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In Defense Of Patents and Copyright 283

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.'"
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In Defense Of Patents and Copyright

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  • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Thursday May 10, 2007 @04:18PM (#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:In other news (Score:4, Informative)

    by NewWorldDan ( 899800 ) <> on Thursday May 10, 2007 @04:31PM (#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.
  • by spirit_fingers ( 777604 ) on Thursday May 10, 2007 @04:46PM (#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.
  • Re:Oh boy (Score:3, Informative)

    by falconwolf ( 725481 ) <<falconsoaring_2000> <at> <>> on Thursday May 10, 2007 @10:42PM (#19078257)

    it IS stealing as our current law defines it

    It is neither stealing in actuality or as defined by law. Stealing something deprives the owner of the object being stolen. What it is is copy infringment.

    Movies, I suppose, are the rub - these really do cost a tremendous amount of money to create

    Not all movies cost a lot to make. For instance The Blair Witch Project [] was made by some college students for a project and they didn't have the money of a major studio yet in All-Time Worldwide Box office [] receipts it comes in at 230 making $240,500,000.


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