Benefit Sharing

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Instead of Revenue Sharing with individuals, this process allows benefits to be shared with source communities from which positive externalities have been derived.

Definition

"benefit sharing "refers to a commitment to channel some kind of returns -- whether monetary or non-monetary -- back to the range of designated participants: affected communities, source communities or source nations, participants in clinical trials, genetic disease patient groups." (http://research.iftf.net/node/721)


Description

From Howard Rheingold at http://research.iftf.net/node/721:

"According to Cori Hayden in "Benefit-Sharing: Experiments in Governance," benefit sharing "refers to a commitment to channel some kind of returns -- whether monetary or non-monetary -- back to the range of designated participants: affected communities, source communities or source nations, participants in clinical trials, genetic disease patient groups." Experiments in forms of benefit sharing were necessitated by the conflicts that arose when commercial interests began to use plants, microbes, insects, folk medicine and other traditional knowledge as the basis for new pharmaceutical, agricultural, or biotechnological products. Eli Lilly, for example, profited commercially (and cancer patients benefited) from making Vincristine, a widely used cancer medicine -- without compensating anyone in Madagascar, where traditional folk doctors were the original users of the Rosy Periwinkle plant, the source of the medicine. When an American firm patented the use of the oil of the Neem tree as a natural agricultural pest repellent, the India government successfully sued

The 1992 UN Convention on Biological Diversity institutionalized principles of benefit sharing in such cases. In practice, benefit-sharing arrangements are complex, involving intellectual property rights, scientific research protocols, ethical guidelines for cultural practices, international laws, alongside the legalities of license agreements and royalty contracts. (It is instructive to note that different sets of complexities necessitated decades of adjudication and negotiation for the first water-sharing arrangements to take hold in Southern California, but once the first ones were worked out, such arrangements spread quickly.) Impact

Benefit-sharing is a potential remedy for a wide range of conflicts of interest between individuals, institutions, and commons -- the individuals who contribute a valuable cell line, the tribe that knows of a medicinal plant, the nation in whose soil an antibiotic microbe is found. As in the case of copyright laws, these conflicts balance incentive for innovation versus the eventual contribution to public goods -- a limited monopoly to innovators, whose innovations become available to everyone under certain circumstances (AIDs medications) or at a certain time (expiration of copyright and reversion to public domain of literary works)." (http://research.iftf.net/node/721)


Examples

Open Source

Here's how open source security software company Untangle gives back to its community. Interviewer is Glyn Moody.

Full interview starts here: http://www.computerworlduk.com/community/blogs/index.cfm?entryid=1449&blogid=14&pn=1

"GM: What contributions do you make back to the open source code you use? Do you offer any other kind of support to projects – financial, for example?

DM: Untangle has benefited greatly from the open source community and we try to give a lot back in return. First and foremost we have licensed approximately 95% of our own code under the GPLv2. But while code reciprocity and licensing is important we see it as the minimum and we actively attempt to do more. We do help some of the projects that Untangle leverages with both pure sponsorship dollars and by purchasing banner ads on their websites. But as a small startup our pockets aren’t quite as deep as the IBM’s of the world so we try to make grassroots contributions such as organizing the Installfest for Schools and several local Linux Users Groups.

This year Untangle organized two Installfests for Schools to refurbish older computers that were thrown out by their original owners with Ubuntu for schools in need. The first event took place on March 1st and the second from the show floor at LinuxWorld. In total 1,100 computers were refurbished for schools across both events.

We also provide a lot of help to local Linux users groups. Specifically Untangle team members help organize the Bay Area Linux Users Group (BALUG), the Silicon Valley Linux Users Group (SVLUG) and the Peninsula Linux Users Group (PenLUG), holding positions ranging from Speaker Coordinator to President. Some of the speakers that Untangle has arranged for these groups include Mark Shuttleworth, Eric S. Raymond, Bruce Perens, Ian Murdock, and Andrew Morton." (http://www.computerworlduk.com/community/blogs/index.cfm?entryid=1449&blogid=14&pn=4)


Traditional Knowledge

Anil Gupta:

"about 6-7 years ago we pooled together the knowledge of six communities in Gujarat, developed a formulation for eczema and licensed this technology to a company called Troika Pharmaceutical. Troika took it to the market under the brand name Herbavit. If you go to a chemist and you ask for Herbavit you might get a tube there, they export it too. They gave a royalty of 5% to the 6 Gujarati communities… We have developed an elaborate beneficiary model where the community must be consulted too, besides the individual rural entrepreneur. The royalty is divided between the entrepreneur, the community as well as used for regenerating "nature."

Troika didn't give too much royalty, about 50,000 rupees ($1040) per year. But there was another case where six different technologies were licensed to a company in Hyderabad who dealt in herbal pesticides, where they gave advance royalty of 150,000 rupees-200,000 rupees. Some of the tribals in Dangs district (in Gujarat) had never seen a cheque of 25,000 rupees." (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125376926792036847.html)

More Information

Cori Hayden, "Benefit-Sharing: Experiments in Governance" http://programs.ssrc.org/ccit/publications/hayden-benefitsharing.doc