How should govt's weigh new copyright proposals?

Over the past year, I've been privileged to participate in the Royal Society for the Arts' Adelphi Project, through which a distinguished drafting committee worked to create a charter of public rights in copyright, patent, trademark and related rights.

The Charter is intended to be used as a litmus test by governments that are considering new exclusive rights over knowledge goods. These rights are usually granted without any evidence of their promised benefits. As my fellow drafter Jamie Boyle says, "it's as if the FDA made drug approvals by relying on speeches by pharmaceutical companies and looking at tarot cards."

The Adelphi Charter marks the first-ever set of empirical principles for evaluating newe xclusive rights proposals. For the first time, we have a test we can hold our lawmakers accountable to. I'm very proud to have been a part of it:

We call upon governments and the international community to adopt these principles.

1. Laws regulating intellectual property must serve as means of achieving creative, social and economic ends and not as ends in themselves.

2. These laws and regulations must serve, and never overturn, the basic human rights to health, education, employment and cultural life.

3. The public interest requires a balance between the public domain and private rights. It also requires a balance between the free competition that is essential for economic vitality and the monopoly rights granted by intellectual property laws.

4. Intellectual property protection must not be extended to abstract ideas, facts or data.

5. Patents must not be extended over mathematical models, scientific theories, computer code, methods for teaching, business processes, methods of medical diagnosis, therapy or surgery.

6. Copyright and patents must be limited in time and their terms must not extend beyond what is proportionate and necessary.

7. Government must facilitate a wide range of policies to stimulate access and innovation, including non-proprietary models such as open source software licensing and open access to scientific literature.

8. Intellectual property laws must take account of developing countries' social and economic circumstances.

9. In making decisions about intellectual property law, governments should adhere to these rules:

* There must be an automatic presumption against creating new areas of intellectual property protection, extending existing privileges or extending the duration of rights.

* The burden of proof in such cases must lie on the advocates of change.

* Change must be allowed only if a rigorous analysis clearly demonstrates that it will promote people's basic rights and economic well-being.

* Throughout, there should be wide public consultation and a comprehensive, objective and transparent assessment of public benefits and detriments.