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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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Comments

Congratulations! :-)

Unfortunately there seems to be a bit of a rising delusion that a free/unregulated market is the cause of the current recession/depression - instead of it having been a result of deceit (an egregious lack of transparency) and a tulipomaniacal suspension of disbelief (shorttermist hay making).

That means folk (who've had their wealth redistributed to a new aristocracy) are probably becoming unreceptive to 'greater market freedom' as being a good argument in support of patent/copyright abolition. :-/

I suspect emphasising that artists and innovators will have their liberty restored to share and build upon published culture, and develop new technologies without threat of litigation from incumbents (or trolls), might be more appealing (together with cheaper pricing). Abolition is about giving the people back their freedom. I suspect only economists can readily grok what the heck a 'free market' is and why it's good.

WHO is going to abolish copyright and patent law? The incumbent beneficiaries? Congress - given a good argument? The people?

Crosbie:

I know that you are violently anti-IP, and that is unlikely to change. However, Heinlein was pro-IP. Please do not use a word created by a great writer and someone who firmly believed in patent rights as part of one of your anti-IP criticisms.

Thank you.

Our resident troll now appears to want to tell others when they can and can not use individual words coined by a third party.

But the last time I checked, individual words are too small to be copyrightable, and even if this one had been, it would be Heinlein's estate that held the copyright, not Lonnie.

Fortunately.

Our resident stalker is back. Welcom back beeswax.

I never said the word was copyrighted. However, it seems somewhat hypocritical to adopt the words of an avowed pro-IP person to diss IP. If you are going to make anti-IP comments, why choose the creativity of the enemy? I certainly have not called you a troll first because you used the word before I did, and second, because you are less than a troll; you are an avowed stalker.

It's hit SlashDot now. The cat's out of the bag.
Personally, I'm for *some* amount of copyright and patent protection for inventors/artists/whatever, but in fewer cases and in a *much* more limited form. In any event, we're definitely on the same side of this issue relative to the status quo.

The summary on Slashdot includes the following: "Michele Boldrin and David K. Levine state they would like to see copyright law abolished completely as there are other protections available to the creators of 'intellectual property' (a term they describe as 'propaganda,' and of recent origin)."

I didn't see anything like that in the article linked to from Slashdot, and have so far been unable to find it on your site, but if it does represent your feelings, I would propose that we find a new way to refer to "IP" that better reflects the goals and limits of the protections.

My personal favorite is to think of "IP law" as "TAIM (Temporary Artificial Idea Monopoly) law." I'd be glad if others started using that term for it - or another one that gets across the same ideas - in order to get people to think about how patents and copyright are supposed to work and what their actual purpose is.

Keep fighting the good fight!

Slashdot Reader:

With respect to the term "intellectual property," "of recent origin" is a relative term. The first recorded use of intellectual property as a concept dates to 1818. The first recorded written use of "intellectual property" dates to 1845. Is that "of recent origin"?

With respect to your suggestion that IP law should be renamed "TAIM," I must respectfully disagree. Patents protect a specfic invention, which is an implementation of ideas rather than just ideas. In fact, patent law specifically states that ideas are not patentable. A trademark is a tangible symbol or specific applications of certain words, such as "Things go better with Coke." or "Nike" when applied to the sales and marketing of shoes. Thus, a trademark is not an idea. A copyright is a specific collection of words in a specific order, again, not an idea.

Essentially, your description of intellectual property as mere ideas fails.

Cross-posted from Slashdot:

I just took a look at Chapter V of this book, just to see if this is a case of somebody presenting a well-researched argument or an economist spouting off about something they know nothing about (and economists do that more often than most people would think - I once saw an economist at a conference proudly present a model for revenge that flew in the face of the whole of human history). I'm afraid that when it comes to the matter of books, it was downright dishonest in places.

This is propaganda.

Some examples:

Page 111-112 - the authors ask the question of how well the American copyright extensions have worked, and judge it solely on number of works created. Then, they declare that it didn't help, because there isn't a massive increase. They DON'T mention that there wasn't a decrease either - in fact, there is a very slow increase. They also don't look at works that were not properly registered. Even more telling, they don't look at other factors - whether the quality of life of the authors was impacted positively or negatively, whether there were enough publishers to provide an increase in publications, etc. They base their conclusion on a single metric.

Page 115 - A clear case of apples and oranges. Having talked about the reasons given for the CTEA (without, I might add, actually examining them in any detail), they comment that 8 years later, the same corporations are trying to get the European copyrights extended from 50 years to 95 years to keep up with the United States, implying that these companies are essentially raising one, then using it as an excuse to raise another. Which would be evil, except that it's not what's happening - the CTEA involved books, and the recent lobbying is about music, which have entirely different copyright terms. So, it would be more accurate to say that having harmonized one section of the creative arts, they're attempting to harmonize another - which is far less evil.

Page 115-116 - Here the argument turns absolutely dishonest. The authors want to demonstrate that books out of copyright are more available than books in copyright. So, here is what they do - they take Edgar Rice Burroughs, and compare the books that are in copyright to the ones that are out of copyright, and show that indeed, the ones in copyright have fewer editions available. This is a trick, though - Edgar Rice Burroughs is one of the most famous writers of his day. Conspicuously, they don't provide any data for number of books published in total that are out of copyright compared to availability - they just take the case of a single, famous author, and extend that to be the case for the whole. If they extended it, it's fairly certain that they'd find that the majority of books that have entered the public domain are no longer available in print or online, undermining their argument. Most people would not claim that the exception is the rule, but they have made precisely that claim.

Pages 117-118 - The authors now demonstrate a complete lack of understanding of how the book market works, as they claim that having classic spy novels in print would devalue new spy novels. To channel Morbo from Futurama, "Publishers do not work that way!" In fact, the decision of whether a book gets published or not is entirely based on how well it is likely to sell, and having a classic spy novel that is consistently selling well is more likely to reinforce the sales of new ones, not devalue them.

These are selected errors, both factual and methodological. It would be nice if there was actual research here, rather than taking a few surface facts and drawing ignorant conclusions.

Robert B. Marks

Our resident troll writes:

"[insult deleted] beeswax."

No. None of the nasty things that you have said or implied about me are at all true.

"I never said the word was copyrighted."

You ordered other people to stop using it. Thus implying that you had the right to control its use by other people. Thus implying some kind of novel "intellectual property" claim.

"[insults deleted]"

No, you're the troll and the stalker.

None of the nasty things that you have said or implied about me are at all true.

"With respect to the term "intellectual property," "of recent origin" is a relative term. The first recorded use of intellectual property as a concept dates to 1818. The first recorded written use of "intellectual property" dates to 1845. Is that "of recent origin"?"

Compared to the time since we started inventing and innovating, yes.

"Patents protect a specfic invention, which is an implementation of ideas rather than just ideas. In fact, patent law specifically states that ideas are not patentable."

Of course it does, but that does not change reality. Reality is that very broad and general patents are issued that do amount to patenting an "idea" -- "one-click shopping" for example, or even the progress-bar.

"A copyright is a specific collection of words in a specific order, again, not an idea."

You'd think so. But independently coming up with the same idea is often not a defense. It's not a defense in patent law; it's supposed to be a defense with copyrights, but the recent lawsuits over coincidentally-similar bits in various pieces of music (one involving Coldplay) indicate that the practise is different.

To make matters worse, copyright has been overextended far beyond covering verbatim copying. Writing your own, say, Star Wars novel whose plot and exact wording are wholly original will land you in hot water, and likely not just trademark related hot water, for example. The notion of copyrighting "characters" or similar things goes well beyond the original intent of "protecting" specific fixed arrangements of words or of musical notes or the like. And we are hearing about comedians considering legal action over "stolen" jokes, people suing each other over "stolen" plot outlines or similar ideas, and other attempts to further extend copyrights well beyond individual *fixed expressions* of an idea.

Whole domains of ideas are being walled off now. Putting a shopping cart on your e-commerce site? Patented! Having an Evil Empire versus a Rebellion? Copyrighted!

It's gotten ludicrous and it's time for it to end.

Robert B. Marks feels the need not only to make libelous accusations about our fearless leaders, but also to repeat them for extra emphasis. I guess I will do the same when debunking him them.

"Page 111-112 - the authors ask the question of how well the American copyright extensions have worked, and judge it solely on number of works created."

For one very simple and very good reason: the *sole* constitutional purpose of copyright is to incentivise the creation of new works. Ergo, the only valid metric of success of any copyright policy is creation of new works. If the trend in the rate of creation did not change (remained commensurate with inflation), as was observed, then a policy failed to serve that constitutional purpose. If it tightened, rather than loosened, copyright restrictions and failed, then it is unconstitutional and should be repealed.

Welfare of the artists is irrelevant. Copyright is not an artist-welfare law. It is a new-work-creation-incentivisation law. Using it for any other purpose is unconstitutional.

"Page 115-116 - Here the argument turns absolutely dishonest."

No, it does not.

"The authors want to demonstrate that books out of copyright are more available than books in copyright. So, here is what they do - they take Edgar Rice Burroughs, and compare the books that are in copyright to the ones that are out of copyright, and show that indeed, the ones in copyright have fewer editions available. This is a trick, though - Edgar Rice Burroughs is one of the most famous writers of his day. Conspicuously, they don't provide any data for number of books published in total that are out of copyright compared to availability"

And neither do you.

They have one data point supporting their hypothesis; you have none supporting yours. 1-0 Boldrin and Levine.

Care to try again?

Mr. Marks uses strong words such as "dishonest", "ignorant", and so on. If I were him (who's him? No idea) I would thread more carefully, as most of the qualifications he addresses David's and my work apply, much more cogently, to the crap he writes. Did I write "crap"? Yeah: crap.

Beeswax has already tried to make him understand why he talks nonsense, and there is little to add. Here's that little.

Page 111-112 - the authors ask the question of [...].

To the extent to which data are available we DID actually try to control for most of the factors he claims we did not. So we looked at population growth and measured books per capita, we controlled for income trying to account for the fact that higher per capita income increases demand and supply of books, and so on and so forth. In fact, once you take those aspects into account, the lack of any positive impact of copyright on books' production becomes even more evident. What Mr. Marks seems to miss is that the kind of special monopolistic privilege (hence, social cost) copyright allows is socially justifiable IF AND ONLY IF there are some big social gains! If there are no gains, what's the point of paying a cost? And, indeed, making lucky authors or singers richer than they already are, at the expenses of consumers, is NOT what that special privilege is meant to achieve. Not according to the US Constitution, at least.

Page 115 - A clear case of apples and oranges. [...]

CTEA

Music vs Books

Directive 2006/116/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council

The current issue in Europe

In summary: the CTEA applies to all forms of expressions, but distinguishes between individual's (life+70) from corporate's (95) authorship. In Europe the last directive (2006) allowed recorded music only 50 years, hence the current debate. Because a lot of it is copyrighted at the corporate level, the choice of 95 years was argued to make EU law "catch up" with US law, etcetera. Wouldn't it be nice if, before blabbering, people did spend 30 minutes to figure out the facts? Page 115-116 - Here the argument turns absolutely dishonest. [...]

We provide data, that were correct at the time we wrote that chapter, to support our claim. Mr. Marks just blubbers, has no data and even misses the obvious point that, if Burroughs is famous, then this should be an incentive to publish its copyrighted books, not a dis-incentive! Now, it turns out, the data we provide was correct THEN and it is no longer correct NOW, as some copyrighted Burroughs's books are now widely available and in print. We would obviously love to have complete data to carry out comparison, but those are not available. In any case, one can try performing this experiment privately using their favorite "not so famous" authors to see if being covered by copyrights increases the change of being published versus similar, almost contemporary and equally well known books that are out of copyright. I would be interested in any data someone could provide us with. Thanks.

Pages 117-118 - The authors now demonstrate a complete lack of understanding of how the book market works, [...]

Again, it would be nice if Mr. Marks had some data to back up his insults, but he does not. Our argument may be speculative, but it is based on the obvious evidence that publishers "milk" market segments by publishing in various sub-segments in an orderly way to avoid cannibalization. Anyone who has interacted with publishing houses, and recording companies, is aware this is the case. You do not push forward too many titles, per unit of time, in any given market segment, to avoid "excess competition". That this argument may apply to old titles as much as it applies to new ones seems to us logical, as well as consistent with the available evidence. Maybe Mr. Marks should argue his point, instead of blabbering randomly.


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