If I screamed every time I wanted to scream after reading something on the internet, I’d be so hoarse I wouldn’t be able to scream about something I hadn’t read on the internet. Like the Obama administration’s loser mentality or the Republican Party as just plain losers with no mentality at all. So maybe I won’t scream about what I read about on The Guardian today (hat tip Boingboing), but I’d like to scream. LIKE THIS. But why should you listen to me? I’m an Enemy of the State. I know this because the US-based International Intellectual Property Alliance has made it clear what kind of person or entity is An Enemy of the State: someone who advocates for Open Source Software (and presumably Open Access publishing; I am editor of an open access peer reviewed scientific journal).
If this sounds weird (and if it doesn’t, you must be weird), here’s what it’s based on:
It turns out that the International Intellectual Property Alliance, an umbrella group for organisations including the MPAA and RIAA, has requested with the US Trade Representative [USTR] to consider countries like Indonesia, Brazil and India for its “Special 301 watchlist” because they use open source software.
What’s Special 301? It’s a report that examines the “adequacy and effectiveness of intellectual property rights” around the planet – effectively the list of countries that the US government considers enemies of capitalism. It often gets wheeled out as a form of trading pressure – often around pharmaceuticals and counterfeited goods – to try and force governments to change their behaviours. (Bobbie Johnson, The Guardian Technology Blog)
One of the countries at issue is Indonesia. Now Indonesia is not my idea of a well-run, squeaky-clean government whose ideas on the freedom and intellectual property are enlightened. Benighted might be a better word. We have spent far too many posts complaining about their failure to tell the world the truth about avian flu in their country and worse, to share with the world scientific community the viral isolates they are obligated to share, all in the name of their “intellectual property rights” to pathogenic viruses obtained from their citizens (a few of many posts here, here, here, here, here). So Indonesia is no Pearl of Great Value in my book. But the idea that sending a circular to government departments and businesses recommending they use free open source software makes them a pariah nation is beyond the pale of commonsense. The reasoning? I’ll let the IIPA tell you (quoted in The Guardian link above):
“The Indonesian government’s policy… simply weakens the software industry and undermines its long-term competitiveness by creating an artificial preference for companies offering open source software and related services, even as it denies many legitimate companies access to the government market.
Rather than fostering a system that will allow users to benefit from the best solution available in the market, irrespective of the development model, it encourages a mindset that does not give due consideration to the value to intellectual creations.
As such, it fails to build respect for intellectual property rights and also limits the ability of government or public-sector customers (e.g., State-owned enterprise) to choose the best solutions.”
I don’t know about you, but for most of us “the best solution available in the market” is the one that costs the least and does what I want it to. If it’s free, even better. Can we say “Google”?
Or can we just scream: AAARRRGGH! Oh, oh. I said I wouldn’t do that. At least ALL CAPS isn’t so hard on my vocal cords.