What can be profitably owned?
UPDATE: 12 years after this page was first posted, the US Federal Government finally says, Not genes! (Oct, 2010)
Commerce on the Internet doesn't seem to obey conventional rules. For why cooperation in standards-setting and product giveaways might sometimes make sense in this new media, see
Denise Caruso: "The Internet ... is snagging on free-market appetites." (NYT, 8/3/98)
When does the term "intellectual property" become an oxymoron?
The patent courts are (re)defining what sorts of "ideas" can be owned.
Teresa Riordan: Patents: "Appeals court says math formula can be patented, if it makes money." (NYT, 8/3/98)
Can genes that control aging be patented?
"I've created postponed-aging with my own hands", says Dr. Michael Rose, professor at UC (Irvine). He will not identify one of two genes he is studying "because he has applied for a patent on it."Pushing the Limits of Life Spans" (NYT, 3/9/99)
Are there limits to commodification?
As science "adds value" to life's building blocks, companies are patenting seeds and cell lines. Monsanto, for example, plans to market disease- resistant seed that produces sterile offspring. The project, called "Terminator" by its detractors, has enormous implications for farmers in poor countries who rely on resistant seed, but may not be able to afford what amounts to annual license fees. Monsanto argues that the improved seed will generate more than enough income to cover its cost to farmers.
Is open source a risk or a shield?
Linux is an operating system whose source code is public. Thousands of people contribute to its development and scrutinize its security. Following the Linux model, Netscape has published Navigator's code hoping, no doubt, that a similar crowd of talented enthusiasts will replicate the Linux experience, adding features and fixing bugs quicker than any commercial competitor.
But if open source represents an opportunity, doesn't it also pose a risk? If anyone can study it, can't anyone subvert it? The NYT's Denise Caruso interviews some security experts who argue the contrary: That the most secure code is open source that is continually subjected to rigorous review by the Internet community, which includes some of the best software engineers in the world.
Created 8/7/98. Last updated
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