Early in school, most people encounter one form of Intellectual Property (IP) as students are not allowed to pass off the work of famous authors as their own.
If they do so in their homework or projects, then they are accused of plagiarism and lose marks with the teacher.
There are famous international writers and journalists who have lost their jobs or reputations for engaging in plagiarism which is a kind of theft of IP since there is no permission from or acknowledgement of the original source.
Back home in Bhutan, we have a clear and present problem with the inability to both value and respect intellectual property.
IP is increasingly important in a global economy where knowledge and data is becoming the most valuable resource.
Just a decade ago, the world’s top 10 companies were mainly manufacturing or resource extraction, but it is now dominated by tech and knowledge companies.
The leadership in Bhutan, starting from His Majesty The King, has clearly recognized and identified these global changes as future opportunities for Bhutan’s youth.
The current government’s stress on education and health is also a recognition of this reality where people and their ideas and skills are the future resource.
Bhutan’s future lies in our youths competing regionally or internationally to not produce goods or extract minerals but to start the next start up, tech company etc.
However, we have to foster an enabling environment where the knowledge products and ideas produced by our youth are not only valued but also safeguarded. Otherwise, theft of IP at whatever level will discourage the production of IP.
For this to happen our society, system and various stakeholders must start emphasizing on not only creating IP but also respecting the IP of others.
It is, therefore, not okay for consultants to copy and paste each other, for journalists to lift entire stories and sections from colleagues without permission or acknowledgment, for researchers to not acknowledge their sources, for senior bosses to take all the credit etc.
All of this is not very difficult as it boils down to basic ethics and decency.
“The right to be attributed as an author of a work is not merely a copyright, it is every author’s basic human right”
Kalyan C. Kankanala