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Judge Posner Muses on Excessively Strong Patent and Copyright Laws 100

Ars Technica reports on Judge Posner's weblog, and in particular a recent post on the excessive strength of U.S. copyright and patent law: "The problem of excessive patent protection is at present best illustrated by the software industry. This is a progressive, dynamic industry rife with invention. But the conditions that make patent protection essential in the pharmaceutical industry are absent. Nowadays most software innovation is incremental, created by teams of software engineers at modest cost, and also ephemeral—most software inventions are quickly superseded. ... The most serious problem with copyright law is the length of copyright protection, which for most works is now from the creation of the work to 70 years after the author’s death. Apart from the fact that the present value of income received so far in the future is negligible, obtaining copyright licenses on very old works is difficult because not only is the author in all likelihood dead, but his heirs or other owners of the copyright may be difficult or even impossible to identify or find. The copyright term should be shorter." Reader jedirock pointed to a related article on how the patent situation got so out of hand in the first place.
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Judge Posner Muses on Excessively Strong Patent and Copyright Laws

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  • About time... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ChristW ( 18232 ) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @08:10AM (#41523899) Homepage

    Finally, a judge with any common sense?

  • Meanwhile... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by zblack_eagle ( 971870 ) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @08:20AM (#41523965)

    ...your bought representatives don't give a shit

  • by overshoot ( 39700 ) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @08:22AM (#41523977)

    Of course this isn't news to us. The news is that someone in the legal community got the memo.

    And not just anyone. RIchard Posner is the most-cited appellate judge in the USA. He's incredibly influential, and most of all on topics relating to law and the economy. To give you an idea, he has almost single-handedly convinced the antitrust bar that there is no such thing as monopoly power, statutes to the contrary, and is spearheading a movement within the legal community to "revise" antitrust law to something closer to what the railroad barons would have recognized.

    So, yeah, we can feel smug. But we should also be very glad that this particular pebble is starting to move.

  • by andydread ( 758754 ) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @08:34AM (#41524093)
    of software-patent abuse in the IT world with a goal of driving Linux, Android, and FOSS out of the marketplace. They are driving up the cost of writing software. Who would have thought 20 years ago that in the future when you write software that gains any traction in the marketplace (especially system software and operating system related) you would need an army of laywers because Microsoft and Apple will find a way to take ownership of your code though the use of software-patents. All your code are belong to us.
  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @08:50AM (#41524279) Homepage

    So yet another story identifying the harm to the public and to the industry which software patents bring. We need more and more of this. It's the new global warming -- there will always be deniers but as time and opinions increase, the deniers are becoming more silent.

    "But [I/we/they] worked hard to create this [thing]. [I/We/They] deserve to collect money from everyone based on that."

  • by Zontar_Thing_From_Ve ( 949321 ) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @09:43AM (#41524861)
    I have long ago given up the hope that any sanity could be restored to copyright in the USA. The Capitol Records vs. Naxos case was unbelievably far reaching, with the court that heard the case ruling basically that every recording ever made in the USA, yes even back to Thomas Edison, was still under copyright. They essentially made up the law in their ruling, but as Naxos was clearly in the wrong (they knowingly violated a valid copyright on an old recording from the 1930s) Naxos didn't want to appeal and spend more money on a case they couldn't win, even though an appeal might have knocked down some of the more insane parts of the original court ruling.

    What really gets me is that in this current age of declining government budgets that nobody sees the biggest flaw of the Bono Copyright law - namely that it allows automatic renewal of copyrights for free . I'm not in favor of perpetual copyrights, but as others have argued, at least make the people that want them have to pay for them. If they are so valuable then charge for them. I cannot believe the US government is willingly passing by possible copyright fees by allowing automatic free renewals. At least if renewals cost money, some people would refuse to pay it and some things would fall back into the public domain and those who really consider renewals to be valuable would at least have to pay for it. A sliding scale where the renewal costs began to get more costly over time could also finally cause things to go back into the public domain.
  • Nonliteral copying (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tepples ( 727027 ) <tepples@gmail.BOHRcom minus physicist> on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @10:05AM (#41525125) Homepage Journal

    I can see things reaching a stage where nobody really cares about copyright lengths because they'll be too busy making their own stuff.

    Not if the likes of Disney manage to convince a judge that people making their own movies with DSLR have infringed copyright in the nonliteral elements of works owned by the likes of Disney, or if people making their own movies with DSLR simply lack the millions of dollars to litigate a competent legal defense.

    The only question is how long they'll take to realise it and try to patent "sci-fi".

    And that's where nonliteral copying comes into play: attempts to use copyright to claim exclusive rights in the use of a specific set of tropes together, or to use copyright or trademark to claim exclusive rights in adaptations of a given pre-1923 story to film that one of the major studios has already adapted.

  • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @10:41AM (#41525625) Homepage Journal

    I don't follow the logic. New technology making it easier to create content isn't really related to patent and copyright law directly

    technology, science and art have things in common, including the "shoulders of giants". Everything new comes from the old. Had today's copyrights existes when Disney made Pinnochio, they would have had to buy the rights from Grimm's heirs.

    The guy who wrote "catcher in the rye" successfully sued another author for writing a sequel. You have a great idea for making TV shows and movies about Asimov's Foundation series? Sorry, you can't, his widow won't let you.

    Asimov died thirty years ago, his stuff should be in the public domain.

  • by SoulNibbler ( 2194576 ) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @11:05AM (#41525963)
    That's not quite true, very often people with money are smart enough to not re-invent the wheel if they don't need to and would much rather pay you a consulting fee or a service contract to tailor the new software to the job they need done. That produces a positive incentive innovate as you now receive feedback as to the parts of your innovations that have marketable value. The trend of clean room reimplementations came about BECAUSE of overly strong copyright, if you can purchase the time of the creator for a reasonable fee why would you ever pay more to steal it??!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @12:28PM (#41527127)

    I'm pretty sure money and greed ran the pre-1710 world as well. There were no good ole' days I'm afraid.

All science is either physics or stamp collecting. -- Ernest Rutherford