Adelphi Charter on creativity, innovation and intellectual property

The Adelphi Charter was launched at the RSA yesterday evening. The RSA convened an international commission to draft the charter, and will now lobby governments to adopt its nine principles in practice as well as in principle.

Unfortunately those principles are so far available only in PDF format (12 KB download). They’re bold and clear in their resistance to increasingly protectionist tendencies in intellectual property. As the RSA Journal put it, the charter is based on “the recognition that the vital balance between the public domain and private rights, between encouraging creativity and protecting private ownership and control of information, has tipped too far in favour of rights-owners”.

The charter appeared to be well-received by the RSA audience — though no doubt this audience was self-selecting. It even got a standing ovation from two people (one of whom was a member of the commission). In questions afterwards it was clear that some authors and creators would have been more comfortable if the statement in the charter’s preamble, “creativity and investment should be recognised and rewarded”, had been included as a principle instead.

John Howkins, director of the project, stressed the charter is not anti-copyright. He answered the question “What is intellectual property for?” in terms of reward for creators and access to innovations (in the sense that registering a patent commits the patent owner to making their innovation publicly accessible when the patent expires). He was dismissive of the argument that IP provides a necessary incentive for innovation, citing the invention of the World Wide Web as a counter-example.

James Boyle said the goal of the charter was to be boring, banal and based on evidence — recognising that in the current climate these characteristics were still sufficient to get under the skin of some in the protectionist lobby. He chided organisations like WIPO for not being more prepared to look at the practical and historical evidence about what works and what doesn’t work for rights owners.

Here’s the RSA press release.

I left the event reminded of the combination of intellectual substance, preparedness to dissent, and (very English) Establishment gravitas that led me to join the RSA in the first place.

Update, 17 October, 02005: Some related links:

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