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Intellectual Property Discussion in the Classroom? 135

Posted by Cliff
from the examples-that-provoke-thought dept.
Nick M asks: "I'm a TA for a Computer Ethics course at Lehigh University. My professor is currently in China, and I'm charged with the task of teaching the chapter on Intellectual Property. I have read the book (Cyberethics, Spinello, 3rd Ed.), and can see that this could be the most boring 75 minutes of their lives. What topics, examples and questions do you think would stimulate a heated discussion on intellectual property rights which would display the complexities of both sides of the issue?"
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Intellectual Property Discussion in the Classroom?

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  • by yagu (721525) * <yayagu.gmail@com> on Thursday October 26, 2006 @12:28PM (#16595208) Journal

    This [forbes.com] could be a good starting point (an article listing some pioneers in inventions, and some of their fates).

    Also, this article [theautochannel.com] is a synopsis of Robert Kearns' battle with Ford over his IP/patent rights for the invention of the intermittent windshield wiper.

  • by UbuntuDupe (970646) on Thursday October 26, 2006 @12:28PM (#16595222) Journal
    Make sure none of the students is able to carry out any of the classroom handouts unless each page is clearly marked with a copyright warning on both sides.
    • by creimer (824291)
      Don't forget signing a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA). The longest one I ever signed was 16 pages for IBM.
    • Actually there are some great lessons there to be taught. If there are to be handouts that day post them to a website, and inform the students. On the day of class ask if anybody brought the notes for the class, invariably someone will have printed them out. Then you can start talking about copyright.
  • Don't take people's IP without their permission. Class dismissed. You all can thank me for saving you 74 minutes of your lives.
    • by AuMatar (183847)
      The very idea of IP is immoral and inane. As such, you have a moral obligation to ignore it. Class dismissed.
      • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

        by cliffski (65094)
        I see. so you werent planning on any drugs being discovered in future, any big budget movies being made, or any major pieces of commercial software ever being made ever again?
        nice policy, pity it spells the total death of the worlds economy, and probably kicks 90% of slashdot readers out of work.
        Class dismissed.

        Go on, mod me down because you want to find a way to justify taking other peoples hard work. Its the slashdot way.
        • by drsmithy (35869)

          I see. so you werent planning on any drugs being discovered in future, any big budget movies being made, or any major pieces of commercial software ever being made ever again?

          Proof by Assertion [wikipedia.org] is a logical fallacy.

          Go on, mod me down because you want to find a way to justify taking other peoples hard work. Its the slashdot way.

          You deserve to be modded down because your post is worthless.

          • by NeMon'ess (160583) *
            More like proof by elaboration. Au Matar's post is half-way worthless because he states his stance/philosophy without any reasons why s/he said that.

            Bunions post has the same problem.

            Cliffski's post actually has reasons and examples for preserving IP. NOT a worthless post.

            Your logic is worthless. Good link though.
            • by drsmithy (35869)

              More like proof by elaboration.

              There is no elaboration. There is no evidence. There isn't even an argument. Merely a list of conclusions which are assumed to be true because the poster states they are true. A textbook example of Proof By Assertion.

              Cliffski's post actually has reasons and examples for preserving IP. NOT a worthless post.

              I am searching this post [slashdot.org] in vain for even the slightest shred of evidence to support:

              so you werent planning on any drugs being discovered in future, any big budget

              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by NeMon'ess (160583) *
                Because you are apparently incapable of seeing the dots that were connected to arrive at those conclusions? Those are the arguments.

                I'll break it down for you in baby bites.

                If IP isn't respected, it won't be profittable for corporations to spend multi-millions discovering new drugs, or making big budget movies, or writing hugely complicated commercial software.

                Now there are obvious counter-arguments that governments and philanthropists could fund the drug research. The counter-counter argument is that's u
                • If IP isn't respected, it won't be profittable for corporations to spend multi-millions discovering new drugs

                  I'd like to quote a bit of page 99 of Naomi Klein's No Logo if I may (hopefully I may, otherwise I guess I'll be sued next):

                  Dr. Dong's study compared the effectiveness of Boots' thyroid drug, Synthroid, with a generic competitor... The two drugs were bio-equivalent, a fact that represented a potential saving of $365 million a year for the eight million Americans who were taking the brand-name dr

                  • by bunions (970377)
                    > Maybe corporations don't have public interests at heart?

                    that's a long way from saying they're deliberately witholding an AIDS cure.
                • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                  by drsmithy (35869)

                  Because you are apparently incapable of seeing the dots that were connected to arrive at those conclusions?

                  No, because those conclusions have been stated *without any supporting evidence*. Hence, they are an example of "Proof by assertion".

                  Some examples of things that might be considered "evidence":

                  * An examination of major medical discoveries pertaining to cures and treatments of disabling sicknesses and injuries over the last ~200 years or so, showing that for-profit private industry has been the onl

                  • by NeMon'ess (160583) *
                    1. If IP isn't respected, it won't be profittable for corporations to spend multi-millions discovering new drugs, or making big budget movies, or writing hugely complicated commercial software.

                    These are the assertions that are lacking evidence. Waving your hand and saying "because they will", is not evidence.

                    Specifically for blockbuster movies, I did mention Terminator 4. I'm not going to cite studies or surveys attempting to prove the National Endowment for the Arts wouldn't fund it if it were up to them
                    • by drsmithy (35869)

                      Specifically for blockbuster movies, I did mention Terminator 4. I'm not going to cite studies or surveys attempting to prove the National Endowment for the Arts wouldn't fund it if it were up to them, because there are no studies.

                      Right. Except you didn't explain a) why Terminator 4 couldn't have been made regardless, nor b) why not having Terminator 4 would be a bad thing, nor c) why the same movie simply couldn't have been made cheaper.

                      With respect to drug research and software development, I also ga

                    • by NeMon'ess (160583) *
                      Right. Except you didn't explain a) why Terminator 4 couldn't have been made regardless, nor b) why not having Terminator 4 would be a bad thing, nor c) why the same movie simply couldn't have been made cheaper.

                      Because in an IP-protected world, Hollywood would make T4 is its own way. I don't want T4 made on the cheap. As for T4 not existing possibly being good, that's for you to argue. I'm in favor of Hollywood blockbusters because I like them as they are. I don't have to give those explanations, becaus
                    • by drsmithy (35869)

                      I don't have to give those explanations, because it's obvious that without IP the movie would either be made differently, or not at all. As for why it's obvious, well even the homeless know people are pirating movies, and in the history of the arts, there's never been funding for frivolous, hugely expensive entertainment productions for the masses. I'm giving you and others the benefit of intelligence.

                      You still haven't provided a shred of evidence to support your arguments that movies can only be made wit

              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by cliffski (65094)
                hmmm, i didnt think it was neccesaru to spell out the obvious but apparently it is.

                drugs companies will not invest ten million dollars in a new drug if that drug is trivially copied the next day by a rival who spends zero on development. To do so, would be to effectivly just cripple you own competitiveness, and drive yourself out of business by increased relative costs. This is not rocket science.

                the concept of IP is absolutely necesary because it is the ONLY viable way of ensuring that research and develo
                • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

                  by scum-e-bag (211846)
                  I was going to hold back and use some mod point in this thread until I read that dribble...

                  Drug companies have no incentive to create cures. Plain and simple. If they were to create drugs that eliminated disease, then they would be putting themselves out of business.

                  I'm sure you find this post 'worthless' and 'flamebait' because it doesnt justify you illegally copying music. I guess it doesnt matter if we dont get new pharmaceutical research, as long as your ipod hard disk is full huh?

                  Yes, I do consider i

                  • by bunions (970377)
                    > IP only encourages pharmaceutical research to create long term revenue streams... no cure for AIDS (or any other terminal disease)

                    I can't even start to fathom what the mind that thinks this is like. Genentech came up with a goddamn cure for some kind of cancer a while back for fucks sake. Not to mention, oh, I don't know, all the other goddamn extinct diseases like smallpox, polio and lord knows what else.
                    • Cures are hard. (Score:3, Insightful)

                      by FooAtWFU (699187)
                      The other thing to consider is that in medicine, there are very few easy cures to disease. Too many people think that the world is like Star Trek or something where if you give Bones 15 minutes in MedLab, he can cure anything. But this is not really in sync with reality. One thing to consider is viral diseases. So far as I'm aware, there does not exist a cure to any viral disease known to Man. Things like smallpox? We got rid of those with vaccination, before the fact. Take other things besides disease - sa
                    • by drsmithy (35869)

                      I can't even start to fathom what the mind that thinks this is like.

                      That would be the mind of an ideal capitalist.

                    • by bunions (970377)
                      no, I mean the mind that thinks those inane conspiracy theories even makes sense.
                • by FooAtWFU (699187)
                  There's economics on both sides. In the worst cases, intellectual property turns into a form of what economists term rent seeking - people trying to get an uncompensated transfer of wealth from others in society to themselves, using the government. Around Slashdot, people will often refer to some of these as "patent trolls". The other thing to consider is this. There are positive externalities to the production of intellectual material (technical, knowledge, cultural, whatever)- and this is why we attempt t
                • by drsmithy (35869)

                  hmmm, i didnt think it was neccesaru to spell out the obvious but apparently it is.

                  Waving your hand and calling it "obvious" does not make it fact.

                  drugs companies will not invest ten million dollars in a new drug if that drug is trivially copied the next day by a rival who spends zero on development. To do so, would be to effectivly just cripple you own competitiveness, and drive yourself out of business by increased relative costs. This is not rocket science.

                  Drugs are not successfully reverse-engineer

            • by AuMatar (183847)
              No, my post was a mockery of the OP, in an attempt to show him the ridiculousness of his post. While I do think that the current copyright/patent/etc law have gotten to the point that we'd be better off with no such system than with the current system, its not as open and shut as class dismissed. In my idea world, things would go like this:

              trademarks: not needed, if you try to pretend you're some other products, you're commiting fraud. If you aren't, then there's no problem
              trade secrets: not needed, sh
              • by bunions (970377)
                > No, my post was a mockery of the OP, in an attempt to show him the ridiculousness of his post

                when I see a 'solution' to a problem that involves dismantling large chunks of what we have now, I view it with the same suspicion that I do when someone tells me that they have to rewrite an entire system from scratch. The idea is always seductively simple, but when put inot action devolves into the same morass of complexity that we have now. Because it's not like anyone deliberately starts out with the idea
                • by AuMatar (183847)
                  And I personally feel no ip would be better than what we have now- I've seen too many companies destroyed and too many good ideas burried due to it. Actually, I don't think no ip would be that bad a thing at all- we had artists and inventions for millenia before we had ip, the idea that ip increases invention is overblown, if not outright wrong. I have never seen any proof to show that ip causes increased scientific discovery. And I've seen quite a bit of anecdotal evidence and logic that says the exac
                  • by bunions (970377)
                    > we had artists and inventions for millenia before we had ip

                    sure, but we never had a medium in which ip can be so effectively distributed before.

                    > I have never seen any proof to show that ip causes increased scientific discovery. And I've seen quite a bit of anecdotal evidence and logic that says the exact opposite.

                    I think you're simply finding what you're looking for.
                    • by AuMatar (183847)
                      >sure, but we never had a medium in which ip can be so effectively distributed before.

                      Only applies to copyright, not the rest of them. And even then its a weak point- for the vast majority of human existance, artists did not make a living off of per copy fees. Quite frankly, the internet shows just why copyrights are ridiculous, now that they're broken we have an even better reason to just ditch them.

                      >I think you're simply finding what you're looking for.

                      As are you. SHow me proof. Show me proof t
                    • by bunions (970377)
                      > Only applies to copyright, not the rest of them.

                      I guess I've been using 'IP' as a sort of umbrella term for copyright, trademarks, etc, which is probably leading to some confusion. I'm gonna have to sort out just exactly what these terms mean.
    • But what counts as "taking"? What falls under fair use and what doesn't? How many people do I have to invite to my showing of a movie such that it is no longer a private viewing? When can I make copies for educational purposes without paying fees?

      Just because you're ignoring the complexities doesn't mean they're not there.

    • Did you get permission from the person who first said that before you parrotted it?
      • by cliffski (65094)
        wow what cutting debate. how dare he suggest that people be paid for their work. the fool! I guess because other people have said the same thing before, you feel the point cannot be valid.
        As usual, anone attacking people who believe in the concept of IP owners being paid gets modded up like some insightfull genius. how tragic.
        • hey cliff, how ya doin'
          I see you still think treating ideas as property is the *only way for people to get paid for their work.
          you might also note I wasn't modded at all. oh well
          • by bunions (970377)
            > you might also note I wasn't modded at all. oh well

            Slashdot: We take votes on the truth.
    • Don't take people's IP without their permission. Class dismissed. You all can thank me for saving you 74 minutes of your lives.

      I agree with you 100%, that this is a simple issue and we shouldn't take people's IP without their permission, now we just have the amazing semantic problem of what it means to take something that is (essentially) a thought.

      Now I think we can all agree that listening to an artists music on the radio would not be immoral, but what about if we record that show (commercials and all)?
      • by CastrTroy (595695)

        would it be acceptable to "sample" another person's program or algorithm in software developmen?

        That depends on whether or not the software is patented. OK, maybe not, but here's my thoughts. My biggest problem with software patents is that software gets the quadruple threat of IP protection.

        • First, there's copyright, which says you can't copy it (source or binary) without my permission.
        • Then there's Patents, which state that you can't copy the functionality of my program.
        • Then, there's Trade Secrets, wh
        • by cdrguru (88047)
          Unfortunately, you are combining a bunch of stuff which has very little to do with each other.

          Yes, copyright protection allows the limitation of distributing unathorized copies. Nothing much about copying, just about distribution.

          Patent protection is about a concept, not a specific implementation. So the idea of "source disclosure" doesn't really apply - you aren't patenting a specific piece of software but patenting the idea that the software is making use of it.

          Trade secret is the traditional means of p
      • by bunions (970377)

        Now I think we can all agree that listening to an artists music on the radio would not be immoral, but what about if we record that show (commercials and all)? How about if we lend that recording to a friend? How about if we sell the recording at the cost to produce it? How about if we sell it at a profit? How about if we create a computer program that eliminates the comercials so we don't have to listen to them? How about if we lend this commercial free version of the recording to our friend? How about if

        • I said "Don't take people's IP without their permission." So my answer to all of those is "if you have the authors permission to do so."

          But for which of those cases is permission even required? Is it reasonable for the answer to be "all of them?" Is it reasonable for the answer to be "none of them?" There are people who would say "yes" to the second, and people who would say "yes" to the third, so it's not as cut-and-dried an issue as you seem to think. That's what the discussion ought to be about.

    • by LordEd (840443)
      saving you 74 minutes
      74 minutes... the amount of music you can burn to a standard CD-R. I sense a conspiracy!
    • What about the other side? What about what I should allow people to do with MY ip? What about a service like Turnitin which takes the copyright of a student's paper? What about situations where musicians say, "Sure, do whatever you want with my music" but the record company says, "no, it is ours now?"

      What about the situation where, I as an academic am at least partially paid by a university to publish papers? Most academic publishers will take the copyright of my work if they publish it (despite the fac
  • Just dose the class up with Rohypnol.

    Afterwards, you can claim fact that the course you gave was, in facty, stunning, but that due to licensing constraints, the students weren't allowed to take a copy of the information away with them.
    • but Rohypnol is roofies, and is used as a daterape drug. So all the students would just be near passed out, unless you were implying that this TA have fun with the passed out students who match his/her sexual preference. . . I Think it would be more fun, and slightly less letcherous if it was ecstasy or acid, though assuming that they are indeed university/college students they'd probably have built up a chemical tolerance...
  • by CaseyB (1105) on Thursday October 26, 2006 @12:32PM (#16595288)
    Sorry, I don't have any great ideas on what to put in an intellectual property lecture.

    But would you be able to ask your professor to bring back bootleg copies of X-Men 3 and Microsoft Office for me? Thanks!
  • by Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) * <seebert42@gmail.com> on Thursday October 26, 2006 @12:39PM (#16595408) Homepage Journal
    Just role play a common shareware marketing mistake.
    • People always have their own version of ethics and right and wrong. Focus on business ethics. Plenty of cases of businesses getting caught in either grey or outright black areas of software license infringement. Explain that suing individuals for "scare factor" and deterence is only part of what is being discussed. Explain the liability of the average small company and how software piracy can be a detriment to their profitability and the bottom line.

      • People always have their own version of ethics and right and wrong. Focus on business ethics. Plenty of cases of businesses getting caught in either grey or outright black areas of software license infringement. Explain that suing individuals for "scare factor" and deterence is only part of what is being discussed. Explain the liability of the average small company and how software piracy can be a detriment to their profitability and the bottom line.

        Are you a BSA drone or something? Copyright law only ma
        • by Dareth (47614)
          I am trying to remind people that business make jucier targets than individuals. They generally have more money and are easier to extort than individuals. I am also trying to encourage legal use of software, both paid for and OSS.

  • Music (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Andy_R (114137) on Thursday October 26, 2006 @12:41PM (#16595452) Homepage Journal
    Students love music, and it's a hotbed of IP issues, with sampling (play excerpts of a few rap tracks and the songs they sample from at the start of the lecture for dramatic effect), the split between copyright of the song and the recording of the song, moral objections to the RIAA's music copyright cartel, atrists rights, copyright extension, airplay fees vs payola, rights to make cover versions and parodies, the right not to have derogatory cover versions, the 'happy birthday' copyright fiasco, the way Tony Blair just accepted a free holiday on Cliff Richard's private tropical Island just before the music business is going to push for a Disney-style copyright extension over here to keep Cliff's early work in copyright... I could go on... for at least 75 minutes!
    • Re:Music (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Andy_R (114137) on Thursday October 26, 2006 @12:53PM (#16595726) Homepage Journal
      Replying to my own post with suggested examples...

      Play the class a few bars of "Pretty fly for a white guy" by Offspring - specifically the part that includes the words "Gunter glieben glauchen globen".

      Ask the class if you owe Offspring money because you used their work? Lead into 'fair use' exemptions.

      Play Def Leppard's song "Rock of Ages" - specifically the part that offspring sampled the words "Gunter glieben glauchen globen" from. Ask the class if Offspring owe Def Leppard money? Lead into the way both artists signed their copyrights away.

      Play "Weird Al" Yankovic's "Pretty Fly for a Rabbi". Ask the class if he owes Offspring money, and if Offspring should have the right to say "no don't mess with our song".
      • I certainly don't know this music (*sigh* getting old) but wikipedia seems to think the "gunter glieben glauchen globen" ownership [wikipedia.org] goes the other way:

        The line "Gunter glieben glauchen globen" at the start of "Rock Of Ages" came about when Lange uttered the phrase after getting bored of saying "one, two, three, four" in the studio. The band thought it to be so amusing that it ended up on intro of the final recording. The phrase is not proper German and actually doesn't mean anything. The line was later

  • Take a look at www.groklaw.net for the current issues of the day. There is lots of discussion over the corporate slime-balls who are unethical, even if their actions are not provably illegal(yet). Take a good look at the page for Microsoft [groklaw.net] and discuss the methods employed for dealing with their competition.
  • The most common and fundamental disagreement I hear with regard to intellectual property ethics is a disagreement about why people have intellectual property rights and to what degree they should have them. Most educated individuals understand in abstract terms that intellectual property rights are artificial rights, granted in an effort to engineer a greater common good by restricting the rights of "consumers" for the profit of "creators." A fair number, however, do nto yet grasp this concept and most do n

  • first, it would be good to see what they think about intellectual property. What do they think it is?
    I would teach the class based on the current topics: file sharing, copyright extension (make sure that they understand the differences between copyright and trademark) public domain, gpl's philosphy. But also bring up issues such as Turnitin.com which has been discussed here (i'm too lazy to look it up) and the fact that this is a business founded on taking student's intellectual property. I wouldn't be a
  • If you really want to get their attention, make sure you run down all of the stuff Fair Use and Copyright allows you to do. The chances are good that at least some of the kids will be hit with a Cease and Desist for doing something that is actually legal at some point in their lives. If they know the law they can be in much better shape than they would be otherwise. Sampling of music for instance is a good topic area to cover, as is parody, and educational use. Make sure you stress the importance of the
  • Discuss Section 8 (Score:4, Insightful)

    by linuxwrangler (582055) on Thursday October 26, 2006 @01:05PM (#16595934)
    In the United States the, Congress has the authority to create patents and copyrights under Section 8 of the Constitution:

    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;

    (emphasis mine)


    Allowing one to profit from his effort is certainly a method of promoting progress. But absurdly long copyright or patent terms promote coasting, not progress - a fact that our legislators seem to have ignored.
  • Teach them about copyright, patents, trademarks, and service marks. Teach the intended purpose and the modern day usage. Intellectual property implies this silly notion that someone can own an idea like property, it is not property but an artificial monopoly enforced by laws.

    Please... someone teach them. They are not the same thing and they are *NOT* about how to make sure you paid or that you have some right to get paid. It is about giving people protections by law to encourage innovation in a world where
  • by Doug Dante (22218) on Thursday October 26, 2006 @01:16PM (#16596206)
    Item 1: Fair Use - When is it OK to hack a DVD?
    -------------------

    If I wanted to do a report on the cultural influence of Star Wars, would it be OK to download from the Internet a screen capture of the Death Star to compare to the AT&T logo, also downloaded?

    Would it be OK to break the encryption on a DVD to get a picture of the Death Star to compare to the AT&T logo?

    What about the sounds that Jar Jar Binks makes versus an historical African American portrayal such as Gone with the Wind? Can I get those?

    What about a video of his walk when compared to the same figures walking or dancing? Can I get those?

    Does the law allow this? (DMCA - probably not)

    Item 2: What about copyright terms in different countries?
    --------------------

    IIRC Australia has a 50 year limit on copyright. Is it OK for an Australian to post for free scans of 51 year old books on the Internet?

    What about 51 year old movies? 51 year old songs?

    Is it OK to listen to those songs in the USA or Canada?

    Should the ISP block that access?

    Who gets to decide what's on that block list?

    Item 3: Sharing - Where do we draw the line?
    ---------------------

    Is it OK to make a mix CD or mix tape for a friend?

    Is it OK to rip a CD to make MP3s on my computer?

    How many copies of those MP3s can I make for personal use?

    Is it OK to keep the MP3s if my original CDs are destroyed in a fire?

    Is it OK to make a mix CD with some of my friend's MP3 songs and some of mine?

    Is it OK for both of us to back up that CD as MP3s?

    Is it OK to mix my entire MP3 collection with my friend's entire MP3 collection?

    Is it OK to do that with everyone I meet on the Internet?

    Is it OK to do each of these things with movies?

    • This is an excellent list of questions, and I think it would serve well after a 5 or 10 minute introduction to the topic. In fact, these questions would do well even in the early parts of a course in IP. Having taken pretty much every IP course that my law school offers, there are a few questions on here to which I could not give a definite answer (and I'm not sure that I should try), but I would enjoy discussing nonetheless in either an academic or practical scenario. In other words, the questions are a
    • by Profound (50789)
      >> IIRC Australia has a 50 year limit on copyright.

      Had. Before we welcomed our new American overlords with the free trade agreement in 2005.
  • The negative side effects of intellectual property for society would bring a lot of good debate.

    And artificial scarcity of digital goods intellectual property owners attempt to combat. When really once a company achieves a safe profit threshold on a product any piracy does not really do "hurt" them economically at all for digital goods. I think artificial scarcity is one of the biggest issues that really needs to be discussed, and the whole supply/demand economic reasoning of capitalism goes out the wind
    • by krell (896769)
      "1. Is profiting too much from intellectual property theft? 2. Is profit in certain context's of intellectual property a form of theft?"

      One dictionary and 30 seconds at the very beginning of the class will put this question to bed very quickly.
    • When really once a company achieves a safe profit threshold on a product any piracy does not really do "hurt" them economically at all for digital goods.

      Sounds like someone drank the karl marx koolaid. The basis of IP rights is not whether you've profitted sufficiently (which is impossible to measure anyway), but the advancement of the arts. By setting a bar based on how commercially successful a product is, you punish the successful and deny them the funds to do their next big thing.

      Lastly, lot's of g

      • "Based on what? This doesn't advance the state of the art or enrich the public domain, nor was it in the contract."

        There is NO contract. When something is bought, people barely understand anything beyond knowing that money gets exchanged for a good. Not to mention we're talking about intellectual works here who's supply is infinite.

        "So what if you paid for the product? If you want to do derivative works, you should first negotiate with the copyright holder. Nobody owes you anything if you do a lot of work
        • There is NO contract. When something is bought, people barely understand anything beyond knowing that money gets exchanged for a good.

          That's a contract - goods for money.

          Not to mention we're talking about intellectual works here who's supply is infinite.

          Irrelevant.

          The success of any product or business depends on those other people existing in the first place, you act like these people operate or produce in a vacuum, they do not.

          That's how it is for everything. You haven't said anything that hasn

          • "That's a contract - goods for money."

            Of course people who make/own IP/software and write EULA's for such software would disagree with you that the above is the 'true' substance of "the contract" or "agreement" they have between their customer and themselves when they make the purchase.

            "Irrelevant."

            Infinite supply and negligable reproduction costs is certainly not irrelevant. It enables new aspects of economic distribution impossible under traditional scarcity based models. Do you think current economic t
            • Of course people who make/own IP/software and write EULA's for such software would disagree with you that the above is the 'true' substance of "the contract" or "agreement" they have between their customer and themselves when they make the purchase.

              who cares? The Supreme Court has given weight to the notion that you can trat shrinkwrap software similarly to buying a CD.

              Infinite supply and negligable reproduction costs is certainly not irrelevant. It enables new aspects of economic distribution impossib

      • "Sounds like someone drank the karl marx koolaid. The basis of IP rights is not whether you've profitted sufficiently (which is impossible to measure anyway)."

        This shows me your ignorance. No it is in fact a damn important question whether someone has profited sufficiently considering the economics, of both scarce and non-scarce goods whose supply is not limited and the social effects of of what happens in markets. I'm not saying that people who produce IP should be punished or we should live in communist
  • If you want a heated discussion, get into the prevailing argument that if you invent something related to your employers line of business completely on your own time it still belongs to your employer. Combine that with many employers that have intellectual property clauses as part of the employement contract under which they expect you to assign to them all rights to inventions made on your personal time even if it is not related to your business. And, the topper for that is that sometimes you won't be aske
    • Their arguments typically revolve around you not having sufficient knowledge of the problem space if not for your employment, therefore the work belongs to them. It's your basic fruit-from-the-poison-tree argument

      Of course, there's a presumption that knowledge of the field in general is not specific to a single employer, so it isn't really valid to say that. Put another way, if that argument was allowed, then the employer could prevent you from seeking employment based on experience with them, since you

    • This is something, though, which should be negotiated in employment contracts. This is talking out my ass here, but I don't believe that there're any states in the US (your nation may vary, void where prohibited, see law for details) that implicitly consider off-clock/off-site work as "work for hire". This is less a matter of copyright as an issue of you freely signing away your rights in an employment contract.
  • I'm in a college CS ethics class right now, and the day we talked about IP was one of the most interesting days we had. The teacher barely had to say anything, and the class took the discussion from there. I think that most CS students tend to care/know a lot about IP. If you have any slashdot readers in your class, then you're also in pretty good shape because they will probably bring up some good examples.

    On the other hand, if you are just planning lecturing about the law and what defines IP for 75
  • Invite Lessig to speak for the day. Or at least read up on some of the issues he commonly raises.

    Spend fifteen minutes describing the cultural myths and legends and parables which existed in many cultures, and how Disney cherry-picked them to build its corporate empire. As soon as Disney made it big, they continually bought legislation to make it impossible for other people to build off this generation's cultural bedrock in the same way. (Not to sound too biased, heh.) Then open up the discussion the

  • This is just an idea, but I think that it might really help students to get the idea of some of the problems with IP laws anyway.
    First come up with a simple task, something that has one or two fairly obvious solutions- maybe use some of those logic questions that were really popular in IT interviews a while back, like how to tell which of three lightbulbs goes with which of three light switches from another room when you can only look once, etc.
    Next, break the students up into teams. Give each team the p
  • Hire Ben Stein to deliver the lecture. Bueller? Bueller?

    How about Copyright Sock Puppet Theater? Really they should be teaching IP law fundamentals from an early age. If enough of those kids see something wrong with it, they might actually change it at some point in the future...

  • I haven't seen this discussed yet, but consider the downstream impact of patents: New development discovery A is begins where old development discovery B left off. Old discovery B is patented.

    Does the patent holder on discovery B effectively have a license (monopoly profit) on any developments which use B as a stepping stone? Should they (Such rights arguably increase the economic incentive to research and generate patents the same way that an Amway distribution chain creates an economic incentive to be hig
  • Personally, I'd start off by making the students aware that this whole concept of intellectual "property", is a marketing gimmick that attempts to apply a fictitious "value" to something that doesn't physically exist. While people should be credited for their ideas, they shouldn't have the ability to claim "ownership" over them once they share them with others.

    Just as the perception of reality is relative to the observer, so are ideas. Eventually a shared idea will be improved upon, time and time again each
  • There seems to be 2 choices to stop the 'copyright infringement '. We 'adapt to the new business model' (or something), or we find a way to stop it.
    So is 'finding a way to stop it' a valid option? Does education work? Is there a way to enforce the law that does not require giving total control of the internet to some organization, to decide what information you can and cannot access at the moment the request is made?
  • I'm planning to teach writing at the college level once I've finished my career change, and I have no doubt I'll be facing a similar challenge as you are. So, let's see - how would I approach this?

    Well, I recall Stephen King once saying that the key to creating terror is to take the ordinary and turn it into something extraordinary. Perhaps this would work with teaching intellectual rights and their issues.

    I guess if I was doing it, I'd start with a CD, a DVD, or a book - something that everybody knows an
  • One thing you might want to talk about is intellectual property and international relations/development. China has been able to do well for itself because it hasn't cracked down on piracy. That is important because without modern computer software, how could China have caught up with the world? Smaller countries don't have that option -- they will be dealt with much more harshly if they don't respect foreign intellectual property. Trade deals, etc, won't be as favorable.

    It isn't just software, it is genetic
  • One of the most interesting points might be how DRM is fundamentally incompatible with free software - if you, the user, are free to view your software's source code and modify it, you are inherently able to disable or otherwise modify the DRM. Then again, this may be a bit much for anyone who isn't already familiar with the concept of software that gives the user the freedoms that geeks always wanted to encourage.

    I mean, on the one hand I can see how some people - and especially corporations - want to st


  • Tell the class about the times when the hunters/gatherers would sit around the fire and swap stories songs and music for free.

    Speaking of which, I believe many aboriginal societies still do so.

  • All your students use LimeWire. They should be interested in why RIAA is suing them, how LimeWire is trying to defend itself, and, for the grand climax of the lecture, how the software will live on even if LimeWire loses.
  • Amaze them by finding / discussing
    why a company -might- be pursuaded
    to share a good idea w/competitors
    without seeking license fees from
    them...

    Swedes are / were / have or had ex-
    amples among them, who are or were
    real Mensch[en].

    Wallenberg & Volvo's decisionmakers
    stand among them, as would Alfred
    Nobel, despite his explosive inven-
    tion(s).
  • What topics, examples and questions do you think would stimulate a heated discussion on intellectual property rights which would display the complexities of both sides of the issue?

    One example: Andreas Pavel - 'father' of the portable personal stereo cassette player [wikipedia.org].

  • We all know that it hasn't to be at all intelectual (look at rap music), nor it is property, it is mererly time limited monopolies granted by goverment. You can't own text, you own rights setting rules for copying and distribution of it.

    I know that this term is specially crafted and created to push law makers into thinking that it must be property, but let's not give up yet.

How many hardware guys does it take to change a light bulb? "Well the diagnostics say it's fine buddy, so it's a software problem."

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