The Vatican Speaks out on Intellectual Property

By Michael Geist:

Monday October 25, 2010

The Vatican has spoken out against unduly aggressive intellectual property protection. In a statement at the World Intellectual Property Organization, it noted “on the part of rich countries there is excessive zeal for protecting knowledge through an unduly rigid assertion of the right to intellectual property, especially in the field of health care.”

The Vatican is more honest and intelligent about this than IP advocates are, acknowledging that the

Economists recognize mechanisms through which Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) may stimulate economic development. These are interdependent so that a broad view of incentives associated with IPRs is appropriate. They devote much attention to this issue, but evidence to date is fragmented and somewhat contradictory, in part because many of the concepts involved have not yet been measured. A stronger system of protection could either enhance or limit economic growth. While strengthening IPRs has potential for enhancing growth and development in the proper circumstances, it might also raise difficult economic and social costs.

So the Vatican recognizes that (a) the economists have not proven their case with solid numbers;1 and (b) that there are real and significant costs to an IP system that should not be ignored.2

Jeff Tucker has also written about the incompatibility of IP and the Church’s mission: see his “Why Catholics Don’t Understand Economics ” and “Why ICEL Needs To Put Its Texts Into the Commons.”

[Cross-posted at C4SIF]

  1. See my post Yet Another Study Finds Patents Do Not Encourage Innovation 

  2. See my article There’s No Such Thing as a Free PatentMises Daily (Mar. 7, 2005).