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Future of Intellectual property

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Photo: Dawn Endico

At the heart of the stand-off between Hollywood writers and studios which cancelled the Golden Globes, was intellectual property. With writers demanding a fair reward for their creative output from new distribution channels - the Internet and DVDs - what will be the next copyfight?

In biotechnology, IP is expanding: nearly 20% of the 23, 688 known human genomes are patented and US companies hold 63% of these patents. In entertainment, it isn't: piracy costs US industries $20.5b per year and the UK loses around 20% of its annual turnover.

A number of forces are challenging current IP regimes. In pharma, moral arguments advocate accessibility to drugs, however, whilst Thailand announced it was breaking drugs patents to treat HIV, it may renege to repair trade relations. Digitisation has also simplified the copying, distribution and reverse engineering of products.

IP regimes may adapt to meet these new challenges. Larry Lessig is using Creative Commons to encourage a more flexible ideas-based economy and beneficiaries include the Australian Government. But as IP issues extend to new realms - counterfeit trading makes up 1.4 million transactions annually on Second Life - can regulation keep up?

This is part of Outsights 21 Drivers for the 21st Century ™, a future-orientated scan of the 21 key forces shaping this century.

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