Against Monopoly

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.

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Open Access publisher to pay royalties to authors

Open Access publishers charge author fees in order to make their work freely available to the public. While I think most of these author fees are much too high given the low cost of publishing online, Sciyo appears to go even further and distribute royalties for article downloads to authors. The economic motivation seems to be a bit odd at first glance: why pay authors who generate higher bandwidth costs? I think the true motivation is to attract better papers that will generate more downloads and thus a better reputation for the involved journals. Also remarkable: this publisher already has among the lowest author fees in the industry (well, except for those who do not have author fees).

HT: Open Access News

Filesharing is good for social welfare

Does filesharing reduce profits of the music industry? This paper claims so, and that should not be that much of a surprise. However, it also argues that filesharing is welfare improving because it leads to more competition and thus lower prices. Remember, ultimately it is the consumer that counts when computing a surplus, not just music industry profits.

HT: Economic Logic

Sweet Irony: major music labels sued for C$60 billion for piracy

The estate of jazz legend Chet Baker is suing Warner Music Canada, Sony BMG Music Canada, EMI Music Canada, and Universal Music Canada for piracy. These labels have massively used Chet Baker's works in compilations without any compensation, and they have already admitted doing so. The sought compensation is C$20,000 per infringement, which adds up to about C$60 billion.

HT: Toronto Star via BoingBoing

Amen, how the lack of copyright spurred creativity

I just came across this older youtube video discussing a six-second drum loop from 1969 that became to basis of hip-hip and the subsequent genres based on sampling, the "Amen Break." The video shows how the lack of enforcement of copyrights allowed new genres to emerge and musical creativity to flourish. Of course, there is a company laying claim to a copyright at some point, of course unrelated to any involved artist.

Microsoft patents file rights management

Microsoft obtained yesterday patent 7,617,530, a "rights elevator":
Systems and/or methods are described that enable a user to elevate his or her rights. In one embodiment, these systems and/or methods present a user interface identifying an account having a right to permit a task in response to the task being prohibited based on a user's current account not having that right.

People familiar with UNIX or Linux recognize immediately the file rights management that is inherent in the security that these operating systems offer. In particular, the command line instruction sudo does exactly what this patent claims: it allows a user to see a file or run a command for which it has no privileges. The sudo command dates back to around 1980. The file rights management predates this by many years.

Is somebody asleep at the wheel at the US Patent Office?

Your doctor recommends piracy

File piracy is not limited to basement dwelling teenagers. According to an article in the The Internet Journal of Medical Informatics, there are websites with a lively exchange of toll-gated articles from medical journals. People register and post request for articles by providing URLs. Good souls with subscriptions then post the requested PDFs. The article reports on an unnamed website with various discussion forums, some of which featured such requests. The author interprets the existence of such forums and the willingness of subscribers to help out as a clear signal that more open access to research is needed.

NB: The article reporting this is open access, no need to feel dirty when clicking on the link.

Want more artistic creation? Protect it less

Economic Logic points out a paper that shows that shorter copyrights stimulate artistic creation. Indeed, copyrights mainly benefit the big stars among artists, and the monopoly power they gain is diverted toward promoting a select few. This discourages others to become artists and there are fewer and less diverse artists. Shorten copyrights, and you get more artistic creation.

Open Access Week

This week is Open Access Week, a week to broaden awareness and understanding of open access to research. The idea is that as much of research is being funded by public money, it should be made available freely to everyone. With the advent of the Internet as a very inexpensive publication medium, it thus becomes possible to disseminate new research at near zero cost.

However, commercial publishers are to lose an important profit center if they were to grant free access to all their publications. They have been resisting any opening of their archive to non-subscribers. Some are experimenting with models where authors pay a flat fee for their article to be available in open access. The fees, however, are exorbitant and discourage authors. They do not need be so high.

The answer of some funding agencies, some academics and many librarians has been to push for open access mandates. A particularly prominent example is the NIH mandate. The idea is to mandate authors to deposit in institutional repositories whatever they publish. In most sciences, this is the only way to provide open access independently from publishers. In Economics and Physics, for example, there are decade-old initiatives collecting and disseminating pre- and post-prints.

Nevertheless, there are also a good number of open access journals, which face an uphill battle in getting a reputation similar to existing commercial ones, simply because OA journals are typically young. One of the goals of the Open Access week is to increase awareness about such publishing options, trigger interest in more open access mandates, and thus break the vicious cycle wherein researchers have to pay to access their own research. Talk to your colleagues about it.

Against Monopoly

Much has been said here about the disinformation pursued by the RIAA to convince each and everyone that illegal downloads are the sole reason behind poor sales. Turns out its British counterpart is up to the same standard along with its sidekick, the Ministry of Intellectual Property. Witness these two Guardian articles.

The first one discusses a claim that the revenue lost due to file sharing amounts to a tenth of GDP. It turns out numbers were off by a decimal. And then still overinflated by assuming each download had an opportunity cost of £25. And let us forget an argument about price elasticity and the difference between a price of £25 and £0.

The second one shows that the reason music sales went down is maybe due to the fact that there are better alternatives to music, like computer games and DVDs. Sales numbers would certainly be consistent with that.

The Economist debate on copyright

The Economist is organizing an online debate about Copyright and wrongs. It starts today with opening statements and will continue for about a week. "Comments from the floor" are allowed, too, so there is opportunity to participate.

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Most Recent Comments

Questions and Challenges For Defenders of the Current Copyright Regime It is one of the finest websites I have stumbled upon. It is not only well developed, but has good

Killing people with patents I'm not really commenting the post, but rather asking if this blog is going to make a comeback

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

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

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

Do we need a law? @ Alexander Baker: So basically, if I copy parts of 'Titus Andronicus' to a webpage without

Do we need a law? The issue is whether the crime is punished not who punishes it. If somebody robs our house we do

Do we need a law? 1. Plagiarism most certainly is illegal, it is called "copyright infringement". One very famous

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.

WKRP In Cincinnati - Requiem For A Masterpiece P.S. The link to Amazon's WKRP product page:

WKRP In Cincinnati - Requiem For A Masterpiece Hopefully some very good news. Shout! Factory is releasing the entire series of WKRP in Cincinnati,

What's copywritable? Go fish in court. @ Anonymous: You misunderstood my intent. I was actually trying to point out a huge but basic

Rights Violations Aren't the Only Bads I hear that nonsense from pro-IP people all the

Intellectual Property Fosters Corporate Concentration Yeah, I see the discouragement of working on a patented device all the time. Great examples

Music without copyright Hundreds of businessmen are looking for premium quality article distribution services that can be

Les patent trolls ne sont pas toujours des officines

Les patent trolls ne sont pas toujours des officines

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

Bonfire of the Missalettes!

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