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Editorial

(Well Written) Essay Against Copyright 204

Posted by Hemos
from the saturday-morning-coffee-and-reading dept.
rts writes "A well written article about how copyrights and patents are anti-free market is running in the Canadian paper "The National Post"." The backdrop to the story is, perhaps inevitably, the Napster case - but it's much better written then most of the other bazillion Napster editorials. Update: 01/28 04:48 PM by S :The article refered to this paper by Stephan Kinsella.
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(Well Written) Essay Against Coyright

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    I'm a little different than you. I agree with the idea of patents (unlike you) but (like you) agree that the patent period should be a fraction of what it current is. Why? Because I really do think patents protects the "little guy."

    I recently came up with a design and did some basic prototyping. This took me all of 2 months. Upon checking for a pre-existing patent, which I spent 2 *weeks* researching, I happened across someone else with the exact same design. This patent holder beat me to it by 3 years (he was awarded the patent sometime last year).

    Does this annoy me that I have to contact the patent holder to find -if- I can license the rights from him? Yes. Does it bother me that I could have "had" the patent if I hadn't been dong something else in my life? Yes.

    But worse would be if there were no patents at all. I would feel pretty helpless with what to do with a "good idea."

    He, like I, appear to be individuals who just came across a "better way" to do something. Now, he now has 17 or whatever years to refine, market, and produce the idea. Let's forget the time that he "owns" the design (more on that later). In a world without patents, as soon as his product hit the market, HP, IBM, and just about any software/hardware related tech company could look at his product and in less than 6 months, crush his chances at market survival. Why? They have the designers, they have the supply chains, the economy of scale, and the marketing departments. This guy would receive nothing for his efforts.

    I agree with you that the patent period is too long. 17 years (and I believe it is longer now) feels like a generation. At the same time, 1 or 2 years (as yo propose) is way too short too, mainly because the "little guy" won't have the chance to push out into the marketplace. Should he? Well, I believe that the time and effort in development does have a corresponding cost that needs to be rewarded. People should be awarded for their ideas. Patents are probably the one area that individuals have a *chance* of being equal with the huge corporations (then again, they'd be crushed in litigation).

    Personally, I think 5-6 years is a nice figure--an incentive to move on the idea but enough time to gain some mindshare for the design or product. If the product is "not so hot", most will just wait for the patent period to ride out. If the patent idea is "hot", 5 years is just long enough to pressure people to get in on the action the marketplace the idea has created. Similarly, the dramaticly shortened patent holding period may help lessen litigation, since there is less at stake of not "being the first". And 5 years tends to lend itself to a balancing act--it's just enough time for the patent holder to come out with their product, but not enough time for a market stranglehold, so when other players come in, they still have a chance...this sounds to me more like what a free market should be--reward the designer, but let market forces pick the best product.

    Put another way, patents equalize the rights of corporations and individuals in some ways. They give them the same playing ground. That's good. Without them, every idea an individual came up with was intangible because the established companies could just gobble it up. Corporations know this--this is why they have lobbied for the patent period to increase (and won). The longer patent holding period gives larger companies the excuse to overzealously protect their ideas or, with litigation, go after competing ideas. Since they are large, the chances the corporations would win sides with them.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Hmmm...

    I'm not sure, because all that philosophical doublespeak got me confused, but I have a feeling that that article might have sucked.

    I'll take the final sentence as an illustration: "Since ideas should not be treated as property, laws that target those who have not violated person or property are wrong". I'm guessing this is the grand finale of the writer's argument. Now this comes after focussing on commercial music recordings.

    But Brittany Spears songs are NOT an idea. They're an implementation. A product. It took a huge amount of money just to produce the music, let alone to market it. This is what I think the author has completely missed.

    Surely when somebody invests time and money to create something, they should be given the right to determine who gets free copies and who should pay for it!?

    The public's current attitude towards music pricing is the result of supply exceeding demand (hence reducing perceived value), as well as dissatisfaction with niche music being ignored in favour of factory-production hits. Music fans still don't object to paying reasonable prices for the music they genuinely like, as research on Napster users has shown.

    Heh, I do wonder how that writer would feel if suddenly all her freelance writing became open fodder for free distribution because people suddenly decided that it was just an idea that deserved to float in the ether, rather than a product that took time and effort to produce. This philosophical stuff is all good and well, but last time I looked, freelance writers needed an income too.

    So anyway, I know I've probably just missed some important points in the philosophical-jargon-laden-section, so please enlighten me, fellow Slashdotters!

    That's all.

    P.S. Oh, didn't Stephen King cut his online novel prematurely and go back to writing more lucrative commercial novels?

  • Nope.

    The BT (British Telecom) patent on hyperlinks is a USA patent :-)
  • A free market has no restrictions on the behaviour of corporations whatsoever.

    False. You're not talking about a free market but about anarchy. Being in a free market doesn't mean that you have no rights.

    They are free to engage in price fixing, formation of monopolies, egregious treatment of employees, sale of dangerous products,

    Right, right, right, and right.

    false advertising,

    Wrong. A lie amounts to use of force and you can be held liable for it.

    copying of their competitor's trademarks,

    Wrong again. This is a violation of their competitors' right to property, and is a criminal offense.

    mislabelling their products contents,

    Wrong for the same reason as above.

    and whatever forms of environmental rape that result in their greatest profit.

    As long as the damage remains restricted to their own property. This includes air pollution and even noise.

    A free market does not mean lawlessness. One has to wonder what you're hoping to achieve by claiming that it does.

  • 2. No, Tim Berners-Lee developed the entire idea of the Web at CERN in Switzerland in '89. (IIRC, the original program, running on a NeXT was called WorldWideWeb - it browsed, it served, the only major differences from today were the lack of tables and inline graphics)
  • If copyright were abolished tomorrow there would, it's expected, be no NEED for the GPL.

    Firstly, because no one would have much of a reason to keep their source code secret - you could copy the binaries freely, so there's little to be gained by concealing source. And by releasing the source, third parties could modify it, or produce good add-ons, or port it, etc. increasing mindshare for what that would be worth.

    Secondly you do not need to agree to the GPL in order to download use or modify software distributed under it. It's already protected by copyright. You need to agree to the GPL (or work out private arrangements with the copyright holder) in order to REDISTRIBUTE the software or your modified version therof.

    This is why the GPL is so much better than 99.44% of software licenses. It only grants you rights by agreeing to it. Nothing is taken away. Wheras something like MS's EULA tries to (illegally IMHO) strip people of rights they're guaranteed by copyright law in order to let them use something they already paid for anyway. The BSD license is also quite good, but I personally don't care for it as much as I like the GPL as it doesn't take measures to ensure the continued viability of the community it serves.
  • First a note on gender. The name Ilana strikes me as feminine, so I will refer to the author as she rather than he.

    His essay was published on the web.

    All can read it, save it, print it, give it away.

    I think that pretty much means he has no IP rights to it. Except, perhaps, that the National Post has it copyrighted by default, like everything else.

    I have pretty much taken that at face value. Since the type was so tiny that I couldn't read it, I downloaded and restyled the article. The entire article, (minus the National Post cruft) is (temporarily) online at My site [penguinpowered.com]. Warning, I am at the end of a low-bandwidth pipe. I can only handle some 30 .. 60 hits/minute. I doubt that a haevy load would take the site down, but you might have trouble getting through.

    MODERATORS: please do not raise this above "2" to keep my load down.

    I suggest you contact him -- I'm more than willing to bet that he would ask the National Post to release copyright on this one article. Otherwise perhaps he would be willing to release it himself in a show of good faith.

    I have not contacted the authour since there was no clue in the original as to how to do so. If anyone knows how to do so, please write me! You have the hostname, the username should be "websmith".

    == Buz :)

  • Did Mr. Black not sell the Post, as well as most of the rest of his Canadian newspaper holdings, a few months ago? Unfortunately, the rather extreme right-wing, anti-Chretien slant of the paper seems unchanged. It's a sad day, indeed, when the Globe and Mail is the most liberal-leaning daily in Canada.
  • People will pay for something that has value to them if they have to. For example, I value the chicken in the supermarket and as the chicken is currently the store's property I must pay them to acquire it and consume it. You may not value chicken and thus do not have to acquire it. I also value the recorded music of the band Metallica. I don't particularly value the stamped CD or the jewel case. I can acquire the recorded music for relatively no marginal cost (note I made a fixed investment in a computer, audio card, speakers, ethernet card, DSL service, and electricity). My only true marginal cost is my time and effort to seek out and download this music. I would be willing to pay a business to make this process easier for me. Saving me time and effort has value.

    But what about Metallica. Clearly they have invested countless hours and dollars in the creation of the prerecorded music that I value. Should I be forced at gunpoint (forced by law) to compensate them with my money? Should the business that helped me save time in the downloading process be forced by law to compensate them?

    I think the answer is clearly NO. But then how can Metallica possibly make any money by creating prerecorded music?

    Several ways. First they can use the pre-recorded music as a loss-leader (open up your marketing 101 books) to bring more and more people into their for-pay concerts. A live performance is still valued by most music fans and is a unique once in a lifetime service (either you were there or you were not, and no watching it on pay-perview is not just as good (unless the band stinks)). Besides performance the band can hold other special events and charge for admission. If they truly want to be compensated for their pre-recorded music then they can release their songs serially and demand a ransom to release the next one (or next set, whatever they want to). Basically this is the street performer protocol and would work well.

    This is long-winded, but my point is that times are changing and the internet allows for the sharing of information between people for virtually no marginal cost. Business models based on government enforcement of IP monopolies will not last as people will find a way to get what they want.
    Stuart Eichert

  • There are many incentives for people to create, but I don't think most artists see money as the incentive for creation. It's probably more like a benefit or a bonus.

    You could say the same about anything else -- building bridges, writing software, etc. The fact remains that he's ignored the question regarding economic incentives. Why should artists go unpaid for their work, especially if the public are willing to pay to hear it ?

  • was discussing this very thing to colleagues yesterday: they had seen the PBS special by Ken Burns - Jazz - and remarked as to how music used to be literally free. A musician wrote a song and played it in a bar and got paid.

    Music is never free -- someone has to put time and effort into it. Basically, whgat you're saying is that the musicians were screwed. This certainly explains why the bebopers had such short life spans Charlie parker was on his way out before he was thirty, Billy Holiday died fairly young, as did most of them (Lee Morgan, Booker Little, Eric Dolphy, John Coltrane, Bud Powell, ... ) ... it's easier to count the ones that *didn't* die young

    A lot of these guys died because they were basically worn out -- they'd prematurely aged partly through drug abuse, but you can't sort of seperate the drug abuse from the fact that these guys were working ridiculous hours playing live.

    You can do away with copyrights and still get great music, and that's just fine if you're happy to screw the artists (which most of the napseter mob are)

  • Well, see if I give you any money for that comment! ;)

    -David T. C.
  • Artists who receive no payment for their hard work will simply keep it to themselves.

    Are you serious here? They might not have incentive to create, or they might not have the time/money to create even with the incentive, but surely, if they create the work, they aren't going to lock it up in the cellar just cause they won't get paid for it!

    -David T. C.

  • Your house argument doesn't exactly hold water, because having random people living in your house can damage it. It also can waste your time finding a new house to live in, with a worse locations, or waiting for them to move out when you want to use it.

    However, I think if someone takes something that's 'yours', and uses it without damaging it in anyway and without inhibitng your use of it (Say they sleep on your steps while you're on vacation, or copy your music, or set a book down on your car while it's in a parking lot, or pop an outgoing letter in your mailbox (That's tricky because they might mess with your mail, but let's pretend outgoing and incoming are different boxes), or look at your clock...), I think they should be able too.

    Think about that. Some of them these are legal (sleeping on your steps probably is, setting a book on your car is, and looking at your clock is), and some of them are not (it's simply illegal to mess with someone else's mailbox, and copying music is a violation of copyright laws). Why is this? Well, mail has odd legal protections in this country...and copyright law...um...protects the 'owner' of the music.

    I just wanted to bring this up. Do we, as a society, really want to let 'owners' of things charge people to do stuff with those things that doesn't affect those things or said owner in anyway? Why don't we have them spread the wealth? We can consider it a tax on owning things. If you own something that people can use without affecting your use of it or affecting it in general...you have to let them. (Of course, if it really didn't affect you, you wouldn't even know in the first place...which raises the question of why you want to forbid it.)

    P.S. You will note that I said 'raises the question', instead of 'begging the question'. Please remember you do not say 'begs the question' when a question is raised, you say it when a theory is proven by first assuming the theory is true. In other words, if the proof only proves the arguement is logically consistent, and doesn't prove it true. This has been your offtopic grammar lesson for the day, and has nothing to do with the comment I'm replying too. ;)

    -David T. C.

  • People do a lot of things that inhibit your 'use of something to earn a living'. If I plant food on my own land, and don't paying you for the right, you are inhibited in your use of my land to earn money. If I drive down the street, you're inhibited from travelling down that exact same piece of road. If you're panhandling, and I don't give you money, I have inhibited your use of my money to earn a living. If I rob you while you're standing in line at the bank, same thing.

    Just because you aren't able to earn money is no business of mine. The ethical consideration is not whether I have not compensated you or not, but whether I have harmed (or at least inconvienced you) you and then not compensated you. You don't have some magical right to be compensated by me. You can get that before the harm, or after the harm, or, as a last resort, after the lawsuit. ;)

    The point was, whether I copy your music or not, you and your music have not been harmed by said act. In fact, like I said, assuming I copy it from something then your copy, you'll never even know I copied it. Perhaps you would rather I paid you for the music, but I'd rather people paid me for reading these comments instead of reading them for free. In fact, I'd much rather people paid me for loafing around on the net all day.That doesn't mean it's going to happen, or there's some moral obligation there for people to do so..

    -David T. C.

  • If something that I do benefits me but harms you..

    We're talking past each other. I just said my copying music you created does not, in fact, harm you at all, and you will not even know about it if I do so. That is my entire point. The action does not harm you anymore them me looking at a clock you have on the wall harms you. We don't need to 'assign rights' to looking at clocks at all, because looking at a clock doesn't inconvenience the owner, and neither does copying a song they have produced.

    You're begging the question, assuming that you have a 'right' to sell your song, and when I copy it, I am depriving you of money. Well, by reading this comment without paying me any money, you have deprived me of money. In fact, by merely existing without giving me money, you continuelly deprive me of said money. This doesn't mean I have some sort of right to your money, anymore then you have the right to get money from me when I do something that doesn't affect you. Affecting people is what property rights are based on.

    Within the last couple of hundred years, though, we invented the idea that people can, in certain circumstances, limit the use of idea they had first (patents and copyrights) (Trademark laws is based on harm. Fakes can ruin your reputation.) We do this purely to give incentive to creators. However, the cost of production has continutally gone down (think how much cheaper it is, in real money, to produce a CD, as opposed to a record. It used to require teams of people, and nowdays you can produce a passible CD in your bedroom with a one time fee of 2000 dollars and per CD cost of 30 cents.), while price has also gone up (in real money), and copyright times have continued to go UP. Way up. Something is wrong here, and what it is is people forgetting 'intellectual property' is just a legal fiction intended to get incentives for production, not to have them make insanely large profits. Oh, and the people making the profit in some industries, like music, aren't even the people making the music! Many many of these artists are taking huge risks making these songs, spending all their time and a lot of their money, along with some of a music producer's, and ending up with a CD they get 25 cents off of everytime someone buys it, and they have to pay back the forty thousand dollars they borrowed from the producers in the first place...maybe, just maybe, we don't need so much inventive out there. If people are willing to do this for just the barest chance of making any money out of it. (I feel like the Grinch now, at the end of the book ;), then maybe a lot of musicians aren't in it for the money at all!

    With the road tolls, I was listing things that inconvenience/harm you, not things we should have for free. I'm actually all for road tolls, it's a good idea, as long as we can actually move around fairly easily without paying them if we take the uncongested long way. (Which isn't any kind of moral stand, I just think it's not nice to lock people up who don't have money.) But this isn't very relevant to the discussion at hand. ;)

    -David T. C.

  • You're taking one comment, one parenthetical comment, from my post and obsessing over it. If what you want to do is encourage the free distribution of software and the recognizing of contributors, then you should like the Berkeley license; it explicitly requires users of the code to give credit to contributors. It's much more sharing-oriented than the GPL. The GPL is a political tool to that perpetuates Richard M. Stallman's delusional, destructive, utopian vision of the world.

    Regarding medical technologies, please remember why all of these drugs and technologies got developed: to make money. Arguing over whether patent protection lasts too long is completely different than arguing over whether or not patents should exist. And unless you want to create a huge, centrally-planned, government-funded research establishment, you're not going to get technological innovation without intellectual property protection.

    Regarding your second rambling, incoherent "argument", no one puts a gun to an artist's head and says, "Sign this contract or else." Artists sign contracts because they want to get rich through the labels' distribution and promotion efforts.

    The issue of artist compensation is completely unrelated to labels efforts to undermine fair use rights. And I fail to see how destroying the recording industry is going to make anyone's life better. I can't express my frustration with your brand of idealistic delusion. But let me try to explain why you're a complete idiot:

    What does a label do? Yes, it manufactures and distributes music. Whatever. What it really does is tell people what music is important and what music they should listen to. Mass media students would call them gatekeepers. Labels shape public opinion. That's why artist sign up with labels.

    So what happens if you destroy every major label on the face of the planet? Other people are going to step forward to assume the role of gatekeeper. "But, no, there will be no gatekeepers in our beautiful new utopia. No one will tell you what to listen to!" Uh, yeah, whatever. Radio stations, MTV, Mp3.com, sites like Slashdot, and millions of others will get into the business of recommending music. And guess what? You're going to need to pay a fee or suffer through advertisements to get their opinions, and these people and organizations will become the new toll-collecting, money-making companies in the world of music.

    When you page through a PC Connection or Datacom Warehouse catalog or go to Pricewatch.com, almost all of the products you see are there because of placement fees that have been paid. Why do you think the music industry will be any different? If I create a new single, I'm going to need to cough up some cash to get it featured.

    Or wait, here's an idea: I'll found a company that will pay those placement fees, in return for half of your royalities. Oops! I just founded a record label!
  • To call the editorial well written is to ignore it's rambling incoherence. Also of note are its arguments whose conclusions are nearly identical to their premises. For example, to paraphrase: intellectual property law is evil because it is evil to deny someone access to something.
  • As a writer and programmer, it's going to take a lot of explaining to convince me that I should have no control over the distribution and use of the products of my work.

    One of the justifications of real -- as in real estate -- property rights argues that when an individual puts work into a piece of land by by improving it (clearing, cultivating, etc.), he acquires the right of ownership. This concept still exists in U.S. law: if I occupy a piece of land and treat it as my own and pay taxes, after many years (ten or twenty) I become the legitimate owner of the property. If the prior owner cares so little about it that he is not aware of your squatting or does nothing about it, he does not "deserve" the land.

    As an aside, notice the analogy to trademark law? If others use your trademark, and you do nothing to stop it, you lose the trademark.

    Anyway, I believe that it's the work and not the physicality of the property that is important. In other words, this principle of ownership doesn't disappear simply because the thing being improved -- created, actually -- is not tangible.

    But just as physical property rights are limited, so should intellectual property rights. The big problem we have today is the destruction of fair use through the passage of ill-conceived laws (DMCA) and shrink- and click-wrap licenses.

    Remember that without copyright law, the GPL (which I personally think is evil) could not exist, and nothing would really change, because intelligent intellectual property holders will simply move completely from using copyrights to contracts and licenses to control the distrubution and use of their work.

    What we really need is a law that roughly states that "Congress shall pass no law and no individual or corportation may enforce any contract that abridges the fair use of copyrighted material."
  • Just because I think something is the case, I don't necessarily think that it's a good thing. Case in point: Labels control the minds of (most of) the music-buying public. You think I like this. I don't, but it's not going to go away, even if you destroy the labels. Someone else will step in. And those people will make much of the money that labels used to.

    This is why I'm calling you an idiot. It's like you're accusing me of liking George W. Bush because I recognize that he's the POTUS.

    To review: SOMEONE IS GOING TO TELL PEOPLE WHAT MUSIC TO LISTEN TO, AND WHOEVER THEY ARE WILL MAKE LOTS OF MONEY. Regardless of whether you like their taste in music. Regardless of whether you consider it immoral. Regardless of whether you destroy record labels.
  • Human nature and society are not infinitely mutable. Nor are they static, of course.

    Forgetting about the Dubya analogy, I find it hard to believe that any change of IP law is going to remove the gatekeeping role that is currently exercised by labels, radio stations, etc. Why? Because looking for music in a gatekeeper-less world would be like drinking from the proverbial firehose. Society needs people to make sense of, organize, present, and judge the merits of music. The people who assume this role will be able to become very influential and wealthy.

    Look at Slashdot: Rob Malda is just Joe Schmuck Average who had a decent idea and a lot of good luck. He can now in a small way Controls the Fate of the Free World with his ability to focus attention on things he thinks are important. Who is better off, CmdrTaco or the web site that gets an occasional link from Slashdot? Rob doesn't really create any intellectual property, he just makes money (for VA Linux) by having a site that points other people to other sites.

    Now, Slashdot is a lot more than just Mr. Malda's work, and it would violate the overdeveloped, self-righteous sense of morality of Slashdot's readers to do things like sell coverage to the highest bidder, but it works for a lot of sites out there. In fact, as I pointed out earlier, that's how a lot of mail-order and e-commerce make a lot of money.

    I used to work for CDNOW, and one of the repugnant things they started doing was collecting fees from labels to feature albums in various parts of the store. Amazon does the same thing. These sites get people's attention, and they sell that attention to artists (through their labels).

    I'm not being a defeatist victim of a "slave mentality" for recognizing that this is The Way Things Are. I would like to hear someone's plausible alternative scenario for organizing society.
  • The real problem with patents is that people on slashdot don't know what they are. For example, this thread is about Copyrights, and you're talking about patents.
  • When trading purely services, you are in fact, using your own property, namely your own body, mind, intellect. These belong to you and any services you provide would be based on the use of your property.

    If someone wants you to mow the lawn, you would be providing a service. You might use some property to do it more efficiently than otherwise. You might use a lawnmower you own. You use property all the time in the commission of providing a service.

    But, the property is in no way a part of the actual trade for services. You aren't renting your body or mind to someone for an hour. You aren't lending the person your lawnmower, you're making an agreement to make sure that something is accomplishmeded. While property may be used to cary out your end of the contract and things you do may affect someone else's property, the property itself is not the subject of the monetary exchange.

    I just felt the need to be nitpicky.

  • ... over a month ago? Because people stopped paying for it? The writer of this article ignores the need for creators of these "valueless intangibles" to be paid for their efforts, to receive the necessities of life in return for devoting their lives to creating art. I think "The Plant" really anti-proves her point.
  • I want to read a longer, more thorough treatment of intellectual property that argues for its reduction. Most essays on the topic spend so much time introducing the idea that they never get around to addressing all of the concerns/objections to the idea. Can anyone recommend some longer essays/books on the topic?
  • And you know what - if you say screw the RIAA, all that is left are artists and songs. If you feel that marketing, sales, and distribution do not make bands popular, I have two words for you: Milli Vanilli.

    So you're saying that if the record companies packed their bags and left town today, radio stations would prefer to shut down rather than download MP3's and play those? MTV wouldn't download videos from artist's sites?

    Promotion does have value independant of royalties. A smart new band would work out a promotion deal in exchange for a share of future profits (from live performnces, television appearances, merchandising, and perhaps street performer protocol and patronage as well).

  • The problem is, current copyright law protects a non scarce thing (reproductions of music for example) rather than the scarce thing (writing of new music). What is necessary is to figure out a way to protect the thing that is truly scarce (and thus worthy of being property) without protecting non-scarce things.

    Street performar protocol is one way to do that, patronage also has potential. I'm convinced that there is a solution.

  • I think you will find that Mozart did not have any copyright protection!

    He was paid quite well to write new items. His music was in the public domain after the first performance and was performed by many cut-rate houses without his consent.

  • If copyright was abolished tomorrow, there would no longer be any way to enforce the GPL or any other copyleft license. The only reason you're bound by the GPL is that if you don't agree to it, you don't have permission to download the (copyrighted!) information.

    Well, duh. If copyright was abandoned tomorrow we wouldn't need the GPL any more.

    Anytime the subject of Intellectual Monopolies has come up on Slashdot lately you see this argument posted over and over again - and moderated up immediately as "Insightful", despite the fact that anyone who has spent any time looking at what the Free Software Movement is all about should be able to discard it as "Redundant" (or maybe "Troll"?) in 2 seconds.

  • In a free market, Prozac would never have been invented without the protection promised by the patent system.

    I don't believe you. Give me some proof of that.

    Do you really believe that products aren't created without government-granted monopolies to secure a fat return on your investment?

    Regardless of their value to society, complex inventions typically aren't created unless they may be commercially exploited.

    How would the absence of patents make commercial exploitation impossible?

    Your arguments fail to convince me. I think Prozac (or something similar) would have been invented. Here's why:

    The patent system not only carries a promise of a lucrative monopoly. It also carries the threat of someone else getting there just before you do, and obtaining the patent. Now your investment is completely wasted.

    If, however, you know that the government isn't going to stop you from making the drug you invented just because your competitor makes something similar, you are guaranteed a return on your R&D investment. Granted, not as high a return as you would have had if you won in the first-pass-the-post patent system, but a return that fairly reflects your efficiency in production.

    Your view of investment in innovation only holds water if you believe inventions happen in splendid isolation. Which they don't.

  • The problem is that copyrights don't protect a musician's rights. They only protect the rights of large organizations.

    Sure they do. The copyrights enable musicians to get royalty payments. During the bebop days, there was a recording strike over royalties. Musicians can and have taken industrial action against record companies, to make sure that the copyright benefits are passed on. They are not helpless victims as some slashdotters would have us believe.

    MP3s (and their successors) can offer musicians the ability to advertise their wares directly, and to sell their productions without submitting themselves to editorial criticism by accountants.

    I do not see what is stopping them from using MP3s today, and I see no justification for your implicit assumption that the current copyright system would have to be abolished for artists to distribute their music via MP3. I'm all for artists deciding to give away their music for free, but they should be the ones to decide, as opposed to having the napsterite mob disposses them.

  • Well written ? It completely fails to address the sticky question regarding how to compensate artists.

    One important point that he ignores is that copyrighted works are scarce. It's true that copies of a given work may not be scarce, but the work itself certainly is scarce, and it takes very tangible resources to produce (no money in == no copyrighted works out).

  • I forgot to add -- during the bop era, a recording strike resulted in a lot of Charlie Parker's great music (as well as that of a lot of other great bop musicians ) never getting recorded. Basically, the artists were getting screwed, and refused to record because of it. The bottom line is that when you start screwing the artists, you inevitably lose some great music.
  • False. Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life, that staple of holiday TV fare, is in the public domain.
    Close. The film footage of It's a Wonderful Life is in the Public Domain, but the score isn't. And yes, the film company that owned the rights was quite happy when they discovered this fact 8-).
  • Strangely enough, the article was making the point that copyrights and patents are actually not a part of the free-market system and are really a form of protectionism.

    Of course, actually addressing those points would've prevented you from making this long hand-wringing rant complaining about what the end result of having a copyright and patent system are and wanting to go back to the 'good old days' so the cycle can start all over again.

    I long ago decided that copyrights and patents are not strictly necessary. I had kinda felt that way, for awhile, but had many of the same qualms you did, and then I heard about Cygnus [redhat.com] (now owned by RedHat), and I never had another.

  • You know this. I know this. Napster knows this. The industry knows this. Artists know this. Pirates know this. In short, everyone knows this (well anyone who is concerned). It's simply not convenient for people to admit when they're making the small artist "use" argument.

    Speaking of which, I strongly suspect that Napster could employ archiving more cost effectively than running these massive databases, 99% of which contains pirated material.
  • I'm not an Ayn Rand fan. Nor am I a libertarian, I find 90% of their positions simply ridiculous. If I'm anything, I'm am Republican, but even there I differ with certain views. I don't tow anyone's flag. If you're going to make ad hominem arguments, then you should at least be pretty sure that you're correct.

    nor is that most people's idea of a "free market".
    It is ironic though that you choose to criticize me for making assumptions about the rest of the population, when you purport yourself to know what their ideas are. I, in fact, implied nothing of the sort, whereas you clearly just did. What I did was imply that I know the accepted arguments reasonably well. Having studied business. Having known numerous inventors/innovators/entreprenuers, I am quite qualified to comment as to what are the common arguments. The author's definition as to what is or is not property is simply not pertinent to the arguments that you'll hear from academia, business, or most inventors, by and large. [If you want to demonstrate otherwise, then please do so.]

    What's more, I suggest to you that most people in this country are far more reasonable and moderate than those on slashdot or in the Open Source community. Those that don't know or aren't concerned simply aren't party to this argument.

    Sure, IP law conflicts with the idea that the law should only protect physical instances of property. But the law is not written on that assumption, nor is that most people's idea of a "free market".
    Where are you going with this? What is your point?

    Instances of an idea may not be scarce but the ideas themselves certainly are. It's that scarcity that creates the value the law protects.
    Still unclear.

    Incidentally, what I find irritating is that I don't for a second imagine that Hemos and CmdrTaco actually believe any of this crap they endorse. Over the last few years, this anti-IP bandwagon has gelled around them and they're unwilling to disavow it. Maybe someday they'll explain why copyrights are bad but the GPL is sacred. No, calling it a "copyleft" isn't a valid explanation.
    I agree with you here and I've called them and others on slashdot on it a number of times.

  • A hypothetical example: Let's say someone writes a book which outlines a conspiracy on how to take over the government; it identifies phrasewords by which the elite conspirators will identify each other. Now, as the conspiracy based on this book progresses in real life, then clearly if I am prevented from reading or using this material, it detracts from my life. Ideas can be powerful, not merely entertainment.
    The same can be said for freedom itself, but we don't say freedom is the problem. There are times, however, when we choose to, when we need to, ignore freedom for the common good. With my freedom of speech I can startup a group of thugs to rob little old ladies, or what have you. Likewise, I can use my physical property, a cardboard box, to carry a bomb. There are always exceptions, I admit of exceptions, but let us be clear here, there is a difference. The author is arguing that the flaw is integral to the feature of IP, whereas you're arguing that some instances of IP can be bad.

    I think this situation is broadly analagous to genetic ownership of plants which supersede and potentially replace "natural" crop strains. Or, the case of the Church of Scientology in the way they jealously guard their institutional writings. Or, generalized issues about access to information technology and the power differential across the "digital divide". A product/idea which causes older ideas to no longer be supported will harm me if I don't have access to it.
    I simply think these are unreasonable stretches. If ADM, Monsanto, or whomever create a super seed (disclaimer: I'm not too familiar with agriculture), it's not as if the farmer is directly harmed. Their own little plot of soil will, in all likelyhood, continue to produce just as it always did. The only difference is that the competition can do it more cost effectively. You can argue that the competition may then hurt that farmer, but that's extraneous to the argument that intellectual property itself is robbing the farmer of his rights. The same goes for so many of these other ideas. What's more, I'd assert that that is the nature of capitalism, as unpleasant as it can be at times. If the idea is so powerful as to make the competitors significantly more cost effective, that's a good thing. If the only way to secure that progress is with intellectual property, that's still a good thing on the aggregate. If that farmer is unwilling or unable pay, he's probably not equipped to compete in today's world with vastly lower production costs. Making exceptions for the farmer is just delaying the inevitable and will ultimately cost the consumer more.

    The same goes for many of these other arguments, however, I don't feel like getting into them at the moment. Perhaps later...

  • Ok, my apologies ;)
  • The GPL requires you to publish your source if you use GPL code. This by no means comes automatically with the abolition of copyright. In fact, there is every reason to think that if copyright were abolished, that software developers would keep their source very private, not to mention throwing in a zillion trapdoors, obfuscation, etc. Abolishing copyright may make pirates happy, but it's quite clear from the letter and the intent of GPL, not to mention RMS's own words, that its chief concern is the source, not the ability to copy or modify the binary.

    What's more, I suggest to you that if copyright were abolished, a great deal of commercial software development would be devastated. This would result in a reduction of paying programming jobs. The reduction in jobs would, in turn, force the would-be OSS developers of today into non-programming jobs, resulting in a loss to GPL software. In short, it'd be a loose-loose situation.
  • It is performances where musical artists make the bulk of their earnings. What another poster pointed out is that artists at one time only earned an income from performances. When recording devices made it possible to distribute copies of an artists performance to people who couldn't/didn't attend a live performance, the modern music business was born.

    At issue, though, is that from one perspective, the providers of these recorded performances (records) are merely providing a service. This service is specifically that of providing a recording of a performance I couldn't/didn't attend live. The cost charged to me is for the service, and the costs incurred in providing it to me (the media, production, distribution, etc). If I am suddenly able to obtain a similar (MP3's do not equal CD or Anolog quality recordings) copy of an artist performance, for a lower cost or free, then I should be able to legally obtain that copy.

    The artist still can earn an income from their live performances. The businesses who provide the service of producing, distributing, and selling CD or other physical copies of the artist's performance(s) can still earn an income for the service they provide. The method I use to obtain some/all of my copies in no way prevents either of these parties from earning an income for their respective products. Especially since I may still choose to obtain another copy, in CD format from the latter, and by attending a live performance by the first.

    In this scenario the only purpose for a Copyright is to prove original authorship. This is necessary to prevent me from, for example, claiming I have written a song that in fact you wrote. By Copyrighting the song, you have a record of your claim which will no doubt predate my claim to have authored the same song. This is what you mean by "owning the ideas of these music makers/movie makers/software makers". I only steal an idea when I falsly claim to have thought of it first - not when I copy that idea without denying the original author due acknowledement. Take note though, acknowledgement does not automatically infer monetary compensation, merely the statement that "so-and-so" is the original creator of this idea.

    Here, though, we are talking only of recognition of original authorship - not any type of control over the use of that song. This is exacly where the current scheme falls flat on it's face. By adding the layer of control on top, we pervert the original intent and create the legal and social mess we now have.

    We need Copyrights as proof of authorship, we do not need them as control mechinisms used to derive additional income. A perfect example of the harm done to society by this perversion is the current limitations placed on consumer electronic devices. I, as a non-signed musician, cannot cost-effectively produce my own digital recordings because the components available to me at a price I can afford are hobbled so that I cannot output media in a digital format. This hobbling is done per "industry" pressure to prevent "pirating" of Copyrighted material. That it also prevents me from producing my own Copyrighted material doesn't matter one bit to them.

  • The problem is that copyrights don't protect a musician's rights. They only protect the rights of large organizations. Or of people rich enough to have their own personal lawyer. That doesn't describe many musicians.


    Under the current method of organizing the music system some very small group of musicians is awarded super-star status for some reason, which sure doesn't seem to be talent (except occasionally). Perhaps this is built into human nature, but I see no reason to encourage this particular tendency. MP3s (and their successors) can offer musicians the ability to advertise their wares directly, and to sell their productions without submitting themselves to editorial criticism by accountants. Of course, some won't succeed, but I would guess that a higher percentage would succeed than under the current system. It's just that the peaks (as measured in dollars, or other currency) wouldn't be quite as high.


    Caution: Now approaching the (technological) singularity.

  • I am really quite dubious about the propriety of equivalancing a physical objec (a house) with a piece of information (a song). Now it's true, that the information has a physical representation, which could reasonably be protected with the same laws (even software companies seem to understand this!). But this doesn't make the information equivalent to it's container.


    Also, the owner of the copyright is almost never, in practice, the author, despite what it says on the book jacket or record cover. Now it's true that no better protocol has been devised for handling books, but certain publishers have unilaterally begun to alter the standards. I am referring here to those books that contain essential components on an attached CD, and are thus protected by the DMCA's extreme view of electronic copyright. Since they have felt free to change unilaterally, I don't consider that the current setup is sacrosanct.


    Information and physical things are different. One difference is that information can be created, destroyed, and copied. Physical things can be manufactured, but that isn't the same as created, since they are manufactured from something. They can be damaged, but that isn't the same as destroyed, because some residue of the original remains. And one can do what is called copying to them, but this is a totally different process, since some other physical resource must be consumed during the conversion. Atoms remain.


    This essential difference between the two forms of "property" tends to cause extreme confusion whenever the same word is used to refer to both categories. I think that it tends to lead to less than totally accurate thoughts.


    A further distinction needs to be made between those pieces of information that derive their utility by general agreement on their value (the time, e.g.) and those that may be freely created (this note, for example). How would you feel about an attempt to copyright the time of day? I believe that the current copyright law would allow this (IANAL!), but I doubt that any court would really read the law that strictly. And then there's the matter of enforcement... But I suppose that one could hunt down the time servers and serve them warrants against illegally copying, e.g., 12:23:39. After all, copyright law doesn't care whether or not one came up with the work in violation independantly.


    Yes, it is desireable that the creators of information be rewarded by those who use the information. I just have extreme doubts about the current method of doing so. Agents and publishers were bad enough, but the RIAA is totally beyond the pale. I feel like saying "Such men are outlaws, the enemies general of all mankind, to be dealt with as wolves are!", but perhaps that's a triffle extreme, even for such as they.


    Caution: Now approaching the (technological) singularity.

  • copyrights and patents grant a temporary monopoly in an effort to promote the the well being and the advancement of humanity and the sciences. the idea of property is based in greed. do you really think the patent system works perfectly well in the UK and Europe? are you that naive? how does granting this monopoly ON AN IDEA further humanity? 'promotes others to develop new ideas'? im sorry, but that doesn't flow with me. people will have ideas and be creative whether or not you give them a 'right to be greedy' excuse. thats all it comes down too.

    There is no such thing as intellectual property. Every idea and every thing is a derivative of that that came before it, only God's first thought could be intellectual property. (and I use the word God not in the divination-praise-the-chruch-send-them-money way, but in the unknown-reaches way, im not exactly a church goer).

    If you think patents and copyright are wrong, do not accept them. Ignore them. Fight them. Please do not simply give in and go along with what some magic talking head says to you.

    -=Gargoyle_sNake
    -=-=-=-
  • Do you think Will Shakespeare would have produced plays if it wasn't lucrative.

    Well, Shakespeare's business model was to write material that he could use to attract an audience to his playhouse.

    Copyright didn't really play a part in what he was doing.

  • First note: Of course a government monopoly is, in some senses, anti-market. This is true of all monopolies, including the right to exclusively possess real and personal property, by the way. In other senses, these rules, however non-laissez-faire they seem at first blush, can likewise be argued to be pro-market as well.

    By providing for a police force to defend my property rights, I no longer need to do so myself. This makes easier the process of buying and selling real estate, and gives me greater incentive to invest in developing my property, which is less vulnerable to abuse by others.

    Likewise the argument goes -- a copyright provides incentives to authors to create their works. Indeed, some authors have been screwed over the years by cabals of publishers, who have created a different kind of anti-market force, one that works quite powerfully against invention and creation -- and there are authors who have become powerful enough to buck that trend, such as Stephen King and Formerly-known-as.

    However, neither SK or the iconic symbol who wants his old name back now have abandoned copyright, as the article suggests. (Prince, at least, continues to have demand letters written in his name for new songs when they are played in restaurants and by radio stations without his consent) -- they have just found an alternative means of distribution.

    And good for them. Their "tipping"-based model is, IMHO, ultimately the new wave. But it is hardly an abandonment of copyright -- just an abandonment of the practices of the old breed of publishers.

    And, by the way, Napster is **NOT** about copyright infringement -- it is about the SCOPE of a Copyright. There is no allegation of direct infringement in any of the complaints or briefs of that case -- there cannot be. Napster hasn't engaged in direct infringement. The question there is solely whether they have "contributed" under Copyright law to the infringement of others. And that, is another story altogether.
  • No movie produced since 1910 has entered public domain.

    False. Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life, that staple of holiday TV fare, is in the public domain.
  • Do you think Will Shakespeare would have produced plays if it wasn't lucrative[?]

    ... In a word, YES.

    Keep in mind that Shakespeare was dead broke for a lot of his life. If his goal in life was to get rich, he sure picked a lousy profession. In Shakespeare's time, actors couldn't even be buried in the same cemeteries as "decent Christians".

  • Let's say for sake of argument that you've got a piece of software which, for entirely personal reasons all your own, you place into the public domain. Not only is there no copyright on it, there can be no copyright on it because you've explicitly waived your rights to it.

    Can Sun then use it in the next (non-free) version of Solaris? Yep.

    Can RMS use it in the next (free) HURD? Yep.

    Is it free software? Yep. Even more free than BSD-licensed code, because you aren't even asking for attribution.

    RMS would like to see copyright on software done away with altogether, because that means the free software community could disassemble Solaris, AIX, HP-UX and every other UNIX out there. The free software community could investigate how other software works with impunity, not being restricted by those nebulous "anti-reverse-engineering" clauses in software licenses.

    While free software would lose a marginal amount if copyright on software were done away with, the community would post a much larger gain.
  • None of the arguments relate to technology at all. Abolishing copyright was tried before the internet existed, during the French revolution. The result was a distaster -- all publishing ceased except for pornography and cheap scandal sheets. To convince me that the results would be different today, I'd have to see an argument that relates to changes in technology.

    I think it does mention near-zero-cost reproduction in the article, which is maybe an important point (in those days, you had to be pretty big to run a printing press).
    I don't think the differences between today and 1789 are just technological, though. There's stuff like universal literacy, and the fact that the economy is getting more information-based, which also matter (and like you say, aren't mentioned in the article).


    Arxiv.org has already shown they're capable of replacing traditional scientific journals completely in some scientific subfields, e.g. string theory.

    Cool, I never heard of them before - interesting!
  • >Can the record company really stop unauthorised lending?

    they probably can stop unauthorized lending, but that doesn't apply to consumers. AFAIK libraries and such pay a fee to record companies. You can freely lend your CDs to a friend, provided you get back your CD :)

    //rdj
  • This article isn't necessarily promoting a libertarian viewpoint. In fact, it is working from the Western tradition. John Locke's political writings are pretty much the basis for the constitution of the USA. And it is an economic fact that scarcity preceeds property. Every economic theory that is worth taking seriously is based on that. If that weren't true, how can you even begin to explain concepts like supply and demand? Economics is a study of scarcity. We assign value to items that are hard to get. The more available they are, the less their value. The trouble with this notion of property is how we are to interpret it for IP, which is easily reproduced. Being that IP creators are now able to publish and distribute their works themselves, it is a valid excercise to explore the ramifications of removing the traditional "Middle Men" from the market. If you spend some time and review the history of copyright, you will quickly see that it was originally done to protect the IP creators, but has transitioned into a system that protects the middle men. Is this what we want to reward, or is it idea creation? Also, a large function of copyright is to increase the knowledgebase of the public after the author has had the opportunity to enjoy a limited monopoly. However, the Sonny Bono copyright extension act has extended copyrights an additional 25 years. How does this help the public? I don't see how any of these ideas are libertarian. They are just sane public policy.
  • Divec writes:

    I disagree; you can have trade which is purely a swap of services. A lot of business-to-business trade is essentially of this form. You only need a concept of property to deal in physical goods which have scarcity (i.e. cannot be duplicated for nothing), like food or computer hardware.

    When trading purely services, you are in fact, using your own property, namely your own body, mind, intellect. These belong to you and any services you provide would be based on the use of your property.

    If someone wants you to mow the lawn, you would be providing a service. You might use some property to do it more efficiently than otherwise. You might use a lawnmower you own. You use property all the time in the commission of providing a service.

    A patent allows you to stop me using an idea which you thought of.

    You rightly point out that a patent can even stop me from using an idea I thought about. That fundamental flaw strongly shows why laws to protect intangible "intellectual" property have no place in the information age.

    For example...

    :-(®

    The so-called "frowny" has been trademarked by Despair, inc. [despair.com] Admittedly, it appears that it was registered to make a mockery of the PTO. Though, my use of this trademark in conjunction with a negative comment would "dilute the value" of the frowny trademark, and would be cause for some lawsuit. :P (has the tongue sticking out emoticon been trademarked yet?)
    http://www.despair.com/demotivators/frownonthis.ht ml [despair.com]

    Someone patented the use of a laser to provide exercise for cats. I have, on a number of occasions inadvertently violated this patent in amusing cats, and if it could be proven, I would likely be required to pay royalties for the use of this idea that was independently arrived at.
    http://www.delphion.com/details?pn=US05443036__ [delphion.com]

    Some might argue that it's just a system that needs to be tweaked - fixed through some kind of reform to allow "legitimate" owners of "intellectual property" to be rewarded for their labor.

    I propose that all "intellectual property" law does is prop-up old business models and keep new ones from emerging. If we lived in a world without copyright, patent and trademark, it would be different. The presence of such laws has slowed progress where progress would have naturally occurred. Who's to say that the progress such laws protects is more important than the progress that it discourages?

    Some argue that without such protections, less innovation and creation would be performed. Kinsella and Mercer argue that there would be as much creation and innovation that the world requires - no more, no less.

    In my view, the world would be transformed to the open-source model. That you give away the recipe and sell the chicken. That you can download music free but pay for the live performance. You'd pay to see movies on the big screen with great sound.

    In the year 2080, when we get our first replicator at home, if we decide to replicate something, will someone claim ownership to that idea and only allow us to create an instance of it if we pay? Will someone own the concept of a chair and receive royalties everytime someone replicates one?

    Laws should never be created to protect the way of doing business. The industrial age transformed the way things were made. If the Luddites had their way, chairs would still be made by hand, or at least those who use machines would subsidize those who make by hand. Laws should only protect our rights to hold real, tangible property.

  • It's funny how so many people equate rich with evil. So if a poor guy took something from a rich company it's ok but if a rich company takes something from a poor guy then it's automatically a problem.
  • The RIAA has had their day. It is time to step down. May free art prosper.

    The RIAA never really had control by having control of production. What they really have is control over marketing of young artists. Almost no artists that are successful today could have made it without record contracts fronting them a lot of money for an album, marketing the album, and providing a sales and distribution network.

    And you know what - if you say screw the RIAA, all that is left are artists and songs. If you feel that marketing, sales, and distribution do not make bands popular, I have two words for you: Milli Vanilli.

  • The copyright laws in the US are designed under the US Constitutional sentence

    "To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries;"

    This means that authors are guaranteed certain rights about performance of their artwork, copyright of their writings, protection from conpetition for inventions... the purpose is to encourage authorship and invention through MONEY.

    It has little to do with whether something MAY be copied free. Would we even have ssh right now if the RSA patent had not existed ? Would we even have mp3 encoding without patents ? (Personally I'd drop the mp3 patent, but it clearly had a large impact on mp3 spread).

    Those are the arguments that need to be made. I think you can point at bad patents, and problems with duration of both copyright and patent, and use of copyright to justify EULAs... but I find it hard to believe one would argue that all software and all digital artwork should be public domain.

    That is anarchy.
  • For example, I value the chicken in the supermarket and as the chicken is currently the store's property I must pay them to acquire it and consume it. You may not value chicken and thus do not have to acquire it.

    Weak, weak chicken analogy.

    What if I value the chicken enough to want it, but decide that I don't want to have to pay for the packaging or the ambient Muzak in the grocery store? I have the means of going straight to the farm and stealing chickens directly. My only true marginal cost is my time and effort to seek out and steal^H^H^H^H^Hacquire chickens. I would be willing to pay a business to make this process of appropriation easier for me. Saving me time and effort has value.

    But what about the chicken farmer? Clearly they have invested countless hours and dollars in the raising of the chickens that I value. Should I be forced at gunpoint (forced by law) to compensate them with my money? Should the business that helped me save time in the acquisition process be forced by law to compensate them?

    I think the answer is clearly NO. But then how can the chicken farmer possibly make any money by creating chicken?

    Several ways. First they can use the chickens as a loss-leader (open up your marketing 101 books) to bring more and more people to their farm for hoe-downs and square dancing festivals. A live performance is still valued by most chicken-eating fans and is a unique once in a lifetime service (either you were there or you were not, and no watching it on pay-perview is not just as good (unless the farm stinks--in which case pay-per-view can't capture that special essence)). Besides performance the farmer can hold other special events (e.g., cockfights) and charge for admission. If they truly want to be compensated for their chicken then they can release their chicks serially and demand a ransom to release the next one (e.g., buy this chicken or the eggs get smashed) (or next egg, whatever they want to). Basically this is the farm hand protocol and would work well.

    This is long-winded, but my point is that times are changing and the internet allows for the traffic of chickens between people for virtually no marginal cost. Business models based on government enforcement of poultry monopolies will not last as people will find a way to get what they want.
  • If we don't give the drug company financial incentives to produce new drugs through patent protection, they will slow their rate of researching new drugs. Is that in society's best interest?

    Actually, Yes.

    Ask yourself, what is the prime motivator of a pharmaceutical company, of any company for that matter? Money.

    How does a pharmaceutical company get a steady, dependable stream of money? By producing drugs that heal people? No way, then those people would be healthy and would not buy any more meds.

    What then? By producing drugs that alleviate the symptoms but which do not cure the disease, making the patients dependent on those drugs for the rest of their life. Thats the way to make big wads of $$$ for the shareholders and nice fat bonuses for the fat cats.

    Not very different from the business of the makers of illicit drugs, when you think of it...

    To keep people healthy, we should do like they did in ancient China instead. The physician only gets paid as long as the patient is healthy. Or something like that...

    /Dervak

  • Individuals and corporations need some sort of incentive to perform research and, for example, produce new drugs. A basc motivation for patent protection is to grant some tangible 'value' to these pursuits.

    Companies perform a cost/benefit analysis trying to decide if they should research, produce, seek FDA approval, and then mass produce a new medicine. With reasonable patent protection (not unreasonable like Amazon's 1-click) the drug company can spend more money on R&D with some hope to recover this investment before other companies can benefit from their hard work.

    If we don't give the drug company financial incentives to produce new drugs through patent protection, they will slow their rate of researching new drugs. Is that in society's best interest?

    We should reform patent laws, but I think we still want them.

  • Is that Copyright and Partent were both created (and still exist) to CREATE free and open markets.

    Anyone who buys this claptrap needs to read a bit of history
  • The ideal of a free market is to have a system that operates without government intervention, is it not? Well, when you actually step back and look at things, copyrights, patents, and trademarks are all government interventions. Put aside the concept of ownership - none of the above terms have anything to do with that. Copyrights and patents are government-instituted monopolies on goods. In the case of copyrights, its a monopoly on artistic works. In the case of patents, its a monopoly on an invention. Trademarks I believe are necessary, or at least fraud laws that have the same effect.


    -RickHunter
  • How can it be a well-written article if it doesn't even address the incentive for artists to create, which is the fundamental justification for the copyright system?
  • If you are starting out as a libertarian, I suppose it would be. For someone who has not already swallowed the libertarian assumptions behind almost every sentance, its doesn't really have anything to say.

    I, for instance, don't see any need to assume that scarity preceeds property. And the entire bit about a writer "unfairly" stopping a film maker from ripping off his story was pretty silly. It wasn't an argument against copyright, because you would have to already have rejected all intellectual property rights to see anything wrong with the situation.

    In other words, the entire thing was a huge question begging, which doesn't strike me as particularly well written.

    -Kahuna Burger

  • ...except for all the others. If we try to value IP based on the scarcity model, we arrive at zero. We know that "zero" is an irrational answer to the problem. We have no rational basis for evaluating products with such wierd elasticity of demand and supply. Therefore, the only sane thing to do is treat IP as if it were physical property, and that is exactly what copyright does. Until you come up with a better answer, you are just tilting at windmills. We have yet to come up with a better answer. The Stephen King experiment mentioned in the article was a flop.

  • Blockquoth the poster:
    It's been that way since before jazz existed.
    OK, but not much longer. The current intellectual property regime has been in place for only a little over a century. Prior to that, there (of course) weren't recordings; and people pretty much played whatever they'd heard.
  • Blockquoth the poster:
    The world would be a poorer place if some of the old Masters had had to work in a pub instead of creating one of their paintings.
    Um, a few things:
    1. A few of the "old Masters" did work in the pub, or something similar, to support their art.
    2. Even those that didn't, had patrons. The "Masters" didn't make money from their paintings, per se. And so copyright doesn't really help them.
    In fact, free copying can help. Consider the art world: It doesn't matter how perfect a copy of the Mona Lisa is, the value resides in the original. People might once again pay for the bragging rights: He painted that for me; or she wrote and performed that music for me first.

    Remember that the current scheme (yes, as in, "pyramid scheme") dates back only a hundred years or so.

  • Blockquoth the poster:
    Not many people like to have their hard work stolen.
    It's only "stealing" if it's property. The point of the article was, it shouldn't be considered property.
  • His essay was published on the web.

    All can read it, save it, print it, give it away.

    I think that pretty much means he has no IP rights to it. Except, perhaps, that the National Post has it copyrighted by default, like everything else.

    I suggest you contact him -- I'm more than willing to bet that he would ask the National Post to release copyright on this one article. Otherwise perhaps he would be willing to release it himself in a show of good faith.
  • Well, I am no member of the libertarian party, a party so small in Canada (the author's and my home country) that it didn't even appear on most all people's ballots (including mine). If you must know, I voted PC (I haven't the slightest clue what the American equivalent of that party is). Yet the article made perfect sense to me.

    All essays should be written without pre-conceptions (except those you are arguing for/aganist). This author is arguing against copyright law/IP, therefore he is writing his essay from the stance of someone that would be involved in a world without it. Without it, you would not be stopped from filming a re-enactment of a book. With it you would be forced to stop. Black and white, Crystal clear, if you ask me.

    I found this article not only answered a lot of questions, but made a fair argument aganist the use of copyright. I'll be sure to point this out to quite a few people with questions on copyright.
  • by shepd (155729)
    Use the source luke...

    After the story and before the copyright notice appears this:

    <!----End Story Content---->

    The author didn't put that notice there. He had no clue it was going to be stuck there.

    >If I took his essay, put my name on it and sold it, he might sing a different tune.

    Dude, this isn't what he is talking about. He never said abolish the right to keep your name on stuff. He just said that your IP stuff should be availiable to all. The difference? One could, in a non-copyright society, consider removing someone's name from an item a defaming of the person.

    >How about if I mirrored slashdot post for post, sold banner adds cheaper and took business away from VA.

    Now you hit the nail on the head. You are keeping the stories names on them, and are providing a "value added" service. I have a small feeling, though, that you would lose out to those others that provide slashdot minus extra banner heads.

    And CmdrTaco has ALREADY stated he is OK with this -- he found someone who registered something similar to slashdot.org, and simply framed slashdot with ads. CmdrTaco told us he wasn't worried. Why should be be? What the heck is the point of going to the wrong site?

    >When will these guys realize their quest for free music will cost others dearly.

    Cost whom? The RIAA? The MPAA? These aren't people. How about individuals, the mettle most of the world was built on? Yes, it destroys a company and benefits people. Boo-hoo. I feel really sorry for destroying something that existed only on paper to begin with. Do trees feel pain when paper gets shredded?

    >If you think it is to expensive don't buy it, that's the way it works.

    [Devil's Advocate Here]: Heh, well, you see, I don't understand expense because I couldn't pay the price for the books the idea is printed on. I guess I don't deserve to understand the way money is used in the world because I don't have enough to read a book. Heck, I'm surprinsing myself right here, right now, that I've been able to learn English from the book I stole from the bookstore.
  • I know that he sold some of his Canadian newspaper holdings, but I don't think he sold the Post (IANAJ).

    Why did he sell them? So that he could step into other media temporarily, and make enough money to buy his papers back.. then he will TRUELY dominate, and there will be no such as thing as a free media in Canada.


    --
  • Your Netscape example is a piss-poor way to make your point, because it is very factually inaccurate.

    1. You can't copyright an idea (duh).
    2. NCSA invented "the browser", better know as "NCSA Mosaic".
    3. Netscape (closely tied to NCSA) and Microsoft Internet Explorer both have Mosaic code inside them.



    --
  • I think you have hit on exactly what the author is saying! This is why I think it is a great debating point. Imagine a world in which music and stories and images (photcopies of art, not original art) are completely unprotected by law. The argument proceeds that since these are intrinsically (meaning "unless artificial scarcity is applied") free, there will never be a scarcity of them. It's like saying Metallica got into the business to make money, but Prince is saying he is willing to forego profit for the art.

    Your argument about your house is like his argument about tables. If they become Easily Copied then you cannot lay claim to my copy of your table. Your argument only holds water because it contradicts his premise: houses are essentially scarce since I can't sit down with a guitar and make a house.

    I think what makes it an outrageously Good Debating Point is the contention that in such a 'free world' a producer can make a movie from a book the day after it is published without paying one red cent to the author. That makes even me, a proponent that we try this, a little uneasy. It's a great exercise in the logical implications of the proposition. The other piece of brilliance is when you consider that medicines may not be patentable on "FreeIP World". Would Prozac still be made? It is a remarkable exercise in reducto ad absurdium and it takes a degree of will to stay the course, yet the author does quite well.

    It is as good a position as I ever heard from that other pundit, William F. Buckley, and as well-articulated as he was. And Buckley was a Great Debater. I wonder what he thinks of all this...

    Along those lines, I played guitar in a band during the 'hair days'. We always wondered if we weren't supposed to pay royalties for each and every song we did ("Stairway to Heaven" "Sweet Emotion" "Jumping Jack Flash"). The RIAA says yes, but I never saw them come to any of our shows. In fact, why don't they clamp down on bar bands?!!!?

    I'll tell you. Because it is free advertising for them. Once again they pick the side that enhances their bottom line. It ain't about protecting artists for these types of people. It never is.
  • It is my contention that removing the beauracracy that has 'seen its day' will not result in less art. It will result in less art for profit, at least the kinds of profits that make an A&R guy salivate. The incentive for true art is art for its own sake. If I were a musician (and I am), I would be loathe to suck up to the corporate culture and prostitute my creativity for their bottom line. Here in So Cal, I was "shocked" to learn that bands here have to pay to play, because all the venues are controlled by promoters.

    I don't want something for nothing. I want nothing (no copyright) for nothing.
  • Well, duh. If copyright was abandoned tomorrow we wouldn't need the GPL any more.
    Then why was it necessary to invent copyleft instead of just putting free software in the public domain?

    I'm trying to find an actual argument in your post, but there doesn't seem to be one.

    One thing copyleft does is to prevent is free information from "backsliding" and becoming unfree. In a world without copyright, the only way to prevent this would be to hoard free information, trying very hard to make sure you always had a copy of the latest version. Otherwise the author could just stop providing copies, and you'd be out of luck.

    The GPL also has the viral property that it prohibits you from mixing GPL'd software with non-GPL'd software. Whether yout think this is good or bad, it would no longer work that way without copyright.

    I can only think of one feature of copyleft that would be obviated by abolishing copyright, and that's the protection against having other people try to take your free information and make it their own intellectual property.


    The Assayer [theassayer.org] - free-information book reviews

  • But we argued this before. We don't own the ideas of these music makers/movie makers/software makers. If I was a software producer trying to make an honest living (e.g. not Bill Gates), I would be pretty pissed if people thought they had a "right" to copy my shit. That thing about backups is bull. If we all needed backups, why in the hell would things like Napster prosper?

    The point is, I'm not saying that corporations should be given any extra money. But somewhere along the line an artist must be getting paid somewhere, whether they are music artists or writers or whatever.

    Fact: most authors get paid a small amount for creating the book initially, and get paid a small sum for each individual book they sold. If those books were copied for free, forget it. No one would want to be an author.

    I think most hackers, myself included, have to figure out where that right line is between intellectual freedom and "getting free stuff" --- and learn not to cross it if we want our arguments to be taken seriously.

  • I think there is a need to be a balance between the need of the capitalists to make a profit (which motivates them), and the public (to liberty and the pursuit of happiness).

    That balance seems to have swung far too far to the capitalist side. I'm not for getting rid of copyrights or the concept of IP. That would actually lead to a net loss of happiness by bringing many activities (like research) to a grinding halt. We must encourage capitalists to continue efforts that benefit society.

    But the current laws have been unduly twisted and manipulated to create an environment that is ridiculous at best. Some one got the rights to : - ( and one click shopping. Please that is insane. Seems the system has become an amusing and vexing system that is proving it is in serious need for reform.

    Personally I think there needs to be a more fair and realistic system. The only hope for this is new laws. Unfortunately capalists realized this and basically influence the current political environment to ensure that the laws will continue to favor them.

    I would guess that a five-year limit on non-tangible and seven-year limit on tangible IP should be reasonable to allow a capitalist to make a reasonable return on investment. That gives them a lead that they could maintain through good business practices, but also allows competition that is essential to keep capitalist efficient.

    And people talking about how it is better in the EU or Canada, are deluded at best. Europe was the birth place of many IP concepts, and currently has some of the most extreme IP laws. Canada taxes blank media, just incase you might use it for copying something. This is a global issue, that needs to be addressed while it still is possible.

    With every election the politicians become more and more owned by the capitalists. We need new laws and reforms while it is still possible, and not just in the United States but world wide.

    So who has the solution we can rally around? I don't know, and I would definitely not trust any political party's motives on this issue.
  • The biggest problem is the broadness issue. Most folks have no problem with someone wanting a reasonable amount of control over something they created, the issue is what defines reasonable. To use an old saying as an example: "Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door." Great idea, but these days companies don't claim the rights to their 'better' mousetrap, they claim the rights to the idea of using some device for the purpose or detaining and possibly exterminating rodents or other offending small lifeforms. The first idea, that they own the right to their specific and unique version of a mousetrap is relatively reasonable, the second, that they basically own the entire idea of 'mousetrap' is not. yet, these days, companies can and do obtain such ownership [one click shopping anyone?]. That is the biggest problem.

    -={(Astynax)}=-
  • Second, (back on point) the author attacks a few specific instances of IP and one or two of the minor (but poorly accepted) arguments for IP, but completely or mostly ignores the well accepted arguments for it.

    Reading between the lines, I get the impression the author is an Ayn Rand-ie with the common Rand-ie trait of speaking as though her basic axioms are universally accepted by every other person in the world. Sure, IP law conflicts with the idea that the law should only protect physical instances of property. But the law is not written on that assumption, nor is that most people's idea of a "free market".

    Instances of an idea may not be scarce but the ideas themselves certainly are. It's that scarcity that creates the value the law protects.

    Incidentally, what I find irritating is that I don't for a second imagine that Hemos and CmdrTaco actually believe any of this crap they endorse. Over the last few years, this anti-IP bandwagon has gelled around them and they're unwilling to disavow it. Maybe someday they'll explain why copyrights are bad but the GPL is sacred. No, calling it a "copyleft" isn't a valid explanation.

  • The comedy channel thought of doing this until Viacom [canoe.ca] snuffed it out.

    Actually, the copyright that now exists was hijacked [upside.com] by Republic pictures.

    It's still an oustanding idea though.
  • What's more, this is the first time in history of our country that works are not entering the public domain, due to the egregious nature of the Copyright Term Extension Act (CTEA).

    Not only has no movies been entering the public domain, but what recorded music has?? Maybe 78 records that didn't have the copyright notice stamped on them?? What abnout Winnie the Pooh?? Tolkien?? Robert Frost?? T.S Eliot??

    It's really hard to listen to the MPAA and RIAA scream no fair! no fair! when they don't give the public their due. Of course they want copyrights to last forever, and they lobbied heavily [eagleforum.org] for the CTEA.

    The cries of the MPAA and RIAA ring very false to me too.
  • You think the GPL is evil? Jesus, why? It allows the producers of information to distribute their creations freely and still receive credit for them. That's wonderful. It also imposes the same rules to next year's creators, as well. It is the best thing ever for the progress of information distribution. Copyrights, according to the constitution of the U.S., are meant to "promote the progress of science and useful arts" (Article I, Section 8, #8). Intellectual property law as it stands now in the US and how it is enforced by the WTO internationally is hsving a much different impact, though, in a multitude of ways; skyhigh prices on the production of medical technology, poor distribution of necessary medicine, the hoarding of computer tech and info that would improve social services everywhere. When we talk about intellectual property rights, we should remember that our efforts should help our communities. Instead, patent law and copyright law is used to stop the transfer of information.

    Additionally, in terms of "intangible" intellectual properties like music, the artists do NOT own their music, the record industry does, because of the capital required to produce and distribute music. That is, until now, as we see distribution become very cheap and digital studio software become very accessible and recording costs decrease for home musicians. That's a great development, it fosters creative activity. What people should worry about is finding a way to reward these creative people directly, abolishing the record industry which has generally held the property rights to their endeavours (not the artists). What's bad about that? If you are a writer or a programmer, it should matter to you that your work might help others, and you should be interested in how to distribute it to others while securing the means of existence.
  • There is a persistant pattern of people here who cannot see the forest through the trees.

    You are all missing a very basic point.

    The point of economics is so you, the human individual, can work and receive credit for your your work if others find it useful, and use that credit to trade for the works of others you find useful yourself.
    How much your work is valued is determined somewhat subjectively (and neccessarily so) by how useful other human individuals find it, or perceive it to be (demand), and how difficult it is to create or obtain it (supply).

    Since every individual has different needs, there will always be differnt opinions about what constitutes useful. Some people will find video games useful to relieve boredom, others will find diamond rings useful to bolster self esteem.
    Since we live in a market based world, we must obtain credit to obtain basic neccessary to life items such as food, clothing, clean water and shelter. Everybody agrees these items are useful or they will die.

    Intellectual property (patent and copyright) law is the only means of providing credit to the creators of new useful items so that they can obtain these neccessary to life items.
    The creators of these new and useful items must receive some credit for their efforts or they will not be able to continue to produce them.

    If Thomas Edison labours hundreds of hours, using thousand of materials, and works his brain (our most difficult to use tool) to create something as fundamentally useful as the light bulb, isn't it appropiate that we give him credit for his labours, so he can feed himself and his family? And isn't it appropiate that the ammount of credit he gets is connected to how useful the invention is?

    If Amadeus Mozart works his brain and labours for a year to create a musical piece of incredible beauty that brings tears to the eyes of many who hear it, shouldn't he reap some reward from all the people who will make money distributing and playing his music? How will he get by and continue to produce if he doesn't?

    How difficult it is to create or produce something isn't neccesarily tied to how useful others find it. I think that is what is driving you all crazy. But there is no general need for items that have been laboured over, there is only a need for items to be useful, and that is what our society is trying to reward with copyright law. The creation and production of useful items.

    If I invent a new kind of water that tastes exactly like mud, that wouldn't be very useful, and I wouldn't expect to be rewarded for my efforts, even if I spent years perfecting the recipe. But if i invent a new drink made out of mud that cures cancer, I think it would be appropiate for me to become quite wealthy, even if it only took me fifteen minutes to make.

    If the creators cannot be rewarded, they will still create, but less frequently, and more sporadically, with less ambition and effort, since their resources (time and money) will be tapped trying to obtain credit for their basic life needs.

    The laws are imperfect and always will be, since laws are static and human interaction is dynamic. Perhaps someday somebody will invent a system of laws powered by fuzzy logic, that can dynamically and instantly adjust to changing market conditons as neccesary with an eye towards fairness and a level playing field, but for now we have to deal with the relative inefficienices of democracy which is the best working system we have so far to deal with these complexities.

  • In my view, the world would be transformed to the open-source model. That you give away the recipe and sell the chicken. That you can download music free but pay for the live performance. You'd pay to see movies on the big screen with great sound.

    So the skilled recipe-creator gets nothing, but the person who owns the chicken farm gets everything. So the band that has a good live show gets rewarded, but the anti-social electronic composer who makes music in his basement gets nothing. So the person who can afford the fancy home theatre system (or better yet, can afford to build a theatre and charge people admission) get all the rewards, whereas those who actually create the work get nothing.

    A non-copyright society would just make the inequities of the current system even worse.

    Relating to the software industry, the difficult-to-use always-breaks-down software would get all the support money, whereas the works-like-a-charm easy-to-use software would get nothing.

    (BTW, that's a problem with the open-source system as an economic model, IMHO, as there's no incentive to make it easy to use in the long term.)

  • by ChaosDiscord (4913) on Saturday January 27, 2001 @12:55PM (#477185) Homepage Journal

    You didn't read the article, did you?

    "Property is the basis of the free market....". Bzzzzt, Sorry. Please try again. Scarcity is the basis of the free market. There are some things in life (computers, cars, man hours), that are scarce. From scarcity comes property. There are only so many cars available. Who should I give them to? How about whomever will pay me the most? I want a computer. To get one, I'll need to convince someone else to give me their computer, so they'll no longer have one. I suppose I'll need to pay them for their computer. Part of this is that there is competition. I can purchase a computer, a car, or man hours from any number of sources. If I don't like your price, I'll look elsewhere. This is a free market.

    Intellectual "property" is completely different. I can make a copy of Enya's new album, I have not taken away someone else's copy. Music, software, books, and the like are fundamentally abundent. I can easily make copies of any of them and increase the world's supply. Copyright, in part, takes an abundent product and makes it legally scarce.

    A free market behaves very differently than modern copyright driven industries. Since you're apparently a bit light on economic theory, let be give you a summary. A product has a marginal price (the price to make "just one more"). The marginal price for a mass produced CD is less than a dollar. If you have a free market with competition, the price to consumers approaches the marginal price. If I'm charging, say $15 for a CD, a competitor will start producing it for $14. I'll undercut him $13, and we'll keep doing this until the price is just barely above the cost to actually make the CD.

    But this doesn't happen. Why? Because of copyright. Copyright doesn't just make music scarce, it grants me a monopoly. There is no free market to keep costs down, if you want a CD of me singing, you have to purchase it from me, directly or indirectly (through a middle man or purchasing used). Either way, if you want it, you'll pay what I demand, or you won't get it. This is not how a free market behaves. This is a monopoly, the enemy of the free market.

  • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Saturday January 27, 2001 @03:32PM (#477186)
    This is one of the weakest areguments I have ever heard against IP - that it interferes with the free market.

    The 'Free Market' is no particular holy grail of goodness, and in fact the long history of the capitalism has shown quite clearly that an unfettered free market does NOT yield an economy that results in the best society.

    A free market has no restrictions on the behaviour of corporations whatsoever. They are free to engage in price fixing, formation of monopolies, egregious treatment of employees, sale of dangerous products, false advertising, copying of their competitor's trademarks, mislabelling their products contents, and whatever forms of environmental rape that result in their greatest profit.

    This argument would return us to the days of the giant monopolies of the early part of the 20th century, sale of tainted food (see Upton Sinclair), use of opiates in soft drinks, a workforce where 25% have lost body parts to unsafe machinery, and rivers that catch fire from their carriage of industrial wastes.

    The free market is NECCESSARILY regulated to insure competition and control of the behaviour of corporations. Labor laws, environmental regualtions and contract law are all part of this, as is IP law.

    IP laws improve the quality of our society by providing special incentives to the creation of new information - be it art,literature,music or technologies. The elimination of these incentives will impoversh us far more than the relataively small and temporary economic benefits that individuals would gain if the existing rights accrued to authors were eliminated.

  • by divec (48748) on Saturday January 27, 2001 @09:47AM (#477187) Homepage
    Property is the basis of the free market, of any market, in fact.

    I disagree; you can have trade which is purely a swap of services. A lot of business-to-business trade is essentially of this form. You only need a concept of property to deal in physical goods which have scarcity (i.e. cannot be duplicated for nothing), like food or computer hardware.
    the patent system [...] worksperfectly well in the UK and Europe

    Here in the UK is the place where BT has its patent on hyperlinks, isn't it?
    not just abolish it because it has teething troubles.

    I don't think that's the point. A patent allows you to stop me using an idea which you thought of. Maybe I never knew about your idea and I thought of it completely independently. Still you get to stop me using the idea for 20 years. In IT, it's not often you can put your hand on your heart and say, "I believe nobody else would have thought of this idea for 20 years if I hadn't." That's not teething troubles, that's a broken system which is completely unsuited for the pace of modern technology.
  • by divec (48748) on Saturday January 27, 2001 @09:56AM (#477188) Homepage
    So the removal of the idea of copyright removes protection for the Little Guy.

    If the "Little Guy" is actually a guy as big as Netscape was, then today's copyright system could help that guy sometimes. But for a much littler guy - say a company of 5 or 6 people - it is too expensive to fight the legal battles neccessary, so today's copyright is essentially no protection. Meanwhile, such VeryLittle guys get sued for infringing copyrights of big companies.


    The way the economy seems to be going, VeryLittle companies may become more and more important as the primary innovative force in the market. For them, today's copyright system is no protection and in fact a significant burden. Until legal proceedings become cheap (sometime after hell freezes over), it will remain that way.


    maybe copyrights by corporations could only be held for a shorter peroid of time than by an individual

    The problem with this sort of thing is that big legal departments will find ways round things. E.g. let employees hold their own copyright over stuff they create at work, on the condition that they grant an exclusive license to the corporation. Or another such trick. Big firms are more agile than legislators and easily squeeze through loopholes like that.
  • The article is indeed well-written, but I think a more balanced approach might be better. Sure, patent abuse is harmful, but not having any form of patent system would be equally harmful. Drug companies would have no incentive to invent cures. Artists would have no incentive to create (Do you think Will Shakespeare would have produced plays if it wasn't lucrative).

    Well, what's the best way to make the big companies that we all hate at slashdot so much to play fair? Obviously to withhold money from them when they get out of line. This goes not only for not buying CDs. We also need to stop investing in them. I'm sure lots of slashdot readers now have their pensions in ethical funds that do not invest in firearms, tobacco etc... Now what if you phone up the company that manages your pensions and ask if they invest in companies that abuse IP? What if everyone reading slashdot and interested in these issues did this? Pretty soon I'm sure somebody would cotton on and start a special ethical fund.

    If you don't buy a few CDs, the no-one won't care. If an advert for a large pension fund denounces the RIAA for being unethical, that'd be better.

    Any thoughts?

    not_cub

  • by ubernostrum (219442) on Saturday January 27, 2001 @10:45AM (#477190) Homepage

    I think most of us (I mean Americans; flame me if you like, but Napster is American, the copyright and patent stupidness of the present day is mostly American, and I'm American...all you foreigners who think that talking about American issues is evil can just let us wallow in the consequences of our lawmakers' stupidity, and that should satisfy you) recognize that patents and copyrights are necessary in a free-market, capitalistic system. Otherwise, incentive to introduce a new idea goes down drastically and takes the rate of innovation down with it. So I don't think that the total abolition of copyright and patents is called for, no matter what kind of arguments Canadian (who do NOT live in a capitalistic economy, they have something called "democratic socialism" up there, and it doesn't work like our system does, no matter what they may claim) newspapers put forth about how copyright infringes your right to use your video camera.

    The problem is when copyrights and patents are taken to ridiculous levels, such as the present situation in the United States, and it is not a problem with the idea of copyrights and patents. Copyrights and patents are supposed to be temporary, fleeting things that grant you a benefit for coming up with something on the assurance that it'll become public domain.

    But nothing becomes public domain anymore.

    Anybody remember the article a couple days ago from the EFF? No movie produced since 1910 has entered public domain. Now, it used to be that copyrights and patents lasted a reasonable amount of time, say 14 or 20 years. This is enough time for you to make some money off your idea, but not so long that it never makes it into public domain. Today, however, I can slap a copyright symbol onto any website I design or any music I record, and it doesn't become public domain until at least fifty years after I die...given that I'm not gettingo n in my years yet, we're talking well into the next century before anybody could do anything worthwhile with my work without my permission. That's just plain stupid, and that's one of the things that's wrong with copyright law as it exists in the United States today.

    Then of course there's the DMCA and anti-circumvention and all that bullsh*t, and attempts to undermine fair use. That's even worse, because fair use is one of the few ways of dealing with the sheer stupidity of current copyright limitations - cut into fair use and it'll be the year 4056 or so before we can use copyrighted works for even academic pursuits. That's idiotic.

    Bottom line: copyrights and patents are a necessary evil of capitalism and free markets. Abolishing them would be sheer stupidity. What needs to be abolished are the obscene terms for which copyrights last and the numerous attempts at undermining fair use which are being written into our law.


  • by Catharsis (246331) on Saturday January 27, 2001 @12:33PM (#477191) Homepage
    In a society without intellectual property, everyone is free to create whatever contracts or agreements to enforce the defense of their own material. But, in a society without intellectual property, what's to stop a record company's talent seeker from going to my concert, taping my show, taking the tape back to whichever band he wants and showing them the song? Their established, already popular group takes my song, and plays it as their own. I can claim I wrote the song, yell, scream, complain all I want. Certainly I have been screwed. But have my rights been violated? Intellectual property is flawed, and the concepts are outdated and often inappropriate, but can the total abolishment of IP be any better? Think about it...
  • by TDScott (260197) on Saturday January 27, 2001 @09:15AM (#477192)
    - but, as an analogy, would the writer like to give away all the intellectual rights to his essay, and not get paid for it?
  • by regexp (302904) on Saturday January 27, 2001 @11:14AM (#477193)
    Don't we need copyright to defend copyleft? What is to prevent Evil Software Co., Inc. from picking up the code to a piece of GPL'ed software, improving on it, and then selling binaries based on the modified code, keeping the source code to itself? Also, think about this part of the GPL [gnu.org]:
    Copyright (C) 1989, 1991 Free Software Foundation, Inc.
    59 Temple Place - Suite 330, Boston, MA 02111-1307, USA
    Everyone is permitted to copy and distribute verbatim copies of this license document, but changing it is not allowed.
  • Copyright and patents grants a company the right to protect its intellectual property. It is the property of the company because it is the company that has invested money to develop them.

    Property is the basis of the free market, of any market, in fact. Therefore to strike against copyright and patents is to strike against the notion of property, which is to strike against the idea of a market. We should revise and modify the patent system - it works perfectly well in the UK and Europe - not just abolish it because it has teething troubles. That is to take an extremist reaction.

    You know exactly what to do-
    Your kiss, your fingers on my thigh-

  • First, the author wastes a good part of his time on Napster. Napster is not intellectual property itself, it's secondary to intellectual property. What's more, he glances over the legal minutia, while ignoring the bigger picture. The legal minutia may be important in the lawsuit, but it's not to napster's morality and, especially, not to the relative cost and benefits of intellectual property. He ignores the fact that, while napster may not be able to discern users (though that is debatable itself), there is little doubt that the vast majority of its use is for copyright infringment. On the balance, I'd say the current design and actual use of napster has far greater costs for society than any benefit it presumably brings about.

    Presumably, according to Napster, lesser known artists will use Napster to get an audience. Though I have serious doubts about this (in terms of numbers), the fact is that it could design a system in such a way that the artists ENUMERATES what songs they want to share and submits it via some checksum (or what have you)--rather than rely on some algorithm to divine the artist. Alternatively, they could solve this problem entirely and simply create a massive server where artists can upload their songs, complete with web pages and the like. In reality, this offers virtually all the benefits of their purported "use" [ sometimes even more (e.g., a web page, faster downloads, assured quality, etc) ] without the costs.

    Second, (back on point) the author attacks a few specific instances of IP and one or two of the minor (but poorly accepted) arguments for IP, but completely or mostly ignores the well accepted arguments for it. The first argument is that innovation is risky and expensive; the only way you secure difficult innovation is by granting the innovator the exclusive right to the innovation. The second argument is that one should be entitled to the product of their own mind. When those "products" might be indepedently reinvented, then there might be cause for complaint. But when we're talking about a recording or a book in its entirity, it's simply not going to be indepedently reinvented. My creating that product or idea and restricting its usage does NOT detract from your life, unless you take the fact that I generated that product or idea for granted.

  • by multipartmixed (163409) on Saturday January 27, 2001 @09:20AM (#477196) Homepage
    ...considering how The National Post is owned by Conrad Black.

    If you don't know Mr. Black, he's trying to buy up 100% of the news media in Canada. The idea is so that you only get "News for Robots - Stuff that matters to Mr. Black."

    --
  • by bcrowell (177657) on Saturday January 27, 2001 @01:35PM (#477197) Homepage
    The article seemed silly to me for two reasons:

    (1) None of the arguments relate to technology at all. Abolishing copyright was tried before the internet existed, during the French revolution. The result was a distaster -- all publishing ceased except for pornography and cheap scandal sheets. To convince me that the results would be different today, I'd have to see an argument that relates to changes in technology.

    (2) The abolition of IP is just not going to happen, so why even discuss it? I'd consider it a great triumph if the U.S. government would just stop extending copyright terms the next time the 1923 batch came close to going PD. But even that is extremely unlikely to happen, since, e.g. Disney owns the 1923 Winnie the Pooh copyrights, and their lobbyists managed to get the latest extension passed without even having it debated.

    I can think of some realistic political goals in the U.S., but they're a lot more modest. For instance, I'd like to see the federal government force all academic research they fund to be published electronically and copylefted. Arxiv.org has already shown they're capable of replacing traditional scientific journals completely in some scientific subfields, e.g. string theory.


    The Assayer [theassayer.org] - free-information book reviews

  • by Alien54 (180860) on Saturday January 27, 2001 @09:46AM (#477198) Journal
    well, the article advocates removal of the copyright system. I can see a flip side to this.

    Imagine your proverbial Incredibly Rich Software Company (tm). Imagine that it spots a neat and useful idea that has been created by a bunch of Talented People(tm). With no copyright, the Incredibly Rich Company can become and Incredibly Bad Company and simple copy the ideas, reverse engineer it, and with the forces of Superior Marketing(tm) can produce it and out produce it take over the market, wiping out the competition.

    Netscape is an historic example, even with the protection they had, because there was no copyright on the idea of browser. (I doubt that one could be arranged)

    So the removal of the idea of copyright removes protection for the Little Guy. Some Big Bad Company with lots of big bucks can come in and steal people blind.

    So Copyright might need to be kept around, but in a form that protects the little guy more than corporations.

    off the top of my head, maybe copyrights by corporations could only be held for a shorter peroid of time than by an individual, so that the actual artist could profit vs corporations.

    I need to think on this more

  • by DaSyonic (238637) <DaSyonicNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Saturday January 27, 2001 @09:26AM (#477199) Homepage
    While I dont agree with patents, I can see some good uses for them. But a few things should be done to prevent people/corporations from patenting things that just should not be patented.

    The ammount of time that a patent lasts is way too long in todays world. A patent lasting 1 or 2 years seems more fair to me, but any longer than that basically prevents anyone from using the thing patented for a very long time.
    I would like to see the USPTO gotten rid of all together, but this will never happen, regardless of how much it makes sense to get rid of it. Corporations want control of products, and patents give them that right to that control.

    I think the best sollution would be to have a seperate entity to decide on technology patents. Hopefully with something like that we could stop the future Amazons from patenting outragious things. Trademarks are a little differant, I think you should be able to protect your name, but again, things like :-( shouldnt be trademarked, as it should be considered free-use.

    But can we honestly ever expect things to change? The average American doesnt see anything wrong with what we have now, what politician would ever try and change anything? Who cares?

    And can anyone clear up international patents? What stops a Japanese company from doing '1-click-shopping'? Especially on the internet, a US only patent doesnt seem to do much good.
  • by Bluesee (173416) <michaelpatrickkenny@@@yahoo...com> on Saturday January 27, 2001 @09:54AM (#477200)
    The author proposes a world in which protections for non-scarce items do not exist. In the same spirit as the Home Recording Act could not ban tape recorders, so Napster cannot be seen as intrinsically illegal. Well written, and a real challenge to the RIAA lawyers, et al.

    I was discussing this very thing to colleagues yesterday: they had seen the PBS special by Ken Burns - Jazz - and remarked as to how music used to be literally free. A musician wrote a song and played it in a bar and got paid. Early recordings were produced in small shops, and profits were local. Then entrepreneurs moved in because they saw the profitability (nothing wrong with that) and reamed the artists (again legal, though possibly not moral).

    Well, they have had their fun, and they have had their day. The One Thing that record producers had that the average guy did not was the Ways and Means of Production (i.e., record-making machines) and Distribution. Now, in the digital age, we All have the ways and means. We can all make recordings, try to sell them or give them away, and distribute them.

    The RIAA has had their day. It is time to step down. May free art prosper. I think their proper attitude might well be 'screw them, Im not putting another thin dime into promoting one more artist.' Then they can take their wax cylinders and go home.

    And you know what? Aside from the pretty CD jewel cases, I don't think I'd miss them a bit.

    Bonus: no more 'NSync, Spice Girls, or Backstreet Boys! Yay!

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