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]

7 thoughts on “Viropiracy – because safeguarding ‘intellectual property’ is more important than saving lives”

  1. I suppose if you did catch a uniquely horrible (and patented) disease whilst on holiday in Indonesia, at least you’d know who to sue for gross negligence…

  2. Honestly… Monsanto is not kind to the third world. Prescription drug companies are not kind to the third world.

    Intellectual property is theft; if we’re going to continue beating them with the IP stick, they’ve every right to beat us back with it.

    It isn’t “viropiracy” that is a stupid idea… it is copyright, patent, and (to a lesser extent) trademark which are stupid ideas.

  3. Along the same lines as DarrenT, if they’re claiming ownership, wouldn’t they be culpable, or at least assume some risk, if somebody caught their IP protected disease? Does international law have categories for gross negligence?

  4. Something I’m not seeing in most of the articles on this and why it’s coming up is that these nations often get completely dicked over on the vaccine. They provide research data free and then end up paying a ton to whoever comes up with the cure, if they can even afford it.

    The paranoid rambling bits aside, I suspect this is an angle to get some sort of quid pro quo, but unless this is somehow a necessary step in the eyes of the law, it’s pretty fucking retarded.

  5. Douglas Adams would have loved this. “…so any antibodies your immune system may have produced during your vacation on Jaglon Beta 12 would be subject to confiscation by the Planetary Health Service…”

    And yes, it’s tragic that patents have kept medicine out of the hands of people who need it.

  6. B.Dewhirst is right.

    There is no right to “intellectual property” because there does not exist such property.

    Ideas cannot be owned. If someone wants to protect an idea, than he should not tell. Everybody has the right to copy everything in the case he has not agreed otherwise.

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