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Oct 13th 2005
From The Economist print edition
An initiative to reverse the proliferation of patents and copyrights

PATENTS and copyright laws are meant to be the friends of innovation and are a foundation of the modern business world. But there is a growing risk that intellectual-property laws are now so stringent that they are actually inhibiting innovation, rather than protecting it.

The Adelphi group are a varied crew ranging from Gilberto Gil, the Brazilian culture minister (and pop star) to Sir John Sulston, a Nobel-winning scientist who helped decode the human genome, and James Boyle, a law professor at Duke University. They believe that the intellectual-property system is starting to lean so far in favour of private enrichment that it no longer serves the public interest. For example, two hundred years ago, copyright lasted 28 years. It then began to increase and, in the 20th century, lawmakers roughly doubled its length in America and many other countries with little public debate or economic rationale. Organised by Britain’s Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures & Commerce, the group hopes the 453-word charter will help restore balance.