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What's the Solution To Intellectual Property? 979

StealthyRoid writes "I'm an anarcho-capitalist, and a huge supporter of property rights, both physical and intellectual. At the same time, I find the current trend of increasing penalties for minor violations, criminalizing civil IP matters, anti-consumer technologies like DRM, and abuse of the legal system by the *AA's of the world really disturbing. You'd think that by now, there'd be a reasonable solution to the problem of protecting intellectual property while at the same time maintaining the rights of consumers and protecting individuals from absurd litigation, but I have yet to find one. So, I pose these questions to the Slashdot community: 1 — Do you acknowledge the legitimacy of intellectual property to begin with? That is, do you believe that intellectual property is a valid construct equivalent to physical property, or do you think it's illusory? If not, why? 2 — If so, how would you go about protecting the rights of intellectual property holders in a way that doesn't require unfair usage limitations or resort to predatory abuse of the tort system?"
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What's the Solution To Intellectual Property?

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  • Time Limits (Score:5, Insightful)

    by EEPROMS ( 889169 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @03:22AM (#23541823)
    Easy time limits to stop patent camping. For example if you apply for a patent and get you have 12 months to produce a "product" based on the IP otherwise it goes into public domain. Or another one, patents not licensed (to make a product) or used for 3 years automatically go into public domain.
    • Re:Time Limits (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 26, 2008 @03:35AM (#23541895)
      1) Company A gets the patent, licenses it to shell company B.
      2) Company B does nothing with the patent license, but since A has licensed it to *someone* - it wont automatically go into public domain
      3) Profit!
      • Re:Time Limits (Score:4, Interesting)

        by tacocat ( 527354 ) <> on Monday May 26, 2008 @08:54AM (#23543543)

        I like the first post about time limits but...

        • Think the time limit is too short for most. 12 months to produce a product may push you into a position where you are time constrained to make your product to market before you are ready to do so. I love this idea, but think one year is too tight.
        • Return of patents to the public domain is also great.

        The issue with a patent license is probably something that will become obvious to the business involved and may turn into a contingency of the contract. One possible outcome would be to have the contract execute fines or additional fees if the lessee fails to produce a product in a time period that is 75% of the patent time limit. (Recall that I don't agree with 12 months so I used 75% instead.) This will greatly inhibit the tendency for companies to make money by leasing patents because the risk to the lessee is much greater.

        But I think the intention here is to force patent holders to play out their hand on their patents and not just camp on the intellectual territory surrounding their product. Where I work they routinely have calls for more patents of any kind to try and expand on the IP range that they cover to try and prevent competition. There is no intention of executing 90% of the patents and for many, they are obsolete by the time they are granted. But it screws with anyone attempting to compete.

        We would go along ways to revert back to the notion that you need to bring in a working demonstration of a patent to the USPTO before a patent could be granted. But today that would be unrealistic. Still, some limit must be established.

    • Re:Time Limits (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Viceice ( 462967 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @03:39AM (#23541913)
      Exactly! And further, even if a patent is actively making money, it should still expire in 10 years tops. Theres no reason in todays economy that a patent should last more than a decade. Ditto copyright. Life of creator is just rubbish.
    • Re:Time Limits (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Xiph ( 723935 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @03:50AM (#23541971)
      I noticed that this was tagged "usa" and it quotes the **AAs.
      I'd like to point out to anyone, that this is not a US-only problem, it's a problem for the entire developed world (and affects the rest).

      If a new system is to be functional, it has to do two things.

      1. Ensure that the creator is compensated for his time, and the uncertainty inherent to creating a new products and works of art.
      2. Ensure that the public gets to enjoy this product once the creator has been compensated.

      Intellectual property is a concept aimed at balancing the need to boost creativity to the benefit of the public.

      Both patronage and intellectual property ensures 1. But intellectual property is starting to fail at 2 in more than one way.
      The amount of "compensation" for the creative work, is in many industries currently pushed way beyond reasonable and DRM is an attempt to ensure that 2 will never take place.

      One of the interesting aspects, is that most of the music we see today, is still a combination of patronage and intellectual property.
      The recording & distribution companies, pay the artist to create works, but now patronage means that the artist loses his or hers rights to the music. I don't think this was the idea envisioned in Intellectual Property.

      so what's better?
      How on earth would i know, I haven't studied it intensively, and neither has most!
      • Re:Time Limits (Score:4, Insightful)

        by richie2000 ( 159732 ) <> on Monday May 26, 2008 @07:05AM (#23542925) Homepage Journal

        But intellectual property is starting to fail at 2 in more than one way.

        For most creators, IP has always failed at 1. The myth of the starving artist is not really a myth, but reality. The economics of IP has always benefited the already known or wealthy. The Internet, digitization and filesharing doesn't change the fact that it's very difficult to make money on creating imaginary goods. What it does, is lower the barrier-to-entry and create a slew of new business models based on offering the service of supplying the goods as opposed to selling rights to use the goods themselves. These business models are much more robust in light of new distribution models, and can in fact be seen as thriving from them whereas the old models wither and die.

        The philosophical/social side of the equation looks like this: Intellectual Property = information.

        Thus, if you want to control intellectual property, you need to be able to control the information exchanged between people. That is a very difficult thing to do, and will most likely give you a totalitarian society as a side effect.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by teh kurisu ( 701097 )

      IIRC a patent by default only lasts for four years, and has to be renewed after that, every four years, up to a maximum of 20 years.

      Can anybody give any insight as to what the requirements are for a patent to be renewed? Is it just a case of bureaucracy and fee-paying, or is there some requirement, as suggested above, to prove that the patent is actually being used?

      And if not, would the renewal point be a good mechanism for introducing such a requirement?

      • Re:Time Limits (Score:4, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 26, 2008 @06:17AM (#23542687)
        In the US maintenance fees are due according to the following Schedule:

        Time after grant Non-small entity/Small entity

        3.5 years $930.00/$465.00
        7.5 years $2,360.00/$1,180.00
        11.5 years $3,910.00/$1,955.00

        There is a six month grace period to pay for which a surcharge of $130/65 is charged. There are no other requirements to keep a patent in force (well, other than having the patent held invalid or unenforceable by a court)

        In many countries outside the US fees are charged annually, although I'm not familiar with the various amounts.
  • by n3r0.m4dski11z ( 447312 ) * on Monday May 26, 2008 @03:24AM (#23541827) Homepage Journal
    farmers have shared seed for thousands of years. Now monstanto claims they own the seeds. When you start fucking with seeds and shit the entire paradigm of money for ideas breaks down. you are not god, we do not owe you tribute.. all IP is this way
    • by Justifiable_Delusion ( 759339 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @04:42AM (#23542261) Homepage
      See, this response is flawed. Monsanto does own their seeds because they invested a lot of time and money in the traits of those seeds. Nothing is being stolen from the farmers...they can use the same old seeds they have been using for thousands of years. You, person who thinks scarcity is artificial, have never lived in a world in which you must fight for your food or you must kill in order to stay alive. Business must make profit in order to enrich your life. DO not expect freedom of existence without a fight for must earn it.

      Now at the same time, Monsanto does not get to fly those seeds over random farms and drop them and then sue those farmers, thats bad business, so don't think I love this company, but dammit you fools, don't think some scientist in a lab didn't work their ass off to create this amazing thing. And dammit, they better make some money, otherwise all that scientist can do for a living is steal shit from you...course you live in a world in which there is no scarcity, so no one would ever steal from you.
      • by Elldallan ( 901501 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @06:04AM (#23542637)
        Well the problem with what you just mentioned is when the seeds does what comes naturally to them, that is spread and when the gene modified seeds spreads to a different farmers field he apparently owes monsanto extortion(royalty) fees.

        A farmer in a community can't do without paying Monsanto royalty fees a few years after another farmer in that community decides he wants to use them.

        That system is inherently flawed because the protected property will spread all on it's own regardless of the wishes of the original user or any new involuntary users.
        • by monxrtr ( 1105563 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @08:31AM (#23543419)
          Prior art = the multiplication and growth of seeds. Monsanto has conscripted "air", and is now charging you a fee to breath air. Monsanto is infringing on nature, is infringing on the bounty nature hath provided, is stealing from you. You can see clearly th incentive for Monsanto is to create an internet virus that invades every field eliminating natural competition and then collect extortion fees.

          Copying, the action, the method, the process, of copying, is "IP" just as much as any product is "IP". So how is it all "IP" copies the ideas of copying and limiting copying?

          COPYING IS PUBLIC DOMAIN TECHNOLOGY, with billions of years of prior art. And all "IP" claims are infringing that public domain technology, and are therefore invalid.

          Stupid clueless IP proponent idiots are deaf, dumb, and blind as to how they are copying the ideas of others whilst crying like infant children how people copy them while refusing to see how they copy others. It's no wonder IP proponents get their clocks cleaned in debates on philosophical, ethical, economic, and scientific grounds. They are in one word, demonstrably "*dumb*".
      • by Daengbo ( 523424 ) <daengbo AT gmail DOT com> on Monday May 26, 2008 @06:12AM (#23542673) Homepage Journal
        Biology shouldn't be patentable. Period.

        Monsanto invested a lot of time and money making their seeds. They did.

        You know what? For millenia, men have spent their entire lives breeding stock or hybriding plants in order to get what they wanted. Did they own the rights to every offspring? No. They got to sell that animal or plant once. They could keep the genetic line in their possession and only sell meat or flour or whatever, but once that thing was out in the world, it was everyone's.

        Tell me one good reason why GE is different.
      • by iive ( 721743 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @07:16AM (#23542977)

        Now at the same time, Monsanto does not get to fly those seeds over random farms and drop them and then sue those farmers, thats bad business,....
        Surprisingly enough, but they do. Here [] is the story of a farmer who got his crops contaminated with Monsanto's GMO genes (cross breed from neighbor's crop) and Monsanto went ahead and sued him for patent infringement. And they won.
        (Watch documentary "The Future of the Food" for more details)

        The biggest problem here is how to revert to non-contaminated crops and how to prevent future contamination (aka stop the wind from blowing).
    • by Alwin Henseler ( 640539 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @05:10AM (#23542377)

      the entire paradigm of money for ideas (..) all IP is this way
      Not really... once you understand what exactly the 'property' in IP is, it makes perfect sense.

      The keyword is 'exclusive', meaning only 1 person can use it at a time. If I use a car to drive from A to B, you cannot use it at the same time to drive from C to D. All physical property works that way, somehow.

      Now for IP, many people think it's the patented/copyright work that is the 'property' in IP. It isn't - you can copy things anyway, so they're not really scarce. It is the right to determine who is allowed to make copies and when, that is regarded as 'property'. And this is exclusive. Only 1 person or organisation can hold the copyright on a work at any given time. This right is the (artificially) scarce item that is used/inherited/sold and so on. Once you understand this, IP makes perfect sense from a conceptual point of view. I don't like this concept, but it's perfectly in line with how people deal with physical property.

      Where IP doesn't make sense, is from a practical point of view. Copyright may have served a purpose 1 or 2 hundred years ago, but times have changed. I have yet to see a convincing proof that the world as a whole has benefited from past IP laws. That technological/cultural progress would have been slower without it. In todays fast-moving society, it serves even less purpose. Countless patents fall in the 'obvious' or 'bound to happen sooner or later' category. Without IP laws, these things would have been thrown onto the world for everyone to use for free. Nor are there any objective standards used to determine IP protections. Protection periods aren't calculated or estimated for optimal effect, but lobbied by greedy corporations for maximum profit. As a result, society as a whole loses.

      And then there's implementation. Take for example DRM: you hand a million customers identical 'black boxes' with identical locks, with identical content inside, then you give those customers identical keys, and you tell them: "now go open your box, but don't share what you find inside". Aliens would laugh at how silly this is. Or a company invests millions into development of a new drug, then brings it to the market, but not everyone profits because the poorest can't afford the high price. All the hard work has been done, the company wouldn't profit less if there where a group of 'freeriders' who can afford production costs but not market price, but still: millions are suffering because corporate greed is deemed more important than curing sick people.

      If it where up to me, IP laws would be scrapped from the books, so that companies can have succes by innovating faster or smarter than the competition, as opposed to having a bigger pack of lawyers. In the mean while, I just try to ignore IP law as much as I can get away with (like so many people, whether they admit it or not).
      • by gaspyy ( 514539 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @06:24AM (#23542713)
        You mix copyrights and patents.
        Neither of these concepts is inherently bad or evil.

        I am a semi-pro photographer (meaning that I earn some good money from doing commercial photography) but it's a side-job. I like being in control of my work, meaning that if you want to use a photo I made, you should ask for permission - after all I had to invest in equipment and it took considerable amount of time to create that photo; if you want to use that photo in a magazine or for advertising, you better pay up. Without that protection, I may not be doing this. If anyone could copy my work with no consequences, photography would remain strictly hobby for me.

        In other cases, IMO sometimes photographers abuse their position. For example, some wedding photographers would take photos at weddings for the customer, but retain the copyrights, so the client goes to the photographer each time they want a new set. A "work for hire" style of agreement would work better - the client pays a fee and then the photos (slides, RAWs, whatever) is their.

        In the same vein, if I'm a publishing house and decide to print Harry Potter, it's perfectly fine for the author to be compensated. Same goes for Mickey Mouse. Things get muddy when we start talking about derivative works. If I want to write a book about the Adventures of Young Gandalf, should I pay up?

        Patents are a whole different matter. Scrapping them completely wouldn't really work, but limiting the time to 2 years, requiring a working prototype, banning patents on concepts (algorithms, practices) would do wonders.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by The_Noid ( 28819 )
          If you don't want someone to use your photographs, you shouldn't give them your photographs... You don't need copyright laws to achieve that effect.

          You've said it yourself. A "work for hire" style of agreement works just fine. Someone wants a photograph, he pays you to make it. No copyrights needed at all. You can even make a contract over how they are allowed to use said photographs, so you can use ordinary contract law to protect your photos in those few cases.
  • 7 years long enough (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TheLink ( 130905 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @03:26AM (#23541839) Journal
    If we assume that technology and communications is improving, and the pace of progress is increasing then logically the duration of monopoly should get shorter and shorter rather than longer.

    Nowadays if a movie is good it makes a profit within a few weeks of its release. If it's not good, stop making bad movies then.

    It is ridiculous that there should be a monopoly for > 100 years.

    Think about it, if copyright only lasted 7 years, do you think Microsoft would dare release something as crap as Vista? They'd have to make something significantly better than Windows 2000.

    If Microsoft won't want to play by those rules, I'm sure Apple or some others will be happy to take over.

    As for patents and people talking about drugs needing long patent terms, the AFAIK drug companies spend more money on marketing (aka bribing doctors with goodies and holidays) than R&D, and FDA approval.
  • by TheMiddleRoad ( 1153113 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @03:30AM (#23541855)
    The goal should be to encourage innovation and creativity. Copyrights nowadays just last too long. This encourages hoarding because you can make tons of money by collecting essentially endless copyrights. It encourages lawsuits because the value is in the ownership and money earned over time, not improving the product and giving something people want to buy right now. It discourages derivative works because building off the original costs so much, which, for instance, seriously harms hip hop music. It also discourages new works from going commercial since you can sell a proven product much more easily than creating a new one and teaching the public about it. An individual creator deserves to make money off their work because it gives them an incentive to make more and improve our lives. The current system does the opposite so the social contract is broken. Until balance is restored, I have no problem disregarding pretty much all claims of copyright, short of selling someone's product myself. Then there's patent law...
    • by patro ( 104336 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @04:02AM (#23542051) Journal
      "The goal should be to encourage innovation and creativity."

      I think it's a misconception innovation should be encouraged.

      People are curious, they like to innovate and they will do it even if they are not compensated directly.

      A new invention brings fame to its creator and lots of people will do it for the fame only.

      I think all kinds of monetary incentives should be abolished, there should be no protection at all.

      Companies will continue to innovate, because they need to come up with new products in order to do well in the competition. Those who stagnate will be left behind.

      And what if someone copies a new product instantly? The creator will not benefit, but the society as a whole will.

      So I think the direct monetary incentive is not necessary, because dedicated inventors will come up with new inventions anyway.

      And what if there will be fewer innovations as a result of this? Would it be a big problem? Yes, the pace of technological development would be slower. So what?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by teh kurisu ( 701097 )

      I'm pretty sure Cliff Richard trotted out the old argument that artists need the income from their old stuff to survive. I imagine this to be expressed much like 'Allo 'Allo's Colonel Von Strohm, eyes bulging, red in the face, squealing, "That's my pension!"

      The fact is that allowing artists to get rich while raking in profits from old creations is the opposite of what copyright was designed to do.

      Personally I like the terms that Founders' Copyright [] allows, and don't see the need for anything longer.

    • by RAMMS+EIN ( 578166 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @05:17AM (#23542399) Homepage Journal
      ``The goal should be to encourage innovation and creativity.''

      Do we actually need to encourage these? Do we need to create laws that give inventors a way to profit from their inventions more than others?

      I've been mostly staying away from the debate, because there are too many things in there that I have no idea about. But the two things that I do know are that (1) a lot of people who participate in the debate don't know all these things, either, and (2) I resent patents for denying people who invent something that happens to have been patented from using their invention.

      That's my 2 cents.
    • by fyngyrz ( 762201 ) * on Monday May 26, 2008 @05:31AM (#23542471) Homepage Journal

      [long copyright terms] which, for instance, seriously harms hip hop music.

      [!] ...and here I thought there was no reason in the entire world for me to support long copyright terms.

  • Standard answer (Score:5, Insightful)

    by archeopterix ( 594938 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @03:30AM (#23541857) Journal

    That is, do you believe that intellectual property is a valid construct equivalent to physical property, or do you think it's illusory?
    No. As in "neither side of the alternative is true". Copyrights and patents are valid constructs, but are not and should not be equivalent to physical property. I find them tolerable as long as it's a temporary monopoly designed as an incentive to contribute to the public knowledge space . That is why I object to calling it property.
    • Re:Standard answer (Score:4, Insightful)

      by the_womble ( 580291 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @04:10AM (#23542093) Homepage Journal
      The question was posed by an anarcho-capitalist who can therefore be expected to oppose any form of state control. You are defending the idea of copyright on the (accurate) basis that it is a state-mandated temporary monopoly for the public good.

      I agree with you, but the problem is that it appears impossible to persuade governments to legislate to provide copyright and patent laws that are anything like what would be optimal for society as a whole.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Barraketh ( 630764 )
      This is exactly right. I think a lot of the problems with the current system arose from people treating IP as physical property, which implies the ability of the owner to fully control it in perpetuity. After all, your ownership of physical property never expires, why should IP be any different?

      As far as fixing the system is concerned I think the following steps would help:

      1) Forced licensing for copyrights to be used in derivative works. Something like say 15% of profits. This will allow for inno
  • IP = Information (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PMBjornerud ( 947233 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @03:31AM (#23541865)
    Intellectual Property = information.

    If you want to control intellectual property, you need to be able to control the information exchanged between people. That is a very difficult thing to do, and may give you a totalitarian society as a side effect.
  • no scarcity (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 26, 2008 @03:32AM (#23541873)
    property and intellectual property are not similar.

    property rights are important b/c of the problem of scarcity; if there were enough of everything, there wouldn't be fights over who owns what.

    with intellectual property, there is no scarcity of the idea or musical recording or what not; it's free (or close to it) to copy.

    IP (or some of it) can be arguably justified on purely utilitarian grounds to incentivize creativity, and certain rights are granted that are similar to property rights, hence the use of the word property, but the analogy is taken too far when people think of IP as actual "property"
    • Re:no scarcity (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Lonewolf666 ( 259450 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @04:36AM (#23542227)
      I think that is a good answer to question 1.

      For question 2, there are copyrights and patents to consider.

      Eric Flint (who is an author himself) makes a pretty good case for 40 years' copyright on literary works, possibly with the addition that copyright does not run out during the lifetime of the author: []
      I think this argument can be extended to movies and music.

      I think those already do more harm than good. While patents help the inventor, they also can be used against anyone who made the invention independently and just was a bit slower to file for the patent. Which is compounded by patent offices handing out patents for far too vague ideas with too little explanation. That breaks the basic covenant that the inventor gives away his secret and gets a temporary monopoly in exchange.

      Also, if you look at the history of important inventions, many of those pop up in different places at nearly the same time, not always patented. I take this as evidence that inventions happen when the time is "right" (the supporting technologies are there) and patents as incentive are not needed.

      Overall, I think the patent system is counterproductive in most cases and needs to be abolished. With the possible exception of pharmaceuticals. In that field, the clinical studies take long enough that competitors might copy the drugs before they get on the market, so the original developer pays for the research without having a benefit.
  • No (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 26, 2008 @03:32AM (#23541875)
    1. No

    Ben Franklin gave his inventions to the world, why can we not do the same? All IP is based on MINE MINE MINE and preventing people from building on your work as long as possible, under the self-interested characterization of other people as THIEVES until proven otherwise. All IP is based on rationalizations of this very selfish behavior.

    We've had enough of compromise, all that has given us is unending nibbled-to-death-by-ducks as the lawyers extend and extend and extend the reach of copyright and IP and patents. Soon your great-great-grandchildren will be living off your IP which was never the intent. It always starts as "reasonable" laws passed to encourage innovation and then pass things into public domain as soon as possible.

    Do people now feel OBLIGATED to send money to the heirs of the Shakespeare estate every time they quote the Bard? Do you send money to the heirs of Volta every time you use a battery? No? If you don't then you are a sanctimonious hypocrite.
    • Do people now feel OBLIGATED to send money to the heirs of the Shakespeare estate every time they quote the Bard? Do you send money to the heirs of Volta every time you use a battery? No? If you don't then you are a sanctimonious hypocrite.

      I've had this discussion many times in academic circles. The discussions are typically rational with well-founded arguments. Then I talk to business people and lawyers. They don't see their actions as hypocritical because their actions are legal. As difficult as it may be
  • by LS ( 57954 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @03:32AM (#23541879) Homepage
    Whenever a dispute arises regarding intellectual property, it is usually, though not always, rooted in physical property. For instance, disks, books, or other material holding that property. The laws surrounding intellectual property limit use of your own physical property. For instance, you can purchase a hard disk with the bits set randomly, but once you re-arrange the magnetic charges in a specific fashion, you are infringing upon someone else's rights. This goes to show that intellectual property is indeed an illusion. Shouldn't you be able to do what ever you'd like with that chunk of metal in your room?

    You can also look at ideas akin to something like fire. You take a candle and light another candle, and nothing was taking from the first candle. Ideas are the same - they are not a limited resource and thus should not be analogized to physical property.

    I live in China right now, and the concept of intellectual property is relatively new here. It's a more natural part of Chinese culture to take ideas from each other. Instead of innovating into uncharted territory, Chinese innovate in place, creating immense depth within a single discipline, for instance martial arts, tea drinking, and calligraphy. This is because there are no intellectual property laws retarding development of these disciplines, and people have been copying and improving upon each others' techniques for thousands of years, spreading across a huge nation.

    Chinese culture's reputation for the mysterious and secretive also comes out of this. With no protection of intellectual property laws, valuable ideas are kept secret through guilds and lineages.

    Anyway just a few thoughts.

    • For instance, you can purchase a hard disk with the bits set randomly, but once you re-arrange the magnetic charges in a specific fashion, you are infringing upon someone else's rights. This goes to show that intellectual property is indeed an illusion. Shouldn't you be able to do what ever you'd like with that chunk of metal in your room?

      These sorts of hyper-reductionist arguments are stupid. At the end of the day a human is just a bunch of atoms. Shouldn't I be able to disrupt those atoms the same way I can disrupt the atoms in my own house if I want? And before you start on who "owns" atoms, "ownership" is just an arrangement of neuronal connections in people heads. ENOUGH!

      If we accept that we're talking about things at a human level, not at an absurd reductionist level, then both ownership and copyright are meaningful terms about which we are able to have a discussion, and neither is an "illusion" as you state.


      • by LS ( 57954 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @05:45AM (#23542541) Homepage
        Your point is a good one, and one that I've thought about, but what is your meaning? That scientifically derived models of reality aren't real in some way and shouldn't be used for decision making? As long as all known factors are taken into account, I don't see a problem with reductionism. It's the basis of science, and programmers do it frequently when debugging at a high-level doesn't provide enough information, and the machine code must be directly investigated.

        You state the truth, but seem to fear and deny it. Ownership is not an inherent part of reality, but actually just a set of implicit and explicit contracts between people. And people are to some degree defined by the arrangement of neuronal connections in their heads.

        Once we've established the concept of ownership, what you do to those atoms considered to be in the realm of your ownership is your business, including the atoms in your body. Which is why I'm against drug laws.

        Taking it one step further, we create all kinds of ideals, concepts, and symbol structures to model our reality (freedom, rights, ownership, nations, laws, etc). But they are once again just implicit contracts between groups of neuronal structures, and they only maintain their integrity when enough power and incentive is in place to assert enforcement in control, and not whether they are "right" or "wrong". You can see the illusory nature of these mental constructs during revolutions and wars. You've just lived in the nuclear era where large-scale and quick revolutionary change hasn't happened in your own lifetime so you somehow think these concepts are inherent in reality, as most people do, and fear the alternative.

        Humans are just as subject to natural selection and pack/herd behavior as any other animal, and you could get selected out tomorrow by a car on the street. And you will find that your body is no ideal sphere of light, but a group of atoms in a temporary stable arrangement that is about to lose coherence, and you will momentarily awaken and realize that you, just like most everyone else in society, is under layer after layer of illusion and abstraction about what is really happening.

        Working at a high-level (or human level as you call it) makes things easier and quicker to discuss, but sometimes you have to go to a low-level (or reductionist level as you call it) to clear up ambiguity and apparent contradiction.

        So you can decide to insult your own intelligence by making it personal and calling me stupid, or you can provide a well thought out response, as I by no means believe that I have all the right answers.
  • by Jane Q. Public ( 1010737 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @03:36AM (#23541901)
    The system worked fine before it was repeatedly "fixed" in recent years. Increasing copyright periods to ridiculous lengths, DMCA, allowing software patents, etc.

    Our system worked FINE. The Internet actually brought no new cards to the table except speed. I could go on about that one for a long time, and bring up copy protection in the context of player pianos (which court cases also involved patentability of "software"). But that would take up a lot of time and space.

    In a nutshell: If it ain't broke, don't fix it. It wasn't broke. But they did it anyway, since the mid-90s, all in the name of corporate protectionism and profit. And in the process, they broke it pretty badly.

    The solution is simple: put the laws back the way they were, when they actually WORKED and we had, arguably, the best-working set of "IP" laws in the world.
    • by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @05:00AM (#23542335) Journal
      That was sorta what I was already wondering.

      In the west we already had a concept of, basically: you bought _a_ book, you didn't buy the rights to the novel. You bought _a_ record, you didn't buy the rights to that band's album. You bought _a_ (copy of the) newspaper, you didn't buy _the_ newspaper. Etc. It worked. Most people could already wrap their mind around that.

      We had a first sale doctrine that worked perfectly well with that too. Yes, you didn't buy the rights to the novel, for example, but you bought a book and you can do almost whatever you want with it. Resell it, lend it to your friend, read it to your kid at bedtime, etc.

      Then came for example software and tried to handwave in the fallacy that they need completely other constructs, for something that was already solved for everything else. See, you need to _license_ software, because, OMG, otherwise you'd think you bought the rights to that program as a whole! WTH? We already had the distinction between buying a book, and buying the ownership of a novel itself. You didn't need to "license" a book, or a vinyl record, or a newspaper.

      Even after the loophole of, basically, "yeah, but you need to copy the program to memory, which is making a copy, and you need a license to make copies" was closed, we got stuck with the same stupidity as a before. Nah, see, it's _licensed_, not sold, 'cause if we sold it you might think you bought the rights to Vista as a whole!

      Exactly wth is the fundamental difference between buying a copy of, say, Vista, and buying a copy of Huckleberry Finn? I'll go on a limb and say that people would have had no trouble using the pre-existing concept for software too.

      And then based on the license stupidity, we had increasingly stupid stuff snuck in as licensing terms, that no consumer rights law would have allowed otherwise. E.g., you can't resell it. (See the recent AutoCAD lawsuit, but also all the software where you have to use up a serial number to use it, etc.) You can resell your old book, your old vinyl records, even your old copy of The New York times if you find someone interested in that particular issue, but you can't resell your old copy of AutoCAD. 'Cause it's licensed not sold. Some presume to unilaterally decide what else you can run on that computer. (E.g., it's quite common for game copy-protections to just quit or do this and that to you, if they think you have a CD emulator running on that computer.) Or what they can do to your computer. Or what you can use it for. Etc. Everything that consumer protection laws gave you for books, records, etc, the license took away for software.

      And now unsurprisingly we see the guys from the other media, essentially go, "wait, wait, you mean we wouldn't have had to give customers all those rights, if we called it a license too? Damn, we want some of that too!" All the aberrations and stupidities built on that fallacy for software, we're now seeing trickling back to, say, movies and music. They too want a DRM scheme to prevent you from reselling it. They too want to unilaterally require your DVD player to phone home and spy on you, 'cause, hey, if software can do that, they want it too. They too want a say in what you can use the DVD for, and in which devices. (See copy protected CDs which actually play a reduced bit rate MP3 instead of the uncompressed music, if you play them on a computer.) Etc.

      Heck, even Sony's infamous copy protection rootkit was, essentially, just trying to get the same control over that music as they have over software. In a misguided and flawed way, to be sure, but they didn't do anything much more underhanded than their copy protection already does for games.

      And methinks it's about high time to say a collective, "WTF?" Or rather, a, "No, you don't. You software guys learn to live with what already worked for everything else, instead of everyone else copying your invented loopholes. Yes, you sold a copy, not the rights to the program. We know that. That already applied to everyone who bought a copy o
  • by DullTrev ( 533249 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @03:45AM (#23541945) Homepage
    The solution to intellectual property is obvious. Get rid of the intellectuals.
  • by Cordath ( 581672 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @03:48AM (#23541951)
    Why do we have IP laws in the first place? Contrary to what many evidently believe, it's not so that people or companies with good ideas can get rich. It's to foster innovation by ensuring that there is adequate incentive for people to innovate. (Read: Not 100 years of copyright so your great-grandchildren can keep milking it.) Any IP law that impedes innovation should be pruned from the books with prejudice. While it would take a rather extensive amount of pruning to eliminate every IP law that stifles innovation, a simple exemption for innovators might be all that is needed.

    Although it would probably be difficult to implement in such a way that the spirit would not be overcome by the letter of the law, I would like to see exemptions to all existing IP laws that apply to those who take copyrighted or patented ideas and produce something original and of merit. If some patent-troll firm amassed a bunch of software patents without producing viable products, real software companies producing actual software could use this exemption and use those ideas without paying ransom or getting sued.

    Of course, it might be better to just prune away.
  • by SanityInAnarchy ( 655584 ) <> on Monday May 26, 2008 @03:48AM (#23541959) Journal

    Do you acknowledge the legitimacy of intellectual property to begin with?

    The concept has its merits, but RMS makes a good point here. Using the term "Intellectual Property" distracts from what we're really talking about: Trademarks, Copyrights, and Patents.

    And, within that, it's possible to break things down even more. Math should never be patentable. English prose should pretty much always be copyrightable. And so on.

    That is, do you believe that intellectual property is a valid construct equivalent to physical property, or do you think it's illusory?
    Oh, it absolutely is illusory. Big fat "duh" on that point. What you're asking is whether or not we should behave as though it's equivalent to physical property.

    I do believe IP -- especially copyright -- is a valuable concept. It's not equivalent to physical property. Specifically, copying something to which you do not have the right is not equivalent to physical theft -- and, more importantly, the only way to "steal" intellectual property would be to obtain legal copyright for something you shouldn't have.

    And I believe we're far too early in the game to even know what the ethics around this should be.

    If so, how would you go about protecting the rights of intellectual property holders in a way that doesn't require unfair usage limitations or resort to predatory abuse of the tort system?
    That's a bit over my head, but if your concern is things like DRM, that's absurdly easy to deal with: Just don't. It is entirely possible to make money without DRM.

    In more depth: What I would do is remove DRM from the game, drop the minimum damages (whatever that's called?) for lawsuits, and try to educate the courts a bit on technology, so that real proof is actually required.

    And then, I would let the content creators figure it out for themselves.

    As a content creator, I would stop seeing piracy as anything other than a competitor, and start looking at what I can do to compete. For successful examples, look at real-world systems which don't have a serious piracy problem, and also don't employ any of the tactics we despise (DRM, etc). Big, obvious examples: Radio, World of Warcraft, most books, and some indie music sites.
  • by sweet_petunias_full_ ( 1091547 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @03:49AM (#23541967)
    To save you 300 pages of reading "Against Intellectual Monopoly," basically patents don't spur innovation, not even the ones on concrete inventions. Case after case is presented where it is clear that the idea of spurring innovation through patents is flawed at best, and highly damaging at worst. They basically prove that steam engine development was slowed down by patents and only really began to chug when the patents expired. Inventors you thought were heroes finally come across in a more realistic light. They present lots of examples like this and you just basically see the light (at the end of the tunnel?). Now, if your goal was to slow down technological progress or science itself, then maybe patents would be a good idea.

    Before reading some chapters from Boldrin & Levine I was somewhat convinced that copyright at least had some beneficial elements to it that should be respected and preserved, but they sure put the nail in that coffin too. They went through the origins of copyright as a *relaxation* to a censorship regime by the crown (IIRC), and it just went downhill from there. Now it just seems like copyright is extended to every damn little thing, and that wasn't the original purpose of it by far. While they don't prove that removing copyright would be beneficial to everyone, they take a shot at showing that it wouldn't be a total disaster to authors/artists. For everyone else, it wouldn't prevent new books from being written, new music from being produced, etc., and it would be a net gainer, by far.

    If you have the time to read a 300 page book this summer, by all means at least read a few chapters of Boldrin & Levine. You will understand intellectual property much better and hopefully lose a few sacred cows in the process.

    You can select what you may want to read from this landing page: []
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 26, 2008 @03:59AM (#23542015)

    I'm an anarcho-capitalist, and a huge supporter of property rights, both physical and intellectual.
    Then you're misguided at best.

    Physical property and intellectual "property" rights are incompatible. You simply can't successfully have both - the one necessarily undermines the other, as Stephan Kinsella laid out. See [], particularly "Against Intellectual Property" [] [PDF].

    Since the choice is ultimately between physical property rights and intellectual "property" rights (and of course I already think the latter are rather suspect for a number of other reasons) I simply choose physical property rights.

    When people say "but I'P' is valuable!" I say - of course it is, each EU or US patent granted steals value from literally hundreds of millions of people's physical property rights. A patent lets you usurp the value of everyone's physical property - A patent, by definition, says "you can no longer make your physical property into this particular form without my permission".

    An I"P" system is death of a thousand cuts to the physical property system. "Anarcho-capitalists" who think they can support both should get a clue.

  • by jcr ( 53032 ) < .ta. .rcj.> on Monday May 26, 2008 @04:00AM (#23542027) Journal
    The purpose of patents is to get inventors to disclose their inventions in exchange for a temporary monopoly. It's a deal between the inventor and everybody else: tell us how you did it, and we won't compete with you for a set amount of time. The alternative is that the inventor attempts to keep it a secret, and the idea dies with him.

  • Some ideas (Score:3, Insightful)

    by NickHydroxide ( 870424 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @04:03AM (#23542057)
    1) Yes, I acknowledge intellectual property as a legitimate construct. More specifically, I acknowledge the exclusive right to the creator or sponsor of intangible content to derive income for a limited period of time.

    2) As many people have said (and I am sure will continue to say), time-limits need to be shortened. Simple enough to make that statement without a discrete number of years, I know, but I don't have one as yet.

    Usage rights need to be effectively unlimited - i.e. treat the purchaser of a "licence" to access/use intellectual property the same as a sole purchaser of tangible property. I can copy, backup, sell, modify, install on multiple machines, change hardware, do whatever I like. If the copyright holder grants/sells to me a right to use that intellectual property, he forfeits all other "rights" with respect to me.

    This is talking primarily in the personal/domestic setting. I realise that in the commercial world, licences which are limited (both in duration and use) are commonplace and useful. These generally, however, arise from *signed* contracts. Don't try and BS us with this click-through, shrink wrap EULA business.

    Outlaw any technology which impinges on a purchaser's right to access his purchase. DRM, TPM, etc, throw it out the window.

    Establish *reasonable* penalties for infringement. Million dollar file for downloading a movie from Channel BT? Disproportionate penalties tend to encourage flouting of the law, IMO. If I were slugged $100 for a movie I downloaded illegitimately, I would probably say "fair cop". Set up an IP tribunal to stop the combative litigation style of the MAFIAA.

    In the same vein, do not allow IP holders to act as police (a la DMCA takedown notices). Do not tolerate any conflicts of interest by letting ISPs and content producers to get into bed together. Ban any so-called "TOS" which permit your ISP to boot you off your service if they think you are serving copyrighted material. Provide safe-harbour protection to ISPs so they can ignore threats from IP holders. Packet filtering/inspection is and should be treated as a gross invasion of privacy.

    This is just a start. I'm sure there are a good deal of other great ideas.
  • by kaltkalt ( 620110 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @04:04AM (#23542063)
    I'm very skeptical of IP, for the most part. Trademarks are legitimate because they prevent consumer fraud, one brand pretending to be another. If anyone could use the Nike name/label everyone would be ripped off all the time. However the law should not require trademark holders to zealously defend their names or be deemed to lose them. Why encourage, or even require litigation? Patents, for bona finde inventions, not derivatives, not marketing systems, not software, not combinations of inventions (a vaccuum cleaner with a lightbulb should not be patentable, but the first internal conbustion engine should be) are legitimate. However, these days there should only be about 1 or 2 patents per year. If even that. Maybe 1 or 2 every couple of years. A patent being granted should be a rare thing, newsworthy in and of itself. Nowadays, pretty much everything new and unique has already been made. I won't rehash patent abuse here on Slashdot - you all know better than everyone else how patents are abused. No more than 1 invention per year is truly unique and worthy of patent protection (for a limited time, of course). Copyrights have proven to be worthless. Copyright provides absolutely zero incentive for artists to create works - people with artistic talent will create works of art no matter whether they can have a financial monopoly on said works. In fact, as a rule of thumb, works made for profit are far worse than works made for art's sake. Copyright has been used for nothing more than to stifle free expression, to blackmail consumers, and to purge knowledge and art from availability. I don't mean just from the public domain. Everything should be in the public domain. I mean there are movies and books that are out of print and unavailable b/c they can't be legally purchased! Anything that reduces the available knowledge to mankind needs to be done away with. But on a more personal level, the idea that people have to pay to sing happy birthday in a movie, that a restaurant owner can't turn on the radio in his establishment (let alone play a CD), or that I can't make a mix CD for a friend is simply asinine and contrary to a free society. When you make something, the only thing you deserve is credit for the work. Plaigairism is bad. Nobody should be able to take credit for your work - but credit is all you deserve. Nothing more. In sum: Copyright has to go. Patent needs to be limited to, say, the top 5 submissions per year (and that's generous, it should be 1 per year at most). Trademark is legitimate.
  • by Whuffo ( 1043790 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @04:06AM (#23542075) Homepage Journal
    The whole concept of "intellectual property" was created out of nothing. For many years we've had trademarks, patents, and copyrights; these protected the various creative activities and allowed the creators to reap the profit of their labors and at the same time allow these labors to enter the public domain where they'd enrich society as a whole.

    But corporate interests have been hard at work. Many creative artists no longer own what they produce; the new improved laws reduce their products to nothing more than "work for hire" for their corporate masters. The creators don't reap the profit of their labors anymore. And there's also been changes in the laws that extend the protections for these creators long, long beyond what was a fair exchange between the creator's interests and the public interest.

    It's not enough that the whole "protect creators, protect the public interest" system has been perverted in the name of corporate profit. To further enrich themselves, they hired marketing and public relations experts. The false concept of "intellectual property" was created and used to justify even more perversions of our legal system. You can only infringe a copyright - but if you can call it property then you can say that someone is stealing your property. Bring on the draconian criminal penalties and secure the corporate interests from having to compete in the modern net-connected world.

    Using music as an example: Record companies and their trade associations file lawsuits against their customers by the thousands to protect their copyrights. Those people didn't write or perform any music; where did they get their copyrights from? They say they're doing this to protect the artists - but those artists aren't getting much (if any) of the profits from their creative works. The real creators don't even own what they create; the copyrights were "stolen" by the record companies and the new improved laws mean they won't have to release the music into the public domain for a very, very long time (if ever).

    The motion picture studios have been watching and they're starting to play the same games.

    Note well: none of this is to protect the artists. It's to protect corporate profits, pure and simple. As long as they can get away with using "intellectual property" to get lawmakers to further protect their profit margins they will. But at the end of the day it's still nothing more than a phrase that means less than nothing. Ideas are not property; never have been, never will.

  • False dichotomy! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Eric Smith ( 4379 ) * on Monday May 26, 2008 @04:20AM (#23542147) Homepage Journal

    Do you acknowledge the legitimacy of intellectual property to begin with? That is, do you believe that intellectual property is a valid construct equivalent to physical property, or do you think it's illusory?
    Your premise that intellectual property has to be either equivalent to physical property or illusory is mistaken. It's entirely possible, perhaps even likely, that intellectual property is a valid construct but NOT equivalent to physical property.

    In fact, by its very nature it would have to not be equivalent. For example, if I infringe your intellectual property, I haven't deprived you of the use of it, as would be the case if I stole your physical property. Since the natural consequences of infringement are different, it follows that the rights should not be completely equivalent. However, that's not at all the same as saying that there shouldn't be any intellectual property rights.

  • by Joce640k ( 829181 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @04:31AM (#23542207) Homepage
    Profits are up for cinema, DVDs, ringtones, etc., it's only the music industry which is currently suffering.

    Maybe the problem is with their product, not the copying.

    I think the way people listen to music has moved away from the "album" and more towards "top 40". Apple has partly responded to this and is making a lot of money from selling music. The RIAA OTOH has completely failed to respond, with inevitable consequences.

  • by dermond ( 33903 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @04:34AM (#23542219)
    artificial scarcity: so called "intellectual property" introduces an artificial scarcity into something that could be useful to all of us without extra costs: information and knowledge. so only kind of "intellectual property" reduces the usefulness of this goods. (this is something that patents, copyright, etc.. have all in common).

    so why then do we have IP at all? because capitalism can only deal with scarcity: you can not sell sand in the desert. this shows a principal problem with capitalism. and if you look a bit closer then you see that this does not only happen with intellectual goods but with almost everything that capitalism deals with: it introduces artificial scarcity:

    • advertisement: to create new demand for mostly useless things where there was no demand before.
    • war: the most effective way to create new demand: destroy what was there before, create insecurity and create weapons that "protect", ...
    • crisis: like the bursting housing bubble...
    • ....
    my employer pays me to filter out spam for him. other people are being payed by there employer to send out spam. etc..etc..

    the capitalist system is fundamentally broken. every year 10 million people are starving even though there would be enough food to feed them all... capitalism just does not cater to those with no money...

    our so called "democracy" is becomming more of a farce every day: voters being manipulated by $$$-media... those with enough corporations behind them have more money for their election campaign... this all leeds to the fact that you can only rule if you represent the profit-interests of the big corporations...

    greetings mond.

  • Legal hang-ups (Score:5, Insightful)

    by istartedi ( 132515 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @04:35AM (#23542221) Journal

    Many Slashdotters are adamant in their assertion that intellectual property is not a valid right or concept. They often cite legal history, and technicly they are correct. However, it seems they are doing this more for rhetorical purposes, as opposed to actually caring about how the law is constructed. The argument usually goes something like, "IP theft isn't stealing, it's copyright infringement". I always like to counter this with something like, "would you rather I steal $50,000 from you or embezzle it?". It is readily apparent that the effect is the same.

    Therefore, I personally DO recognize IP as a valid concept and right. If I'm the first cave-man to discover fire after rubbing sticks together for months, and you light your fire from mine without rewarding me, you do indeed take something from me. The fire-maker deservers to be fed from the next kill, lest the wheel-maker observes that the fire-maker starved, and decides to give up on his endeavor.

    OTOH, when the fire-maker stomps out fires and demands a portion of the meat in perpetuity, he shouldn't be surprised when he gets clubbed on the head.

    In other words--common sense.

    Therefore, software patents -- get rid of 'em. They dont't incentivise. They just make software developers worry. Everybody knows it.

    *AA enforcement? None on low-quality encodings that get radio airplay. Why? because you can already time-shift broadcast radio. Pulling it off digitally is really just the same thing, format-shifted. Same deal for music vids, which you could have legitimately recorded off MTV 25 years ago with your VHS (in fact, WB and some other studios are putting up their own YouTube channels with classic MTV vids, perhaps they finally are realizing it's actually good for their PR and not taking away from new sales). High-quality encodings and/or lossless recording should be more restricted. The penalty should be ordinary restitution: steal 100 CDs worth of music, pay 200 CD equivalent penalty. None of this $30,000 business for downloading one song.

    IP in the music/vid business can be a *good* thing. Bits don't go to landfill. Availability of high-quality recordings in a manner that ensures payment will help that.

    Abandoned works should lapse into the public domain, but registration shouldn't be required for copyright on each work. I could go on and on...

    The short answer though, is common sense. Isn't it always? Unfortunately, it always seems to be in short supply. The laws are written by lawyers who are paid by businesses. Hence, all the legal hang-ups.

  • by gessel ( 310103 ) * on Monday May 26, 2008 @04:44AM (#23542273) Homepage
    Ideas are not equivalent to tangible property because (among other reasons):

    1) There is no natural scarcity of ideas. Taking a thing deprives the person it is taken from of its use. If two people share an idea, both have it and neither the less. The two outcomes are diametrically opposed, ideas are the opposite of property. They are not subject to property. Dissemination of ideas increases the sum of knowledge, whether for profit or not. The purpose of patent and copyright law is to maximize the creation and dissemination of knowledge.

    2) To pretend that an idea can be owned as property suggests that one owns and has the right to exercise control over another's thoughts. This is absurd and unmanageable.

    3) If an idea is property, there is no basis to suggest that ownership of an idea shouldn't be permanent and heritable as other property is. This would be an economic and social disaster.


    The constitution provides a simple justification for granting a monopoly to an inventor on the use of their idea: "to promote the progress of science and the useful arts." This is a noble goal, one I think generally embraced be even the opponents of the current copyright regime. This suggests a simple and obvious test for laws meant to regulate the temporary monopolies: if a given law can be proven to promote the progress of science and the useful arts, we are fairly subject to the limitations thereof so long as we (We) agree with the goal of promoting the progress of science and the useful arts. If a law regulating the free use and exchange of ideas cannot be proven to promote the progress of science and the useful arts it is wrong and unconstitutional.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gsslay ( 807818 )

      There is no natural scarcity of ideas.

      I have an idea that will solve world hunger and eradicate disease. Contrary to what you say I believe this idea to be very scarce. It has taken me years of effort and heaps of money to formulate this idea. I really, really want to share this idea with you, but not unreasonably I don't believe I should have to shoulder all the cost of creating it on my own. I want paying, and until then it's going to remain my secret. Owning my secret is very similar to owning my property because you can't have it, but

  • by Duncan Blackthorne ( 1095849 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @05:21AM (#23542411)
    We keep making the same mistakes over and over again. There are things you can't legislate, like morality and common sense, for instance. Protection of so-called IP shouldn't be legislated, it should just be understood. On the other side of the equation are people who likewise keep making the same mistakes over and over again: they have no proper sense of scale when it comes to many things; rather than just stopping at "fair use", they have to blow it all out of proportion and start thinking things like "hey, I can make 10,000 copies of this CD and sell them and make all sorts of money and not have invested much of anything!". Wrong!

    There shouldn't have to be complicated laws concerning IP, it should be very simple:
    * If you profit from it, you have to pay the price; if you don't profit from it, you shouldn't have to pay extra.
    * You can copy it, but only for your own private use; if you give it to someone else, you're risking having to pay a price.
    * If you're attracting attention to yourself (i.e. you're being excessive) then you get in trouble.

    Things like P2P could be construed as "being excessive" in my book. If you're giving away music to people on the other side of the planet that you haven't met and never will meet (and who you can't even communicate with because you speak a different language even), then that might be considered excessive. If you're copying a CD for your 5 best friends then that's not anywhere near as excessive. If you're making mix CDs and selling them then you're an idiot who's being excessive and you'll get what you deserve. If you're digitally recording a TV show and burning it to DVD so your freinds who don't get that channel can watch it, that's OK. If you're compiling a whole season of a show and selling DVDs of it on the internet, then you're going to find yourself in trouble with the law. If you burn a copy of a game for a friend who can't afford it because he's a student and is scratching to get by, then what's the big deal? If you're a warez dude and you're cracking that game and letting thousands of complete strangers download it to show how cool you are, then you're a moron and you get what you deserve when they break your door down. I could go on and on but I think I make myself clear?

  • Here's a recent post of mine on IP - excerpts of others follow below it.

    URL to first is: []
    URL to rest is: []

    Natural Intellectual Property Unnaturally Privileged

    Potentially having high market value, an intellectual work must be regarded as property in its own right. Among other things, this is because its value, whether utilitarian or aesthetic, can be appropriated by theft (irrespective of the possibility that any number of copies may remain with its possessor).

    Despite crazy definitions to the contrary, thieves do not have uppermost in their minds the concept or intent of denying a legitimate owner the use of their property, but rather the concept and intent of seizing valuable/saleable property without payment (where the effort of theft is expected to be lower than the amount expected to be recovered through possession/use/benefit/exchange of the stolen property).

    One cannot simply have a statutory penalty for violation of someone's privacy right. One must also consider the market value of the intellectual property so appropriated, and ideally the cost of its return/repossession.

    The fundamental flaw in most people's notions of IP is not primarily that creation confers ownership (this tends to be coincident even with a first-comer idea), but that one should continue to own one's IP even after one has parted with it (sale or gift). But for this, the legitimate owner of a book cannot be stealing its author's property by making copies of their purchased book, unless one sustains the idea that the author owns all copies of their book even after they've sold them.

    So it's quite possible to accept intellectual property as arising out of natural law, e.g. you write a book, you have absolute ownership and control over that book (even without the state's support, an individual can expect to protect it). Similarly with copies: you make a copy, you have absolute ownership and control over that copy. However, the author has no natural right to control what people do with the copies they purchase, e.g. making further copies or derivatives. Privileging the author to the contrary (for the publisher's benefit) is the unnatural misstep, the state's attachment of strings that nature did not.

    Copyright is unnatural. All state granted monopolies are unnatural, patent included.

    However, despite the unnatural privileges granted to its creators, intellectual property is nevertheless natural. The effective monopoly over access to one's private domain and control over the material and intellectual properties within it is also natural, and thus to be protected by the state. []

    Restore Everyone's Intellectual Property Rights - Abolish Copyright ...A sheet of paper is material property. A poem is intellectual property. Aside from the practical issues arising from ... to manufacture copies or derivatives of their own intellectual property unless they have obtained licence from the ... to a publisher. Without copyright, purchasers of intellectual property enjoy the restoration of their natural right to ... restoration of rights does not weaken respect for intellectual property, but strengthens it. There is still no right to ... [] 148 days ago

    IP is Indeed Property ..., copyright makes people think that all intellectual property is a pretence, even private intellectual property ... because copyright is about pretending th
  • by houghi ( 78078 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @05:34AM (#23542487)
    Remember when we said we did great things, but it was because we stood on the shoulders of giants? IP takes away those giants, so we have nothing to stand on anymore.

    While IP is great for somebody or something in the short term, it harms everybody in the long term, including the people who want it so badly.

    There should be a way to both have advantage for the 'owner' in the short term and advantage of everybody in the long term.

    The best way is to have it 'short term'. 70+ or 100+ years is not short term. 5 or 10 years is short term.

    Companies claim they need that long term, because they need to research so much. Well DUH! That is because you must re-invent the wheel over and over again. What would you save if you didn't have to do all the research yourself? What if somebody else already had done it and you can simply use it.

    See how you shoot yourself in the foot by these ridiculous long IP times?
  • by lkcl ( 517947 ) <> on Monday May 26, 2008 @06:04AM (#23542635) Homepage
    "intellectual property" is the 21st century's version of the victorian slave trade and other issues.

    think about the phrase "intellectual property" for a moment.

    intellectual. property. information. owned. intelligence. enslaved.

    therefore, "intellectual property" is the "enslavement of intelligence".

    this isn't some sort of waffly joke, the words "intellectual property" _say_ so.

    the implications are quite straightforward: the use of the phrase "intellectual property" has behind it just as much enslavement and disempowerment as physical slavery.

    * when you sign an employment contract, your "intellectual property rights" are taken away. you are given money, as a "sop". you cannot get any work anywhere else - you cannot get any money to live on - if you do not follow the "norm".

    * when you come up with an idea, which you find that nobody is implementing, you are afraid to make money from it because there might be someone who will bully you into submitting to their will because there is a "patent" - a government-sanctioned right to bully - the owner of which has been waiting for someone just like you, so they can take money away from you.

    ultimately, however, "intellectual enslavement" is driven by "maximisation of profit".

    fortunately, there are solutions: read muhammad yunus new book, "creating a world without poverty", in which he describes "social business" as being "capitalism with non-loss, non-dividend" at its core.

    if you have non-loss, non-dividend replacing "maximisation of profit" at the core of your articles of incorporation, then you do not have to suppress or own to "make money". you can cooperate with your former competition, working towards social goals.

    it's a long story.

  • hear me out, even though you might be hostile to what i have to say

    i agree with you about ip, i hate it. i think ip law should be utterly destroyed. however, i object to your "i'm an anarcho-capitalist...". its your opening remark. and making it whiffs of desperation to be or feel different. i agree with your thinking, but the way you present yourself to the world is odious

    your ideological self-description should be "normal". your radical agenda should be called "common sense". the point is, you are trying to appeal to other people, not distance yourself from them, and that's what you do, consciously, or subconsciously, you create a wedge, when you begin a sentence with this "i'm an anarcho-capitalist..." oh really? in other words, you're an average middle class suburban kid

    do you want to destroy ip? or do you just want to tweak your ego? if you want ip destroyed, your job one is to make yourself appealing to the average joe. not drive a wedge against them. your ideology stands zero chance of succeeding in this world when you try to distance yourself from people rather than make yourself part of them. real politics trumps college aged identity politics

    secondly, "anarcho-capitalism" is basically, somalia. sound superior? i thought not. so stop embracing ideology which appeal to college age kids with far too many textbooks and far too little real life experience. it is possible to destroy ip without becoming somalia. really. so lose the college age naivete

    much like the college age girl who describes herself as a polyamorous bisexual and then becomes a suburban housewife with 2.3 kids and a dog in 10 years, you will be a cube dweller in 5 years if you continue calling yourself a bullshit label of "anarcho-capitalist". its not a real or valid ideology. its intellectual ephemera, fetishistic esoteric ideology, art house insularism. "anarcho-capitalism" is not a real, working valuable set of ideas. really. lose the bullshit label

    i know you are going to be hostile to my words. i apologize if i sound too rough. i'm actually trying to be helpful and i don't know a softer way to say it. i think you will appreciate what i am saying one day
  • by Sique ( 173459 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @07:35AM (#23543089) Homepage
    The problem with the concept of intellectual property is, that the term doesn't have any boundaries. Property has very well defined boundaries: The real estate boundaries are drawn down in maps, the house has a wall, the car has a tangible surface.

    Everything intellectual is missing exactly those boundaries that separate the "owned" part from the "not owned" part. Mark Twain once told the local parish: "Your sermon today was magnificent, but at home I have a book that contains every word of it." The priest was offended, until he saw the book: a dictionary.

    So what is the "owned" part in that sermon? The words are not. The sequence of words maybe? It surely contains lots of quotes from the Bible, so those quotes are not owned either. Many of the sentences have been told by other people too. Many of the conclusions were drawn by other theologists. The priest might have used the book of a philosopher or theologist as inspiration. So those parts are not owned either. What is owned is at maximum a certain individuality, of which we aren't even able to tell which part is just random chance and which part is the actual work of the intellect.

    So in every piece of intellectual works we have layers and layers laid upon each other which are not owned by the intellect who created the work. 99% of every work is in fact owned by others. That's the famous sentence in the correspondence of Newton and Hooke: "If I've seen further than others, it's because I was standing on the shoulders of giants" (which itself is just a quote of a quote of a quote).

    On the other hand intellectual creation is larger as the work itself (you could call it 'greedy' in the regular expressions sense). It doesn't just put well defined building blocks together. It redefines the building blocks themselves. A word once used in a famous quote will always have the connotation of this quote attached. So somehow this word is not fully in the public domain anymore, it has now an individual character thanks to the intellect using it. Case in point: No nerd will ever be able to use the number 42 anymore without having some Douglas Adams associations. So somehow the once public 42 is partly owned by Douglas Adams' intellect, even though he never invented the 42, and 42 is definitely not his work.

    So there is no definable property in the intellectual work, because property is a way to define boundaries: Here is yours, and here starts mine. Intellectual works are missing exactly those dichotomy between yours and mine. Intellectual works are "blurred in the property space".

    So I don't think the concept of
  • by pesc ( 147035 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @07:59AM (#23543241)
    I'm an anarcho-capitalist, and a huge supporter of property rights, both physical and intellectual.

    I'm puzzled why an anarcho-capitalist is so quick to embrace monopolies handed out by the government to private entities, which is what IP is. Myself, I'm more supportive of free markets where anyone can compete.

    I thick government-granted monopolies is something a Guild Socialist [] should support. Or maybe a Mussolini Fascist.
  • by Zigurd ( 3528 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @08:07AM (#23543297) Homepage
    The U.S. Constitution is written from the point of view of protecting natural rights from government predation.

    Copyright is different. It is a created "right." Really, it is more like a "deal" than a right: It is a limited term grant of exclusivity. No real right works that way, and no other right is explicitly created - they are assumed to exist with or without the acknowledgment of the government.

    Therefore you do not need to be an "anarcho"-anything to reconsider copyright. The Founders themselves considered it less than a right.

    Copyright isn't even a contract. It is a kind of charter that can be revoked or modified at the whim of the granting party. So reducing a copyright term isn't even a "taking."

    Copyright was created by the government to benefit the people. If it stops working that way, copyright has no purpose.
  • by dbc001 ( 541033 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @09:23AM (#23543775)
    There is no solution. Intellectual Property is a fantasy. Here's a great example: giving a speech. We call it "giving" a speech, because after you've said it, it's not yours anymore. The same is true for a performance - we "give" those too. You can't give a speech and then take it back, nor can you publish a book while keeping it to yourself.

    If you want to control your "intellectual property", you have to keep it to yourself.
  • by ThosLives ( 686517 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @10:33AM (#23544375) Journal

    This is an immense topic, so I'll focus on a few things which I've mentioned before.

    1. "Real" Property encompasses those things which are truly economically scarce. By that I mean "things that can only be used simultaneously by a small finite number of people." For instance: a piece of land, a particular tool, a book (the physical object), etc. Real Property rights make sense, because it is possible to enforce by virtue of the location of the object. Note that a consumer/user of physical property has some typical social grants also: right of first sale, the concept that if you 'buy' the object, you can use is until it breaks with no additional compensation to the manufacturer than original (you don't pay annual license fees on a hammer for instance). (Note: Things like leases are different, because in those the 'customer' pays less than the "ownership" amount for a temporary use of the item. Observe: you can both buy and rent tools from stores like Home Depot - a large "consumer" construction supply store for those not familiar with it - you buy a tool it's yours, you rent it you have to return it later, but renting is far less expensive for a few days than buying a tool.)

    2. "Intellectual" Property has some problems that current legal and social constructs do not address. The first is that currently the system tries to protect the work as the economically scarce item - the copy of the music, book, software, etc. Those things are not economically scarce though, because there is no loss of use to any number of individuals which may be utilizing an idea. Until the rules protect what is actually scarce - the people coming up with and implementing the ideas - then the system will be broken. Rather than strange licensing rules and copyrights and such, I would rather see forced "attribution rights" (for lack of a better term). That said, the only thing that really troubles me about "intellectual property" is the ability of people to continue to extract economic wealth from others for work that was done in the past without adding new value - things like forced annual licenses for software when a version that's three years old is fine for a particular need, or making tons of money off a song that was written thirty years ago. I don't have problems with artists making money off new performances (performances are a scarce economic good, so those fall under the "old" paradigms). This is why, of all the current forms of intellectual property, I think Trademark is the most sound as it is simply what I meant by attribution "rights" - it ensures the consumer that a particular product was created/developed by a particular entity and establishes brand image and gives real value to both the consumer and manufacturer/creator. It also allows for vast competition in a field - I can by a brand X widget or a brand Y widget depending on my tastes.

    So what's the solution? I admit that I am not entirely sure, because there are problems with the current implementations of both real and "intellectual" property rights. What is really needed is a thoughtful consideration of the social goals of the concepts, and how to ensure that people remain free to think and tinker and make a living off (which is a distinct difference in my mind from "profit from") their works. Having any entity, even a government, tell you that you cannot implement an idea because someone else implemented it is a not-so-subtle form of slavery.

You know, Callahan's is a peaceable bar, but if you ask that dog what his favorite formatter is, and he says "roff! roff!", well, I'll just have to...