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Economic Gridlock – the Invisible Cost of IP Law 246

Posted by timothy
from the let's-all-say-it-together dept.
smellsofbikes writes "This week's New Yorker magazine has a financial article, 'The Permission Problem,' discussing the hidden cost of patent, trademark and copyright laws. It's a subject anyone here already knows well, but he brings up two interesting points: 1) He uses the term 'tragedy of the anticommons.' Instead of depletion of a shared resource, this describes under-use of hoarded resources: areas that can't be explored because they're encumbered by patent/copyright issues. As he points out, the result of this is an invisible loss: drugs not made, software not written. The loss is impossible to quantify and difficult to see. I like the term 'tragedy of the anticommons' because it encapsulates a long-winded explanation into a pithy, memorable phrase that will stick with people unfamiliar with the topic. 2) He also cites a study by Ben Depoorter and Sven Vanneste that discusses why anticommons effects are seen, beyond mere competition. Individual right holders value their contribution to the overall project as a significant fraction of the project value, so if there are more than three or four right holders, their perceived value can far exceed the total value of the project, making it uneconomical."
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Economic Gridlock – the Invisible Cost of IP Law

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  • by dada21 (163177) <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Sunday August 10, 2008 @11:29AM (#24545831) Homepage Journal

    I've been anti-copyright for years, testing the water in a large variety of industries to see how getting rid of copyright can actually aid artists. I've now discovered that in every market I've tested, holding on to copyright creates less profit for the artist.

    In music, I helped 3 bands (one who is now on an international tour, has had MTV coverage, and sells out a lot of shows) move away from copyright. Tell your fans to bootleg your album, and amazing stuff materializes. It's free promotion, and the tour is where you make your money. Let the fans design their own shirts, and you're getting your own artists for nothing. The plumber makes his money doing repeat work, the musician does the same. The plumber goes to school, and learns new skills all the time; the musician does the same when they compose music.

    I moved on to photography and discovered that giving away your photography (say, as free stock imagery) is the best form of marketing your ability as a photographer. I now know at least 3 photographers who openly give their images away online, and have seen their hired work double or even triple. Again, marketing is free if you give it away.

    As a writer myself, I repudiate copyright on all I do. I openly ask others to reprint my writings, and even stick their own names on it if they want. Because I write about niche markets, the aid of distribution of my thoughts means more people are attracted to those ideas, which means they'll likely eventually find me. That's a huge benefit for me as I can then sell future newbies to the market on my newsletters, or even hire myself out as a ghost writer or personal writer. My income has surged because I don't copyright my writings, or even ask others to attribute me during the redistribution process.

    Copyright doesn't inhibit a market in any way, it inhibits the artist who thinks they can retain creative control and distributive control of prior labor. That's over -- if you didn't charge for the labor, it's now a marketing tool. If you did charge for the labor, you've profited. If you market your abilities correctly, you'll get hired for the work in the future.

    I do understand the "need" to patent medicines, but I truly believe even that is useless. Research and development for medicines does not need to be publicly funded or protected by patents. Instead, research can continue the way it always has: fund raisers, private charitable donations, and other ways to get the money needed to develop new medicines. What is the biggest reason medicine costs hundreds of millions to develop? The FDA and other organizations which restrict the market due to government intervention. No different from why copyright is a failure and harms the copyrighter more than it helps them.

    YouTube cartoonists will trump Disney eventually. Online music distribution has already destroyed the record stores. Free PDF newsletters, blogs and other web products are killing the newspaper industry and periodical industry. Free product = marketing yourself for being hired to do new work. It's a good thing.

    • by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworld.gmail@com> on Sunday August 10, 2008 @11:37AM (#24545891) Homepage
      You're basically advocating the service as opposed to selling position that a lot of people on slashdot have been advocating in the software sector for years. While it may work for you I don't think it can work on a universal level. Why would someone hire you to ghost write a book if they can't get any profit from the actual sale of that book? As for the medicine patent thing, you are completely and utterly wrong if you think that absent either patent protection or intense government funding will produce new medicines. They cost way too much to bring about, and that "government intervention" you complain about it basically "make sure the drug companies do their job testing the medicine before they release it."
      • by poetmatt (793785) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @12:31PM (#24546277) Journal

        Actually, the person you are replying to is 100% correct.

        The only time the service doesn't work is in an unestablished industry with 0 competitors. In every other industry if you look long term giving things out for free makes exponentially more.

        You are absolutely incorrect about medical patents. If it weren't for medical patents, my cousin would have been able to release a cure for a form of HIV she discovered about 5 years back. 5 years! But what happened? A similar modification by a big company has been patented, and they did it merely by patenting every possible variant of the string she used.

        Patents are allowing the medical R&D companies to over-recoup the costs of research by a factor of 50+, easily, considering government sponsored research as well.

        Lets look at other industries. If cars were given away through promotions (which happens all the time), do you think it might draw up more buzz for the companies?

        Lets look at other industries. Take any product, and the more you sell it for, the less people come back for more business. The less you sell it for, the more competitive and more people come back for more business. All products break, or wear down, or need some sort of service. Not all products are worth buying twice in anyone's eyes.

        This is also why well trained and good customer service policies make or break a company. Think of Dell's customer service and how people hates them for that.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by nomadic (141991)
          The only time the service doesn't work is in an unestablished industry with 0 competitors. In every other industry if you look long term giving things out for free makes exponentially more.

          But where there's no credible service alternative--for example, writing fiction--then giving it away doesn't help you.

          You are absolutely incorrect about medical patents. If it weren't for medical patents, my cousin would have been able to release a cure for a form of HIV she discovered about 5 years back. 5 years! Bu
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by naasking (94116)

            But where there's no credible service alternative--for example, writing fiction--then giving it away doesn't help you.

            But there is. First to market is often sufficient to recoup costs and then some.

            First of all I'm sure your cousin built upon decades of patentable work when figuring out her cure.

            Says who? That's an awful presumption.

            Further, mathematicians and programmers build on decades of work too, yet algorithms are not patentable, nor should they be. The idea that patents are required for the advanceme

        • by Rich0 (548339) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @02:25PM (#24547559) Homepage

          If I had a dollar for every university researcher who "cured cancer" I'd be a very rich man. Ditto for HIV.

          For the most part the only really effective drug patents cover one specific molecule, with obvious non-functional additions/changes to it (you can't just stick a methyl on some huge molecule and call it an innovation).

          If a drug company already has this product patented, then why haven't they released a cure?

          Researchers tend to claim "success" when they come up with some molecule that has some inhibitory reaction in some in-vitro test. That is often a great lead, but only a very small fraction of these molecules turn out to be useful. Often they start a new line of thinking/questioning that does lead to the correct answer. It is a bit much to say that "most of drug R&D is government funded." That's like saying that because a government lab invented the first polymer that they should be credited with the commercialization of teflon. No doubt one wouldn't happen without the other, but there was certainly a lot of time, effort, and money spent in-between.

          Overly-broad patents are clearly harmful. However, if a company goes to the effort to fund clinical trials on a molecule they should stand to benefit from this - beyond having a few months on the market before the first competitor scales up their own production of the same thing.

          Massive government funding is a fair alternative to patented private drug development. I'm all for exploring that further. However, volunteer contribution is a bit unrealistic on these kinds of projects - they involve hundreds of clinics and thousands of doctors and scientists, with a truck's worth of paperwork to support their safety testing. Linux on the desktop is a trivial undertaking in comparision and "bounties" haven't quite made that happen yet...

          • by poetmatt (793785)

            if I had a dollar for every company who has a patent and doesn't release it to market in order to prevent it and similar products from being public, I'd be a trillionaire right now.

      • Why would someone hire you to ghost write a book if they can't get any profit from the actual sale of that book?

        Stick an advertisement on the page beginning each chapter, then publish it as a PDF. If it's a good book, then the advertisers will get good exposure. If the advertisers will pay per copy distributed (similar to paying for page views) then the author can make a profit, and with a few well liked books in current distribution make a good living.
      • by cpt kangarooski (3773) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @01:34PM (#24546963) Homepage

        Why would someone hire you to ghost write a book if they can't get any profit from the actual sale of that book?

        Just because there's no copyright on a work doesn't mean that there can be no profit on selling copies of it. Every bookstore I've ever been in stocks copies of public domain works, e.g. Shakespeare plays, Sherlock Holmes stories, which suggests that they and the publishers of those works must make enough to justify doing it. Apparently some people are willing to pay for the tangible copy even if they could get the work fixed within for free elsewhere. Of course, competition between publishers will tend to drive the price down to just above marginal cost, but that's fine as far as the customers are concerned.

        Additionally, there are some other advantages a publisher can get in the marketplace which are unrelated to copyright. For example, there is a first mover advantage, where the first publisher to market can capture more business than he otherwise would until his competitors catch up. Shakespeare more or less did this, as his company would perform his plays first, but couldn't really stop other people from copying them (sometimes by means of audience members committing the lines to memory and dictating them later). Authors can take commissions, as well. There tends to be an inverse relation between price and the size of the audience. E.g. a wedding photographer can charge a lot because really no one cares about the photos he takes other than the families involved. But if ten thousand fans of a particular author each pledge a few dollars to get that author to write a book (there are some escrow schemes to make sure of the deliverables on both sides, roughly mirroring the means that authors and publishers already use to avoid either side being cheated) then that may be enough to get him to do it. Some people might not care about the copyright status of their work, because that's not how they plan to make their money (e.g. the work is just a draw for some other thing), or they're not interested in making money at all (much of YouTube).

        And of course, the entire system always runs on authors and investors who are unduly optimistic. Remember, most authors are not stars, or even successful, and most works are of no or very little economic value. Copyright can't make works valuable, it just lets the copyright holder monopolize whatever value there is to be had anyway. Thus, a copyright on Gigli or Ishtar, or Heaven's Gate just isn't worth much.

        Without copyright, established and popular authors tend to be better off than unknowns, but that's really how it is with copyright as well. And copyright isn't a magic method of getting popular. No one's figured out a perfect method for always making hits that will draw in a huge audience over the short and long term.

        There is a likelihood that without the artificial incentive of copyright (or with less of an artificial incentive from reduced copyright) that fewer works will be created and published. That is a loss to the public. But the public gains from being less restricted as to those works. The important thing is to maximize the net public benefit, whether that requires more copyright or less. The effect upon authors and publishers, save for how that interacts with the public benefit, is of no consequence.

        • An example (Score:3, Interesting)

          by coats (1068)
          Edwin F. Kalmus & Co, Inc. (http://www.kalmus-music.com/ [kalmus-music.com]) has made a successful business of selling public domain music scores for many years. You may recall that they were one of the plaintiffs in Eldred vs. Reno...

          As an aside, they are one of only three honest classical-music publishers I know (the other two being Novello and Oxford U Press, both British); all the others make a practice of claiming copyright for music written even before the American revolution.

          I think that such fraudulent claim

      • by rlk (1089)

        You're basically advocating the service as opposed to selling position that a lot of people on slashdot have been advocating in the software sector for years. While it may work for you I don't think it can work on a universal level. Why would someone hire you to ghost write a book if they can't get any profit from the actual sale of that book?

        Same reason that most people work for specified wages or salary -- they're paid money for it, upfront (maybe in arrears for a short time, but they do get paid).

    • by Shados (741919) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @11:48AM (#24545955)

      Most of the examples you gave seem more like "Less restrictive copyright helps" than no copyright. Give your songs for free! The money is on the tour... Of course, as long as another band doesn't do -exactly- the same songs with a bigger marketing budget (and if everyone does it, ONE of the bands who copy you will most likely be bteter). Also, thats as long as the video of your show isn't in hi definition 7.1 surround blu ray the day after it for free (or even worse, SOLD by someone else). With absolutely -zero- copyright, its a lot less powerful as a promotion tool. (Now it works because you're only letting indiviuals step in... once corporations can rape your copyright too, things get a little grim). Oh, and without IP laws, people can rip off your name, your logo, everything, and not only sell it as free promotion to you... but make it -theirs- and use it for -themselves-.

      If you're really well known... no one will think the "fake" Metallica is the real thing. If you're just starting though? BANG! Gone.

      For the photographer... yes, giving their pictures away is great if they get their money from hired work (all photographers I know do this). But lets remove all IP laws for a sec there... The photographer's customers aren't going to be too too happy once their FACE (your pictures that you, not only gave away, but couldn't restrict in any ways, shape and form) is on a box of cereals or used on TV to advertise condoms.

      Overly strong IP laws and copyright hurts, yes. None at all though... That will leave only niche markets. Heck, look at the extremes like China... their "illegal" copying practices are only working at all because there are people across the ocean who invest millions and billions in their IP products, because they have market for them. The result's good enough that a ton of people are willing to pay for even copies... But if no one needed the original?

      And you'd want to stop regulations on medecines? If you did that, medecines would be even LESS tested than they are now... The customers would be "beta testers" like they are in software... oh yeah, that would work. Sure, its far from perfect the way it is now... (a lot of info is "hidden" to push the medecine out even if its known not to work), but without any market restrictions, they could just lie in your face legally on medecines that were barely tested on mice, woohoo!

      The only example you gave that would still work with zero copyright or IP laws is your own (the writer stuff). We agree I think that the current system is overboard and doing way way too much, and its hurting rather than helping... Its an extreme. I don't beleive the OTHER extreme is any better, however...

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The money is on the tour... Of course, as long as another band doesn't do -exactly- the same songs with a bigger marketing budget (and if everyone does it, ONE of the bands who copy you will most likely be bteter).

        Great. So if, for example, a Beatles tribute band ends up being better than the Beatles (if they were still around), isn't that a good thing? Wouldn't the band deserve their profits? Why should the Beatles be given special protection from competition? And really, how much competition is the

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by beakerMeep (716990)

        And you'd want to stop regulations on medecines? If you did that, medecines would be even LESS tested than they are now... The customers would be "beta testers" like they are in software...

        Doc, level with me. Is it bad? Do I have the BSOD?

      • Your comment cracks me up. As if competition in the form of imitation is so dangerous.

        Did Will Ferrell put James Lipton out of business?

        • by Shados (741919)

          Oh, its not? Sure, for things that just require an idea out of nowhere, no problem. For things that require multi-million investments? Oh yes, I really want to spend money in 50 PhDs and some engineers to research something, while a hundred or so companies are just waiting on their ass for me to spit out my product, get a few months (if that!) of early market penetration, and then have it copied by people who don't have the R&D overhead to pay back (and thus only need to provide for the overhead of manu

      • by naasking (94116)

        The photographer's customers aren't going to be too too happy once their FACE (your pictures that you, not only gave away, but couldn't restrict in any ways, shape and form) is on a box of cereals or used on TV to advertise condoms.

        This has nothing to do with copyright. Privacy laws prevent these sorts of unauthorized uses.

      • by rlk (1089)

        Most of the examples you gave seem more like "Less restrictive copyright helps" than no copyright. Give your songs for free! The money is on the tour... Of course, as long as another band doesn't do -exactly- the same songs with a bigger marketing budget (and if everyone does it, ONE of the bands who copy you will most likely be bteter). Also, thats as long as the video of your show isn't in hi definition 7.1 surround blu ray the day after it for free (or even worse, SOLD by someone else). With absolutely -

    • by urcreepyneighbor (1171755) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @11:51AM (#24545959)

      In music, I helped 3 bands (one who is now on an international tour, has had MTV coverage, and sells out a lot of shows) move away from copyright.

      That's great for you and the bands, but let's leave it up to the individuals and groups to decide if they want to take that path.

      If someone busts his ass producing something, he has the right to determine what to do with it. If he wants to give it away, fine. If he wants to restrict it a million different ways, fine. It's his work, so it's his choice.

      Our copyright system, while it does have flaws, enables people like you and the bands you've worked with to decide for yourselves what you want to do. Without a strong IP system, that choice will be taken away.

      • If he wants to give it away, fine. If he wants to restrict it a million different ways, fine. It's his work, so it's his choice. [...] Without a strong IP system, that choice will be taken away.

        My answer to this is quite simple: So? So what if the author doesn't have that choice?

        The purpose of copyright law is to benefit the public, by increasing the level of quality in writing, music, software and other items covered by it. The mechanism used is letting the authors apply restrictions to their customers, which will (according to the implicit assumption) make more people pay the authors, which will make being an writer (musician, coder, etc.) be a good enough way of making a living that enough people will do so; spending eight hours per day on your craft will make you better than one who spends only their spare time (assuming there's less of that). That's how copyright is thought to fulfill its purpose.

        If we let the authors grant fewer restriction, it might mean that some fraction of them will choose to enter a different business, and the public loses some of their products (they may still perform music or write code in their spare time). In return, since the public is less restricted, it will be able to use all authors' works to a larger extent.

        Whether the trade-off is beneficial to the public depends on the specifics; but what is certain is that as long as copyright has its stated purpose, one should choose the option that benefits the public the most. Whether the authors lose options they have previously had should not, per se, influence the decision; it could, however, influence which option is best for the public, but you haven't argued that it does (or will).

        The restrictions and the choice of whether and how to employ them are a means, not an end. You can't defend any means other than by showing how well they serve the end.

        (sorry for the missing car analogy)

        (insert a similarly styled rant on patents, and a similarly styled rant on trademarks, here)

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Redfeather (1033680)

          The mechanism used is letting the authors apply restrictions to their customers

          An important distinction: the aim is to restrict the competition, not the customers. Ironically, by pirating, people are becoming competition for those to whom they are customers. Part of the issue is the bleeding together of roles, not only the bleeding together of rules.

      • The thing is though, that whatever restrictions an author might want to impose on his work, he can only enforce those restrictions with the consent of everyone else. If an author says that no one is allowed to sell used copies of his book, everyone can safely ignore him because the law grants him no power to prevent anyone from doing that. And the law gains its authority from the consent of the governed. We decide for ourselves what laws we are willing to empower the government we create to enact, and what

      • but let's leave it up to the individuals and groups to decide if they want to take that path.

        So how do I avoid lawsuits from the individuals and groups who have decided not to take that path? What can a musician do to make sure that he doesn't accidentally copy part of a song that he had heard on the radio a decade ago?

      • by rlk (1089)

        If someone busts his ass producing something, he has the right to determine what to do with it. If he wants to give it away, fine. If he wants to restrict it a million different ways, fine. It's his work, so it's his choice.

        Let's be a bit more precise about what we're talking about. The issue isn't what the hypothetical band decides what to do with it; I don't believe there's much controversy about that. I don't think that anyone is arguing that the band must make copies for everyone who wants one. What

    • by mark-t (151149) <markt@@@lynx...bc...ca> on Sunday August 10, 2008 @12:04PM (#24546081) Journal

      Let's say that there was no copyright... then the reality of things is that publishers would have not have any incentive to publish the works of an unknown without an up-front payment (which means that only rich people could get published by the big publishers), because they would know that some other publisher could easily come in after the fact and copy the work at lower cost (because they wouldn't have to deal with royalties). Sure, one might argue that there never used to be copyright until only a few hundred years ago, and one might observe that artists seemed to get by before then, but let's remember that back then, copying something was very hard work... it had to be done by hand and was error prone and tedious enough that it was sufficient deterrent for somebody to try to produce accurate unauthorized copies of published works. Not that this stopped some unscrupulous people from trying, but inevitably, such efforts would fail simply due to the unreliability of the process and the person trying to publish unauthorized copies just could not compete. Today, copying can be done by anybody with no more effort than pushing a button.

      Okay... so if publishers aren't willing to take on people who may represent an unknown quantity, then the artist would just have to publish himself, right? In the day of the internet that might not seem be a problem, except again... with no copyright to protect the artist from somebody else copying the work without consent, somebody else with a larger distribution capability could easily take a copy of the work and start distributing it themselves, possibly charging for the work, perhaps not, but suddenly without copyright there's not a darn thing the original artist can do about it. One might argue that the original artist should be happy that his work is being received by a wider audience, but if the artist had originally intended to profit from his distribution of the work, that avenue would now be closed. This would seem to me to quite strongly conflict with your aforementioned notion that copyright results in less profit for the artists. And this hits even harder if the publisher who copied the work starts trying to take the credit for the work. You may be able to partially solve that issue by creating new laws that specifically prohibit plagiarism, but copyright already solved that notion.

      If you can present workable solution to the above problems in the absence of copyright, I'd be eager to hear them.

      • Sure, one might argue that there never used to be copyright until only a few hundred years ago, and one might observe that artists seemed to get by before then, but let's remember that back then, copying something was very hard work... it had to be done by hand and was error prone and tedious enough that it was sufficient deterrent for somebody to try to produce accurate unauthorized copies of published works. Not that this stopped some unscrupulous people from trying, but inevitably, such efforts would fai

    • And Games? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by cliffski (65094)

      I make singleplayer PC games. Can you explain to me how abandoning copyright makes me better off?

      I hear these claims a lot. They generally come from people who aren't the ones risking their livelihood on an unproven business model.

      • Re:And Games? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @12:39PM (#24546369)

        I make singleplayer PC games. Can you explain to me how abandoning copyright makes me better off?

        Well, obviously they'll be great marketing tools for all those millionaires who want to commission more single-player games.

        No, wait, that's wrong. You're in the wrong market! Yeah, that's it. You should be making multiplayer games. You could provide a subscription to a server that hosts the games, and hope that no-one else will reverse engineer your code in ten minutes and then provide a different server more cheaply.

        Oh, wait, people already do that sort of thing. I guess you'll just have to ship every game you sell only with a contract that states that the person receiving it won't copy and distribute it further, so that you can afford to sell it at a price many individual customers would be willing to pay and the sum of all the small payments would provide you a worthwhile profit. Yeah, that might work. If only I could think of a name for reserving the right to copy something... Nope, I got nothing, sorry.

        • Re:And Games? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by NormalVisual (565491) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @01:40PM (#24547039)
          Oh, wait, people already do that sort of thing.

          Of course they do. Let's look at World of Warcraft. The open source project MaNGOS [mangosproject.org] provides a reasonable facsimile of the WoW backend, and a couple of other open source projects provide decent content for that backend. It's all free, one can easily customize their server to allow players to do all sorts of interesting things that Blizzard's servers won't, and one can fix bugs they come across if they've a mind to. Yet Blizzard continues to maintain a paid monthly user base of 10 million or so.

          Why is that? Mostly, it's because Blizzard continues to make a product that's perceived to be better than the alternatives. The MaNGOS servers tend to be sparsely populated, somewhat glitchy, and don't have all the quests and other content implemented correctly, and having that consistency is worth money to a lot of people. I would tend to believe that whether copyright was involved or not, the company would still continue to make money simply by providing the superior product.
        • by tepples (727027)

          I make singleplayer PC games. Can you explain to me how abandoning copyright makes me better off?

          Well, obviously they'll be great marketing tools for all those millionaires who want to commission more single-player games.

          No, wait, that's wrong. You're in the wrong market! Yeah, that's it. You should be making multiplayer games.

          What does multiplayer have to do with it? It doesn't matter how many gamepads are plugged into the PC or how many PCs are plugged into a private LAN. As long as a program doesn't need to interact with a central server in order to run, unauthorized copies can be made to work.

    • by serutan (259622)

      Wow, thanks for that amazing post. I don't entirely follow your medicine argument; the FDA's mission, whether they accomplish it or not, is to protect the public from snakeoil. But that aside, I'm glad you've freed yourself from the need to build a castle wall around your creations. I hope other writers and artists read your post and that you post more about your personal success every chance you get.

      • FDA's mssion... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by coats (1068)
        ...is to engage in power games, independent of their actual Constitutional authority to do so.

        Cases in point: they suppressed publication of research about

        • Aspirin treatment for heart attacks
        • Bacterial (H. Pylori) causation for ulcers.

        In the first of these, the FDA was more murderous than the Vietnam War; in the second, they were responsible for more torture than the Spanish Inquisition.

        And their only use for altruism is to use it to try to whitewash their lust for power.

    • by xigxag (167441) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @12:25PM (#24546235)

      I have my own personal theories on this matter. As a writer myself, I repudiate copyright on all I do. I openly ask others to reprint my writings, and even stick their own names on it if they want. Because I write about niche markets, the aid of distribution of my thoughts means more people are attracted to those ideas, which means they'll likely eventually find me. That's a huge benefit for me as I can then sell future newbies to the market on my newsletters, or even hire myself out as a ghost writer or personal writer. My income has surged because I don't copyright my writings, or even ask others to attribute me during the redistribution process.

      --xigxag.

    • by Z00L00K (682162) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @01:40PM (#24547035) Homepage

      There is probably room for both.

      At least 90% of the work done is bread and butter work, where the need and use of IP protection is outright counter-productive. The remaining 10% is where it may be worth to do some IP protection, but you shouldn't be too obnoxious about that either.

      The only things worth to protect are the few items that can be classified as "Brilliant". And there are very few that actually has that class. And it's impossible to tell which picture or music tract that is going to be the next new hit. So your idea of spreading your work to give you more work has some merit.

      The big disadvantage with IP protection schemes is that you as a producer will have to do the work of protecting your IP. (OK, you may hire a lawyer) but in effect it will result in that you have less and less time and resources over to produce something new.

      In technology patents are also a way of protection against patent trolls. Which means that the patent offices and lawyers are the only ones really profiting from this scheme.

      But there is also another way to cut it. You may spread your work widely but with an usage clause that states that as long as it's for non-commercial use it's free to use. I.e. nobody else shall be able to use your picture to do a profit unless you get a cut of the deal. And reasonable deals can always be worked out.

    • In music, I helped 3 bands (one who is now on an international tour, has had MTV coverage, and sells out a lot of shows) move away from copyright. Tell your fans to bootleg your album, and amazing stuff materializes. It's free promotion, and the tour is where you make your money.

      How should bands in genres that aren't suited to live performance make their money? And how will touring still make money as the cost of energy for transportation rises?

      Online music distribution has already destroyed the record stores.

      Really? I bet the major music publishers could find something in their vast back catalogs that's close enough to the new independent music that they can pull a Bright Tunes v. Harrisongs against any online recording artist who makes it big.

    • by naasking (94116)

      I generally agree with your arguments, and I'm glad someone out there is actively pursuing copyright-free content, but one form of music which is not amenable to touring is electronic music. It's sometimes possible to perform some of the music in principle, but it's far more difficult than with a band.

      I'd be interested to hear of any thoughts you have on this industry.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 10, 2008 @11:31AM (#24545863)

    "WKRP in Cincinnati" was a mildly popular TV show in the late 70s/early 80s. It was one of my favorite shows and I waited anxioously for it to be released on DVD. Delays delays delays until finally, last year it was released. Unfortunately it was butchered. You see popular (for its time) music played an integral part of the background of the show and quite often character dialog was over music. Unfortunately, when the time came to release the DVD, music rights could not be secured and they had to re-dub the audio of major major parts of most of the show with different (not the original) actors. If you, like I do, remember the show vividly, these re-dubs jolt the senses and make the DVD basically unwatchable.

    TDz.
     

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by penix1 (722987)

      This goes to a major flaw in the author's thinking:

      The commons leads to overuse and destruction; the anticommons leads to underuse and waste.

      The first part of that is only true of finite resources like the field he uses as an example. For things like the music in your DVD, those are not finite resources since when they are used it doesn't take anything away from the original. However, I agree with his second part that too much ownership, especially for as long as we are talking about for copyright, does lea

  • Translation: (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rah1420 (234198) <rah1420@gmail.com> on Sunday August 10, 2008 @11:34AM (#24545875)

    Individual right holders value their contribution to the overall project as a significant fraction of the project value

    Let me translate.

    People are greedy.

    Making a profit is good. Making a fair profit is better.

    Of course, this article points out what the problem is without tendering a solution. No, I don't have a solution, either. Is this just human nature?

    I recall reading in "A Brief History of Nearly Everything" how an anthropologist was paying a local tribe a bounty for every bone or fragment recovered from a fossil field. He soon discovered that the bounty hunters were smashing the large bones into tiny fragments in order to maximize their profit.

    In this case, of course, it's an ill-thought-out bounty - whereas I don't know the answer for the IP question from the article. However, it points out the same conclusion: People will tend to maximize their profit whenever they see a way to do it that doesn't involve extra work on their part.

    • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Sunday August 10, 2008 @12:31PM (#24546279)

      Copyrights / patents ... if you cannot turn a profit in 14 years then it's your fault.

      The system was not ORIGINALLY intended to provide someone with a lifetime's worth of income. It was to ENCOURAGE development.

      • by kestasjk (933987)

        The system was not ORIGINALLY intended to provide someone with a lifetime's worth of income. It was to ENCOURAGE development.

        If you compare the Japanese computer games industry to the Chinese one you could argue the system is encouraging development.

        (By the way the RANDOM capitalization is very ANNOYING.)

  • As he points out, the result of this is an invisible loss: drugs not made, software not written. The loss is impossible to quantify and difficult to see.

    Perhaps we should resort to *AA-style "loss calculations." Two can play at that game, and it would be just as valid.

    I'd prefer not to stoop to their level, but you don't win against a bully by fighting fair.

    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      by bunratty (545641)

      If there were no patent law, no new drugs would be made. It costs many millions of dollars to find a new drug, prove it is safe and effective, find the proper dose, and get it approved. Without patent protection, a drug company would have no way to earn their money back. The argument is a strawman.

      I don't understand the "software not written" part. Doesn't the GPL depend on the copyright? Sounds like another strawman.

      • by cduffy (652) <charles+slashdot@dyfis.net> on Sunday August 10, 2008 @12:43PM (#24546403)

        Drugs are a special case; much of why the patent system is such a mess is that the same rules are applied to drugs and software, while the economics behind the two fields are so different.

        Getting back to making an effort at explaining the parent's (grandparent's?) comments -- without indicating any agreement with the same:

        Sure, the GPL depends on copyright... so what? Folks can't make derivative works combining GPLed works with proprietary software (or software under permissive but incompatible licenses, which there are a lot of) -- and such proposed derivative works really are "software not written". (What do I mean by "proprietary" in a proposed world without copyright? Source code is a trade secret, object code is obscured). There've been plenty of fan-based projects trying to resurrect classic games by writing modern engines for them shut down because the original copyright holder -- while not selling the original game -- refuses to allow creation of the involved derivative work... and there are plenty of cases where Free Software avoids implementing functionality which is known to be patented; look at how the development of Tux3 was held up.

        The argument that there are works not created due to restrictions via intellectual property laws is quite sound. That said, I tend to give credence to the position that intellectual property protection is necessary for much (not all) commercial development to take place as well... but that level of protection doesn't need to be anything like what it is today. Personally, I'd like to see copyright durations rolled back to their original values, and patents only available in fields where they make sense (not business models, not software)... but the latter seems unlikely, and the former flat-out impossible.

      • If there were no patent law, no new drugs would be made. It costs many millions of dollars to find a new drug, prove it is safe and effective, find the proper dose, and get it approved. Without patent protection, a drug company would have no way to earn their money back. The argument is a strawman.

        Of course new drugs would be made. Without new drugs, everyone would be selling the same old drugs all the time. That would give you an excellent opportunity to bust the market wide open by introducing something new. You develop it, keep it secret, get the approval and sell. Anyone else needs to do the same approval process, which will take them the same time, so the market is yours for years. It stops being yours when someone else figures out the same things as you did - but then what makes you think you s

        • You develop it, keep it secret, get the approval and sell. Anyone else needs to do the same approval process, which will take them the same time

          Even if the approval process includes public documentation of the active ingredient?

          Their competitors have no incentive for improving it, because the original is patented and you can't turn your improvements into money.

          I thought it was called a "cross-license": You can use my improvement if I can use your original invention.

    • by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @12:46PM (#24546443)

      I'd prefer not to stoop to their level, but you don't win against a bully by fighting fair.

      On the contrary, usually that is exactly how you beat a bully. Most bullies win precisely because the people they are bullying consider themselves constrained in ways the bullies do not. Release those constraints to put the participants on an equal footing, and most bullies lose very quickly.

      This applies almost universally, whether you're talking about the kid who gets beaten up at school because the teachers always tell him not to fight back, or the RIAA cases against song swappers where one side has to pay silly legal fees just to get their day in court while the other side pays no legal fees if it gets settled out of court.

      However, you're right that the results of the "loss calculations" for works never produced because of copyright would be just as valid as the RIAA's, which is to say not at all.

  • Invisible? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by thermian (1267986) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @11:39AM (#24545901)

    How so, I thought it's been blindingly obvious for many years.

    Patents, once the means to help an inventor have a little time to make their money back, have become an economic weapon. That was never going to end well.

    • Re:Invisible? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @12:50PM (#24546481)

      I think that happened around the time they started giving patents out for things that weren't actually significantly inventions at all, and allowing write-ups of the claims that were so hopelessly generic that they did not (as originally intended) provide a means for others to reproduce a significant invention when the durationg of protection expired. The duration of protection is itself arguably too long in some fields as well, but that's not the biggest problem IMHO. Patents as originally conceived are a reasonable proposal for incentivising the sharing of new inventions, but the practice is now so far from the principle that the whole system is beyond hope. Let's hope the recent sparks of common sense in the US and Europe result in doing something about this.

    • The 'invisible' part specifically refers to the negative productivity of resource-hoarding. In traditional tragedy-of-the-commons situations it's easy to quantify the value of the meadow that's now a barren desert. But when development isn't happening, you have no idea what didn't happen: the stuff choked off is invisible.

      Now, this is somewhat akin to arguing that if you don't have all the kids you can, you might be missing the next Einstein: while true, it also makes silly assumptions.

  • by grahamsz (150076) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @11:58AM (#24546035) Homepage Journal

    I've seen a situation where a few major manufacturers dominate a field (which i wont name) but all have cross-licensing agreements with each other.

    It'd be like Ford holding patents on wheels, doors and windows but GM holding streering wheels and brakes. Then they agree to cross license all their patent portfolios.

    This effectively makes it nearly impossible for a newcomer to break into the field. They don't have the resources to challenge fords "wheels" patent, and all the people who are resourced to have that thrown out - aren't motivated to because they have a licensing agreement.

    • This effectively makes it nearly impossible for a newcomer to break into the field.

      What if the newcomer develops a new method of transportation? Hovercraft [hovercraft.com], jetpack [jetpackinternational.com], skycar [moller.com], Segway [segway.com]?

      One of the benefits of the patent system is that it forces people to keep coming up with new ideas. Especially the newcomer.

      • by russotto (537200) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @12:13PM (#24546143) Journal

        What if the newcomer develops a new method of transportation? Hovercraft, jetpack, skycar, Segway?

        Then he's sued out of business because chances are, his novel method of transportation infringes on at least one of the big boys' patents. Sure, his propulsion method is new... but what about that suspension? OK, he's got a new suspension... but the fuel delivery system is covered. Or the windscreen.

        • by localman (111171) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @01:53PM (#24547209) Homepage

          Your take is absolutely correct. A place I worked got a letter from NCR once we got big enough. It basically said: "You are in the computer industry, therefore you are almost surely violating some of our patents. Either cough up x% of your revenue, or we'll go to court and find out which patents you're violating."

  • Three step solution (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    1. Full disclosure of the intellectual property, including human readable, compilable source code for any algorithms covered by patent, and programs covered by copyright. (Yes, that means source code for Windows.)

    2. Declared value for all intellectual property, with taxes levied based on the value. The owner could set the value at zero in order to escape taxation, but that leads to...

    3. Competitive bidding, where any person or group can offer an amount higher than the declared value to put the property in t

    • And if you can't afford $5K? Then you don't copyright the work at all, you keep it as a trade secret and only allow publishers to read it with an NDA. None of them want it, so it's never released. Eventually, after your death, someone finds the manuscript and publishes it. Does society benefit from waiting 50 years to even read it (let alone have it enter the public domain)? Do you or society benefit from you being unable to make money from the first book, and therefore unable to afford to write the se
      • This happens now. Publishers of all sorts get many more manuscripts than they actually publish. If an author can't find anyone willing to invest in publishing the work, he either has to self-publish or let the work collect dust. Often, no one is ever interested in it, and it never gets published, not in 50 years, not ever.

        This is actually a good reason to require depositing copies of the work in the Library of Congress as a condition of getting a copyright in the US (and requiring and funding the LoC so tha

      • They can take your book, put it in the public domain, make a film adaptation and copyright that. No one can compete with them, because they can afford to outbid most other groups to keep the copyright on the film active for as long as it makes them a profit.

        Studio D's copyright on a film adaptation of a given public domain book doesn't prevent studio N from getting its own copyright on Warner's own film adaptation of the same book. See Pinocchio (1940) vs. The Adventures of Pinocchio (1996) and every other adaptation of Collodi's novel before or since.

    • No, it forces you to go back to the publisher and beg for the $10k. Or not you specifically, but people who can't afford to pay the taxes on what their thing is worth while shopping it around.

      Fortunately, I also have a half-baked solution to the problem which doesn't require any changes to the current laws. In fact, it works just as well under indefinite copyright as it does under properly limited copyright.

      I call it the "don't wait for government to solve your problems" plan. [slashdot.org]

      • I call it the "don't wait for government to solve your problems" plan. [slashdot.org]

        Because the discussion in your journal has been automatically archived after two weeks, I have to reply here. Your solution is to have some organization buy copyrights from their owners. But copyright owners will probably decline to sell key copyrights for any price less than the market capitalization of the company. For example, Disney will probably want $60 billion for Song of the South, which it continues to keep out of print for political reasons, claiming that publishing the work would expose Disney to

      • And that's the tragedy of the commons.

        Why should I pay a 3rd party to buy copyright when they arent getting what I want?

        And Piratebay is free.

    • by kz45 (175825)

      "1. Full disclosure of the intellectual property, including human readable, compilable source code for any algorithms covered by patent, and programs covered by copyright. (Yes, that means source code for Windows.)"

      The problem is that if the source code is viewable, anybody can take it, compile it, and give it out for free (and once it's released, it would be almost impossible for the IP owner to stop it).

      "2. Declared value for all intellectual property, with taxes levied based on the value. The owner could

      • by tepples (727027)

        The problem is that if the source code is viewable, anybody can take it, compile it, and give it out for free (and once it's released, it would be almost impossible for the IP owner to stop it).

        <sarcasm>And die-hard infringers can't already do that with binaries, right?</sarcasm>

        Why do you want to make it more difficult for businesses? I don't understand this mentality. It will just lead to businesses moving to other countries without these asinine restrictions and there will be less jobs for people in the US. Is this what you want?

        They'll still have to follow a country's law if they want to make profit from selling to customers in that country.

        So if I value my software at $1000 and somebody bids $1001 and wins, it goes into the public domain?

        You can raise your bid to $1001, and then you start paying property tax on the $1001. If the proponents of the "intellectual property" mindset copyrights and patents to be on equal footing with real estate, then perhaps they should be taxed like real estate.

        If these laws were in place today, you would see commercial software companies make an immediate jump to SaaS (software as a service) (Microsoft is already starting to this this).

        Google and other web companies have done

    • Cute, but economically naive. Your mechanism imposes taxes in advance of anyone receiving any actual income, so everyone will just declare a value of $0 on all works initially. It imposes the risk for successfully selling a work on anyone willing to defend the rights to a work, potentially before they have time to establish what realistic price for that work would be acceptable to the market. It removes a lot of competition between publishers, since anyone buying rights would potentially wind up double-payi

      • Your mechanism imposes taxes in advance of anyone receiving any actual income

        So does the tax on real estate.

        Moreover, if anyone thinks the source code for Windows should be in the public domain, they can make Microsoft an offer to buy the rights for it. If it's a credible offer relative to the potential profits Microsoft expects to make, I'm sure they will take it. Right now, the market values Microsoft at around $257 billion, so if you assume roughly half their profits come from Windows, an offer around the $200 billion mark might be attractive enough for investors to take it.

        How much do you think it would cost to buy copyright in Song of the South from The Walt Disney Company, a work that Disney has kept out of print for political reasons?

        • So does the tax on real estate.

          Sure, but who said anything about a tax on real estate being reasonable?

          How much do you think it would cost to buy copyright in Song of the South from The Walt Disney Company, a work that Disney has kept out of print for political reasons?

          You'd have to ask Disney. But if they aren't doing anything with it and someone offered to take a political headache off their hands, why wouldn't they consider it?

  • by serutan (259622) <snoopdoug&geekazon,com> on Sunday August 10, 2008 @12:06PM (#24546101) Homepage

    Discussing patents and copyrights can quickly become an exercise in futility when people have an almost religious fervor about their rights. While some would say that copying ideas is natural human behavior, which IP laws artificially restrict to a degree in the name of public good, others would argue that IP is an inherent human right which IP laws simply recognize. These two positions are fundamentally opposed.

    But even IP fundamentalist can be convinced that fully exercising one's own rights is not always in one's own best interest. For example, suppose we believed that each of us had the innate right to rule the world and everything in it. That right would work fine if humans could live far enough apart so as never to have any contact with each other. We could live under the illusion of total dominion (at least until we wanted to reproduce). But stubbornly defending that right in practice would be a huge obstacle to forming any kind of functioning society.

    Modern IP laws and their vocal proponents have gone a long way toward convincing the public that IP rights are indeed inherent and sacred, not merely privileges granted by lawmakers "for limited times," but a fundamental requirement of civilization. In discussions about limiting copyrights or patent rights, IP fundamentalists invoke images of a backward, anarchic world without modern conveniences, medicines, literature or basic services. It's a false dichotomy, but one that has been painted all too vividly on the public's mind.

    I've always found that real-world examples are a good way to point out the flaws in absolutist arguments. The example of the aircraft patent pool illustrates how IP cooperation can be beneficial even when it has to be forced. But there are readers out there who will argue that even that specific example was a bad idea. Some people feel threatened by any notion that something they consider theirs might be taken away from them. They seem to feel that losing everything is at stake whenever they give up anything, and that totalitarianism is always just around the corner. I don't know how to communicate with those people.

    • by rubypossum (693765) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @03:41PM (#24548253)
      I would say that the right to I.P. comes from the right to all property. Historically mankind has tended to spear people who tried to steal the fruits of his labor. In various times in history roving gangs have joined together to try and "pirate" the work of other men. These pirates felt they had a right to rob, steal and pillage. As a Pastafarian, I have to be slightly sympathetic.

      The trouble is, for most of us anyway, if someone came into our apartment/house and started carting away our prize LCD monitor - we'd try to stop them. Granted, this is slashdot, so the perp might need to be a midget on chemotherapy before it might be safe enough to. But most of us would be pissed.

      This rule extends to most people on Earth, even the most heartfelt communists have things in their home they'd never give up. If you had to make everything in your house with your bare hands (like we used to do), then you'd be even more upset if someone tried to steal something.

      This is why most societies developed a police force and militia. The former to protect from small time thieves, and the latter to protect from big ones (gangs and governments.)

      Many societies went a bit further, like so: it's an attempt to say "I'm going to use the years of my life to produce some ideas (music, poetry, writing, inventions, etc.), then try to make my living from them." In other words, I'm going to be a professional idea man. In order to make this feasable, society set up a system called Intellectual Property (patents, copyright and to lesser extent trademark.) Then we modified our system designed to protect other forms of property to work with this new I.P.

      This has been misused, so has police forces, militia, government and just about every other thing mankind has created. I tend to think the ends justify the means, in this issue.

      However, it's ridiculous how long copyrights are now. It's absolutely crazy. Nobody should own an idea perpetually.

      Also, the Patent office is either poorly staffed, overworked or staffed with morons. The next president should make this a campaign issue (although neither is.) We should have a five year period where old or junk patents are thrown away. Perhaps a new government agency that just combs through the patent books and throws away the junk.

      Even better, I wonder if you could create what they used to call an expert system. Where each patent was created from constituent patents and was automatically defined by a huge ontology. This way we could find junk patents much easier.

      This is a CS issue! Google, where are you?? This would be a profitable issue to solve.
      • by naasking (94116)

        I would say that the right to I.P. comes from the right to all property. Historically mankind has tended to spear people who tried to steal the fruits of his labor.

        Problem is, IP is not property because there is no scarcity. Mankind speared those who stole their food because food was and is a scarce resource (I take yours, you have one less).

        Ideas and knowledge are not scarce. If I hear you humming a tune you made up, and I start humming it too, did I divest you of your ability to hum, or the tune itself?

  • Golden Rice (Score:4, Interesting)

    by dstates (629350) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @12:13PM (#24546141) Homepage
    IP fragmentation is also a huge problem in biotechnology. Golden Rice [wikipedia.org] is a classic story of the anticommons.
    • by serutan (259622)

      Anticommons didn't seem to be the blocking factor for Golden Rice, according to the Wikipedia article you cited. It says the companies involved readily granted humanitarian use licenses. It mentions that Greenpeace and other organizations opposed Golden Rice, but that doesn't explain why it's still not available for human consumption 7 years after development. They seem to have acquired all the IP rights and they had excellent publicity. Any idea what actually went wrong?

      • Re:Golden Rice (Score:4, Insightful)

        by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @01:31PM (#24546929)

        The reason golden rice fails is simple - it does not deliver a high enough amount of vitamin A. It takes 300 gm of golden rice to deliver the dietary requirement of vitamin A to a child. Most target children eat less than one half that amount of rice. Then there is the question of bioavailability. For it to be useful their needs to be a certain level of body fat present, something that is often lacking in the target population.

        Ultimately there are a lot of OTHER micronutrients missing too. Golden rice doesn't do anything for these. Poverty and overpopulation are the real issues. GE rice isn't going to fix these.

  • This trait has been known about for thousands of years and was given a name long before the "tragedy of the commons" analysis was made.

    How about keeping the well-known description, instead of inventing new ones?

    • by pohl (872)

      In my 41 years on this planet, I had never heard "dog in a manger". In contrast, I've heard "tragedy of the commons" frequently. I admit that I'm just one data point, but it could be that the fable is too obscure to be useful.

      Actually, afterreading about it [wikipedia.org], it appears that the fable misses the mark slightly, since the moral of the story hinges on the fact that the dog cannot eat the hay. In contrast, those who hoard IP frequently benefit from doing so.

    • How about keeping the well-known description, instead of inventing new ones?

      Because it seems most Americans are unfamiliar with the image of a dog in the manger. Especially those living in urban areas associate "manger" with a song about baby Jesus.

  • by The Man (684) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @12:41PM (#24546389) Homepage

    is to require that any patent or copyright holder be actively developing and/or selling related products. In other words, the economy must be able to obtain the "benefits" of the "innovation" in order to justify the government grant of monopoly. Remember that these "rights" are actually privileges granted by the government on behalf of the people for their greater benefit. Limitation or revocation of these privileges is not confiscation and should not be viewed in the same way as a taking of land or other tangible property; it is appropriate in cases in which the public interest is clearly not being served by their continuation.

    For copyright, this approach is fairly easy because the work subject to protection already exists; if a work subject to copyright protection has not been newly licensed by or performed for an end user (i.e., not a reseller) in the past 3 years on terms generally available to other end users, that copyright expires. This definition prevents the holder from offering a work for sale at an absurd price, transferring it among subsidiaries, or giving away one copy a year to a "lucky winner" to avoid losing protection. Perpetually out-of-print books, obsolete software, and music owned by defunct record companies would all be freed from copyright protection.

    Patents are harder because the patent may exist before commercially viable products do. One possible first-order approximation might be that patents may not be owned by holding companies; only individuals and operating companies may possess them. This requirement would make it difficult for patent trolls to execute their business model. Another strategy might be to require holders to notify the patent office when they first manufacture a product they believe is subject to protection under a specific patent; the patent office could then allow double-blind challenges (to protect trade secrets associated with ongoing R&D) to patents that are not apparently in use and are at least 3 years old. An inspector would then attempt to obtain evidence from the holder that product development is actively occurring; if it is not, the patent is invalidated. There are plenty of pitfalls here; I challenge everyone to try writing a definition that actually solves the problem. The principle is sound, but it's harder than it looks.

    • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @01:10PM (#24546677)

      There is a saying - for any problem there is a quick, easy and obvious answer that is wrong. You have clearly found that answer here.

      There are MANY companies that conduct research only that have no interest whatsoever in being in the business of making any thing. Most of the research conducted in biotechnology is performed in such companies. And the individual inventor? You have just wiped him out completely. There is NOTHING wrong with a company or individual focusing on inventing things, and then using the licensing of those inventions to support itself.

      And of course what of universities? Your idea makes it very difficult for any university to obtain a patent.

      And copyrights? To begin with the TFA is making a serious error incorporating copyrights into this discussion. It shows a fundamental misunderstanding of what a copyright is, so much so as to completely discredit the author. With your application of copyright law you have wiped out freelance photographers, artists, individuals writing books with hopes of being discovered, and millions of other individual content creators.

      Copyrights owned by defunct companies are something of an inconvenience, but it is not a really large one thanks to the existence of fair use, right of first sale, libraries, etc.

  • is a better analogy. You know that there are places where you step on and go boom (or get a big lawsuit after finishing and doing something successful, whichever is worse), and there is places where knowing that takes far more work than actually doing something. You not only are forbidding (or putting serious barriers at least) the use of certain resources, you are forbidding the use of most, having an owner or not.
  • dkloke (Score:2, Interesting)

    by dkloke (994517)
    Have to laugh because I was just thinking about this stuff this morning.. I've been ripped off a lot. Sometimes I've later met the folks that ripped me off, and when they realize who I am they get kinda quiet. But it's ok, because I'm still vastly more inventive then they are. Ideas are just building blocks, you make one, then you stand on it and make another that goes on top, etc. In that sense, when I get ripped off and somebody takes the idea to market, they just built a platform for me to continue to
  • by damburger (981828) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @02:00PM (#24547285)

    Western society has to make something to be economically solvent. We can't build our economies by making everyone a sodding barista.

    If you go for manufacturing, then you create a population of poor people and shatter the illusion of prosperous capitalist society. If you, as most western countries have done, outsource the dirtiest jobs to other countries you can provide the illusion of prosperity for all, you must rely on more high tech industries that tend to require IP, and you kill innovation in the name of having a nice middle class buffer between the billionaires and the sweatshop workers.

  • All I know is... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @02:25PM (#24547561)
    ...I can't get seasons 1 and 2 of Reboot because the current copyright owners (Universal) are just sitting on it.
  • by circletimessquare (444983) <circletimessquare&gmail,com> on Sunday August 10, 2008 @03:51PM (#24548331) Homepage Journal

    i'm no big fan of his work, but he obviously takes his work very seriously, and he has won amount of critical acclaim, so these words from him mean a lot to me (an interview from aintitcool.com from 2004 [aintitcool.com]):

    Capone: The songs selections here are inspired at times. I really liked the Gordon Lightfoot song "Beautiful."

    V.G.: Thank you. The amount of time I spent choosing the music of the film would be unbelievable to you. The funny thing is, when it's not right, you spend all your time playing songs for people saying, "What do you think of this one? How about this one? How about this one?" You're dying, when you're on that level. When you hit it, it's so obvious and you immediately get a desperate feeling that says, "How am I going to get the rights? Are they going to fuck me on the rights to this song?" And guess who are the worst people in the movie business. The licensing people. They are most miserable, mean, selfish, insensitive, regressive, unproductive on the planet earth. You don't know what it's like to feel so strong about something and not have a budget to make that go away. It's not like I was looking to get some Paul McCartney song for my movie; I'm talking about esoteric music. Some of the music in the film didn't even exist, I had to rebuild the original master tapes that had decomposed. I had to re-bake the tape stock, the emulsion on the tape had peeling off. I'm the only person in the world who would salvage this particular recording because I had an original three-track machine and I knew how to bake that type of Ampex tape. The tape would have disappeared in two more years, and it's highly spliced. Then to be ballbusted for a year and a half on the licensing on that music. We talk about how long it took for me to get the film out after Cannes was because the film wasn't ready due to negative problems. I wanted to use this technique to blow up the negative in a new way. That's why I waited so long to finish the film. But it turns out that I would have had to wait seven, eight months anyway was the releases for the music. If you were dealing with the musician directly, you wouldn't have these problems. It's the people representing these artists that kill the process. I realize if you want to use the Beatles song "Revolution" to sell eyeglasses, I understand the exploitation of that. I understand that I'm using culturally significant relics to manipulate people into attaching those to my product. But if I'm using a rare piece of music by and unknown artist, not to brag, but the people whose music I use in my films sell way more records than they were selling before they were in my film. Proof of it is, the Italian artist who did this one jazz piece in my movie had sold 600 copies worldwide before my movie. Before my film was released just on the announcement that they were included people tracked down the music, and they sold something like 6,000 more copies. Why you're treated like you're exploiting this music makes no sense. If they're going to make a tough deal for you, just be up front about it. But this sort of, "We don't have time for you. What do you want?" stringing along is nonsense. And I'm the producer on THE BROWN BUNNY. I didn't have a music supervisor. I did the licensing for BUFFALO 66 and THE BROWN BUNNY. And of all my memories of making the film, that's my most painful memories.

    so the real perversion here is the guy who discovers something obscure, labors over it to rescue it from decaying media, make it popular again by distributing it in new art, which means more exposure for the original artist, and what thanks does he get for that? HE GETS PUNISHED

    that's the state of intellectual property

    fuck intellectual property

    the entire concept is bankrupt

    we need to not just ignore, but we must somehow actively subvert and destroy, to the best we can, the bankrupt, dead concept so called intellectual property

    its a dead fucking farce

  • by deadline (14171) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @04:20PM (#24548565) Homepage

    If you look at the disruptive growth of Linux HPC clusters, you will find that there are no IP agreements. I actually wrote about this: Why Linux On Clusters? [clustermonkey.net]. The absence of IP agreements allowed the HPC community to work together and grow faster than anyone imagined. On the famed Beowulf mailing list (started by Don Becker BTW) their is a free exchange of ideas and no one claims ownership of any IP. I call it a "Lawyer Free Zone" similar to what was proposed in Scotland [eetimes.com] back in the late 90's.

"Irrationality is the square root of all evil" -- Douglas Hofstadter

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