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The Progressive Policy Think Tank

Public Innovation: Intellectual property in a digital age.

"Intellectual property rights are always a negotiation between the interests of producers, consumers and the public at large. This report successfully dismantles the illusion that Britain's economic interest is always best served by stronger intellectual property rights. Some of the most important innovation of recent years has happened without the protection of property rights, while in other fields they have been vital. This report [should] help UK policymakers move to a more sophisticated position that recognises that a much wider spectrum of legal and ownership options are needed in economies that are increasingly founded on knowledge and creativity." Geoff Mulgan, Director, the Young Foundation

"Intellectual property rights are always a negotiation between the interests of producers, consumers and the public at large. This report successfully dismantles the illusion that Britain's economic interest is always best served by stronger intellectual property rights. Some of the most important innovation of recent years has happened without the protection of property rights, while in other fields they have been vital. This report [should] help UK policymakers move to a more sophisticated position that recognises that a much wider spectrum of legal and ownership options are needed in economies that are increasingly founded on knowledge and creativity."

-Geoff Mulgan, Director, the Young Foundation

Intellectual property rights (IPRs) have always spawned controversy for economic, moral and cultural reasons. Digital technologies are fuelling these controversies. The emergence of the internet means that valuable information and content can swiftly be shared with a vast audience of users. Digital Rights Management (DRM) is used by companies to micro-regulate how information and content can be used, and has received blanket legislative protection in most developed countries. The once symbiotic relationship between IPRs and public domain has become increasingly oppositional as a result of these technological changes.

This report presents an overview of the arguments and evidence that underpin IPRs, and the development of IPR policy and the UK internationally. In doing so, it defines the terms used, explores the separate concepts of public domain and the public sphere, and shows how digitisation is transforming some of these categories. Finally, it makes recommendations to enable government to develop an IPR regime that balances all the various competing interests.

Please email info@ippr.org for an electronic version.