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Against Monopoly

defending the right to innovate

IP as a Joke

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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Copyright Irony

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.

How come the crooks can get away with it?

I'm guessing that these guys don't file a lot of copyright and patent lawsuits. Funny how despite the lack of patents and copyright there is so much innovation in malware.

Submitted without comment

From the abstract of Words Matter: Economics & A Literal Reading of Mars, American Seating, and Monsanto-Ralph by David Blackburn and Phillip A. Beutel of NERA Economic Consulting:

Because of their sometimes straightforward and plain language, these cases threaten to create potholes along the road to rational and appropriate damage awards.

At a guess that means "less money than we'd like to squeeze out of people that work for a living."

Someone just used my credit card--a little SMS told me

The intellectual property farce goes on. Charge Notification Services Corporation is suing credit card company Visa for patent infringement when it uses SMS (short message service) to inform card holders that their cards have just been used link here.

Knowing that, I'm looking forward to patenting the use of mail, email, and the telephone to do so. The profit in this must be immense. Oh, obviousness? Is that a problem?

This sort of legal action is making a joke out of the system of granting patents and of the courts in enforcing them. Have the bureaucrats, lawyers and judges no shame or respect for their profession?

Op-ed makes Amazon back down

Brad Stone writes in the New York Times, following up on the Blount oped, that Amazon will allow copyright owners to decide whether to allow or prevent voice-rendering of the book on the Kindle 2 link here.

Here is the full text of Amazon's statement: "Kindle 2's experimental text-to-speech feature is legal: no copy is made, no derivative work is created, and no performance is being given. Furthermore, we ourselves are a major participant in the professionally narrated audiobooks business through our subsidiaries Audible and Brilliance. We believe text-to-speech will introduce new customers to the convenience of listening to books and thereby grow the professionally narrated audiobooks business. Customers tell us that with Kindle, they read more, and buy more books. We are passionate about bringing the benefits of modern technology to long-form reading." Nevertheless, we strongly believe many rights-holders will be more comfortable with the text-to-speech feature if they are in the driver's seat. Therefore, we are modifying our systems so that rightsholders can decide on a title by title basis whether they want text-to-speech enabled or disabled for any particular title. We have already begun to work on the technical changes required to give authors and publishers that choice. With this new level of control, publishers and authors will be able to decide for themselves whether it is in their commercial interests to leave text-to-speech enabled. We believe many will decide that it is. Customers tell us that with Kindle, they read more, and buy more books. We are passionate about bringing the benefits of modern technology to long-form reading."

Apparently the software on the Kindle will have to be altered, so it does not have immediate effect.

Amazon seems to be running from a potential fight. Too bad. It is de facto extending the power of copyright so that the owner is free to choose when he calculates it is not to his advantage. The consumer gets stuck again.

Since there are other book readers like the Kindle, it will be interesting to see if they go along with Amazon's decision. Is there a possible legal challenge here when Amazon allows copyright to be extended without either legislative or judicial justification?

After I initially posted this, I came across a long discussion on the legalities of this link here. That may help Amazon justify its decision to allow opt-in or -out. But the customer still gets cheated.

Copyright strikes again.

Roy Blount Jr, the president of the Writers Guild, opines that authors ought to have a property right to the oral rendering of their written works, although he would not charge the blind link here. This apparently has been provoked by the ability of new technology to render computer text into intelligible, almost-human-voice quality. If I record a human reading my written work, the reader and I will be paid, but if a machine does it, I won't. So, " people who want to keep on doing creative things for a living must be duly vigilant about any new means of transmitting their work."

Apparently no one seems to be worried about the constant expansion of property rights, even seemingly absurd ones. I have no doubt that the government has the power to create the right, just as it has the power to define and enforce all property rights, but why is this extension justified?

Blount's clinching argument is, "For the record: no, the Authors Guild does not expect royalties from anybody doing non-commercial performances of "Goodnight Moon." If parents want to send their children off to bed with the voice of Kindle 2, however, it's another matter." How generous of him!

This issue is raised by the Kindle 2, which has oral as well as visual output. The next thing, the authors will want is a counter on the machine, to record each time a reading takes place so the author can be paid his due.

Like other IP creators, authors seem to want to get their piece of any new technology that comes along, even when it vastly decreases the cost of delivering their work and adds to their net income. It will only stop when consumers vote out the rascals who pass these extensions into law or the judges who redefine the right.

This issue is raised by the Kindle 2, which has oral as well as visual output. The next thing, the authors will want is a counter on the machine, to record each time a reading takes place so the author can be paid his due.

Like other IP creators, authors seem to want to get their piece of any new technology that comes along, even when it vastly decreases the cost of delivering their work. It will only stop when consumers vote out the rascals who pass these extensions into law or the judges who redefine the right.

There Are No Good Arguments for Intellectual Property (and "Interaction Rights"!)

There are some decent arguments out there that argue in favor of a state, welfare rights, war, democracy, drug laws, and so on. They are all flawed, since libertarianism is right, but there are coherent, honest arguments that we libertarians have to grapple with.

But it is striking that there are no decent arguments for IP--as Manuel Lora remarked to me, "You know, I haven't seen a good pro IP article ever." This is true. One sees the same incoherent or insincere claims made over and over, such as:

  1. It's in the constitution (argument from authority; legal positivism)
  2. Intellectual property is called property! (argument by definition?)
  3. No movies would be made and kids would die without medicine (artworks and medicine have been produced for ages without IP law; and where's the evidence?)
  4. If you "create" something you own it (despite all the exceptions, and despite the fact that creation is neither necessary nor sufficient for ownership; despite the fact that you either limit these rights in scope or time arbitrarily, or you extent them to infinity, choking off rights in real things and forcing life and commerce to a screeching halt)
  5. It generates net wealth--more value than its cost (no evidence, ever, for this contention--just assumptions; not to mention the problem of utilitarian summing of values)
  6. IP infringement is "theft" (even though the owner still has his property and ideas, and even though IP infringement is just learning and emulating)
  7. People "could" create variants of IP via private contracts... therefore artifical patent granting bureaucracies legislated by a criminal state are ... justified?)

There are other arguments, I suppose, but they are so incoherent as to defy description. They often involve crankish initial caps, like Property and Rights, the Internet equivalent of crayons.

I have truly never seen a coherent, good argument for IP. The advocates are either utilitarian, with all the problems that accompany that (not to mention they never have any evidence for their claims); or the advocate a more "principled", rights-based type of IP that, if taken seriously, would completely undermine all real property rights and make life on earth impossible, so they retreat from this and impose arbitrary, senseless limits on it. What a kluge.

In a recent discussion, What's Wrong With Theft?, one of the IP advocates, when pushed into a corner, ended up arguing that rights to own property include the right to control all "access to" and "interactions with" one's property--and that "interactions" include observing or knowing about or learning facts about the things owned by someone, and that when you use this knowledge you are "interacting with" the property, and thus "stealing" it (even though the owner still has it). So here we have it: IP means "interaction rights." Wow. This is how kooky all IP arguments ultimately are.

Obama icon artist sued for copying

The AP is ticked at Artist Shepard Fairey for using the pose and expression from its picture of candidate Obama as the basis for his poster link with pictures here. His rendition has become iconic and so the AP is now seeking money.

This is ridiculous. Most art is derivative in some sense. How many pixels need to change before it becomes an original that no longer infringes someone's copyright? One? Two? Let's hope they sue and get a legal determination that clarifies this issue. And then we need the Congress to remove copyright on images.

Copyright Debate Goes Mainstream: Lessig/Colbert "Remix" Interview

Funny interview with Stephen Colbert an Lawrence Lessig, discussing copyright policy and Lessig's new book Remix.

Lessig is not a perfect libertarian but is for reform at least. I suspect many of Colbert's mainstream-ish arguments in defense of copyright are partly mocking the standard Republicanoid view on IP. See also the funny video The Colbert Report ::: Remix feat Lawrence Lessig (Eclectic Method Mix)--a "remix" made in "violation" of Colbert's tongue-in-cheek warning not to (i.e., his invitation).

Hemming and hawing as innovation

Steve Hamm writes in Business Week about another absurd patent link here. IBM has succeeded in getting one on a method to insert hems and haws into artificial voices used in recordings to make them sound more realistic. Most speakers try to kill those habits. The patent is for "generating paralinguistic phenomena via markup in text-to-speech syntheses." Imagine that. Monopoly really encourages meaningful innovation.

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Most Recent Comments

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Les patent trolls ne sont pas toujours des officines

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Bonfire of the Missalettes!

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