p a go, fifteen million times over rather than the $279.95 (for which you hoped for say 40,000 units) that you wanted for yourself. The fact that you can probably successfully sue some poor geek in say Scunthorpe who does the same thing, hoping to make about £4,000, somehow now seems unfair and inequitable.

    And as for the “music industry”, those strange round-spectacled-hairless mandroids in black polonecks, posed always in front of AppleMacs (and not in front of real computers running Windows), I really feel that they can go swivel. They are so self-regardingly-arrogant that they might almost be mistaken for members of the British Political Enemy-Class. I’m sure they did not intend to be thus bracketed, as this will in the centuries to come spell social death, as we know, and the functional-unmarriagability of their daughters to Chindobrazilian steel-magnates’ sons, or to Amazon-Iron-Mining-fortune-heirs.

    I think people like Bach and Handel would positively have wetted themselves with delight, had they thought someone would want to precisely copy their latest oeuvre and replay it to lots of people in later strange places and times unknown to them, and they would have wanted it to be rendered as faithfully as possible.

    Certainly, I know that if anybody thought enough of my pointless scribbles on here, and wanted to copypaste them as his own, I would feel flattered and not robbed. My life would have produced something.

  4. scott huminski

    U.S. Police State Target (rock music video) Released

    Anti U.S. Police State Musician/activist, Scott Huminski, releases his 6th rock video with his band Scott X and the Constitution Commandos.

  5. Excellent article. Thank you.

    David, you might be surprised to learn that Monsanto has patented a variety of pigs. It identified the genetic material in a good, popular pig variety, then promptly patented it. Thus, regardless of whether your family has been rearing the pig type for centuries, suddenly, Monsanto owns the rights to your pigs.

    This is tyranny and smells of revolving door corruption.

  6. C H Ingoldby

    FaustiesBlog, that is an example of an abuse of the intellectual property system, not an argument against intellectual property itself. (and there is no way that abuse will be accepted outside the USA and unlikely to survive legal challenge in the USA).
    Status Patent revoked