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Intellectual property and DNA

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User offline. Last seen 11 years 12 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 2004-08-23

Here's an interesting article from the newsletter of my university. I hope it's still readable after being translated from dutch to english by babelfish.

link

memenode's picture
User offline. Last seen 34 weeks 2 days ago. Offline
Joined: 2004-07-12
Re: Intellectual property and DNA

It's a bit hard to read that, but it did spark a potentially interesting question. Should our DNA (one we're made of) be owned by ourselves as some kind of our property.

That doesn't seem right to me, but I really don't know too much about that field to say more (and I'm too tired to give it a more considerable thought right now).

What do you think?

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User offline. Last seen 11 years 12 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 2004-08-23
Re: Intellectual property and DNA

Two types of property get mixed up in this article: intellectual "property" and matter.
Here's my opinion:

Your DNA as matter is your property. It's part of your body, which is your property. If you donate it (i.e. give blood for scientific research), it's no longer your property. That's simple. But what about the DNA traces you leave everywhere, for example by losing hairs or even going to the toilet? It's hard to say if those should be your property, but it would be very impractical if they were, because you could request everyone who finds them to return them to you :-P . But on the other hand I don't think everyone should have the right to do whatever they want with your lost DNA.

The information stored in your DNA... That intellectual "property" splits into two cases: copyright and patents.

If someone did not have the right to copy his own DNA he would have to die not to copy it. For practical reasons I think it's best if the copyright gets transferred along with the ownership of DNA as matter.

And then patents... I think DNA patents are even more ridiculous than software patents. If you find the function of a part of the DNA, that does not mean you invented that function. You invented nothing so there is nothing to patent. However you could patent a medicine you invent using that information, but if you do that you give others a clue about the information you found, which makes it easier for them to develop a similar medicine. Sorry, I'm afraid that's the way the game works. Don't try to change the rules.

And a tax on DNA patents... that's just silly!

memenode's picture
User offline. Last seen 34 weeks 2 days ago. Offline
Joined: 2004-07-12
Re: Intellectual property and DNA

Indeed. You mentioned changing the rules. That's exactly what was done to introduce things like proprietary software and software patents. Natural rules say one thing, but these rules were seemingly changed with artificial scheme in order to allow things like software and knowledge to be an owned thing, even in the era of IT where this can flow without limits to benefit everyone pretty much equaly.

Also, DNA is actually something like software of our bodies, or at least "firmware" if you will. :-)

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User offline. Last seen 12 years 28 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 2005-09-28
Re: Intellectual property and DNA

And also like with software, you can rip it, copy it, look at the source, and burn it. ;-)

User offline. Last seen 11 years 12 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 2004-08-23
Re: Intellectual property and DNA

So what is more useful? Saying that DNA is the source code of organisms, or saying that source code is the DNA of computer programs?

If open source means knowing the DNA code, then open standards means knowing the mRNA code.

It's a great analogy, but I don't have any cell biologists around to explain open source and open standards to :-) .

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