defending the right to innovate
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 idea that "too big to fail" is just too big is gaining traction, with recent comments from Alan Greenspan, Paul Volker, and Mervyn King. Simon Johnson over at The Baseline Scenario has a good summary.
Apparently, it can. Link here. I'm glad I was young in the '70's.
Simon Johnson has an important post up at the Baseline Scenario suggesting that Too Big To Fail financial institutions are not only too big, but counter-productive to the American economy. He supports this view by pointing to the amount of unproductive rent-seeking behavior these institutions engage in to ensure their own continued profitability. (This, of course, is precisely the problem that David and Michele have pointed up in their book.)
From Johnson's post:
Finance is rent-seeking. The sector has devoted great resources to tilting all playing fields in its direction. Consumers are taken advantage of; consumer protection is vehemently opposed. And great risks are taken, with the downside handed off to the government (and the consumers again, as taxpayers). This downside protection allows an overexpansion of debt-financed finance - reaching the preposterous levels seen in mid-2008 and now re-emerging.
Via my colleague Michael Trick, Groklaw has an interesting post pointing out that the recently unveiled Wolfram|Alpha computation service makes some pretty strong claims if not to copyright, then to the right for attribution, for results the service returns.
For example, if you plug x^2*sin(x) into the search window, you will get back a graph of this function, as well as a number different series representations for the function. Wolfram|Alpha claims that these materials are protected. Individual use of them must be attributed, and any commercial use requires a specific commercial license. The problem with this, though, is that any table of mathematical formulas will provide both the graphs and series representations for this and many other functions. Furthermore, it could be reasonably argued that these are facts, which generally can't be copyrighted.
The Groklaw post contrasts this with Google's terms of service, which basically says you can't use the service to break the law.
I would also contrast Wolfram|Alpha's service with that of Economagic, which provides publicly available economic data, and, for subscribers, the ability to generate graphs, run regressions, download data to spreadsheets, and do other kinds of data analysis. None of these results are held to be protected, and Economagic requires no specific attribution. There are also no limitations or additional requirements for any commercial use of the service. The subscription fee is also easily within reach of any economics graduate student (which is the site's target audience).
So, I would have to agree with the Groklaw post that Wolfram|Alpha seems to be overreaching.
There's a great article in the NYT's Business section today by David Pogue on the various monopolistic practices of the cell phone industry. These range from the hidden subsidization of phone purchases, to double billing practices, to the fact that Verizon typically rakes in over $800 million each year by making customers waste 15 seconds listening to voice mail recording or retrieval instructions!
Well worth reading.
Paul Krugman has an interesting post on his blog this morning about the monopoly positions that large health insurance companies like Blue Cross/Blue Shield enjoy in states with small populations. He hypothesizes that the reason Senators from those states tend to oppose the public option in the health care reform legislation is a direct response to the rent-seeking activities of the incumbent monopoly providers in these states.
Apparently, the Fox network has won a copyright infringement law suit filed against them by the copyright owners of the Oscar-winning Disney song "When you wish upon a star," who claimed that Fox's TV show "Family Guy" had violated their copyright by parodying the song in one of their episodes (in which the song was entitled "I need a Jew"). When I spotted this headline in Google News, I thought "Wow, let's go hear this!" and clicked on the link. And sure enough, there was the embedded YouTube video of the episode's song. But, click on the link and fire up YouTube for the irony.
Simon Johnson's appearance Friday evening on Bill Moyers Journal is generating considerable buzz in the econoblogosphere for pointing out that Too Big to Fail is simply too big. Johnson is a former chief economist for the International Monetary Fund, and continues in the interview by saying that the U.S. economy, with it's large, entrenched financial elites, reminds him more of the problems of oligarchy associated with developing economies that are frequent clients of the IMF.
I'm posting this here because one way to view the problems that our government (both under the prior admininstration, and, apparently, under the current one) is having with nationalizing the big, failed banks is precisely the inefficiency that David and Michele identify in their book: the entrenched elites, failures though they are in their own businesses, still have enough political clout and resources to lobby against direct federal take-overs of their failed institutions.
Johnson goes on to recommend increased antitrust scrutiny along the lines of Teddy Roosevelt's trust busting campaigns against the last century's robber barons. The interview is well worth watching.
Big victory today at the CAFC! (Finally)
Via Slashdot, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which reviews all patent disputes in the U.S. now, has ruled in the In Re Bilski case that the U.S. Patent Office's rule that patents must meet the "machine or transformation" test -- i.e. ideas must be embodied in an actual product (a machine) or engender an actual physical transformation (as, for example a chemical or biological process) -- in order to receive a patent.
In practice, what this means is that business method and software patents are probably done for.
Via Matt Yglesias, the following poster was what greeted delegates to the Republican convention at the Minneapolis airport this week:
Most Recent Comments
Questions and Challenges For Defenders of the Current Copyright Regime Subject Very controversial Gráfica em
at 01/30/2017 05:03 AM by fernando
The right to rub smooth using a hardened steel tool with ridges Finally got around to looking at the comments, sorry for delay... Replying to Stephan: I'm sorry
at 05/08/2015 08:35 AM by Dan Dobkin
Let's See: Pallas, Pan, Patents, Persephone, Perses, Poseidon, Prometheus... Seems like a kinda bizarre proposal to me. We just need to abolish the patent system, not replace
at 04/10/2015 10:44 AM by Stephan Kinsella
The right to rub smooth using a hardened steel tool with ridges I'm a bit confused by this--even if "hired to invent" went away, that would just change the default
at 04/10/2015 10:34 AM by Stephan Kinsella
Do we need a law? @ Alexander Baker: So basically, if I copy parts of 'Titus Andronicus' to a webpage without
at 01/08/2015 08:58 PM by Sheogorath
Do we need a law? The issue is whether the crime is punished not who punishes it. If somebody robs our house we do
at 11/17/2014 04:48 AM by David K. Levine
Do we need a law? 1. Plagiarism most certainly is illegal, it is called "copyright infringement". One very famous
at 10/29/2014 10:49 AM by Alexander Baker
Yet another proof of the inutility of copyright. The 9/11 Commission report cost $15,000,000 to produce, not counting the salaries of the authors.
at 09/20/2014 03:19 PM by Alexander Baker
WKRP In Cincinnati - Requiem For A Masterpiece P.S. The link to Amazon's WKRP product page:
at 06/28/2014 10:03 AM by Doris
WKRP In Cincinnati - Requiem For A Masterpiece Hopefully some very good news. Shout! Factory is releasing the entire series of WKRP in Cincinnati,
at 06/28/2014 10:00 AM by Doris
What's copywritable? Go fish in court. @ Anonymous: You misunderstood my intent. I was actually trying to point out a huge but basic
at 05/05/2014 01:03 PM by Sheogorath
Rights Violations Aren't the Only Bads I hear that nonsense from pro-IP people all the
at 04/07/2014 04:47 AM by Dan McCracken
Intellectual Property Fosters Corporate Concentration Yeah, I see the discouragement of working on a patented device all the time. Great examples
at 01/13/2014 06:13 AM by Anonymous
Music without copyright Hundreds of businessmen are looking for premium quality article distribution services that can be
at 11/28/2013 05:03 PM by Stephanie Smith
at 11/28/2013 09:23 AM by Anonymous
at 11/28/2013 09:22 AM by Anonymous
Patent Lawyers Who Don't Toe the Line Should Be Punished! Moreover "the single most destructive force to innovation is patents". We'd like to unite with you
at 11/24/2013 10:48 AM by SpaceCorp Technologies
at 11/20/2013 03:18 PM by Anonymous
Does the decline in total factor productivity explain the drop in innovation? So, if our patent system was "broken," TFP of durable goods should have dropped. Conversely, since
at 11/02/2013 08:09 PM by Anonymous
Does the decline in total factor productivity explain the drop in innovation? I wondered about TFP, because I had heard that TFP was increasing. Apparently, it depends on who
at 11/02/2013 08:08 PM by Anonymous