February 28, 2006
The Islamist Attack on Intellectual Property
By Thomas Lifson
clearer with every day that the Islamist faction within the Muslim
world has an idealized vision of society entirely at odds with
foundations of American society, and with the values of modern
civilization. Free speech (including cartoon speech), religious
pluralism, or female equality are only starters, important though
each of these principles may be to us.
vision of the society to which all infidels will have to submit
eventually is also profoundly hostile to improvements in technology.
To a degree
that few of us consciously understand, modern American culture
is built on the foundation of technological change. We all expect
cell phones to get better, TV screens to get clearer, thinner,
and brighter. We expect air travel to be cheap, and we expect
medicines to be developed to alleviate illnesses that once would
have claimed us at a young age. We plan our lives, careers, and
families on these premises.
us who work on the internet expect that broadband access will
spread, get cheaper and better, and that we will be able to answer
emails wherever we roam, via a convenient and functional pocket
device that also can send pictures and maybe soon streaming video.
just in the next couple of years.
I was reading an Islamist website and discovered the following
logo in an advertising-like box:
out that the very internet which is powering so much innovation
and efficiency is being used to build a political movement to
destroy all technological dynamism. These guys may be crazy, but
they are smart. Intellectual property is the bedrock foundation
of modern life.
ability to protect (and profit from) intellectual property, there
will be no innovation. Nobody will have an incentive to do things
differently from the way they have always been done. The phrase
for such a world is The Dark Ages.
many allies for the Islamists in the war against intellectual
property. Poor countries want to be able to produce new drugs
without paying royalties to defray the cost of the research necessary
to discover and prove safe a new drug. Typically, that runs a
billion dollars or more these days for a completely new compound.
The manufacturing cost may be pennies, but the retail price may
be $50, if the research costs are to be paid off.
on the way up the value chain in manufacturing often do not accord
great deference to the principles of intellectual property, either.
A generation or two ago, Japan was notorious for borrowing technologies,
trademarks, and even Mickey Mouse, on occasion, without benefit
of royalty payments to the owners. But as Japan has matured, gained
technological parity in most fields and leadership in some, the
understanding of the importance of intellectual property has deepened
considerably. Japan now trails only America in terms of the number
of patents granted.
is China that is struggling with intellectual property issues.
Although counterfeiters of DVDs and knock-offs of other products
are still numerous, China’s longer term vector is clear.
It will enforce intellectual property laws more and more. That
is, quite simply, the only way to get richer in a technologically
At its heart,
the Islamist vision is opposed to all technological change. Rather
than a society characterized by continuing discoveries in medicine,
telecommunications advances and new applications of micro-electronics
to further delight the mind and body, these Islamists prefer (or
think they prefer) a steady state society, roughly fixed
at the seventh century, when Muhammad received divine revelations
and laid down the optimal way to govern human existence for all
innovation destabilizes this ideal society. Ever since technological
innovation became the dominant force empowering Europe (and then
America – and now Japan, South Korea, China, India and other
“tiger” economies), Islam has been in decline as a
geo-strategic military force. Ever since the stopping of the Ottoman
Muslim forces at the Gates of Vienna in September 1683, the West
has become increasingly powerful relative to Islamic countries.
Technology change has not been benign if your goal is impose Sharia
law on the entire world and establish a global caliphate.
of Dinocrat.com, made a startling comparison
of patent activity in the Islamic world versus the west. Saudi
Arabia, which only established a patent office in 1990, has not
granted a patent in six years. Iran in 2001 granted only
one patent. Egypt, home to a quarter of the world’s
Arabs, is only now getting around to mandating the task of undertaking
a substantive investigation of patent claims before granting patents.
machinery of technological innovation is absent. Indonesia, with
almost a quarter billion people, has totaled 30 patents in the
last five years.
The US granted
157,000 patents last year, and has a cumulative total of seven
million. Jack Risko comments:
over a billion people, and they have fewer patents in their
entire recorded history than did the citizens of Utah last year.
have proven adept at using cell phones, air travel, the internet,
and satellite television. We now fear their developing prowess
in biotechnology and nuclear technology. Clearly their hostility
to technology has not prevented them from using it.
I have to
ask myself if they truly would give up all these fruits of science
and civilization, originated in the west but now embraced throughout
the non-Muslim world. No more al Jazeera? No more cell phones?
no more air-conditioning?
If they get
their way, do they envision getting rid of all post-800 AD innovations?
Or will they try to hold onto what exists, while allowing no further
innovation? The mind boggles. Who will train the air conditioner
repair men? How will they keep up with what already exists if
nobody is interested extending in such knowledge? Everyone might
as well just study the Koran in madrassas.
is the point.
Lifson is the editor and publisher of The