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Against Monopoly

defending the right to innovate

User Innovation

Monopoly corrupts. Absolute monopoly corrupts absolutely.





Copyright Notice: We don't think much of copyright, so you can do what you want with the content on this blog. Of course we are hungry for publicity, so we would be pleased if you avoided plagiarism and gave us credit for what we have written. We encourage you not to impose copyright restrictions on your "derivative" works, but we won't try to stop you. For the legally or statist minded, you can consider yourself subject to a Creative Commons Attribution License.


The wave of the future

As you know no way she could do this without copyright...

Lord of the Rings...

(Strictly speaking this should have been Stephan's post, but he seems to have handed it off to me.) Disagree with my view below that copyright is absurd? Wondering what would happen to the movie industry without copyright? Luckily the marvelous Mike Masnick manage to answer both questions in a single post. If you still don't believe, go take a look at Star Wreck.

Does copyright lead to innovation?

Mario Stargard submits the following observations about whether copyright leads to innovation:

Sure it does. Seems that every time a P2P protocol is shutdown, new ones emerge to circumvent the previous problems.

Napster had the problem of being centrally controlled, and attacked by the RIAA. Gnutella and eDonkey had the problem of being inefficient for large files and they faded into irrelevance but also suffered from some legal setbacks. Kazaa had the problem of still having some central controls that were legally attacked. Bittorrent has the problem of throttling, and now legal problems because pointing to a copyright work is copyright infringement a la Pirate Bay. Kind of makes you wonder if a torrent file is a derivative work.

The throttling issue is being worked on by utorrent, a client that is implementing a udp based bittorrent protocol. udp has the advantage of not having tcp's congestion control mechanism. It is this mechanism that is being exploited by the Deep Packet Inspection throttlers at major ISP's such as Bell Canada. ISP's will, of course, have to innovate a new throttling mechanism to overcome this new development. Throttling is an intellectual property issue because, at least in Canada, the last mile to consumers is controlled by media companies.

Continued works on avoidance schemes and anonymous networks are being fueled by these developments. The Onion Router (TOR) and the freenet project are two great examples. http://www.torproject.org/ http://freenetproject.org/

TOR is currently a mechanism that almost any Bittorrent client can use to obscure your IP address.

What is this leading to? Will the use of encryption or the possession of certain software eventually become a criminal offense? One wonders.

" A Culture of Improvement" Reviewed

Robert Friedel's new book "The Culture of Improvement" is reviewed in the Wall Street Journal today by Adam Keiper.

The contributions of famous entrepreneurs, including James Watt and Robert Fulton, are surveyed. Are Watt's legal strategems part of the story? What about patents as innovation blocking mechanisms?

The reviewer quotes a passage stating that patents can divert attention away from the cumulative history of creativity.

Technology "proceeds by fits and starts;" R&D, best practices, and, yes, patents are part of the story. A visit to Amazon could be in order.

Authors' Second Platform

Publishers are creating speakers' bureaus to publicize authors and their books. It gives them a lucrative second platform.

The rise of the superstore, which created a marketplace where none existed, helped spur the demand for authors' lectures, as did the network effect of the internet.

Wikinomics

Via Marcia Sean Sean Marcia - and interesting site about collaboration. The blog documents some surprising efforts at collaboration. Did you know, for example, that when computer researcher James Gray disappeared at sea a collaborative distributed computing effort was made to search satelite photographs in an effort to find him?

Serenity Now

(hattip slashdot). Some of you may be familiar with a science fiction television show "firefly," cancelled despite a small cult following, later made into a movie, entitled "serenity." Universal studios in an effort to promote the movie encouraged fans to market the movie by

[creating] a community [the browncoats] around the release of Serenity that harnessed the power of a large member base that exceeded the most optimistic of expectations. Members were encouraged to form regional groups to promote the film and perform activities that would help generate word of mouth, like creating bumper stickers and gift cards to accompany the DVD release. (beaffinitive)

Can you predict what happened next?

With the shutting down of Blue Sun Shirts at the behest of FOX, cease and desist letters going out to owners of Browncoat shops on CafePress, at least one fan-favorite promoter receiving a demand from Universal Studios Licensing LLC for nearly $9,000 in retroactive licensing fees, and the resulting chilling effect leading to other fans shutting down preemptively many Browncoats got to thinking about just how many hours they spent on helping to market and promote Serenity, in essence with the tacit agreement of Universal Pictures, if not their outright official encouragement. (browncoatinvoice.com)

File under "imitating the RIAA - how to win the heart and minds of your fans - sue them"

A Hint of the Potential of Open Sourcing

This example is not open source, but it suggests the potential of opening processes up.

Musgrove, Mike. 2006. "Lego's Robot Redux: Hackers, Longtime Fans Help Revamp Kits To Build Better Gizmos." Washington Post (29 July): p. D 1.

"In deciding to revamp the aging Mindstorms robot line, Lego turned to its most faithful core of fans: enthusiasts and hackers who had banded together to form their own online support network. In 2004, Lego e-mailed four of its biggest Mindstorms fans across the United States. The team members spent 10 months advising Lego as the Mindstorms Users Panel, discussing their dream lists of what the next kit should and should not be."

"Lego's star chamber, later expanded to 14 members, helped shape what the new robots will be able to do and which parts come in the 571-piece kit. One member was even able to pressure the company into building a part that makes its debut in the new Mindstorms set -- a rare event at Lego, which treats every individual piece with reverence. The new part is a connector that allows two long pieces to be joined at a 90-degree angle."

"The resulting toy has much more up-to-date technology than the original set, including a USB 2.0 port for fast downloads and Bluetooth for wireless connections. With the right parts and programming, a Mindstorms robot can dance in response to sounds or follow the beam of a flashlight. Lego even decided to embrace the hacker community, which has spent years altering the electronic brain of the system to make the robots perform beyond what Lego had intended. The company is making public the new source code, which is the programming that runs the unit, and allowing users to modify it and share their changes, as long as they promise not to profit from it."

My own blog has begun at

michaelperelman.wordpress.com


   
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