una at DOLIOLUM.BIOLOGY.YALE.EDU
Mon Dec 9 11:45:19 CST 1996
A potentially very serious problem is developing for scientists and
others who either create or depend on large volumes of data. Below
are some clippings from What's New, a newsletter written by Bob Parks
and distributed by the American Physical Society (www.aps.org).
Department of Biology
Friday, 25 October 96 Washington, DC
1. DIGITAL AGENDA: INFORMATION SUPERHIGHWAY OR PRIVATE TOLL ROAD?
Few people in the academic community noticed when the "Database
Investment and Intellectual Property Antipiracy Act of 1996" was
introduced last spring. Not many are aware of it yet; H.R.3531 has
been the subject of no votes, no debates, no hearings. Yet, it would
create a new form of intellectual property protection for compilations
of information, ending the policy of full and open exchange of
scientific data. Database publishers would have an absolute
monopoly on their compilations, and the information highway
would have a toll booth every few miles. It gets worse: even if
H.R.3531 never passes, we may still get the toll booths under an
international agreement. At the insistence of the U.S. delegation, a
"Draft Treaty on Intellectual Property in Respect to Databases,"
incorporating the same provisions as H.R.3531, is scheduled to be
taken up at a Diplomatic Conference in Geneva in December --
without the views of the US academic community ever having been
solicited. The "digital agenda" is being opposed by the Association
of American Universities, the National Academy of Sciences and the
Association of Research Libraries among others.
Friday, 22 November 96 Washington, DC
1. DIGITAL AGENDA: WHITE HOUSE SCIENCE OFFICE WAS OUT TO LUNCH!
Next month, at the insistence of the United States, the Draft Treaty
on Intellectual Property in Respect to Databases will be taken up at a
diplomatic conference in Geneva. On the very day the draft treaty
was placed on the table, Carlos Morehead (R-CA) introduced a bill
in the U.S. House (H.R.3531) with very similar provisions (WN
25 Oct 96). Neither the Morehead bill nor the draft database treaty
had any input from groups outside the database industry. Compilers
of data (not producers!) would gain a perpetual license, since a
15-year protection period would be renewed with each update.
Yesterday, at a conference sponsored by the National Research
Council, experts warned that the treaty could inflict serious harm on
American science. Among the science policy pooh-bahs packed into
yesterday's NRC conference, the most frequently asked question
was: "Where was OSTP when all this was happening, and why was
it left for an NRC committee to discover?"
Friday, 6 Dec 96 Washington, DC
1. DIGITAL AGENDA: SCIENTISTS BE DAMNED -- FULL SPEED AHEAD.
Negotiation on a draft database treaty (WN 22 Nov 96) began on
Monday in Geneva. In a letter to Secretary of Commerce Kantor,
APS President Robert Schrieffer requested that negotiations be
deferred to allow a public discussion of the treaty's impact on
science. The response came from Bruce Lehman, Commissioner of
Patents and Trademarks, who is heading the US negotiating team.
Lehman, a former lobbyist for the copyright industry, brushed off
the concerns of the scientific community. "It is important," he
wrote, "that the international treaty process not be derailed or
delayed. To do so would frustrate the Nation's interests." But
critics characterize the draft treaty as a flagrant giveaway to
the copyright industry and are dismayed by Lehman's attempt to
use an international treaty to make an end run on Congress.
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