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Copyright, innovation and whack-a-mole: Protecting technological innovation in the 21st century

"I've been thinking a lot about Napster," says Rutgers-Camden law professor Michael Carrier. "Google just gave me a research award to examine the effects of Napster on digital innovation." Nice gig if you can get it, and Carrier gets it.

The author of Innovation for the 21st Century: Harnessing the Power of Intellectual Property and Antitrust Law, which came out in paperback earlier this year, Carrier promotes a new way to look at copyright, anti-trust and patent law as technology rapidly and dramatically changes commerce in several areas, including media, pharmaceuticals and innovation.

Ever since the advent of the VCR, issues of copying and sharing have kept courts busy. "Peer to peer offers real benefits to consumers," says Carrier, who points to the concept of dual purpose use, where a technology can be used for both infringement and non-infringement. As long as there is a single substantial non-infringing use, the technology should be upheld, he explains.

Carrier's work also extends to brand name and generic pharmaceutical products, a topic close to home, with the world's largest drug manufacturers within a 100 mile radius of Philadelphia. The big brands, says Carrier, pay generic makers out of court settlements to keep them off the pharmacy shelves. "The brand company is able to pay $100 million, which is a drop in the bucket for the billion it will make. The problem is that consumers don't have access to generic drugs," says Carrier.

On a grander scale, when asked if Carrier's bent is pro-consumer, he responds, "That's such a loaded term. Pro-consumer is consistent with what I am doing, but I would characterize it as pro-innovation." says the Rutgers-Camden prof, who also mentions threats to locally based media giant Comcast.

Two controversial bills were recently introduced into the U.S. Congress. The Protect IP Act, now known as the E-PARASITE Act (S. 968), goes after piracy and rogue sites all around the world. While E-PARASITE may be too controversial to move through congress, yet another bill, the Stop Online Piracy Act, was just introduced into the House on Oct. 26.

"It's a whack-a-mole game, designed to allow the government, and even private parties to shut down websites. The proposed laws are not as nuanced as those we have now," explains Carrier. "Internet service providers like Comcast would have to take measures to make sure these sites would not be able to be accessed."

While Carrier says anti-corporate sentiment is fashionable these days, he adds, "I don't know if I need to go that far. I believe in patents. Patents are needed for innovation, and for companies to able to make money." Rather, Carrier stands against the overly aggressive use of laws that limit innovation across a wide range of business practices.

Source: Michael Carrier, Rutgers-Camden Law
Writer: Sue Spolan
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