Intellectual property rights - copyrights, patents and trademarks - provide the legal framework necessary for creative enterprise like commercial software development to flourish, writes Robert Holleyman. But it is widely assumed that most people view IP rights as business and legal concepts with little relevance to their daily lives. That's why the World Intellectual Property Organization and its 184 member states designate April 26, the anniversary of the Convention establishing WIPO, as World Intellectual Property Day.
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The BSA has recently conducted public-opinion research that finds some cause for optimism, though. Consider: 71 percent of the world thinks innovators should be paid for the products and technologies they develop, because it provides incentives for more technology advances.
This finding comes from a global survey conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs, one the world's leading public-opinion research firms, as part of the 2010 BSA Global Software Piracy Study, which is set to be released soon.
We polled a globally representative sample of approximately 15,000 personal computer users in 32 countries on their attitudes about software piracy and intellectual property rights. We asked a number of probing questions to get a clearer understanding of public attitudes toward IPR - and we found that world opinion comes down firmly in favor of innovation and intellectual property.
Here is how the question I have referenced was worded:
"The laws that give someone who invents a new product or technology the right to decide how it is sold are called intellectual property rights. Which comes closer to your view..."
- Statement A: "It is important for people who invent new products or technologies to be paid for them, because it creates an incentive for people to produce more innovations. That is good for society because it drives technological progress and economic growth."
- Statement B: "No company or individual should be allowed to control a product or technology that could benefit the rest of society. Laws like that limit the free flow of ideas, stifle innovation, and give too much power to too few people."
More than seven respondents in 10 chose paying innovators.
Make no mistake: We face significant challenges in protecting intellectual property rights around the world. The study we will soon be releasing illuminates several challenges in particular.
But when it comes to public appreciation for the core principle of intellectual property, there is also cause for optimism.