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Deconstructing Stupidity - Why is IP Policy Bad? 384

An anonymous reader writes "There is a good attempt on the Financial Times site by James Boyle to explain why intellectual property policy making is so bad. From the article: 'These are the ground rules of the information society. Mistakes hurt us.... Why are we making them? To some the answer is obvious: corporate capture of the decision making process. This is a nicely cynical conclusion. But wait. There are economic interests on both sides. The film and music industries are tiny compared to the consumer electronics industry.'"
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Deconstructing Stupidity - Why is IP Policy Bad?

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  • by jonwil ( 467024 ) on Friday April 22, 2005 @12:13PM (#12314091)
    And just whos side is the electronics industry (e.g. computer and computer part makers, TV set makers etc). Obviously companies like Sony are a different kettle of fish alltogether :)
  • by 00squirrel ( 772984 ) on Friday April 22, 2005 @12:18PM (#12314141)
    And just whos side is the electronics industry (e.g. computer and computer part makers, TV set makers etc). Obviously companies like Sony are a different kettle of fish alltogether :)

    I think you may have answered your own question. Lots of the giant companies, like Sony, have interest in both IP and hardware. They have to strike a delicate balance between making as much money as possible from IP and making as much money as possible from hardware. The bottom line is, as always, to make as much money as possible.

  • Key questions. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NeuralAbyss ( 12335 ) on Friday April 22, 2005 @12:24PM (#12314193) Homepage
    It's all well and good to look at the history of Intellectual Property law. It's good to look at how it's changed, and what got us to our current state.

    The question which many of these articles fail to address is this - Yes, we know the current state of IP is bad for the majority. Why do we tolerate it, what can we do to change it, and, most importantly, what is best for -society- as a whole?

    IP law that protects, say, drug patents for 60 years is bad - it enables drug conglomerates to develop medication and live off the proceeds for years without giving back to the community that granted the company a -temporary- monopoly.

    What is a fair balance between:
    * Sustaining the economy
    * Fairness to the general public (a balance between the public good, and ability for individuals to be employed by IP-centric companies)
    * Rewarding creators and inventors of intellectual property.

    So, if I may ask, what do Slashdot readers see as fair? I would suggest that we need to look at different copyright and patent periods depending on the type and application of an item.

    Additionally, what can be done about the state of IP law? Australia recently got reamed by the USFTA; and many other countries, as signatories to the Berne Convention, IIRC, have been forced to extend their copyright periods to meet other countries'.
  • What about the GPL (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 22, 2005 @12:25PM (#12314208)
    The GPL needs IP to exist.

    Otherwise the world would be run on the BSD license (sans credit)

    If that what you really want.

  • I got this far (Score:3, Insightful)

    by spidereyes ( 599443 ) on Friday April 22, 2005 @12:29PM (#12314246)
    Since only about 4 per cent of copyrighted works more than 20 years old are commercially available, this locks up 96 per cent of 20th century culture to benefit 4 per cent After reading this my brain stopped working and I couldn't complete any more tasks, I'm going to do a reboot now.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 22, 2005 @12:29PM (#12314247)
    "The film and music industries are tiny compared to the consumer electronics industry."

    In the US, the film and music industries have an enormous domestic presence, employ a lot of people, and can mobilize performers on their behalf.

    With a few exceptions, the US consumer electronics "industry" is actually a bunch of importers of offshore designed and manufactured goods. They can't muster the bodies or the charisma to influence Congress. And most of the companies don't care if the products they sell are crippled by DRM, provided no one else is allowed to sell an uncrippled product.
  • Duke's school (Score:4, Insightful)

    by GPLDAN ( 732269 ) on Friday April 22, 2005 @12:32PM (#12314281)

    It has a lot of articles in the same vein. We can see Linus wrestling with this himself, having to stop and work on a new tool for code revision.

    The U.S. should lead on this, instead, we are regulating away any competitive advantage our market provides. If I want to write an open source project, I can get blitzed by lawsuits from software patents I don't know exist and may have been filed in a trivial way. It kills innovation, stifles the creativity of the citizens to build, and only allows those with existing wealth to further aggregate and hold it. It's the same with the stock market. The commission model favors large institutional investors who can move 100,000 shares easily, and not the guy who can only afford to trade 100 or even 1000 shares.

    I've nearly given up on Washington to do the righ thing. It now falls on the judiciary to become activist and overturn or find unconstitutional some of these patent laws. With Tom DeLay openly advocating violence against judges, it's obvious, this is a class war, and IP is just one of the weapons.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 22, 2005 @12:34PM (#12314305)
    I think our society just has an "unhealthy respect" for musicians and actors and so forth.

    Imagine if plumbers demanded that you pay them every time you use the sink they fixed. Or if doctors wanted a percentage of your income earned with that broken arm they mended. You'd laugh and say "I'll just find another guy that doesn't demand those ridiculous terms". Or put another way, the free market would quickly eliminate those types of contracts.

    But it's not that way with, say, musicians or other creative professionals. Probably because each musician is unique in some sense, and also the average Joe doesn't have a clue how to make a good piece of music.. so when you tell somebody that musicians are being "stolen" from, they feel more sympathy. They don't want the artist to "starve".

    I mean, look how we worship (and pay big bucks) for Marilyn Monroe, Elvis, etc. There's a feeling that there will never be another one *just* like Elvis. And somehow people don't question this ludicrous state of affairs (dead people having these dynasties where they continue to get paid for work already completed).

    That's the vibe I've gotten from people, anyway. We worship entertainment in this society.
  • by gr8_phk ( 621180 ) on Friday April 22, 2005 @12:34PM (#12314307)
    From TFA "Did this lead the committee to wonder for a moment whether Europe should weaken its rights? No. Their response was that this showed we had to make the European rights much stronger."

    IP laws are not about rights. They take freedom (to copy, to innovate, to use an algorithm, etc) from the public and grant exclusive permission to a private entity or individual. It's clear that if you want widespread innovation the solution is to loosen the restraints on the public - i.e. strengthen their rights.

    I'm not totally against "IP". I think 14 years was an OK term for copyright, and that patents shouldn't apply to software or trivial ideas.

  • Re:Money (Score:3, Insightful)

    by chiapetofborg ( 726868 ) on Friday April 22, 2005 @12:36PM (#12314326) Homepage
    Yes, but that's exactly what they want. They want to be told exactly what it is they can't ask for after their patent is too broad, and why, that way they go back a second time, and just don't include the things that they aren't allowed to have, and they get a massive IP.
  • Re:Money (Score:3, Insightful)

    by justforaday ( 560408 ) on Friday April 22, 2005 @12:41PM (#12314362)
    I think it partially has to do with the money.

    It doesn't partially have to do with money. It wholly has to do with money.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 22, 2005 @12:48PM (#12314439)
    Because America bans things. We stamp things out. This is the nature of America as far back as the Puritans. We do not encourage. We do not foster. If something new springs up in America, it's because we didn't see it coming fast enough to ban it.

    Congress is not in the pocket of Hollywood. They just like to ban things. They like to ban boobs, swear words, and drug use on film. That's all anti-Hollywood. But then they also like to ban new technologies, so that's pro-Hollywood. Hollywood is successful in this particular fight because they're speaking a language Americans can understand.

    There is no language the tech industry can use to swing Congress to their side, because they're not proposing to ban anything.

    "Banning stupidity" doesn't work. The US is like the Terminator when it comes to banning. We cannot self-terminate.
  • by The Angry Mick ( 632931 ) on Friday April 22, 2005 @12:54PM (#12314513) Homepage
    Given the overwhelming happiness of naive consumers to use electronics with (even highly restrictive) DRM

    I'm not entirely sure you can call it "overwhelming happiness", maybe "overwhelming ignorance" is more accurate. In either case, I think we're going to end up seeing these very same consumers end up being more likely to violate DRM once they realize they don't have as much freedom as they thought. The first time Joe Sixpack realizes how difficult it is to make a mix tape of his favorite Toby Keith songs for his sweetie, he's going to the 'net to look for a crack. He sure as hell won't be writing his congress-bitch.

  • by torokun ( 148213 ) on Friday April 22, 2005 @01:04PM (#12314621) Homepage
    Are slashdotters so unoriginal that they will let language like this story header's go by with nary a comment? This story is just dripping with assumptions and unjustified bias.

    Do you want a discussion or a rantfest? The article brings up some good issues, but assumes from the outset that many policies are "bad" only because it seems to be common sense. Common sense is a good guide sometimes, but shouldn't always be taken as unassailable. There are many counterintuitive effects in the operation of economic incentives.

    This header frames the article in such a way as to draw unthinking rants against IP policy, rather than a decent discussion. This is one of the reasons so many have stopped reading slashdot.

    To give the author of the article some credit, at least he admits that "IP is a good thing" near the end. It is.

    The goal of IP law has always been to find a way to incentivize innovation without unduly burdening society. If you learn about all the equitable doctrines involved in copyright and patent law, you'll see it's true. There is a real effort to be fair and equitable.

    There are many problems in the operation of the system, as well as in some of the copyright legislation, as with all aspects of government. But framing the dialog in this way is not productive...

    I've said this before here and I'll say it again. Even though all you coders know you want to throw out that ancient spaghetti codeded system and start all over, you can't and you know it. It's often there for a reason and needs to be respected as something that works, for good or for ill. It may need to be refactored, but not trashed.

    That is the proper approach to law as well, and I'd like to see some responsible recognition of that in slashdotter circles.
  • by jwd-oh ( 513054 ) on Friday April 22, 2005 @01:05PM (#12314634)
    Since software is ultimately nothing but math and math cannot be invented only discoved (2+2 always equaled 4, E always equaled mc^2, calculus was all around us, is merely had to be discovered and expressed), then how can software be patented? It merely had to be discovered and expressed (copyright or left counld apply to a particular expression).

    This hoarding of knowledge could ultimately be our undoing. An example: The fact that parts of the human genome are "locked" up in patents, prevents mankind the benfit of of that knowledge.

    The classic part of economies are "make something" or "do something". Now we have folks that don't make anything and don't do anything, they merely demand payment for knowledge, so that someone else can make or do something.

    This is a very scary trend that shows no sign of stopping.

    People need to remember: "Knowledge is power, but only if shared". Hoarding it hurts us all in the long run.
  • by jeff_schiller ( 877821 ) on Friday April 22, 2005 @01:08PM (#12314656) Homepage
    It's a big problem with no simple solution. The real problem is trying to put a container around ideas and concepts and calling them "Intellectual Property". But that's what the Information Age taught us: Ideas are extremely, extremely Valuable.

    Protection for IP is in place to give monetary incentive to people (or corporations) to create things (in order to drive the economy, make the world a better place, etc).

    If I create something useful, it would be nice if I get compensated for my efforts. If I create something really popular, it stands to reason that I would be compensated on a relative scale. If I create something and someone comes along and steals all my ideas and makes a fortune on them, that's an injustice.

    If there were ZERO IP laws, then you favor those with the big bucks. Simple: steal some idea, market it as your own and drive everyone out of business. Corporations would chase away any monetary incentive to create something and artists/developers would only be left with "personal pride" as a motivator.

    Unfortunately, "personal pride" does not put food on the table. Thus, you definitely need IP Laws in order to police the soulless corporations who only see dollar signs.

    Just off the top of my head, I feel that corporations should not be allowed to own IP. It doesn't feel "right" to me. Corporations are soulless, mindless entities with money, they cannot actually CREATE. What I mean is, only the ACTUAL creators (i.e. people) would be able to own the IP and (as employees) could license it exclusively to their employer for a maximum of 2 years (or some reasonably small number).

    This still gives corporations incentive to fund research and secure the IP, and get a product out before competitors, but it reduces some of the incentive to blindly secure IP wherever they can.

    When the "exclusive" term is up, the actual creator(s) can market the IP anywhere (including to their employer) but it can never be "exclusive", meaning if a competitor is willing to pay the license to the employee, the IP owner cannot refuse. They can even release it to the public domain.

    I know this doesn't actually solve the bigger problem but it feels like a step in the right direction to me anyway.
  • by alahan27 ( 878156 ) on Friday April 22, 2005 @01:15PM (#12314708)

    I think that the U.S. should do away with the "Credited to" part of patents. Inventors should be able to LICENSE their works to companies, not sell them. Usually, the person who came up with the invention gets screwed, and the corporation makes out with the big bucks.

    An example of this is Kary Mullis, who invented PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction). PCR is a breakthrough process that allows for specific strands of DNA to be replicated, often up to billions of times, quickly and easily. Mullis got paid $300 million for his invention by a corporation to sign off the patent to them. PCR is now a multi-billion dollar-a-year industry, and the company profits while Mullis watches as he doesn't get a share of the pie and counts his remaining money from 15 years ago.

  • by jwd-oh ( 513054 ) on Friday April 22, 2005 @01:24PM (#12314785)
    Kary Mullins did not invent PCR, he discovered it. He did not have to sell his discovery. No one put a gun to his head. He made a coice and now has to live with that choice.

  • by kmortelite ( 870152 ) on Friday April 22, 2005 @01:43PM (#12314956)
    Creating an inclination to have ideas by creating a disinclination to use them

    Is that really what patents are for? Is that really the general effect they have? I disagree wholeheartedly. Granted I only took one Intellectual Property course at University, but aren't patents supposed to allow the holder to profit by them by disclosing them to the public for the benefit of all? Patents expire. People build upon old ones or design around current ones. (Google design around patent if you don't believe me)

    I want to have a hardware patent one day. For a young, fledgling business, this is an indispensable tool. It lets you get your feet on the ground while still sharing your ideas with the world. (I do not like software patents though. I support open source.)

    True, some may choose to cling tenaciously to their idea without making real use of them--and this is sad, but generally if people apply for a patent they use it. Have you taken a look at the patent fees in the U.S.?
  • by ShieldW0lf ( 601553 ) on Friday April 22, 2005 @01:49PM (#12315037) Journal
    The goal of IP law has always been to find a way to incentivize innovation without unduly burdening society. If you learn about all the equitable doctrines involved in copyright and patent law, you'll see it's true. There is a real effort to be fair and equitable.

    What is innovation though? Is it having an idea, or using an idea? If I come across a way to dramatically improve say telecommunications, but the highest return for me lies in pricing it so high that only a small segment of society uses it and the rest stick with the old way which wasn't as good but doesn't cost anything, have we promoted innovation? I submit that we haven't, that what we've done is actually created a strong barrier to prevent it.

    If you disagree, why?
  • by crabpeople ( 720852 ) on Friday April 22, 2005 @01:57PM (#12315132) Journal
    "People need to remember: "Knowledge is power, but only if shared". Hoarding it hurts us all in the long run."

    The reverse, Knowledge is power, only if held - is perhaps more true in society. Thats why artificial monopolies (diamonds, software, etc) continue to exsist. Power is only meaningful if there is someone to be powerful over: ie, someone who lacks knowledge. Its called exploitation, or capitalism.

    I know this is not good for society i am just pointing out that thats the way capitalism works. Socialism is sharing, and we all know how much society loves socialism. The reason we actually still have progress is partly becuase of licensing, and partly because of the will of good people. Any entity that has a will to power is by nature, competitive and exploitative. Some would say that quality is in us all.
  • by Detritus ( 11846 ) on Friday April 22, 2005 @02:00PM (#12315167) Homepage
    Sometimes the proper approach is to line up the old guard against the wall. Some systems of law and regulation become so complex, entrenched and counterproductive that radical action is required to solve the problem.
  • by Lazy Jones ( 8403 ) on Friday April 22, 2005 @02:00PM (#12315168) Homepage Journal
    You're making a very common mistake in implying that innovation is always or necessarily driven by capitalism or the interest in making profit. That is wrong - in some cases this interest may speed up innovation, but in many other cases innovation is being blocked with trivial patents etc. Innovation always happens, whether there is money to back it or not. Look at slashdot (= blogs; innovative product, presumably developed without any commercial interests), Linux, Firefox, Apache...
  • by ShieldW0lf ( 601553 ) on Friday April 22, 2005 @02:13PM (#12315275) Journal
    Is that really what patents are for?

    No, it's not.

    Is that really the general effect they have?

    "You may not use this idea unless you pay money" would certainly motivate most people and organizations I know to look for alternatives.

    You go on to talk about how people design around patents. That is exactly my point. People intentionally avoid using ideas because of the patent system. A lot. How can you say this is promoting innovation?

    Granted I only took one Intellectual Property course at University, but aren't patents supposed to allow the holder to profit by them by disclosing them to the public for the benefit of all?

    This is where it gets sticky. No, not profit by disclosing them, profit despite disclosing them, but that's a very fine point. Yes, it does achieve this goal of disclosure. The question is: Is it worth the price? And THAT is where the discussion should lie. What is the cost to society of creating a motivation not to use good ideas for x number of years, are we getting a good return in exchange, and could we get that return in another fashion.
  • by mikers ( 137971 ) on Friday April 22, 2005 @02:14PM (#12315289)
    Were I a consumer electronics manufacturer, I'd be lining up behind strong IP as far as I could - it would be all pro and no con, as far as I could see.

    I think in the long run, anyone who wants liberal or "fair" IP laws is pretty much going to be disappointed, as for voters its a non-issue and that leaves no opposing or balancing force against the efforts of lobbyists from the [RIMP]{2}AA, the big record labels, and studios.

    The other side of the equation is made up of EFF, ACLU, libraries, and a smattering of individuals. Hardly a fair balance.

    Government is about finding a balance between competing interests, between voters, lobbyists and all parties. Usually the party that cares or has greater interest will prevail overwhelmingly. In the case of IP, the industry seems to care MUCH more than the few pro-consumer groups. Strangely the majority of consumers don't seem to care.

    Publication (print), video, and audio (music, recordings) comprise the majority of communications in public. Even though they are the medium, and critical to the message (and who controls the message: Marshall McLuhan []), critical to freedom... The average person doesn't really care about restrictions, limitations or freedom.

    How could something so critical be so ignored by the the masses?
  • by xactuary ( 746078 ) on Friday April 22, 2005 @02:32PM (#12315601)
    Isn't it true that in times past society held artists, musicians and actors in low esteem unless they were performing?
  • by russotto ( 537200 ) on Friday April 22, 2005 @02:39PM (#12315716) Journal
    Anyone who has actually examined the state of IP law today (patent, copyright, trademark, and trade secret) and doesn't use words like "incentivize" already KNOWS it's screwed up.

    There may have, at one time, been an attempt to be fair and equitable. Any fairness has been and is being stripped away in all those forms of IP.

    Copyright, of course, is the biggest and most well known. Copyright terms have been expanded enormously and registration requirements eliminated. Fines and penalties for violations have increased vastly. What have those who benefit from works in the public domain gotten in return? Nothing; this has all been a gift to copyright owners with no fairness or compensation.

    On top of copyright is the DMCA. DMCA 512 gives copyright owners the extraordinary power to get the effect of a restraining order against an alleged infringer without going through all the rigamorole of actually getting a judge to issue one. DMCA 1201 gives the force of law to technological protection measures which restrict use of a work in arbitrary ways which go beyond copyright. What have those who benefit from the public domain gotten in return? Again, nothing.

    The latest insult in copyright is the new law criminalizing even more copyright violation, and giving theater owners carte blanche to beat up anyone who attempts to violate copyright within their theater. What did the other side get in return? The undisputed right -- as if they didn't already have it -- to blank out sections of a copyrighted work without actually making a copy.

    With trademarks, the biggest gift has been the trademark antidilution act, the "winner-take-all" act. Now, if your mark is "famous" enough, it doesn't matter that an alleged infringer is in a completely different field of endeavor; your famous mark covers everything. This is what Monster Cable has used to go after such diverse groups as Disney (Monsters, Inc), MonsterVintage clothing, and

    Trade secret protection is an abuse in and of itself; patents and copyrights are supposed to encourage release of ideas by protecting them once released. Protecting trade secrets allows "IP" holders to have their cake and eat it too -- they can keep the idea secret but still have it protected by law. Any trade secret protection which imposes penalties on those who weren't covered by an NDA in the first place is an abuse.

    Patents, of course, have been discussed ad nauseum on Slashdot. There are multiple problems with the system, but most of them are hidden by the biggest one, that of totally bogus patents being granted. These are overbroad patents which patent any solution to a problem rather than a given solution, patents for which prior art exists, patents which are obvious given the prior art, and patents on things which have already been done but are now being done in a different venue (the "...on the Internet" patents).

    If those weren't granted, then it would be a lot easier to evaluate whether or not software patents and business process patents per se were a problem. However, given that software and business process patents seem to attract such abuses, it's fair to consider them suspect.

    Anyway, my point is that any clear look at the situation reveals that the laws are totally screwed up and that trying to frame it as a basically sound system with a few problems is ridiculous. It's totally screwed up, completely one-sided, deeply flawed, and (because that's the way the politicians are "incentivized") will continue to get worse.
  • Re:Key questions. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kebes ( 861706 ) on Friday April 22, 2005 @02:40PM (#12315727) Journal
    Well from the thinking I've done on the subject, I've come up with/come across 8 different schemes that seem viable, to varying extents. They all have their own unique problems and advantages. Briefly, these are some possibility that I would consider 'fair' (although I know that many slashdotters are not as socialist as I, and would not agree with some of these):

    1. Government Funding for the Arts
    Taxes are increased, and a government body redistributes money to content producers (authors, movie studios, etc.). This would be very similar to how academic research is currently funded. 'Reasonable' prices would be put on content. This would probably mean that Hollywood actors would not longer be able to demand big salaries. For those of us who don't trust the government, perhaps the system could have, on the tax form, an ability to select which artist or content producer you wanted to send some of your tax dollars to. That way, the people could still use their money to fund projects they liked.
    2. Artistic Freedom Voucher
    Similar to #1, artists are supported by tax-exemption coupons, similar to charitable donations. This is not my idea, please refer to
    3. Awards
    As a variant of #1, perhaps an annual awards ceremony could be held where substantial awards are given to the content that was most highly acclaimed, appreciated, and voted for by the public. This system could exist alongside traditional copyright, if the rule was that only works released under creative commons are eligible for these awards. Essentially this would be an incentive to release work into the public.
    4. Funding Amalgamation
    Perhaps the onus could be put on the people? Instead of legally forcing people to pay for work (via copyright), companies could produce content, and demand a certain fee before it is released into the commons. The people who care would then just pay into an intermediary company, that would negotiate the cost of the work. Yes, I know that the Star Trek fans were not able to save Enterprise via amalgamating their funds... but if this system were fully implemented, people would take a more active role in helping decide what content is created... and perhaps less crap would be produced, since no one would bother buying it.
    5. Donations
    Donations are always an acceptable model for paying for work. Open source software seems to do well with that model.
    6. Service Business Model
    Copyrighted works could be considered services instead of products. Basically, we pay for convenient access to a database of works, rather than buying each work one at a time. People pay for timely access to new artistic works, but there is nothing that prevents works from being copied. The viability of this model has been analyzed, I refer you to this
    MIT report. []
    7. Limited Copyright
    Modern technology has made everything in life more rapid... yet copyright still lasts (effectively) forever! Why should Windows 95 be protected for 75 years when it is replaced within 3 years and obsolete within 5 years? Perhaps the timescales should be 'fair.' Like news stories are protected for 2 weeks, movies and video games for 6 years, software for 4 years, books for 10 years. In the current system, the copyright effectively NEVER expires.
    8. Combinations
    No single solution will work for every industry... and indeed many of the proposals I've outlined above are not mutually exclusive. Careful combinations could yield best results. Or perhaps it could be up to the copyright holder what they wanted to select.
    Okay, I know I'm hopelessly idealistic to think that any of these could ever be implemented... but I'm still interested to hear any criticisms or comments...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 22, 2005 @02:46PM (#12315835)
    ...and Edison didn't see it coming fast enough to have someone put a stop to it.

    Lots of things get created in America, but this is a testament to how dull-witted and slow the people who want to stop it are. Even Edison got played.

    Seriously, it's all modern Puritanism. When you've got feminists and evangelicals all banning pornography, they're just two splinter sects from the original Puritan group. One group is Puritans with hairy legs and no bras. The other group is Puritans with facelifts and plastic boobs. Hollywood is also derived from Puritan stock, believe it or not. The litmus test is to introduce them to something new that may potentially change the way they live or work, or something new that makes other people do things they don't agree with. If the response is "Burn it!", it's a Puritan American. If the response is "Study it and then decide", they must be a European tourist.
  • Re:Money (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Shalda ( 560388 ) on Friday April 22, 2005 @03:43PM (#12316558) Homepage Journal
    No, it's entirely about money. Money gives you prestige and credibility. It buys you access. A $30k campaign contribution may not be directly a bribe, but it buys you access. The senator will take your call. The representative will meet you for lunch so that you can pitch your bill. They may even introduce your legislation verbatim. Everyone rides the gravy train. High level politics beats the hell out of working for a living and large sums of money keep you in office. Being in office keeps people comming and trying to schmooze you. Sports tickets, dinners, favors, you name it. When it comes election time, most people don't vote on issues like copyright reform. They vote on things like Social Security and Defense of Marriage.
  • by bitspotter ( 455598 ) on Friday April 22, 2005 @04:09PM (#12316982) Journal
    That's a good point - consumer electronics companies benefit from IP jsut as much as the copyright cartel. That's why they are ambivalent, at best.

    I've been seeing the "market" for DRM-free content exploding recently. Our Media [], dead-simple free blogs, and Wikimedia [], Creative Commons [] is becoming downright trendy, and the library of share-alike content grows daily.

    Currently, device makers are riding on the coattails of open (or at least unclosed) standards (mp3) in order to sell their DRM-encumbered alternatives (iTunes). No manufacturer is seriously going release a device that can only play closed-format content (Look at Sony [])

    As demand for unemcumbered content solidifies, demand for non-DRMed formats and players will likewise solidify. There's no way the market will buy a device that requires DRM, so long as there is enough popular content out there that doesn't need it.

    So the solution is this: produce and release as much quality share-alike content as fast you possibly can.
  • by Arcane_Rhino ( 769339 ) on Friday April 22, 2005 @05:34PM (#12317969)

    How could something so critical be so ignored by the masses?

    Because they have never tried to get the little green fairy from Moulin Rouge to do her little dance on their desktop when their computer boots.

    I was the same way until I tried the above. MIA#? R1Aa? Who are they?

    The process I went through: She's cute, I want her, I have purchased a DVD of the movie, so I am not stealing anything (please - no copyright vs. theft, that's not my point), and my computer has a DVD capable drive.

    How tough can it be? (Can you feel the suspense?)

    Hmmm. Apparently, my DVD player won't copy and paste a small movie sequence. Am I a moron? It can't be that tough...

    Six months later (no, I am not a programmer)... You have got to be kidding! I cannot take a fucking 10 second sequence from a DVD that I own?!?

    More research...

    I had no idea I was being so screwed.

    Three years later... I have my fairy. Thanks MacR1pp3r and all you other drm (what was the word? Oh yes,) criminals. Screw the MP#A and the R1Aa.

    Until the masses expect more from their digital medium, this whole issue will be beneath their radar. And they will lose rights they never even knew they had.

  • off topic, but... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 22, 2005 @06:22PM (#12318387)
    They can't keep drugs out of this country...

    They can't keep drugs out of prisons. What makes people think they'll be able to keep drugs out of society even if we give up all our freedoms and turn the whole country into a prison?

    Of course, on days when I wear my tinfoil hat, I think that making everyone in the US a criminal is what the government is actively trying to accomplish.

  • by eraserewind ( 446891 ) on Saturday April 23, 2005 @10:08AM (#12322353)
    You know, I can find no reason whatsoever to feel in any way sorry for him (her?), dispite you obviously expecting that people should. Can you tell me why he should expect a share in the profits of other people's industry?

Bell Labs Unix -- Reach out and grep someone.