defending the right to innovate
Monopoly corrupts. Absolute monopoly corrupts absolutely.
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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."
Nick Bilton poses an interesting question in the New York Times on whether you can copy physical objects without violating copyright link here. His answer is yes and he found intellectual property lawyers who supported that view. He gives several examples, based on 3-D printers actually producing copies of a cup and other useful physical objects, either from the object or from photographs of the object. He asserts that copyright does not cover things that are useful.
This conclusion raises several questions in my mind. What if the object is patented rather than copyrighted? What if its usefulness depends on a patented process that is essential to the usefulness of the object or its copy?
Finally, how long before the proponents of intellectual property manage to get the law changed, either through legislation or judicial interpretation? Even now, you can imagine the outbursts of outrage once something significant is "stolen".
Maybe we'll be lucky but don't count on it.
Here is a thought provoking article on how the distribution of income gives the top one percent such a disproportionate share of output link here. It finds the source in French anarchist Proudhon's cry that "Property is theft," and asserts "The biggest "theft" by the [richest] 1 percent has been of the primary source of wealth - knowledge - for its own benefit."
It goes on to make the point that knowledge is the possession of all and not to be kept locked up. The article doesn't say how much copyright and patents have to do with this, but it should have.
This Friday, Sept. 23, at 6pm Easter time, I'll be teaching a Mises Academy Webinar discussing the America Invents Act, signed into law last Friday by President Obama. I discuss this webinar in a Mises Daily article today: Obama's Patent Reform: Improvement or Continuing Calamity?.
In the webinar, I will:
Matt Yglesias fantasizes about a world without resource limits link here.
The fantasy depends on unlimited energy and the Star Trek replicator which produces an unlimited supply of whatever goods are desired. The dream becomes a nightmare when intellectual property is introduced, followed by lawyers, and bureaucrats to enforce these rights.
The fantasy originated in Peter Frase's blog, where he writes, "In the process of trying to pull together some thoughts on intellectual property, zero marginal-cost goods, immaterial labor, and the incipient transition to a rentier form of capitalism, I've been working out a thought experiment: a possible future society I call anti-Star Trek. Consider this a stab at a theory of posterity." link here.
Both are entertaining to read, but they also have a moral. As the cost of goods is reduced, we can contemplate a world in which for all practical purposes, necessities are free so that people only work to spend their lives in entertaining or educating themselves.
There is a discontinuity, however, as we are experiencing even now. As invention goes rapidly ahead, we find ways to assure that marginal costs do not fall to zero. Monopoly comes to mind as the biggest cause.
And doesn't this help explain the decline in growth hypothesized in Tyler Cowen's recent book, The Great Stagnation link here?
Writing as Schumpeter, The Economist speculates on how far to push the idea that companies have the same rights as real people (Paywall workaround: enter the link in Google) link here. That started me off, speculating on civil rights for companies and trade unions as court imputed rights notably lacking grounding in the constitution or in common sense. Who dreamed up the idea that companies are persons? That got me to thinking about how intellectual property in general is anchored in the constitution but it too has no physical dimensions; I can't see it or pick it up or lock it up. Therefore, intellectual property is a legal construct or attribute, also lacking in common sense.
One notable difference results; the civil rights of persons have a grounding in the constitution to the extent that personhood is clearly defined there. But it is not. A major further consequence is that personhood gets defined by the courts, hopefully applying common sense but with no guarantees.
In contrast, the constitution allows the Congress "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries." No room for the courts in that until someone's rights are violated and he shows he has a substantial interest sufficient to satisfy the courts and they agree to hearing the case. Thus, changing the law pretty much requires getting the Congress to act.
Schumpeter has a lot of other interesting things to say, so read the article. Among them is a defense of the personhood of corporations which struck me as way over the top. But it is thought-provoking.
Most Recent Comments
3D Printing Groundnut: The first available 3D printers were produced in the early 1980s. Because those
at 06/03/2013 10:55 AM by Anonymous
3D Printing You were aware, I hope, that the popularization of 3D printing is happening now, rather than 20
at 06/01/2013 12:43 AM by groundnut gallery
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