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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/11443/copyright-for-medical-codes/

Copyright for Medical Codes

January 13, 2010 by

Techdirt on why we don’t see widespread comparison/competition on doctor prices and services since “since publishing such info can run afoul of the copyrights.”

apparently the various “codes” used by doctors to classify every visit are actually covered by a copyright held by the American Medical Association, which refuses to allow any free or open distribution of the codes (known as Current Procedural Terminology (CPT)). That’s because the AMA makes about $70 million per year “licensing” the codes.

I’m having serious trouble figuring out what about the codes could actually be covered by copyright, however. They’re numbers corresponding to a particular medical service. As the post above notes, it’s things like “90801 Psychiatric Diagnostic Interview.” It’s difficult to see what the creative component of such a listing is that would allow it to be granted any sort of copyright protection.

But note that the grant of copyright is automatic and sticky unless it is challenged through litigation. No agency has to grant anything. If I write draw a stick figure on a napkin, it can be presumed to be copyright protected and part of my estate for 150 years or so.

The result is that many institutions in this country claim copyright protection for preposterous things, even texts (such as the formal prayers) that have been around for ages. They will continue to do so unless challenged but someone with deep pockets. The further problem is that anyone who has the incentive to do that is probably not seeking to open source the text but rather to gain a further monopoly.


Artisan January 13, 2010 at 7:57 am

Looks to me as if it’s a database. I thought they said US databases were not protected, in the B&L book?

BrentR January 13, 2010 at 8:57 am

Those CPT codes are also how insurance claims are filed.

My wife gave birth to our second child with the aid of a midwife, which services were covered under the healthcare plan we had at the time. In order to file for the reimbursement we had to find the correct code for the “proceedure.”

Thanks to the disregard for copyright in certain corners of the internet we were eventually able to find the code, to file the claim, to be reimbursed.

Andras January 13, 2010 at 1:11 pm

Thanks Jeffrey.
Abuses like these lead to the false assessment that IP laws should be abolished altogether.

Vanmind January 13, 2010 at 9:50 pm

Shameful guild.

averros January 13, 2010 at 10:28 pm

> Abuses like these lead to the false assessment
> that IP laws should be abolished altogether.

The entire body of the “IP” laws is one big abuse… if you didn’t notice it yet. If enforced as written, these laws would wipe out the entire hi-tech sector. It is pretty much impossible to build anything electronic without stepping on a dozen of “IP” rights claims. So nobody bothers to be legal, hoping to stay below the radar of roving predatory packs of “IP” lawyers.

You heard me right – one of the most important sectors in US economy is wholly illegal, courtesy of the “IP” insanity.

(And, yes, this is a well-informed opinion, from somebody who has been active as hi-tech executive, technologist, and inventor for decades).

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