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Intellectual Property Laws bad for business 293

Posted by Hemos
from the intellects-are-sometimes-bad-for-business dept.
mshiltonj writes "The NYTimes has a story called "Report Raises Questions About Fighting Online Piracy" that talks about how the stringent enforcement of current Intellectual Property laws (see: RIAA) may acutally be bad for business. It's the not EFF or FSF saying this, it's professors at Harvard Business School and Cardozo Law School. The professors say, "The ideas of copy-left, or of a more liberal regime of copyright, are receiving wider and wider support, It's no longer a wacky idea cloistered in the ivory tower; it's become a more mainstream idea that we need a different kind of copyright regime to support the wide range of activities in cyberspace." and "Bits are not the same as atoms. We need to reframe the legal discussion to treat the differences of bits and atoms in a more thoughtful way.""
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Intellectual Property Laws bad for business

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  • wired article (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 01, 2004 @10:35AM (#8428594)
    There's an article like this in this month's Wired too.
    It is pretty clear that an idea is not something that someone can "own", because it doesn't exist in space and time. Property laws were developed because there is only a limited amount of material objects in the universe, but everyone can "own" ideas without "taking" anything from anybody else. In fact, it is better to spread good ideas around, for the same reason that it is better to live in a good neighborhood than a bad one.
    • Re:wired article (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jafuser (112236) on Monday March 01, 2004 @11:12AM (#8428857)
      I think a lot of this has to do with the continuious copyright extensions. If copyright were left alone and implemented as it was originally, it wouldn't seem like such an oppressive system.

      Basically the copyright extension lobbyists are killing themselves slowly by stretching out copyright terms longer and longer. Each time they stretch it, the thinner it's importance becomes to the general population who see it as unfair to the common good.
      • Re:wired article (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 01, 2004 @01:10PM (#8430409)
        Personally, I would love to get rid of the "life" part of life+70 years in copyright law.

        Just make it a fixed amount of time, preferably no more than 30 years (this is, after all, for *copyright* not patents), then it all goes into the public domain.

        Yes, I'm well aware of how the record companies would hate to lose some of their classic hits from the 60s and 70s, but I doubt they sell much from there but a small selection of the very best albums and whatnot.

        This would also make it MUCH easier to determine when the copyright was over, rather than having to figure out when the author died, figure out if it was a joint work, or a company owned one, etc. Might also allow them to have an unpublished period of five years or something, too, and other bits like that.

        But still, making copyright last forever is rediculous. I'm kinda glad that the 'freezing' of Walt Disney was mythical, because I'd hate to see them argue that since he's still "alive" (theoretically, at any rate), his copyright will live as long as he stays frozen... (e.g. forever, because it would cut into profits to bring him back, even if it were thought possible to in the far future...)

        While we're at it, ditch software & business process patents entirely, make normal ones a bit more narrow, and possibly cut the time on them a bit.

        One other thing we need to address, though, is the "IP vampire" companies with no actual products who buy up "IP" from dead companies and use it to extort normal companies, making them the living dead of the business world, since they can't be stopped with defensive patents... I'd like to think that open source/free software ideals can help fend them off, if applied more broadly. They are within the current laws, but they certainly don't advance the original purposes of those laws at all... (This, ironically, is one "business method" that I wish had been patented defensively... alas, it is probably too late...)
      • Re:wired article (Score:5, Insightful)

        by jafac (1449) on Monday March 01, 2004 @04:42PM (#8433287) Homepage
        Copyright extension and legislation is nothing but a mechanism for the brokering of power and influence. Period.

        There IS a fundamentally valid reason for both copyright and patents (and trademarks) to exist. But the scope has been blown way out of proportion by the power brokers, who are only in government to make a buck.
    • Re:wired article (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 01, 2004 @11:17AM (#8428896)
      Actually, Copyright law is designed so that artists, inventors, etc.. have some kind of incentive for creating. The idea is that if you take that protection away artists won't bother creating because they can't sell their product without someone stealing it and selling it. Or that you invent something and someone else copies your idea thus taking away some or all of your ability to make money. Since we (at least here in the US) live in a capitalist society the idea is that people work to gain, in our case they work or create to gain money. Copyright law has nothing to do with protecting matter. However this is not to say I do not agree that music and art should be copyrighted for a hundred years either. A reasonable amount of time to profit from your work is all that is needed to give artists a reason to create, not what is likely to be longer than their lifetime so that greedy leeches can continue to sell their creations indefinately.
      • incentive (Score:5, Insightful)

        by dpilot (134227) on Monday March 01, 2004 @11:48AM (#8429276) Homepage Journal
        This IS the point, and the whole point. IMHO, read the constitution and THIS is what you come to.

        Let's phrase it a different way:

        A person can be supporting his/her self and family OR advancing the Arts and Sciences. The purpose of Copyrights and Patents as put forth in the Constitution is to remove the devilment behind that 'OR' decision. Even if it's not enough incentive to enable and Artist/Scientist/Engineer to make a life wholly supported that way, it's got to be worthwhile, as opposed to putting in a few more hours at a day job.

        The other side comes from the phrase, "If I can see farther, it is because I stand on the shoulders of giants." Patents and Copyrights are SUPPOSED to release that stuff into the Public Domain, so others can use it as a basis for further works. THIS is the single most broken aspect of current IP law, IMHO.
      • Re:wired article (Score:3, Insightful)

        by red floyd (220712)
        So how do the current copyright laws provide an incentive for Elvis to continue creating music?
    • Re:wired article (Score:5, Informative)

      by I am Kobayashi (707740) on Monday March 01, 2004 @11:44AM (#8429228)
      Here is the link to the full report (101 page .pdf) if anyone is interested:
      CED Report [ced.org]
  • by DragonMagic (170846) on Monday March 01, 2004 @10:35AM (#8428600) Homepage
    Yes, stringent enforcement is bad, but so is blatant infringement. Companies should allow some latitude with infringing properties of their works, and some basic trading between friends. However, I also believe, both as a creator and a reseller of intellectual property, that placing your 300 CD Collection on Kazaa is going way too far as well.

    Copyright should always be a balance. Promotion should be allowed, but only on an intimate level with people you know, not the entire world, unless the creator or publisher says it's all right. Region codes on DVDs, encryptions, copy prevention methods, etc., are all just profits and ineffective in what they're named to do.

    I love libraries, borrow from friends and let them borrow from me, and will take DVDs over to parties so we can watch movies. Some publishers, studios and organizations will call me a pirate, but I would like to think that I'm a consumer and a citizen of the USA who prefers to share what he rightfully paid for with those who would also enjoy it.

    Just my opinion and observations.
    • by radja (58949) on Monday March 01, 2004 @10:39AM (#8428627) Homepage
      >Companies should allow some latitude with infringing properties of their works, and some basic trading between friends. However, I also believe, both as a creator and a reseller of intellectual property, that placing your 300 CD Collection on Kazaa is going way too far as well.

      what I really think is going way too far is companies deciding who can or cannot be my friend. I have no problem whatsoever with treating everybody as a friend (yes, there are different 'levels' of friend, like all other friends.), and I have no trouble sharing with all my friends.
      • by orthogonal (588627) on Monday March 01, 2004 @11:16AM (#8428883) Journal
        I have no problem whatsoever with treating everybody as a friend [for the purposes of sharing copyrighted materials via p2p] (yes, there are different 'levels' of friend, like all other friends.), and I have no trouble sharing with all my friends.

        Great! Friends, I need to "borrow" $20.

        Unfortunately, this time you'll have to share your own money, not an evil record company's money, and I don't actually plan to give it back to you.

        I mean, as long as you can re-define "friends" to mean "people I've never met who share my musical tastes and my ethical blind spots", can't I be as intellectually (dis)honest and re-define "borrow" too?

        (I am reminded of the Cowbirds in Walt Kelly's Pogo, socialist agitators whose motto was "To share! To share what others' have!")
        • by Anomalous Coward (44935) on Monday March 01, 2004 @11:44AM (#8429234)
          Let's follow this analogy to its conclusion. If I have $20 dollars, let you "borrow" $20, but still have my original $20, well... Yes. I would have no problem with you "borrowing" my $20. I wouldn't need it back, because I still had the one $20 I started with.

          Not that I necessarily agree with the parent, but if you are going to pick an analogy, at least pick one that makes sense.
          • "Let's follow this analogy to its conclusion. If I have $20 dollars, let you "borrow" $20, but still have my original $20, well... Yes. I would have no problem with you "borrowing" my $20."

            That's all nice and good until everyone does it, and you discover that your system results in runaway inflation.

            Surprisingly enough, despite the absurdity of the analogy, we can compare it back to intellectual property. As less people purchase IP-based products and more people simply "borrow" them from "friends", the

      • by CaptainTux (658655) <papillion@gmail.com> on Monday March 01, 2004 @11:36AM (#8429132) Homepage Journal
        what I really think is going way too far is companies deciding who can or cannot be my friend. I have no problem whatsoever with treating everybody as a friend (yes, there are different 'levels' of friend, like all other friends.), and I have no trouble sharing with all my friends.

        I've heard arguments like this before and, I have to say, it's one of the weakest one's I've heard used to try to justify copyright infringment.

        I think that most *rational* people would agree on a common definition of the term "friend". Additionally, I think most people would agree that someone you've never met, never chatted with, and never had any type of contact with except to trade stuff is *not* a "friend". That is why we have the term "stranger".

        When people try to use the argument "I am willing to view/treat anyone as a friend so really when I share my stuff on Kazaa I am sharing with friends" they really don't mean it. Take it to the next level. Since I'm your friend, would you please lend me $5,000? Can I come stay at your house for a few months? Can I borrow your credit card to go buy some computer stuff? I promise, I'll stick to a limit you set. No? Why? I thought we were friends?

      • by stewby18 (594952) on Monday March 01, 2004 @11:40AM (#8429189)

        what I really think is going way too far is companies deciding who can or cannot be my friend. I have no problem whatsoever with treating everybody as a friend (yes, there are different 'levels' of friend, like all other friends.), and I have no trouble sharing with all my friends.

        That's not insightful, it's just manipulation of words to thinly veil a support of wholesale piracy. In no meaningful way is a person whom you have never met--and with whom your only interaction ever is the trading of a song file--your "friend". Saying "I'm a friend to the world" doesn't change the fact that wholesale piracy is fundamentally different than sharing music with a close circle of actual friends.

        It's pathetic when people try to make this defense of massive online filesharing (as opposed to, say, sharing within an actual, meaningful, community of people, be it online or in the real world). If you are for piracy, say so. Don't try to defend your position using meaningless redefinition of terms. There are grey areas in file swapping--calling everyone your friend is not one of them, and weakens much more legitimate arguments (such as calling a smallish online music discussion group a group of friends with whom sharing should be permissible).

        Any crime can be "defended" by relabeling:

        • I didn't steal the car: I was borrowing it from my "friend"
        • I didn't murder him: I was helping my friend with an assisted suicide
        • He wasn't bribing me: I was just listening to the wisdom of my "friend", and he happened to be helping me out of a financial tight spot at the same time
        • I'm not a pimp, I just help my "friends" meet when I think they have interests in common

        but the relabeling itself doesn't make the defense valid.

    • I believe a fair compromise protecting both the rights of the consumers and provoding an initiative for the producers would be to make copyright a monopoly on commercial distributions, rather than a monopoly on all distribution.
    • Companies should allow some latitude with infringing properties of their works
      I whole-heartedly and utterly DISAGREE. This is why we have the stupid ass laws in rural states like "It's illegal to have sex with a dead kitten" or "you may not wash your hand on a Wednesday after sundown."

      We don't need MORE laws, we need LESS, but ENFORCEABLE laws. Otherwise, this happens. We have billions of laws and it's up to the whim of the controlling body to decide which one they want to enforce that day.
    • Annother thought is that it's not ALL IP laws per say but the ones we have today.
      (Ohh that rymes even)

      Patent laws in the past were used pritty much as intended with a few exceptions. Today those laws are being abused left and right and our legeslation hasn't done a thing about it.

      IP law was intended to be an evolving thing. It was always known there'd be new kinds of IP and there'd be abuses of IP it was up to congress to address the problems as they came up.
      For example: Software copyrights. To me it seam
    • No, its not (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      "However, I also believe, both as a creator and a reseller of intellectual property, that placing your 300 CD Collection on Kazaa is going way too far as well."

      Sorry, can't disagree more.

      Elvis's stuff should be PD. Not only because he's dead, but because he's been dead a long time and the bulk of his work was really done over 40 years ago.

      What good does it serve to have Elivis's stuff under strict copyright? Is Elvis "incented" to create more stuff? Is Lisa-Marie "incented" to take up music as a caree
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 01, 2004 @10:35AM (#8428603)

    when [large corp] comes along and just takes your idea to market without giving you a bean, they make billions all the execs get to live in bliss and you can eat dirt out of the sidewalk

    sounds fair to me, yeah "do away with copyright ! say already financially secure professors and stock trading buisness tutors"

    of course you can just watch [large corp] spend billions on developing widget X then just steal it saving $$$$!
    yeah sounds fair to me !!

    A>S
    • by millahtime (710421) on Monday March 01, 2004 @10:51AM (#8428710) Homepage Journal
      "when [large corp] comes along and just takes your idea to market without giving you a bean"

      That's what a lot of large corps do now if you work for them. If you work for a large auto manufacutrer and design something you'll be lucky if you get a thing for it. While the company and execs make a killing on it. This is not something new.
      • by neural cooker (720830) on Monday March 01, 2004 @11:05AM (#8428813)
        Remember that when you work for a company and make something for them they are paying you for your work and time. It is known that your work for them is owned by the company and not owned by you.

        This is far from the same thing as a company taking work from you when you are not affiliated with them.
        • Then what about companies that demand ownership of everything you create while you work for them, regardless of whether you are creating it during your working hours or doing the thing at home by yourself with only your own resources, not the companies. Hard to make any type of justification argument for that...
        • by Savage-Rabbit (308260) on Monday March 01, 2004 @11:57AM (#8429385)
          ...known that your work for them is owned by the company and not owned by you

          Things are not always that simple. My own employer recently presented me with a new contract. It included among many other things the three following points:

          1) A clause about 'any software/hardware/idea/invention... etc' of mine being the property of the company'. It was so loosely worded that they could theoretically have laid claim to things I 'coded/designed/invented' in my spare time even if this had nothing to do with the business the company is in was likely to cause the company loss of revenue.
          2) Forbid me to code in my own time for an Open Source project even if the project is in no way related to the business the company and is completely unlikely to cause them loss of revenue.
          3) They also tried to insert what they called a "competition protection" clause in the new contract where they reserrve the right to place an injunction on me, forcing me to remain unemployed for a period of upto 6 months, if I should happen to quit working for them and begin working for somebody they feel is a competitor or if I might be using knowledge obtained in my old job at my new place of work.

          All but the third clause were shot down after intense negotiations (read: most of the empoyees staged a small scale mutiny). The third point has been kept in the new contracts but nobody expects it to hold up in court, at least not here in Europe. Although the poor bastard who the company decides to honor by testing that clause on is probably going to have to shell out a small fortune in legal fees to prove them wrong and employees will probably think twice beore signing the new contract. Fortunately I was able to avoid swapping my old contract for the new model.
          Now, I will agree that a comany owns what I code/design/invent on company time. I also think that a company is no worse off rewarding employees for valuable innovations in some way. But when the company starts trying to dictate whether or not I can innovate in my own spare time in a way that does not undermine the company I work for I think the company has gone too far.
          • by Sique (173459)
            The third point has been kept in the new contracts but nobody expects it to hold up in court, at least not here in Europe. Although the poor bastard who the company decides to honor by testing that clause on is probably going to have to shell out a small fortune in legal fees to prove them wrong and employees will probably think twice beore signing the new contract.

            It will be considerably cheap. Because of the right to choose your place of work freely (as laid down in the European Convention on Human Righ
    • by olethrosdc (584207) on Monday March 01, 2004 @10:53AM (#8428731) Homepage Journal
      Ideas deployment is usually incremental - and the ideas that are newly deployed are pretty obvious.

      Less obvious ideas are discussed in the public domain long before they are introduced as products. I like to give ADSL as an example - the original idea was that you have to split your band into many (ideally infinite) subbands to send information. The problem was that until the development of fast DSPs it was impossible to do it - and it was certainly impossible to do it when the idea was first mentioned.. since it was the days of analog filtering.

      Nevertheless, there are numerous patents on ADSL, which are about very specific parts of the overall ITU-T standard rather than the idea of splitting the band in subbands to send information..

      Furthermore, an individual has little or no protection against predatory companies that want to steal his ideas even with the patent system in place. The reason that a patent costs much more than an individual can possibly afford. What people do, is they give the idea to a patent attorney/firm, who agrees to pay for the upfront cost in return for a percentage on any profit made from the patent.
  • ivory tower? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by awb131 (159522) on Monday March 01, 2004 @10:36AM (#8428608)

    If it's now being said by the Harvard Business School and Cardozo Law School, you might say that it's no longer just being said by the long-haired hackers, but now it is also coming from the ivory tower.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 01, 2004 @10:36AM (#8428609)
    The use of the word "property" in "intellectual property" is itself misleading. It is similar to the common lie of calling copyright infringement "theft". I prefer the term "copyrighted material".

    It is just hard to apply the term "property" to something that is so easily duplicated and propagates so easily.
    • by nutznboltz (473437) on Monday March 01, 2004 @10:52AM (#8428721) Homepage Journal
      from http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/words-to-avoid.html# IntellectualProperty [gnu.org]

      ``Intellectual property''
      Publishers and lawyers like to describe copyright as ``intellectual property''---a term that also includes patents, trademarks, and other more obscure areas of law. These laws have so little in common, and differ so much, that it is ill-advised to generalize about them. It is best to talk specifically about ``copyright,'' or about ``patents,'' or about ``trademarks.''

      The term ``intellectual property'' carries a hidden assumption---that the way to think about all these disparate issues is based on an analogy with physical objects, and our ideas of physical property.

      When it comes to copying, this analogy disregards the crucial difference between material objects and information: information can be copied and shared almost effortlessly, while material objects can't be. Basing your thinking on this analogy is tantamount to ignoring that difference. (Even the US legal system does not entirely accept the analogy, since it does not treat copyrights or patents like physical object property rights.)

      If you don't want to limit yourself to this way of thinking, it is best to avoid using the term ``intellectual property'' in your words and thoughts.

      ``Intellectual property'' is also an unwise generalization. The term is a catch-all that lumps together several disparate legal systems, including copyright, patents, trademarks, and others, which have very little in common. These systems of law originated separately, cover different activities, operate in different ways, and raise different public policy issues. If you learn a fact about copyright law, you would do well to assume it does not apply to patent law, since that is almost always so.

      Since these laws are so different, the term ``intellectual property'' is an invitation to simplistic thinking. It leads people to focus on the meager common aspect of these disparate laws, which is that they establish monopolies that can be bought and sold, and ignore their substance--the different restrictions they place on the public and the different consequences that result. At that broad level, you can't even see the specific public policy issues raised by copyright law, or the different issues raised by patent law, or any of the others. Thus, any opinion about ``intellectual property'' is almost surely foolish.

      If you want to think clearly about the issues raised by patents, copyrights and trademarks, or even learn what these laws require, the first step is to forget that you ever heard the term ``intellectual property'' and treat them as unrelated subjects. To give clear information and encourage clear thinking, never speak or write about ``intellectual property''; instead, present the topic as copyright, patents, or whichever specific law you are discussing.

      According to Professor Mark Lemley of the University of Texas Law School, the widespread use of term "intellectual property" is a recent fad, arising from the 1967 founding of the World Intellectual Property Organization. (See footnote 123 in his March 1997 book review, in the Texas Law Review, of Romantic Authorship and the Rhetoric of Property by James Boyle.) WIPO represents the interests of the holders of copyrights, patents and trademarks, and lobbies governments to increase their power. One WIPO treaty follows the lines of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which has been used to censor useful free software packages in the US. See http://www.wipout.net/ [wipout.net] for a counter-WIPO campaign.

      The hypocrisy of calling these powers "rights" is starting to make WIPO embarassed [gnu.org].
  • DMCA aside.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 01, 2004 @10:37AM (#8428610)
    Existing copyright laws are not the major problem. It's the 'over-enforcement' of copyrights, and the ridiculous nature of the patent system that are really the major problems with IP laws in the US.
    • Re:DMCA aside.. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Daniel Boisvert (143499) on Monday March 01, 2004 @11:02AM (#8428788)
      Existing copyright laws are not the major problem. It's the 'over-enforcement' of copyrights

      While I agree with the spirit of what I understand you to be saying here, I think it's important to note that a law which is only good when marginally enforced is a lousy law.

      I certainly do not expect that framing a better law will be easy, but I think it's clear that settling for ones that are pretty-not-too-bad has largely contributed to the mess we're in right now. The blood, sweat, and tears should go into the framing of appropriate laws, not the decision of whether to enforce them.

      Dan
  • too complex (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Tirel (692085) on Monday March 01, 2004 @10:37AM (#8428619)
    The issues here are too complex for one to argue either for or against IP laws. The simple matter of fact is that it does benefit some businesses and it hurts others. I could find cases of both and this kind of arguing over if it is really fruitless and only serves to deepen the pockets of the media which distributes such articles.

    in the end, the free market will decide.
  • by cagle_.25 (715952) on Monday March 01, 2004 @10:40AM (#8428634) Journal
    From the article,
    "Bits are not the same as atoms. We need to reframe the legal discussion to treat the differences of bits and atoms in a more thoughtful way."
    The current P2P swapping debacle that RIAA is facing was inevitable. Back in the day (i.e., when the printing press was invented), people funded their own printings of books on the theory that ideas were for disseminating. Nowadays, people ask readers to fund "printings" of various media on the theory that ideas are for making money. Nonsense! How can you "copyright" an algorithm? An idea? A mathematical theorem? Only by creating an unstable system of "intellectual property" which will inevitably collapse under its own weight. Consider: every theorem (including algorithms) in existence today was already contained implicitly in the fundamental axioms and definitions by which it was proved. So who gets the credit?

    Jeff Cagle
    • by nate1138 (325593) on Monday March 01, 2004 @11:01AM (#8428778)
      P2P swapping debacle that RIAA is facing was inevitable

      And deliciously ironic. Most people don't realize that Hollywood was LITERALLY founded on piracy. Edison had very strict controls on the equipment that was used to produce and show movies. He formed an organization to enforce his rights. This organization was so onerous that scores of soon-to-be movie producers/directors/etc packed up their lives and moved to the "wild wild west" AKA California. California was so wild and remote that Edison's patents couldn't be enforced, and the movie industry grew and flourished. By the time the law got things settled down, the patents had expired (the patent limit was 17 or 18 years at that time).

      Next time you have to sit through those annoying anti-piracy bits before the movie, just remember that it it were't for wholesale disregard for the "Intellectual Property" of others, Hollywood might have never came to be.
    • by bruce_the_moose (621423) on Monday March 01, 2004 @11:02AM (#8428789)

      While these acedemics may be doing the hero's task of rethinking IP, I'm also concerned about this comment by a copyright professor who read the report:

      Jane C. Ginsburg, a law professor at Columbia University and a copyright expert, had a more mixed view of the report.....it "makes unsubstantiated, misleading, or misinformed statements about copyright law." In fact, she said, "A little less preaching to the technologist 'choir' might have made this a better 'sell' to copyright owners and, perhaps, to lawmakers."

      Sloppy scholarship helps no one. Given how much bad research, lack of fact-checking, and fabricated hearsay (Jane Fonda and John Kerry photos anyone?) floats around on the net, the moment I encounter anything that I know is untrue or wrong in any piece, I stop reading and file the whole thing in the Intellectually Suspect folder.

      The Committee for Economic Development has a spotty track record. Marshall Plan: Good. World Bank and IMF: iffy. Setting standards for public schools through testing: bad (and, yes, I am a parent).


      • Sloppy scholarship helps no one.

        You're absolutely right. However, sloppy journalism is just as bad. A statement like:

        it "makes unsubstantiated, misleading, or misinformed statements about copyright law."

        needs to be clarified. A competent journalist would ask further, demanding to know which statements are considered unsubstantiated misinformed or misleading. Without clarification this is just an opinion from one source and considering the phrasing of the rest of the comment, probably a biased source
  • no way! (Score:5, Funny)

    by AssProphet (757870) on Monday March 01, 2004 @10:40AM (#8428638) Homepage Journal
    You mean threatening people into agreeing with your absurd ideals isn't a successful business model?
  • Over and over (Score:5, Insightful)

    by savagedome (742194) on Monday March 01, 2004 @10:41AM (#8428645)
    It's been said umpteen times but these folks at RIAA just don't seem to get it.

    Its good that these reports are coming from schools that might have a louder voice in getting the point through.

    When Joe Sixpack buys the CD, there is no ulterior motive behind that buy. He is not thinking about ripping the songs and sharing it for free. The DRM/copy protection/encryption/blah and all other technologies only make the experience of listening to music bittersweet when you put the CD into the player and it refuses to recognize it. And no digital protection is good enough for the Black Hats who would get around it, no matter what.

    I will say it one more time. I have bought MORE music after I listen to it online before buying it. ARE YOU LISTENING RIAA?
    BR 10 years down the line, I am sure we will all look back and laugh at RIAA tactics.
  • Fear for the future (Score:5, Interesting)

    by IamGarageGuy 2 (687655) on Monday March 01, 2004 @10:43AM (#8428654) Journal
    The mainstream press and acedemics are now saying what /. has been ranting about for years. This is not necessarily a good thing. I believe IP should be reformed, but great care should be taken lest we shoot ourselves in the foot. There are a lot of programmers as well as artists here that could stand to lose their livlihood. Be careful what you wish for, you may get it.
  • by FreeLinux (555387) on Monday March 01, 2004 @10:43AM (#8428657)
    The ideas of copy-left, or of a more liberal regime of copyright, are receiving wider and wider support

    Really? What a surprising finding. I would never have guessed that the vast majority of people, who happen to be the consumers of copyrighted material, would actually prefer the copy-left concept where that material was available to them free.

    All sarcasm aside, people have always preferred free to paying for something but, the creators of the copyrighted material do deserve to make a living off of their work. The RIAA may be going to extremes with draconian practices but, the presently unspoken idea that "music wants to be free" is not justifiable. When I create a work, what ever it may be, I should have the right to determine how and by whom it may be used. The fact that someone else would rather have it for free is not an adequate reason for me to give it away if I choose not to.
    • by Queuetue (156269) <scott&pantastik,com> on Monday March 01, 2004 @10:50AM (#8428708) Homepage
      Yes, people prefer free. And the people are who the laws are here for.

      the creators of the copyrighted material do deserve to make a living off of their work
      Yes. The creators. The RIAA does not create music - it finds, harvests, markets , controls and charges for music, giving the slightest hint of what it makes (wastes) back to the original artist.

      Courtney Love herself said that the average artist would do a lot better working for tips. That's what copylefting music does - it allows the artists to survive very well on tips, not on hoarding. This is the way artists have survived since the dawn of humanity.
      • by Realistic_Dragon (655151) on Monday March 01, 2004 @11:13AM (#8428863) Homepage
        Courtney Love herself said that the average artist would do a lot better working for tips. That's what copylefting music does - it allows the artists to survive very well on tips, not on hoarding.

        The added bonus of course is that the good artists get paid and the crap artists have to find something else to do. It's more efficient (in an economic sense) than the current system which can drive sales for groups with no musical talent.
        • the current system which can drive sales for groups with no musical talent.

          Bingo! Bands like mine have no chance at getting signed by a major label, because #1, we were not poured and shaped in the mold of Britney by the company brass, and #2, there are no more talent scouts. There are scouts, but they don't hear the music, they see T&A or hunk-meat prospects.

          And LONG gone are the days when you could buy an album based on how cool its cover was, and have a good shot at liking the music. (But now I

      • "This is the way artists have survived since the dawn of humanity"

        And this is exactly the point. The very concept of coyright goes against thousands of years of humanity copying and using whatever they find useful to better their lives.

        While the Greeks did not invent writing, they copied the concept from somewhere else and their society benefitted greatly from it. The Romans used pumps that were invented elsewhere and without which their aquaducts would have been useless.

        I believe that every invention and improvement made in the modern era is a direct result of the education and knowledge that our ancestors invented for us. Seriously, sdo you think Bill Gates could have written Windows without all of the work others had done before him? Without the ability to read and write or do complex mathematic calculations if those ideas and principals had been copyrighted throughout all this time? Of course not, we take what knowledge we can and we build upon it. The end result is the result of work done by thousands (if not millions) of individuals throughout time and it took all of our learning and knowledge to get where we are today. IP laws never helped humanity then and they are not helping humanity now.

        I believe that people should be compensated for their intellectual work, but IP laws as they are now don't benefit people, they benefit nobody but companies. IMO IP laws are not natural, they do not add to society and they certainly do not encourage the sharing of knowledge which, in turn would increase research times...

        Well I'm at work and in a hurry. I'll stop my rant, sorry if it makes no sense. But all we have, we have because of the collective works of humanity - IP laws bastardise the right of the public to learn and research whatever they like which is a fundamental right our ancestors have always had.

        John the Kiwi

    • by savagedome (742194) on Monday March 01, 2004 @11:04AM (#8428807)
      The RIAA may be going to extremes with draconian practices but, the presently unspoken idea that "music wants to be free" is not justifiable

      Music wants to be free is not justifiable. It never was. Although, the tactics are being criticized because there is no alternative provided to the 'buy the whole cd or don't buy it'. I DO NOT want to spend 14/15/16/17 dollars on a CD if there is only a couple of songs that I would like to listen. iTunes is an example that Apple got this sentiment right and its a small step in right direction.

      I am not defending people who want the music for free or who are sharing/downloading for free. All I am saying that beating up with a stick without giving an alternative is not right. This is only going to alienate customers and push them to do the wrong thing.

      The distribution methods have changed with the P2P technologies and its time to build a business model around it.

      ARE YOU READING THIS RIAA???
      • by stuffduff (681819) on Monday March 01, 2004 @11:59AM (#8429396) Journal
        Is what the music needs. The RIAA is about as useful to recording artists as Stalin was to the prisoners in the gulags. The RIAA has taken the freedoms of manufacturing cost management, shipping and storage managment, promotion management, distrobution pricing management, etc. away from the artist. The artist may be much more gifted in any or all of these areas, but the RIAA sees a single vision; which clearly places their own survival well ahead of that of the artist.

        For over a year I've been suggesting that artists stick a PayPal button on their sites and offer amnesty for downloaders. Paying the artists 2 or 3 times what they actually profit for these crappy CD deals that the RIAA companies force artists to sign, is peanuts compared to CD prices.

        Amnesty is the answer!

    • When I create a work, what ever it may be, I should have the right to determine how and by whom it may be used.

      and that right should end when you perform that work in public.

      that system worked very well for thousands of years, and would still work today if we totally abandoned copyright law. all but a handful of musicians already make all of their profits from live performances. patronage (government or private) can support artists who require more financing (opera and architecture come to mind) tha

    • Actually they don't (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Per Abrahamsen (1397)
      "need to make a living off their work". Proff: The vast majority of musicians do not make a living off their work. A significant fraction make some money from live performances. These will actually be helped from a more liberal copyright law, as they can more freely borrow from each other. A much smaller minority earn money from royalities. And a very small fraction of *those* are able to make a living of royalities.

      The question is how much personal freedom we want to give up to serve the later very s
  • by WIAKywbfatw (307557) on Monday March 01, 2004 @10:44AM (#8428659) Journal
    ...if you're Amazon and you're talking about one click ordering, or RAMBUS if you're talking about royalties on DDR RAM, etc. Obviously, if you're not the one holding the patents then you're not so lucky. But if you are that guy then you're laughing all the way to the bank.

    This isn't a post about how good patents are. On the contrary, it's a post about how patents can be misused or abused to give one company an unfair advantage over its rivals.

    I don't know where you draw the line between good patents and bad ones but it seems to me that a patent should at least illustrate a degree of innovation and invention beyond "Let's take this old idea and put it together with that old idea and have ourselves a licence to print money!", which is where we're at now with the USPTO handing out patents to overly-broad, far from unique ideas to anyone who ponies up the relevant filing fees.
    • by muonzoo (106581) on Monday March 01, 2004 @11:17AM (#8428894) Homepage

      On the contrary, it's a post about how patents can be misused or abused to give one company an [unfair] advantage over its rivals.

      That was the whole idea behind them. It might be just that a 20 year term of protection is too stringent for things like computer science innovations. However, withness the revolution in textiles when the original Gore patent rant our on Gore-Tex a few years back. Radical improvement in the quality of the 'competeing' fabrics, many of which were simply Teflon-laminate membranes made by someone other than Gore.

      You could build an argument that Gore deserved to earn significant revenues for their pioneering work in the textiles field. That's what the patent process is supposed to look like. Since the innovation is clearly documented, at the end of the term, everyone benefits. It's definately a double edged sword.

      Patents might have problems, especially when someone is granted a patent for non-novel techniques, or worse, something with demonstrable prior-art. This is when the system starts to break down. Combined with the Bog Business technique of cross licensing you can really lock out the little guys. Those practises are more a problem that the underlying concept.

    • by wfberg (24378) on Monday March 01, 2004 @12:13PM (#8429590)
      ...if you're Amazon and you're talking about one click ordering, or RAMBUS if you're talking about royalties on DDR RAM, etc. Obviously, if you're not the one holding the patents then you're not so lucky. But if you are that guy then you're laughing all the way to the bank.

      But everyone else gets screwed. That's fine as long as it encourages people to come up with new stuff, but it's bad in the long term; which is exactly why patents and copyrights should be for a limited time only. Your comment is like saying that inflation is good, because some people benefit from inflation (e.g. borrowers with a fixed interest rate, etc.) at the same rate that other people suffer. But in the long run, you don't want runaway inflation or runaway intellectual monopolies; because it destabalizes the economy, and breaks the fundamental quid-pro-quo of copyright/patent/trademark law.

      Just to give an example; if you want to make an album full of samples (like the Beasty Boys' second album) these days.. well.. you can't! Because it would be too expensive to license all those 1 second samples, even though they have questionable artistic merit per se, and combining them into a new work is an artistic endeavor which results in a holistic new work. And that holds true even for those with pretty sweet record deals; record companies won't even crosslicense between their own artists. This is an enormous barrier-to-entry for sampling artists, which the established rightsholders don't care about because it's not their model of either business or art. And you can count on none of those copyrights expiring any time soon, because they're retroactively being renewed by paid-for laws.

      I don't know where you draw the line between good patents and bad ones but it seems to me that a patent should at least illustrate a degree of innovation and invention beyond "Let's take this old idea and put it together with that old idea and have ourselves a licence to print money!", which is where we're at now with the USPTO handing out patents to overly-broad, far from unique ideas to anyone who ponies up the relevant filing fees.

      The fees themselves, and the costs of contesting bad patents, and their running time, are as much of a problem as the USPTO's whoring for dimes.
      If applying for patents was really cheap, the FSF would hold hundreds of them; if contesting them was cheap and easy (just mail the USPTO some prior art or explain why it's trivial), most of the patents that come up on /. would be invalidated in a day. If e-online.intarweb patents had a running time of a year, we'd all pony up some one-click cash just fine, or we'd wait for it to expire.

      None of this is true though; applying for a patent is costly, contesting one (either through the USPTO or the courts) is fiendishly complicated and costly, and patents run for years and years. The rubberstamping is little more than aiding and abetting.
  • RIAA (Score:3, Insightful)

    by molafson (716807) on Monday March 01, 2004 @10:44AM (#8428661)
    Copy-left software is conceptually different from the intellectual property that RIAA so stingily guards. I don't see what one has to do with the other. To associate the two categories weakens by association the legitimacy of copy-left (since "file trading" is legally actionable, if not altogether wrong).
  • by D-Cypell (446534) on Monday March 01, 2004 @10:44AM (#8428665)
    Its a double edged sword this one...

    A startup requires some kind of protection from companies that are bigger and more established from taking their idea and using their extra resources to get the product to market first. The IPR laws were orginally designed to protect the small guy and give him a fighting chance... in this case they add competition to the market.

    The problem is that they are being used as bargining chips by huge global-hyper-mega corps as the corperate equivilant of a nuclear deterant (You sue me for this and i'll sue you for that!). This is absolutely NOT what they are designed for.

    It would be great to come up with some hard and fast rule that prevents this abuse, but I cant think of one. Perhaps some kind of patent lifespan restriction based on company net worth (to prevent a company with ample resources to develop a patented technology from just sitting on the idea).

    Any other suggestions?
    • by Dun Malg (230075) on Monday March 01, 2004 @11:05AM (#8428809) Homepage
      It would be great to come up with some hard and fast rule that prevents this abuse, but I cant think of one. Perhaps some kind of patent lifespan restriction based on company net worth (to prevent a company with ample resources to develop a patented technology from just sitting on the idea).

      Wouldn't work. Any big company with significant resources would have little trouble spinning off a subsidiary company with very little net worth whose entire purpose was to hold all the patents and license them and/or hammer competitors with lawsuits. And if you say "any company a big company has controlling interest in" as a caveat to get around this, you run into a catch-22 for small startups: their patents are gone if they get too much investment, but without investment their patents are useless....

  • by lavalyn (649886) on Monday March 01, 2004 @10:45AM (#8428668) Homepage Journal
    Once a person decides that a price of $15 is not a good price for a CD, or that $150 is not a good price for Windows XP, the economy as a whole is better off with that person downloading said program. Sure, the RIAA or Microsoft are happy with it, and would fight to the death over it, but that sale would never have been made in the first place.

    The access to the infinitely duplicable material destroys the notion of scarcity of the product itself - whereupon the obvious price for such a product is no more than the cost of transport - usage of an Internet account.

    We're seeing the destruction of an entire industry; its old guard will cry foul every step of the way, until the market eventually drags it into this new age. Observe the American car industry in the '70s, or of US Steel.
    • by pubjames (468013) on Monday March 01, 2004 @11:16AM (#8428889)
      The access to the infinitely duplicable material destroys the notion of scarcity of the product itself

      Currently when assessing the "damage" when a copyright violation has taken place, the retail cost of the item is used. However, this doesn't make sense - when a 14 year old kid pirates a movie industry standard $40,000 dollar 3D rendering package - is the damage really $40,000? Of course not, it is really $0. (I'm not saying the kid should go unpunished - that's a different argument).
  • But... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by da_anarchist (548175) on Monday March 01, 2004 @10:48AM (#8428687)
    Intellectual property laws may be bad for business in general, but they are invaluable to big business. How else could they ensure that upstarts don't come in, undercut them, and take over the market? Yet, as anyone who's taken Economics 101 should know, monopolies are hopelessly inefficient - they restrict output leading to high prices for the consumer, whereas a competive market produces more and can only charge around their cost to produce the product. It's hard to be optimistic that big business interests and their lobbyists will ever allow the status quo to change.
    • Re:But... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Daniel Boisvert (143499) on Monday March 01, 2004 @11:38AM (#8429161)
      Intellectual property laws may be bad for business in general, but they are invaluable to big business. How else could they ensure that upstarts don't come in, undercut them, and take over the market?

      Three words: Economies of scale

      I think there's an interesting change happening around us, where folks are starting to rediscover that ideas aren't the be-all, end-all of a successful business. The key in business has always been in the execution. If you can do it better, faster, cheaper, etc. you win. You don't get a guaranteed billion just for coming up with an idea and ambushing somebody with your patent 10 years after they make the business model work.

      I'm drawing a bit from my artistic background here, and looking at it from a slightly different perspective. As an artist (dancer), I don't get paid if I don't work. That work can be teaching, it can be choreography, it can be performing. The simple fact is, however, that if I'm not constantly working, I don't get paid. I don't tell my students that they can't use the knowledge I've passed on to them. They can use it however they please.

      The key works out to this: If you don't work, you don't eat. You can have all the inspiration you want, but if you can't translate that into something someone else wants, and do it consistently, you're going to be hurting. I'm not sure yet whether I like that idea or not, but it certainly seems fair enough.

      Then again, I may just be hallucinating.... ;)

      Dan
  • by NZheretic (23872) on Monday March 01, 2004 @10:51AM (#8428713) Homepage Journal
    The term Intellectual Property is a misnomer, a more correct term would be intellectual monopoly
    Adam Smith and *Intellectual monopoly* (Score:5, Interesting)
    by NZheretic (23872) on Fri 18 Oct 12:11AM (#4467943 [slashdot.org])

    From

    The Relevance of Adam Smith [frb.org] by Robert L. Hetzel.
    With added commentary by yours truly...

    MONOPOLY AND GOVERNMENT SUBSIDIES: The principal theme set forth in The Wealth of Nations is that a country most effectively promotes its own wealth by providing a framework of laws that leaves individuals free to pursue the interest they have in their own economic betterment. This self-interest motivates individuals? propensity to truck, barter, and exchange one thing for another and thereby leads them to meet the needs of others through voluntary cooperation in the market place:

    ...man has almost constant occasion for the help of his brethren, and it is in vain for him to expect it from their benevolence only. He will be more likely to prevail if he can interest their self-love in his favour, and shew them that it is for their own advantage to do for him what he requires of them. Whoever offers to another a bargain of any kind, proposes to do this. Give me that which I want, and you shall have this which you want, is the meaning of every such offer; and it is in this manner that we obtain from one another the far greater part of those good offices which we stand in need of. It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages. (p. 14)

    Everyone realises and acknowledges that Microsoft is a business, there to make a profit to share with it's marjor stakeholders, from it's shareholders to it's employees. However ...

    Smith also argues that the harmony between private goals and larger socially desirable goals promoted by voluntary cooperation between individuals in the market place is interfered with by monopoly and government subsidies. In contrast to competition, monopoly and government subsidies cause individuals to devote either too few or too many resources to particular markets:


    ....the private interests and passions of individuals naturally dispose them to turn their stock towards the employments which in ordinary cases are most advantageous to the society. But if from this natural preference they should turn too much of it towards those employments, the fall of profit in them and the rise of it in all others immediately dispose them to alter this faulty distribution. Without any intervention of law, therefore, the private interests and passions of men naturally lead to divide and distribute the stock of every society, among all the different employments carried on in it, as nearly as possible in the proportion which is most agreeable to the interest of the whole society.

    All the different regulations of the mercantile system, necessarily derange more or less this natural and most advantageous distribution of stock.
    (pp. 594-5)
    Every derangement of the natural distribution of stock is necessarily hurtful to the society in which it takes place; whether it be by repelling from a particular trade the stock which would otherwise go to it, or by attracting towards a particular trade that which would not otherwise come to it. (p. 597)

    .... sometimes, because of the overiding profit motive, the end consumer can be put at a disadvantage, and the natural model can become unbal

  • by mst76 (629405) on Monday March 01, 2004 @10:51AM (#8428714)
    I estimate that the iTunes music store holds around 500.000 songs, which requires about 2TB storage. At the moment, it costs only around $1300 in harddisks for consumers to store the entire iTunes collection. It is likely that in a few years, it will only costs about, say $300 bucks. Another few years and it will be affordable (in terms of storage) for consumers to have the entire library of songs ever published in their pocket. Does having copyright on music still make sense then?

    The primary motivation for copyright is to stimulate more output by giving creators limited-time protection of their work. But do we really need stimulation for more musical output if you can a million songs with you at anytime? If copyright were to be abolished, the amount of new works will undoubtly fall, but it's unlikely to dissappear altogether. The benefits is that everybody can, for little costs, enjoy about the complete published musical output of the past with them. Is this a good tradeoff?
  • by Spoing (152917) on Monday March 01, 2004 @10:51AM (#8428717) Homepage
    1. The professors say, "The ideas of copy-left, or of a more liberal regime of copyright, are receiving wider and wider support, It's no longer a wacky idea cloistered in the ivory tower; it's become a more mainstream idea that we need a different kind of copyright regime to support the wide range of activities in cyberspace."

    Man-on-the-street: "But, aren't you a member of that group of ivory tower theorists?"

    Profs: [runs off] "AAHAHAHA! Man the battlements! Back, I say to thee, BACK!"

  • by dada21 (163177) <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Monday March 01, 2004 @10:54AM (#8428738) Homepage Journal
    Copyrights and Intellectual Property are protected through the use of force by the only monopoly legally allowed to use force: our government.

    Copyright makes sense in some ways, but if you look at copyright historically, much of the greatest art and music was produced with no protection for the author. Great literary works and poetry also had no protection under copyright until recently.

    In the past 300 years, we decided in order to protect the "rights" of a creator, we need government to step in and threaten anyone who wanted to steal such creations and use them without compensating the artist. Fine.

    Our Constitution gave very limited protection (7 years, extendable for another 7 years maximum). To many free thinkers, copyright was a great concern, as it now gave government a new power it didn't have before. As many of the free marketeers here know, every new government power is a slippery slope towards ultimate government power.

    Copyright has been made into a monopolizing power for corporations, and now capitalism and the free market is blamed! Capitalism would never allow copyright -- if you create something, don't release it until you have the best way to market or distribute it. Should I have a better tactic, I should be able to move it too. Creating a product or art is only part of the profitability -- marketing, distribution, and other parts of selling the item are just as important.

    Copyleft is no better. In the end, you still need some entity to enforce it. If its a free market entity, people will have no reason to support your copyleft as they aren't forced to. If you allow government the ability to enforce it, they will only use coecion through force to protect it, and that again creates a monopoly.

    When it boils down to software, there might not be any reason to copyright or copyleft or protect the software through the monopoly of force. There are free market protections in place already!

    If you were the author of Windows, and someone wanted to promote the product without your consent, you could submit to the buying public that they should buy your product as they'd get your support. They'd get your updates (as you have the source code) quicker than through your competitor. They'd get the support of knowing they can submit new ideas to you that might get into the code (your competitor wouldn't have that ability, no source code). Your customers would also have the knowledge that they'd be supporting you to continue to make better products.

    Where does copyright fit into this? Is copyright preventing rampant piracy? Not a chance. If you want to protect your software from getting copied, force your software to register itself online at every use. Fixed. No pirating.

    If you want to protect your software from getting copied, how about hardware locks like in the past? Sure, some have been worked around, but in the end, the pirates would have to work extra hard to do so. If you price it properly, business would have no incentive to pirate.

    Copyright and copyleft are both automations created that can only work through force. Only government has the legal mandate to initiate force. And once we allow that power, we have no power to restrain it should it get out of hand.
  • The report itself (Score:5, Informative)

    by VIIseven7 (140968) on Monday March 01, 2004 @10:55AM (#8428748) Homepage
    Don't download this unless you have some free time... the 617 KB, 101 page PDF can be found here [ced.org] on the CED website [ced.org].
  • Science Friday (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 01, 2004 @10:58AM (#8428765)
    I was recently listening to the NPR archive of a recent Science Friday. The guests were some folks from Xerox PARC who were there are the beginnings of it all. Some happened to be working for Microsoft now and their viewpoints were in line with that. One person (don't remember his name, unfortunately) did mention that Open Source ideals, though it was not called that then, was what allowed all those emerging companies that sprang from the Xerox research to blossom. It was the freedom that created this little industry of the Internet.

    So I'd definitely agree that this travesty of laws that have sprung up at the behest of media companies is indeed harming the economy.
    • Xerox PARC was a godsend to computer technology. It was an utter disaster for Xerox.

      It never managed to commercialize the products it created. The name PARC is known only to a few computer geeks. Xerox itself went into a tailspin during this time, unable to handle competition in the copy industry from companies that copied (heh) and improved Xerox technology and undercut it tremendously in price while at the same time Xerox was wasting billions of dollars trying to compete with IBM.

      This is a horribl

  • Yes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 4of12 (97621) on Monday March 01, 2004 @10:59AM (#8428770) Homepage Journal

    If you look back, the entire motivation for IP laws was to promote the greater creation of those works.

    There doesn't seem to be any reason to believe that the current system of IP laws produces the greatest benefit for the least cost to society.

    If not optimized, the laws just preserve some artificial revenue stream protection scheme.

    Having invented a patentable idea, I can say that the term of the patent had absolutely nothing to do with my creation of that idea. It might have something to do with how much money the patent is worth to a company that wanted to buy it, but it had nothing to do with the creation of the idea.

  • Unamerican! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Stiletto (12066) on Monday March 01, 2004 @11:00AM (#8428777)

    This is unamerican and illegal thought!!! Whether it be atoms or bits, everything needs to be owned and properly licensed for use! The idea that something can be free for all borders on communism and treason! Here in the U$A we must ensure that authors and inventors rule the use of their work with an iron fist! Write your senators and the FBI, these traitorous academics must be silenced and jailed, in order to preserve their freedom!
    • This is greedy and immoral thought!!! Whether it be atoms or bits, everything must be equally divided among the collective! The idea that something can be 'sold' borders on capitalism and fascism! Here in the USSA we must ensure that authors and inventors freely distribute their work without any expectation of financial gain! Write your senators and the FBI, these traitorous academics must have their personal wealth confiscated and redistributed, in order to preserve their freedom!
  • Cheap (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 01, 2004 @11:20AM (#8428920)
    I don't know why the labels and studios cannot just realize the obvious:

    1 - Sell each song on the internet for $1,
    they will probably get more money than
    trying to sell CDs with 12 songs for $15.
    If for no other resason than because you
    don't have to leave your house.

    iTunes proves that a lot of people prefer
    this to just swapping files.

    2 - The same goes for movies -- if you could
    "order" a high quality copy for $5,
    you wouldn't have to go out to the
    movie theater, but you will watch at least
    4 times the number of movies.
    When the networks get faster, to download a
    high quality 4GB mpeg for $5 beats
    downloading a crappy version for 0
    • Re:Cheap (Score:5, Insightful)

      by richg74 (650636) on Monday March 01, 2004 @12:21PM (#8429701) Homepage
      I don't know why the labels and studios cannot just realize the obvious

      I'm not sure that they don't realize it. For all the twaddle that is spouted about destroying economic incentives, there is one thing that somehow goes unmentioned (although Eben Moglem did touch on it in his recent speech at Harvard). The core of what's going on with all this (and you can add proprietary software companies to the labels and studios) is perfectly explicable from Economics 101: specifically, microeconomics, which says that in an efficient market, price = marginal cost. (Marginal cost is the incremental cost of adding one unit of output; note this is different from average cost!)

      Given today's technology, the marginal cost of producing one more CD or DVD or copy of a program is very close to zero. Also, there is no particular benefit to having the physical object (e.g., a CD) for itself, unlike, for example, a beautifully printed, illustrated book.

      So I'm not sure that lack of realization or understanding is the problem -- studios, labels, and software companies may well realize it. They just don't like the answer, because it means their business model is broken beyond repair.

  • by mustangsal66 (580843) on Monday March 01, 2004 @11:20AM (#8428921)
    Right! A bit is 8 electrons.
  • by hexatron (683320) on Monday March 01, 2004 @11:20AM (#8428922) Homepage
    CEOs and children under five prefer a whole cupcake to a piece of pie, regardless of the comparative amounts. But isn't it nice to know that corporations are not ruled solely by the desire to increase profits? It seems, at some level of affluence, the desire for more control exceeds the desire for mere gain. And some people claim idealism is dead!
  • My Take (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ThisIsFred (705426) on Monday March 01, 2004 @11:21AM (#8428941) Journal
    My take on it is this.. We shouldn't make a blanket statement about all IP laws. They initially do what they're supposed to: Give the creator control over his property in order to recoup costs of creation. It's also good to let the creator make a profit as well. Pharmaceuticals have a high research and development cost, especially considering the time it takes for FDA approval in the US. Entirely removing IP protections from the area would likely make the industry not want to invest their time.

    I feel that tuning the amount of IP protection for different types of industries is helpful for business. Long-term or indefinite-term copyright just doesn't make sense, especially when the original creator is long gone, or the current owner isn't the original creator. Fifty years should really be the maximum, or should be the maximum if the property has been sold by the original owner (thinking of printed materials here). There are some other issues that need to be addressed with the sale of specific types of rights. One example that comes to mind is that of the works of Philip K. Dick. Hollywood basically gave him the "we'll call you later" line while buying movie rights at bargain-basement prices. Now that he is deceased, we've got three big-budget screen adaptations of his work that raked in the dough. There's also the issue of studios which review a script, reject it, then make a movie based on that script (without proper credit) years later. Occasionally a couple of studios will do this, producing similar movies at about the same time. Weakening IP laws in this situation will only hurt the "little guy" even more.

    The area that definitely needs the most tuning is IP with regard to technology. There should be some type of orphan clause, if the creator goes bankrupt (or the author dies), and no one had previously made claim to the IP. I'm thinking primarily about software source code lost in limbo. In specialty sofware areas where there isn't a high profit margin this is a major concern when picking the right package: Will this company still be in business 10 years from now? And, of course, (everyone's favorite) tech patents on methods really need an overhaul. Seven years seems to be a bit to long. We really need a new way of reviewing patents. It's not that all of them are overly broad, but a problem that exists because changing a few key words makes something patentable. The "pausing live broadcast" patent should be tossed. The concept has existed and has been implemented since probably the late 1950s for the purposes of "instant replay" during sporting events. Throwing in the words "digital" and "disc", or the amount of time that can be "shifted" shouldn't have a bearing on the validity of the patent. Likewise, the concept of recording in the background shouldn't be patentable either, even if it uses the buzzword "buffer".
  • d'oh! (Score:3, Funny)

    by whathappenedtomonday (581634) on Monday March 01, 2004 @11:26AM (#8429001) Journal

    well, if that correlation comes as a surprise, i'm no longer surprised! just look what prohibition did to the alcohol business! ;)
  • by droper (676529) on Monday March 01, 2004 @11:31AM (#8429059)
    THey are used to protects ones work from being copied but at the same time with enough patents start turning major patent holders into global monopolies. New ideas usually come mixed with old ones and you have to liberate this process as much as possible unless you want to bottle neck it for the sake of $$$ which is what pattents do.
  • by Mikkeles (698461) on Monday March 01, 2004 @11:31AM (#8429067)
    During the 19th century, England tightened its patent laws to the point that reverse engineering was disallowed (cf. DMCA and some EULAs).
    The main result was the decline of new invention and improvement originating out of England and a surge of advancement of invention in the US.
    (England continued to 'coast' as a world power by expending its capitol (i.e.: the empire) for another 50 - 100 years before precipitous decline was obviously evident.)
  • "mickey mouse"-right (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SoupGuru (723634) on Monday March 01, 2004 @11:44AM (#8429237)
    I think the fact that Disney keeps lobbying/bribing to push copyright length into the future to keep Mickey Mouse from the public domain coincides nicely with their current financial, business, and haven't-made-a-decent-movie-in-how-long woes. But remember, correlation does not denote causation, but...
  • The major problem is (Score:5, Interesting)

    by FullCircle (643323) on Monday March 01, 2004 @12:47PM (#8430055)
    The major problem is that copyright should not be transferable.

    The person who created the work should retain all rights to the work. Not some global megacorp that can monopolize on the giant mass of copyrights they have bought or taken from employees.

    If you can only monopolize what you have actually created then the power and wealth would be spread much more evenly. An individual is normally much more likely to license or sell a product at a reasonable price.

    The idea that a corporation has the rights of a person but no way to be held accountable for its actions was not taken into account when these laws were passed or when the US Constitution was originally written to grant copyright.

    IMHO, returning a corporation to its original status of a group of accountabe individuals with individual rights and copyrights, rather than the current status of an untouchable person, would correct many of our current problems.
  • by spasm (79260) on Monday March 01, 2004 @04:09PM (#8432936) Homepage
    I can't help but be reminded of why Hollywood is in Calfornia rather than New York. All the early movie studios were in New Jersey. Edison, who owned patents on the movie camera charged royalties on every foot of film shot, and send thugs out to (in some cases) smash the cameras of those who didn't cough up.

    Eventually people got sick of it and moved to the other side of the country & got on with it unmolested.

    Current US IP laws are a significant incentive to move any business involved in the creation of IP offshore.

    I suspect in a hundred yeasr noone other thana few historians will know why it is that the biotech or IT industry is centered on, say, Australia or India or Marituis and that it once was centered in the US.

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