(FOR BILL C-393 STALLING UPDATES SEE BOTTOM OF POST: LAST UPDATE ON FRI, MARCH 25th) A few weeks ago, I was lecturing during a global issues course (ASIC200), when it became immediately clear that on some occasions, a solitary single facepalm is simply not enough. In fact, there seemed to be many things and events in this world that would merit many many simultaneous facepalms, or as we’ve been calling it in class, a MEGAFACEPALM! Anyway, when I looked it up on the internet, there didn’t seem to be any pictures of large groups of people doing the facepalm, and so I thought, why not make our own? And so after a few clicks on my camera, and a handy “Make your own motivational poster” website, here is how it turned out: Of course, then the big question was for what occasion should we bestow this honour – this first unaltered photographic MEGAFACEPALM image? Well, I had a chat with the class the other day, and it seemed that the issue of Bill C-393 seemed like a worthy cause. Now, if you’re late to the game and need a primer on this Bill C-393, then read this boingboing post and then come back here for the MEGAFACEPALM lowdown.
For the interest of discussion, I’ve made the above visual aid for members of Canada’s Senate, since this is the week that they have a chance to pass a Bill that “aims to make it easier for Canada to export affordable, life-saving, generic medicines to developing countries.” I wrote about this Bill C-393 earlier, stating how the right choice (passing the bill and not killing the bill) is obvious. But then it occurred to me that if the decision was so obvious, then why is there so much “push back” from the pharmaceutical industry (as well as the Harper government). It turns out the reason appears to be about Bill C-393 representing a trend that “could potentially” lead to a loss of control over the status quo. This being the status quo that provides the pharmaceutical industry with an inordinate amount of lobbying power to set prices; a business model that values huge profits above innovation; and something that they are so focused on protecting that even the smallest of losses must be avoided no matter the consequences. Which is simply reprehensible – because with this Bill, the consequences are not just about patent control: it’s about the livelihood of millions of people, where the decision to “kill” or “not kill” the Bill could literally be a matter of life or death. Please send an email to the Harper government by using this Avaaz link.
One of the principle claims for allowing pharmaceutical companies to continue their hold on current patent practices, is that research and development (or R&D;) is very expensive. It just keeps coming up, and seems to be all the rage when arguing against things like the passing of Bill C-393 (which you can learn more about in this recent Boingboing post). Although the fact that there are high costs is obviously true, a recent paper published in Biosocieties would suggest that the oft cited statistics, the ones always used to support this assertion for lobbying or public relations purposes, may in fact be over inflated. Here, the authors, Donald W. Light and Rebecca Warburton look closely at where these numbers come from:
“The most widely cited figures (by government officials and the industry’s trade association for its global news network) for the cost to discover and bring a new drug (defined as a ‘new chemical entity’ or ‘new molecular entity’; not a reformulation or recombination of existing drugs) to market are US$802 million in 2000. This has been updated by 64 per cent to $1.32 billion in 2006.”
From this paper, we basically learn that the primary source of these figures come from one particular study published in 2003 and done by Joseph DiMasi, Ronald Hansen, and Henry Grabowski at the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development in Boston, Massachusetts. In general, there are issues of bias in how such figures were calculated, and the Light and Warburton paper systematically looks at a number of variables that would suggest that the $802 million number, as well as subsequent numbers which extrapolate from this figure, are a gross over-estimate. The paper is definitely worth a read, having a number of points that would suggest strong mistrust for these industry figures. Examples include:
Access to life-saving medicines is not a luxury, but a human right.
~Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network
To me, the above statement is one of those things that sound like a no-brainer. Put another way, if I were to ask you whether you thought a person’s income should determine whether they live or die from something like HIV/AIDS, then I think you would see that the answer is nothing but obvious. But here I am, in Canada, writing this post, because there is a very real danger that members of my government think that this isn’t such an easy decision after all – that maybe wealth and business interests do matter when dealing with such ethical choices, and that there is a hierarchy where certain lives are worth more than others. Let me backtrack a bit, and provide a little context. I’d rather not write a rant, emotional and heart wrenching as this discussion can be – I’d prefer to rely on reason, and not on rhetoric. I want everybody to understand why this is an important issue, one that deserves coverage, and one that deserves our involvement. More importantly, I want everybody to understand why the right thing to do is obvious. To start, let me mention the letters and numbers that make up the label, “Bill C-393.” Keep them in your head – at least for a moment. If you’re the sort that prefers hearing at least a quick definition, then this one might work:
Bill C-393 aims to reform CAMR and make it easier for Canada to export affordable, life-saving, generic medicines to developing countries.
~Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network
If you’re thinking that this is a Canadian thing, then think again. Other rich countries are watching how Canada will behave. There’s a few in Europe, and apparently even China is curious. In the U.S., the topic appears to be quenched, but the behaviour of the Canadian government could catalyze dialogue. And if you’re not from a rich country? Well, you might actually have lives that will be affected by it, millions of lives even.
Zick Rubin is a copyright/trademark lawyer who used to teach psychology. His work was notable enough to be cited in the The Penguin Dictionary of Psychology . Unfortunately, that book listed him as having died in 1997, as shown above. Wikia, the for-profit wiki farm, has a Psychology Wiki entry for Rubin which included his death date, citing the Penguin book. Rubin, still very much alive, was doing a little vanity Googling when he learned of his death. He sent a note to Wikia’s Angela Beesley, who corrected the article, only to have it reverted. Rubin then wrote a New York Times piece blaming “the internet” for trying to kill him, currently one of their most e-mailed stories.
The New York Times loves stories claiming the internet is full of dopes who generate misinformation when they aren’t stealing from others (see the epic Bill Keller/Arianna Huffington beef this week). Psychology Wiki, like the unrelated Wikipedia project, requires a reliable source for any disputed fact, but that is one of those things that’s very hard for people outside of wiki-world to understand. Wikipedia’s policy is verifiability, not truth. This simple rule is a cornerstone policy, one of the five pillars.
The editor who reverted Angela’s change was following policy, though it would have been better to go the extra step and find one of the many reliable sources stating that Rubin has been above ground since 1997. The good thing about the internet is that these changes can be made quickly and easily. So I wrote him a nice proper Wikipedia article today, citing his Times Op-Ed and putting that content into the Creative Commons. So Psychology Wiki is corrected, he has a new Wikipedia entry, and the Penguin dictionary is… still floating around with its misinformation. Can’t blame “the internet” any more.
Above, a 2004 catalog from an apple tree company called Urban Homestead. Will they have to cede to the demands of the Dervaes Family to stop using the term “urban homestead?”
The Dervaes Family, who run a great urban farm in Pasadena, CA, is catching a lot of heat from urban homesteaders. They are objecting to a letter the Dervaes Family sent out a couple of days ago to let bloggers know that the terms “urban homestead” and “urban homesteading” are trademarks owned by the Dervaes Institute. They registered the terms in 2008.
From Farm Curious:
In fact, it appears their original application to trademark the term “Urban Homestead” was denied based on the fact that it’s a generally descriptive term open to use by anyone. You can track the entire application process for their trademark of “Urban Homestead” here. You can also see here that on Dec 9, 2008 their original application was refused because “Many entities provide a variety of print and online publications and services on the same subject matter.” In order to execute their trademark application, they had to go back and show evidence that they had “acquired distinctiveness” through exclusive (which we know to be untrue) and extensive (which is not deniable) use of the term. What I don’t understand is why the application was approved in the end; even though they could show extensive use, they certainly couldn’t demonstrate exclusive use of the term.
While, to their credit, the Dervaes have done much to advance the “Urban Homesteading” movement, it seems absurd to me that they could claim ownership of the term which is commonly used and was referenced as early as 1980 in this Mother Earth News article!
Here’s an excerpt from the Dervaes Institute letter:
In addition, Dervaes Institute owns numerous trademarks which should be properly acknowledged if used. These protected names and images include the following registered trademarks:
PATH TO FREEDOM®
GROW THE FUTURE®
LITTLE HOMESTEAD IN THE CITY®
Also, THE TEN ELEMENTS OF URBAN HOMSTEADING copyright has been filed with the Library of Congress.
If your use of one of these phrases is not to specifically identify products or services from the Dervaes Institute, then it would be proper to use generic terms to replace the registered trademark you are using. For example, when discussing general homesteading or other people’s projects, they should be referred to using terms such as ‘modern homesteading,’ ‘urban sustainability projects,’ or similar descriptions.
The Wikipedia entry for Path to Freedom (the Dervaes Family website) has a recent update about this:
In 2008, the Dervaes filed to trademark the terms “urban homestead” and “urban homesteading,” among others. In October 2010 their trademark was finally approved under the supplemental registry after initially being denied due to their reason for trademarking not being distinctive enough. In 2011 they began sending notifications to maintainers of websites who used these terms that these terms were now under their trademark and that they were not to be used without crediting the Dervaes family. Critics (such as blogger Crunchy Chicken) claim that this trademark is unenforceable, since the term “urban homestead” has been in use since at least the 1970s. For example, the New York Urban Homestead Assistance Board was founded in the 1970s in order to provide support during the economic crisis of that time. The Dervaes assert that they are protecting a legitimate business interest, and that their trademark of the term “urban homesteading” prevents corporations from doing the same thing. On February 16, 2011, in light of the negative press stemming from this controversy and claiming they have received threats from critics, the Dervaes shut down their Facebook page.
Here’s a Facebook page started by self-professed “urban homesteaders” who are protesting the Dervaes action.
Jailbreak your iPhone, lose the ability to read your iBooks. [Ars]
Evolution Control Committee‘s new compilation collects all the cool stuff they have released in bits and pieces over the last few years. Who knew we’d reach a point where there were mashup nostalgia acts! It’s hard to believe ECC has not been sued into oblivion since their seminal Rocked by Rape* single took aim at how the mainstream news packages fear for consumption (between similarly-themed television commercials). Well, Dan Rather is retired, but ECC is still here in all their parodic/fair-commenting glory. If you haven’t heard them before, “Stairway To Britney” is hard to beat in the mashup pantheon, and “Pwn Monkey” blends Jonathan Coulton’s “Code Monkey” with a manic pastiche of samples not seen since Paul’s Boutique. They even start the album with a funny EULA-pimping “Listener License Agreement” track. You can find ECC on Amazon, iTunes, most major P2P sites, or below. They’re doing live shows to support the album, too, so check it out.
*Imma let you finish, but “Rocked by Rape” is the greatest mashup of all time.
Via the BB Submitterator, reader GuidoDavid says, “Juan Gómez-Jurado, who wrote a great piece against criminalizing of downloads in Spain, was challenged by copyright troll, tax dodger and singer Alejandro Sanz to offer his novel for free. He did, and donated the resulting 4000 euros to the charity Save The Children.”