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"Intellectual Property" Law

AltF4

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Introduction:

Greetings Internet,

Let me first begin by introducing myself and giving you some background on the history of Technology, Law, and Policy. I am AltF4, but my friends call me Alt. I am a hacker. It is people like me who made the Internet: Technically skilled engineers with a playful spirit of curiosity. We built this place and have the ability to remake it how we wish. It is how we make our living, It is how we live. We continually improve upon our home and we protect it from harm.

The purpose of this essay, if you can call it that, is to tell you that our home is in danger. That it is under attack, and that this conflict has spread in our connected Information Age such that the results will have implications to every aspect of our Free Society.

We, the architects of the Internet, are primarily to blame for not foreseeing this problem. You must understand that the early pioneers had a deep disdain for ordinary politics. It was in their spirit as Engineers that we would build a better place where problems would be solved by good ideas, by working implementations, and by consensus. They saw greed and coercion in the physical world and sought to make a new society in cyberspace.

I can think of no better expression of this sentiment better than the famous "A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace" by John Perry Barlow, founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Please read it in full form here: https://homes.eff.org/~barlow/Declaration-Final.html

A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace said:
Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather.

We have no elected government, nor are we likely to have one, so I address you with no greater authority than that with which liberty itself always speaks. I declare the global social space we are building to be naturally independent of the tyrannies you seek to impose on us. You have no moral right to rule us nor do you possess any methods of enforcement we have true reason to fear.
...
We are creating a world that all may enter without privilege or prejudice accorded by race, economic power, military force, or station of birth.

We are creating a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or her beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity.

Your legal concepts of property, expression, identity, movement, and context do not apply to us. They are all based on matter, and there is no matter here.
...
We will create a civilization of the Mind in Cyberspace. May it be more humane and fair than the world your governments have made before.
This revolution has taken place, but it was folly to think that it would be without conflict. The "weary giants of flesh and steel" have not recognized our independence. Moreover, these giants are not who we thought they would be. We also acknowledge that it was naive to think that this independence could be won by engineering alone. The fight for a Free and Open Internet wages on many fronts today and I hope to recruit you in it.

Establishing and passing along a Free and Open Internet may be the most significant thing our generation does for our descendants. I do not want to have to explain to my grandchildren that when we had the opportunity to give every human being access to the sum of all human knowledge, to allow all of humanity to participate in one great culture, to empower their selves to overthrow the their old world bonds of tyranny, that we allowed the few and greedy to prevent it.

Where Technology Meets Law:

Where the law meets technology has always been an interesting place to be. By its very nature, technology moves very quickly. In contrast, the law moves remarkably slowly. Creating a system of law such that it can effectively govern issues of high technology is a task in governing that which has not yet been invented. One should expect, therefore, that such laws will have a relatively short shelf life. I would like to talk to you about several such laws and how they have exceeded their welcome, how they are no longer effective, how they no longer apply, and how they are damaging to a Free and Open Internet.

Before delving into these topics in detail, however, I want to spend some time on the notion of "Intellectual Property". You will see, today, many people using this term. You may hear of a team of "Intellectual Property Lawyers", or in congressional bills such as the "PROTECT IP Act". In fact, this term has become so pervasive in some circles that some politicians have even been confused to think "IP Address" (Internet Protocol Address) stands for "Intellectual Property Address" [REFERENCE: http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/...address-is-intellectual-property-address.ars]

I must dispel this myth for you, as this distinction is essential to everything that . There is no law which allows a person to "own an idea". This is both impossible from a practical sense, and in a legal sense. A piece of intellect cannot be a person or entity's property. Thus the term "Intellectual Property" is nothing more than a poor lie to try and extend powers to the holders of copyrights and patents where this power does not exist.

Property and ownership are concepts which simply are inapplicable to information. A system of rules, of laws, should be in place But this system is not one of ownership.

Ownership requires control. Indeed, ownership is defined by control. For example, I “own” a pen that happens to be next to me right now. I control this pen, it is in my grasp. Other people are not physically capable of using this pen without my permission. It transfers ink onto paper at my whim, and only my whim. I own this pen. It would be wrong of someone to steal this pen from me, because it would deprive my of my ability to make use of the pen.

But contrast this, now, with “owning” a star. There are, in fact, organizations that let you “purchase” a star! And they are mostly laughed at, because one cannot in any way control a star. You cannot prevent others from viewing it, you cannot prevent comets from ramming into it, you cannot prevent black holes from sucking it up. You have just as much claim to “ownership” over any particular star than a goldfish does. The fact that you got scammed into paying $40 for a certificate which says otherwise is irrelevant. In what sense can someone “steal” your star from you? The word is meaningless in this context.

The same is true for ideas. Information cannot be owned, because it cannot be controlled. “Information wants to be Free” is a recurring theme and rallying cry you will hear from proponents of digital civil liberties. It is a phrase to remind you that information cannot be owned, that it cannot be controlled. If information cannot be owned, it can also not be stolen. It can only be copied, which is inherent to the very nature of information. As Cory Doctorow says:

Cory Doctorow said:
Making bits harder to copy is like making water that's less wet.
Being easily copied is inherent to the nature of information in the Internet age. If one wishes to make a sane system of law concerning the Internet, it has to accept this fact.

Copyright Law: Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States (title 17, U. S. Code) to the authors of “original works of authorship,” including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works. This protection is available to both published and unpublished works. Section 106 of the 1976 Copyright Act generally gives the owner of copyright the exclusive right to do and to authorize others to do the following:

• To reproduce the work in copies or phonorecords;
• To prepare derivative works based upon the work;
• To distribute copies or phonorecords of the work to the public by sale or
other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;
• To perform the work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and
choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audiovisual
works;
• To display the work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and
choreographic works, pantomimes, and pictorial, graphic, or sculptural
works, including the individual images of a motion picture or other audiovisual
work; and
• In the case of sound recordings,* to perform the work publicly by means of
a digital audio transmission.

In addition, certain authors of works of visual art have the rights of attribution
and integrity as described in section 106A of the 1976 Copyright Act. [2]

The stated purpose of Copyright (and Patent Law) as described by the US Constitution is:

US Constitution said:
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.
Thus the explicitly stated purpose of copyright law is NOT to ensure that all creators of literary works are compensated monetarily, but rather to promote science and useful arts. This phrasing was not on accident: "To Promote Progress". Copyright is not a "natural right". It is a privilege, a private monopoly, extended to authors and inventors as a "necessary evil" in order to promote progress.

One point does need to be made perfectly clear. Though the Internet as a whole is one of the most beneficial and significant creations humans have accomplished in ages, that does not necessarily mean that everyone benefits from it equally. New technology is often disruptive to the established and powerful, and as the Internet is a democratizing tool it is no exception. There will be some set of people who make a living today on the basis of copyright who are being disrupted by the Internet. It may be the case that their current methods of business are not sustainable tomorrow.

This is simply how technology works. It is a healthy and normal process that happens with any good new technology. We should not set up a system of laws which bans progress and entrenches the successful today as the successful tomorrow.


What is wrong with Copyright Law:

There are of course many things wrong with copyright law as it is currently implemented. Each of these are enumerated in detail below.

*1) Copyrights of Infinite Duration. It is written into the US Constitution itself that copyrights MUST be of finite duration. That is, after all, the entire purpose behind a copyright. We allow the holder of the copyright to have a government sponsored monopoly on their idea for a short amount of time. During this time, the author will be allowed to profit from their idea exclusively. Then the idea becomes part of the public domain, and anyone can use it.

But obviously holders of copyrights don't want them to expire! They have a government sponsored monopoly. Why would they let it expire?

Well, they're in a bit of a hard spot. That line about copyrights being of finite duration is written into the actual constitution itself. That would mean it would take a constitutional amendment to get rid of the line! So that's out of the question.

So instead, all they do is extend the duration of copyrights by 20 years... every 20 years.

Look at the time time of copyright duration in the US. It's absurd. Authors do not require 95 years to profit from an idea!

Take a look at the latest copyright extension act: The Mickey Mouse Protection Act., and you'll see exactly what's going on. Big corporations like Disney were about to lose their copyrights on characters created eons ago, and thus about to lose money. So they paid off Washington to allow them to keep it.

What do you think they're going to do in 2018? Sit and watch the copyright expire? No sir! They'll extend it yet again, infinitely.


2) The Evils of Digital Restrictions Management (DRM). It is a natural externality of the fact that many software and entertainment companies attempt to sell you packaged up bits (as if it were a manufactured good like a can of corn) that they must also control your computer in ways that you do not wish. It is their business model to sell you bits of information, and then ensure that those bits can only be obtained through them.

It should strike you as obviously and intuitively apparent that this is impossible. If you tell me a secret, you will forever run the risk of me disclosing that secret to others. It is in the very nature of secrets to spread. It would take an extraordinary amount of force and coercion to prevent the knower of a secret from disclosing it. You would have to watch them at all times and physically restrain them from disclosing it if they attempt to.

And this is exactly what DRM is, but in the world of software. DRM is a computer program which runs on your machine, spies on you, and actively prevents you from doing things which would normally be easy and useful to you.

If this sounds like a computer virus to you, you'd be right. In fact, from a technical perspective, DRM often uses the very same techniques that viruses do to hide from detection and removal. This is how they must work, since if it were easy to detect and remove DRM, you would do it. The most famous example of this the Sony BMG Music Rootkit whereby Sony released CDs that when entered into your computer, would infect it with a virus that can never be removed. This virus then even spread into Department of Defense computer networks, and caused quite a scandal.

The most benign cases of DRM consist of examples of "crippleware". This is when a software maker gives you a crippled piece of software that intentionally refuses to perform al of its functions. Only after paying the developer a ransom are you then permitted to use the program fully. However, even in these cases, DRM is dangerous. Since DRM must hide itself from the user, it is an especially attractive target for real viruses. Any vulnerability found in DRM software (which are frequent and common) can be leveraged to take full control of your computer by a malicious person.

But all of that might seem esoteric and far removed for you. Let's try a down-to-earth example to convince you why DRM is unconscionable: Imagine that a law were passed in your country whereby all cars will be required to have a computer chip installed in them which prevents the car from exceeding the speed limit. Speed limit signs will be equipped with radio transmitters that will tell the car chips what the speed limit is, and the car must obey. Furthermore, it is made illegal, with penalties of jail time and hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage, to remove the chip from your car. This law would be presented as a mechanism for preventing high speed chases.

Such a law would fail for a number of reasons, some technical and some obvious:

1) Your car may then become inoperable off-roads or if your car-chip breaks.
2) Malicious people can change the chips present on traffic signs. it would not be a week before someone put 15mph chips on the highway, and watched as the cars crashed into one another trying to slow down to obey the sign.
3) Criminals will simply ignore the law, remove their car chips, and speed away as normal.

So this law would:

A) Cause your car to intermittently stop working.
B) Provide an avenue for criminals to take control of your car remotely and En Masse.
C) Completely fail at it's stated goal of preventing high speed chases.

This is exactly the same case that we see with computers. DRM technoliogy is deployed on your computer under the guise of preventing unauthorized copying. And if you attempt to remove this DRM, you can be sued and arrested under the DMCA. It is then abundantly clear that it:

A) Causes your computer and/or programs to intermittently stop working. So many games today must connect to an authentication server before they can be played. And when these servers go down (which they do frequently) you are locked out of your game. Think the PSN outage, or Spore, or Assassins Creed 2, or any number of recent games. DRM has caused them to simply stop working.

B) It provides an avenue for malicious people to infect your computer. The Sony BMG Rootkit case is of course the cononical example of this, but there many many others. Example Example

C) DRM has completely failed at its stated goal of preventing unauthorized copying. It's trivial for anyone who wishes to obtain a cracked DRM free copy of essentially any program online through websites such as The Pirate Bay.

But that's not all. You see, unscrupulous companies have taken advantage of the law to not just prevent unauthorized copying, but indeed legally prevent you from doing things which would normally be perfectly free and legal. Let's look again at the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, or the DMCA:

US Law said:
No person shall circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under this title.

The Act defines what it means in Section 1201(a)(3):

(3) As used in this subsection—

(A) to “circumvent a technological measure” means to descramble a scrambled work, to decrypt an encrypted work, or otherwise to avoid, bypass, remove, deactivate, or impair a technological measure, without the authority of the copyright owner; and

(B) a technological measure “effectively controls access to a work” if the measure, in the ordinary course of its operation, requires the application of information, or a process or a treatment, with the authority of the copyright owner, to gain access to the work.
What does this mean?

It means that it's illegal to circumvent DRM even if you never make copies of copyrighted work. All the copyright holder has to do is make some pushover, easily breakable DRM scheme, and now they have total control over how the user is allowed to use their product. Complete legal control.

This effectively makes it illegal to exercise your Fair Use rights, for example. Say you want to take some clips from a DVD to make a review of it. The law says that you should be able to do this. It is considered "Fair Use". But in order to actually GET the clips, you will have to break the encryption on your DVD to play it on your computer. Thus the copyright owner can sue you for making your review under the DMCA.

Furthermore, it has been deemed illegal not only just to do the circumvention, but also to tell others how to. You can be sued for simply providing a link to a website which instructs someone else how to break DRM.

This is a clear and obvious case of prior restraint on academic freedom. I can speak from first hand experience that it can be a legally dangerous thing to be a security researcher in the area of Network Security and Cryptography. If you point to a Microsoft product and notice a vulnerability which can be used to exploit it, there's a good chance that Microsoft will sue you. (Contrast this with Google, the Internet's White Knight, who will in fact pay you a cash prize for finding vulnerabilities.)

If you happen to be a cryptographer with a well respected university, if you develop research which can be used to defeat DRM schemes, expect to be imprisoned and sued. This happened notably in the case of Dimitry Skylarov. He was a PhD engineering student in Russia who came to the United States to speak at a technical conference about his research in cryptography. Notably, it showed how the encryption used on DVDs was flawed and could be reversed. Before the conference, he was arrested by US agents, held, and eventually released back to Russia after political pressure and exchange of testimony.

This just one example of how Copyright law damages our fundamental rights and the workings of the Internet.

Whatever you do. Do not support DRM, nor the companies that produce it. Protect your rights. Visit the defective by design link at the bottom of this post for more information.



3) The Myth of Originality. One of the most common arguments you will see (in court) in regards to copyright law is an appeal to "originality". That holders of copyrights have something that they invented all of their own, that it is original, unique, and special. Therefore they deserve "protection" of this idea.

This is of course absurd. And not at all representative of the actual creative process. Creativity is derivative. Everything anyone does is not completely original, but rather builds upon the works of others. Sometimes these works are downplayed and called "influences" so as to not seem like they are merely "copying" them. But this is of course the case.

Just look at the Disney Corporation. Disney is one of the largest Copyright abusers around. They guard their copyrights with such an iron grip that they sue anyone for even hinting at using what they consider "theirs". They even went so far as to bribe congress and the supreme court of the United States into extending copyright law just so they wouldn't lose Mickey Mouse. (See: Copyright of Infinite Duration)

But where did they get all of these copyrights? Are they "original", and special? Of course not! Look at just about every Disney work there is. Pocahontas, Hercules, Snow White, etc... Almost all of Disney's works are derivatives of either historical events or The Brothers Grimm.

The Lord of the Rings is a rip off of Richard Wagner's "Ring Cycle". The list goes on and on.

But you see, my point is not to smear artists and claim they are just ripping each other off. My point is to clarify that this IS the creative process. Creativity is taking that which existed before you and improving it, making it your own. Walt Disney was so successful because he added something to those tales he borrowed. Something uniquely his.

But what about today? Today the table has turned. Now the older generation does not want to share. They do not want to allow others to create derivative works based on their ideas. Copyright law specifically prevents the use of copyrighted work for derivative works!

They are destroying the creative process.

Do not allow this. You must fight for the right to allow derivative works. This is not "copying" this is not "stealing". This is simply being an artist.

4) The Economics Scarcity The Incredible Copy Machine: A Hypothetical Situation concerning Scarcity

At the very heart of copyright is an implicit assumption: That information is scarce. Copyright assumes that bits can be packages up and sold in units. The industries that manufacture these things even refer to themselves as "Content Industries". Use of the word "Content" implies a container. Containers that no longer exist. The birth of the Internet and technologies like BitTorrent have eliminated any need for containers like records, tapes, CD's, DVD's, or BluRays. These "Content Industries" would have you believe this is a bad thing, but it is niot. Here I will use a hypothetical situation to illustrate a point. I will say the point succinctly here, and then elaborate on why it is true:

The reduction of scarcity in a good is never a bad thing. To the contrary, it is always a positive thing.

Let's examine this not in terms of information, for a moment, but rather speak of physical objects...

Physical objects are scarce. Part of what makes our entire economy function is that fact that physical objects are scarce. Car manufacturers make and sell cars. They are able to charge a lot of money for cars because they are scarce. You cannot find unused, perfectly functioning cars lying around on the side of the road. Hence, you must go to a car dealer to buy a car.

But now let's imagine a new invention: "The Incredible Copy Machine!". It is a wonder of modern science. All you do is point it at something, and it makes you a perfect copy of it. 100% perfect, in every way indistinguishable from the original. (Let's ignore problems about conservation of mass and energy :))

What this copy machine has done is removed the scarcity from physical objects such as cars! Anyone can have a car now! And not just any car, but the best car they can find to copy. What would be the reaction this invention would receive?

We could then imagine the car manufacturers revolting! "These copy machines are putting us out of business! They are stealing our cars, and not paying us anything! We must make laws to ban these copying machines!"And they are right in one respect: It would in fact put them out of business.

What good is being a manufacturer of cars in a world with a car-copying device? It would be like being an air-manufacturer. Where you take the raw elements of air and manufacture air yourself, and then try to sell it to people. Nobody would buy your manufactured air, because it is not a scarce good.

You would have to be crazy to be a manufacturer of air, and you would have to be crazy to be a manufacturer of cars in world with car copiers.

So should the copying machines be made illegal, so that car manufacturers can keep their jobs? NO. What the copy machines have done is made the car manufacturers obsolete. They are no longer needed. They have been replaced. And while this might be sad to a car manufacturer, it is a very good thing to everyone else.

What happened to manufacturers of slide rules when the calculator came out? They got put out of business. Should we have banned calculators just so that the slide rule manufacturers could keep their jobs? No.

When a group of people become obsolete, it is because something better has come along to replace them. We should not impede this growth. Indeed, it would be a step backward to do so.


So let's go back to our real-world again. We do have a copy machine! It copies information, and it is called your computer. People have died over access to scarce information. Books used to be incredibly valuable objects, as they possessed information, and books were scarce. It used to be not uncommon for books to be physically chained inside the buildings of wealthy inhabitants, as the information inside the books could be used as tools of enlightenment and ultimate freedom for the serfs. But this is no longer true. Information needs not be scarce. We can make perfect copies of information freely.

And then, the manufacturers of this information (Book publishers, the RIAA, the MPAA) cry out "These copy machines are putting us out of business! They are stealing our information, and not paying us anything! We must make laws to ban these copying machines!"

Should we? Of course not. But that is exactly what is happening today.

You would have to be crazy to be a manufacturer of air. And you would have to be crazy to be a manufacturer of information today.

Instead, don't be a manufacturer who sells information like it were a physical object that were scarce. Information is not scarce. You have to fundamentally change the way you do business. (In ways that have been outlined in this post too numerous to mention individually again here.)


5) Piracy / File Sharing
I am a Pirate, and so are many of you reading this. The following discussion will describe in detail exactly what that means, what the history of Piracy is, why I am proud to be a Pirate, and what needs to be done.

History

Every story has a beginning. The story of Piracy does not begin with Napster, and it does not end with the Pirate Bay. In order to fully understand the arguments that will follow (and the arguments of my opponents), you must see in in the light of proper context. These stories will help you understand exactly what it means to be a Pirate.

Throughout the following stories, I want you to recognize and pay attention to the following patterns:
  1. An established group has a working model for business
  2. Disruptive Invention and Innovation Occurs
  3. The establishment resists the innovation
  4. The establishment either adapts to the innovation and profits, or does not adapt and is replaced


One: The Phonograph

At the birth of the 20th Century, one of the biggest forms of entertainment in America was Vaudeville. It was an interesting mix of song, dance, animal acts, etc... You might consider it a cross between a concert and a circus.

Vaudeville had a very workable business model. They charged admission. Obviously, in order to enjoy a Vaudeville show, one must be sitting in the stands! And for a very long time this system worked. Many very popular, very creative, and very influential acts came out of Vaudeville.

The a man by the name of Thomas Edison came about and invented a little machine called the Phonograph. It was a machine that allowed the operator to record sound and then later play it back again.

The establishment was now shaken to its core. If you recall, the Vaudeville model revolves around being able to charge admission. With the invention of the Phonograph, people could listen to entertainment in their own homes and never pay the Vaudeville entertainers a dime! Naturally, the entertainment industry fought back against this new disruptive technology and cried out saying that these phonographs would destroy creativity.

One man, John Phillip Souza even made this testimony to Congress in 1906:

John Phillip Souza said:
These talking machines are going to ruin the artistic development of music in this country. When I was a boy...in front of every house in the summer evenings, you would find young people together singing the songs of the day or old songs. Today you hear these infernal machines going night and day. We will not have a vocal cord left. The vocal cord will be eliminated by a process of evolution, as was the tail of man when he came from the ape.
This is an important quote, and we will return to it again later.


Of course the phonograph did not kill creativity, but rather gave birth the the Record Industry. Of course what else should we expect? That Vaudeville remain the predominant form of entertainment for the rest of human history? Of course not, at some point it must come to and end. And so it did.

Two: Hollywood

This story doesn't fit exactly in with the rest in terms of theme, but it's worth telling.

Thomas Edison later went on to creating lots of other important inventions than the phonograph. One of the other things that he did was make patents of lots of new innovative ways to record video. Technically he didn't invent it himself, but it was manufactured in his factories, and marketed in his name: The Vitascope. This was technology that allowed the user to make a movie. They could record video, and then later play sound on top of it.

But one thing that Edison did was keep a very close eye on his patents. Nobody was allowed to use Thomas Edison's patents without his expressed consent, and after giving him a hefty sum of money.

So a group of film Pirates did not like this and thought that they could do much better with Edison's technology but couldn't afford to pay him. So instead they fled to the west coast of the United States and began to make movies illegally using Edison's patents. But America was a very big place in the early 1900's and Edison didn't have much of a way to enforce his legal rights.

These film Pirates went on to settle an entire city based on ripping off Edison's patents and others' ideas to make a profit out of it. The city was named Hollywood. The leader of the film Pirates was named William Fox, who would later found the Fox Film Corporation. (And later, 20th Century Fox)


Three: Pirate Radio

It is now the mid to mid-late 1900's. The established entertainment industry is the Record Industry. They have a workable business model selling plastic disks called Records. They record music and other forms of entertainment onto these disks, an then they sell them out to others.

But then a new technology came along: Radio. Now, technically radio communication was not invented in the mid 1900's, but that's when it became largely commercially viable. Before that time, radios were enormous bulky things that a normal consumer couldn't possibly afford.

At this time, radio stations started popping up. They took music from the record industry and played it over the airwaves.

The Record Industry thought this was just terrible, and that it must be stopped! They called these radio stations "Pirates". And in fact, the term "Pirate Radio" still exists today.

After all, they were "stealing" music created by the Record Industry, playing it over the airwaves, making a profit, and not giving a dime back to the Record Industry. Naturally this disruptive new innovation must be stopped!

But it was not to be that way. Legally speaking, the record industry had every right to shut down these Pirate Radio Stations. But common sense prevailed. A world in which there are radio stations is far preferable to a world in which there is not. The law was amended to allow these stations to exist, and a whole new form of entertainment arose from it.


Four: Cable Television

Music was not the only thing that wound up getting broadcast over the airwaves, but video too. The television was a very popular form of entertainment and of course is still today. But there was a time when in order to watch TV, you had to tune it into a radio signal being broadcast. An entire industry was built around this.

Then a new technology came about: Cable Television. This story is remarkably similar to that of radio stations. People began getting their TV signals not over airwaves, but rather through a wire to their house.

The operators of Cable Television would literally take the signals from radio TV and put it out over the wire (and add their own content, too).

The entertainment industry was furious! Again called these stations "Pirates", and again the term "Pirate Television" remains. The current industry tried desperately to shut down these clearly illegal operators.

But it was not to be. The law was again amended to allow cable television operators to exist. Because a world where cable TV exists is preferable to one where it does not. Even if it means the loss of profits by the establishment. As we all know, cable TV would wind up replacing radio broadcast TV


Five: The VCR

It is now (appropriately) the year 1984, and video entertainment was a boom. The majority of households owned a television and the entertainment industry profited greatly by being able to serve content to these boxes.

But then a new invention came around. Sony Corporation had just spent a lot of money developing the Betamax. For those of not alive in 1984 (I wasn't!) the Betamax was the first form of the VHS tape. It's essentially the same thing, but VHS would later take over, and then be subsequently replaced by DVDs.

What the VCR allowed someone to do was to record video off of a television and later watch it at their own discretion whenever they wanted. Why, this was heresy to the entertainment industry! Someone is trying to sell a device whose sole purpose is to make copies of copyrighted content?!

The then Chairman of the MPAA, Jack Valenti (The Motion Picture Association of America) even made this statement to congress in 1982:

Jack Valenti said:
I say to you that the VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to the woman home alone.
And this went to court in the very famous "Sony Betamax" supreme court decision. Universal Studios and Walt Disney Corporation sued the Sony Corporation for selling the Betamax.

But yet again, common sense prevailed. Not only did the VCR not destroy the American film industry, but it sparked an entirely new industry. Billions of dollars were later made by buying and selling VHS tapes. Creativity flourished, and the "rights" of the copyright holders were correctly and justly ignored.


Six: The United States of America

I saved the best for last. Chronologically, this should go first. But it's most important.

The United States of America was founded as a Pirate nation. During the Industrial revolution, America was able to maintain its progress as much as it did by completely and blatantly ignoring the copyrights and patents of other countries. It was official US policy just to take and "rip off" any patents being used in Europe at the time. That way America could freely industrialize.

This, of course, upset Europe very much. Britain tried in vain to prevent the US from continuing this practice, by passing legislature such as the Iron Act of 1750.

Failing to further prevent America from infringing on their patents and copyrights, European began to call Americans "Jankes", a Dutch phrase meaning "Pirate". Americans would later take this name and mispronounce it into "Yankee".

That's right, the word "Yankee" itself means "Pirate".


Today

So today history again repeats itself. A new technology has risen which completely disrupts the current establishment. This technology is BitTorrent over the Internet. It has revolutionized the way distribution is done. It is democratized, decentralized, and efficient. But the most important aspect of BitTorrent is the mechanics of distribution.

BitTorrent is unique in the respect that it reverses the dynamics of scarcity. Typically, the more demand there is for something, the harder it is to get. Even pure information can be scarce in this respect. For example, if 10 million people all tried to log into the Smashboards at once, the servers would crash. The words on this very page right now are distributed from a single source, and that source can only handle so much weight.

What Bit Torrent does is reverse this. The more demand there is for something, the easier it is to get it. Scarcity for bits has thusly been eliminated. The only reason one cannot obtain a piece of data on the Internet over BitTorrent is because it is so unpopular as to not have anyone sharing it.


But this disrupts the current entertainment industry. They cry foul and label us as "Pirates"! They say that this new Piracy is killing creativity, and that if left unchecked will destroy entertainment completely!


Opportunity and Innovation

But what they don't see is opportunity. It is true that the era of the DVD and the CD is over. What we are seeing is transition into a completely new form of business. It may very well be the case that we see a return to Vaudeville, in a way. We are seeing not just passive media, but Social Media.

You see, one of the important differences between the Vaudeville star and the recording industry star was personal interaction with the fan. In order to be successful on stage, one must be charismatic. In order to be successful on records, you need to sound very well.

Interaction and charisma is already starting to see a rebirth in music and film through places like MySpace.com. Say what you will about the musicians present there, but there is a renaissance of artists popping up through the website. They accomplish this not purely by "sounding good" but by being friends with their fans. Connecting with them through more than just the music.

We see this with artists like Radiohead, Trent Reznor (of Nine Inch Nails), and a whole host of others. What they do is accumulate fans who love them first, and their music second. I personally donate to both of those artists in the form of purchases and other means.

Just as some Vaudeville stars were not able to make the transition to records, some current artists will not be able to transition to the new form of media. This is not, however, the same thing as saying that creativity itself suffers. Not unless you think creativity also suffered from the invention of the phonograph, or the radio, or cable TV, or the VCR.


A Market Signal

One of the biggest things that Piracy is, is a market signal. Piracy is the consumers telling the industry that they need to do better. That the way they have been doing business for the last several decades is no longer sufficient.

For example, there is a clear demand for what many call "The Celestial Jukebox". This mythical device would be as small, trendy, available, and as accessible as an iPod. It would allow the owner to listen to any recorded audio work in history at the touch of a button. And it would allow the owner to donate a small sum of money at their discretion to the artist of the works they just listened to.

This device needn't be a myth, however. It is perfectly possible to make one! What is preventing the Celestial Jukebox from existing is not a problem of engineering, but rather a legal one. Copyright law simply does not allow such a thing to exist.

But a fruitful and workable economy can clearly be seen to be available from the Celestial Jukebox. Artists (especially of the type described above) will easily be able to make lots of money by accumulating fans over the device.

The problem is not that artists won't get paid, no. The problem is that the current established record industry plays no part in that future. The multi-billion dollar industry would be made almost completely obsolete by such a device. And so they fight to ensure that it never exists. Piracy is the fight to ensure that it does.


What Piracy is not

What Piracy is NOT is stealing. This claim that Piracy equates to theft is nothing more than a petty attempt to push aside everything above and simplify this entire topic to a single word.

Stealing is wrong. That much is obvious. Stealing is wrong because it deprives the original owner of something which they would have otherwise possessed. If you went onto my driveway and stole my car, that would be wrong. I would no longer have a car because of it! And that would be harmful to me.

But copying is not stealing. If you went into my driveway and made a copy of my car, I would be in no way damaged. In fact, if such a device existed that would allow copies of cars to be made, I would proudly place my car in my driveway for all to see and copy it! To deny someone something of value when it costs nothing to you is just plain rude. I think we all learned that lesson in Kindergarten, that it is a good thing to share.

Pirates are loyal paying customers. The myth of people downloading mounds of works and never paying a dime for anything is flatly false at worst, and hyperbolic at best. I personally own a huge collection of DVDs, purchased from a brick-and-mortar store. This is not a contradiction, this is the nature of Piracy. We do not want "everything for free". What we want is something better than what we have right now.


How you can get involved

The fight for Piracy has many battlefields. There are matters of law, social opinion, creativity, and technological works.

You can get involved politically by joining your local Pirate Party. Such as the United States Pirate Party, or several in Europe.

There are organizations involved with case law (as opposed to legislation) such a The Electronic Frontier Foundation and the good old ACLU that you can get involved with.

You can get involved socially by being open about who you are as a Pirate. (Such as by making convincing forum posts such as this one!) The media industry itself is the opponent here, so no mainstream media outlet will ever allow our side of the story to be told. Which is why this is all over the Internet, but nowhere on TV! People's opinions matter, and we want every one of them.

Piracy is a technological innovation. If you work in technology, it is important for you to make sure that what you do improves society. Technology is power in the information age. Concentrate your efforts on things that make us as a society more Free, as opposed to less Free.

And if you are an artist, make sure that you embrace and flourish in the information age. This can mean trivial things like interacting with fans on Facebook, it can mean doing drastic things like dropping a label and distributing your music yourself, and it can mean encouraging your fans to become literally involved with your work through remixing and hyperdistribution. Visit places like Creative Commons and let it be known that you are not like the RIAA and MPAA.

6) Case study: Dōjinshi This section is a case study of the Japanese art of Dōjinshi. For those who do not know what it is, Dōjinshi is a genre of Japanese Manga. It can best be described in English as "fan fiction". But there are some very interesting aspects to this community.

What they do is take existing Manga, and remix it. For example, someone might take a popular series and think "I didn't really like the way this ended. I'm going to make my own ending for it." And then they do.

Dōjinshi is creativity in its most pure form. The Japanese artists make no false pretenses about originality like we try to do in America. (see Originality section above) People read other works, they are influenced by them, and they improve them. This system of constant change and improvement is at the heart of creativity.

But what is so notable about Dōjinshi is that is is so wide spread! This is not some small sub-culture with only a few amateurs, no. Dōjinshi artists and fans like to attend conventions, the largest of which is Comiket. Comiket is the largest convention in Japan! It brings over a half a million people over the course of three days. Over half a million. All to share, remix, buy, sell, and improve Manga.

Even more incredible yet, is the fact that Dōjinshi itself is, according to Japanese law, illegal! Yet Japanese officials intentionally turn a blind eye to this, as it is such an ingrained part of the Japanese culture.

Now imagine trying to do this in America! If you tried selling a copy of "The Lion King" with a different ending, you'd get sued by Disney faster than a speeding bullet train.

This is clearly impeding the creative process. Copyright law must be made to include remixing and improving of others' works as part of Fair Use.


Solutions

Each of the above grievances are of course very valid and very specific. Yet they do not address the underlying problems that causes copyright to be inapplicable in today's world. This problem is embedded in the very name: Copyright.

Copyright is a set of laws that regulate the creation of copies. Now, this system used to make sense. Over one hundred years ago, copyright was targeted exactly toward one group: Book publishers. To make a copy in these times implied that one was a large and prosperous corporation with the infrastructure capable of producing copies of books. These publishers, rightly, did not want each other to publish books that was written by one of their authors. It would not be fair if Addison-Wesley took the latest Harper-Collins book and published it as their own without compensating A&W nor the author. So copyright allowed them to prevent this.

Why should we expect this same set of laws designed to regulate 18th century book publishers to adequately apply to 21st century software companies, motion pictures, recorded music, and still books? Furthermore, why do we require that each of these categories (Computer Software, Movies, Music, Books, etc...) have a single set of laws that govern them all? It's nonsense.

What I propose is a set of different laws for each of these categories that regulates commercial distribution appropriately for each set of circumstances. The spirit of the law is similar to the Creative Commons Non-Commercial Attribution license. Where commercial usage is either prevented by default or provided by way of compulsory license. (Depending on the category) In each case, duration is reduced to a number approximately around 10-20 years.

In all cases, the distribution right must be registered and must be clearly indicated on the work. Unregistered works can still be marked as protected (similar to the "registered" and "unregistered" trademark system) and afforded retroactive awards to the author in the event that they become commercially viable when it was not expected to upon creation. (One can imagine a viral YouTube video. The author may not choose to register the video as they did not intend it to be of commercial value. Nonetheless, they ought to be rewarded some compensation from those who profit from the work.)

Works that prove commercially viable after their slated duration are eligible for reregistration, whereby the duration will be extended for an additional amount of time. Perhaps another 5 years or so depending on the category of work. This ensures that any rare works that remain commercially successful after their monopoly expires (which is a small minority) are afforded extra opportunity to accrue wealth to their authors. Meanwhile, the vast majority of works will move forward to the public domain where all uses are unrestricted.


A) Audio Works / Music.

Musicians in the 21st Century are booming, and digital distribution greatly enhances the ability of musicians to reach wide stretches of audiences at almost no cost. Commercial usage of an audio work (IE: A radio station, an Internet radio station, and indeed ad-based websites including file sharing websites) are required to pay a compulsory license in the same way that radio stations already do. The amount is decided by law to be meaningful (to compensate the authors) but not restrictive (which would inhibit the ability of these sites to operate).

A non-profit organization can be established to receive and distribute the funds from these compulsory licenses. Or if it proves technically feasible (which is increasingly likely) direct transfers to artists on the basis of usage on the particular sites. (One can imaging an artist receiving a certain percentage of the license fee on the basis of how many downloads / listens they get)

Non commercial and private uses of audio works are freely permitted. This includes listening to the work, sharing the work with others and remixing the work into a derivative work. All provided that proper attribution to the original is provided.

Duration can be seen in the ballpark of 15 years. Only the most rare of rare works of audio remain commercially viable after such a period. Regulating the work after this point would only serve to restrict freedom.

B) Audiovisual works / Movies.

Similarly, audiovisual works will be covered under something much like the CC-BY-NC license with a two step expiration. For a period of time, say one year perhaps two, commercial distribution is prohibited by those without the distribution right. This allows movie theatres and studios a short monopoly on all distribution. During this time, theaters and disk sales can be fully controlled by the studios.

After this period of time, commercial usage of the work becomes available to purchasers of a compulsory license. This notably includes services such as Netflix. One can imagine that the license fee will be higher than that of purely audio works. Netflix and YouTube should surely pay their fair share toward the studios that create the movies they profit from. But they should not be unjustly prevented from operating as a business at all.

After a period of perhaps 15 years, commercial distribution no longer requires a compulsory license. As always, non-commercial use and sharing of the work is always permitted.

C) Computer Software / Video Games

Duration in software should be much shorter than the other categories of works. 15 or 20 years is an eternity in computer terms. The Internet as we know it has only existed for this long. A more apt duration will be approximately 5 years.

It seems reasonable to bar commercial distribution of software within this duration. Naturally, individual agreements can be arranged on an individual basis. (IE: Steam) Non-commercial use and sharing during this period remains legal.

DRM Clause: Attempts to circumvent this law by technical means shall be illegal. This means that it will be illegal after the distribution duration has expired to try to prevent users from exercising their rights to access, use, and copying of a program by technical means.

Free Software Clause: Those wishing to offer works as Free Software under what would normally be considered a "Copyleft" license, are able to do so. In this case an additional restriction on distribution is added: That any derivative works be made also under the same Free Software license.

D) Written Works / Books.

An appropriate duration for distribution rights to books may be approximately 15 years. During this time, all commercial distribution of hardcopies (IE: Paper books) is prohibited. However, commercial distribution of softcopies (IE: e-books) are permitted under a compulsory license. Thus publishers are not permitted to publish a book they do not posses the right to, however an online service which distributes e-books is allowed to exist. (While simultaneously compensating the original authors adequately)


Exceptions:

Works of Opinion: For works of opinion, it does not make sense to permit derivative works or "remixing". To do so would be to simply falsely misrepresent the opinions of the author in a dishonest way. Thus, works of opinion may be registered as such and thereby only permit verbatim sharing of the work (IE: No derivatives)for as long as the duration lasts.

Fair Use: Existing Copyright Fair Use exceptions will still apply in this new distribution right model. An author is still permitted to freely make use of the work (including derivatives) using the existing guidelines.




Each of these specific points are certainly negotiable, but you can easily see what this vision looks like. Such a system of law would both allow for a Free Culture to thrive and provide monetary compensation to authors suitable for professional work.



Software Patents: A patent is a set of exclusive rights granted by a state to an inventor or his assignee for a fixed period of time in exchange for a disclosure of an invention. [3]

Patents are meant to be a form of protection for inventors. It essentially says "If you come up with an invention, you can exclude others from using and/or selling this invention". It comes from the line of reasoning that "Well, if anyone could take someone else's invention, and use it as their own, then nobody would bother inventing anything, and we don't want that."

I will describe at length why the patent system as applied to software is irreparably broken, and how it is extraordinarily counter-productive. The only sensible position is Software Patents should be abolished. This is indeed the official position of many major corporations [CITATION-NEEDED], and is the law in many jurisdictions. [EXAMPLES] [CITATION-NEEDED]


1) Registering Patents. Unlike copyrights and trademarks, patents MUST be registered with the US Patent Office in order to be valid. However, this is not a straightforward process (and like all things) has been corrupted by the lawyers who use it.

The language used to describe a patent is absurdly complicated. It is so complicated and lengthy that neither the patent office nor anyone using the patent system can effectively read and understand them. If you dare, you may attempt to read some of them yourself. Go through and read some patents from here. Read one page of a single patent and you'll see what I mean.

Patents are worded with such confusing "legalese", that even absurd items like The Wheel have been successfully patented!

And also keep in mind that if you DO create an invention, and want to see if it is already patented (or if you are just doing business as usual) and want to see if you are currently stepping on someone else's patent, it is virtually impossible. It is hard enough to fully understand ONE patent, let alone having to search through all registered patents. Keep in mind here also that there is no system to search through patents. (other than broad generalizations) It is in practice quite common to be infringing on someone else's (usually IBM's) patents and never even know it, even while actively looking.

2) The Patent system breeds entire leeching corporations. You see, patents need to be registered. If you do not register your invention, then anyone else can! This naturally leads to a system where a company patents something broad and obvious, and patent it as their own. They then hold the invention hostage to an eventual victim until they settle it out of court for a sum of money.

Microsoft and IBM are both notorious for doing this. [5]

Furthermore, since patents are exceedingly difficult to understand (which is intentional) it is commonplace for corporations to sue others for patent infringement where none exists. And the sheer court costs and size of the opposition (and ambiguous nature of patents themselves) forces the defendant into settling out of court. In this way, holders of lots of patents (IBM and Microsoft, namely) are able to blackmail others into paying them money arbitrarily.

3) Mathematical Algorithms Extremely loose interpretation of the law has lead to allowing patents of software as an "invention". This is incredibly bad, however. Software is an entirely different beast than with physical inventions.

Unlike physical inventions, software systems are inherently built on top of one another. And despite regulations saying that it is not supposed to be allowed, basic algorithms and equations are commonly patented. This creates a nightmare of a situation for software developers. No matter what you do, chances are that IBM has a patent on some subsystem of yours.

A good example of this is LZW Compression. [4] LZW Compression is an algorithm for compressing data down smaller (like when you zip a file). Lots of stuff used this algorithm, including GIF files (which is pronounced with a soft G, btw. Like "Jif Peanut Butter").

It only later came out that this algorithm was patented, and thus the very use of GIF files were restricted and illegal. The holder of the patent could arbitrarily restrict anyone's use of GIF files!

This obvious, flagrant, and excessive case of patent abuse lead to a widespread shun of the GIF filetype, and the creation of the PNG type. (Pronounced "Ping". PNG also stands for "PNG, Not GIF")

For more detailed information on the GIF case, read here.

4) The myth of the 'lone inventor' and how patents are good for the little guy. You will very commonly see arguments like this in courts as well, and it does a good job at tugging at the heart strings of judges.

They paint a hypothetical situation where a lowly, poor, but intelligent man is working in his basement. He then has a wonderful idea for an invention and creates it. This invention is of great utility. It is then argued that this inventor needs to be protected from large corporations trying to use his idea without permission! So he is issued a patent, which saves the day, everyone is happy, and birds sing.

This is quite separate from reality. In reality patents benefit only the large corporations. IBM holds more patents than anyone on the planet. [6] They have so many patents in so many fields that are so vague that no matter what you create, they can sue you for patent infringement.

When a small inventor (especially software developers) comes up with a great new idea, IBM sees it. They then inform you that you are infringing on several of their patents and that they intend to prosecute the offense... unless you sell your patent to them. Faced with a court case that will cost you tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars just in court costs, you will give up and sell your patent to them.

Thus IBM is able to accumulate more patents and continue this cycle even more effectively.

Other large companies like Microsoft who also have large numbers of patents get around this by cross-licensing with each other. It essentially says: "I can use your patents if you can use mine." IBM will, of course, only let you cross license if you have a large number of patents. But you don't, so you can't.

So you can see that patents do quite the opposite of "helping out the little guy". The first tip off should be that the patent laws are sponsored (aka: paid for) by IBM, HP, and other big name patent holders. Now why on earth would IBM and Microsoft want a system that is good for the little guy?

They don't. Don't be fooled.

5) Secret Patents and the First to Invent System In theory, Patents are supposed to be registered. Registration is necessary because not everything is Patentable. You cannot, after all, get Patents on things which are so obvious they don't constitute as an invention. The registration process is absolutely essential to how Patents are supposed to work.

A new inventor has to be able to know whether their creation has any Patent conflicts after making it, at least in principle if not in practice.

But this is not the case in reality. When two people have a dispute over the ownership of a Patent in America, it is awarded to whoever can prove that they made the invention first. This makes some intuitive sense.

However, this leads to the practice of “Secret Patents”. A Secret Patent is when a person or corporation makes an invention (or claims to) and keeps proof of its creation, but never registers it. This way, when someone else comes along and infringes on this Patent, they can swoop in and claim prior ownership. Thus snatching the invention away from its rightful creator... unless they pay a licensing fee.

So suppose you are an inventor, for a moment. In today's Patent system, even if you DID search exhaustively through every single registered Patent (which itself is impossible, see above), and even if you COULD determine effectively if any one of those were in conflict with your invention (which is also impossible, see above), you can STILL be sued for Patent infringement. IBM can come out and claim that they proof that they have prior creation of a component to your invention, and that they'll sue you if you don't pay up tens of thousands of dollars.

And remember, that as a lone inventor (or even a small company) you cannot afford the tens of thousands of dollars in court costs to defend a Patent. This is how large corporations exploit Patent law to blackmail smaller organizations into paying sums of money.

No due process, no judge, no jury. You are guilty by mere accusation., and must pay up or be sued out of business.


Trademark Law: A trademark or trade mark, identified by the symbols ™ and ®, or mark is a distinctive sign or indicator used by an individual, business organization or other legal entity to identify that the products and/or services to consumers with which the trademark appears originate from a unique source of origin, and to distinguish its products or services from those of other entities. [1]

A Trademark is intended to prevent confusion amongst consumers when purchasing goods and services. It would be bad for producers and consumers alike if there were two different Gatorades right next to each other in the supermarket.

Trademarks do not need to be registered. A trademark is implicitly assigned to the creator when the item is created. Using the label ™ and ® are also not required when using the name of the item, however failing to do so may reduce significantly any winnings in court. It should also be noted that trademarks do not expire, and last indefinitely. (As long as the holder chooses to re-register)


In general, I do not have a problem with Trademark Law. The purpose is well stated and just, and most of the time the law serves this purpose. We give up a certain amount of freedom in the case of trademark law (IE: The freedom to name your organization anything you like) but this is an acceptable loss, and not one that in good faith in always necessary. There is but one main issue I have with the enforcement of Trademark Law:

Overly Aggressive Enforcement. Trademark infringement is only supposed to be enforceable if there is a legitimate conflict between the names such that it would cause customer confusion. You are, in fact, allowed to use another person's trademark as long as this conflict does not exist.

For example, if there is a small family owned bakery named "The Top Crust" in Florida, it would be trademark infringement to set up a competing bakery right next door with the same name. But it would not be trademark infringement to set up a bakery of the same name in California. This is because the geographic distance is great enough where no real conflict exists. IE: No customers would be confusing the two bakeries for one another due to their distance.

Similarly, you may have geographically close organizations sharing a name (or symbol, etc..) if they are in different enough businesses. For example, you may have a shooting range named "Target" and the well known chain store "Target" close to each other.

In reality, however, organizations attempt to stretch this law as far as possible, trying to shut down or harm other organizations where no legitimate conflict exists. A good example of this is the well known case of the WWF. The World Wildlife Foundation held this name first, and later, the World Wrestling Federation used the name.

Clearly there was no real conflict, or confusion between the two entirely separate groups. I sincerely doubt that the World Wildlife Foundation had hordes of confused wrestling fans showing up at their door. Yet the World Wresting Federation were forced to change their names. This kind of abuse of the system is not acceptable.


I would like to close by reiterating a point that I began with. Governments of the world of flesh and steel have no power over someone like me. I have the ability to do as I please on the Internet without fear. For me, cyberspace will always be Free. But this freedom should be extended to all who wishes to join our culture, and one man does not constitute a culture.

In the information age, your right to freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of press, and freedom to participate in your culture are all intrinsically linked to the Internet. Your ability to exercise these rights in the future depends on your ability to access a Free and Open Internet, devoid of censorship and old world coercion.


Thanks for reading!
-AltF4


Suggested Videos, Links, and sources of Inspiration:

1) Steal This Film 2 (part 2) (part 3) (part 4) (part 5) - An extraordinary take on file sharing and how bit torrenting over the internet is the printing press of our age. It interviews professors from well known and respected universities and leaders from well known and respected organizations. An absolute must watch for everyone.

2) Richard Stallman: No Software Patents - Richard Stallman is a legend in the computer world in general. He is one of the original MIT hackers that worked in MIT's AI lab. Richard Stallman is also known for his work in creating the GNU/Linux operating system (aka: Linux) and for founding the Free Software Movement and the Free Software Foundation.

This video is Mr. Stallman giving a guest lecture to a university hall of software developers, warning them of the dangers of software patents, and why they need to be eradicated. An excellent watch.

(Note: There are 11 parts to this video, so I won't link to each explicitly)

3) Piracy Is Good? (part 2) (part 3) (part 4) (part 5) (part 6) (part 7) - A presentation to a hall of TV executives and producers, describing to them what bit torrenting is and why they're dumb for not using it to their advantage. He goes in great detail as to exactly how one can monetize a system where content is "hyper-distributed" through bit torrenting, and how the system is indeed helping them already anyway.

This is an excellent watch, as it is being made from a business/marketing standpoint, and not a technological or moral one. The speaker makes no statements or claims about the morality issues behind file sharing, but rather spends time going in depth as to how to make money from a free information system.

4) The Free Software Foundation - The official movement toward a society with free software. You will find this organization most helpful, and informative. Also, it you will find that it is a portal to many other organizations that involve the fight for free software (or information, more generally)

5) GNU.org - (Specifically this essay) This is a free software project started by Richard Stallman. You may know this project better known as "Linux", essentially. (Though going down the road of defining what is and isn't "Linux" is difficult) Contained within the website, however, are many aspects of the Free Software Movement. I would highly recommend poking around this website. In particular, try going to their "Philosophy" section, where you can find many articles about Free Software, including the one lined above.

6) EFF.org - A non-profit organization dedicated to protecting your rights in the digital world. They fight in court against big businesses to ensure that our rights are not taken away. You can go on here and subscribe to their email newsletter, or just take a look at their recent court victories!

7) DefectiveByDesign.org - An organization rallying against the creation and use of DRM (digital restrictions management). You know when your song magically deletes itself from your iPod after listening to it 5 times? That's DRM. But other more insidious versions of DRM include the famous Sony Rootkit. (A rootkit is a kind of computer virus that cannot ever be deleted)

This website serves as a watchdog for products that contain DRM, and contains instructions, boycotts, and lots of other information revolving around stopping DRM. You can go to this website to get a list of PC games that are infected with Sony's rootkit, so that you make sure you don't get their virus.

8) "Free Culture" - A book written by Lawrence Lessig, a Stanford Law professor and creator of the Creative Commons organization (and license). This explores copyright law and the philosophy of a Free Culture in great detail. I for one, have not yet read this book, but am right now. (and I mean that)
*entry submitted by Lavos*

9) Cory Doctorow. "Giving it Away" This is a first hand account of why copyrights as we see them today are not necessary for books. Also, a first hand account of how making your books available freely online helps spur physical book sales, and other revenue sources.

Cory can also be seen in such cameo's as in xkcd. (He's actually mentioned quite a bit in XKCD)

10) BREAKING: The Pirate Bay Trial! The Pirate Bay is currently under trial (again) in Sweden. They were able to get a landmark ruling that allowed audio and some video recordings of the trial published freely online. However, it will do you little good unless you can speak Swedish! :)

Luckily our friends at TorrentFreak have some good translations. I will keep this updated as more information comes daily!

Pre-Trial Press Conference
Trial: Day 1
Trial: Day 2 (Major victory!)
Trial: Day 3 (The dreaded King Kong defense)
Trial: Day 4 (Interrogation)
Trial: Day 5 (Brokep's defense)
Trial: Day 6 (the party)
Trial: Day 7 (Evidence: FAIL)
Trial: Day 8
Trial: Day 9 (The defense begins)
Trial: Day 10 (The prosecution rests)
Pirate Bay Trial Verdict: Guilty

Plus, Wikipedia appears to have a decent page on the subject. That will also likely be very up-to-date.

Long Live The Pirate Bay! Show your support!

11) RiP! A Remix Manifesto. A stunning documentary on the importance of Freeing Culture. This video perfectly encapsulates the spirit of this thread and movement at large. The video includes interviews and clips from many of the most important people in the Free Culture movement today.

12) Tim O'Rielly on Piracy: Piracy is Progressive Taxation, and Other Thoughts on the Evolution of Online Distribution. This is a very good read from the very well known creator of O'Reilly publishing. O'Reilly is a major book publisher, and more than a credible source of insight.

In this article, he describes how piracy is no threat to him as a book publisher. And even goes to describe how publishing may look in the 21st century. He (as we all do) makes a clear distinction between people who redistribute his works for a profit, and those who merely exchange digital copies of his books. The former, he claims is not a significant threat to him as a book publisher, and the latter is indeed a benefit. Great read.

*if you have any videos online (preferably youtube or similar streaming site) post it, or PM me!*


Sources:

[1]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trademark
[2]: http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ1.pdf
[3]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patent
[4]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LZW
[5]: http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/pos...sy-ibm-filing10-patentsday-in-technology.html
[6]: http://windowsitpro.com/article/articleid/98024/ibm-grabs-top-spot-in-patent-race.html
[7]: http://www.hypebot.com/hypebot/2008/11/unlicensed-musi.html
[8]: http://www.riaa.com/faq.php
 

cman

Smash Ace
Joined
May 17, 2008
Messages
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That was a fantastic read.

I do have one possible concern over removing the laws. For financially intensive projects, like maybe a top of the line video game, the ability to freely copy and share the software might prevent the developers from even making enough to pay off their development costs. If a net loss were the only outcome of large scale games, the industry would disappear immediately. There would still be small games each programmed by only a handful of hobbyists, but the high quality industry would cease. Software programming isn't like music where a single talented person could do most of the necessary work. Is the concern warrented?
 

marthanoob

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+1, that was very informative.

To build on cman's post - you are proposing the current method is counter-productive...how do you propose to replace it without coming up with problems like the one previously mentioned?
 

Oracle

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I'm with cman on the video game issue. If games were distributed freely, then they would make no money, and therefore developers would have no reason to make games.
 

Overload

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I've actually been thinking about the intellectual property laws recently, thanks for posting this. Some of the patents Nintendo has "infringed" upon are absurd. It seems like some companies, such as Anascape, patent things in hopes that they can screw someone over down the line. There are definitely changes that need to be made to these laws.
 

SuperBowser

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What about the creator's rights? Shouldn't they have a right to their own work and what happens with it and how the public at large can access it?

I know that if I spent two years of hard work making something, I'd be a little upset if everyone just downloaded it for free (unless I made money another way)...
 

Overload

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What about the creator's rights? Shouldn't they have a right to their own work and what happens with it and how the public at large can access it?

I know that if I spent two years of hard work making something, I'd be a little upset if everyone just downloaded it for free (unless I made money another way)...
I don't see anything wrong with making a few copies for your friends but there is something wrong with making profit off of someone's work.
 

AltF4

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Excellent, yes. I had yet to get into that subject yet. The answer is that of business models, and the ability to monetize a market. Allow me to use an example, and quickly then return more directly to your concern.

Google is enormously successful at what they do, and they make a lot of money doing it. But what exactly do they do? You use Google all the time. You search, you go to a website, etc... Yet you never pay Google a dime. Nor do you see any advertisements. (go to google.com and look for ads!)

What Google has done so well over the competition is their inventive and creative business models for monetizing their market. They saw that there was a dichotomy: Advertisements are annoying, and cause users to want to not use your site. Yet advertisements are your source of income! Oh, what to do!

They changed the rules of the game. They made advertisements useful and not annoying. They are tailored to meet individual profiles in an array of different manners, and place them in useful ways, and not just irritating flashing banners. Google also does much much more than this, and is beyond the scope of this post.


The point is that of business models. It is the difference between success and failure. The first generation of internet websites used advertising campaigns as one would see for television, radio, and billboards. But the internet is none of these things, so these models will fail.

Now people develop software, and attempt to do so in the same manner that people construct a building. In fact (I have a degree in Software Engineering) the entire software development life cycle is modeled after physical construction. The product is designed, produced, tested, and then sold.

In this business model, you are treating software like a physical product, and it will suffer from the same troubles that physical products do. First off, you make money entirely off of the sale of this item. If someone obtains one of your products without giving you money, you will fail to make money!

Now, this is an easy problem to solve with physical objects. In order for someone to obtain one of your products without paying you for it, the person will necessarily have to steal it from you! So all you have to do is prevent someone from pocketing your product and walking away with it. IE: Shoplifting.

But in the digital realm, how exactly do you expect to prevent this? How exactly do you plan on ensuring that everyone who uses your product pays you?

People don't have to get the product from you. Perfect copies of information (software) can be made easily. Unlike with physical objects, where perfect copies cannot be made. (Try giving someone a perfect copy of your couch, for example!)

So you not only have to prevent people from receiving the software from you without paying you, (which is difficult to do) you also have to prevent everyone on the planet from sharing your information (software) with everyone else on the planet. Obviously this is impossible, and it's a doomed business model.

You're essentially selling a secret. You are selling information, and telling people to not share this information. Another English word for this is a secret. The problem with this is that once you share your secret: It's no longer a secret!



But yes, there are alternatives! Keep in mind that software development and the internet have only been around for a couple of decades. The ability to properly monetize a market does not come overnight, and it does not come initially. it took a very long time for people to figure out how to make money over the radio (which is free to listen to), and it took eons to monetize goods and services!


The new business model for the information age is not selling information as a product, but rather as a service. Instead of packaging up and selling your information like it were a physical object, sell your services as a skilled worker (or company of workers). Think of it like renaissance artists who worked by commission.

An artist did not just create art at random, try to sell it, and then get all pissed when someone makes a copy of their art. No. What they did was get hired (commissioned) to create art for a particular customer. Then they would make art according to their employer's instruction . They sold their abilities as a service, not their art as a product. Artists continue to do this today.


Software companies such as Red Hat and Sun Microsystems are excellent examples of this today. Red Hat Linux (the product) is free of charge, yet Red Hat still makes money by offering their expert services for a fee. A service cannot be stolen, and a service always has value.

There is far more information on this subject than I can hope to type here. But two excellent places for you to go and read more are the Free Software Foundation and the GNU websites.
 

Overload

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How does everyone here feel about what's going on with Youtube? The removal of videos with things like songs in them. Personally, I think they're going a bit too far. I see no real reason for it. The person using the song in their video isn't making money off of it or anything of that nature.
 

AltF4

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What about the creator's rights? Shouldn't they have a right to their own work and what happens with it and how the public at large can access it?

I know that if I spent two years of hard work making something, I'd be a little upset if everyone just downloaded it for free (unless I made money another way)...
This is a very common argument, and one you see in court quite often.

Creators of literary works and inventions today tend to cite some indescribable connection to their work. As if no matter what, they OWN it, it belongs to them. And they alone should have the right to profit from this work. The response to this argument is twofold:

1) This argument is most commonly used as a strawman for a hidden goal, not just to "make money" but to "make a LOT of money". Money can be made by selling information as a product. In fact, enough money to make a living can be made this way. People make a living making far less money than artists, and are far less satisfying jobs.

It is entirely absurd to think that copyright and patent laws are "looking out for the little guy" when the laws themselves are sponsored (aka: paid for) by Microsoft and IBM! Don't ever let Microsoft decide what is best for the little guy.

What copyright and especially patent laws DO is line the pockets of wealthy people with even more money.

2) This assertion has no historical precedent. Copyright law is historically a very new idea, not one that is somehow inherent and intrinsic to the creation of a work.

A more comprehensive history of Copyright Law can be found here.
 

TheBuzzSaw

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Oh man, there is sooo much I want to say in this thread right now. I could sit here and type for hours. I'll pick one thing and work from there.

As far as business models go, many entrepreneurs operate under the false premise that you have to receive payment instantly for the service or products. Imagine that while shopping around Wal Mart, employees constantly harassed you to pay various fees since you, the customer, were enjoying the benefits of the lighting, heating, clean floors, etc. It costs money to power the lights/heaters, buff the tiles, wash the toilets, etc.! Obviously, Wal Mart consolidates those costs into places where they make money. Instead, they offer those services for free and make up for it in the revenue stream. Wal Mart recognizes that making a comfortable environment encourages customers stay longer and eventually spend more money.

Now, it seems weird at first, but this same principle can be applied in modern business models to the actual product (such as a song or movie). It's weird because no one really considers it sane/safe/practical to give away the main product for free (most would equate that to Wal Mart just giving away the stuff it has on shelves for free, but it's not the same), but it can be done and for quite a hefty profit. The magic of the Internet lets a song/movie/game propagate naturally through the world at zero cost to the original creator. This creates a much larger audience right off the bat and produces much more interest in things that cannot be copied. A very common example would be web comics: the authors/artists put out hilarious panels for free (often daily). That's a lot of work! Where does the money come in? Site ads, t-shirt sales, etc. The same is being done in the world of music. Musicians give away all their music for free online as MP3 downloads. How do they make money? Concert tickets, backstage passes, paraphernalia sales, etc.
 

Mediocre

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Alt, you seem to be implying that creators should have no right to their work. That information should be "free".

At this abstract level, that sounds fine. I have no problem with the free exchange of ideas, and that's just what you're talking about, sharing ideas. Ideally, this method would work fine.

The problem comes from practicality. Let's say under these new rules that you are proposing, a man writes a book. It is an excellent book, which will surely be wildly popular when he makes it available to read.

But how does he distribute it? Under the old laws, he would negotiate with a publishing company, and probably get a fairly crappy deal from them since he would be a first time author. Under the new laws, even sending a copy to a publishing company would allow them to take the book, publish it, and not pay him a sent.

So, perhaps he could put the book up on the internet, for anyone with a computer to read for free. He can put ads on the website, so that he'll still make money. The more people like his book and visit the website, the more money he makes. But, unfortunately, the book is popular enough that many other websites copy the contents from his site and put it on their own. Also, the publishing companies find the book on the web, and since he has no ownership over it, they simply take it, publish it in a physical form and begin selling it. Most people prefer reading the physical books, so not many people read his book on the web. Even those who do often visit the other sites that have his book up, rather than his own site, with the ads that would generate him money.

Of course, he's still made money. Some people did visit his website and click on the ads it displayed. Unfortunately, it was a very small proportion of the actual readership, and not nearly enough to compare with the money he could have made simply working in an office job for the same amount of time it would have taken him to write a book.

So, writers like him, who enjoy writing, but simply can't afford to do it unless they can make money at it, are out of luck. There are still writers who write just for the fun of it, but very few of them create content regularly, or with any kind of quality, or invest the kind of time in it that someone who was getting paid for it could.

This is the kind of situation that I suspect would result from the changes in the law that you are suggesting, Alt. Please, if there are any flaws in my hypothetical situation, let me know. I do like the concept of more open sharing of ideas. I just believe that, in many cases, it would hamper the development of those ideas in the first place.
 

SuperBowser

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^That's the problem I see, Mediocre. I've had this discussion several times with my friends and I don't think I'm using a strawman.

1) This argument is most commonly used as a strawman for a hidden goal, not just to "make money" but to "make a LOT of money". Money can be made by selling information as a product. In fact, enough money to make a living can be made this way. People make a living making far less money than artists, and are far less satisfying jobs.

It is entirely absurd to think that copyright and patent laws are "looking out for the little guy" when the laws themselves are sponsored (aka: paid for) by Microsoft and IBM! Don't ever let Microsoft decide what is best for the little guy.

What copyright and especially patent laws DO is line the pockets of wealthy people with even more money.
At the end of the day, my wage is dictated by what society deems my product is worth. It doesn't matter if you think the creator deserves the money they earn or not. Society clearly does, since they are willing to pay.

The example in art you gave works. But you are only describing one fraction of the art industry. Most artists don't and would despise the idea of working under other people rather than making what they want - they wouldn't consider their work art anymore. Quite frankly, it should be illegal to make copies of a person's art and pass them off as the real deal for a cheaper price and the artist shouldn't have to work around such a scenario. Why should someone be able to take what I've created and mooch off of it?

You say that the current laws don't benefit the creator at all. In that case, the new system you propose just plain kicks the creator in the face. Not only do I have to make a product, but I now have to work out a novel way to market it that doesn't directly involve selling what I made. And I can't even get help because my ''work'' is worthless in the eyes of the law and will just be stolen!

I agree that the current system has a massive glut of problems. But unless the creator is able to make money off their work (at which point I have no problem with your system), I don't think taking away the creator's rights is the solution.
 

AltF4

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Your concerns can be answered in a multitude of fashions. First off, however, that I would like to have you read a much longer essay that can be found on GNU.org. It was written by Richard Stallman and essentially sums up the position of the Free Software Foundation. (Free as in "Free Speech", not Free as in "Free Beer")

You can find it here.

It changed the way that I view this entire subject, so I give it to you wit the highest of review. It essentially answers every question in greater detail than I could here.


Secondly:

I have already made one reference to this just a minute ago, but I want to elaborate on this. When we talk about "Free Software" or "Information wants to be Free", we are NOT talking about price. There are two meanings for the word "Free" in English. The meaning about a monetary cost is not the intended meaning.

We mean the word Free as in "Freedom". GNU likes to make this distinction succinctly as (Free as in "Free Speech", not Free as in "Free Beer").


Thirdly:

There are two sides of this debate, one of morality and one of practicality. I have given arguments to suggest that developing free information (but particularly software) are superior in both categories. However, there is only one which really matters: Morality.

We live in the United States, a country which calls itself free. In order for us to be a free nation, we have to allow our citizens to act freely. It is immoral to do otherwise.

So when I say "developing software which is not free is immoral", and you reply "but if we don't nobody will make software!", Mediocre, you are failing to see the point. You are replying to an assertion about morality with a claim about practicality.

It would be like if you were stealing money from the cash register where you work. This is immoral. Then if asked why you were doing it, you would reply "because I needed the money to afford something". Your reply failed to address the real problem: That stealing money is immoral, and should not be allowed. Issues of practicality come second.



There are indeed two factions today that make non-proprietary software. There is the Free Software Movement, and the Open Source Community. In the greater majority of cases, there is no effective difference between these two groups. They both create software which is Free.

However, they differ in terms of motivation. The Free Software Movement is motivated by morality. They believe that non-free software is a detriment to society and is immoral. Thus we should not make software which restricts the freedoms of its users, period.

The Open Source Community believes that software should be made free because software that is made in a free development model is superior to their non-free counterparts. They develop free software for the sake of practicality, IE: that free software is superior.

This difference manifests itself in a variety of ways. For instance, there are Open Source DRM projects! This kind of software is distinctly non-free, as it restricts the freedoms of its users, despite it being open source. Such a project stands against everything the Free Software Movement stands for, yet Open Source developers would hold no such moral qualms.

I argue for Free Software (and to a lesser extent, all Free Information) from a moral standpoint. I believe that it is immoral in today's age to restrict the freedoms of users of information. Even if it were the case that software that is free is not as technically useful as non-free software, I would still advocate free software.

This is just how America works, and how the United States (as a free nation) is meant to operate. Even if it were the case that citizens would work harder and more efficiently while being enslaved, we would not go about enslaving our citizens! We value our freedom higher than anything else, and we would not sacrifice it just for the sake of a few dollars.



But let's get back to talking about business models, shall we? Two great examples of effective business models to look at are that of Recipes and that of Jokes.

Recipes are actually explicitly stated in Copyright Law that they cannot be copyrighted. Recipes, once created and written, are all part of the public domain. They can be rewritten, copied, reproduced, changed, improved, etc... They are completely Free.

And yet people still write recipe books, and people still pay for them. Writers of recipes have figured out how to monetize (aka: make money from) the writing of recipes without charging a dollar amount per recipe!

The other example is jokes. Comedians can essentially be considered artists of jokes. They create them, perform them, and profit from them. Jokes are an excellent example of how the free market can inherently create a system of implicit copyright that suffers from none of the failures of the legal system.

Perhaps the biggest and serious wrong thing a comedian can do is use someone else's joke as their own. If caught doing so, the comedian will quickly be shunned by the community and will find himself unable to continue being a comedian. However, using someone else's joke is not illegal. You cannot copyright a joke (unless is is such a long joke that it counts as a literary work!).

This same idea occurs in many other ways as well: plagiarism for literary works, cheating for academic works, etc... They all have to do with using someone else's idea as your own. And none of them are illegal. They don't require any laws to maintain their enforcement. Society as a whole does an excellent job at preventing these problems. Creating laws serves only to impose loopholes that corporations can exploit.
 

Crimson King

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Let me retort with an example I gave Buzz (I wish I saved the chatlog):

If you have found oil under your house, the government/oil companies want it. It's my land, but I sold them the oil, so to get to it, they have to comply by my rules. If not, I walk. If I hold out long enough, someone will pay more under my rules.

Buzz cited an example:
If I chisel a statue out of marble, it's mine because I own the marble, but if I go to my neighbor's house, and chisel a statue, it's his because he owned the marble. All I can charge for is labor. Correct?

The key thing is my skill and ideas are part of that labor cost. ANYONE can pick up a chisel and chisel away at marble, but I happen to be really good at it, and I have ideas on how to make that marble special, so I cannot charge for my ideas?

Going back to books, if I wrote a sci-fi story, and someone else wrote it, mine will be different because it's in my voice, style, and under my ideas. However, the way I get it out there is through publishers. Publishers own the books, which they sell to people. They give me a percentage of the profits (as royalties) for allowing them to use my text to fill the books.

The issue is, under our pseudo-socialist market, copyrights are valid and needed. With such tight restrictions, I can buy a knock-off Monet for $200, and it will look identical to a real Monet costing several thousands, but that's because copyrights stop multiple replications. The first replication will be the best replication, after that, they start to taper off, and that's why this "business model" only works in a free market. If I am going to pay for a painting, and there are several different people impersonating that painting, I want the best, which happens to be the original.

My problem with this whole "anti-piracy movement" is that it is trying to force the market to go where it does not want to go yet. The market still has people willing to pay for the arts and will continue to pay for a long time. Movie theaters are bankrupt; they only make money through concessions. If no one comes to movies because they are downloading movies instead, they have to bump the price of concessions up. If no one comes for a long time, they have to shut down, and the movie industry must re-evaluate what's going on. That's not even remotely the case. Now, people who don't want to go to movies and download it, do it, mostly, because they don't want to pay. And that summarizes my problem with the anti-piracy movement: the validation of getting something for free.

Also: Alt, both of your examples are wrong. Writers DO charge for recipes because I've seen listing offering freelance writers money for it. Usually, they pay on quality of recipe too. And for jokes? Several comedians have been sued for ripping off other jokes, including Family Guy being sued by a guy they stole an entire bit from that he copyrighted.
 

TheBuzzSaw

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If I chisel a statue out of marble, it's mine because I own the marble, but if I go to my neighbor's house, and chisel a statue, it's his because he owned the marble. All I can charge for is labor. Correct?
I understand the point you were making in your post, but what I was implying in this statement that there was no prior agreement to be paid for the labor. If I go to my neighbor's house and chisel a beautiful statue without my neighbor's knowledge, he still owns the statue. I don't suddenly gain ownership for creating a beautiful work of art; it is my neighbor's marble! I wanted to put down the idea that "creation = ownership".

Creating an idea does not entail ownership. I own this chair because there is only one in existence. I have stewardship over it. I dictate its use because it is completely under my control. Ideas are not subject to such rules. We in society attempt to add artificial control through various IP laws, but the fact remains that you cannot own an idea. Sure, you can be cited as the source of an idea, but the instant your idea is outside your head and inside someone else's, you have forfeited control of that idea. The chair is easy to control; as long as it stays on my property, no one can do anything to it (legally speaking). The only way for an idea to truly be "owned" is for it not to be shared in the first place. For instance, trade secrets and internal company information are certainly owned because they are never let out into the general public.

*plans on typing more; got interrupted by stuff*
 

AltF4

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I'm afraid I don't understand what you're trying to say, CK. I must be missing something with these analogies to oil and statues. I fail to see how they apply to what we're discussing. I can't even tell which side you're on, lol.


CrimsonKing said:
Movie theaters are bankrupt; they only make money through concessions. If no one comes to movies because they are downloading movies instead, they have to bump the price of concessions up. If no one comes for a long time, they have to shut down, and the movie industry must re-evaluate what's going on.

But the movie theaters are doing just fine!
In fact, they had record profits in 2008, and 2007 before that!

..but then you say...

That's not even remotely the case.
I'm confused. What is not the case? That theaters are doing just fine (which they are), or are you saying they're not?

Alt, both of your examples are wrong. Writers DO charge for recipes because I've seen listing offering freelance writers money for it. Usually, they pay on quality of recipe too. And for jokes? Several comedians have been sued for ripping off other jokes, including Family Guy being sued by a guy they stole an entire bit from that he copyrighted.
I think you should read my section on Recipes and Jokes more carefully. I already specifically mentioned both of the things you did.

1) The fact that people still write and sell recipes was exactly my point. Recipes are specifically and explicity stated that they cannot be copyrighted. All recipes are in the public domain. Yet a market for them continues. There is no shortage of recipes. The same will happen for all things.

The world will not collapse if copyrights go away. Copyrights are a very new concept historically, anyway! I already linked to a history of copyright law in this thread.

2) Jokes cannot be copyrighted. But literary works can. Family Guy got sued not for using some else's joke, but rather for using an entire bit which was long enough to be considered a literary work.

a) I already mentioned this previously.

b) It is irrelevant. The point of the section on jokes was to describe how the free market can adequately police obvious plagiarism. No laws are required.
 

Crimson King

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AltF4 said:
The same will happen for all things.
Completely, totally, and undeniably false. All things will not enter a perpetual state of public domain. Stories, music, and movie clips will EVENTUALLY enter into public domain, but there will never be an instance, ever, when all written pieces automatically enter into public domain. When that happens, artists will stop producing in such great numbers because there is no return for their labor. You can write a best seller, but if it's already in public domain, what's the point in wasting the time?

For the oil analogy, I am explaining ownership and property. I own the land, like I own anything else that comes from, so if people want to use that land, or my labor, they have to abide by the rules I set forth. If it so happens, I want no one else but a certain company drilling, because they happen to give me the best profits, am I not entitled to that? The same goes with ideas. If I create something, as in no one else has created it before me, then it would not have been created without me, so is it not mine?

See, to me, it's computer developers (software, etc) applying science to art, and it doesn't work. Ever. Computer science, and science in general, works like that because the way you do something can be different, but the end result will be the same. With art, the entire form is based OFF the idea. If you have an idea that anyone can take, exploit, and make their own, then you have nothing.

In a utopian society, it may work. In our society, it will not.
 

SuperBowser

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Thanks for the article. While it enlightened me on a lot of issues, there's a few points I didn't like. I'll try and edit this post later.

But there's one thing I don't get. If I write a book and decide to sell it for 10 pounds on the market. Without copyright, what's to stop someone copying my work word for word and selling it for 5 pounds without paying me any royalties? To me this is a very different scenario from the recipe example. Or are you suggesting that books should simply be free?
 

AltF4

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Completely, totally, and undeniably false. All things will not enter a perpetual state of public domain. Stories, music, and movie clips will EVENTUALLY enter into public domain, but there will never be an instance, ever, when all written pieces automatically enter into public domain. When that happens, artists will stop producing in such great numbers because there is no return for their labor. You can write a best seller, but if it's already in public domain, what's the point in wasting the time?
You are failing to see things but from the point of view of the old and obsolete business model. You are just reiterating what SuperBowser and Mediocre have already said, but more baselessly assertive.

You are telling me that without the ability to restrict the freedoms of others, nobody will write books? How absurd. Books were written long before copyrights were ever even conceived.

There are other ways of making money from an idea than by selling that idea to others directly (and then trying in vain to keep those people from sharing your idea). In fact I have gone at great length on this thread to describe many of them.

Musicians do not benefit from copyright law. Record Label Corporations do. Music will not die without copyrights, the labels will. (An obsolete and immoral set of organizations anyway)

Similarly, authors do not benefit from copyright law, Publishers do. Far more money is to be made from things like merchandising, advertising, and commission than by direct sale anyway. Literary works will continue to thrive without copyrights just as they have for hundreds (or thousands!) of years, and so will authors.
 

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In theory, I believe, books would go to a digital format.

The problem I have with this is multi-fold. First, the market is not ready for this across the board. I have no problem with people who want to give their craft away for free. Open Source software is driving the innovation of private software companies. But, at the same time, why should EVERYONE adopt this. That is straight up socialist, and I refuse to support the notion that the artist does not own his or her own work. If software developers and the like want to make Open Source the future of PC, then make better open source programs. Having a few that work really well, but nothing that completely erases the need for manufactured stuff, will not cut it. In the art realm, there will never, ever, be an instance when artists, across the board will say "I want to produce this for free." Musicians can do it because they make money touring. Some artists CAN because they are rich or desperately need the attention, but across the board, it won't happen.

AltF4Warrior said:
You are failing to see things but from the point of view of the old and obsolete business model. You are just reiterating what SuperBowser and Mediocre have already said, but more baselessly assertive.

You are telling me that without the ability to restrict the freedoms of others, nobody will write books? How absurd. Books were written long before copyrights were ever even conceived.

There are other ways of making money from an idea than by selling that idea to others directly (and then trying in vain to keep those people from sharing your idea). In fact I have gone at great length on this thread to describe many of them.

Musicians do not benefit from copyright law. Record Label Corporations do. Music will not die without copyrights, the labels will. (An obsolete and immoral set of organizations anyway)

Similarly, authors do not benefit from copyright law, Publishers do. Far more money is to be made from things like merchandising, advertising, and commission than by direct sale anyway. Literary works will continue to thrive without copyrights just as they have for hundreds (or thousands!) of years, and so will authors.
Literary writers didn't need copyrights because the internet wasn't around. It was harder to copy and distribute a book, when you had to do it by hand or with a copy machine, but now, I can grab a book, scan all the pages, and distribute as much as I want. Authors want to make money off their books, and they want to make money off the books they sold; they don't want to go to absurd lengths just to break even. Writing a book takes a long, long, long time. Publishers are in place for a lot of reasons: first, they protect the author to make sure no one steals from them. This has happened a lot, and it has saved many authors from losing their story. Secondly, it protects the author from writing material that is plagiarized. This happens from time to time when a person reads a story as a kid, sinks into their subconscious, and then they incorporate that story in there. Finally, publishers help with distribution. Even in the digital world, publishers will exist to help distribute, market, and sell the books of the writers. Not everyone wants to tour the country giving lectures on what their novel said, most people just want to sell a book and have others enjoy it, and make money from THAT.
 

Mediocre

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So, AltF4, you expect everything to be developed openly? "Open Source" for everything, if you will?


Do you really think a car could be developed Open Source? Or a new processor?

Under the laws you propose, companies would no longer have any reason to develop these things. Things which take expertise and thousands (tens of thousands?) of manhours to develop.

Are you claiming that these things could be developed Open Source, with nothing in return for the people who put all their effort into creating them?

I don't buy it.
 

AltF4

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So now you're saying that nobody will create art without the ability to restrict others' freedoms? This is as equally easily refutable as before as well.

Even if no person on the entire Earth was ever paid a cent ever for creating art: there would still be art. And lots of it. Because people love to make art. It is enjoyable. Quite to the contrary, MILLIONS of people PAY money to create art and never receive anything for it.

In previous era's it was common for artists to not even put their name on their art. They believed that the art is more important than the artist.

This notion of art dieing without copyrights is completely absurd.


So, AltF4, you expect everything to be developed openly? "Open Source" for everything, if you will?


Do you really think a car could be developed Open Source? Or a new processor?

Under the laws you propose, companies would no longer have any reason to develop these things. Things which take expertise and thousands (tens of thousands?) of manhours to develop.

Are you claiming that these things could be developed Open Source, with nothing in return for the people who put all their effort into creating them?

I don't buy it.
No.

Ideas should be free. (Free as in "free speech" not as in "free beer"). Not physical objects. Things like cars certainly can and should be charged for.

And in fact, you can indeed charge money directly for information! This is not an immoral act! But you do so under the assumption that your customers may very well also get this information elsewhere.

AND, nowhere have I ever said that these people should never receive compensation for their work! Don't try to put words in my mouth. Quite to the contrary, I have gone at great lengths to describe exactly HOW these people can make money in a Free Information society.
 

SuperBowser

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Similarly, authors do not benefit from copyright law, Publishers do. Far more money is to be made from things like merchandising, advertising, and commission than by direct sale anyway. Literary works will continue to thrive without copyrights just as they have for hundreds (or thousands!) of years, and so will authors.
But what's to stop someone else doing those things better than me? I am in no way making money from these things because copyright doesn't exist!

The point is that without copyright, anyone can take my story as if it is their own. Now, because they are a better businessman than me, they are able to distribute it for a cheaper price and make more money off advertising, merchandising and every other example you listed.

How will the author be paid, when someone else is offering everything he can for cheaper?
 

AltF4

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I'm afraid I don't see your argument, SuperBowser. I have already given a wealth (pun intended) of information on how someone can make money despite a lack of copyrights. If you would like to respond to one of those points, then please do. But otherwise you're just asserting a point I have already refuted.
 

Crimson King

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So now you're saying that nobody will create art without the ability to restrict others' freedoms? This is as equally easily refutable as before as well.

Even if no person on the entire Earth was ever paid a cent ever for creating art: there would still be art. And lots of it. Because people love to make art. It is enjoyable. Quite to the contrary, MILLIONS of people PAY money to create art and never receive anything for it.

In previous era's it was common for artists to not even put their name on their art. They believed that the art is more important than the artist.

This notion of art dieing without copyrights is completely absurd.
There would be art, but there would be a significant reduction in both quantity and quality. Some people are artists by nature. They cannot function in other jobs, where they cannot express themselves, so thusly, they want to make money from their art and from selling it, but you are saying they shouldn't be allowed to do that because it's just an idea.


No.

Ideas should be free. (Free as in "free speech" not as in "free beer"). Not physical objects. Things like cars certainly can and should be charged for.

And in fact, you can indeed charge money directly for information! This is not an immoral act! But you do so under the assumption that your customers may very well also get this information elsewhere.

AND, nowhere have I ever said that these people should never receive compensation for their work! Don't try to put words in my mouth. Quite to the contrary, I have gone at great lengths to describe exactly HOW these people can make money in a Free Information society.
No, what he is saying is that the IDEA of the new processors and cars will not be innovative because people will get no credit for it. When a car is manufactured or bought by a company, the creator gets credit and royalties from the car company.
 

Mediocre

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You are telling me that without the ability to restrict the freedoms of others, nobody will write books? How absurd. Books were written long before copyrights were ever even conceived.
Yes, but those books were written simply to spread knowledge.

When soon after books began to be written for profit:

Wikipedia said:
The concept of copyright originates with the Statute of Anne (1710) in Britain. It established the author of a work as the owner of the right to copy that work and the concept of a fixed term for that copyright. It was created as an act "for the encouragement of learning", as it had been noted at the time that publishers were reprinting the works of authors without their consent "to their very great detriment, and too often to the Ruin of them and their Families".
Before that, Britain had had a far worse system, where only one publisher (The Stationer's Company) was allowed to buy the rights to publish a book, and after that it would be theirs forever.

The law that allowed this monopoly was allowed to expire in 1695. For a little while, Britain's system was exactly as you propose it should be. Apparently, the end result was that authors continued producing books, and a number of them who had previously used book sales to support themselves and their families wound up destitute.

To say that authors don't benefit from copyright laws is bunk. The laws aren't perfect, but authors definitely get something out of the current system. In the system you propose, they will get nothing.

You have yet to dispute that, so I assume you agree that they'll get nothing. And Britain's already tried your system. Didn't work out so well.
 

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There would be art, but there would be a significant reduction in both quantity and quality. Some people are artists by nature. They cannot function in other jobs, where they cannot express themselves, so thusly, they want to make money from their art and from selling it, but you are saying they shouldn't be allowed to do that because it's just an idea.
No one is suggesting that artists not be allowed to monetize their work. However, selling an idea and then dictating to the recipient that he/she cannot impart those ideas to friends/family/neighbors is in direct defiance to human nature and human rights. CK, you used the example of how books were hard to copy back in the days thus cutting down on the real "need" for copyright. Suddenly, consumers are able to take care of the copying/distributing process themselves, and all authors can do is cry foul instead of adjust the way they work in the world with the Internet.

@Medicore -- There are authors today who post entire PDFs of their books online because the increased attention leads to more sales of the physical copy. No one likes to read an entire book on the screen. Sure, there are a few who do, but the worst that can happen is that they'll like it and pass it onto someone else. That leads to more attention of the creative work and more sales. Customers are not as cheap as everyone makes them out to be.



Also, right on cue, this article went up:
The Dangerous Trend Of Thinking That Ideas Can Be Owned, Sold Or Stolen

An anonymous reader called our attention to a comment reposting some fantastic thinking on the dangerous trend of believing we can own, sell or steal ideas. The comment was in response to a post on Slashdot from a college student worried that his professors were "stealing" his ideas. The commenter posted a bit from The Zen of Graphics Programming, by Michael Abrash, who among other things co-wrote the game Quake. The whole blurb is worth reading, but there are two things worth calling out. First, he points out that the idea is rarely the important part:

This trend toward selling ideas is one symptom of an attitude that I've noticed more and more among programmers over the past few years-an attitude of which software patents are the most obvious manifestation-a desire to think something up without breaking a sweat, then let someone else's hard work make you money. Its an attitude that says, "I'm so smart that my ideas alone set me apart." Sorry, it doesn't work that way in the real world. Ideas are a dime a dozen in programming, too; I have a lifetime's worth of article and software ideas written neatly in a notebook, and I know several truly original thinkers who have far more yet. Folks, it's not the ideas; it's design, implementation, and especially hard work that make the difference.

Second, he points out how ridiculous a scenario it is when everyone "owns" the ideas they came up with, and what it would lead to:

A closely related point is the astonishing lack of gratitude some programmers show for the hard work and sense of community that went into building the knowledge base with which they work. How about this? Anyone who thinks they have a unique idea that they want to "own" and milk for money can do so-but first they have to track down and appropriately compensate all the people who made possible the compilers, algorithms, programming courses, books, hardware, and so forth that put them in a position to have their brainstorm.

Put that way, it sounds like a silly idea, but the idea behind software patents is precisely that eventually everyone will own parts of our communal knowledge base, and that programming will become in large part a process of properly identifylng and compensating each and every owner of the techniques you use. All I can say is that if we do go down that path, I guarantee that it will be a poorer profession for all of us - except the patent attorneys, I guess.


Exactly. The only unfortunate bit in the piece is that he then talks about an encounter with the author Neal Stephenson, where the two talked about the importance of sharing ideas and using networks to spread cheap or free tools to unleash the next creative genius. I'm a fan of Stephenson's work, and I'm sure that he at times talks up such things, but recently Stephenson has gone over to the other side, working part-time at Intellectual Ventures, one of the worst of the worst in terms of companies that are really trying to build a world where ideas are owned and limited. It's a shame that someone like Stephenson would get involved in such a project.
http://techdirt.com/articles/20090107/0023103308.shtml
 

SuperBowser

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Yeah, basically Mediocre got my point across better =/.

But Buzz, if there is no copyright, any fool on the street can make a copy and sell my book, and at a cheaper price because they don't care! I won't make any money.
 

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@Medicore -- There are authors today who post entire PDFs of their books online because the increased attention leads to more sales of the physical copy. No one likes to read an entire book on the screen. Sure, there are a few who do, but the worst that can happen is that they'll like it and pass it onto someone else. That leads to more attention of the creative work and more sales. Customers are not as cheap as everyone makes them out to be.
But, you are looking at it as if all people are good. If something is free, the objectivist in me will exploit it, as I should. Instead of saying, "Well, I like this sample, I'll buy the whole thing," I will use the sample until I am done, and if the sample happens to be the whole book, then why purchase it? When I download a game off the internet, I'll play it until I beat it and never touch it again. This scenario will happen more frequently.
 

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Yeah, basically Mediocre got my point across better =/.

But Buzz, if there is no copyright, any fool on the street can make a copy and sell my book, and at a cheaper price because they don't care! I won't make any money.
You have no basis for that statement at all. Most video games are available for free on the Internet, yet the gaming industry is quite healthy. All music is available online for free, but musicians still make money. Movies are the same. You fail to account for the fact that (1) the fool on the street cannot finance a worthwhile advertising campaign to make his cheaper version more known than the original and (2) customers often prefer the genuine product over a lousy duplicate.

But, you are looking at it as if all people are good. If something is free, the objectivist in me will exploit it, as I should. Instead of saying, "Well, I like this sample, I'll buy the whole thing," I will use the sample until I am done, and if the sample happens to be the whole book, then why purchase it? When I download a game off the internet, I'll play it until I beat it and never touch it again. This scenario will happen more frequently.
Not everyone is like you, believe it or not. The issue here is that you view the freeloaders as a bad thing. The truth is that freeloaders are a good thing. They basically eradicate advertising costs. According to what you are saying, no TV show can be successful because people like me watch the show and never watch the commercials.
 

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(1) the fool on the street cannot finance a worthwhile advertising campaign to make his cheaper version more known than the original and (2) customers often prefer the genuine product over a lousy duplicate.
Well in the current system, that's because there's an entire company behind pushing the product. In the new system I'm just a single author with no business sense. I can't share my book with a company because of exactly what you wrote. They can take my story word for word (not worse quality at all), package it better, sell it cheaper, advertise it better and make merchandise.

Where do I fit into this?! If anything, the creator's product is the shoddy deal.
 

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No.

Ideas should be free. (Free as in "free speech" not as in "free beer"). Not physical objects. Things like cars certainly can and should be charged for.
I wasn't talking about the physical objects.

But if someone makes a microprocessor or a car that's better than their competitors, there would be nothing to stop their competitors from reverse engineering it, and producing it themselves.

What incentive, then, would the developer of the car or processor have to develop it in the first place?

You say:

Far more money is to be made from things like merchandising, advertising, and commission than by direct sale anyway.
But how does the creator of a car make money in this way? His merchandise can be duplicated. He could put advertisements on his cars, I suppose, but the other companies who are producing his car can produce the same thing without advertisements on it, which would make people even less likely to buy the cars that he's manufacturing. No one would commission him to design a car for them, if they themselves could not make money by selling it to others.

So how do new cars get developed? What motivation do people have to develop them?


However, you were actually talking about books. Well, alright. Let's examine how these money making methods would work with them. Only the extremelysuccessful books would be popular enough so that other merchandise could be made from them. Even then, what's to stop other people, not related to the author of the work, from making the same merchandise? Nothing.

Advertising? They could put advertising in the pages of their book, but then other publishers could take the contents of the book, and reproduce it without advertisement. I suppose they could do "product placement" in the text of their book, but that doesn't seem like something I'd want to have to read. Moreover, other publishers could hunt through the book and remove the product placements, if they took some time.

Commission? Alright, so someone commissions an author to write a book. The author writes the book. The guy who commissioned it reads it, and puts it in his bookshelf. What is his incentive to share it with the rest of the world? Does this mean that every time someone wants to read a new work by a professional author, they have to commission them to write something? Sorry, most people don't have the cash for that.
 

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You have no basis for that statement at all. Most video games are available for free on the Internet, yet the gaming industry is quite healthy.
EA, Free Radical, and Midway would contest that comment.

Not everyone is like you, believe it or not. The issue here is that you view the freeloaders as a bad thing. The truth is that freeloaders are a good thing. They basically eradicate advertising costs. According to what you are saying, no TV show can be successful because people like me watch the show and never watch the commercials.
And not everyone is like you. People WILL exploit it. It's human nature to take something for granted if you can. Commercials actually were phased out with TiVo. TV shows now do product placement and commercials to get both audiences.
 

AltF4

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I wasn't talking about the physical objects.

But if someone makes a microprocessor or a car that's better than their competitors, there would be nothing to stop their competitors from reverse engineering it, and producing it themselves.

What incentive, then, would the developer of the car or processor have to develop it in the first place?
Now hold on right there for a second. Suddenly you're talking about patents, not copyrights. Patents and copyrights are not at all the same thing, and cannot be confused.

Patents are the worst of the three sides of what is commonly called "Intellectual Property". The patent system is completely broken. There is very little to salvage from it. In the real world, patents just allow companies to legally plagiarize others' ideas. They do not protect them in any way.


However, once again, your assertion is just another re-wording of "But without copyrights/patents, nobody will make money, and thus nobody will make the product!". Which is patently (pun intended) wrong.

*I'm about to add some more content to the OP as well in a little bit. I will also post it in the thread so everyone doesn't have to re-read it. It's just some stuff I didn't get around to talking about the first time 'round*


CrimsonKing said:
Let me be the first to say: **** EA. They make crappy games that are full of DRM. I would be glad if they closed shop.
 

BFDD

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People legally make knock offs of all kinds of things. Most grocery store chains have their own generic brand of many name brand products. There are even generic brands of medicines that do the exact same thing as their name brand counter parts and yet pharmaceutical companies still make tons of money off of their ideas even though are companies are taking their ideas.

Musicians can go on tour. Movies are better on the big screen and now the blockbuster down the street from me rents movies for only a dollar anyways. A movie of guaranteed quality is worth the $1. Not sure how books would handle it. Publishing companies have the money to hire business experts to figure it out.

Laws should recognize that all artistic mediums are different. Completely removing all forms of copyright would probably be a bad idea, they just need to be changed and should be different for different mediums. Information should be as free as it can without taking away the ability for people to make a living as an artist.
 

AltF4

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Added to the OP:

*4) The myth of the 'lone inventor' and how patents are good for the little guy. You will very commonly see arguments like this in courts as well, and it does a good job at tugging at the heart strings of judges.

They paint a hypothetical situation where a lowly, poor, but intelligent man is working in his basement. He then has a wonderful idea for an invention and creates it. This invention is of great utility. It is then argued that this inventor needs to be protected from large corporations trying to use his idea without permission! So he is issued a patent, which saves the day, everyone is happy, and birds sing.

This is quite separate from reality. In reality patents benefit only the large corporations. IBM holds more patents than anyone on the planet. [6] They have so many patents in so many fields that are so vague that no matter what you create, they can sue you for patent infringement.

When a small inventor (especially software developers) comes up with a great new idea, IBM sees it. They then inform you that you are infringing on several of their patents and that they intend to prosecute the offense... unless you sell your patent to them. Faced with a court case that will cost you tens of thousands of dollars just in court costs, you will give up and sell your patent to them.

Thus IBM is able to accumulate more patents and continue this cycle even more effectively.

Other large companies like Microsoft who also have large numbers of patents get around this by cross-licensing with each other. It essentially says: "I can use your patents if you can use mine." IBM will, of course, only let you cross license if you have a large number of patents. But you don't, so you can't.

So you can see that patents do quite the opposite of "helping out the little guy". The first tip off should be that the patent laws are sponsored (aka: paid for) by IBM, HP, and other big name patent holders. Now why on earth would IBM and Microsoft want a system that is good for the little guy?

They don't. Don't be fooled.
 

Overload

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This is probably a dumb question, but do you have to create the product before you patent it? Or can you just patent an idea?
 

Overload

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Okay, I should've known that. If patents stay, they should at least be reformed. There's no reason for there to be pages of text for a golf club, and when a guy actually gets a patent for a wheel you know something needs to be changed so companies can't take advantage of the system like IBM is doing. I'm not sure how this would be done though.
Here's another stupid patent infringement case: http://www.1up.com/do/newsStory?cId=3172094
That's basically like trying to patent a certain genre of video games. Only we can make platformers! Anyone else who does is infringing on our patent!
 
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