Forgot your password?
typodupeerror

In Defense Of Patents and Copyright 283

Posted by Zonk
from the just-a-little-bit-biased dept.
Romer!can writes "C|Net Editor Michael Kanellos offers a potentially contentious opinion piece about patents and copyright on the CNet site. Highlights of the fairly biased piece include: a cheap shot dismissing open source projects as existing only to act as a foil for Microsoft, blatantly equating copyright infringement with stealing, and an embarrassing failure to even casually mention the current term lengths of patents and copyrights as a driving factor behind popular dissatisfaction. Instead, he wades through obscure humor and emotional appeals characterizing patent trolls as the guy next door. 'Nearly every so-called [patent] troll turned out to have a somewhat persuasive story. Intellectual Ventures, a patent firm started by former Microsoft chief scientist Nathan Myhrvold, was staffed with fairly renowned scientists who didn't fit the profile of people trying to make a quick buck in court. Another man, criticized as one of the most litigious people in the U.S., had a great explanation for his behavior. He had only sued people who had signed--and then violated--nondisclosure agreements.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

In Defense Of Patents and Copyright

Comments Filter:
  • by A beautiful mind (821714) on Thursday May 10, 2007 @02:51PM (#19073293)
    ...why post it? I can find similar trolls with little or no effort too, but usually I'm here for a honest discussion. It is not like this article would be news in itself.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Maybe he posted it just because he knows it is a topic of interest to a lot of people who read this site? Sure, it may make a lot of people angry, and Zonk's summary comments will make a lot of other people angry, and there will be some flame wars....but isn't that what slashdot is all about?

      Well, ok, maybe not really, but it sure does seem to keep people busily coming back for more...

      • by Timesprout (579035) on Thursday May 10, 2007 @03:22PM (#19073831)

        Well, ok, maybe not really, but it sure does seem to keep people busily coming back for more...
        Sure but in the process has removed any credibility Slashdot may have had as a news site. Unless you have been reading Slashdot for a whileand can spot the immediate drivel many of the articles now appear to be nothing more than deliberately inaccurate headlines followed by leading questions followed by hysterical comments with most rational debate modded out by groupthink.
        • by Hijacked Public (999535) * on Thursday May 10, 2007 @03:38PM (#19074095)
          I have been here a long time, pre-karma anyway.

          The place has always had drawbacks: spamming; crapflooding; Shoeboy; ACSII art; goatse links; Jon Katz; Michael Sims.

          Most of the 'debate' is the same record being played over and over. This article so far is, and certianly will continue to be, no exception. No new ground will be broken and the comments will be nearly identical to what went up during the Napster debate. Despite the lameness filters and low karma post restrictions, Slashdot has far more actual trolling than it ever did when Adequacy crowd was here.

          I am here now, subscribing, because there are a small minority of users who actually not only know their stuff but actively participate in fields that are relevant to many of the submissions that go up. There aren't many places one can go on the internet and have a discussion with an actual attorney who actually defends RIAA cases. Bruce Perens doesn't show up just anywhere and comment on FOSS issues. There was some article on here a few days ago about carbon nanotubes, and I don't know carbon nanotubes from cans of paint so I may have been getting hoodwinked, but there seemed to be people posting who actually had more than just cursory knowledge about the things.

          Anyway, enough emo about Slashdot. I don't think it has or ever had much credibility as a serious news site but it certianly offers something unique. If you can sift through the massive amount of drivel it makes visiting worth the time.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by drinkypoo (153816)

          Sure but in the process has removed any credibility Slashdot may have had as a news site.

          Slashdot is not a news site. Slashdot doesn't report the news, it reports that someone else has reported the news. Slashdot is a discussion site. It provides a place for the nerd elite and nerd wannabes to come together and discuss the stories which interest them most (firehose++, even if it does have many shortcomings and annoyances.)

          In addition, you must ALWAYS check ALL news from ALL sources to see if it is a bunch

      • by yurnotsoeviltwin (891389) on Thursday May 10, 2007 @03:48PM (#19074313) Homepage
        Yea, seriously. If you want biased, you can just read the summary. To be honest, it's an opinion piece, and the purpose of an opinion piece is to be biased, and seriously, can anything that makes any sort of conclusion on such a complex/subjective topic as this NOT be biased?
        • To be honest, it's an opinion piece, and the purpose of an opinion piece is to be biased

          I don't mind the peace is biased, however if someone writes an opinion peace they should include data that supports their conclusion. And unfortunately this "writer" doesn't.

          Falcon
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by jellomizer (103300) *
      If it is opposed to what you beleave then it is a troll.

      Here is the mantra I have been hearing for a while. Free Speach for all who beleave in the same values as me. To the moderation dungion if you disagree. We only want stories telling how Patents and Copyrights are bad and evil. Explaining how they can be good makes the story bad.
    • by ajs (35943) <ajs AT ajs DOT com> on Thursday May 10, 2007 @03:16PM (#19073737) Homepage Journal
      Yes, indeed! Please, do not feed the trolls. Do not click on the C|Net link, and if this really bothers, you just file it away in the back of your mind as another in the long list of reasons to never visit C|Net's site.
    • Are you kidding? Of COURSE he's going to post it! Here on /., "pro copyright" equals "pro Microsoft", "Pro DRM" and "Anti-America". This is a perfect opportunity to have another foam-at-the-mouth fest at the expense of the RIAA, Microsoft, etc. It's probably the whole reason it's up at CNet anyway, just to get readers angry.
      • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Thursday May 10, 2007 @03:40PM (#19074137) Journal
        I think it's more basic than that. Most of us (by which I mean myself, and everyone I project onto) is 'pro-fairness.' I am not against copyright. I use copyright on an almost daily basis to protect my own work. But I acknowledge that, when I use copyright, I am entering into a social contract. Society agrees to protect my temporary monopoly on my creations, in return for which I agree to:
        1. Make them available now at a reasonable price.
        2. Allow certain fair-use rights to everyone.
        3. Let them fall into the public domain eventually.
        The 'pro-copyright' lobby has not been playing fair recently, by blocking fair use with DRM and blocking the public domain with copyright term extensions. Similarly, the 'anti-copyright' lobby hasn't been playing fair either, by simply refusing to respect copyright at all.
        • by superbus1929 (1069292) on Thursday May 10, 2007 @03:51PM (#19074355) Homepage
          Sadly, perception is reality nowadays, and the perception is that anyone that owns a copyright is doing whatever they can to fuck their customers over any way they can with Draconian EULAs, the death of the public domain, DRM, dragnet litigation, you name it. That perception makes people overreact, and that brings in the other extreme. Now, we have two groups who want everything, no compromise, no exceptions, engaged in this massive pissing contest, and the only ones needing an umbrella are the moderates like us in the middle.
          • Sadly, perception is reality nowadays

            Sadly, the perception that perception is reality may indeed be widespread. Alas, the reality is that perception is frequently other than reality. If anyone ever tries to sell you on the notion that perception is in fact reality, I advise you to check your wallet and to refuse to sign anything.

            the perception is that anyone that owns a copyright is doing whatever they can to fuck their customers over any way they can

            Interestingly enough, if perception were reality

    • by MoogMan (442253)
      Ironically, the original article is about as biased as the slashdot story about the original article.

      I heard a great quote not so long ago, that the story poster (and many other Slashdot readers) would do well to read:

      "Every man should periodically be compelled to listen to opinions which are infuriating to him. To hear nothing but what is pleasing to one is to make a pillow of the mind" -- St John Ervine
    • ...why post it?

      Why post it? Because it begets, starts, a discussion or debate on the merits of patents. This is one area that really needs to be debated, especially as regards software patents.

      Falcon
  • by rbrander (73222) on Thursday May 10, 2007 @02:53PM (#19073341) Homepage
    ...it IS a troll. NOBODY who works for C-Net can possibly be ignorant of the rest of this story, or of the tempest in a teapot that a biased editorial is sure to stir up. Therefore, it is purposeful, intended to drive up traffic and replies.

    If that's his goal, don't give him the satisfaction. Don't read it, don't comment, don't reply.

    Which is not about "winning" some argument, it's just about not letting media people get paid for the almost mindlessly easy job of drumming up fake controversy. Same as ignoring all the cable TV and radio "shock jocks". Let them all work for a living, do some investigative reporting, find out some new facts (you know, "news"?) to fill up their sites with.

    Not just, as Jon Stewart said about 'Crossfire', "theatre".
    • by Uruk (4907) on Thursday May 10, 2007 @03:28PM (#19073953)
      This really applies to a whole class of media - the "any publicity is good publicity" crowd.

      Think about it. If you come across a guy on a soapbox on the street corner, raving about how he communicates with purple unicorns in the 4th dimension, do you spend a lot of time refuting his arguments in a public forum?

      No. Just let it go. Don't legitimize nuttiness by addressing it.

      The old saying: "Never get in a fight with a pig. You'll get dirty, and the pig will enjoy it."
  • by UbuntuDupe (970646) * on Thursday May 10, 2007 @02:57PM (#19073393) Journal
    Intellectual Ventures, a patent firm [and alleged patent troll] started by former Microsoft chief scientist Nathan Myhrvold, was staffed with fairly renowned scientists who didn't fit the profile of people trying to make a quick buck in court.

    Why isn't that a persuasive argument? Isn't that kind of argument used all the time around here? Don't believe me? Have you ever heard:

    "Drug companies don't deserve patents/as-lengthy-patents because they spend more on advertising than research."

    They're both rank appeals to one's sympathy (or lack thereof) with the patent holder.
    • by Selanit (192811)

      Intellectual Ventures, a patent firm [and alleged patent troll] started by former Microsoft chief scientist Nathan Myhrvold, was staffed with fairly renowned scientists who didn't fit the profile of people trying to make a quick buck in court.

      Why isn't that a persuasive argument?

      Technically? Because it's not an argument, it's an unsubstantiated claim. He says that the staff were "fairly renowned scientists who [don't] fit the profile of people trying to make a quick buck in court." But he doesn't gi

      • Technically? Because it's not an argument, it's an unsubstantiated claim. He says ...

        Yes, I know. My point was, *assuming* his basic facts are right, why does that count as an argument? Even if they were reknowned scientists, why does it matter? Even if they weren't trying to make a quick buck, why does it matter? Both that argument *and* the one against drug companies all share the same tenuous premise: that sympathy with litigants should serve as a primary basis for laws or law enforcement. It should
    • by Jherek Carnelian (831679) on Thursday May 10, 2007 @06:30PM (#19076609)
      You are setting up a strawman argument.

      The argument "used all the time around here" is not:

      Drug companies don't deserve patents/as-lengthy-patents because they spend more on advertising than research."
      Instead it is a lot more like:

      Drug companies claim they need lengthy patent protection because their R&D is so expensive. Except it turns out that the they spend substantially more on advertising than they do on R&D, so their claim deserves no sympathy.
  • In other news, Romer!can submits a fairly biased article summary which includes: a cheap shot dismissing one critique of the open source community, blatantly pretending that there is popular dissatisfaction behind copyright and patent term lengths, and an embarrassing failure to even casually mention the serious legal status of copyright infringement. Instead, he wades through obscure humor and emotional appeals, mocking the comparison of infringement to theft and characterizing anyone who disagrees with hi
    • Re:In other news (Score:4, Informative)

      by NewWorldDan (899800) <dan@gen-tracker.com> on Thursday May 10, 2007 @03:31PM (#19074011) Homepage Journal
      Well, on Slashdot (as well as much of CNet's target audiance) there is widespread dissatisfaction with the current copyright term length. I don't think there's so much dissatisfaction with patent term lenghts as there is just with bad patents. Most people, if asked about it and forced to think about it, would say that 95 years is far too long of a term for a copyright. Most people, on the other hand, don't think about it. They just accept it as the way it is. They also frequently engage in casual piracy of music, movies, and software.

      Patents are a more complicated issue. For one thing, most people don't really have an opportunity to casually infringe patents. Current patent terms are not that far out of step with what might be considered a reasonable time frame. We see patented inventions pass into the public domain on a regular basis, whereas no copyrighted works have fallen into the public domain in my lifetime. The big problem with patents is that it is generally not obvious what is currently patented and what is not. Even after reading the abstract of a patent, I have no idea what it really covers. I have any number of suggestions for reforming patents, but they're really outside the scope of this post.
      • Most people, if asked about it and forced to think about it, would say that 95 years is far too long of a term for a copyright. Most people, on the other hand, don't think about it. They just accept it as the way it is. They also frequently engage in casual piracy of music, movies, and software.

        How is one related to the other? What is the relationship between copyright term and piracy? People may thing 95 years is "far too long," but what's the right length? Even if the length were the original 14 years,
    • Ah, I see we have another wanker on here.</sarcasm>

      Seriously, even though the guy has a biased summary, most of his points are fairly valid. Not that I'm saying this deserves to even be on slashdot of course. Frankly I have to agree with what most of the others have said, the guy is just trying to drive up traffic by posting a story espousing some very controversial opinions but without much meat to it.

  • by GodWasAnAlien (206300) on Thursday May 10, 2007 @03:09PM (#19073613)
    In 2095, Windows 2000 binaries enter the public domain. The source, was never published and died on some overwritten/corrupted backup media long before.

    Would the binaries be useful at all?
    If not, the the copyright duration is effectively infinite.

    Now compare the Public domain Windows 2000 of 2095 with ReactOS or Linux in 2095. which is more useful?

    But you don't need to wait 95 years to see this result.

    How many years of development do you think it takes for ReactOS to surpass Windows2000?

    How many years of development does it take for Linux to Surpass an abandoned UNIX, like IRIX?

    If for some reason, you wanted to create a DOS system, would you use MSDOS 6, or FreeDOS?

  • by kebes (861706) on Thursday May 10, 2007 @03:18PM (#19073761) Journal
    From TTA (the trolling article):

    In the Dark Ages, one could obtain wealth by raising an army and burning someone else's kingdom to the ground. In the Gilded Age, those on the fast track had a secret weapon of success: they bribed state legislators to obtain canal and railroad contracts. Unfortunately, those career options just aren't as viable as they once were. Instead, we have to invent stuff, and thus people should get compensated for the effort.
    It's positively hilarious that he structures the argument in this way. First he presents two methods that were historically used to obtain money. These methodologies are based upon using illicit means to gather power, and then turn this into a monopoly (in the first case, the power is military and the monopoly is the conquered land; in the second case the power is bribes and the monopoly is, well, a monopoly). The subtext is that these are "bad" ways to make a buck.

    Then the author immediately describes current "intellectual property." However the current state of "intellectual property" is more of the same: one uses some means (money, lobbying, market domination, bribes, etc.) to persuade the government to create laws that protect your monopoly. Of course instead of concluding that this current incarnation of monopoly-power is just as bad as the previous ones, he goes on to defend it. The analogy with the previous examples is so close that it almost makes me think the entire article is a gigantic joke.

    Does the author honestly not see the parallel? At one time, wars and railroad monopolies were certainly considered legitimate business. In 100 years, will our era be looked upon as a similarly barbaric time, where, ridiculously, the citizens were oppressed in the name of profits for a select few elite?
  • by hey! (33014) on Thursday May 10, 2007 @03:18PM (#19073775) Homepage Journal
    when you get to invent the position of your opponents. It gets easier if all you have to do is to dream up some anecdotes about people who were emotional about the issue (especially if you don't bother to recount any reasons they may have to feel that way).

    Honestly, how many people think there should be no copyrights? Very, very few. I don't dismiss the opinions of those people just because they are a tiny minority, of course, but it is really dishonest to imply that everybody who has a problem with the current copyright system is against all copyrights.

    Very few people are entirely against patents either, although quite a few people are against certain categories of patents, which implies at least some more nuanced thought than the emotional rejectionism painted by the author.

    The broad consensus among people who create intellectual property for their daily bread is that the system is badly managed and is being extended beyond its reasonable and proper boundaries. The net result is that it is not a "sure path to wealth", but a threat that undermines their ability to earn a living.

    That would make anybody "emotional".

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by QuantumG (50515)
      How can you be for any copyrights?

      Why should someone own the exclusive right to make copies?

      The only sensible reason you could possibly have for such an extreme position like that is that it is somehow to the benefit of every person in society to willingly refrain from copying these works. That's a pretty hard argument to make.

      Of course, you don't have to make the argument.. cause the status quo is one of restriction.. which the majority of people just ignore anyway.
      • How can you be for any copyrights?

        I can't speak for the parent, but I like copyrights because I like getting paid for the work I do.

        Why should someone own the exclusive right to make copies?

        Why not? If you create something, why shouldn't you have the right to control what you create?

        Are you against private property ownership in general? If so, I can see where your copyright arguments come from. If not, they why should I be able to keep people off of my property, but not keep people from copying something
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          It's helpful to keep in mind that some people consider physical property ownership as a natural right. You say that the ability to keep people off your private land is a government-granted monopoly. But without some form of government you'd still be able to keep people off your land - to some degree, anyway - by threat of physical force. I'd bet that for as long as man has walked the earth, he has been aware of the notion of physical property - my cave, my spear, etc etc. The essence of property ownership i
  • Patent benefits (Score:5, Interesting)

    by debrain (29228) on Thursday May 10, 2007 @03:19PM (#19073793) Journal
    Make no mistake, the Chinese are famous for having invented many of the greatest inventions in history. Problem is, they often did it multiple times, independently. In the Western universe, I seem to recall that intellectual property was kept as trade secrets, to the exclusion of the public and similarly lost to antiquity.

    The reason for the prior (retention) is often equated to their lack of proprietary interest in intellectual property, and the reason for the latter (publicity) is adjoined by the consequences of divulging your technological advantages. While the incentive exists to invent gunpowder (for its usefulness), the incentive and mechanism to publicly retain a collective body of knowledge for such inventions in Chinese society did not exist. Thus, I believe the secret to gunpowder was lost to the Chinese on more than one occasion, only to be re-invented later. (Or perhaps that wasn't gunpowder, but some other set of inventions).

    Patents help alleviate this loss of intellectual achievements to both antiquity and secrecy. However, in our society they have gone to an extreme, whereby we can rightly complain that they stifle innovation, undermine competition, and they may even be unnecessary in light of modern mechanisms for keeping tabs on new IP, notably the internet, and public collaborative projects like open source.

    Nonetheless, patents are predictable, and having arisen out of hundreds of years of jurisprudence over the need to retain and publicize useful inventions. They appear to be econommically over-bearing nowadays, and may even be superfluous in light of modern technology for retention and dissemination of intellectual property (i.e. the internet), but they are integrated into our economy in ways that make it superbly difficult (not to mention prohibitively expensive, as in the USA the government may have to compensate patent holders by weakening their rights) to completely do away with the system. They also still serve the purpose for which they were intended, publishing and retaining useful innovations, but they have side effects which now make us question their value.

    While we can and should criticize the patent system for its failures, we should also bear in mind the consequences of going too far in the opposite direction. Too few discussions of patent reform have an intelligent, informed and balanced basis in the purpose and benefits of the current patent system, with suggestions for either balanced reform across all arenas where patent law is applied (drugs, software, hardware, automobiles, etc.), or any sound alternative that is not subject to the same criticisms that are inherent to what we have now.

    (That being said, I think the idea of patenting software strikes me as wholly inappropriate, the problems of publicity and retention long having been solved by the internet and open source projects, and the value software patents provide to the public is virtually nil in almost every way.)
    • by kebes (861706)
      Your idea that cultures without notions of IP were less successful at amassing and publicizing new ideas is quite intriguing. It is something that certainly bears further investigation. Indeed one of the original intents of patents was to encourage public disclosure of implementation details, the fear being that otherwise every invention would involve many trade secrets and purposeful internal obfuscation or anti-tampering measures.

      However I also wonder, in the examples you gave, whether other factors li
    • Make no mistake, the Chinese are famous for having invented many of the greatest inventions in history. Problem is, they often did it multiple times, independently. In the Western universe, I seem to recall that intellectual property was kept as trade secrets, to the exclusion of the public and similarly lost to antiquity.

      There is this notion that patents are good because they encourage an exchange of designs and technology that otherwise would be made secret. However, assuming that's the purpose and util

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by init100 (915886)

      not to mention prohibitively expensive, as in the USA the government may have to compensate patent holders by weakening their rights

      Why? If the government weakens the rights of patent holders, it will probably be because the system has flaws. Why should they be compensated when the government corrects those flaws?

      we should also bear in mind the consequences of going too far in the opposite direction.

      There is no chance of that happening, so why should people bear this in mind?

      Too few discussions of patent reform have an intelligent, informed and balanced basis in the purpose and benefits of the current patent system

      Maybe because the current patent system is anything but balanced, but rather tilted to the extreme in favor of the patent holders (especially big companies).

  • by The Empiricist (854346) on Thursday May 10, 2007 @03:21PM (#19073823)

    There is a lot of talk about getting rid of patent trolls, but little consensus as to what a patent troll is. Very few companies will say "yes: we're patent trolls." At best, they're willing to tolerate being called patent trolls [com.com].

    What makes a patent troll? Does a company that develops a new technology but licenses it because it does not have the capital or market position to exploit the technology count as a patent troll? What about IBM? They produce products, but they license their patents [ibm.com] for use by others in products that don't compete with IBM's products. Does that make IBM a patent troll? Would they have to be making competing products to be on morally solid ground?

    There are definitely companies out that abuse the patent system (e.g., by filing continuation applications or requests for reexamination during which the applicants try to stretch the claims of their patents to read on subsequent innovations). But this author has a point that distinguishing the bad guys from the good guys is not easy. Many companies out there see themselves as just legitimately trying to leverage their full rights. Is that significantly different from consumers trying to maximize their rights as consumers by engaging in activities that aren't clearly legal (e.g., using direct music and movie clips for new works without seeking permission, creating libraries of MP3s and copying them to multiple systems, etc.).

    Activities that push the limits of the law create risk. Patent applicants pay significant fees and must spend a lot of time in their efforts, resulting in a guaranteed loss. Certain uses of a patent can raise anti-trust concerns or result in loss of the patent. Consumers pushing the boundaries of "fair use" often play a lottery in which the winner loses a nasty law suit. And there is always the risk that Congress or the courts may react by changing the law or interpretation of the law to minimize questionable activities.

    But those who are engaged in those activities probably believe that all they are doing is playing by a valid interpretation of the rules.

    • It's very easy to distinguish a patent troll from others. The patent troll will not produce any products based on the patent. The patent troll will, however, file lawsuits against people not entering into licensing agreements with them (and sometimes even then). Finally, patent trolls generally file lawsuits against established players, rather than new products.

      Finally, there is a difference between legal and legitimate. The patent troll will ignore that.
    • What makes a patent troll? Does a company that develops a new technology but licenses it because it does not have the capital or market position to exploit the technology count as a patent troll? What about IBM? They produce products, but they license their patents for use by others in products that don't compete with IBM's products. Does that make IBM a patent troll?

      No.

      But this author has a point that distinguishing the bad guys from the good guys is not easy.

      Actually, it is pretty easy. A patent troll is a company that licenses patents to other companies, but do not produce any products themselves. If you are sued by a patent troll for patent infringement, you do not have the option to countersue them for infringement of your patents, since they do not produce any products. And without products, the number of patents that can be possibly infringed are much lower, the only ones I can think of are business method patents.

      • Actually, it is pretty easy. A patent troll is a company that licenses patents to other companies, but do not produce any products themselves.

        Evidently it not that easy since you missed that a large number of patents are issued to companies or individuals who aren't capable of producing the product themselves but rather license the right to other manufacturers.

        Maybe a more appropriate definition of a patent troll is an entity that aquires a patent with no intent to distribute or license the right to produ

  • by Ogive17 (691899)
    A completely biased summary trying to describe a biased article... makes for good reading... ???

    After reading that "summary" I assumed it was a submitted blog. I can't believe garbage like that makes it on to the front page.
  • so it's obvious he's not really up on science very much and therefore, is more like a salesmen who writes articles.

    LoB
  • And frankly, without them, most open-source projects would rapidly wither away: without an intellectual property behemoth like Microsoft to fight, what would be the point?

    The point would be to get the nightmares out of my head, you idiot! Fighting Microsoft or even earning money is a distant motivator in comparison to actually fixing something that needs fixing and that I know how to do.
  • by Concern (819622) * on Thursday May 10, 2007 @03:27PM (#19073933) Journal
    You don't even have any choice as to whether or not to ignore software patents. There are hundreds of thousands of them. Then there are several thousand new applications a day. I'll give you a hint. It's impossible.

    That's why Microsoft ignores software patents. Even they, the richest company on the planet, have no alternative. And that's also why they're getting hit with a few 9-figure verdicts already. But they still play the game and pretend they're legitimate, because they somehow think they'll benefit, in the end, using them to crush current and potential competition with multi-million legal actions and the threat thereof.

    It is impossible to tell if any piece of code infringes. By the way, have you read many of these things? Almost every line of code does infringe.

    Every line written is a ticking patent timebomb. Every player has to ante up and make their own "patent portfolio" which they can then apply against whoever sues them. If that sounds like it excludes everyone but a few rich, dominant corporations... now you're getting the idea. Only minor fly in the ointment: those patent shell companies that actually don't do any work except suing people, therefore can't be hit with a retaliatory claim. Ooops. And yet even after getting whacked by a few, MS is still winking and continuing to play the game. Shows you how much they hate honest competition.

    Software Patents are currently ignored by almost everyone. But to the extent they are enforced, they will categorically end the American software industry, and software will continue to be a business in Europe, Asia, and... well basically every other civilized nation, who have soundly rejected this silly game and are by the way laughing their asses off at us.
    • That's why Microsoft ignores software patents. Even they, the richest company on the planet, have no alternative. And that's also why they're getting hit with a few 9-figure verdicts already. But they still play the game and pretend they're legitimate, because they somehow think they'll benefit, in the end, using them to crush current and potential competition with multi-million legal actions and the threat thereof.

      "Somehow"? I'll tell you how: lawyers. Set up a system where everyone has a potential laws

    • by init100 (915886)

      But to the extent they are enforced, they will categorically end the American software industry, and software will continue to be a business in Europe

      That may be why the US government is lobbying for software and business method patents in Europe.

      Europe, Asia, and... well basically every other civilized nation, who have soundly rejected this silly game and are by the way laughing their asses off at us.

      The EU hasn't rejected the idea of software and business method patents. The parliament rejected the idea for the time being, but the commissioner for the internal market is still in favor, just like many ministers in the Council of Ministers. They are biding their time, and just waiting for a new opportunity to sneak it in. By the way, my own country, Sweden, views software patents as legitimate, and is an

      • by Concern (819622) *
        Thank you for the clarification. It's dismal news. We'd perhaps gotten a more optimistic read on the EU's initial rejection than was warranted on this side of the pond.

        To me, the practice of software patents (which in the US, were not even started by policy, but by an arbitrary, almost accidental decision by a judge) is so ridiculous on its very face that it feels like something of a rallying cry for systemic reform.

        Watching the issue fly around America's media, one gets the sense that a citizen of a 3rd wo
  • And frankly, without them, most open-source projects would rapidly wither away: without an intellectual property behemoth like Microsoft to fight, what would be the point?

    Maybe to produce truly good software, rather than just lie about doing so in your marketing, perhaps? The author seems not to understand that some people create things for the sheer beauty of it; more often than not, OS projects have nothing to do with Microsoft; in fact, if OS was out to "get Microsoft", it is doing a pretty poor j

  • by bmajik (96670) <matt@mattevans.org> on Thursday May 10, 2007 @03:37PM (#19074091) Homepage Journal
    On one hand, the current legal environment around intellectual property is broken. Everytime you read something by RMS and think "this guy is a crack pot", 6 months later something happens that is uncomfortably moving us toward some of his dystopian predictions (i.e. "Freedom to Read").

    OTOH, the key innovation in the liberal western revolution (liberal in the Adam Smith sense of the word) has been the ability, due to lax legal and societal restrictions, of the individual to use their ingenuity to better their condition.

    Said differently, absolutely all of the progress of society in the last 300 years comes not from the owners, or from the workers, or such strange Marxist notions, but from the ideas and ability to make good on them.

    The progress of humanity western society is based in the ability of the individual to profit from their own intellectual labor - not their lower back strength.

    So how does one resolve this apparent conflict? It is man's mind, not his back, which creates wealth, progress, and an easier life. Yet the current implementation of intellectual property laws is broken, causing many to question even the valididty of intellectual property as a concept?

    I'm familiar with Jefferson's quote, but i don't think it can credibly used as an argument for dismissing the concept of intellectual property entirely.

    So what does a world look like where people are still compensated for the labor of their mind but which has a rational / sane legal framework around that compensation?

    • You're making one mistake in your analysis - no one invented anything in a vacuum. Everything built on the inventions that came before. That is what makes patents so egregious - they pretend that everything that contributed to the invention does not exist.

      Patents are exactly what they are stated to be: legal constructs designed to encourage the advancement of the arts and sciences. Anything that inhibits this (and we're starting to see the effects of asinine patents and overly broad copyrights) needs to be
  • a patent troll?

    That's like expecting it from a Zionist - or a Republican - or a Democrat - or...well, just about any human.

  • by spirit_fingers (777604) on Thursday May 10, 2007 @03:46PM (#19074285)
    Kanellos' piece was not particularly well thought out, and frankly it's not worth getting too worked up over it. He begins by defending the very notion of patents and copyrights themselves. Fine. Almost everyone would agree that SOME kind of intellectual property protection is necessary and just. But then he suddenly launches into a defence of so-called "patent trolls", and claims that "almost every one" he talked to had a persuasive story, and then preceeds to cough up a few anecdotes in support of his defense.

    First of all, "almost everyone" isn't "everyone". I'd like to hear about those that didn't have a persuasive story too. And there's no way we can tell from this piece if his sampling of the "trolls" is in any way characteristic of the group as a whole or if his selection was pre-sorted by political or economic bias. The article contributes nothing to the public debate on this issue and therefore deserves to be dismissed with dignified scorn.
  • "C|Net Editor Michael Kanellos offers a potentially contentious opinion piece about patents and copyright on the CNet site.

    So we just had to post it on Slashdot in order to get an assload of new hits.
  • Flamebait like this the logical outcome of an ownership society. The media conglomerates own their media to do with what they want.

    As much as I personally disagree with it, I certainly would not want to see it end if it were my property on the table. I'd employ every trick they have to modify consumer behavior such that it seems perfectly logical to check with the media conglomerate who owns the media each and every time before I consume it.

    And then I'd maintain my dominance in entertainment distribution
  • by thehossman (198379) on Thursday May 10, 2007 @04:16PM (#19074793)

    But if it makes you feel better, go ahead and reprint this for free.

    Copyright [cnet.com] ©1995-2007 CNET Networks, Inc. All rights reserved.

    Uh, okay ... wait a minute...

    All editorial content and graphics on our sites are protected by U.S. copyright, international treaties, and other applicable copyright laws and may not be copied without the express permission of CNET Networks, Inc., which reserves all rights. Reuse of any of CNET Networks editorial content and graphics for any purpose without CNET Networks' permission is strictly prohibited.

    Permission to use CNET Networks content is granted on a case-by-case basis. CNET Networks welcomes requests. Please visit our Permissions and Reprints page to submit a request.

    Hmmm, so should we believe the last line of the page, or the second to last line of the page?

    Fuck it...

    Why I love patents and copyrights

    By Michael Kanellos
    http://news.com.com/Why+I+love+patents+and+copyrig hts/2010-1008_3-6182429.html [com.com]

    Story last modified Thu May 10 04:00:02 PDT 2007


    Keith Richards in a near-death experience. Does TV get any better?

    Ocean Tomo [oceantomo.com], a Chicago-based company that holds auctions for patents, copyrights and other intellectual property [slashdot.org], will put a gem on the block in its next auction taking place in London on June 1: film footage of the Rolling Stones guitarist getting electrocuted during a U.S. concert in 1965.

    "The Stones do not currently have this footage themselves; this particular piece of film lasts 10 minutes, with the electrocution scene occurring at the close, and lasting approximately a full minute," the catalog for the auction states.

    The footage is part of a collection of film that is owned by Mark and Colleen Hayward and is being sold as a single lot. Other footage in the lot includes an early film of The Beatles playing in Blackpool, England, and some shots of Paul McCartney in 1966 yukking it up on a Learjet owned by Frank Sinatra.

    TV stations pay around $3,000 to broadcast about 30 seconds of footage from the Hayward collection.

    The Haywards will also auction off a collection of photos of rock stars over the decades: The Clash, AC/DC and The Moody Blues. You'd have to go to the Konocti Boat Harbor to see some of those acts today.

    It won't be all celebrity memorabilia at the intellectual property auction. Most of the lots involve chemicals (a formula for flexographic printing from Meat/Westvaco), wireless communications, medical devices (customized bone implants--a patent with a $200,000-plus value), green technologies (an efficient way to incinerate waste from our pals at KusuKusu Industry), or electronics (anyone care for a gas composition sensor from Accentus?).

    Despite early skepticism, the open auction concept for intellectual property is clearly gaining steam. In the company's April auction in Chicago, $11.4 million worth of intellectual property was sold, including two lots that went for $3 million and $2.8 million each.

    Although it's not a really popular sentiment these days, I think patents, trademarks and copyrights are simply fantastic and a primary, necessary driver of the world economy. Without them, the rapid pace of technological innovation around the world would slow to a crawl. And frankly, without them, most open-source projects would rapidly wither away: without an intellectual property behemoth like Microsoft to fight, what would be the point?

    Why all the frothy sentiment? Intellectual property provides one of the most dependable means toward wea

  • What a surprise. In other news, dog bites man.
  • The cnet editors are functionally retarded. It's not their fault though. Windows causes brain damage. Slashdot editors, on the other hand, are just high. When you're high everything sounds like a good idea, including posting the Cnet troll who's obviously going for the slashdot-effect-aided bump in ad revenue.

    If the Patent system were working as designed I'd have no problem with it. I've actually seen a few things patented where I thought "Wow, that's actually an innovative idea and the deserve a patent f

  • This guy has no idea what copyrights and patents are for. Copyrights and patents were given to us by our government with the expressed intent of fostering economic growth by providing a limited monopoly on a new product to its creator for a number of years. Limitations on monopoly length were specifically to encourage the creators to produce more products, and to eventually allow these products move into the public domain where the general public can better enjoy them.

    This worked well for most of our histo
  • All those straw men are a definite fire hazard!

    "I think patents, trademarks and copyrights are simply fantastic and a primary, necessary driver of the world economy."

    Yep, they sure are. Don't forget contracts, licenses, and trade secrets. They're all useful tools... open source developers use them too, you know.

    The problem comes when you start using the wrong tools for the job. For example, the fact that software can be copyrighted doesn't mean that software should be patentable. The fact that music can be
  • I don't have a problem with the concept of copyrights and patents.

    The problem is that the terms are unreasonable, and the enforcement is simply ludicrous.

    Copyright violations that don't involve charging money should be a civil fine only, and should certainly not involve the FBI. Go after people selling pirated DVD's though, by all means.

    Patents should not have the one-size-fits-all problem that currently exists. One-click and a cure for cancer that has gone through the trial system certainly don't deserve
  • since when has cnet been even remotely useful? this crap doesn't suprise me at all. even more amusingly, the open source he dismisses is what this guys crummy article is being hosted on - and netcraft confirms it.
  • by earthforce_1 (454968) <earthforce_1 @ y a h o o . c om> on Thursday May 10, 2007 @05:46PM (#19076077) Journal
    One is the hoarding of books and knowledge by the church during the middle ages - only a privileged few was allowed access to them. The industrial revolution started when knowledge became freely shared.

    It also reminds me of the final scene in the Hitchhiker's Triology, where survivors of the B ark burned down all of the trees so they could use the few remaining leaves as currency. He tries to justify the same thing - trying to create an artificial scarcity on things which are plentiful and easy to reproduce.

Your own mileage may vary.

Working...