Tag Archives: biopiracy

Viropiracy – because safeguarding ‘intellectual property’ is more important than saving lives

embroidered flu virus cross-sectionThis is just a *face-palm* of epic proportions – welcome to the concept of “viral sovereignty.

This extremely dangerous idea comes to us courtesy of Indonesia’s minister of health, Siti Fadilah Supari, who asserts that deadly viruses are the sovereign property of individual nations — even though they cross borders and could pose a pandemic threat to all the peoples of the world.

Before anyone jumps down my throat, yes, there is a precedent for developing nations protecting the intellectual property implicit in their native biome – the West has shafted them in the past, after all. But as Jamais Cascio points out:

… it’s extraordinarily important for information about potential pandemic diseases to be made as open as possible, if we want to avoid a global health disaster. Withholding viral data, and refusing to provide samples of the viruses, out of a misplaced fear of viropiracy (or more paranoid fantasies), is simply criminal.

I think you’d have to be very paranoid to not see the logic there, really. But anyway – if you catch a virus, it replicates in your body, right? So if viropiracy became a part of international legislation, would you technically be infringing the IP of a nation if you caught a unique disease there but crossed the border before the symptoms started to show, and end up liable to be prosecuted for piracy as well as smuggling? Probably not… but it highlights just how bloody stupid an idea it is, doesn’t it? [image by Noii]