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How Patent Trolls Destroy Innovation

bzipitidoo Re: How the Patent System Destroys Innovation (96 comments)

Be happy. The universe is not structured that way. Copying happens all the time in nature. Billions and billions of bacteria create copies of themselves every day. Events that generate light or sound radiate faithful copies of energy in many directions and also can generate echoes. One person can address a crowd of thousands, and radio stations can broadcast one signal to millions, because nature does work that way.

The insanity is the direction we tried to take ideas. We've tried to treat ideas like they're gold. Try to hoard them, try to demarcate and issue certificates of ownership. Tried to apply the logic of material ownership to the immaterial. Many people have fallen for the oversimplification, and have bought the lines that "property is property" and "stealing is stealing". But those pesky ideas just won't stay safely locked up. Someone else might get the same idea without ever breaking into the vault. The people who are regularly appalled and unhappy that vaults don't protect ideas are fools. That DRM exists and has been forced into so many products agasint the wishes of people who know better, is a testament to the large numbers of people who have failed to grasp this aspect of nature. The universe is a better place because ideas can't be locked up. It's the fools who have tried mightily to make patents and copyrights work who are struggling against reality. They're fighting an unwinnable battle. They will eventually lose, but until that day comes, they continue to cause a lot of waste, grief, and damage.

about a week ago
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Rightscorp's New Plan: Hijack Browsers Until Infingers Pay Up

bzipitidoo Re: Unconstitutinal (376 comments)

Funny. I live in Texas. Cities use red light cameras. From Plano, I've received a, well, not exactly a ticket, but a notice that the car violated a city ordinance for running a red light, and the owner must pay a $75 fine.

about a week ago
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Rightscorp's New Plan: Hijack Browsers Until Infingers Pay Up

bzipitidoo Re: Unconstitutinal (376 comments)

No, that may not work. One way a city and their red light camera operating partner has devised to get around those pesky legal requirements that you get to confront your accuser and that they have to prove you were driving is to change the offense from a moving violation to a mere violation of a city ordinance. Doesn't matter who was driving, the owner gets punished regardless. It's similar to being penalized for not mowing your lawn. Your insurance rates do not go up, you don't get a strike on your driving record.

Making the crime into a violation of a city ordinance makes it harder for them to collect, as it's not as serious. An easy way to deal with an accusation is to refuse to pay. But they've also worked out ways to get you if you try that. Even though it's not a moving violation, somehow, you can't renew your driver's license until you've paid the fine. They can also call on a debt collection agency who will happliy trash your credit rating.

about a week ago
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Of the following, I'd rather play ...

bzipitidoo Re:Go (274 comments)

Bah, Go is only another game in the same class as chess and checkers. D&D, why not mention that? How could they miss D&D, classic D&D with pencil, paper and polygonal dice?

about two weeks ago
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TEPCO: Nearly All Nuclear Fuel Melted At Fukushima No. 3 Reactor

bzipitidoo Re:So.. what? (255 comments)

Don't be so dismissive of Chernobyl and Fukushima as freak, one time events.

The causes you mention are proximate causes. The root cause was human stupidity, recklessness, greed, and folly. That's what sank the Titanic. That's what has caused hundreds of oil spills, including Deepwater Horizon and Exxon Valdez. It's what killed thousands of people in Bhopal. Upon inquiry, over and over we find that the operators had plenty of warnings and plenty of measures they could have taken to avoid problems. They just chose not to heed the warnings. The Titanic didn't have to charge ahead at full speed at night. Didn't have to cut straight through a field of icebergs.

In Fukushima's case, that recklessness manifested as several stupid decisions that saved a little money but made disaster certain if a tsunami struck. They did not build a high enough wall. The engineers knew how high it needed to be and told management, but management overruled or ignored them. Then, they didn't maintain the emergency generators. They skimped on several other measures. The people making these decisions had no business taking such gambles on behalf of the whole world. They were incompetent to understand the true risks they were taking. They had no reason to suppose that a tsunami would never hit, but they behaved as if it wouldn't happen. We would never have allowed such recklessness if we'd known. And that's another thing those fools did-- cover it up. They knew others would not approve of the risks they were taking. They knew. But instead of heeding those very legitimate fears, they denied that they were taking huge risks. They behave like ostriches, sticking their heads in the sand so they couldn't see doom approaching. Then they have the nerve to say that they are blameless and no one could have foreseen that a tsunami could be that big. The only way anyone could think that is by ignoring or dismissing most of knowledge ever recorded and studies ever done on tsunamis. They built for 3.1m and increased to 5.7m, and there had already been 8 tsunamis higher than that in the past century. The 2004 tsunami that hit Sumatra was 24m, and at a few points 30m thanks to funneling effects. They might have even tried a bit of propaganda, bribe someone to cook up bad studies showing that tsunamis are never bigger than some relatively small size.

It will happen again. We do have honest asssessment and reporting in many areas, such as passenger airplanes. Nuclear power could be operated safely. The problem is, will nuclear power be operated safely? Fukushima shows us that it won't. People can't be trusted that far. The continued efforts of TEPCO to downplay the disaster and spin it as not really their fault and also not really so horrific after all shows that they haven't learned their lesson and they still don't take safety seriously enough. Covering their asses seems to be more important than coming clean on matters that imperil the lives of thousands. One example of the spin that nuclear proponents put on the issue is number of deaths. I have pointed out repeatedly that you can't use that alone as a measure of how disastrous an accident was. By that measure, a bad bus crash (Prestonsburg, Kentucky, 27 deaths) could rank as a bigger disaster than a major hurricane (Andrew, 26 direct fatalities).

Would you put those TEPCO bozos in charge of a nuclear plant? I wouldn't.

about three weeks ago
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Ask Slashdot: What To Do About the Sorry State of FOSS Documentation?

bzipitidoo Re:Intellectual Property (430 comments)

Both. Copyright is monopolistic. Why is it that only one publisher at a time can have the "right" to make copies of works still in copyright? There's no good reason for such restrictions. As an example, anyone can print Sherlock Holmes stories. No need to ask anyone for permission. You might think that means no one can profit from printing them, and so no one does, but that is not the case.

As for better models, one word: patronage. Patronage worked for centuries. It worked for Mozart. You might suppose that means only the wealthy would patronize the arts. In Mozart's day, that was largely the case. But today we can do patronage much, much better. Thanks to vastly superior communication, the public can directly participate in the financing of art and science. That was simply not possible centuries ago. Currently we have Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and Humble Bundle.

Patronage can be the mainstay, but it's not all. There's also the advertising and endorsement models. Broadcast radio and TV uses advertising.

Having to get permission to share information is indeed tyranny. Tyranny over our very thoughts. Civilization arose and advanced because we invented and improved ways of sharing knowledge. We created writing systems so we could more easily share knowledge. Sharing is the natural state. It is only relatively recently that a coalition of various small interests have conspired to change the thinking on sharing so that now it's vilified as "piracy". The Gutenberg press was a huge advancement that some, sadly predictably, attempted to suppress. One of the forces attempting to control the press was the Church. They wanted to make sure there were no inaccurate Bibles circulating amongst the people no matter how high their rank, and felt this "need" gave them the right to dictate what printers could print. They helped pioneer the whole idea of copyright, for that purpose. Today, it is unthinkable that anyone could censor the Bible. The Pope himself has no authority to tell printers that they can't print whatever version of the Bible they want.

And today, suppression is happening again with our most recent breakthrough, the Internet. It will eventually end, it's only a question of when. The sooner the better.

about three weeks ago
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Ask Slashdot: What To Do About the Sorry State of FOSS Documentation?

bzipitidoo Re:Read the source code (430 comments)

Isn't "Documentation" a 4-Letter Word?

docx ?

about three weeks ago
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Ask Slashdot: IT Personnel As Ostriches?

bzipitidoo Re:yes, ignore office politics (246 comments)

Most answers to these questions are concentrating on the snooping. System admins should not snoop, unless specifically told to do so by someone in authority.

But few are talking about office politics. Do not stick your head in the sand! Listening to the grapevine is not snooping. Learn what's going on the same way everyone else can, by keeping up with how the company's presentation did at the trade show and that sort of thing, not by abusing system administrator privileges to read private email and the like. You have an interest in knowing if the company is about to go bankrupt, be sold, or layoff a whole division. You also want to know if you have enemies and if so, who they are and why they hate and fear you so you can guard yourself. It may be that someone somehow views you as a threat to their job, and they'd like to get you before you get them. Doesn't matter that you aren't a threat, what matters is that they see you that way. You may be able to show them otherwise, and they'll stop trying to plant knives in your back. Or maybe not. There are a lot of sick bastards out there who want power so they can enjoy making others sweat, make their lives hell. You don't want to be surprised by your job being eliminated, and if that's likely, you want to know that with as much advance notice as possible.

about three weeks ago
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Getting Back To Coding

bzipitidoo Re:Tool complexity leads to learning the tool (240 comments)

You're right, I had not heard of node.js. Checking, I see that node.js was released in 2009. An eternity for regular users, but for casual users, really not all that long ago. There is plenty of old documentation out there that should be retired because it's older than node.js and Javascript 1.8.5.

In 2011, the Javascript 1.8.5 release added some sorely needed missing functionality that I used to complain about: Object.keys, and similar functions. The book I had was too old to cover these new features.

about three weeks ago
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Getting Back To Coding

bzipitidoo Re:Tool complexity leads to learning the tool (240 comments)

Although Javascript can be used on the server side, it's not so easy. What do you need to run a Javascript program? A browser. You don't want to have to run a browser on the server. GCC doesn't have a front end for Javascript. You could use Rhino to translate from Javascript to Java, and run that on the server side. Closure compiles Javascript to Javascript. Helpful to make Javascript run faster, not helpful to make it run. There may be some proprietary, commercial tools for compiling or running Javascript.

So, what do I not know about? What tools are there for running Javascript outside a browser? Or, is there some tiny browser like Lynx or Links that can do it?

about three weeks ago
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Getting Back To Coding

bzipitidoo Re:Tool complexity leads to learning the tool (240 comments)

And I have an issue with how needlessly complicated programming is. IDE's? They're a trivial addition to the problem. The problem is the entire ecosystem. For example, why is a tool like Make a language of its own? Why are revision control systems yet another level of complexity about the same as a programming language? Can you be a competent programmer without knowing about those things?

Then there's the nightmare of library code. There is no standardized way to call libraries, and maybe that's impossible, but we could have done better. We have this horrific mess of libraries tied to individual languages, with C/C++ libraries being perhaps the most prevalent. But C doesn't provide enough to make portable libraries. Need that .h file. A programmer may need to know about the informal conventions that were established to deal with name collisions. Some of this has been addressed, with additions such as namespaces. Other languages have wrappers to connect to C libraries, or they have their own libraries, or both.

The web is very messy. Web pages have become jumbled mixes of data and code. There's PHP or Python or Perl on the server side, Javascript on the client side. Why couldn't the same language work in both places? There's Java, sort of. But Java doesn't work on the client side unless the user installs a massive plugin that constantly nags users to keep it updated. Actually, just about any language can be easily used on the server side. One of the exceptions is... Javascript! Then, should browsers run executable code? No Execute has been worked into CPUs, while the web has been flying in the opposite direction.

There is politics involved too. Some Microsoft ""documentation" is actually marketing drivel. And you're always wondering what they're hiding now. Not even they know how big their own API is. Over 60,000 functions, so I've heard.

about three weeks ago
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Vint Cerf on Why Programmers Don't Join the ACM

bzipitidoo ACM doesn't get it on (C) (213 comments)

I am an ACM member, but I'm not happy with it. My biggest complaint about the ACM is their failure to understand why copyright is bad and needs massive reform or abolishment. Instead, they jump in bed, ideologically, with copyright extremists! $100 membership isn't good enough for access to the digital library, have to pay another $100 for that? What a total money grab, locking up knowledge and for what? To coerce membership fees from researchers? Aren't they supposed to be a non-profit organization? The digital library should be public! Freely available to all, including non-members. Some years, CACM has had a "special" issue in the summer devoted to intellectual property issues. Some of those CACM articles are downright shameful in their unquestioned support of the current system, preferring to dive into how to use copyright when they haven't discussed why. It's like the whole fake "teach the controversy" debate between Evolution and Creationism. Any science magazine that dared treat Creationism as if it was valid science would quickly lose all respect and become a laughingstock. But the ACM still soberly talks as if copyright can somehow still work. It's like listening to some cranks say that they can fix the problems with the Theory of Intelligent Design, just have to do more exploration and research.

It's embarrassing. On technological matters, the ACM ought to be one of the most progressive organizations in existence. Instead, they were slow to get on the Internet. Their early websites were garbage nearly devoid of content, seemingly made live only because it was even more embarrassing not to have a website at all! They were late to the party for online renewal of membership. Yes, ACM has done online renewal for years, but they weren't the first to do that, far from it. Now they're going to be late to the death of copyright.

about a month ago
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For Now, UK Online Pirates Will Get 4 Warnings -- And That's It

bzipitidoo Re:Changing attitudes, i.e. brainwashing (143 comments)

Sharing is more than easy and natural, it's good. Sharing is so important to civilzations that early ones developed writing systems to facilitate it, and later ones have been improving it ever since. Reading and writing used to be only for the nobility, for the practical reason that educating everyone was more expense than was thought worthwhile, though this was also correctly seen as an excuse not to educate the masses. Words were terribly subversive, best if the people can't read them. The pen is not mightier than the sword if no one can read. Democracies changed that, deciding that 100% literacy was a desirable and nearly obtainable goal.

Now here we are today, and what are our supposedly democratic governments doing? Siding with those who think they have a right to lock away knowledge, those who think the worthy desire to compensate artists justifies all kinds of monstrosities and public expense, and that fair compensation can only be done through Holy Copyright.

Sharing should be encouraged. By everyone.

about a month ago
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People Who Claim To Worry About Climate Change Don't Cut Energy Use

bzipitidoo Re:user error (710 comments)

Er, pegged to the right, I mean. That fridge may have been the least efificient model available in 1995.

I hypermile too. But here again, you'll do better with a better car, rather than sweating to make a bad car do a little better. If we took energy savings seriously, we'd smooth the undersides of our cars for starters. No more of this having the car's guts exposed to the world.

about a month and a half ago
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People Who Claim To Worry About Climate Change Don't Cut Energy Use

bzipitidoo Re:user error (710 comments)

I can't quite match you, but I have our house just under 300kwh in the months with the most pleasant temperatures. There are 3 of us, and it sounds like only 1 of you. You live in a place with a friendlier climate, while I am stuck in north Texas. Last year, we used about 5200kwh. Was hovering around 10000kwh in the 1990s. Improvements in lighting, displays, and A/Cs have made more difference than being an activist about turning things off all the time. However, the biggest saver is being willing to live with greater temperature differences, setting the thermostat to 83 in the summer and 70 in the winter.

I'm looking forward to about a 10% improvement now that we have finally ditched our old fridge. It was made in 1995, and the efficiency of refrigerators was greatly improved starting in 1996. It wasn't even efficient for a 1995 model, being pegged all the way to the left on the energy usage label.

about a month and a half ago
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People Who Claim To Worry About Climate Change Don't Cut Energy Use

bzipitidoo Re: user error (710 comments)

To be fair, no car, not a little econobox nor a big SUV, is going to do well in a collision with a tractor trailer.

about a month and a half ago
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With New Horizons Spacecraft a Year Away, What We Know About Pluto

bzipitidoo Re:We know it's a Goddamned planet (128 comments)

Mass is a big point. Mercury is very dense and quite a bit more massive than Ganymede and Titan and all the other moons in our solar system. Mercury is 3.3x10^23 kg, while the most massive moon, Ganymede, is only 1.48x10^23, less than half of Mercury's mass.

about a month and a half ago
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With New Horizons Spacecraft a Year Away, What We Know About Pluto

bzipitidoo Re:We know it's a Goddamned planet (128 comments)

<dramatic music>New Horizons set out on an epic journey of <Carl Sagan voice>millions and millions</Carl Sagan voice> of miles to the most distant, coldest parts of the solar system. Its 5, er, 8 year mission, to explore the last unexplored and most difficult to reach Planet of them all, Pluto, and whatever planets may be discovered beyond Pluto.</dramatic music>

Suddenly, in 2006 Pluto was downgraded to dwarf planet status, and all the Planets were now explored.

Fight? What for? <glorious fanfare>Mission Accomplished!</glorious fanfare> It's over. Get a life!

about a month and a half ago
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New Microsoft CEO Vows To Shake Up Corporate Culture

bzipitidoo what should be off the table (204 comments)

Nothing is off the table? Does the table include lying, doublespeak, file format lock in, using proxies to sue Linux users, bribing and strongarming standardization committee members, the whole embrace, extend, and exterminate strategy that they tried with Java and IE, Windows Genuine Advantage, staying in bed with the copyright extremists of the entertainment industry, continued support of organizations like the Business Software Alliance? Is any of that off the table?

If MS's new CEO isn't acknowledging that they went too far with that stuff, and that the company will go in a new direction, stop being anti-social, stop being evil, then the new CEO represents no real change, just some minor adjustments.

about a month and a half ago
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By 2045 'The Top Species Will No Longer Be Humans,' and That Could Be a Problem

bzipitidoo Re:AI is always "right around the corner". (564 comments)

One quibble with your reply. The rules of chess are not complicated. Yes, the pawn has several special cases, and castling is unlike all the other moves in chess, but these do not complicate the game that much. It's more complicated than checkers, but not by a lot. A complicated game is something like Star Fleet Battles or Squad Leader. Those games have hundreds of rules.

The complexity of chess is in how to play well, not how to play by the rules. That was another factor that made chess so attractive to the AI community.

Some people seemed to feel that we could take a good chess playing program and just apply it to any old problem. The techniques can be applicable to other problems, but it sure isn't as easy as some hoped.

about a month and a half ago

Submissions

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Not a crime?

bzipitidoo bzipitidoo writes  |  more than 4 years ago

bzipitidoo writes "
  • Loitering
  • Speeding
  • Shoplifting
  • Copying
  • Presenting hacks at a conference
  • Refusing to divulge passwords
  • Drugs
  • Sexting
"
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Laredo to be largest city with no bookstore

bzipitidoo bzipitidoo writes  |  more than 4 years ago

bzipitidoo writes "The last bookstore in Laredo, TX (population 230,000) is closing, which fact may be played up as a sign that civilization is declining, at least in Laredo. Is this a tragedy or a blessing, or neither? The city still has public libraries and Internet access and through that Project Gutenberg and online ordering of books. The bookstore is only a business-- it isn't devoted to raising the level of culture, or literacy, it is only there to profit. Perhaps this is only a sign that bookstores are obsolete."
Link to Original Source
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The topics covered in Communications of the ACM

bzipitidoo bzipitidoo writes  |  about 7 years ago

bzipitidoo writes "The flagship publication of the Association for Computing Machinery, the professional society for Computer Scientists, is Communications of the ACM. In the 1970's CACM had many articles of technical and scientific interest. In the 1980s, CACM shifted emphasis, and today its articles are mostly about the business and management of software engineering. The next most common subject is security and military problems. The remainder tend to be mushy social science in tone, and often have a tie in to business or security. Is that all the ACM thinks Computer Science is? CACM shouldn't be an Applied CS in Business and Military Special Interest Group journal, as the flagship journal, CACM should be a general CS journal. If one never reads any other journals in CS, one could wonder whether CS is becoming "played out", with every year bringing fewer and fewer research papers about algorithms, or programming languages, or other fundamentals of CS, and that's why CACM has shifted emphasis. But then something like the June issue of Scientific American, which was a better issue on CS than any CACM issue in the last decade, comes out. Or, something big happens, such as the solving of Checkers. What's with the ACM and their main publication?"

Journals

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Public digital libraries and the law

bzipitidoo bzipitidoo writes  |  more than 4 years ago

The advantages of a digital library over a traditional book repository are tremendous. No more need for multiple copies of popular books, no reason to have late fees, due dates, charges for lost or damaged books, or indeed the entire system built around library cards and records for tracking who has which books and when they are due. Anyone could download a copy of anything, anytime, and do so without interfering with anyone else's access. Stacks and shelves filled with tons of paper books would all be replaced with computers. This would take less space, and perhaps less maintenance. And it would allow all sorts of extra functionality, such as the ability to search, and have hyperlinks to related works. Card catalogs and cumbersome indexes of magazine and journal articles would not be needed. Also, can handle different sorts of data, such as books and movies, with the same system. Cities could save a bundle.

Currently, though technically doable, this magnificent vision is politically impossible. Copyright law stands squarely in the way. I cannot see any way to have a digital library that is freely accessible, and copyright law. It is the ability to copy any info quickly that makes a digital library so much more powerful, useful, and cheaper than a print library. We should abandon copyright law, and compensate and encourage artists with other means. The benefits of public digital libraries, and of the free exchange of ideas they could promote, are worth much more than copyright law. But because we do have this antiquated legal regime, the few digital libraries that exist are mostly behind paywalls or are private, and contain very small, highly specific collections, and we cannot see the full benefits. Copyright law must be retired.

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bzipitidoo bzipitidoo writes  |  more than 4 years ago

Some people instead advocate reforms such as limiting the length of these monopolies (to something like 5 years), not granting so many frivolous patents, not allowing the patenting of software, and reducing the penalties for violations. All those are good reforms to Intellectual Property (IP) law. But I think they don't go far enough, and the root of the problem can be summed up with one word: monopoly. Anti-trust efforts aim to eliminate monopolies, not mitigate them.

Even very short duration monopolies are enough to retard progress. That still provides grounds for expensive lawsuits and threats over alleged violations. By removing patents and copyrights altogether, we remove all basis for these complaints, and save us all a lot of legal expenses. We also save hugely on enforcement and the costs of a larger justice system. If anything should anger us, it is the misuse of our own police forces, paid for by us, in support of these businesses highly dubious ends. And most of all, we stop what has become the primary uses of IP, the blocking of competition and the robbery and extortion of the disadvantaged. People who want less government should support the abolishment of current IP law. As matters stand, many businesses have realized that building a portfolio of patents for defensive purposes is less costly than having an "IP gap". The quality of the patents does not matter, all that matters is that they have some of this peculiar form of currency, and so the quality has lately been poor. The least costly route is total disarmament, where no one need budget for patent portfolios.

Supporters of IP display a blind religious fervor that these laws are a net benefit, that they achieve the intent of advancing science and promoting art enough to justify the costs of these monopolies. I have never seen a reasoned argument, with honest statistics, in support of this position. Of the rational studies I have seen, most focus on one aspect, and conclude that the status quo is indeed bad. We need a study of the real costs and benefits of the current system, versus some alternatives.

What replacements do I propose? Nothing, or patronage. Nothing is of course the easiest, but the intent of the patent system was to buy off inventors-- give them something in exchange for revealing their secrets, and if there is no incentive of any sort for that, many will keep as many secrets as possible. A worse outcome is that people won't bother inventing or creating art. This fear is perhaps overblown. Nevertheless, we can strike a balance to encourage the creating of as much art as we can stomach. A patronage system can provide the incentive. A payment is a far less damaging thing to give inventors and artists than a monopoly. The next problems are valuation and collection. We can surely work out ways of figuring compensation amounts that are as fair as possible, given the huge difficulties in guessing how valuable an idea will turn out to be. Collection is the other big problem, with the first notion being a tax. But there are other ways. A levy can be agreed upon. And it need not be government that does the collecting, valuation, or disbursement, nor the people who pay directly, it could be quasi-governmental private entities managing the system. And paying into it would be advertisers and manufacturers of equipment that benefited from the knowledge, and charities.

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first post! :p

bzipitidoo bzipitidoo writes  |  more than 7 years ago Apparently I'm not invisible anymore! I have some fans-- and freaks! /wave! I've been spending a little less time on Slashdot the past 2 weeks to spend a little more time on another hobby at http://www.gassavers.org

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