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Deconstructing Stupidity - Why is IP Policy Bad?

Zonk posted more than 9 years ago | from the making-trouble dept.

Patents 384

An anonymous reader writes "There is a good attempt on the Financial Times site by James Boyle to explain why intellectual property policy making is so bad. From the article: 'These are the ground rules of the information society. Mistakes hurt us.... Why are we making them? To some the answer is obvious: corporate capture of the decision making process. This is a nicely cynical conclusion. But wait. There are economic interests on both sides. The film and music industries are tiny compared to the consumer electronics industry.'"

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why doesnt the electronics industry stand up? (2, Insightful)

jonwil (467024) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314091)

And just whos side is the electronics industry (e.g. computer and computer part makers, TV set makers etc). Obviously companies like Sony are a different kettle of fish alltogether :)

Re:why doesnt the electronics industry stand up? (3, Insightful)

00squirrel (772984) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314141)

And just whos side is the electronics industry (e.g. computer and computer part makers, TV set makers etc). Obviously companies like Sony are a different kettle of fish alltogether :)

I think you may have answered your own question. Lots of the giant companies, like Sony, have interest in both IP and hardware. They have to strike a delicate balance between making as much money as possible from IP and making as much money as possible from hardware. The bottom line is, as always, to make as much money as possible.

Re:why doesnt the electronics industry stand up? (1)

delta_avi_delta (813412) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314590)

Additionally, they [sony] are making a hell of a lot more money from their film and entertainments branch than from their consumer electronics.

Where's their motivation to? (5, Interesting)

Shaper_pmp (825142) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314278)

Given the overwhelming happiness of naive consumers to use electronics with (even highly restrictive) DRM built-in (Napster-2-Go, iTunes, any non-native-MP3 digital music player), where is the pressure against strong IP laws going to come from?

Strong IP laws allow electronics manufacturers to make it harder for third parties to interoperate with their kit, thereby increasing vendor lock-in (and hence, their profits - iTunes makes a loss, iPod rakes in money hand-over-fist).

Weak IP means they can't stop people reverse-engineering their protocols and products and people can release cheap but interoperable knock-offs, which undercut their market and prevent lock-in.

Were I a consumer electronics manufacturer, I'd be lining up behind strong IP as far as I could - it would be all pro and no con, as far as I could see.

Re:Where's their motivation to? (2, Interesting)

ReverendHoss (677044) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314429)

"Were I a consumer electronics manufacturer, I'd be lining up behind strong IP as far as I could - it would be all pro and no con, as far as I could see."

The 'pro' you list is definitely a big one, but it only works if your device is the big cheese in the marketplace. In your above example, Sony may very well want a little less IP protection for Apple. iPod's market domination is a 'con'.

The reduction in IP protection would mean anyone could ATTEMPT to compete with the iPod, and the product that gave the best balance of price and quality would emerge the victor.

Well, okay, perhaps the most trendy and well marketed.

Re:Where's their motivation to? (2, Insightful)

The Angry Mick (632931) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314513)

Given the overwhelming happiness of naive consumers to use electronics with (even highly restrictive) DRM

I'm not entirely sure you can call it "overwhelming happiness", maybe "overwhelming ignorance" is more accurate. In either case, I think we're going to end up seeing these very same consumers end up being more likely to violate DRM once they realize they don't have as much freedom as they thought. The first time Joe Sixpack realizes how difficult it is to make a mix tape of his favorite Toby Keith songs for his sweetie, he's going to the 'net to look for a crack. He sure as hell won't be writing his congress-bitch.

Re:why doesnt the electronics industry stand up? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12314439)

Because America bans things. We stamp things out. This is the nature of America as far back as the Puritans. We do not encourage. We do not foster. If something new springs up in America, it's because we didn't see it coming fast enough to ban it.

Congress is not in the pocket of Hollywood. They just like to ban things. They like to ban boobs, swear words, and drug use on film. That's all anti-Hollywood. But then they also like to ban new technologies, so that's pro-Hollywood. Hollywood is successful in this particular fight because they're speaking a language Americans can understand.

There is no language the tech industry can use to swing Congress to their side, because they're not proposing to ban anything.

"Banning stupidity" doesn't work. The US is like the Terminator when it comes to banning. We cannot self-terminate.

Re:why doesnt the electronics industry stand up? (1)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314732)

> And just whos side is the electronics industry (e.g. computer and computer part makers, TV set makers etc).

The problem is that the decision makers aren't buying what the electronics makers are selling.

"Mistakes hurt us.... Why are we making them? To some the answer is obvious: corporate capture of the decision making process. This is a nicely cynical conclusion. But wait. There are economic interests on both sides. The film and music industries are tiny compared to the consumer electronics industry.'"

Would you rather snort your line of cocaine from between Titney'S pears, or Ballmer's monkey-manboobs?

Put yourself in the place of a Senator and have some compassion :)

choice quote: (4, Funny)

ShaniaTwain (197446) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314116)

We extend protection retrospectively to dead authors, perhaps in the hope they will write from their tombs.

perhaps they arent writing because they don't have enough economic insentive on account of those filthy pirates? did you ever think of that you insensitive clod?

I've heard of ghost writers, but what about zombie writers?

Re:choice quote: (1)

Eskimore_ (842733) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314254)


Re:choice quote: (2, Interesting)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314361)

Good quote - actually made me RTFA.

But what's going to happen when software is capable of analysing a writer's style, etc., and can grind out books long after the original author is dead?

Obviously, the original author didn't write them.

Re:choice quote: (1)

Analogy Man (601298) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314477)

what about zombie writers

Easy! Connect an unprotected windows box up to the internet, call it Socrates and the dead for thousands of years will write loads. WaNt s0me Pen1s en1argeMenT Cre4m?

Re:choice quote: (2, Funny)

sTalking_Goat (670565) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314622)

I've heard of ghost writers, but what about zombie writers

You've never heard of the great zombie writer John Doe? His fifth novel "Brains, sweet Brains" is a classic, a social commentary of the plight of the zombie in pre-Rodriguez America. He who walks in this world but belongs neither is this or the next.
I love that opening line: "Ugggghhhhh,want braiiinssss...."

Truly a masterful telling of the walking dead experience...

O/T (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12314119)

Four wheels, or two?

Interesting error popup (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12314127)

Mozilla and cannont communicate securely because they have no common encryption algorithms.

What are the advertisers up to now? HTTPS without encryption (I assume) for ads?

Re:Interesting error popup (2, Interesting)

0x461FAB0BD7D2 (812236) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314194)

And ironically, uses Netscape Enterprise Server.

This is akin to IE not working with IIS.

Money (5, Interesting)

chiapetofborg (726868) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314131)

I think it partially has to do with the money. I was working at a educational instution, and I created a very complicated system to keep track of a lot of things, and a couple of the things we did were cool, and we were thinking about patenting it, but the cost associated with filing a patent was too expensive. If we had a really broad patent where we could patent the entire world then it would have been worth it. In my talkings with one IP laywer he basically said he works under the following mindset: Ask for the world in your patent. They will narrow it for you saying what you can and can't have. If they grant your patent on the first time it wasn't broad enough, and you aren't worth your salt as a patent lawyer. That's the way patent laywers think these days, they try to patent the whole world. I think its a flaw of the system, becuase these broad ones get passed with way too much. More than they deserve.

Re:Money (1)

middlemen (765373) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314203)

I think it is more of a "What the fuck !!" shock attitude of corporates. When you spend a few years and a lot of effort and money on making something, you definitely want to reap the benefits of it. If you do not have IP then your competitors will take what you have and can spend lesser time making an even better/cheaper version of your product because most of the design is already done. So IP was started by corporations to ward off competition from other corporations but now they have to deal with hackers and more people starting off with small start-ups which is in fact not what they had expected to happen. Tyrants never expect their countrymen to revolt, which is what is happening. With the upcoming of F/OSS, there is a mutiny that the "tyrants of capitalism" see approaching and IP is the only cave in which they think they can hide and remain safe.

Re:Money (1)

BewireNomali (618969) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314233)


my question to you is this. the system you designed, was part of the impetus financial gain? did you think of the possibilities of financial gain during the development process?

Re:Money (1)

chiapetofborg (726868) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314308)

The system I designed didn't directly provide financial gain. It was a cool system, and it did so efficiently, but it just kept track of servers in a datacenter mostly. It was designed to expand very nicely (read: not possible in the older system) into other systems, but the only measurable financial gain from the system is that it now only takes 2 developers to maintain rather than 8. (oh, you showed up at 0, is your karma negative?)

Re:Money (1)

DrEldarion (114072) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314296)

Isn't having an overly-broad patent the quickest way to get it thrown out in court, though?

Re:Money (3, Insightful)

chiapetofborg (726868) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314326)

Yes, but that's exactly what they want. They want to be told exactly what it is they can't ask for after their patent is too broad, and why, that way they go back a second time, and just don't include the things that they aren't allowed to have, and they get a massive IP.

Patenting cheap. Patent lawyers expensive. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12314317)

Filing a patent in the UK is only £200. Same for a trademark. Hiring a patent lawyer to concoct legalese for said patent is very very expensive indeed.

It's really a general problem with "the law".

Re:Money (2, Insightful)

justforaday (560408) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314362)

I think it partially has to do with the money.

It doesn't partially have to do with money. It wholly has to do with money.

Re:Money (1)

jeff_schiller (877821) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314725)

Yup, I couldn't agree more. This all boils down to money (which is a disservice to those "creative" people out there who just feel the need to create, but that's the way the cookie crumbles).

Re:Money (1)

Ryan Amos (16972) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314415)

I think this points to the main problem: Patents are not bad, but the current 19th century implementation of them are. There needs to be a quicker patent review and rejection process. If you file a stupid patent, and it is approved, and you try to sue somebody.. they should have the opportunity to prove prior art and overturn the patent in a quick process (I'm talking like a patent review board, not the courts.)

Also, software patents should carry a shortened lifetime of 5 years because software patents are cheap/free to implement. The reason you normally have 20 (25?) years on a patent is so that you can patent your idea to protect it, then have time to develop the product without risk of someone else stealing it. Software is a different beast; almost any software patent can be implemented in a week or less by a single motivated person working in his basement and copied infinite times for negligable cost.

Short story, you need the 25 years to develop manufacturing and supply line infrastructure for a product or process. You need a few days with software patents. The duration of software patents should be shortened to promote innovation and progress in the industry. Chances are whatever you came up with will be obsolete in 5 years anyway. This also limits the damage in the case of bad patents; sure they'll still exist, but they'll only be a pain in the ass for 5 years instead of 20.

... but it's good !!! (2, Funny)

dago (25724) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314157)

Aaaaah, _this_ IP policy, not the other one related to QoS ... ok,ok.

Emergence.... and demergence (5, Interesting)

flyingsquid (813711) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314167)

I recently read a book about "emergence": the idea that simple rules of interaction between unintelligent subcomponents of a system can lead to emergent behavior which is surprisingly complex and intelligent. In short, the whole is more than the sum of its parts; for instance, ant colonies, where the behavior of the colony is more intelligent than any given ant.

It then occurred to me that many groups and institutions exhibit the reverse of emergence: you have complex, smart people making up your system, but when you get them together you get stupid decisions. In this case, the whole is less than the sum of its parts, sometimes less intelligent than any one individual. The obvious name for this phenomenon is "demergence".

Re:Emergence.... and demergence (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12314201)

Yeah, it reminds me a quote from Terry Pratchet:

The IQ of a crowd equals the IQ of the most stupid individual from that crowd divided by the number of people in the crowd.

Re:Emergence.... and demergence (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12314236)

Nice one.

Re:Emergence.... and demergence (2, Informative)

zxnos (813588) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314248)

its called 'groupthink' k.html [] [] basically no one wants to upset the apple cart, derfer to 'superiors' etc. people want to be liked and seem intelligent, ants just follow pheremones.

Re:Emergence.... and demergence (1)

octal666 (668007) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314285)

It's also an emergent behaviour, emergence is not necesary good. It's just an institution where the agents implied don't cooperate but compete for the resources.

Re:Emergence.... and demergence (2, Funny)

Sloppy (14984) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314316)

Hmm.. the theory of demergent phenomena might be useful to researchers who quest for Artificial Stupidity.

Re:Emergence.... and demergence (1)

GileadGreene (539584) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314319)

To quote Robert Heinlein:
A committee is the only known form of life with six or more legs, and no brain.

Re:Emergence.... and demergence (0, Redundant)

syousef (465911) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314333)

It's actually a little worse than that.

In both cases you're assuming everyone's doing their best or at least making a positive effort. With large systems of people you have people supporting competing goals that undermine each other, and sometimes worse. eg. war and violent crime.

Unfortunately I think there's already plenty of names for this. eg. Law of the jungle, survival of the fittest.

Re:Emergence.... and demergence (1)

dim5 (844238) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314424)

Reminds me of this (de)motivational poster [] from [] .

Re:Emergence.... and demergence (1)

The Angry Mick (632931) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314542)

you have complex, smart people making up your system

Come on now . . . let's not give our corporate culture that much credit . . .


Why is IP policy bad? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12314175)

Because IP policies annually decided in meetings like this [] .

You know it's true!

PS. Can you see Cowboy Neal in that photo?

Re:Why is IP policy bad? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12314188)

Because IP policies annually decided in meetings like this.

International Peni?

Mod parent down, it's a bunch of nakid men.

By your electronics companies combined... (3, Interesting)

Mysterian81 (823957) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314180)

I think one reason that electronics companies don't stand up to the music and motion picture industries is that the latter have unified organizations to act behind. To my knowledge, electronics makers are much more splintered than the entertainment industry. If the like of Sony, Panasonic, and others would band behind a single name, I think we would see more of a spine behind their agenda.

Who needs whom? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12314335)

"I think one reason that electronics companies don't stand up to the music and motion picture industries is that the latter have unified organizations to act behind."

It's more a question of who needs whom? Does the content providers need the electronic industry to sell their content? Or does the electronics industry need the content providers to sell their product?

Anyway, there's a lot of stuff that the electronic industry produces that have nothing to do with content.

We need intellectual squatter's rights (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12314184)

If the copyright holder isn't making use of a property, there should be a process to turn the title over to public domain. Perhaps a set fee per year of copyright, like a lease.

Re:We need intellectual squatter's rights (1)

DoorFrame (22108) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314685)

It's an interesting idea, but you'd need to work out a system so that Joe Nobody, who starts writing a great online comic but doesn't have the money to afford a copyright licensing fee, can prevent Big Mega Corp from simply taking his idea and republishing it. Since Joe couldn't afford to pay the fee, is Big Mega Corp allowed to make all sorts of money off his idea? Sure, Joe wasn't making money of his idea, but that doesn't mean that he's not using it, and hence should turn it over to anyone who wants to republish it.

Still, it's a good idea, but there needs to be a way to exempt people at the bottom from paying a tax, and I can't readily think of a system for doing so.

Key questions. (4, Insightful)

NeuralAbyss (12335) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314193)

It's all well and good to look at the history of Intellectual Property law. It's good to look at how it's changed, and what got us to our current state.

The question which many of these articles fail to address is this - Yes, we know the current state of IP is bad for the majority. Why do we tolerate it, what can we do to change it, and, most importantly, what is best for -society- as a whole?

IP law that protects, say, drug patents for 60 years is bad - it enables drug conglomerates to develop medication and live off the proceeds for years without giving back to the community that granted the company a -temporary- monopoly.

What is a fair balance between:
* Sustaining the economy
* Fairness to the general public (a balance between the public good, and ability for individuals to be employed by IP-centric companies)
* Rewarding creators and inventors of intellectual property.

So, if I may ask, what do Slashdot readers see as fair? I would suggest that we need to look at different copyright and patent periods depending on the type and application of an item.

Additionally, what can be done about the state of IP law? Australia recently got reamed by the USFTA; and many other countries, as signatories to the Berne Convention, IIRC, have been forced to extend their copyright periods to meet other countries'.

Re:Key questions. (5, Interesting)

sundiver90 (695540) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314582)

I think that as a community we should provide answers to key questions as well but I am interested in data-centric answers:

1) Do patents stiffle innovation? That's the main argument pro/con. The answer HAS to be an economic one, ie an econometric study or something similar for me believe it. I hear too much rhetoric and NO hard data from either side.
The U.S. Constitution, Article I. Sec. 8 believes protecting the right of inventors will encourage innovation. Our community keeps saying 'well, in software that's different, the framers never had software patents in mind'. We have to show numbers again for this. Software was once NOT patentable so the data is there.

2) What is a 'good' length of time for copyrights? Yes, balancing the rights of authors to their works and the right of the public to access those works free of charge for fair use or after a 'reasonable' length of time makes sense. The issue of what constitutes 'fair use' and what is 'reasonable time' should once again be backed up with data that shows that under a given copyright system 1) authors are being remunerated fairly, 2) the creation of new works are not being unduly stiffled and 3) the public is not being hampered in their fair usage. My nirvana would be to run a copyright simulation engine that takes in different copyright models (ie times of expiration, usage scenarios, etc.) and outputs metrics such as income from works, amount of fair use, increase/decrease in works produced, etc.

Anybody has any ideas on how to go about getting hard data answers to these issues or am I being naive and it is not possible to get answers?

What about the GPL (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12314208)

The GPL needs IP to exist.

Otherwise the world would be run on the BSD license (sans credit)

If that what you really want.


Re:What about the GPL (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12314321)

Understand the difference between copyright and perpetual, ever-expanding, ever-tightening copyright. Then comment.

Re:What about the GPL (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12314384)

Without IP there is no copyright. Without copyright there is no GPL.

If you make the distinction, then you are forcing your belief system on others. (facist)

Life really is black and white. Things are always good or bad with no middle ground.

Re:What about the GPL (2, Funny)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314373)

The GPL needs to exist because of IP.

Otherwise people would wonder what the hell kind of vehicle class a BSD license allows you to drive.

Re:What about the GPL (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12314410)

so you have a catch 22.

Without IP people would be free to use GPL code any way they want, without contributing back.

Is this what you want.


Re:What about the GPL (1)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314484)

Without IP people would be free to use GPL code any way they want, without contributing back. Is this what you want>

Yes. I guess it is. I would like to think that there are better reasons for contributing back to the community than the threat of law. Guess I must be a commie.

Re:What about the GPL (1)

BewireNomali (618969) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314409)

interestingly enough, i think the author of the article brings up a salient point about the near religious quality of current IP protocol.

The idea of granting rights and powers to individuals and essentially exalting them onto a pedestal. It's this essential human quality that seeks to find something potent and potentially divine in the human experience.

the analogy of the ant colony was made before. Worker ants behind a queen. Maybe IP is an extension of the constant search for queens.

Beyond rewarding innovators, maybe it's importnat to note that we as a society WANT INNOVATORS TO BE NOTED, no matter how minor their innovation may be. WE WANT TO BE SPECIAL, so we reward those who have somehow proven that they are because it proves that it is possible for us too, to be different and special.

Maybe the answer to the grand question of "what is it all for?", the answer is, "a patent."

Compromise on copyright... (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12314232)

Expiration 50 years from the date of publication is very generous, it gives firms a heck of a long period over which to depreciate their assets.

Then every month we'd be rolling in new properties into the public domain. Old Sinatra recordings and early rock 'n roll would be on tap this year, for instance.

Most of the "great American songbook" tunes from old Broadway shows should already be in the public domain IMO. If their publishers haven't cashed out many times over, enough to pay for dozens of duds as well as the original hits, they don't deserve any more money anyway.

I got this far (3, Insightful)

spidereyes (599443) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314246)

Since only about 4 per cent of copyrighted works more than 20 years old are commercially available, this locks up 96 per cent of 20th century culture to benefit 4 per cent After reading this my brain stopped working and I couldn't complete any more tasks, I'm going to do a reboot now.

Content -vs- Electronics (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12314247)

"The film and music industries are tiny compared to the consumer electronics industry."

In the US, the film and music industries have an enormous domestic presence, employ a lot of people, and can mobilize performers on their behalf.

With a few exceptions, the US consumer electronics "industry" is actually a bunch of importers of offshore designed and manufactured goods. They can't muster the bodies or the charisma to influence Congress. And most of the companies don't care if the products they sell are crippled by DRM, provided no one else is allowed to sell an uncrippled product.

Part of the problem (5, Interesting)

Nf1nk (443791) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314249)

Part of the problem is that IP is currently an untaxable asset. It is something that you can have tons of in inventory, but its not bad in the same way that having two years worth of wigets in inventory is. This leads to hoarding, some companyexist only to hoard and licence out bits of IP.
We Need to create an Intellectual Property Tax.
This will keep corpoartions from hoarding and speed the flow of material into the public domain. If $Member-RIAA thinks $Boy-Band latest album is worht $50 mil let em pay 1% for the goverments protection. Since the IP cartels want real protection for their "assets" let them pay for it in the same way you would have to pay for real assets

Re:Part of the problem (1)

RealProgrammer (723725) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314365)

>We Need to create an Intellectual Property Tax.

So you and I will be even less able to compete with the big companies.

No thanks.

Re:Part of the problem (1)

Nf1nk (443791) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314450)

You and I won't be hoarding $50 M worth of IP. If we have our ideas assesed and taxed perhaps we can come up with a reasionable value system. Perhaps we could add a short (5yr?) tax free period, or perhaps a floor below which you pay no tax ($10 M). At any rate IP has become an assest and needs to be taxed

Re:Part of the problem (1)

RealProgrammer (723725) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314555)

> If we have our ideas assesed and taxed

That idea is scary. Who does the assessing? What if they're wrong? You owe tax on a billion-dollar idea that in reality is worthless.

Or what if they're right and you have a billion-dollar idea? You won't have the money to both pay the tax and develop your idea into a practical product. You'll end up selling your idea to some IP hoarder.

But the biggest problem is the Orwellian creepiness of it. Taxing thoughts!

Re:Part of the problem (1)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314792)

But the biggest problem is the Orwellian creepiness of it. Taxing thoughts!

The government is already in the Orwellian business of granting monopolies on thoughts. What makes it any creepier to add some user fees to the process?

Re:Part of the problem (1)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314519)

So you and I will be even less able to compete with the big companies.

Huh? What is that supposed to mean?

You ARE making money from your various copyrights and patents commensurate with the value of the patent, no? If not, then can you demonstrate your copyrights and patents have advanced the arts and sciences at all?

If you say "what if you donate them?" then the answer is obvious: a deduction equal to the value that would be affixed to the property by this tax.

Also obvious, such a plan would not work with our current system of IP licensing. If Company A licensed patent #1 to Company B for $5 per unit, to Company C for $50,000/year, and offered it to Company D for $10 million a year plus $5k per unit then took kickbacks from B and C for keeping D out of the market, what would the value of that patent be? We'd need to establish mandatory RAND licensing for IP first, opening up the argument of "how much is reasonable"

IP TAX, Hmmmm (2, Interesting)

protolith (619345) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314440)

As Much as I don't like the idea of a new tax,

This is actually a really good idea. If a patent has future promise, it is worth it to the holder to pay a yearly (or regular) fee to hold the patent (this is how mining claims are managed). The Shit or get off the pot appraoch to a patent would help.

If a patent no longer provides income , or the income is less than the regular fee, it is no longer economically viable to hold on to the patent, then there is a chance for a final cash in, eithor sell to an interested party that might have a good alternative use, or use part of the money paind into the fees as a buyout to turn the patent over to the public domain.

Already have that for patents (2, Informative)

krysith (648105) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314563)

They already have it, for patents at least: scroll down to Patent Maintence Fees []

I had a patent which I was making no income off of, nor did ever expect to, so I stopped paying the maintence fees a couple of years ago. It's now in the public domain.

Copyrights, on the other hand, are free to create (although not to register and enforce) and last effectively forever. Copyright reform is a real necessity.

A Solution (1)

SirCyn (694031) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314463)

We Need to create an Intellectual Property Tax.

That's one of the best ideas I've seen yet regarding IP. I think a good combination of the reforms mentioned in the article and this tax could produce a viable solution to the current problem.

I'm not sure how to implement these changes exactly, but I sure am glad someone's thinking of solutions instead of just complaining all the time.

We need to write these ideas down. Nothing will change if we can't spell out to our congressmen exactly what we want.

Re:Part of the problem (1)

gte910h (239582) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314480)

Wow, this would solve a LOT of problems. America is quickly becoming an IP nation. If you had to pay to keep your IP alive, at least after a period of time, then you're going to get a HUGE tax revenue, or a great commons. --Michael

Re:Part of the problem (1)

compro01 (777531) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314617)

i think i remember the RIAA presidant saying something like "the IP industry is one of the largest industries in the United States." and invterview with CPU magazine i think. i'll have to find that issue.

Re:Part of the problem (1)

iolaus (704845) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314828)

The idea of an IP tax is nothing short of brilliant. Providing patent holders with protection of their innovations is great, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with motivating them to use those innovations. And if an innovation is not of particular use to the patent holder, then it should be added to the public domain or sold to someone who will actively use it. The tax itself could be structured in MANY ways making it fair for individuals and those holding very few patents. I would imagine, for instance, there would be some sort of % increase as the ammount of IP holdings of an entity increased.

Not sure I agree with the arguments (3, Interesting)

91degrees (207121) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314255)

Some of what he says makes sense, but at one point he appears to be drawing a false conclusion.

He said: "The point was made by an exchange inside the Committee that shaped Europe's ill-starred Database Directive. It was observed that the US, with no significant property rights over unoriginal compilations of data, had a much larger database industry than Europe which already had significant "sweat of the brow" protection in some countries."

But there's more to it than copyright. It's very difficult to access a corporate database to copy it, so copy protection is quite strong with or without legal copyright protection. Something that is more likely to have hindered the European database industry is stricter data protection laws. When you have to register, and are not allowed to sell information to anyone and everyone without exlicit permission, the industry sector is going to be a lot slower. This is simply a tradeoff between econmic growth and consumer protection.

Re:Not sure I agree with the arguments (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12314403)

Not every database is about personal information. For instance, Westlaw and Lexis have databases of public domain court decisions that cost $700 an hour to access. Most of the "free" legal decision websites are owned by them and used as little more than marketing tools to sell their expensive products.

Re:Not sure I agree with the arguments (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12314730)

"It's very difficult to access a corporate database to copy it"

apparently your company doesnt use MSSQL.

Duke's school (3, Insightful)

GPLDAN (732269) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314281)

It has a lot of articles in the same vein. We can see Linus wrestling with this himself, having to stop and work on a new tool for code revision.

The U.S. should lead on this, instead, we are regulating away any competitive advantage our market provides. If I want to write an open source project, I can get blitzed by lawsuits from software patents I don't know exist and may have been filed in a trivial way. It kills innovation, stifles the creativity of the citizens to build, and only allows those with existing wealth to further aggregate and hold it. It's the same with the stock market. The commission model favors large institutional investors who can move 100,000 shares easily, and not the guy who can only afford to trade 100 or even 1000 shares.

I've nearly given up on Washington to do the righ thing. It now falls on the judiciary to become activist and overturn or find unconstitutional some of these patent laws. With Tom DeLay openly advocating violence against judges, it's obvious, this is a class war, and IP is just one of the weapons.

Asymmetry (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12314302)

The West and America in particular has largely given up on producing consumer electronics. These are mostly produced in the East.

America does produce lots of movies and music.

It doesn't take a Nobel prize winner to guess who wants to protect IP the most and who will try to shove those laws down the throat of the rest of the world.

Oh, please... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12314817)

The electronics makers are suing one another over IP and patents constantly.

It's not policy (4, Interesting)

jafac (1449) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314303)

The reason it's bad is that it's being driven by ideology, not pragmatism.

Ideology says: "If we don't give the corporations what their lobbyists want, which is a guaranteed percentage of ROI for R&D dollars spent, all innovation will grind to a halt!"

Pragmatism says: ". . . to promote the useful arts and sciences. . . for a limited time. . ." (actually, that's what the Constitution says).

There's still a place for patent and copyright law, but the effect of today's laws is to remove the risk from R&D spending for large, established corporations, and eliminate competition from the marketplace. It has a detrimental effect, overall, on innovation, because it creates unnecessarily high barriers to entry in many markets and industries today.

This is an area of policy where lawmakers really need to tear everything down, and go back to what the Constitution said about Copyright, and what the Founding Fathers intended. Otherwise, the Free Market will make us it's bitch, and overseas competitors with less draconian IP law will supplant ours (already happening in some areas).

attitude of society toward "artists" (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12314305)

I think our society just has an "unhealthy respect" for musicians and actors and so forth.

Imagine if plumbers demanded that you pay them every time you use the sink they fixed. Or if doctors wanted a percentage of your income earned with that broken arm they mended. You'd laugh and say "I'll just find another guy that doesn't demand those ridiculous terms". Or put another way, the free market would quickly eliminate those types of contracts.

But it's not that way with, say, musicians or other creative professionals. Probably because each musician is unique in some sense, and also the average Joe doesn't have a clue how to make a good piece of music.. so when you tell somebody that musicians are being "stolen" from, they feel more sympathy. They don't want the artist to "starve".

I mean, look how we worship (and pay big bucks) for Marilyn Monroe, Elvis, etc. There's a feeling that there will never be another one *just* like Elvis. And somehow people don't question this ludicrous state of affairs (dead people having these dynasties where they continue to get paid for work already completed).

That's the vibe I've gotten from people, anyway. We worship entertainment in this society.

What? You mean Elvis is dead? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12314643)

No. He's just left the building...

Re:What? You mean Elvis is dead? (1)

Col. Blackwolf (778676) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314698)

No no, he's definitely dead. No living father would allow his daughter to marry Michael Jackson.

Strengthening Rights? (2, Insightful)

gr8_phk (621180) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314307)

From TFA "Did this lead the committee to wonder for a moment whether Europe should weaken its rights? No. Their response was that this showed we had to make the European rights much stronger."

IP laws are not about rights. They take freedom (to copy, to innovate, to use an algorithm, etc) from the public and grant exclusive permission to a private entity or individual. It's clear that if you want widespread innovation the solution is to loosen the restraints on the public - i.e. strengthen their rights.

I'm not totally against "IP". I think 14 years was an OK term for copyright, and that patents shouldn't apply to software or trivial ideas.

True Cost of Property Rights (2, Interesting)

Baldrson (78598) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314314)

Extending the principle of true cost pricing [] to maintaining the social construct [] of property rights, one can see that the taxation of anything but property rights themselves is an inappropriate basis for government as the only fundmental job of government, outside of defending life and limb, is protection of property rights. While one can make an argument for taxing right to life and limb as well it is more difficult due to the determination that slavery, and hence ownership of human capital, is not consistent with the social construct of property rights.

It's ironic that the only asset the Feds charge a protection fee for is patent maintanence. If there were one asset that should be exempt from such protection fees it is inventor-owned/assigned patents since by putting capital in the hands of the inventors themselves you are far more likely to create the sort of society that can sustain other sorts of ownership rights.

What we do instead is subsidize the protection of property rights of acquisitors -- with the dire consequences now observable in the technology creation field.

Let me be clear. IP is a good thing. (3, Interesting)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314338)

Let me be clear. IP is a good thing.

Just lost me. IP is a tax on people who use an idea to benefit the person who first brought it to public attention. It is useful only insomuch as it encourages the USE of new and better ideas. Discovering an idea, having an idea, these are not a benefit to society in and of themselves. The benefit of a good idea is measured in how broadly it is utilized compared to conflicting inferior ideas. Having the idea in the first place is a prerequisite, but only that.

So why is it a given that IP is good? Creating an inclination to have ideas by creating a disinclination to use them is NOT the open-shut case that the author or anyone else makes it out to be.

If we're really interesting in furthering society, we should be setting up a system that creates motivation to create new ideas and ALSO creates motivation to USE those ideas. How that should work is open to debate, but the fundamental premise is not. It is an obvious and incontestable fact that motivating people not to use good ideas hurts society to some degree or another. If a mechanism that has that as an effect is considered at all, it should be the last option that is considered when all others have been exhausted.

Can any intelligent human being really deny this?

Re:Let me be clear. IP is a good thing. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12314443)

How many would chose NOT to create stuff then based on the fact that a big company could just come up and copy that and reproduce it without any royalties whatsoever.

Re:Let me be clear. IP is a good thing. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12314782)

Similar to the number of people who choose not to create stuff based on the fact that a big company with a large obscure patent library could come up and sue them to oblivion.

Ironic? (1)

dannyelfman (717583) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314339)

I find it odd that the ``Featured Projects'' are all in RealMedia format.....

Re:Ironic? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12314370)

RealMedia is an open format.
Checkout out the RMFF, RTSP, RDP, RTP, SDP RFCs for yourself.

Bribes (1)

Scrameustache (459504) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314478)

That's why. And it's not new.

Why are the drug policy so bad?
Do a recursive "Why are [insert indiotic policy] bad?", the awnser is: Special interest groups subvert the demographic process through bribes and threats.

Might makes right, money is power.
Until the revolution comes, get used to it.

Re:Bribes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12314813)

Due to a recent copyright granted to LargeFaceLess Inc (TM) (A subsidary of EverythingCo (All Rights Reserved (TM))) the image of the sky is owned by LargeFaceLess Inc (TM). Henceforth you must pay a royalty to LargeFaceLess Inc (TM) for every viewing of the sky, or use of the image of the sky in any visual work, or representation of the sky in any non-visual work. We see that you are wearing blue. Excpect a bill in the mail.

Political economy (3, Informative)

xy (49954) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314536)

The political economy of the process of IP legislation and internationalization is critical to consider in this context. The construction of these policies have to do with the narrow self-interest of corporate actors and how they are able to sell their case to political policymakers. For example, the conversion of IP law from an abstract problem to a trade issue addressable through the United States Trade Representative office has allowed the US to pursue the IP agenda of large corporate actors outside the bounds of IP-related treaties.

If you are interested, look at this book: Private Power, Public Law: The Globalization of Intellectual Property Rights, Susan Sell []

It's a great in-depth analysis of this topic and very enlightening for anyone who thinks this debate is somehow easy to understand.

It's not bad; it's good (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12314538)

Because it's going to slow down technological advances, giving us time to work on our society. Fewer fusion power plants, more riding bikes and planting trees.

More parenting, fewer gadgets. We need a good score of years, just working on American society. We need to get the ghettos cleaned up, we need to bus kids from LA to Montana for their primary schooling (K-12). We need yearlong school sessions, with a rotating schedule of instructors.

And with IP stagnating tech advancements, it's really the best way to go. It's not a nuclear bomb and California sliding off into the ocean, it's a very gradual reduction. We're not stopping tech, we're just slowing it down.

Think of it as a tech freeze. Just like a spending freeze, but without Congress passing a new law that allows deficit spending exceptions for their state pet projects.

IP and Patents (1)

IEEEMonkey (669772) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314569)

I noticed while reading the article that the word patent did not come up as much as I would have thought. The interesting thing is that companies are quickly swiping up all of the patents that have not been applied for, yet folks who know better are scratching their heads. I wonder how it is that some of these patents even get awarded. The idea of Intellectual Property makes plenty of sense.

One should be REASONABLY rewarded for something that they came up with. One of the problems now is that because some things, Elvis' estate, do not seem to die, things are carried to far, with respect to copyright. I apologize that this turned into a rant and does not make all that much sense, but I think that my problem is rooted in quicksand and the more I think about it the more it seems to spiral into some thing that I cannot really understand.

Re:IP and Patents (1)

boligmic (188232) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314608)

One should be REASONABLY rewarded for something that they came up with.

Bullshit - if you invent, discover, make something new that people want and like, then you have the absolute right to make as much as you possibly can. In fact, that's why people invent things - to make money. Its not up to lazy people like you to determine how much someone should be rewarded for hard work. Communist asshole.!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Dripping with Bias... (4, Insightful)

torokun (148213) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314621)

Are slashdotters so unoriginal that they will let language like this story header's go by with nary a comment? This story is just dripping with assumptions and unjustified bias.

Do you want a discussion or a rantfest? The article brings up some good issues, but assumes from the outset that many policies are "bad" only because it seems to be common sense. Common sense is a good guide sometimes, but shouldn't always be taken as unassailable. There are many counterintuitive effects in the operation of economic incentives.

This header frames the article in such a way as to draw unthinking rants against IP policy, rather than a decent discussion. This is one of the reasons so many have stopped reading slashdot.

To give the author of the article some credit, at least he admits that "IP is a good thing" near the end. It is.

The goal of IP law has always been to find a way to incentivize innovation without unduly burdening society. If you learn about all the equitable doctrines involved in copyright and patent law, you'll see it's true. There is a real effort to be fair and equitable.

There are many problems in the operation of the system, as well as in some of the copyright legislation, as with all aspects of government. But framing the dialog in this way is not productive...

I've said this before here and I'll say it again. Even though all you coders know you want to throw out that ancient spaghetti codeded system and start all over, you can't and you know it. It's often there for a reason and needs to be respected as something that works, for good or for ill. It may need to be refactored, but not trashed.

That is the proper approach to law as well, and I'd like to see some responsible recognition of that in slashdotter circles.

Re:Dripping with Bias... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12314710)

I think that there is already plenty of recognition in slashdotter circles that the header has little, if anything, to do with the actual article itself. Everyone knows that the editors don't actually RTFA, they just skim it and look for keywords.

As it applies to Software and other things... (3, Insightful)

jwd-oh (513054) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314634)

Since software is ultimately nothing but math and math cannot be invented only discoved (2+2 always equaled 4, E always equaled mc^2, calculus was all around us, is merely had to be discovered and expressed), then how can software be patented? It merely had to be discovered and expressed (copyright or left counld apply to a particular expression).

This hoarding of knowledge could ultimately be our undoing. An example: The fact that parts of the human genome are "locked" up in patents, prevents mankind the benfit of of that knowledge.

The classic part of economies are "make something" or "do something". Now we have folks that don't make anything and don't do anything, they merely demand payment for knowledge, so that someone else can make or do something.

This is a very scary trend that shows no sign of stopping.

People need to remember: "Knowledge is power, but only if shared". Hoarding it hurts us all in the long run.

Re:As it applies to Software and other things... (1)

torokun (148213) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314787)

Pure mathematics and laws of nature cannot be patented.

Software is not these things. It is code that performs a function for a user like a machine, and does i/o that is relevant to the real world.

Some Ramblings to Rehash (5, Insightful)

jeff_schiller (877821) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314656)

It's a big problem with no simple solution. The real problem is trying to put a container around ideas and concepts and calling them "Intellectual Property". But that's what the Information Age taught us: Ideas are extremely, extremely Valuable.

Protection for IP is in place to give monetary incentive to people (or corporations) to create things (in order to drive the economy, make the world a better place, etc).

If I create something useful, it would be nice if I get compensated for my efforts. If I create something really popular, it stands to reason that I would be compensated on a relative scale. If I create something and someone comes along and steals all my ideas and makes a fortune on them, that's an injustice.

If there were ZERO IP laws, then you favor those with the big bucks. Simple: steal some idea, market it as your own and drive everyone out of business. Corporations would chase away any monetary incentive to create something and artists/developers would only be left with "personal pride" as a motivator.

Unfortunately, "personal pride" does not put food on the table. Thus, you definitely need IP Laws in order to police the soulless corporations who only see dollar signs.

Just off the top of my head, I feel that corporations should not be allowed to own IP. It doesn't feel "right" to me. Corporations are soulless, mindless entities with money, they cannot actually CREATE. What I mean is, only the ACTUAL creators (i.e. people) would be able to own the IP and (as employees) could license it exclusively to their employer for a maximum of 2 years (or some reasonably small number).

This still gives corporations incentive to fund research and secure the IP, and get a product out before competitors, but it reduces some of the incentive to blindly secure IP wherever they can.

When the "exclusive" term is up, the actual creator(s) can market the IP anywhere (including to their employer) but it can never be "exclusive", meaning if a competitor is willing to pay the license to the employee, the IP owner cannot refuse. They can even release it to the public domain.

I know this doesn't actually solve the bigger problem but it feels like a step in the right direction to me anyway.

This is why Sony is bad (1)

ebcdic (39948) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314703)

The different interests of media companies and equipment makes goes some way to protect us. But Sony is now a big player in both areas, and can be expected to go for whichever side it expects to be more profitable. Such cross-ownership puts all the decision-making power in one place, and should be prevented by government regulators.

Patent Credited To.. [Insert Co. Here] (3, Insightful)

alahan27 (878156) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314708)

I think that the U.S. should do away with the "Credited to" part of patents. Inventors should be able to LICENSE their works to companies, not sell them. Usually, the person who came up with the invention gets screwed, and the corporation makes out with the big bucks.

An example of this is Kary Mullis, who invented PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction). PCR is a breakthrough process that allows for specific strands of DNA to be replicated, often up to billions of times, quickly and easily. Mullis got paid $300 million for his invention by a corporation to sign off the patent to them. PCR is now a multi-billion dollar-a-year industry, and the company profits while Mullis watches as he doesn't get a share of the pie and counts his remaining money from 15 years ago.

Re:Patent Credited To.. [Insert Co. Here] (4, Insightful)

jwd-oh (513054) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314785)

Kary Mullins did not invent PCR, he discovered it. He did not have to sell his discovery. No one put a gun to his head. He made a coice and now has to live with that choice.

Re:Patent Credited To.. [Insert Co. Here] (2, Funny)

mcwop (31034) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314804)

So, am I supposed to feel bad for Mullis, who was paid $300 million?

John Gilmore sums it up nicely... (1)

Lazy Jones (8403) | more than 9 years ago | (#12314816)

in 2001, he wrote:

I think there are a lot of things wrong with how copy protection techologies are being foisted on an unsuspecting public. I'd like to hear from you a similar discussion. Being devil's advocate for a moment, why should self-interested companies be permitted to shift the balance of fundamental liberties, risking free expression, free markets, scientific progress, consumer rights, societal stability, and the end of physical and informational want? Because somebody might be able to steal a song? That seems a rather flimsy excuse. []

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