The Chronicle’s View: Amendment No. 2 will benefit U

The survey of students appearing in today’s Opinion page regarding the three proposed amendments to the Utah constitution reveals that very few people understand Amendment No. 2.

This is because Amendment No. 2 is obscure and difficult to understand. Technically, it makes legal something that is not now illegal, just questionable.

The voter information pamphlet explains, “The Amendment authorizes the state or a public institution of higher learning to acquire an ownership interest in a private business in exchange for the sale, license, or other transfer to the private business of intellectual property developed by the state or public institution of higher learning.”

In layman’s terms, that means if someone wants to start a business with something discovered or developed at the U, the U will trade the copyright for stock in the business.

This allows “intellectual property” to be used, which is not only inherently right, but also in a way beneficial to Utah’s economy.

The U makes a lot of money from the shares the academic institution owns in the new businesses.

The U does this now and Utah State University hopes to do it.

According to USU President Kermit Hall, the law that might potentially make the practice unconstitutional prohibits the state government from investing in business. The hope of the old law was to make money with taxpayer money or to support failing businesses. This is illegal because it’s unethical and gambles with taxpayer money.

But this practice is not the same as trading copyrights for stock shares to benefit the U, researchers and the economy, and has not been successfully contested as unconstitutional.

But Amendment No. 2 will expand and legitimize the practice.

That means more of a good thing.

Opponents of the amendment wish to deny the U an honest and abundant source of funding, deny researchers the ability to put their work into use and deny the state new business opportunities. The only reason is an ideological opposition to government participation in commerce.

Although the practice would probably not be stopped if the amendment fails, a vote in its favor is a vote of support to the magnificent work achieved by U faculty, staff and students.