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.
Are you familiar with the ISBN? A unique identifier issued by the U.S. Government to identify books? Did you know that the U.S. Government has granted a private company Bowker a monopoly over issuing them? They are very proud of it...as if it is a good thing!
Do we want to innovate our way out of crisis? How about government getting out of the way of innovators? Real innovators and small businesses are obstructed not helped by patents. Don't listen to me. Listen to someone in business.
If you read this blog you must have an internet connection, so presumably have heard of 3D printing. It is a very disruptive technology with potential to change manufacturing in a variety of ways - and indeed even things such as medicine. I recently had some correspondence with Joshua Pearce whose engineering group is working on materials for use in 3D printing. He is concerned about a patent arms race in this area being drag on innovation. He is looking at creative ways to preempt some of the patent nonsense.
Joshua has also been active in nanotechnology, another important areas of innovation. His article in Nature highlights how patents are helping to obstruct rather than help progress - again with innovative ideas for an open source model for key building blocks that will enhance rather than hinder innovation.
It is not a tribute to our system that genuine innovators have to spend their time trying to figure out how to avoid the hindrance of patents rather than devoting their effort to innovation.
In the dimension of copyright, the issue of plagiarism often comes up. There is a common misunderstanding that there is a connection between copyright or plagiarism. Plagiarism is not generally a violation of copyright law - although in some cases where extensive copying takes place it may be. Rather it is a failure of attribution. Basically plagiarism is not illegal - but it is heavily punished through contract law. It is a good example of "why we don't need a law for that" contrary the oft expressed opinion if something is bad we need a law against it.
The key point is that if we got rid of copyright the existing penalties for plagiarism would continue unchanged. The recent story of the economist Brian Swart is a case in point. It involves Theoretical Economics a journal which I helped to found, and my friend and colleague Martin Osborne who is editor of the journal. The key point is that Swart while violating no law, lost his job and had his PhD rescinded as a consequence of his plagiarism. So be warned: the punishment for plagiarism is severe.
I wanted to draw attention to a Libertarian Blog. It covers a lot of ground, but also IP issues from a libertarian perspective, including a recent interview with Stephan Kinsella.
Been very busy with other things, so this is a "catching up" post.
1. I was offered the opportunity to syndicate an article. Usually these things are scams, but in this case it seems to be legitimate. The article in question seems to have some interesting stuff about non-practicing entities (i.e. patent trolls).
2. Ruth Lewis has a nice post pointing to yet more example of innovation that thrives without effective IP.
3. Riccardo DiCecio points to a long and detailed article about the original of patent trolling in Wired...
4. and Sylvain Ribault directs us to an article in Nature that the Chinese are headed down our same bad path - but luckily for both us and them, haven't arrived yet.
2012 was surprisingly good for Canada. The decade long revision of the Copyright Act was completed; most parties agree that it was a good compromise. Amendments included: expanding fair dealing to include parody, satire, and education; protecting consumer behavior that reflects the conduct of consumers in a digital age; maintaining the independence of ISPs and the privacy of subscribers; implementing a cap on damages for non-commercial infringement ($5,000 is the maximum but a judge can award as little as $100; this is intended to discourage file-sharing lawsuits); and, creating an exception for non-commercial user-generated content. To be sure, all the exceptions come with the expected provisos, and all are subject to the overarching ban on any circumvention of technological protection measures. It still strains credulity as to why Canada in 2012 adopted a prohibition first conceived in 1996; but, given the fierce opposition by rights-holders, the fact that the user allowances were not rolled back in committee speaks well. Michael Geist gives a good synopsis of the new Act here.
And then came the Day of Five. In December 2011, the Supreme Court of Canada heard five copyright cases; all five decisions were released on July 12, 2012. The combination carries a strong message from the Court: copyright is a limited right and those limits must be robust if copyright is to serve its presumptive purpose of enhancing creativity. Of particular note is this Court's continued support of fair dealing. In one case, a performing rights collective society sought compensation for the use of music previews (30-90 seconds long) as they are used in cultivating sales of complete music files. The Court denied that request, stipulating that the use of previews is consumer research. Moreover, the Court took the opportunity to probe into the nature of research, to the advantage of all Canadians:
Limiting research to creative purposes would also run counter to the ordinary meaning of "research", which can include many activities that do not demand the establishment of new facts or conclusions. It can be piecemeal, informal, exploratory, or confirmatory. It can in fact be undertaken for no purpose except personal interest (SOCAN v. Bell Canada, para. 22).
In a second case, an educational licensing collective objected to the practice of teachers taking copies of small excerpts of works to be used in conjunction with paid-for textbooks. To the claim that such copying was detrimental to markets, the Court responded with:
[T]here was no evidence that this decline was linked to photocopying done by teachers. Moreover, it noted that there were several other factors that were likely to have contributed to the decline in sales, such as the adoption of semester teaching, a decrease in registrations, the longer lifespan of textbooks, increased use of the Internet and other electronic tools, and more resource-based learning (Access v. Education, para 33).
The Supreme Court of Canada began the quest for better balance in the system of copyright in 2002; a brief summary of pertinent decisions is available here. Through the five recent cases, the Court continued its commitment to technological neutrality, emphasized that advancements in technology do not immediately confer added control to copyright holders, and, made it plain that when considering fair dealing, focus must go to the end-user (not any intermediary involved in the reproduction or distribution of a work.)
An immediate effect of both the new Act and the Court's guidance is a shift in policy by educational institutions. These institutions were a captive market for educational licensing collectives, with instances of fair dealing effectively wrapped into blanket fees. Michael Geist writes that such monopoly is being rethought. Canadian institutions have paid, and will continue to pay, fees where copyright requires it; but fair dealing is now seen as an active practice instead of an exception that only exists on paper.
With a more flexible Copyright Act and a Supreme Court that champions balance between copyright holders and copyright users, Canada looks good going into 2013.
The NEP-HIS blog has a nice discussion of a nice paper by Alessandro Nuvolari and James Sumner on innovations in the beer industry before 1850. There was rapid innovation without recourse to patents, even though patenting was an option to innovators.
John Bennett says this needs to be shouted from the rooftop.
There is a lot of talk in academic circles about open publishing models - but mostly for journals. However efforts are underway for books as well: Openbook publishers has been taking the lead in this - they are the publishers of my recent book Is Behavioral Economic Doomed. They publish under a creative commons license that allows free reproduction and modification - yet we still think we can cover the costs and even make a buck or two.
There is a nice article about them here.
Most Recent Comments
Catching Up The Ruth Lewis post is interesting, but incomplete. The very economies that are supposedly
at 01/31/2013 07:21 AM by Anonymous
Canada - A Copyright Year in Review Hello. I don't like copyright law but I don't think it will go away in my life. I started a
at 01/02/2013 04:58 AM by Sabrina
Canada - A Copyright Year in Review Regarding the Copyright Act revision, let it be known that there was substantial opposition to the
at 12/28/2012 06:57 AM by Byte
From the Trenches Innovative remarks indeed. Cecil Quillen suggests the system needs to be modified, which I think
at 12/21/2012 06:18 PM by Anonymous
The golden age of beer innovation ""Perhaps the first reason [for the rate of patenting] is that during this period the rate of
at 12/20/2012 05:46 PM by Anonymous
Obama Transition Team Member on Holy cow. None of Your Beeswax is a Canadian (Laurier Optical is Canadian only). You don't even
at 12/19/2012 06:08 PM by Anonymous
The golden age of beer innovation Adam_Smith: Until the latter half of the 19th century, corporations routinely filed for patents,
at 12/19/2012 04:54 PM by Brewing Is Fun
The golden age of beer innovation It would seem from the account given in the previous comment that it was innovation that stimulated
at 12/19/2012 04:04 AM by Adam_Smith
Would books be published without copyright? taxpayer: "The Wealth of Nations" went through five editions in the first 13 years of publication,
at 12/05/2012 08:31 AM by Anonymous
Would books be published without copyright? I was wondering whether free-market advocate Adam Smith made much money from his books. On-line
at 12/04/2012 09:59 AM by taxpayer
Open Book Publisher Great work! Here's my quick review of the book: It seems to me that behavioral economists
at 11/27/2012 08:38 PM by Aaron Wolf
250000 Patents for Smartphone Technology Hi. Sorry for posting here as I cannot see a contact us section. How can I contact you? I have
at 11/27/2012 10:17 AM by Thomas Stringer
The golden age of beer innovation With respect to the beer innovation paper, I have to wonder whether the authors were overly focused
at 11/23/2012 08:31 AM by Brewing Is Fun
The golden age of beer innovation With respect to Christian's comment that "there was rapid innovation without recourse to patents,"
at 11/21/2012 03:16 PM by Beer Innovation
250000 Patents for Smartphone Technology I have seen several analysts who believe that the number of patents in this area indicate that our
at 10/24/2012 08:40 AM by Anonymous
Would books be published without copyright? Gael: I would be curious as to how much copyright litigation is costing. I have never seen any
at 10/19/2012 01:12 PM by Anonymous
Would books be published without copyright? I think it's going to evolve towards a better system with or without copyright. Right now copyright
at 10/19/2012 11:46 AM by Gael N.
Patents and Secrecy Of course patents are not the "only" answer. That is just plain dumb. There are multiple business
at 10/13/2012 08:47 AM by Anonymous
Open Book Publisher Thanks for the great book, and for making it free culture. It's worth mentioning that they don't
at 10/12/2012 04:41 PM by Chris Sakkas
What the New York Times Should Have Asked What is the patent number for the
at 10/09/2012 08:44 AM by Anonymous