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Lessig On IP Protection, Conflict 217

Posted by simoniker
from the it's-all-mine dept.
cdlu writes "According to NewsForge [part of OSDN, like Slashdot], Stanford University law professor, author, and Creative Commons chairman Lawrence Lessig sharpened the definition of the ongoing legal struggle over intellectual property while talking at the Open Source Business Conference on Tuesday. According to Lessig: 'Contrary to what many people see as a cultural war between conservative business types and liberal independents, this is not a 'commerce versus anything' conflict. It's about powerful (business) interests and if they can stop new innovators'."
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Lessig On IP Protection, Conflict

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  • by bizcoach (640439) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @09:16PM (#8594517) Homepage
    According to Lessig,
    Growth in creative industries such as radio, television, movies, publishing, music -- and, yes, software -- is threatened when "a few powerful interests control how culture develops."

    Hence, if we in the so-called "developed nations" don't fix our legal systems, third-world countries, where "intellectual property law" cannot be enforced for lack of a functional legal system, will become the leaders in creative industries, including IT, right?

    • by kfg (145172) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @09:24PM (#8594568)
      Right.

      Some of us have been trying to open people's eyes to that for decades.

      China and Brazil have already had their eyes opened on this score. They are both large, resource rich countries.

      They might even have an ax or two to grind.

      KFG
      • by RickHunter (103108) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @09:25PM (#8594582)

        And, strangely enough, China turns out a lot of culture. How many of Holywood's best directors and actors over the past fifteen years have been from China or been influenced by the Chinese? A hell of a lot.

        • If you exclude Taiwan and Hong Kong, not many.
          • What part of 'Chinese' don't you understand?

            Even if you were to limit it to just the People's Republic of China, then you'd still have to include Hong Kong. (The brits did give it back, after all.) And even then you'd get some saying that Taiwan is technically PRC territory anyway.

          • by RickHunter (103108) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @09:47PM (#8594696)

            Why would I exclude Taiwan and Hong Kong? Hong Kong's had even less "IP" law enforcement than China. Ditto for Taiwan. And Hong Kong's had the benefit of a non-tyrannical government for much of the time and, even now, China's adopting a largely "hands off" policy. That just makes my point stronger, not weaker.

        • by Dirtside (91468) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @09:50PM (#8594714) Journal
          How many of Holywood's best directors and actors over the past fifteen years have been from China
          A tiny handful.
          or been influenced by the Chinese?
          Probably quite a lot, but then the best filmmakers allow themselves to be influenced by other great filmmakers, no matter where they come from. I don't think that whatever point you're trying to make holds any water.
          • The point is exactly right from the way I see it. When corporations try to change laws to keep new innovators out of there market, then everyone suffers. This is not a new idea either. It happened to Henry Ford back in 1906 when the other established car-makers tried to squash him.

            The good news, Ford made it. The bad news, is it took a huge toll on him before he was able to sell his "horribly unsafe" car (usafe is the reasoning back then to quash his ability to sell cars.)

            Already though Taiwan, Hong Kong, Brazil and yes... mainland China are starting to innovate by improving the technologies that they are "illegally" copying. Selling exact copies of a product to pay for the R&D dollars so that they can make their own improved product that they can uniquely call their own, and sell in the US.

            What these companies do is extreme, and it's real innovation that's being squashed here - not the inflated innovation done by reverse engineering. Yet legal or not, these other countries will innovate on thier own.

            What I'm saying here is ... just like movies the US is defininately way in the lead, but the rest of the world is catching up... slowly. There's no reason to allow large companies to save their short term profits by quashing US innovations forcing the the rest of the world to be catching up faster.

            • Selling exact copies of a product...

              Didn't the Americans do something similar early in their history? Maybe the Chinese might show us how dumb IP is, or, when they acquire a bunch of homegrown IP, they'll enforce it stronger than the likes of anything we've ever seen.
            • by fucksl4shd0t (630000) on Thursday March 18, 2004 @03:50AM (#8596509) Homepage Journal

              This is not a new idea either. It happened to Henry Ford back in 1906 when the other established car-makers tried to squash him.

              Sorry bud, you'd have done better to cite Diesel instead. The Diesel engine was technically superior to the popular gasoline with spark plug engines, but the man was crushed under the burden of patent suits and died in poverty. The Diesel engine is still superior to gasoline engines, even if it smells bad, and remains in a niche market.

              In any case, regardless of what you picked, the Wright Brothers very seriously and emphatically enforced their own patents. The result was that engineers had to work around their patents and ultimately built a better plane than the Wrights had, and built a foundation upon which solid planes were eventually built rather than the canvas pieces of junk the Wright brothers built. And the Wright Brothers sank off into la-la land. They should've spent less time enforcing their patents and more time fighting.

              My only point is that there are plenty of examples where people have completely screwed up by enforcing their IP rights . What we need is proof that it's happening here and now, and crushing innovation and generally hurting society.

              Not that I disagree with you, mind you, I just think we need more facts and a stronger argument and less historically based rhetoric. :)

      • by Cognitive Dissident (206740) on Thursday March 18, 2004 @12:21AM (#8595573)

        China and Brazil have already had their eyes opened on this score. They are both large, resource rich countries.


        Add India to that list. The Indian government was outraged at a US company patenting Basmati rice. That variety was developed in India by Indian farmers over a period of centuries. But some US corporation has filed a patent and apparently won the right to control the name 'Basmati Rice' and prevent even native Indian growers from using the name or selling this variety of rice in the US! Lots of other countries in the world are getting fed up with Stupid Lawyer Tricks in the US.

        http://www.biotech-info.net/basmati_patent.html

        http://www.poptel.org.uk/panap/latest/lost.htm
    • by BrynM (217883) * on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @09:24PM (#8594569) Homepage Journal
      ...if we in the so-called "developed nations" don't fix our legal systems, third-world countries, where "intellectual property law" cannot be enforced for lack of a functional legal system, will become the leaders in creative industries, including IT, right?
      Spot on. Further, we are outsourcing lots of jobs to these countries already (India, for example). Makes a helluva one-two punch doesn't it?
      • And on the technology and hardware side, we send the specs overseas to licensed manufacturing "partners", and they send the specs to their in-laws at the factory down the street, and the product gets copied for zero R&D and is sold for half the cost.

        Sadly that's how it is.

      • PREcisely.
        China
        India
        Pakistan
        Brazil

        When these guys get a decent legal system to enforce IP laws, they'll start getting stuff like workplace safety regulations, environmental regulations, etc. Then the megacorps will dump them like so many high-priced American white-collar workers.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @09:24PM (#8594576)
      It worked for America. We ripped stuff off from the continent in the old days... even now, typefaces aren't protected in the US (as opposed to Europe and the UK.) Look at India - they built up manufacturing and research expertise churning out generic versions of patented drugs. Taiwan and China started out making cheap knockoff copies of goods... now they're making the bulk of the world's laptops and cheap industrial equipment.

      Intellectual property is an artificial concept, especially now that digital media allows us to make unlimited copies. A book reader is a physical device that takes time and money to manufacture on a per-unit basis. An e-book is an intangible bundle of electrons that can easily be pulled from Project Gutenberg, if no modern publisher is willing to release books in that format.

      Of course, what actually happens is that there's demand for some modern book as eBooks, and if nobody provides it, then some fan will make one, and blam - free copies all over the place, and the publisher gets nothing more than a big headache.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @09:32PM (#8594625)

        Intellectual property is an artificial concept, especially now that digital media allows us to make unlimited copies.

        It's always been an artificial concept. That doesn't make it necessarily a bad one.

        free copies all over the place, and the publisher gets nothing more than a big headache

        And the author also gets nothing but a big headache. What a great way to stimulate people into writing....

        • Is there a reason you substituted author for publisher? You do realize that it's the author who actually writes the books. Most authors want people to read their books first, profit hugely from them second. It's the publishers that are screwed when they make 10,000 books and no one buys them because of free copying online, not the author. It's the publishers who front the investment, and it's the publishers who are bitching so much about IP laws being violated because it ruins their monopoly.
          • Is there a reason you substituted author for publisher? You do realize that it's the author who actually writes the books.

            This issue goes right to the heart of copyright. The concept was originally a permission given by the state to a publisher. The idea of a copyright being about authors is more recent by something like a century.

            Most authors want people to read their books first, profit hugely from them second.

            If they can't published niether will happen :)

            It's the publishers that are screwed when
        • by tepples (727027) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {selppet}> on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @10:11PM (#8594833) Homepage Journal

          [Copyrights, trademarks, patents, and publicity rights have] always been an artificial concept. That doesn't make it necessarily a bad one.

          I agree with the principle behind copyright, that giving an author an economic incentive to create can promote Progress, but I disagree with its implementation in the U.S. Code as of today, such as the effectively perpetual term of monopoly, the breadth of the monopoly on musical works given that there exist a provably finite number of melodies [slashdot.org], and the breadth of the monopoly on derivative works that in the end prevents authors lacking deep pockets for a "fair use" legal defense from creating some satiric works.

          I agree with the principle behind patents, that giving an inventor an economic incentive to invent can promote Progress, but I disagree with the poor job that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has done with respect to examining patents for obviousness given prior art.

          • by jc42 (318812) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @11:25PM (#8595270) Homepage Journal
            ... given that there exist a provably finite number of melodies, ...

            OK, here's a business model: First, find out what the courts have decided is too short a melody fragment to be copyrightable. This probably isn't quite the same in every jurisdiction, but it's likely under 10 notes. Let this be N. For example, the distinguished first phrase of Happy Birthday is just 5 notes, all the same length, so N is at most 4.

            Next, write a little program to generate all the tune fragments from N+1 to, say, 2*N notes. We probably can limit the melody to just an 8-note octave, or maybe make it 12 notes to be on the safe side. OTOH, we might want to include variants of the fragments with various notes of double length, to take into account rhythmic variations.

            Apply for copyright on all of these fragments. Whether they all get processed and approved is irrelevant; you'll have applied so you can claim them.

            When a new hit song comes out, compare it with your archive of melody fragments. It will match some of them. File suit for copyright infringement. ...

            Profit!
        • Yes, it does make it a bad one because it conflicts with human nature and the evolution of trade and economics.

          It's an attempt to extend contract law to overpower basic concepts of property.

          It is fundamentally an attempt to achieve monopoly profit by forcibly - je jure instead of de facto - creating a "natural monopoly" - which is in no way "natural" - and, as current technology has demonstrated, is still subject to true economic competition.

          Intellectual property is an oxymoron and supported by real moro
      • The digital revolution doesn't change the philosophy behind "intellectual property". Information can be independently discovered--thus it exists outside of time. That was true during the printing press and its true with the internet. And "intellectual property" law was wrong then and it's wrong now.
      • Intellectual property is an artificial concept, especially now that digital media allows us to make unlimited copies.

        Physical property is an artificial concept too, if you care to think about it.

        I think what you want to say is that IP scarcity is an artificial concept.

    • by ewn (538392) <ernst-udo.wallenborn@freenet.de> on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @09:36PM (#8594639) Homepage

      According to this wiki [wikipedia.org] Hollywood was built this way:

      "Thus, filmmakers working in California could work independent of Edison's control, and if Edison ever sent agents to California, word would usually reach Los Angeles before the agents did, and the filmmakers could escape to nearby Mexico."
    • by turnstyle (588788) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @09:41PM (#8594664) Homepage
      From something I sent [interesting-people.org] to Dave Farber's IP:

      Given the recent Grey Tuesday brouhaha that followed the release of DJ Danger Mouse's Grey Album, it's worth pausing for a moment to take a look at the Creative Commons:

      "We work to offer creators a best-of-both-worlds way to protect their works while encouraging certain uses of them -- to declare 'some rights reserved.'"

      Among the rights an artist may choose to reserve when configuring their Creative Commons license is "No Derivative Works," explained in cartoon here:

      http://creativecommons.org/images/comics/10.gif [creativecommons.org]

      Indeed, the Creative Commons' leading example musician is Roger McGuinn who: "chose the Creative Commons license that maximizes a combination of free distribution with artistic control and integrity." -- note that Roger McGuinn chose "No Derivative Works."

      However, the Grey Tuesday movement seeks to take that right away. Notably, Larry Lessig (Creative Commons Chairman of the Board) commented in his blog:

      http://www.lessig.org/blog/archives/001754.shtml [lessig.org]

      "Should the law give DJ Danger Mouse the right to remix without permission? I think so, though I understand how others find the matter a bit more grey."

      "Should the law give DJ Danger Mouse a compulsory right to remix? That is, the right, conditioned upon his paying a small fee per sale? Again, I think so, and again, you might find this a bit less grey."

      So, what exactly does Creative Commons mean by "some rights reserved" -- would it perhaps be more accurate if they said: "some rights reserved until we can cook up a new compulsory license to take those rights away"?

      • by MunchMunch (670504) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @11:02PM (#8595134) Homepage
        It is indeed possible to create a Creative Commons license that bars someone from creating derivative works. However, this isn't entirely a contradiction. It may be a compromise meant to allow the maximum public benefit to be created under current copyright conditions (which limit derivative works). The idea that Lessig is amenable to compromise despite having stronger believes which he expresses in his blog doesn't prove that he's being hypocritical.

        The fact is, if you look at this [creativecommons.org], you see that the license includes a notice that fair use is still protected, and that the CC license with "no derivative" clause does so in order to facilitate copying and sharing. It is still closer to Lessig's position than current copyright law.

        I do believe and agree that in this area, compromise like what Lessig may be endorsing with the CC license (and like copyright law itself has been doing for the last hundred years) might create confusion about what the 'principles' of copyright law are. This surely will make some of us uncomfortable -- especially those of us who believe that copyright is supposed to make some sort of moral/logical sense, and not merely be a pragmatic engine for creativity.

        However, as we've already seen, copyright does not operate under any principles except to enable more creativity than it disables. Copyright is not a moral law. It does not have unimpeachable logic that directs its content. Thus, Lessig need not either be totally black or white, and does not contradict himself by agreeing to less than he wishes for in his blog--since copyright allows [sorry, I can't help it] "gray" principles.

        • "It is indeed possible to create a Creative Commons license that bars someone from creating derivative works. However, this isn't entirely a contradiction."

          Aw, come on! CC speaks in clear and positive terms about artists getting to make decisions -- "some rights reserved" -- and so on. One of those rights is "no derivative works" (which they themselves say can protect "artistic integrity").

          And Lessig is clearly calling fot that same right to be taken away.

          (obviously a CC license can't trump constitut

          • "That's the general problem with Lessig, EFF, etc. They're just as bad as the RIAA when they act as if they're speaking on behalf of artists' interests.

            You'll have to forgive me, but I really don't see what the problem is. Lessig supports copyright to a limited extent, but (as evinced by his implicit support of unimpeded remixing) he believes in advancing creativity more than copyright as an end in and of itself. His words and actions on his blog support this, though it may indeed be argued to be count

      • "Should the law give DJ Danger Mouse the right to remix without permission? I think so, though I understand how others find the matter a bit more grey."

        "Should the law give DJ Danger Mouse a compulsory right to remix? That is, the right, conditioned upon his paying a small fee per sale? Again, I think so, and again, you might find this a bit less grey."

        Personally, I think DJ Danger Mouse should have the right to remix without permission and distribute it as long as no profit is made. Now, If DJ Danger

        • "Personally, I think DJ Danger Mouse should have the right to remix without permission and distribute it as long as no profit is made. Now, If DJ Danger Mouse wants to make money with/off of the work, then permission needs to be given and royalities paid to The Beatles and Jay Z."


          And you do know that DJ Danger Mouse pressed 3000 CDs, yes?

          • And you do know that DJ Danger Mouse pressed 3000 CDs, yes?

            From what I understand, 3000 CDs were pressed, and a number of these were sold on Ebay. As long as DJ Danger Mouse did not sell them (he had no arrangement with the Beatles or Jay-Z) he is okay (not making a profit), but the resale of these CDs (in this case, there is no "first sale" ) is not okay. That would be the same as if I took my mp3 copy and created a CD version and sold it -- not okay.

            I'm not sure if DJ Dangermouse personally sold an

        • How do you draw the line between "remix without permission and distribute" and just plain distribute?

          If I take a popular single and speed it up 0.1%, does that qualify as a remix, and can I then distribute it as long as I don't make a profit?
    • by Thanatopsis (29786) <despain.brianNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @09:47PM (#8594695) Homepage
      HE's right on with this. Developed nations will be disintermediated and would not even notice. Previously you simply went to a new jurisdiction, like when the film industry came to California to avoid scrutiny by Edison's people and patents. Our current laws are really on a crash course with innovation. Innovators will simply route avoid them to countries where their IP laws allow them to innovate.
    • by dpilot (134227) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @09:57PM (#8594762) Homepage Journal
      I just get this ugly feeling that we in the US (and perhaps the West in general) are getting ready to diminish ourselves the way the Islamic empire diminished itself around the time of the Rennaissance. I know there's much more to it than IP laws, and that the Islamic empire was busy coping with barbarians, etc.

      But there are some parallels: A civilization that grew to prosperity based on free thought, progress, and advancement of knowledge. Conservative elements that grew to dominance and stifled the very free thought that made them great. As for coping with barbarians, perhaps there is a modern parallel for that too, in terrorism.
    • by planesp0tter (763206) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @11:16PM (#8595218)
      I was at the OSBC and heard Lessig talk. A few things to relate:

      1. He actually talked about developing nations, pointing out that although in theory these countries are given lesser constraints negotiated via the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), in reality the U.S. is apparently creating bi-lateral agreements with these countries to strong-arm them into falling in line with U.S. IP practices. To hear Lessig tell the tale, this may result in some backlash on the economic front, as some of the countries are banding together to try to stand up to Uncle Sam

      2. Lessig said in the Q&A that he's tired of hearing his words played back to him with the implication that he's against patent and copyrights. His talk actually reinforced them as a good thing, IF properly applied, i.e. in a balanced way.

      He pointed out that the retention of IP rights gives the creator the ability to provide clear guidelines about the acceptable use of the work. He countered that, though, by pointing out that in the 70's IP law changed so that everything was by DEFAULT protected, vs. works having to be explicitly registered. One of the /. posters said this is the way the system currently works. That's wrong. You don't have to register your work to have copyright. In current law, the right exists implicitly in the creative act. If you register it, you are just making it easier to demonstrate ownership in the case of a conflict.

      3. The argument for limiting the duration of copyright of course builds off the whole notion of 'balance.' There was an interesting point Lessig made about the goal of well-managed businesses... that they basically try hard to be boring, i.e. to avoid major disruptions. It was interesting because the ending keynote speaker of the day wasClayton Christensen (Innovator's Dilemma, Innovator's Solution) from Harvard Business School who had models that showed why this kind of business behavior ultimately leads to innovative startup's 'killing off' the big guys. Seemed to reinforce Lessig's point that the 'boring companies' need the crutch of artificial (& ridiculous, IMHO) constructs in the law to prop them up.

      C'mon, you goliaths, what are you afraid of? Can't take a little honest competition without the help of your legal teams? Now that Michael Eisner's powerbase is weakening, maybe we'll see some movement on this front?.... ;)

  • by RLiegh (247921) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @09:19PM (#8594535) Homepage Journal
    long term implications. What is going on with the corporations will, in the long run, turn america into a third-world nation -- while the economic infrastructure will follow the IT industry to somewhere more freindly to innovation.

    Can you say 'brain drain'?
    • long term implications. What is going on with the corporations will, in the long run, turn america into a third-world nation -- while the economic infrastructure will follow the IT industry to somewhere more freindly to innovation.

      <devilsadvocate>Just like it turned Britian into a third world nation?</devilsadvocate>

    • Unfortunately the long term may not be so long. Over the past 10 years or so my U.S. city has increasingly resembled my third world city. The well off people are getting more well off, and increasingly afraid of the less well off people. Where up to the 80's the very rich, the middle class, and lower class lived relitively peacefully within walking distance of each other, we now have a situation where the very rich continue to live in thier castles, but the middle class have built gated bunkers on the ru
    • Illusion (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Mark_MF-WN (678030) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @10:12PM (#8594836)
      Unfortunately, America will never LOOK like a third-world nation. Rich Americans are still making all the money, so America will still have a high GNP. It's just the other 99% of US citizens who ultimately suffer. And since most Americans are quite gullible, it'll never occur to them that their poverty is not of their own doing.
    • Long-term? Can you say 'self-sufficiency'?

      In the long-term (< 30 years), there won't even be such a thing as a third-world nation because technology will have finally ushered in an economy of abundance. i.e. WalMart, Gilette, DeBeers, Agribiz, and host of other giant corps will be put out of business by cheap molecular manufacturing (a "3D printer" in every home/village), and not having a job won't mean starving, which is a good thing because very soon not everyone who WANTS a job will be able to have

    • Only if you believe that corporate America has already exhausted all the new ideas out there.

      Trust me, there are still ways to innovate and succeed -- you just need to think harder.
  • by timmarhy (659436) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @09:29PM (#8594602)
    the problem is that people need to be able to protect their work and profit from it if they wish. with out this there is no real incentive for most people to do anything much. patents are a good thing when given out under very strict conditions, and should never be used to kill compeditors in an already developed market. eg. patenting gif files. licensing can also provide a steady and secure income for a company allowing further development of products which can benifit us all. the key is not so much that licensing and patents are bad, it's how they are misused. unfortunately this is a symptom of american corperate culture.
    • by RickHunter (103108) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @09:36PM (#8594642)

      with out this there is no real incentive for most people to do anything much.

      Actually, history has shown this to be untrue. There has, historically, been more innovation in countries where the duration of "IP" protection, be it copyright or patent, is less than the average "apprentice to journeyman" cycle. This was the case in Germany and America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and they both lept ahead of Britain (which had much more stringent IP laws) technologically because of it. Likewise, much of our most innovative music has been given to us by people who didn't give a fuck about whether or not they got paid - they just wanted to make music.

      Yes, there are practical issues... But any sane society should already handle taking care of those.

      • by Roger Keith Barrett (712843) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @09:54PM (#8594742)
        There is more incentive for people to do stuff if the amount of time they get a monopoly on their work is short. If there is only 7 years before something goes into public domain, a fiction writer has to either make a new edition of the book or write a new one. This encourages artists to create a lot more and put a lot more ideas out into the wild. Getting more and more ideas out into the open so they could evolve was the orginal intent of copyright in the U.S. It was not created so someone (usally a middleman) can horde ideas and make money off them almost ad infinitum... which is how it's being used today.
        • by RickHunter (103108) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @10:54PM (#8595082)

          Also true. But from a more technical point of view, a patent/copyright length shorter than the typical "apprentice to journeyman" cycle means that you can use cutting-edge stuff however you want when you're ready to do work on your own. In other words, software patents (heck, most patents these days) should last a decade, MAXIMUM. And six years is more than enough in most fields.

          Copyrights are a little trickier, but seven years seems to be reasonable.

      • The major point about this I would mention is that it's necessary to provide some means of financial reward to creators so they can create at will instead of being compelled to take regular jobs. That way, truly talented creators will be able to do so full-time if desired, and other people who are either not as interested or not as talented could still receive something to encourage them to produce.

        While the most recognized creative endeavours probably were not done with a profit motive (or at least not m
        • The major point about this I would mention is that it's necessary to provide some means of financial reward to creators so they can create at will instead of being compelled to take regular jobs. That way, truly talented creators will be able to do so full-time if desired, and other people who are either not as interested or not as talented could still receive something to encourage them to produce.

          I see, so there's still a financial incentive for Elvis to produce music? Kind of useless since he's dead,
  • by stubear (130454) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @09:31PM (#8594620)
    Creative people should mark all of their original content and allow it to be licensed according to their own will. To do this, they should register it with a qualified third party and allow it to be available for public review, so that the broad concepts of their creativity spur others on to additional creativity, he said. Every artist should share something in the public domain to some extent, Lessig said, while making sure that the work as a whole is protected as to its ownership.

    Ummm, this is how Copyright currently works. I create my work (establish the expression of an idea in a fixed medium; original content), send a copy along with $20 to the Library of Congress (the qualified third party), then I show others the work in a gallery, on the radio, in a theatre, or wherever (shared to the public) and the public can come and view, listen to, or whatever as long as they don't infringe upon my five basic rights to distribution, derivatives, public performance, public display, and copying (work protected as a whole as to its ownership).
    • No it isn't... (Score:5, Informative)

      by schon (31600) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @09:45PM (#8594680)
      .. and hasn't been since the Berne Convention.

      send a copy along with $20 to the Library of Congress (the qualified third party)

      There is no need to send your copy to the Library of Congress to receive copyright protection. You only need to send your copy if you want to sue someone for infringement, and you want to collect monetary damages. Oh, and you don't need to send the whole thing, just part of it will be fine.

      Welcome to 2004 - where have you been for the last 20 years?
      • I only put this in there to show the correlation to the authorized third party Lessig mentions. I realize that copyrigt is granted automatically at the time of creation but to gain further legal protection you must send a copy to the Library of COngress.
        • Except, and this is really interesting, you might not be able to waive your rights to your own work. The GPL and BSDL are probably still leagal... But, according to Lessig, its somewhat unclear about whether an author can intentionally put a work into the public domain, or even use an "effectively public domain" license. As copying the work might still be a Federal offense in the USA.

  • by syousef (465911) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @09:33PM (#8594628) Journal
    I can understand the argument for compensating the creator of an original work be it an invention or an artistic work, since otherwise there would be little incentive to innovate.

    I do not understand why individuals and companies consider it a right to be able to control the use of their invention or demand extravagant or prohibitive compensation for its use. An idea or work of art, once formulated should be equally available to everyone to build upon. Determining what is or isn't prohibitive is trickier though I think we'd be able to do better than the current broken system.
    • If that's the case, you'll never be able to recoup your R&D costs because your competitors will be able to underprice you.

      For example, you have an idea for invention. You borrow $100,000 for R&D to invent a widget. You sell them at $10 each to cover your expenses (which includes loan repayment). Your competitor copies your idea and produces widgets and since he/she does not have a loan to repay, your competitor sells the same widget for $5. You'll end up going bankrupt due to the poor sales.
      • That's why compensation is tricky. You'd need to find a way to ensure that your competitor could copy the idea but only by sharing in the cost of the development and giving you a cut of the profits too.

        I've suggested before on /. that perhaps allocating a percentage of the cost of manufacture of an item to all contributing contributors ("patent"/"copyright" holders) - a tax of sorts but not one that goes to the government. The tricky part would be administering this.
    • "I do not understand why individuals and companies consider it a right to be able to control the use of their invention or demand extravagant or prohibitive compensation for its use."

      This is the free market economy at work. If I create a work and charge too much for it, it won't sell. If I charge too little, I don't make enough to stay in business.

      I ocasionally with a well-respected analyst firm that publishes an annual seven-year forecast report for a particular industry. This report is eight page

      • Free market + Copyrights + Patents + Trade Secrets are what we have now and they clearly aren't working.

        I'm not advocating traditional price controls, socialism or communism at all. What I'm saying is that you shouldn't allow one company the option to restrict the use of intellectual property by another company. Intellectual property is not the same as physical property and it is only the fact that we didn't have the technology to copy things at will that made the existing systems, which do treat them in t
      • But it's not a free market, it's a monopoly market - that's how copyright works...

    • by metlin (258108) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @10:06PM (#8594807) Journal
      I'm not discounting your point that having incentive helps motivate people to innovate.

      But the truth is, most of the good stuff out there was not created by people looking for an incentive - it was created by people who _loved_ doing what they did, and hacked it to their advantage.

      All of the world's greatest works, and greatest genuises never worked for money or incentive - that helped, sure, but it was not the goal. The purpose was to innovate for the love of the subject, for the very sake of innovation itself.

      Look at Nikolas Tesla, or any of the really great inventors. Or physicsts and mathematicians. Or even musicians. The real good ones do not really care about the money - they do it because they love playing music - its their life, and its in their blood. Sure, a little incentive helps them move on, but with or without it they will do what they do simply because it gives them happiness.

      Now, thats whats wrong with today's culture. People are not willing to do anything without compensation. We expect something in return. Look at the trash quality of music today - its only because the morons who are making it are interested only in making money and fame, and not music in itself. Why do so many patents exist? People are not willing to innovate because they love what they do, they are willing to innovate if they can profit and get something in return.

      I feel that this is a very bad trend, and a very bad notion. If you notice where true innovation comes from, even today it is only from people who do not care about what they get in return - take Linus Torvalds for example. What he did was simply for the love of what he did best - nothing more.

      Unless this attitude changes, and people accept that knowledge belongs to humanity - you may profit from it, but thats not the reason you should be doing it - we are fucked.
      • by Kwil (53679) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @10:33PM (#8594944)
        Yes.. but you miss one key point.

        Man does not live by gratification alone. If we don't ensure that the innovators, inventors, and creators get some monetary benefit out of the work they create, then they're simply going to wind up spending a lot of their time doing other crap so that they can put food on the table.

        That's simply a waste of their talents. I'd rather be encouraging some crap inventors simply so that the truly talented ones could be spending the majority of their time doing what they're best at.
        • I'd rather be encouraging some crap inventors simply so that the truly talented ones could be spending the majority of their time doing what they're best at.

          Yep. As long as the "crap" inventors don't use the incentive we gave them as leverage to sue the "truly talented" ones into poverty. Is that better or worse than simply not providing incentive to begin with?

          It almost seems like anti-incentive, to know that I could get sued for reverse engineering an API to implement a program that works with it, or by

    • It always seems that most arguments over IP tends to resolve around the issue of compensation. Yet both sides seem to be missing two fundamental assumptions they are both making in the economics of intellectual work.

      1. Creators of intellectual work have a right to compensation, and
      2. Compensation occurs after the work has been completed.

      I think we all need to challenge both of those axioms. I find myself in a particularly unique position (on /. anyway it seems) of being both mostly conservative with stro

  • by kfg (145172) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @09:46PM (#8594684)
    during the antitrust trial:

    "Microsoft is just one good idea away from oblivion."

    I may not have the quote exactly right, but the idea expressed is correct.

    Therefore, to protect one's future, if one is a power player, one must protect innovation from outside the company. Excessive innovation from inside the company is, more often than not, antithetical to profits.

    As an example from outside IT, a Trinity factory oval racer who used to practice at my track once told me the story of his first race for the team. He not only won, but he broke the track race record by two seconds.

    When he got off the driver's stand, glowing with pride and accomplishment, the team manager stormed up to him and said, "Don't ever let me see you do anything like that again, or your fired. We came here with seconds in hand. You only needed to win by one second, not half a lap. Now every other team knows how fast we are, and they're all going to go home and figure out how to go just as fast before they come out to a major meet again. You just threw away a full season's advantage by showing off. And a full season's sales advantage that goes with it."

    There is no advantage to an established company in offering too much "advancment" to the public. Especially if they can get the public to buy chrome as advancment.

    Anybody from outside who offers advancement when the public is willing to buy chrome simply needs to be stopped.

    A large and powerful corporation, again using Microsoft as the obvious example, by necessity becomes conservative. They have little to gain. They can live off of the the return of their outside investments, effectively, for eternity. They can only lose.

    They don't like losing.

    If they can create a conservative general atmosphere in society and at law that favors them, well, they don't have to because they can't have any real competition.

    Other powerful corporations aren't real competition in innovation because they're all playing by the same rule sheet. Only try to win by one second, so you can sell the other seconds you've already got later, when people get tired of this year's chrome.

    KFG
  • by spood (256582) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @09:51PM (#8594720) Homepage Journal
    The link to the Bush/Blair Endless Love parody [about.com] in that article is hilarious! See, sometimes it's good to actually read the article.
  • by ShieldW0lf (601553) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @09:53PM (#8594729) Journal
    ...would be to prevent the transfer of ownership or licensing rights.

    Want to keep it, fine. Sell copies at a profit, fine. License it out for commercial use, fine. Sell ownership to the big immortal mulitnational that owns everything else? Sorry, not permitted.

    This doesn't kill the distribution and marketing industries, just puts them in the service of the artists, instead of the other way around. Bang, no more monopoly is possible, yet artists get rewarded.

    There would no longer be a motive to remove things from circulation the way the big media companies do... that only comes from the fact that song a and song b are competing for market share, but media company x owns both, so they kill b to focus on a. If ownership fell only to the creators, they'd be more inclined to give away the non-marketables as a way of promoting themselves.

    I leave the excercise of how to deal with collaborative works for someone who isn't sleep deprived and fuzzy-eyes from too much coding :P

  • by 3seas (184403) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @10:05PM (#8594805) Journal
    as it becomes easier and easier to invent and create, the intellectually property of such gets longer and longer term and more controlled.

    Don't believe me?

    I think SCO is a very good example, in many ways.... hell you don't even have to invent or create to anything to make your claim to fame and fortune....

    What should be happening is that the term length should be getting shorter and control should be being removed....

    How does an inventor or creator get a return?

    Far better than they are now!!!

    Just because you can invent or create, there is no proof that there is some magical power included or connected to such that says you will know best how to market or distribute it....

    If such marketing and distribution is open to all to do, simply paying back to the inventor or creator, some reasonable percentage ..... then invention and creation will flourish, instead of marketing monopolies...playing constrained stradegy games over consumer choice.
  • by MichaelCrawford (610140) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @10:09PM (#8594825) Homepage Journal
    In Change the Law [goingware.com], I point out that while the Constitution permits Congress to enact copyright laws, it doesn't actually require Congress to do so. Copyright is not a Constitutional right.

    Congress could repeal the copyright laws tomorrow, if you could get enough votes to do so. That's more of a possibility than you might think, if you consider that more Americans use peer-to-peer networks than voted for George Bush.

    My article suggests a number of steps you can take to bring about much needed copyright reform, ranging from speaking out [goingware.com] to practicing civil disobedience [goingware.com].

    I want every American peer-to-peer network user to read my article by the time of the elections. Presently it gets about 2000 readers a day, but needs to get read about a hundred times more frequently to achieve my goal. If you feel as I do that what I have to say is important, then you can help by linking to my article from your own website, weblog or from message boards.

    You'll see from my sig that I've been asking readers to Googlebomb it with the phrase "free music downloads". This has been pretty successful so far, with my article now ranking #3 at Google for that query [google.com]. It's getting about 800 search engine referrals each day for "free music downloads".

    My article has a Creative Commons license if you'd like to mirror it.

    • Election latency (Score:3, Informative)

      by tepples (727027)

      Congress could repeal the copyright laws tomorrow, if you could get enough votes to do so.

      Actually, repealing huge chunks of Title 17, United States Code, would take two years and about 10 months, as that's how long it would take to cycle out a majority of representatives and senators in the Congress. Those who have held their offices since 1997 or before have showed by their unanimous consent to the Bono Act and the DMCA that many of them are so bought-and-paid-for that they won't listen to letters fro

    • As soon as this came close to passing in Congress, and the President were to sign it. America would experience its first Coup-de-tat, and we would become a dictatorship run by the mega corporations. These guys are just too powerful. They'll tolerate democracy just as long as it doen't interfere with thier financial models.
  • by geekee (591277) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @10:27PM (#8594916)
    In the 19th century a patent was for a very specific widget, and a detailed design was presented. So, the idea of photography could not be patented, but only a specific method of creating a photograph. Therefore, improvements in photography wpuld not be hampered by patents. Today, however, it appears possible to patent vaugue concepts that are explained by drawing a couple of boxes, such as streaming video, 1-click shopping, launching a helper application, etc. It seems that the new ideas about what a patent should allow, not the old ideas, are the ones that are flawed.
  • by max born (739948) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @10:42PM (#8594991)
    The essential building blocks of all technology come the pursuit of truth, not dollars.

    I think the general public really believes that money is the sole incentive of technical creativity. I agree money can be a good incentive if you're selling televisions or computers, but the real underlying work that went into the ability to produce these things was done, not for profit, but more because people were compelled by the process of discovery.

    The integrated circuit is a good example. Most of the fundamental research that went into the chip came from a lot of painstaking research in solid state physics and was carried out by researchers in university labs making less than they would working for a Fortune 500 OEM.

    People really are capable of doing things just for fun, because they're interested in them, or just like knowing how things work.

    However, people do need to get paid. But the question here should be, how do we bring people together to create technology? Wouldn't it be great to get all the top cancer researchers together and see if they could make some headway on understanding tumors? But how do we meet their needs, keep them happy, make sure they are adequately compensated, etc.? Though this may be difficult to accomplish under our current economic system, I think you'll agree it's something we need to work towards as it seems to me a much better approach than saying, "we have a pattent system, and if you can find the cure for cancer, you can make a lot of money." This seems so inefficient as comapanies tend to scramble over each other, reinventing the wheel, keeping their research secret and trying to make as much money as they can.

    Thoughts?
  • by GillBates0 (664202) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @10:44PM (#8595013) Homepage Journal
    Lessig is a well-known public figure...the least we can hope for is that the mainstream media picks up his lecture -- which sums up most of the concerns voiced on Slashdot pretty well.

    Incase somebody's planning to publish it, I would like to (as I have done earlier) point to the RMS's essay: The Right to Read [gnu.org] cached on Google here [216.239.53.104] (incase gnu.org is down -- they're moving [slashdot.org] their machines to another location).

    Some of you might have seen the essay earlier, but I think it deserves a much wider audience.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @11:00PM (#8595120)
    There are indications that this struggle, which has mostly involved copyright, is about to move more heavily into patents. One well-placed patent, for instance, could do more harm to Linux or open source than a thousand alleged copyright infringements. You can't just rewrite the code to get around a patent dispute.

    It might be a good idea for Creative Commons or a group like them to move into the patent arena in a big way. Two ideas would be particularly helpful.

    1. A "prior art" registry. It would include ideas their posters think is new with bullet-proof date stamping and public access. This would keep those ideas from being patented. It would also allow people to post descriptions of prior art they are aware of dating back several decades, along with contact information where that prior art can be documented. That could be used to fight dangerous existing patents or patents-to-be. With a bit of pressure, patent office examiners could be forced to use the database before issuing a patent. It would save a lot of grief.

    2. A open source patent portfolio with a GPL-type license. Corporations could acquire the right to use patents in the portfolio in exchange for licensing the use of their patents in open source. This would approximate how corporations like IBM avoid patent suits. Patents could be obtained by donation or by developing ideas into patents.

    Acting now could save a lot of trouble later.

    --Mike Perry, Inkling Books, Seattle

    http://www.InklingBooks.com/

  • I subscribed to this mailing list several years ago and have found that virtually no news slips through the list's fingers.

    http://lists.anti-dmca.org/mailman/listinfo/dmca_d iscuss

    To be informed of all patent, copyright and other related news, subscribe to this list. You can also throw your two cents in the ongoing discussion, or just enjoy the articles.

  • by agebringswisdom (717172) on Thursday March 18, 2004 @02:56AM (#8596279)
    I am often surprised by the tendency to generalize in the media (including slashdot). One of the most conservative companies in the IT industry is IBM. I wonder how people are able to deal with the fact that they are both a very active supporter of Linux, while at the same time working very hard to protect their own intellectual property in the form of patents and software. The "free" software world seems to want to make this into some kind of intellectual war, but the reality seems much more complicated. While it's convenient to make statements like "you're either with us or against us", the reality is that some people are more pragmatic than others. I would hope that the IT world doesn't become as divided as the political world, and statements that lump all companies into a unified force are too simplistic to be taken very seriously. The same goes for the open source software movement.

    If we all have something in common, I suspect we could identify it as respect for creativity.

He keeps differentiating, flying off on a tangent.

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