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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Mother Goose and Grimm on prior art

link here

Apple v. Samsung; What is wrong with patents?

The trial, Apple v. Samsung, promises lots of fireworks. The likely entertainment value, however, is far exceeded by its educational value. The harbinger is the publication of US Judge Lucy Koh's instructions to the jury link here.

For non-lawyers like me, it is a revelation. She lays out in detail what determinations each juror will need to make and the connections among them, which she will have to decide, and the background for each where that is important.

She is breathtakingly clear, but that only raises questions about the suitability of patent law. Most of us, including many lawyers, aren't so careful to parse the meaning of legislation or the meaning of precedent in order to come to a wise decision.

It confirms in my mind the weakness of the whole justification for patents. They can be connected to innovation only weakly at best. The legal process is incredibly expensive and uncertain. The side with the most money and the best lawyers is most likely to win. And for the layman, the whole business is a puzzle once you go beneath the obvious and wonder what finally determined the outcome.

If even the best lawyers and judges can't do better than this, why continue to delude ourselves with this nonsense?

Frank & Ernest strike again

Would books be published without copyright?

Stephen Greenblatt writes in The Swerve; How the World Became Modern, "Authors made nothing from the sale of their books; their profits derived from the wealthy patron to whom the work was dedicated. (The arrangement … seems odd to us but it had an impressive stability, remaining in place until the invention of copyright in the eighteenth century.) Publishers had to contend, as we have seen, with the widespread copying [by hand] of books among friends, but the business of producing and marketing books must have been a profitable one; there were bookshops not only in Rome but also in Brindisi, Carthage… and other cities [in the Roman empire]."

This suggests to me that books and other writings today would be produced without copyright, which is after all a government granted monopoly and an enormous tax on the public. Think about it.

Dilbert strikes again

link here

Another great Dilbert cartoon on IP

But he only allows me to link, not to copy and reproduce on our blog.

link here

White House invites comment on IP enforcement

Mike Masnick passes on the invitation from the White House to let it know what we think of IP enforcement link here.

That is a great invitation and if we as critics don't respond in large numbers and with well-argued statements of our views, we will miss a significant opportunity.

Masnick goes on to note, "Victoria Espinel, the White House's Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, has announced the opening of a public comment period for people to give their thoughts to the administration on what it should be doing about "intellectual property enforcement." As always happens with "public comment" periods, expect large filings from big special interests. Also, I wouldn't expect any major change to come from this. However, I would still recommend submitting carefully argued, well-thought-out filings on your thoughts concerning the White House's approach to "enforcing" intellectual property. While I do not always agree with Espinel or the administration in how it handles these things, I have found them to be very open to actually listening to concerns from people -- much more so than other parts of the government that have taken a specific view on these issues and have no interest in budging. Espinel, at the very least, is actually interested in opposing viewpoints and the more detailed, thoughtful arguments she hears, the better. The key part of her request is as follows: I believe that essential to the development of an effective enforcement strategy, is ensuring that any approaches that are considered to be particularly effective as well as any concerns with the present approach to intellectual property enforcement are understood by policymakers."

Trademarking a phrase?

Matt Yglesias calls attention to the story about a basketball player who has "trademarked" his eyebrows that are connected, leaving no empty spot above his nose link here.

Actually he seems to have trademarked the use of "unibrow" in several catch phrases. Davis told CNBC that he trademarked the phrases "Fear The Brow" and "Raise The Brow" earlier this month. "I don't want anyone to try to grow a unibrow because of me and I'll say it: Fear the brow!"

Matt adds, "Of course having a unibrow is not, in fact, unique; it's just somewhat unusual. Meanwhile, it turns out that five games into his remarkable run last season, the D.C. law firm Arent Fox swooped in to help Jeremy Lin trademark the phrase Linsanity. "

How can we top this nonsense? I am guessing it will happen soon.


Copyright must foster innovation, not just protect a right

It has never been clear to me how the growing criticism of copyright and patent law is faring. Not well, I would judge by the lack of coverage in widely read journals. At the same time, we are seeing more like this enteraining op-ed piece, titled "Fair Use, Art, Swiss Cheese and Me" in such widely read journals as the New York Times.

In this case, the author, a lawyer, meanders from a story of a photograph of himself which was transformed by another artist-photographer by putting a slice of cheese over his face. He then contrasts it with a case where a judge has repeatedly found such use violates the original photographer's copyright. He concludes that no harm was done to him or the photographer since the market for the original photo and the "altered" one was distinct and different; its creator lost nothing as the market for the original still existed, unchanged.

To riff on this story, the moral is that if no harm is done another party, no right has been violated. But the point of copyright and patents goes farther: it is to foster innovation. In this case, it appears that the judge construed copyright to be nothing more than the grant of the right to limit innovation.

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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