Steven Harper and Bill Gates helping AIDS victims? Not likely.

(Republished on p2pnet)
In case anyone missed it, Mr. Harper and Mr. Gates had a press conference yesterday where they spoke about funding (Investment?) for HIV/AIDS vaccine research. I doubt anyone in the audience asked whether any of the results of this "research" would be accessible to countries like Africa as a royalty-free generic drug, or whether royalty-free commons-based peer production techniques will be included (allowed?).

Like many other examples of alleged philanthropy, there will be more schemes to transfer taxpayer money into the pockets of Mr. Gates and/or Microsoft.

Yesterday in Question Period, Mr. Brian Masse (NDP's Industry Critic) asked the government a related question.

Mr. Speaker, in May 2004 this House adopted a bill that was supposed to provide HIV-AIDS medicines to Africa. Despite this law being passed, not a single pill has reached anyone anywhere. The pain and the suffering continues as millions of people die without any action.

My question is for the Prime Minister. Did Bill Gates ask why Canada's legislation has not been fixed and what is the legacy of our country's name in the international community because this bad Liberal law has not been fixed by the government despite a year having passed?

He was talking about Bill C-9: An Act to amend the Patent Act and the Food and Drugs Act (The Jean Chrétien Pledge to Africa).

From the summary of that bill:

In August 2003, the General Council of the World Trade Organization (WTO) released a decision(3) that waives certain obligations in the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).(4) The waiver allows countries to produce generic copies of patented pharmaceutical products under compulsory licences for export to developing and least-developed countries that do not have the capacity to manufacture such products domestically.

(See the Consumer Project on Technology (CPTech) BLOG on Drug Development (with access) and IP Disputes in Medicine for ongoing information on this topic.)

Given Bill Gates has spent most of his life promoting (and funding a massive lobby for) royalty-bearing treatment of all knowledge generation and distribution, it is extremely unlikely he will ever be asking Canada whether we had honoured our commitment to provide royalty-free (generic) drugs to countries that need it.

I wrote the following as a letter to Mr. Masse after question period, based on what I had heard (I didn't yet have the transcript).



Dear Mr. Masse,

Today during QP you were discussing a past bill which allowed Canada to send as generic drugs (IE: patent-free) drugs to qualifying countries that would be a patent infringement if consumed in Canada or distributed to non-qualifying countries.

You mentioned "Bill Gates" in this question, which doesn't help your goal. While Mr. Gates publicly claims he is interested in getting AIDS and other drugs to poor countries like Africa, he has also been the most vocal lobbiest (and funder of lobbiests) for the "monopoly rent seeking" or "knowledge as a product" ideology for creation, distribution and funding of knowledge. This ideology is the very barrier that the bill was aimed to minimize, allowing countries to import drugs which would not be infringements in their own countries.

The following article may be of interest.

Also, some related articles about the Gates Foundation

I am available to talk more about the growth of royalty-free methods of production, distribution and funding of creativity. These are growing best in the areas of software, scientific and health, and education.