Against Monopoly

defending the right to innovate

Is IP Property

Monopoly corrupts. Absolute monopoly corrupts absolutely.

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Unfortunately this line of analogy or argument breaks down completely in the face of modern radio technology, and has always been false in the face of (scientific) physical reality. The "scarcity" of radio frequency has always been a falsehood, but at least (compared to IP) it was a falsehood created by limits in current technology rather than current understanding.

For about as long as we have understood light we have understood radio frequencies (RF) are a form of light, just well outside *human* visible spectrum. Unlike light in the human visible spectrum, the wavelengths are long enough to easily pass through and around large objects, which are more opaque to light at smaller wavelengths. Aside from that property of the longer wavelength spectrum, assigning scarcity or ownership to a radio frequency makes just as much sense as assigning scarcity or ownership to a color of visible light. That's my long pretentious way of saying it makes no sense at all.

The only reason anyone has gotten away with it thus far is the limit of our long-wavelength sensing and generation technologies. If you were to compare a radio antenna to a video camera sensor, the main difference is that the antenna has no surrounding occluding body, so that signals received can't be "directed" or "oriented" through a focal point, unlike the focal point pin in a pinhole camera obscura. The antenna is completely exposed, and senses any light passing it, in all directions. There is also usually only a single antenna, as opposed to the millions of light sensors in a modern digital camera -- so only one color can really be dealt with at a time by the one antenna. The same parallels exist between broadcast antennas and video projectors. The TV or Radio broadcast antenna is like a single bright light bulb of a single color -- bright enough to overwhelm all lights of any similar color within projection range. Some broadcast antennas are even "bright" enough to reflect off of the Earth's ionosphere and orbiting Moon. The 1-pixel light sensor with a matching color filter, which we call a home antenna, can only "see" it when it is this ridiculously bright. Handing out human visible colors to the highest bidder, and claiming that as the end of the property debate, would have the same effect on visible light as it has on the invisible light we call RF. We would all be blinded by the lights of the color monopoly holders.

Radio communications standards like WiFi and WiMax, broad-spectrum sensing technology like Cognitive Radio, and multi-antenna sensing and sending technology like MIMO, all get us closer to the RF equivalent of pairing cameras and projectors together, for high bandwidth directed distance communications. These technologies have all been hampered by current RF color monopolies, and their blindingly bright RF lights.

If you want to take the analogy over to the realm of sound waves (which is technically a much worse analogy, because sounds from different sources physically interfere with each other, where light from different sources do not interfere, which is the property that allows the camera obscura to work with light but not sound)... The current treatment of radio frequency would be like giving auction-winners megaphone monopolies, designated for use from a specific crossroad, 1 megaphone per crossroad in the country. Everyone else is left with their normal voices to both speak and listen. In essence, everyone else is silenced by the amplitude of noise at their local street corner. Only the megaphone monopolists are ever heard.

We would never accept megaphone monopolies, because we are all born with ears to hear and voices to speak. We would never accept visible color monopolies (with the rare exception of a few overzealous IP lawyers -- Google "T-Mobile AND Magenta"), because we are born with eyes to see them. Should we accept RF monopolies, just because we weren't born with the right sensing equipment?

I'm sorry, but this is insanely convoluted. My opinion, the spectrum is a public resource held in trust by the government for the benefit of the American people. It cannot, nor should it ever be privatized. (Leased, yes!)

Today, we are seeing how convoluted copyright/patent law have become. If the same slice and dice concepts are applied to the spectrum it will only be a lawyers full employment act with everyone elbowing each other in court claiming so-called "rights" and asserting infringement. I can see it now; a homeowner has a small wireless router in his house and Mega Telephone Inc, claims he can't use the router without paying an exorbitant licensing fee because they just happened to have homestead (seized)that frequency. Face it there are rational limits to the concept of "property". Furthermore their is nothing wrong with the government holding a piece of "property" in trust for the American people.

This is very interesting especially because of the mentioning of flight tunnels for airplanes: how far up does my property reach above the ground? Do I own the air above my land? Or at least the space? How far up? Can I have the right to disagree with transmitting EM radiation thru my property?

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