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Friday, April 27, 2012

Compassionate Infringement

In IP3, Madhavi Sunder considered the cultural impact of intelletual property rights on those in need. Her piece refers to "compassionate uses" of patented pharmaceuticals to distribute to those unable to afford them. As she describes, such uses "would permit countries where urgently needed medicines are unaffordable at market prices to temporarily distribute these medicines at cost for 'compassionate use.'"

This morning's The New York Times describes infringement of an entirely different kind. There, a 92-year-old copyist known as "Big Hy" likely spent $30,000 of his own funds to ship bootlegged DVD's to miliatary service personnnel overseas. According to the piece, "in black grandpa shoes and blue suspenders that hoisted his trousers up to his sternum," Hy ripped bootleg films, placed them in boxes, and shipped at least some of them to an Army Chaplain, because they are (apparently) part of an effective distribution system. Once received, members of the troops would watch them, sometimes at the same time that the films were being released in theaters here.

A spokesperson for the Motion Picture Association of America appeared to acknowledge that "we produce can bring some enjoyment to them while they are away from home." This rather unaggressive stance is unusual for that organization, which is known to advocate strong copyright enforcement. Whether this response arises from compassion or a sophisticated understanding of press relations, it is good to see the organization acknowledge uses beyond those categorically permitted by the law.

Posted by Amy Landers on April 27, 2012 at 02:01 PM in Intellectual Property | Permalink

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