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The Courts Government News

Structures of Intellectual Property 169

Posted by michael
from the ties-that-bind dept.
PeterP writes: "ARSTechnica has an interesting editorial today. It advocates altering the discussion of intellectual property laws to be one of structures, as opposed to rights. Kind of a breath of fresh air from the dogmatic, kneejerk debates this topic usually brings up. An interesting read, too." I second that. Definitely one to read and think about.
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Structures of Intellectual Property

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  • Just an idea, what about thought crimes? If I were involved in some sort of legal battle over a "thought crime", would the DMCA give me leverage? Would assumption of my thought process fall under reverse-engineering?

    Not that it would ever hold up in court. Just curious.
  • Never learned about those. Is that one of those funky trees where each node only points towards its parent, but the root node points to each of the leaves and has two additional pointers to patent_t and money_t structures?
  • The WIPO document "Technical Protection Measures: The Intersection of Technology, Law, and Commercial Licenses." is available in PDF Format and Word Format Here [wipo.org].

  • by Anonymous Coward
    It's useful to look at what the most basic governing structure of the U.S., the Constitution, says about IP. Article I, Section 8 gives Congress the power to:
    To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries
    Now, a couple of things are implicit and explicit in this: 1. By giving the Congress this power, they gave Congress the option to centralize it. That keeps states from enacting a patchwork of IP laws, or, if they do, Congress can override them. That's why the WIPO is getting involved. If every country has different laws, it's difficult to do business and easy to get arrested, as Sklyarov found out. But, it means it's crucial to get involved in lobbying WIPO so the global agreements reflect more than the transnational corporations' interests. 2. Protecting IP is only a means to an end. That end is progress. The basis for the people and states giving this power to Congress is to promote progress in the arts and sciences. The people agree to pay creators for their IP and pay, through their government, to protect it, but only for a limited time. After that, the people get to keep and use as they wish what they've paid for. Patents expire because of this provision, releasing things like RSA and Prozac (8/2003) into the public domain. But, RSA and Eli Lily were and are well-compensated for their discoveries. One big problem with copyright, besides DCMA, has been that the duration keeps getting longer. (http://www.photosource.com/legal/lg_jul01.html) How many centuries will Disney be rewarded for drawing a cute mouse with big ears?
    • Quick...somebody mod this AC up (s)he hit the nail right on the head.

      The main problem we are experiencing in the IP debate is the ability of corporations to buy legislation that continues to lengthen the duration of and keep a stranglehold on control of copyrighted material. In their attempt to treat everything as if it were actually earning millions of dollars for "poor starving artists" they are obscuring the cold, hard reality...

      A simple observable fact is that after the initial publication of the vast majority of books, movies, music, etc., for which the content creator would have been compensated, most of this "stuff" could be placed into the public domain within a year of publication without harming future earnings for the original creator. Why? Because of the hundreds of thousands of books, movies, songs, etc. published each year only a figurative handful ever gain enough of a buying public following to continue to earn any income. Most simply disappear, go out of print, sit on the shelf, etc., never to be seen again.

      What if copyright law duration was based upon the ability of the creative work and the marketplace to keep a piece of work in print? Meaning that if the marketplace shows enough demand for an item that it is worth a publisher keeping something in print they should be able to continue to earn a dollar (figuratively) for that item. However, if after the marketplace has shown that an item is no longer wanted (valued) and therefore the incentive for a publisher to keep that item in print also vanishes that the copyright for a book also expires when it goes out of print. In a system like this the vast majority of "stuff" could enter the public domain fairly quickly with little financial harm to the original creator and for those few blockbuster items that continue to sell for decades...let them maintain that copyright for an extended period of time.

      So, if I were King, I would revamp the copyright laws so that the original term is, say, 10 years with the possibility of further extensions of 10 years if one can show that the item has been in continuous publication and available for public purchase during the previous 10 year period.

      Let's hear some flaws with this kind of approach...

  • Great stuff (Score:2, Interesting)

    by NullAndVoid (181397)
    As Stokes points out, the hard part of setting up this kind of structure is that it must be naturally sustainable if it's going to last.

    Content owners openly admit that this is a direct attempt to artificially reproduce the constraints on copying naturally inherent in analog media, thus doing away with the advantages of digital media for everyone but the content owners themselves.

    That's the key - the basis of the "digital revolution" is that it's just too damned easy to copy and share IP. What is needed is a system that (a) takes advantage of the easily replicable nature of IP, and (b) allows the creators (not necessarily the distributors!) to reliably get decent revenue from their work.

    Without that second part, the big companies will win, because if they can preserve a system which makes it possible to rake in big bucks by making distribution hard for Joe Blow, then most writers, musicians, etc. will go through them. Sure a limited number of people will produce stuff for the free (as in speech) market, but those will be the idealists, dissidents, the fringe. Probably the more interesting art will be there, but the majority of "culture" will follow the money.

    Unfortunately, as long as the big guys have the most reliable way to cash in on IP, they will have the money they need to reinforce their position with marketing, lawyers, legislation, enforcement, and technology.

    If a way can be found that Joe Blow can make money from music, writing, video, or whatever by taking it directly to the Net, the big corporations will lose. Napster was a nice dry run, it proved the power of the grass roots Net, but it didn't make anybody any money, so it wasn't sustainable.

    On a side note, it really seems that these issues have the potential to bring together a strange group of bedfellows - Libertarians, anti-globalists, open source believers, and artists of all kinds. Of course it won't appeal to pseudo-Libertarians who worship the accumulation of money as proof of virtue, but true Libertarians who dislike the use of wealth to pervert the free market may have more in common with protesting commies than they'd like to think!
  • It will be difficult politically until the recesssion deepens and generates more anti-business feeling, but here's a reasonable legislative agenda:
    • Copyright
      One 23-year term with current restrictions. Moral right as in Europe. Anything in copyright but out of print is subject to compulsory license at a modest fee. No interface copyrights. Fair use per pre-DMCA copyright law. EULA cannot require buyer to give up rights allowed by copyright law. No database copyright.
    • Copy protection
      Copy protection cannot prevent any use allowed by copyright law. First sale doctrine applies. Rental cannot be prohibited. Registration cannot be required. Deposit copy required by copyright law cannot be copy protected.
    • DMCA
      Repeal entire act.
    • Patents
      No patent term extensions. Compulsory license for pharmaceuticals, allowing an audited reasonable profit. No business method patents. Patents cannot be copyrighted.
    • Trade secrets
      Return to historical interpretation of trade secret law - applies to contracting parties only. Trade secrets frowned upon by law.

    That would fix it.

  • This quote was particularly good.

    "Make no mistake, this group may talk "rights" to the public, but they're thinking "structures," and even a cursory examination of the documents they produce will bear this out. "

    The exsistance of monopolies in free markets will always harm them. The current reward for getting a patent is a monopoly. The markets ability to "sort it out" is stripped from it as monopolies are added.

    Inventors should be rewarded for their work. So we cannot abandon the system of giving a reward for inventions. Instead I think we should change the reward from a monopoly to a tax break for related profits for the patent holder.

    The monopolies are squashing further research by creating impassible barriers. The stated goal of patents and copyright was to encourage creative works. We are now working against that goal.

    For the naysayers there are many good angles to this but here is a bite. Patent holders can wait for competing markets to mature and then sell their patent (and subsequently their tax break) to the highest bidder for a much higher price than they could now.

    • Inventors should be rewarded for their work. So we cannot abandon the system of giving a reward for inventions. Instead I think we should change the reward from a monopoly to a tax break for related profits for the patent holder.

      I've got two objections to this approach:

      1. It does not solve the complaint about market interference by government. While you don't have an 'evil monopoly' any more, you still have distortion of the free market by government interference.

      2. The tax break does not protect the inventor from being ripped off by a larger company that has a very strong financial position. Such a company through market power could easily expropriate an invention, leaving the actual inventor's commercial endeavor without any profits at all. The only way that he could benefit in such a circumstance would be to try to sell his patent rights to the large company, and hope that the tax benefits to said company would make it attractive enough to get compensation. This basically boils down to forced licensing to large companies, and is not what I think would lead to fair compensation of inventors.

      • Thank you for replying. I have been craving discourse on this subject. I actually wrote the EFF a few minuets ago about this for some feedback.

        I have written an expanded analysis of what I think practical effects would be.

        *Patent holders can wait for competing markets to mature and then sell their patent (and subsequently their tax break) to the highest bidder for a much higher price than they could under the current system (only speculation as to possible profits is available now.)

        *People/companies could register patents without grinding research to a halt.

        *Most IP lawyers won't oppose it since they get to keep their jobs.

        *Bodies of existing law will only need small adjustment. The method for registering, transferring, etc. can stay the same. Only the reward will change.

        *Companies won't necessarily oppose it because their patents retain value, perhaps even more if it is a good and useful patent.

        *Congress will be very motivated to fix the patent office because not doing so is like throwing money out the window. Desire for tax breaks in the market will insure that.

        *Patented technologies can be used as they were never intended perhaps accumulating far more market power/usefulness than if it was tied up in a monopoly.

        *Ordinary people are scared by companies patenting genes (as am I) and recognize the need for reform.

        *And most importantly it's simple to explain. Joe Sixpack gets it (I know him, I asked.)

        I've got two objections to this approach:

        1. It does not solve the complaint about market interference by government. While you don't have an 'evil monopoly' any more, you still have distortion of the free market by government interference.

        Yes but the level of the distortion can be regulated by adjusting the rate of the tax break. This would work much like the federal reserve adjusts intrest rates. to slow or speed the economy. It might not even be a bad idea if the federal reserve were the ones to regulate the rates.

        2. The tax break does not protect the inventor from being ripped off by a larger company that has a very strong financial position. Such a company through market power could easily expropriate an invention, leaving the actual inventor's commercial endeavor without any profits at all.

        Ha HA, you are still thinking in terms of our monopoly patent world. In this kind of system there would as many companies making the product as the market would support. An inventer could, (and should) wait to sell the rights until the market is nearly mature. That represents the bigest tax break for a company that sells the invented/derived product.

        The only way that he could benefit in such a circumstance would be to try to sell his patent rights to the large company, and hope that the tax benefits to said company would make it attractive enough to get compensation. This basically boils down to forced licensing to large companies, and is not what I think would lead to fair compensation of inventors.

        If he/she/it has a good idea, a real vision, and noone is willing to be fair with buyout offers. The best piece of advice is... wait. When the companies can save a billion in tax breaks their offers should be a little more fair ;)

        ooooo Ooooo more more. More Retoric.

        This is a good idea damn it I know it is.

        • I think you have an interesting, but perhaps flawed proposal. I've got some comments on your arguments...

          Patent holders can wait for competing markets to mature and then sell their patent (and subsequently their tax break) to the highest bidder for a much higher price than they could under the current system (only speculation as to possible profits is available now.)

          I don't see this being universally or even reliably true. Under the current system the patent is potentially worth all the profit that can be generated in the context of a monopoly. This has to be MUCH higher than the potential for a tax break on the profits in a competitive environment. This loss of incentive will reduce R&D funding for commercial research, a very bad thing. In the case of foreign companies importing goods into the US, the value of a tax break in the US may in fact be zero.In fact many large companies already pay zero taxes for a variety of reasons.

          People/companies could register patents without grinding research to a halt.

          I'm not really sure what you are driving at here. Current patent law already includes an exemption for the use of patented technology in R&D.

          Most IP lawyers won't oppose it since they get to keep their jobs.

          Bodies of existing law will only need small adjustment. The method for registering, transferring, etc. can stay the same. Only the reward will change.


          I don't see either of these as compelling arguments. We already have too many lawyers, and many think the existing patent system needs major overhaul.

          Companies won't necessarily oppose it because their patents retain value, perhaps even more if it is a good and useful patent.

          Depends on the company. You can bet the Pharmaceuticals will oppose it.

          Congress will be very motivated to fix the patent office because not doing so is like throwing money out the window. Desire for tax breaks in the market will insure that.

          Tax breaks reduce revenues to the government. That will clearly act to discourage Congress from passing this.

          Patented technologies can be used as they were never intended perhaps accumulating far more market power/usefulness than if it was tied up in a monopoly

          I think you have a misunderstanding of what a patent protects. A patent protects the application of a specific technology to solve a particular problem. Nothing in a patent rights grant prevents you from applying the same technology to a different problem and getting a patent on that new application.

          Ordinary people are scared by companies patenting genes (as am I) and recognize the need for reform.

          Perhaps, but this has nothing to do with your proposal that a patent should confer a tax credit rather than a monopoly. Whether genes are patentable is a separate policy question.

          And most importantly it's simple to explain. Joe Sixpack gets it (I know him, I asked.)

          Being simple to explain doesn't make it right. There are many complex, sophisticated ideas (i.e. relativistic mechanics) that replaced simplistic ideas (i.e. Geocentric Solar System) because they were right. Explainability to Joe is in fact probably a reason to mistrust an idea.

          In this kind of system there would as many companies making the product as the market would support. An inventer could, (and should) wait to sell the rights until the market is nearly mature. That represents the bigest tax break for a company that sells the invented/derived product.

          Another problem with your idea is that the inventor would only be able to sell the patent to one company. Under current law he can license it to as many people as he wants - his choice, his freedom to maximize his return. Your proposal to delay selling the patent is also a problem, because companies would be faced with a great deal of uncertainty as to whether they should exploit a given patent knowing that their competitor may end up with a tax break that gives him a competitve edge. The result is delayed commercialization of new ideas, and potentially delayed work on improving the new ideas.

          When the companies can save a billion in tax breaks their offers should be a little more fair ;)

          And if the company is based in Japan, or pays very little taxes already an incentive that will reduce US taxes is worth very little.
  • This is the most thought-provoking article I've seen on /. in weeks - and not a single +5 comment?
  • into account the latest law [bbspot.com] passed by Congress. It could definitely have some impact on IP and free speech.
  • Public ---$$$$$$$$$--> RIAA ------------$--> artist

    Did I get it right?
    • Nobody to blame... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by nanojath (265940)
      But ourselves. All the talk is fine and well but the problem is almost nobody even THINKS aobut IP issues. So the laws get worked out between the politicians who have made a career of convincing us that they are the only choices we have for representation and the monied interests who have cleaned up by convincing us they're the only game in town.

      And so as Balinares astutely points out, we have a situation of a large group of consumers freely giving a chunk of their income to a record label or software corporation or movie studio, who give us a product that they "produced" (that must be the most abused concept in IP) by handing a small percentage of what they got from us last week to artists and crafters who have freely signed away their rights to ownership or significant income from the products of their labor.

      What's wrong with this picture? What's wrong is that its all free. Sputter sputter yeah, but... But nothing. We make these choices and we pay for them.

      Any abstract discussion of intellectual property is moot because of a simple fact: The price of freedom is ETERNAL VIGILANCE. A good constitution won't purchase your freedom. Better IP laws won't preserve your freedom. The reasons our freedoms are being abused is because we are lazy. Sony or M$ or Time-Warner-AOL offers us a sugary snack in the palm of their sickly hands and we eat it right up. The USA political machine offers us two bought-and-paid for suits in the most money-saturated presidential election of all times and we obediently fight each other over which stay-the-course status quo asshole will fuck the average citizen further into the ground for the next four years. We deserve what we're getting. Even among those of us who know better most cannot be roused to write a letter, boycott a product, or even vote.

      • > So the laws get worked out between the politicians who have made a career of convincing us that they are the only choices we have for representation and the monied interests who have cleaned up by convincing us they're the only game in town.

        Unfortunately, it's even nastier than that. As Jessica Litman points out in her book "Digital Copyright", the "monied interests" work out legislation among themselves with no input from the government, and then hand it off to be made into law.

        Since it's usually much too complex and arcane for lawmakers to understand, they generally just make sure all interests are happy and sign it into law.

        Note that "interests" don't include the public.

  • by Papa Legba (192550) on Friday August 03, 2001 @09:44AM (#2118721)
    One of the core reasons that IP law is breaking down so much is the level that it has been subverted by corporations, the very thing it was invented to stop! The orignal idea was that invetors and creative people would be protected from theft from corporations. If you invented something you got to have the rights to it. you could sell the rights but they could not be stolen from you. This was desinged to protect people like the person who invented the paper clip. He desinged the paper clip to pay off a debt and was payed the total sum of $400 for the idea. It has made the people he solled it to millions of dollars since then. Because he did not patent the idea he gets nothing.

    I think part of the problem would go away if we mandated that corporations cannot have patent and IP rights, they can only be assinged to real people. That way corporations will stop this nonsense of making you signe your IP rights away to them when you work for them. This would have a two fold effect:

    1.) truly brilliant people who are inventive would be rewarded. These people would become like athletes as they became more desirable as the number of core patents they hold increases. If a company wanted to produce something they would have to hire the person that held the IP or the patent. This would cause a great demand for these intelligent people and give a large shot in the arm to pure research and people wanting to go to school, If it becomes as lucrative and glamorous to be a scientist as it is to be a basketball player.

    2.) Companies would be a lot slower to patent trivial things that they use. The fear would exist that when the person leaves that holds your trivial patent it will become just as dangerous to you. Campanies might try to get around this by having their intellectual property assinged to people like the CEO but you would still face having to buy the rights back to transfer them to someone else in the company (pricy) or risk having the CEO leave and screw the company over. This would lead companies to conclude that frivolous patents where dangerous, and that having the necesary ones spread out in a corporation would benefit them.

    Just my two cents

    • But would that not leave companies dependant on one person for their products? Say that a team of researchers had worked five years to come up with a patentable idea. Who gets the patent? The team leader, one would assume.

      Said team leader gets his name on the patent application, turns to his boss and suggests that a 200% pay increase would be a nice incentive for him not to leave and start his own company. Oh yes, and a corner office, a new car and a four-hour working week. Where does this leave the company that invested hundreds of man hours (from lots of people, not just this one) in developing a product.

      The fact is that a company has to own some patents, no matter how unpopular that may be. It's either that or people have to start researching and developing on their own time and money, because it would be a dumb CEO who trusted his market winning product to the loyalty of one man.

    • Great sentiment, unfortunately, I don't see how it would help things relating to the DMCA. the DMCA deals with the methods of protecting IP, specifically copyright, which may not even make sense to give solely to individuals, but even if we did refuse corporations copyrights, the horrendously strict methods of protection that the DMCA gives would still exist.

      If a company employs an individual with an important piece of copyrighted work, like a movie or a cd, the company would still have it in their best interest to prevent people from copying it by whatever means necessary. Therefore, they would still want to prevent people out there in the fields from finding some way to break their encryption. The legislation would still benefit them since law preventing such activity means the encryption can just be ROT-13.
    • Historical fantasy. (Score:2, Informative)

      by caduguid (152224)
      One of the core reasons that IP law is breaking down so much is the level that it has been subverted by corporations, the very thing it was invented to stop! The orignal idea was that invetors and creative people would be protected from theft from corporations.

      I think this might more accurately be described as the core reasons you believe IP law should have been invented to stop. It wasn't.

      The moral desire to protect author's rights may date from Roman times, but the actual legal mechanisms for enforcing copyright aren't really seen until printers guilds in England demanded them, (back in the 16th century), as a means of keeping control and monopolizing profits.

      American copyright law is purportedly based on the incentive system for advancing society's good, not the authors.

      The French, though, and some others too, do place an emphasis on author's rights, and the original authors in some places (Canada and others?) have rights which cannot be transfered to corporations or subsequent owners.

      (ie: artists can place limits on how works are displayed, no matter who winds up owning the original. Something about some fellow and his geese statues at the shopping centre I vaguely remember).

      These original author's rights are the only thing approaching your anti-corporate proposal that are even remotely tenable in today's world, and even in their case there are two things you should remember.

      1) they're threatened under the increasing ubiquity of Berne and WIPO, and
      2) part of the reason they're threatened is because countries use them as shields to achieve national political objectives and not to protect authors.

      Of course, if you could get "them" to banish corporations, then you might get somewhere. But that's a whole new conspiracy/impossible dream, Quixote.
    • by nels_tomlinson (106413) on Friday August 03, 2001 @12:31PM (#2158727) Homepage
      I don't think that in general we should assign right to IP. But there are specific cases in which it is best to do so, and when we do assign such rights, it must be possible for corporations to own them.

      There is a common misconception in the old Soviet Union: we'll have a free market, we just won't let anyone have property rights, because that's not good socialism. Of course, you can't have a market without property rights.


      The problem with the suggestion that ...corporations cannot have patent and IP rights, they can only be assinged to real people. is that if you can't sell your rights, they have no value. Period. If you can only trade these "rights" among individuals, then you restrict the market to folks like you and me. I certainly wouldn't pay $400 for the rights to paper clips under that scenario. The only way that a corporation could justify paying for IP would be if it was assigned to someone who is a majority stock-holder. As you point out, why buy your engineer a patent if he can walk off with it? Buying the patent for someone who is contractually bound to stay or sell the patent back seems pretty shady. If that doesn't violate our hypothetical law, it should.

      But one could license the rights to a corp, you respond. Fine, how about exclusive rights to use and sub-license, irrevocable, for the term of the patent? How is that different from an outright sale? It seems to me that this is really all-or-nothing: either you are free to dispose of your invention as you see fit (assuming that we are going to assign property rights at all) and it has value, or you aren't, and it doesn't.


      You point out that

      truly brilliant people who are inventive would be rewarded. These people would become like athletes as they became more desirable as the number of core patents they hold increases.
      This would work fine for folks who could innovate on their own, but how about engineers and geneticists who need multimillion dollar facilities? How could a corp justify paying out tens of millions for someone to develop a patentable invention, which they could then walk off with? Again, contractual ties which bind the rights-holder to the corp are no different than outright assignment to the corp.


      I believe that there is no natural right to intellectual property. That's exactly opposite to the situation with physical property, where there certainly is such a natural right. The difference, of course, is that physical property doesn't copy well: if I eat your hamburger, you can't. If I use your idea, you can too. All you have lost is the monopoly.


      For all of human history, we have built on the intellectual shoulders of those who came before. It is right and natural that we should share ideas, and we are all better off when that happens. In order to encourage that, the US constitution (Article 1, Section 8)gives Congress permission

      To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries
      This was obviously to work in the public interest, by encouraging productive work and its public disclosure. Enriching inventors is plainly not the aim. Nor does it suggest any pre-existing natural right.
  • Talking about "structures" is all well and good, but as the article points out it's harder and it doesn't cover the individual cases. What I think we need in the IP debate is the "rights model" that supports the kind of "structure model" the editorial espouses.

    The way I'm thinking about this, it seems that one can map a "structure model" (i.e., a set of assumptions, decision about who benefits, etc.) onto multiple "rights models" that (attempt to) support it. The extreme ones mentioned in the introduction are something like

    • "Information wants to be free" structure model: one possible rights model is "no IP rules at all", others are possible
    • "Traditional rights" structure model: supporting rights models include UCITA, DMCA

    It's a good step to outline what structure we'd like to see for IP, but such a structure must be translated into rights before it can implemented -- or even defended adequately, IMO. It's easy to say that we'd like to support third world development, the rights of the disenfranched, etc., but we may be more critical of specific rights proposals intended to support those things because they may be more sweeping, more specific, more unverifiable, etc. than we like.

    I like this guy's main points, though, which I think are that we should be suspicious of the "traditional IP model" megacorps are promoting, and that an IP-free model should not be our only alternative.

    My $.02

    Jamie

    • The article seems to be of compromise. Yes, creators need some compensation for their work. Yes, creators should control distribution of their work. Yet, every piece of legislation seems to be chipping away at the last bit of fair use provisions.

      Also of note is this:

      The protection of commercial interests through universal compliance with the IP regime should override humanitarian considerations, ethical considerations, or ease-of-use considerations.

      The current IP regime is preventing inexpensive anti-AIDS drugs from being developed in Africa. And genetically engineered crops in India. Is this benefiting everyone in general?

      What would industry lose in providing these goods? Probably very little, since the people cannot afford such things anyway.

      Compromises like these would benefit all involved. The crux of the problem is how many rights to give each party involved to provide the proper balance of IP protection and fair use.
      • What would industry lose in providing these goods? Probably very little, since the people cannot afford such things anyway.

        I think solutions should be found to make sure AIDs drugs can be made availble, affordably, to those who need them in Africa. The tricky bit, especially when you're talking about structural solutions, is that selling the same item very cheaply to the developing world while selling them in at a higher price - presumably required to give the makers the profit to compensate for developing the drug in the first place - at a higher cost isn't naturally sustainable. The black markets will divert the cheap drugs in the poor countries to sell in the rich countries.
    • No, a "rights model" is not an appropriate framework for IP. What fundamental human right (i.e. life, property, religion, speech, etc.) does this have to do with?

      Talking about rights in this context, or so-called "animal rights" or a "patients' bill of rights" cheapens the very foundational concept of rights.

      Rights are inherent, God-given (natural), and inalienable. The US Constitution and Bill of Rights do not create or grant rights, but merely recognize them and establish guarantees of their protection.

      Also, "intellectual property," is a terrible misnomer. To quote Thomas Jefferson:

      If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of everyone, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density at any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation. Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property.
      • "No, a "rights model" is not an appropriate framework for IP. What fundamental human right (i.e. life, property, religion, speech, etc.) does this have to do with?
        Talking about rights in this context, or so-called "animal rights" or a "patients' bill of rights" cheapens the very foundational concept of rights."

        I do agree with your main points here... All too often, lobbyists, such as the trial lawyers who are trying to get what is really a "lawyers enrichment bill of rights" passed but are calling it a "patients bill of rights, completely perverting the term.

        However, when it comes to copyright and patents, I do think there IS a rights issue.

        Why? Because patent and copyright law more or less is an EXEMPTION given to IP holders to the Bill of Rights.

        IE, freedom of the press can't allow you to publish an entire copyrighted work, the Constitution's provision for copyrights grants you a limited duration monopoly, and thus, abridges the 1st and 2nd amendments, which is why, it MUST be Constitutional, not statutory (made by Congress) law. In exchange for a limited duration monopoly (at least, it USED to be limited), there are certain rights of "fair use" that are given, and this right is derived from the Constitution. The intent is to both allow creaive, inventive people to both profit from their creations, AND to allow others to build on those ideas to create better ones. That is really the ONLY interest any government has in even recognizing copyrights and patents, to encourage invention.
        Again, because copyrights and patents in some ways abridge the Bill of Rights, is the reason why the framework is actually included in the Constitution, and MUST be Constitutional, rather than statutory law. Which is the main flaw of the DMCA. Also, the Sonny Bono Copyright Extension Act would seem to stretch "limited duration" to 2 seconds less than forever.
  • Utopian Visions? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Alien54 (180860) on Friday August 03, 2001 @09:30AM (#2120644) Journal
    The author has this bit on the next to the last page about WIPO. It starts what could be a called a utopian vision. I guess it is important to remember that this is not impractical, that it could be achieved, and is therefore not utopian. But it will take people with bigger souls than are working in WIPO than are currently there.

    It is certainly worth thinking about.

    Let's take a look at some of the values implicit in the WIPO's vision:
    • Content producers should be paid for their work.
    • Those who contribute to the production and distribution of content (investors, distributors, etc.) should be compensated.
    • Existing power arrangements (i.e. between content producers and middlemen, between G8 and developing nations, etc.) should be maintained.
    • The protection of commercial interests through universal compliance with the IP regime should override humanitarian considerations, ethical considerations, or ease-of-use considerations.
    I don't have a problem with the first two values, but the last two really stick in my craw. Furthermore, the list is telling for what it leaves out. Consider the following values that would be expressed in an ideal intellectual property regime if it were up to me:
    • The possibility of being a content producer should be open to everyone, and not just the few who can afford to buy their way into the game.
    • Content producers should be paid for their work.
    • Those who contribute to the production and distribution of content (investors, distributors, etc.) should be compensated.
    • The cost and hassle of being compliant with the IP regime (i.e. compliance with national laws for IP protection) should always be less than the cost and hassle of being non-compliant.
    • The public should have ready access to products of the intellect, regardless of social location.
    • The capabilities of digital media for archiving and distribution should be fully exploited for the good of the many, and not artificially constrained by the interests of the few for the purpose of maintaining existing power arrangements.
  • by entropy7 (113401) on Friday August 03, 2001 @09:54AM (#2122293)
    If the "time to live" of all copyrights, patents etc - only lasted for 3 or 4 years - would the system still work?

    Would this be enough of an incentive to still create ideas and content?
    • If the "time to live" of all copyrights, patents etc - only lasted for 3 or 4 years - would the system still work?

      Although this often seems like a good approach - 3 to 4 years seems to be the right length of time for an Internet technology patent, for example - most technologies take about two years to go through the patent office. Typically, a patent owner will file a provisional patent application, develop their idea a bit further, and then submit the complete concept after fleshing it out to be more thorough.

      In many cases, a single patent isn't enough to cover a product for its lifetime. For example, while building industrial machinery, my associates have frequently applied for patents throughout their job: they can file a patent beforehand demonstrating what they intend to do, during development they file amendments and patents on newly discovered processes, and so on.

      By the time the hardware is ready, it may easily be five or six years since the first provisional patent applications were submitted - sometimes the key parts of the machine are only covered for a short time. Then, the marketing department starts selling these machines (it takes a few years to convince people that they need anything revolutionary).

      Next, considering the massive investment that was required to build the new machines, the first few years of profits go straight to pay off debts and to build a successful corporation around the patent. Fortunately, the original inventor (whom we hope owns stock) can get some payoff on investor enthusiasm and an early IPO, although that's less likely in today's market.

      A similar case might be the inventor of the cellular phone: his patent lasted the full 17 years, but he was simply never able to get the business off the ground during this time. His patent expired before cell phones caught the public imagination, and other companies ended up making the profits.

      Now, contrast these two examples with the Amazon.com one-click patent. One guy sits around the table and says, "It's too difficult to place an order. I wish we could do it with one click." Another guy replies, "We have their credit card number cached - why not make it just one click?" It may have taken a month to go through QA and legal, but their patent will become active and profitable immediately.

      It seems to me that the worth of a patent can be judged (among other factors) by how long it takes to put the idea into practice, and shortening the life of a patent would penalize inventions involving the most effort. Perhaps the patent office should be reviewing the time and effort it takes to build the product when they consider it for a patent? A product that can be built in one month should frequently be more similar to prior art than one that takes a year to construct.

    • This is the basic idea behind expiration of patents and the entry of artistic works into public domain: give the author time to internalize the benefits of his efforts, and then release the idea into the commons.

      Particularly with the technological nature of the ideas we're talking about (aside from MP3), most of this stuff only has a shelf-life of so long...
  • starting over (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bigpat (158134) on Friday August 03, 2001 @09:38AM (#2125499)
    The author is basically suggesting that we stop talking about existing laws and begin the debate in terms of why we need Intelectual property laws in the first place.

    So...For instance, The difference between alchemy and chemistry can be considered the open sharing of information. Repeatable results. It could be that some alchemist, five hundred years ago, figured out to turn lead into gold, but then he took that information, made some gold and then retired to his country estate. Ultimately such inventions and knowledge die with the originator and don't benefit humanity.

    So, open sharing of information needs to be encouraged by our IP laws. It seems to me that our modern technological society would not be possible unless people feel that they can share information without losing the value of that information. In fact under our IP laws the very act of sharing information protects it. Or at least it should be the case.

    But now we seem to have laws that go against the very nature of Intelectual property laws. It seems to me that in order to hold a copyright, that information must be able to be copied in the first place. So why throw people in jail when they merely tell people how to copy information? There needs to be a threshold of profit that should be the basis for our laws and money needs to be the way disputes are settled, not jail.

    But these are the things we must debate as a free people.

    • intellectual property, and its progeny, closed communication and lawsuit bonanza do not promote new technology.

      progress does not come by protecting what is already known.

      trying to guard information is not only silly but it's counter-productive. luckily not all companies and not all industries behave the same way. the computer industry, by and large, is much more open. it is important that we fight to keep it that way, and when companies like microsoft and adobe make moves to be more like the media 'providers'.
      ...dave
  • I see the point, but I think the approach is wrong. I don't think the problem lies in a rights-based approach, but in the fact that only one group's rights are being acknowledged. At least, this seems to be the author's problem (and mine) with WIPO. But a lopsided definition of rights is not inherent to the approach.

    I also think there's a danger to a structure-based approach, which is that rights can be even more easily forgotten when a legal structure is based on something other than rights (e.g., economic efficiency). The standard criticism of utilitarianism then applies--that the rights of the minority can be breached if their violation sufficiently benefits the majority.

  • Society has lost millions of lives, and struggled over many centruies to get to a government whose preamlbe says "we take it to be self evident that people are endowed by their maker with certain inaliable rights". His article totally ignores the foundation of rights based history.

    The question we should be addressing is not wether a rights based model is good or bad, but if rights being exercised are just rights - like slave owners who thought that they had a right to own people. This was clearly not a just right, even if they did have no incentive to grow cotton without them.

    I wish people would understand that incentive is not a justification for property - maybe I have no incentive to grow oranges unless I can plant a tree in your yard and force you to water it, but that would not be a just right either. I wish people would understand that just because a government or institution calls something a property right - does not just mean that it is - either. I wish people would understnad that free markets are not about markets, but about freedom - where markets are just one of many pleasant side effects. what can I say or do to get people to get it????

    • http://www.kuro5hin.org/comments/2001/4/8/214245/6 519/30#30 [kuro5hin.org]

      "We hold these truths to be self-evident" is a nifty bit of flim-flammery on the part of Jefferson. He was easily smart enough to know that "self-evident" was a load of crap, but it was necessary to provide some kind of legitimacy for a set of "rights" that had virtually never existed before for anyone. If they were so "self-evident", why hadn't any of the monarchies of Europe ever noticed them?

      This piece of text is the equivalent of getting all your friends to go to a movie by telling each of them that "everyone else is going." If they all believe that, then it will be true. Jefferson knew this, and clearly understood that rights are created by common assent, and that the main goal of the DoI had to be to manufacture that assent.

      -rusty of kuro5hin

  • Balance (Score:2, Insightful)

    by gillbates (106458)
    What we need is balance in IP. I think that rather than owning an idea, one should have commercial rights to the idea - that is, you don't have the right to prevent me from using your idea in my software, but you can expect royalties if I make a profit off your idea. Same goes for copyright - you can't restrict me from copying your work, but if I charge for it, I owe you a royalty.
    • Give this man a cigar! (or at least bump up his karma!)

      Look at the US Constitution. Study the OTHER writings of those who wrote it. Thomas Jefferson considered intellectual property to be a non-sensical term. The _intent_ of copyright/patent law was to provide incentive for invention by securing rights for a limited time and then allowing (forcing!) the new thing into the public domain.

      The idea expressed above is perfect. I invented it, you used it to make a profit, you pay me royalties. What could be simpler?
    • I think that rather than owning an idea, one should have commercial rights to the idea - that is, you don't have the right to prevent me from using your idea in my software, but you can expect royalties if I make a profit off your idea.

      These concepts already exist to a large extent in current IP laws. The use of patented technologies in research and development actiivity without giving rise to infringement has always been part of patent law. Fair use of copyrighted materials for a variety of activities such as teaching, criticism and satire is also in place.

      The threat is that laws like the DCMA will erode these rights.
  • How about benefits (Score:2, Insightful)

    by blamario (227479)
    I agree that rights discussins are not very constructive, but I still don't see how is the structure discussion going to help. People tend to care about rights more than about these "structures". It's obvious from the article that the author didn't get very far with the structures.

    What I'd like to see is a thorough comparative analysys of the practical benefits and problems (i.e. consequences) of different approaches. Media conglomerates claim the civilisation will return to the stone age with no intellectual property. FSF on the other hand claims invention will flourish. Is there no way to find out?

    • I recommend our budding structuralist read Jakobson's essay on Baudelaiure's Le Chats. You'll find it in any university library. Perhaps you even recall, that Levi Strauss got very fascinated with this notion of "discovering" the underlying structures of language and even thought that it extended the bounds of language to include non-verbal, non-textual elements as well -- led to semiotics as you will recall from last week's lecture.
      Eh hem, but that's only for history buffs who want extra credit. As to the topic at hand, the author flys in the face of all the poststructuralist theorists, particularly Derrida, with his insistence that there is some deeper meaning to be found in the IP debate by mudding the waters in a frezy of defining the long efaced metaphor of structure.
      There's nothing there. You may as well be staring at the sun, son. The fact is, the debate must take place in rhetoric. If you find rhetoric uncomfortable, then don't write articles about the IP debate. Easy.
  • Crime and cetera (Score:2, Interesting)

    by John Guilt (464909)
    Interesting enough, but there's no discussion about a strong part of any property rights/violations structure: penalties. This feeds into another complaint: the claim that rights are binary. As Platonic ideals, maybe, but in the world your rights are only as strong as your ability to defend them (or have them defended, for example if you own property under a government that recognises the "right" to keep it). That is, I can easily see a relatively humane system in which there are intellectual property rights, but the penalties for violating many of them aren't onerous, corporate "persons" have no or fewer rights than actual persons, the "necessity" defence is usable.... Call it the "Dutch model" for IP....
  • by ka9dgx (72702) on Friday August 03, 2001 @09:34AM (#2134924) Homepage Journal
    I see this as a very similar situation to the Indians and Eupopeans in early america... we're the Indians, who share the land, and think of ourselves as belonging to the land, and can't even concieve of owning it. The corporations are the invaders, and will do everything they can, including passing out blankets with smallpox, to get rid of us.

    It's war... undeclared, but war, none the less.

    --Mike--

    • Actually... it's more along the lines of the Aztecs and the Conquistadors... right now we have the ability to revolt and kick them out... but we're losing ground, fast.

      --Mike--

    • You've taken the discussion from an unconstructive "us vs. them" rights point of view and turned it into an unconstructive "us vs. them" belligerent point of view.

      Here's a little bit of information for you: The WIPO holds all of the cards. Big businesses hold all of the cards. The only way we have half of a prayer of not being squashed like little bugs is if we discard the "us vs. them" point of view and work with these countries. This is NOT a zero-sum game; the key is to demonstrate to these companies how, if they structure their proposals in a different way, that they can benefit further -- and moreover, to show that with the current structure, that they are harmed.

      Because the real problem is that overly reactionary policies cause businesses to stagnate. The people structuring these deals are not just doing bad things for little guys; they're doing bad things to their own companies and those companies' shareholders.

      Throw away the "us vs. them" mindset. We really are all in this together.
  • Congrats, Slashdot! I was expecting to see another horribly slanted article where the authors attempt to rationalize stealing from others and otherwise breaking the law, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that the attitude of the article, so to speak, wasn't "yeah, man! Steal MP3s and pirate software, 'cause when you do that, your taking a swing at the man, man!"

    Has Slashdot been hacked or something?

    All joking aside, please keep up the good work.

  • Rights are simplistic to the point of stupidity, you either have them or you do not leaving no way to reasonably discuss the fuzziness of real life and conflicting rights (c.f. pro-choice vs pro-life). Rights are almost always a bad basis for resolving conflicting interests in society but they are very attractive forms of rhetoric because they are simple enough for anyone to understand and they hold out the promise of a winner-takes-all outcome instead of any more balanced outcome.

    Oh and they're a great source of income for lawyers too, never a factor to underestimate.

    --
    Nic

  • by Anonymous Coward
    struct IntellectualProperty {
    short copyrightYear;
    long int copyrightExtension;
    char sensiblePatentCount;
    unsigned long int trivialPatentCount;
    boolean useDMCA;
    boolean launchLawsuit;
    boolean screwPeople;
    };
  • Double standards (Score:2, Flamebait)

    by caudron (466327)
    The author of that piece thinks it's right for people to be compensated for the fruits of their intellect (eg, he should be paid for that article he wrote) but when it runs contrary to his own moral position (getting AIDS medicine to Africa or genetically modifed grains to thrid world farmers) he says morality should win out.

    Easy for him to say since his words will never be of humanitarian use, and therefore never subject to mandatory public release under his proposed 'structure'.

    As much as he want to change the vocabulary used in the IP debates, in the end it is a boolean arguement: Either there is or there is not Intellectual Property. True or False.

    Changing the vocabulary may make for nicer conversation, and may even help to achieve comprimise faster, but it is an obfustication of the reality of the issue.

    Disclaimer: I am of the camp that says the answer is "False, there is no such thing as IP and any attempt to suggest otherwise is an illusion thrown up by corporate fatcats looking to stuff their wallets just a bit thicker at the expense of the public and of reality.

    -Tom
    • What a lot of people don't realize when the criticize Big Pharmaceutical Companies is that they tried giving cheap drugs to Africa. They got nothing but crap for it.

      At least one of the big names out there (I'm sorry, I can't remember which) had a program whereby they sold expensive drugs to Third-World countries at cost or very close to cost. Guess what happened? A bunch of Americans got pissed off that they had to pay more for their drugs (blah blah... ripping off Americans... blah blah), and wrote their Congressmen. The result was a law allowing and encouraging other companies to re-import cheap drugs from the Third World. Of course, the drug companies then had to stop their program.

      Drug companies spend a higher percentage of their revenues on R&D than any other industry. If they couldn't make a profit off new drugs (which they are able to only thanks to patents), they wouldn't develop anything new. The result would be widespread disease, as bacteria become resistant to our current antibiotics, and no new ones come down the pipe.

      To all those completely opposed to IP: I agree with you that there are many flaws with the current IP system, mainly that they grant patents for obvious garbage, that the term of copyright is too long, and that consumers are losing their share of the rights. Nonetheless, can you propose a system that will still encourage drug companies to make new drugs, yet doesn't involve some kind of IP? Take a close look at your system--is it Communism of some form ('cause we've tried that one a bunch of times, and it's not too hot).

      I have yet to see a system that will still encourage free enterprise to innovate, that does not involve IP. We create this notion of "intellectual property" to allow the free market to allocate intellectual resources the same way it does physical ones (it's pretty darn good with physical resources, so it at least seemed like a good idea). Anybody got any better ideas?
      • U.S.-style patent laws will deprive Third World people of innovative drugs at cheaper prices. AZT (an AIDS drug), developed by Burroughs Wellcome, has been at the center of controversy in the United States over the issue of patents and the drug's very high price.

        Indian (as in from India) patent law, which protects pharmaceutical patents but not processes, has enabled Indian scientists to develop an alternate process for the production of AZT. The Indian Institute of Chemical Technology, which developed the process, has licensed it free of cost to three Indian drug firms. According to the director of IICT, the Indian-made AZT will cost a quarter or less of the current Burroughs Wellcome price. Indian companies are exploring foreign markets in Africa and other countries where Burroughs Wellcome has no patent for its AZT.

        U.S.-style patent law and the price charged by Burroughs Wellcome mean that AIDS victims in the Third World will be deprived of AZT. Indian scientists have made a breakthrough enabling thousands of AIDS sufferers access to it.

        The Third World pharmaceutical industry will certainly be adversely affected [by the adoption of U.S.-style patent laws]. Several of the smaller firms will close down. The bigger ones may consider mergers with a view to capturing the generic market. Prices of drugs will escalate and in the end, a vast majority of Third World people will not be able to afford even a few basic essential drugs.
      • Drug companies spend a higher percentage of their revenues on R&D than any other industry.

        so what? Roughly speaking, if IP worked like the free market, drug companies would obviously spend the same percentage of their revenue as other industries. Remember, there's no free lunch. The fact that they spend more indicates that they think the risk of losing the investment is lower. This is because the IP they own guarantees them a protected monopoly and inordinate. Any real free marketeer will tell you: monopoly is a Bad Thing. There is no exception in free market theory that says monopoly is good.

    • Re:Double standards (Score:2, Interesting)

      by superdan2k (135614)

      I beg to differ -- IP law is hardly a boolean prospect.

      No law is boolean, and that's the strength of the system. Speeding? Nope...you can go to court and contest the ticket, and in a good number of cases, you can get out of it. You think Free Speech is a boolean absolute? Let me point you to censorship, and the FCC's regulation of various media. You are free to say whatever you like, but you need to avoid saying certain things which could be construed as assault, a hate crime, and so forth.

      If you remember your basic philosophy courses, there was the issue of "the chains of society" -- you live in a free country, but are you truly free to do anything you desire and remain part of the social community? The answer, of course, is no. Social regulation is something that is determined by the entire group.

      IP law should go the same way, and it isn't. IP law is being dictated to society as a whole by a small minority that has a vested interest in maintaining the status quo and are using their financial leverage to get their way.

      Should there be IP law? Yes. Should it be exploitable by companies with an army of lawyers with the intent of stuffing their wallets to the point of exploding? No.

      Unfortunately, the trend seems to be that "you can pay us buttloads of money for our product, but you can only use it in the manner we proscribe, and if you make any money off the use of our product, we're entitled to royalties." I can see it happening. Some paint company suing Picasso's estate for unpaid royalties on the use of their paint...

      *knock on wood*

    • by kurtism (473291)
      As much as he want to change the vocabulary used in the IP debates, in the end it is a boolean arguement: Either there is or there is not Intellectual Property. True or False.
      This is just false. No discussion of intellectual property is absolute. A good example is public libraries: one doesn't think twice about photocopying the information available in a book in a public library because what is contained there is _information_. We have recognized as a culture that access to that kind of information is important to all citizens in order to be capable citizens of a free society, and thus libraries are accessible to everyone for not much money.

      So, you can see, there are in fact examples in which our current culture _already_ balances the rights of content producers with the rights of the content consumers. People in the IP discussion of software should make themselves more familiar with the discussion surrounding the creation of libraries. People in the IP discussion about music/movies/etc will not benefit from this analogy, though, since the content produced there is primarily entertainment - not information.
      • by evvk (247017)
        > So, you can see, there are in fact examples in which our current culture _already_ balances the rights of content producers with the rights of the content consumers. ... People in the IP discussion about music/movies/etc will not benefit from this analogy, though

        I don't know about the US, but in Finland we do have music in public libraries and it is perfectly legal to make a copy of what you have loaned. But I wonder how long given the current trend and Euro-DMCA. Indeed, I seriously doubt that if libraries were invented now, not in the distant past, that they'd ever become anything more than just an idea.
    • Re:Double standards (Score:3, Informative)

      by schporto (20516)
      Yes but that falls directly under his point in the intro. He says that he agrees with parts of both sides. As do I, as do (I think) most people. Not everything is black and white. And his point in the article is that it is virtually impossible for him (or me) to resolve our opinions of what we _beleive_ is right to the statements of "There are only two positions." Neither to me holds completely true. So that leaves us stuck. He has offered a new framework for us to try and resolve this issue. He's not proposing a solution, merely a framework to look at it differently. In terms of 'rights' you either do or do not there is no middle. In terms of 'structure' as he discusses then there are no double standards in his beliefs. He's looking at this in a different way then you. One that agrees with his morals. Which to me makes sense.
      -cpd
    • Re:Double standards (Score:3, Interesting)

      by nehril (115874)
      False, there is no such thing as IP

      Indeed, if you think about it there IS no such thing as "intellectual property." That "property" of any kind is also an illusion is left as an excersise to the reader.

      That being said, why have these illusions at all? you think you "own" your car because you paid for it, but anybody can just take it from you if they have the means to do so, and now "your property" is now theirs. Allowing such actions to go unpunished means that society decays into a sort of anarchy, where the only property you can "own" is what you can physically defend from everyone else.

      So society and governments come up with this fiction called property, and then attempt to enforce it for the sake of order. Intellectual property is also a fiction, but it exists and is enforced for a different reason.

      The concept of intellectual property (and it's attendant enforcement by the government) exists to promote the creation of more "works of the intellect" by people who might otherwise have to spend their time working at McDonalds rather than writing a new piece of music. This is based on the posit that more arts and innovation and knowledge are "good" for society, and less is "bad."

      If the "intellectual property" fiction were to vanish tomorrow, and anyone could obtain information according to whatever means they can employ without any repercussions, what would be the outcome? It might become quite difficult to be compensated for long hours (or any hours) spent creating something intellectually new, if the products of your labor can be obtained by anyone essentially free of charge.

      If it became too difficult to profit from works of the intellect, then fewer people would invest the effort. Society would have fewer people working on arts, innovation and knowledge. Only those who were independantly wealthy could afford to spend lots of time creating new things, and most other people would have to squeeze in creative work between shifts at the local wal-mart. If you accept the premise that more works of the mind are "good" (whatever you think "good" is) then you can see how this leads to compensation systems. And THAT leads to the intellectual property fantasy and enforcement.

      However, while more knowledge may be a "good" thing, it should not be sought after at all costs. There needs to be a balance between promoting independent research and creativity and other values we have as a society.

      Therefore, the point of the Ars article is not to simply change the words around (s/rights/structures/g), but rather to remind people that all forms of property really ARE a fiction, one that we subscribe to for the sake of bettering our society. What you percieve as a double standard is in fact the crux of the idea that IP is fantasy; we want it to exist but not at any cost. Finding the balance without resorting to "God Given Intellectual Property Rights," or "Artists should only be paid in T-shirt sales when we feel like it" is the essential endeavor.

    • "False, there is no such thing as IP and any attempt to suggest otherwise is an illusion thrown up by corporate fatcats looking to stuff their wallets just a bit thicker at the expense of the public and of reality."

      So does that mean that I, as a small-time musician who expects credit and compensation for his work, am really just a corporate fatcat looking to stuff my wallet a bit thicker at the expense of the public and of reality? Because IP law is very important to me -- it's what keeps people from stealing my songs and saying, "No, actually, I made this."
      • More or less. But hey - I'm an artist, and I make my living from my work, and I think the same thing about myself.

        You're looking for compensation, are you not? You're denying the benefits of being able to further disseminate and alter your work to the public, are you not? You're just not a very fat cat. (and neither am I)

        But I do try to keep it to a minimum, and I think that the copyright bargain (where the public permits us to demand things like credit and compensation from them as a reward, provided that it's only temporary) is weighted too far to the end of artists right now, and needs to swing back.
        • Sure, I'll agree with you there -- but that's not what the author of the parent comment was saying. He's a member of the public who will NOT permit you and I to demand things as a reward for any reason and at any time.

          He says that out of the goodness of our hearts, we should provide our work to all free of charge.

          Musicians shouldn't be compensated. Coders should work for free. Writers should take the time, blood, sweat and tears as a badge of honor for having done society a good favor.

          That's why I find myself in agreement with the editorial. I'm one of those billions of people who are in the middle between the two extremes between the communists and the fascists, wanting both a government's ability to distribute my work and a corporation's ability to exploit it to be limited.
  • greed (Score:1, Flamebait)

    by ebbv (34786)

    that's really what the whole discussion of intelectual property comes down to.

    does anyone else remember when david letterman left NBC for CBS and was told that he could not do stupid pet tricks, top ten, etc. because these were the intellectual property of NBC?

    anyone recall the prevalent attitude of the time? 'what is intellectual property? isn't that like a copy of the entire works of jung?'

    the notion that someone can own an idea is ridiculous. it only came about because greedy bastards who somehow stumbled upon something that at least passed for a good idea realized they'd probably never have another one, and they really really needed to protect their single solitary precious.

    the music industry knows it's fucked because it hasn't innovated in twenty years. the CD was the last big step. if they were forced to innovate and provide a product worthy of the money, right now you'd have them pushing DVD Audio, and the DTS/Dolby 5.1 music experience.

    but they're not. why? because they have the CD-presses, and the stereo recording studios all set up and they can make a much better profit stamping out those at $0.02 each and charging $15 than they could having to investigate new technologies and create new recording studios, new production facilities, etc.

    corporate lethargy is everywhere, there's no competition, there's just gluttony.
    ...dave
    • seven (Score:2, Flamebait)

      by s20451 (410424)

      I don't usually respond to trolls, but I couldn't resist this one. Since the anti-IP movement is all about envy (I want my free MP3s! I want my free software!), I guess it's par for the course that IP should be all about greed.

      • It's a shame that I just used my last mod point on someone else, b/c you would have gotten "Troll=1" if I hadn't. The parent post makes a good point about the motivation of the corporations driving the WIPO. You, however, spew the same mindless rant you think you're responding to. Having reasonable expectations of free use doesn't make me an envious freeloader.

        • Having reasonable expectations of free use doesn't make me an envious freeloader.

          That should have said "fair use". Teach me not to Preview.

        • Well, I'm frankly surprised that I haven't been modded into oblivion yet. Must be the JonKatz article keeping everyone busy.

          I disagree that the parent post makes any intelligent argument about the motivation of IP protectors. My intention was to point out (somewhat bluntly) that while it's possible to stereotype the motivation of authors to protect their IP as "greed" and "gluttony", it's equally possible to stereotype the anti-IP community as a bunch of pirates who just want free stuff. Seems I struck a nerve somewhere.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 03, 2001 @09:49AM (#2126364)

      Your belief that ideas can be "owned" is your RELIGIOUS belief. It is not universally right. And further, you do not need to spread your RELIGION to us "unenlightened barbarians".

      I live in Taipei (Taiwan). Taiwan is not signed to either the Berne nor WIPO treaties. This means that copying software, movies, CDs, etc., and yes, even reselling them is 100% legal here. Accept this. We do not believe that ideas can belong to any one person.

      As example, Son May Records [sonmay.com.tw] is a local company here that copies, repackages and sells music, movies, etc., usually minus all the extras, for much less. This is legal. The company is not underground. They are licensed, pay taxes, employ locals, even give to charities and fund many local youth sports.

      I also should say, Taiwan has very many cool LOCALLY BASED music bands. Many live an extravagant lifestyle from their success. How can that be if you say that no IP law means no one will produce content? Looks like you're wrong again.

      Westerners need to learn that other positions on IP by other nations are as equally valid as their own. Did you learn nothing from your own Spanish Inquisition? You're doing the same thing all over again.

      But then biggest IP pusher is Amerika; people who came to a land where the people (American Indians) did not believe land could be owned. They tell children fairy tales about trading some beads for Manhattan Island from these savages and laugh and pat themselves on the back for their cleverness which is little more than smug theft. And US has still not made reparations for this act and never will, and now preaches righeousness to us?

      Further, these same USians attempting to ram their DMCA/WIPO down everyone's throat (looks like Canada is next)... these same people DON'T GIVE A SHIT ABOUT WHAT OTHER NATIONS THINK IS ILLEGAL. So while the US uses influence to get foreigners busted for breaking US law (Sklyarov from Russia, MoRE and DeCSS from Norway. Streamcasting sites rebroadcasting free-and-clear-broadcasted TV in Canada), US porn sites continue to be accessible and knowingly accept connections from places where porn is illegal like Saudi Arabia, and most Islamic nations. The US still allows promulgation of Nazi propaganda and private sale of Nazi artifacts illegal in France, Austra, Germany, etc. You ignore this but expect other nations to obey your law?

      Yankee go home.

      • You're doing the same thing all over again.

        If it works, repeat.

        And US has still not made reparations for this act and never will, and now preaches righeousness to us?

        The US was also preaching righteousness to the Indians. It's a tactic. Preach honesty while lying, nonviolence while killing, innovation while stifling creativity.
      • I am an American. That said, I still agree whole heartedly with you. You make many valid points in your . it would seem that this is the way our government does buisness, we have become far to comfortable as the worlds big brother. To the point that we stop thinking about what kind of an influence we are makeing. And the freedom that is so freely faught for and proclaimed apears to disapear right before our eyes. It seems that this issue the copywrite issue, is truely just one flashpoint in a war that is to be waged in the near future, between those of us free minds and our own government. -Atrox

        -"You want people to think logically? ACK! Turn in your UID, you traitor!"
      • I love how you choose music as your only example. Music is a bit special, because even though fans are perfectly happy to pirate CDs, they'll still pay to see the band in person, and the band can make a killing on ticket sales. The same is not true of authors, painters, photographers, sculptors, programmers, nor in fact pretty much any other kind of artist.

        Imagine trying to make a living as, say, a nature photographer if anybody could simply appropriate your work and sell it without you seeing any money from it. Does anyone here honestly think that (say) Ansel Adams would have produced such astounding photographic works if they were published without his permission, and nobody would actually pay him for his work? Would the world be a better place if that had been the case? Maybe, maybe not. But I'd be willing to bet that there aren't that many successful Taiwanese nature photographers (just to pick an example).

        The idea of anybody being able to take a program I've written, and sell it without my permission and me not see a cent from it, really pisses me off. And I have a feeling that most of you chanting "information wants to be free" would feel the same way, if it were your software being used without your permission.

        IMPORTANT POINT: before you flame, remember than in complete absence of IP laws (as in Taiwan), the GPL isn't legal. That's right -- Microsoft could steal whatever parts of Linux or other GPLed software they want, and use them as their own, and you couldn't do a damned thing about it. THAT's true lack of IP laws.
        • Or imagine being a famous artist like Michaelangelo, or a famous writer like Shakespeare or a famous composer like Bach or... oh wait, none of them had copyright protections.

          They made their money through their personal labor (e.g. Bach performing live is irreproducable) through pay for the first copy of their works (e.g. the David) and were on an even playing ground with everyone else, save for any talents they might have had, with selling reproductions.

          Sure, the GPL wouldn't work without copyright. But then, how would MS function - people could copy the binaries, and there's little incentive to keep the source closed either. GPL is just making the best of a bad situation, not an actual goal.
      • "extras, for much less"

        Yes, and do you know why they can do this?

        IT'S BECAUSE THEY DIDN'T SPEND MILLIONS ON ITS PRODUCTIONS.

        Really, how hard can it be to understand that its the production that costs money, not the media!
    • by Wordsmith (183749)
      When that all went down, I was still pretty young and had nevr heard the phrase "intellectual property" before. I thought "duh, what a stupid concept" and that you could only -own- physical items that can't be distributed without removing them from the current owner. Now that I'm much older and more educated about these idea, I STILL think that.

      What's obvious to a pre-teen should be obvious to the gov't, don't ya think?

  • He stole my AIDS example waaaaa, that was my IP I'm gonna sue :) Ok now it's time to be serious :(

    I think there are quite a few intersting points made in this well written article. First of all I agree with him on the fact that content providers should get paid and that the companies that help them distribute their product should get compensated. I also beleive that IP holders should not be able to use their patents and copyrights in a manner that is not in the interests of the majority, such as the with-holding of AIDS medication. My solution would be a combination of extremely short-term patents (a few years depending on the circumstances) and Common Decency Laws which make using your patents or copyrights in a manor that will harm a large number individuals (such as forcing an AIDS medicine to be withhoeld from needy people) illegal and grounds for the cancellation of your patents/copyrights. Rather than using your legal clout and "technical genius" (like Macromedia, lol) to stop piracy, a company should simply make copyright compliance easier than piracy (this could be done with lowering of excessive prices, adding of "hard" (poster, stickers or similar items...sickos I know what you were thinking) items to your purchases, warranties, etc. For example if I want to back-up my CDs right now I need to either burn them or buy a new full price album. If a better solution was offered, such as CD copying for 4-5 dollars, I might decide to not buy a burner because it's cheaper and better quality to pay for their services. In the eend it's all about forcing companies to "play fair" while still making it worthwhile for them to develop products. Will this ever happen? I don't think so, corporations wield to much power now for them to ever give it up. Just my opinion.
    • I think his best point is about the motives of those who are establishing the new digital IP protection schemes. Why are motives so central to court cases, yet so ignored by the government when legislating new laws?

      The motive behind the inception of DCMA and UCITA and more to come is not balance, ease of use, fairness, improving society and culture, the progression of technology, or consumer benefits. It is profit, and control. Nothing more. We're turning into the fucking Ferengi... it's so pathetic. How to coax and twist the system into a state to ensure that truckloads of money continue to pour in, regardless of whether they do anything to earn it anymore. I am reminded of that scene in Episode 1:
      "My lord, is that legal?"
      "I will make it legal."

  • The overriding concern to which citizens should adhere when deciding on how a society is structured is the question, "What incentives do we wish to create?" The Slashdot crowd seems to be overwhelmingly anti-intellectual property rights; I'm not sure whether it has adequately examined the consequences.

    Consider the ideal pursued by many in the debate right now: total and absolute freedom of any idea. The inescapable consequence is that the ability of any one individual to capture benefits from that idea is gone. Thus the driving incentive to develop ideas is gone; I personally love studying astronomy, but I'm a programmer to pay the bills because I cannot feed my family on looking through a telescope.

    So the paradox is that a society that jealously guards the rights of intellectual authors benefits the most from those ideas.

    Here's a quote from another post:

    The current IP regime is preventing inexpensive anti-AIDS drugs from being developed in Africa.

    Consider the reality of the situation: a drug company spent millions of dollars to develop that drug for the purpose of making money. Maybe we wish they did things for different reasons, but unless we're willing to send their kids to school, it's really none of our business. If we abolish their intellectual property right to a particular AIDS drug, we gain the one drug for free use in Africa...but we can be sure there will never be another AIDS drug produced by that company.

    The painful reality is that the profit motive is the most powerful transformative agent in the world. Abolish intellectual property, and you risk abolishing the benefit we derive from them.
    • Consider the ideal pursued by many in the debate right now: total and absolute freedom of any idea. The inescapable consequence is that the ability of any one individual to capture benefits from that idea is gone. Thus the driving incentive to develop ideas is gone; I personally love studying astronomy, but I'm a programmer to pay the bills because I cannot feed my family on looking through a telescope.


      People can derive benefit from their work without ever recieving money for it. One of the problems with the current system is that it gives incentive for creators who are only in it for the money (NSYNC etc.) while adding very little incentive for those who practice their art for the sake of becoming better at it, and better people in the process. The end result is a system that rewards the easily promotable and marketable and often ignores the dedicated and sincere. If Art is a temple, perhaps it's time to chase the moneylenders out of it.

      After all, Emily Dickenson never got paid, partially because the people who were in the business of paying for poetry weren't willing to pay for hers without changing it in ways she knew to be wrong. 100 years later, her "free" poetry is being read a lot more than the stuff people were paying for.

      Franz Kafka never got paid, either - in fact, he requested that all his works be burned after his death, and yet, he was compelled to create them, even though he didn't want them read by the public. Now he's known world wide while many novelists of his time are nearly forgotten.

      The free market of ideas and artistic works is not the same as the free market of commodities. The first is infinite and cannot be exhasted. The second is finite and scarcity is common. As William Blake (another guy who didn't make much money) said, "One law for the lion and the lamb is tyranny".

      Oh, and my comment to the guy from Taiwan is this - when the corporations and nations start paying back rent and reparations to all the 3rd world and victimized peoples that have been harmed and stolen from, then they might have some kind of moral ground on which to protest the "stealing" of "property". In the meantime, just think of copying as a series of tiny settlements. What goes around comes around.
      • Ahhh...but the point you miss is that, absent some ability to capture benefit from their idea, only those with some other means to support themselves, or those willing to suffer abject poverty (which pretty much describes the people in your list) will be able to pursue the activity.

        We'll find people in four categories at the extremes: people who are terribly poor, and make crap, people who are terribly poor, and make great art; people who are terribly rich, and make crap, and people who are terribly rich, and make great art. The choice to limit IP says that our society will only allow the first two, cutting our possible greatness in half. Consider that there are probably a bunch of great poets out there doing accounting because they cannot fulfill their obligations with poetry.

        From an economic standpoint, look at the abolition of IP rights as a price control, fixed at zero. Ceteris paribus, price ceilings causes shortages, period. You want fewer developed ideas in the world? Abolish IP rights.
      • What you a suggesting has already been tried in the communist states.

        The whole goal with communism is that the individual should abandod his property (both fysical things and intellectual property) for the good of the community (therefore the word communism). Most important of those are IP actually, to do the hard work they forced people, you can't force people into inventing.

        It really didn't work that good. People didn't invent, not much medicines where developed because it didn't gave anything to the inventor.

        Without IP we wouldn't have aids medicine, we wouldn't have cancer medicine, we wouldn't have much progress.

        You point at people who did create without beeing paid and thats right, some development would be made but it would be very very slow.
  • Since I only lurk the ars forums I wanted to encourage anyone here who likes what Ars has to offer, to offer their support by subscribing to Ars.

    Everyone (including me) hates to hear how IP owners are bearing down on users to squeeze out every dime from their users. Ars will go offline before that crew sells out so show some support if you dig their site (plz).
    • If that articles was any indication of Ars, then I'm not too impressed.
      Mr. Hanibal tries to step outside of the rhetoric of the Intellectual Property debate, but that's where the real action is. I would allow that, but for the fact that he wants to use structure as a metaphor and that makes me associate him with his illustrious predecessors. Among these predecessors is Nietzche who famously wrote aphorisms.
      This piece is hardly aphoristic.
      But wait, let me explain what that means and my original point will be clearer.
      Nietzche was a huge inspiration on many thinkers who believed that answers to compex questions could be found by speaking in terms of structures.
      But what was it about Nietzche's writing? Perhaps it's a mere side note that I'm overemphasizing, but one very noticeable thing about Nietzche's writing style was his use of aphorisms. For the kids in the crowd --and I'm being pedantic, so if you're not a kid you can fuck off-- Nietzche makes for an odd read because it's got all these slogans stuck in there.
      You know what they're like . . . that's right, sig files.
      Well this Ars article totally ducks the slogan side of things and then owes all this stuff to the masters and doesn't mention it.
      Don't buy it, well check this out.
      Here's an aphorism from Beyond Good and Evil --even the titles are cool!, that Ars article had a weak title. Anyways, here it is--
      "There are master morality and slave morality."(F.N.)
      See, this exact concept that was brought up on page three of the article is covered heavily by Nietzche, ie, who should owe whom respect and when and how in a master/slave situation. So, the debt is there whether it's intended or not.
      Given the presence of this backgroud that the writer intentionally conjures you'd hope there would be some debate worthy one liners or at least some obscenity or profane reference, but that just didn't happen. Sorry, Ars, don't call us, we'll call you.
  • One Problem (Score:2, Insightful)

    I agree with the basic premise of the article that those of us concerned with IP of the individual nature should be working toward creating structures that clearly define what's legal and what's not with the large corporations. However, We are a small minority. We are fighting corporations with BILLIONS invested in this area. Our only leverage is our rights which are defended by the Supreme Court. So yes I agree with you, but I think it's as likely to happen as stopping a war by getting everyone to hold hands and sing.
    • I agree with the downbeat appraisal there, when I read ars' article I thought it was a great idea - a way to de-polarize the current two IP camps, and allow for a healthy compromise to be reached. I believe on one hand that people should be rewarded for new creations/ideas, but on the other hand I also believe in freedom of information, so a well-thought out middle ground appeals to me.

      Unfortunately, I also thought that when these new structures are in the process of being worked out, the IP lawyers for the corporations will be the main advisors/proofreaders (Echoes of DMCA?).

      The outlook then becomes a new IP situation, that is (To all intents) identical to the one we have now, but the IP conglomos can all say how tough it was compromising with the people, and what huge sacrifices they made for us. All of it false

      This is a real shame, and I hope it doesn't come to this, but I just get that sinking feeling again...

  • As I see it, three relatively small changes could clean up the US IP situtation greatly.

    1) The government needs to hire some geeks. The biggest problem with IP is that the people who control IP laws [Patent offices, Judges, Congressmen] do not understand technology. For example, Amazon's one-click patent was absolutely ridiculous. Its obvious they need to hire 10 or 20 good people with Ph.D's in EE/CE/CS. Perhaps congress could create some sort of technological advisory committee.

    2) The time limit on IP has been inflated by lobbying by corporations and should be reduced. Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't Fox own 'Planet of the Apes' for *99* years?? Isn't the Amazon 1-click patent viable for 14 years? In 14 years we won't even *have* mice. And Amazon will own a patent on '1-word' shopping' IMHO, copyright should be about 10 years and patents about 3. Technology moves so fast today that even a few years is a *very long time*.

    3) It needs to be more costly to sue in America. In Australia, the loser pays all court costs. People are going nuts with the litigous system in America because *it costs them nothing if they lose*. TechSearch would be a lot more careful if, in an incorrect suit, they were slapped with $5 million in legal fees.

    In reality we probably need a totally new system of IP laws, but I think those three points would clean up the existing system quite a bit.
    • In 14 years we won't even *have* mice.

      It seems to me that the rapid pace of the advance of technology is in itself a cap on the lifetime of a patent, and the duration, instead of being shortened need not be capped at all. After all, if we don't have mice in a few years, a one click shopping patent will be irrelavent, so who cares about the duration of a patent. Ditto on any similar relatively minor innovation.

      On the other hand, a really worthwhile innovation that really opens a whole new field is likely to be valuable for a long period of time, and is also not likely to realize it's true value for many years. Perhaps the current 20 year life of a patent doesn't offer enough incentive to companies to invest in the really risky, hard, costly and fundamental work that is necesary to come up with revolutionary technologies.

  • Why wait around for the governments of the world to address the issues raised in this article? Some of these ideas could be implemented now with a new license that uses some of the features of the GPL.

    The GPL itself is not sufficient to satisfy the principles from the article because its emphasis on freedom overrides most other considerations, including compensating the authors in a straightforward manner. The GPL is fine for use in large swaths of the software landscape, where well-to-do computer professionals donate efforts for the public good. However, it's hard to see how the GPL alone would be sufficient to support most writers or musicians.

    A different kind of public license could be written, though, that is intended to fairly balance all of the interests discussed in the article. It would allow copying and modifying of works by the user, as long as attribution is carefully maintained. It might allow for free redistribution; however, it would certainly prohibit redistribution or public performance for a fee unless royalties are paid to the author. I would think that Gnutella would be allowed, but Napster disallowed, because Napster was trying to make money indirectly. Redistribution for a fee would be non-exclusive; anyone could produce and distribute copies as long as the appropriate royalties were paid. Royalties terms need not be fixed, but they would have to be simple and well defined by the license. All parties would know exactly what to expect in terms of royalties.

    Even if file sharing is explicitely allowed, the content creators would still see revenue. Free sharing is a self-limiting phenomenon. When people really like something, they want a token of it in the form of atomic matter (like a disk, a pamphlet, a T-shirt, whatever). If this weren't true, TV and radio would have wiped out IP decades ago. Any production of atomic matter will involve a fee, because it costs money to produce copies of these; you'd be a fool to stamp out CDs and then give them away for free. ('Free' distribution tied to some other condition or promotion would not be allowed, either; no embrace-and-extend.)

    If that's not strong enough, maybe content protection would be allowed. However, the license would clearly define how the protection is used and what rights the end user has; these rights would be at least as strong as those implied by current analog media. Any protection schemes would be openly developed and implemented (and therefore, probably more secure than current schemes). Cracking the protection would be explicitely allowed; however, redistributing the plaintext results would not (even for free). Redistributing the encrypted form would be OK.

    This kind of license would share an important advantage with the GPL: it would be a well known contract that anyone could choose to use. This provides a kind of pre-canned business plan that could make it easier to get started selling IP without giving up all of your rights to a distributor. The 'viral' aspects would be important, too. As more artists, users and distributors find out about the advantages of this license, more would choose to join in and avoid the current distribution oligarchy. It might even build up enough momentum to challenge the current order.

  • The first thing to do is to forget that stupid buzzword "intellectual property". This gives the impression that it's somehow analogous to real property, which it obviously is not. IMO it's not any less stupid than MPAA's "digital crowbar".
  • In contrast to what Stokes supposes, for example, the "rights" that content owners now demand for themselves were never available to them in the status quo. For example, in the evolving concept of the consumer as a mere renter of content it might be construed as illegal to share books with friends and colleagues, or sell used books at garage sales.

    Moreover, the discussion about "rights" of content holders in the digital age, follows exactly the evolution that has occurred throughout society in the past 50 years; which is to say a focus on rights but nary a word about responsibilities. Forget about worrying that the school system might be used as a propaganda tool in this evolution, schools are already little more than propaganda tools in the "rights" babble. The education system presents everything in cartoon form. This is why hackers and physicists alike, always learn more on their own or working with friends than they do in school.

    Stokes somehow has it that the greatest threat to getting GM crop technology out to feed a hungry world are corporations and hordes of lawyers. I can make a cogent argument that the greatest threat is actually from sparkle-headed protestors who destroy other people property to vent their synthetic rage at injustice. These folks scare politicians, who haven't much courage anyway.

    Stokes made not one useful suggestion. Want to fix the problem? Shorten the term for copyright and patents, in our time-compressed world patents have to pay for themselves quickly anyway. Use the education system to focus on both rights and responsibilities. And legislate an automatic life in prison sentence for anyone found using the DMCA to censore and silence their critics.

  • This problem is a lesser form of the clash between capitalist concepts and communist concepts.

    The capitalist system protects the right of the individual to own property and to earn money from his propery in a free market, or to invent something and to earn money from that invention in the free market.

    It Joe invents a widget then he should make more money from it's commercialization then Bob who just got a copy of the widget plans after the fact. Capitalism solves this issue very simply by giving Joe all rights to anything associated with the widget for whatever use he sees fit in a free market.

    Basically, capitalism is designed to protect individual rights of property. This is the core of the patent and copyright system and it is the the basis of western society. This guy is saying that he doesn't think it works properly. I'd tend to agree. If Joe invents something that could have a very major impact on the well being of society as a whole, then having that thing or technology monopolisticly controlled by Joe for use or commercialization at his own discretion, could easily create some problems.

    Solving that problem by having the government step in and dictate which type of inventions and "things" (like IP) can't be owned as property and should be avialable to the public, is a communist concept. The americian government won't change it's views on IP or things like patents or the DMCA, because to do so would be contrary to the core concepts of capitalism.

    Pure capitalism as the basis for society won't work as well in the next century or two as it has historically, I think.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Humour is said to be one of the best emotional cleansers. In that vein, I give you...

    If WIPO made cars

    • you would buy and own the car, but you wouldn't own the right to travel in it
    • the right to travel would be chargable on a per-use basis
    • you could not carry passengers without paying an additional travel fee
    • although you legally could make short trips in a car without paying the travel fee, the car would physically prevent your travel without payment
    • you would be physically restricted to travel over specific approved roads, which would vary from car to car
    • if you needed to change from driving on a two lane highway to an expressway, you'd have to buy a new car

    Can anyone think of more?


  • several things:

    1) The reason for IP & Copyright is to ensure that Content Producers
    GET PAID for their work.

    2) Once they are paid (by whatever means - i propose 'ASSOCIATIONS'),
    then it is in the Public Interest that the BEST TOOLS are spread.
    i.e. If a piece of Software X will make a user 10x more productive
    than software Y -- THEN IT WOULD INCREASE NATIONAL PRODUCTIVITY
    FOR ALL USERS TO HAVE SOFTWARE X.

    3) after the producers of the software have been compensated for their
    work (enough to make a living), it is essentially a DECREASE in
    national productivity of all the users use the software Y. yet,
    the additional tech support and consulting fees are measured as an
    INCREASE in GNP, when in actual truth, using the less productive
    software Y in real terms results in a DECREASE in national productivity.
    under the current system, people will buy software Y instead of the
    better software X simply because it costs less -- EVEN THOUGH THE COST
    TO DISTRIBUTE THE TWO SOFTWARES (AFTER THE PRODUCERS ARE PAID) IS THE
    SAME!

    4) thus, we can see that two equally valid interests contend here:
    i) the good of the one (the producer)
    ii) the good of the many (consumers)

    and the problem is How to compensate producers fairly, while at
    the same time bringing the benefit to the public of unlimited
    freed digital distribution.

    5) a solution, involving software ASSOCIATIONS is described here:

    Rudolf Steiner & Social Threefolding:
    http://home.earthlink.net/~johnrpenner/Articles/St einer-Social.html

    And this is the law of the wild,
    As old and as true as the sky.
    And the wolf who keeps it will prosper,
    But the wolf who breaks it will die!

    Like the wind that circles the tree trunk,
    this law runneth forward and back.
    The strength of the pack is the wolf,
    and the strength of the wolf is the pack.

    (Rudyard Kipling)

    regards,
    johnpenner@-NOSPAM-mac.com
    http://home.earthlink.net/~johnrpenner

  • He have misunderstood "Information wants to be free", hasn't he?

    At least, how I understand it, is that it is information that wants to be free not that "we'd like information to be free". The distinction is very important: It means that you can't control information: Stuff will leak out no matter how hard you try to control it, sooner or later it will be known to many more than you intended. Some information will leak out, at considerable cost to the one who leak it, even the cost of your life. For example Stephen Biko, who was killed after revealing some details about the suppression in South Africa in 1977, if I remember the case correctly.

    So, it is not about if somebody like information to be owned or not, it is about if it is possible to keep information under control.

  • You don't need complicated legal or moral rhetoric to see through the current (flawed) "IP" debate. Straight economics will do.

    For scarce, excludable goods (like chairs) it makes sense to have strong property laws because this gives society the information it needs (through price signals) to allocate its resources most efficiently. Consumers support what they want (and much they want it) by allocating money, letting producers know what to make more off and what to make less of.

    For non-scarce, non-excludable goods (like ideas, code, music etc...) you don't need property laws in the same way because society does not need to reallocate resources based on market demand. If I have an idea and I share it with you, now we both have it. There is no scarcity that needs to be managed. Therefore, society benefits MOST when all ideas exist in the public domain for everyone to use as they wish.

    Copyright law was created to HELP PUT IDEAS IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN. By giving IP producers TEMPORARY monopoly and ownership on their ideas, the thinking went, they would have more incentive to come up with ideas. Copyright law NOT originally conceived to give IP producers ownership of their work, nor was it conceived to ensure IP producers can make money off their ideas. Its original intent was to help society produce more ideas for the intellectual commons.

    The point isn't "ideas should be free" vs. "ideas are property". Copyright was, and should be about structuring society so it creates more ideas for the public domain. Everything else is details on how to implement that society structure best. This is an economic argument, not a moral or legal one. If keeping ideas OUT of the public domain for a limited time helps create more ideas for it in the longer run, then that's cool.

    Obviously, copyright has moved so far from this original intent that people think of ideas as property, and even folks supporting freedom of expression base their arguments on competing ownership and fair use rights, missing the central economic driver at the heart of all of this: how do we structure society so that it generates the maximum ongoing amount of ideas that enrich the public domain.

    Copyright used to be a friend of the intellectual commons. It should be made a friend again.

    Zimran
    http://www.winterspeak.com
  • Say i go the the store to buy a radio, how much do you think the material inside the radio costs. Some plastics and silicon. Not much.

    The value is in it's development, in the engineering that produced it.

    Say I go to a car-dealer to buy a new car. How much do the material for the car cost. Also not much.

    The value it in it's engineering, testing for safety etc.

    To make a car costs about 1/10 of it's saleprice.

    Do you think for example ford can spend the enourmous amount of money developing more safe cars and testing it for also huge amounts of money if volvo can grab the blueprints right away? Ford must sell the car for a price high enough to cover the development cost while volvo can dump the price since they didn't spend the money in the development phase.

    Wake up of your dreamworld!

    A houndred years ago the value was in the material, nowadays most value in all products are in intellectual property, in the people that makes up the company. A houdred years ago manwork wasn't worth much, you should be GLAD that it value are alot higher today. It makes YOU valuable!

    I'm not saying that IP owners should have rights to do whatever they want to but IP rights are an important part of the western worlds economy and has given the broad majority of people great welth. Compare our living standard with the third world where man is just a tool for producing material that we (in the western world) make into products.

    It's not us who should become third world economies, it's the third world that needs to get closer to us!

The greatest productive force is human selfishness. -- Robert Heinlein

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