Against Monopoly

defending the right to innovate

The State and IP

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.

Comments on ACTA open till by 5 pm on February 16

Slashdot informs up that USTR will receive comments from anyone link here.

The most important feature of this is that we are invited to comment about the secret Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. That is the most important feature of this "opportunity" to comment--that we should comment on something whose content has been kept secret from the public.

That may not get us very far but there are substantial substantive objections that all readers of this blog should support and that belong on the public record.

Let's weigh in.

Google Books Between the Copyright Rock and the Antitrust Hard Place

As reported here, Google has heroically been trying to negotiate the rights to scan and make available "millions of out-of-print books." I.e., to solve a problem caused by the state's copyright law. But the "$125 million agreement between Google and U.S. authors and publishers is being renegotiated," because "the U.S. government said it seemed the agreement would violate antitrust laws." In other words, if you try to work around one state-granted monopoly (copyright), they'll stop you by accusing you of violating state anti-monopoly law. Unbelievable. The state does nothing but destroy.

[Mises post; SK post]

French Plans To Crack Down On Internet File Sharing: Back To Square One

France's Constitutional Council has scuttled (for now?) the country's attempt to cut off Internet connections for those engaged in file sharing.

Details here.

A few notable quotes:

The council said the proposal was contrary to French constitutional principles, like the presumption of innocence and freedom of speech. The latter right "implies today, considering the development of the Internet, and its importance for the participation in democratic life and the expression of ideas and opinions, the online public's freedom to access these communication services," the council said.

Mark Mulligan, an analyst at Forrester Research, said: "What this highlights is the danger of using legislation and the courts to further your business aims. You become a victim of the whole process."

Remix Culture (with apologies to Larry Lessig)

Jeffrey Tucker has been blogging up a storm. As he said to me in an email "I keep trying to live blog your book and instead end up writing articles." And that is exactly the point...innovation and creation is about value added. It isn't that we don't like having copies of our book made available - but having other people add value is far more significant.

I met Larry Lessig for the first time early this month at a lunch of people interested in IP issues. Inevitably as the discussion of the increasingly draconian legal measures passed by Congress were compared to their decreasing effectiveness comparison to the "War on Drugs" was made. Larry brought up an interesting point, which I will paraphrase in the form of my own example. I am personally in favor of legalizing heroin - I think illegalization has been a horrible failure that has done far more harm than good. I am also strongly opposed to people using heroin - I know heroin addicts, and it is not a fate I would wish on anyone. So I approve the goal implicit in illegalizing heroin, even while I think it is a bad law. Copying is completely different. Copying and imitation are unambiguously a good thing that produce rather than destroy value. This is especially important when imitation adds value...the "remix culture." There is no "symbolic value" in making copying illegal...and our prohibition against file sharing is not only useless, the message it sends is that intrinsically good activities - sharing, remixing, copying, imitating - are somehow wrong. EFF attorney Fred von Lohmann, who was also at the lunch, said that the first thing parents tell him when their children are being sued by the RIAA is "We know what he did was wrong..." It is sad that people should think that culture - sharing, remixing, copying and imitating - are wrong.

So let us instead work to abolish copyright and patents and celebrate Jeffrey's remix of our book.

Off topic for your amusement

Security theater.

An Austrian Bailout Plan

Now here's a sensible approach!

An Austrian Bailout Plan

by Mark Thornton

Austrian Bailout Package--Part A

1. Suspend Basil II regulations (to at least 4/2/09)
2. Cancel FDIC insurance on all demand deposits after 1/1/09.
3. Increase FDIC premiums on short term time deposits of less than one year.
4. Make interest earned (starting 1/1/09) on bank time deposits and non-governmental, non-agency, and non-authority bonds tax free (not demand deposits and MMMF).
5. Convert Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's status from conservatorship into receivership.
6. Convert AIG's status from government owned to receivership.
7. Cancel the Primary Dealer Credit Facility (PDCF) and the Term Securities Lending Facility (TSLF) at the end of the announced program (January 30, 2009).
8. Announce that the Federal Funds rate will be allowed to "float" at market rates starting January 30, 2009.
9. Announce that the Federal budget will be prorated beginning with the fiscal year starting 10/1/08 including all defense spending and transfer payments.
10. Restore constitutional monetary status to gold and silver to act as an alternative medium of exchange (no capital gains taxes).

Regret: The Glory of State Law

Techdirt notes in CAFC Judge Regrets Decisions That Resulted In Software Patents that one of the federal judges on the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit admits that he was "troubled by the unintended consequences" of the earlier decisions that resulted in the proliferation of software and business model patents. Well at least he regrets it!

Now libertarian proponents of state legal systems are for some reason optimistic about the ability of state legislature and courts to promulgate just laws. Objectivist attorney Murray Franck , for example, wrote:

Just as the common law evolved to recognize "trespass by barbecue smoke," it would have evolved to recognize property in the airwaves and in intellectual creations. But even if it could be established somehow that the common law would never have recognized intellectual property rights, this would not be an argument against such rights. The common law often requires legislation to correct it (for example, in recognizing the rights of women). Indeed it is a myth that the common law evolves to reflect, and that legislation always is in conflict with, the requirements of human nature. The same minds that employ induction and deduction to decide a particular case, making common law, can employ those methods to legislate universal laws.

Hayek also believed that case-law might need occasional "correction" by the legislature (see my Legislation and the Discovery of Law in a Free Society, p. 171). Both Franck and Hayek here express confidence that it is possible for the state--via its courts and legislatures--to issue "just" law. Well, I don't know about that. Here we have a "bad" judicial interpretation of a "bad" legislated statute. Oh, well, I guess they can at least "regret" it.

(Cross-posted at Mises blog.)


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