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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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Open Thread

Since there has been a lot of discussion John suggested rather than having it all as comments to a single post, I create an open thread for general discussion. I will try to set up an open thread each Monday for whatever IP topics catch the imagination and see how it goes. So go ahead, and post away comments to this posting on whatever IP/Monopoly topics you'd like.

Comments

Since I suggested the Open Thread, let me open the discussion with a question. As I see little changing for the better on the IP front and lots for the worse, I keep asking myself how can we critics be more effective? As I noted in a recent comment, the IP racket reminds me of prohibition. The solution there was massive disobedience. There is a long tradition of civil disobedience in America.

So how about urging everyone to violate copyright, with each person copying a single song or disk or movie and then watch the RIAA or the MPAA sue thousands more people? Each case would tie up the courts and perhaps make the penalty, relatively trivial for a single violation, cost the IP associations more than it is worth to prosecute. We need to make clear that the public interest is in innovation but somehow that point isn't getting across. Anybody willing to go to jail, for example?

Two other thoughts. I never see any op-eds in newspapers on the subject. And I never see any Congressional hearings either. There are lots of good blogs but who outside of us insiders is reading them?

Another subject. What legislation or legal challenges to current case law do we need?

No, the solution is NOT massive disobedience. This only help the monopolists.

The solution is to support business that choose to relinquish their monopolies such as RedHat, musicians who denounce their reproduction monopolies privillages, etc.

Or if you're producer of copyrighted work, relinquish your monopoly privileges or use copyleft licenses and use ethical business models to beat the monopolists at their own game, extract even higher rents and outcompete them.

People like me are already licensing works under creative common attribution.(Though I should use creative common attribution sharealike) and licensing softwares under the GPL.

As Don Beaudreaux pointed out in a letter to Reason magazine, the reason Prohibition failed and was repealed under FDR (one of two good things he did while president, the other being the release of the anti-war dissenters jailed by Wilson but not pardoned by Harding, Coolidge, or Hoover) was that taxes fell precipitously during the early years of the Great Depression, so Washington, not being completely stupid and needing more revenue-loot, realized that one good way to accomplish that goal would be to bring back "demon rum" and tax it. There's nothing wrong with civil disobedience and violating IP laws. But I agree that supporting artists who use alternative business models would be more effective in the long run. We should also continue blogging and writing and whatever else conveys the message.
My problem is that there's so much to talk about. I'm planning to speak to my congressman about IP issues, but I feel like I won't have the time, nor he the patience to discuss:

1) length of copyrights

2) stupidness of retroactive IP law

3) Subversive nature of IP law being formulated in trade agreements rather than in congress

4) Software patents

5) Business method patents

6) Alternative methods to encourage innovation (e.g. prizes, etc.)

7) value of looking at ROI in IP law.

8) Against Monopoly book

9) How innovation is incremental - longer patents mean slower innovation

10) How DMCA-style law is cracking down on things besides traditional copying (i.e. access restrictions like geographic dvd restrictions, DVD fast-forwarding prevention, etc)

11) Looking at how the DMCA exemption-seeking process has been historically weighted toward not granting any exemptions.

12) Stupidness of auto-granting copyrights without registration.

...etc.

I'm thinking that since the USPTO has signalled in the Bilski case that they aren't too fond of software and business method patents, that perhaps that is a timely subject to focus on. But I'm torn because there is so much more.

Re the reasons that prohibition was repealed, see wikipedia on the Wickersham Commission "an 11-member group charged with identifying the causes of criminal activity and to make recommendations for appropriate public policy. The emphasis was almost entirely on the widespread violations of national alcohol prohibition. link here"

The entry also has bit of doggerel I can't resist including:

Prohibition is an awful flop.

We like it.

It can't stop what it's meant to stop.

We like it.

It's left a trail of graft and slime,

It don't prohibit worth a dime,

It's filled our land with vice and crime.

Nevertheless, we're for it.

One of my pet peeves with patent/copyright law. A lot of university research, for example, is based on government funding and I am under the impression the faculty/university consider anything created under a grant to be their "property". It is not their "property", anything created/invented because it was funded by a government grant should be in the public domain.
Hi All,

This is an interesting site with interesting ideas. However, as a solo freelance photographer/artist, I wonder how your ideas deal with protecting the work I create, so that people don't use the work without permission such that I can get paid. It is often the solo artist against the large corporation. The corp has the money and clout and all the little guy has is the stick of copyright protection. What would you replace that stick with for individual artists, photographers, graphic designers and illustrators?

Also, there is an issue of exclusivity. How can I grant or create a work that would be exclusive to one company, person or for one specific use? This applies to logos as well as specific images.

Perhaps you have this part, protection for the solo artist, all figured out and I just can't find it among all the bigger issues involving large companies treading on each others IPs. These same large companies are quite often are thieves that hide behind laws with or without IP issues. They will happily destroy the environment or create shoddy products while doing everything in their greedy power to enforce a protectionist policy regardless of the consequences to the environment, other companies, the economy and other people, including their own employees. Perhaps that is a bigger context that needs to be addressed: the failure of capitalism that is unfettered by regulation and tempered with a blend of socialism.

Paul Antico

Hi All,

This is an interesting site with interesting ideas. However, as a solo freelance photographer/artist, I wonder how your ideas deal with protecting the work I create, so that people don't use the work without permission such that I can get paid. It is often the solo artist against the large corporation. The corp has the money and clout and all the little guy has is the stick of copyright protection. What would you replace that stick with for individual artists, photographers, graphic designers and illustrators?

Also, there is an issue of exclusivity. How can I grant or create a work that would be exclusive to one company, person or for one specific use? This applies to logos as well as specific images.

Perhaps you have this part, protection for the solo artist, all figured out and I just can't find it among all the bigger issues involving large companies treading on each others IPs. These same large companies are quite often are thieves that hide behind laws with or without IP issues. They will happily destroy the environment or create shoddy products while doing everything in their greedy power to enforce a protectionist policy regardless of the consequences to the environment, other companies, the economy and other people, including their own employees. Perhaps that is a bigger context that needs to be addressed: the failure of capitalism that is unfettered by regulation and tempered with a blend of socialism.

Paul Antico

Dear Paul,

I don't know of any IM-abolitionist that argues for abolishing property rights in your intellectual work.

The only thing we might be arguing about is whether the property right is actually on the work itself, too, or just on the container, for example, your camera, or the paper and ink that constitute a photograph. People seem to be so shocked by the consequences of so called "intellectual property rights" that they are reluctant to accept the idea of a property right in something intangible.

In either case, we are not saying that big corporations should be free to steal your work and thrive of it, without affording you proper compensation. Such would be akin to socialism and communism, and while these ideas seem to be popular enough, they are not the foundation on which the anti-IM argument rests.

We are merely saying that once you willingly part with a copy of your photograph, you have no right to further control that copy, or any copies made of that copy. After all, it is not your copy anymore, so why should you be able to control any copies made of that copy? It is the height of ridiculousness that you should be able to control a property that you have just sold, don't you think? The behavior of copies under copyright goes against your every instinct of property.

I think you can continue doing business as you always do business even without copyright and patent, that is, by just selling your work. As if it were ordinary property, which, without copyright, it would be. If you think that cannot possibly work, kindly share with us how you intend to do business as a photographer and how you worry to be thwarted.

You also make mention of exclusive trademarks, a special kind of 'intellectual property', and one most IM-abolitionists think worth preserving. There are good reasons for it to be useful to be able to tell one firm from the other, while the evidence for the usefulness of copyright and patents isn't nearly as conclusive.

This recent post 'Ethnic Technology' by Kevin Kelly seems like it might be worth a look by those interested in discussions concerning invention/innovation and its diffusion - whether hindered by patent or not.
I just thought I'd bring this very interesting article to your attention:

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/06/26/copyfraud/

This article concerns the use of copyrights to encumber public domain works. I think it is worth discussion as it will surely add to your arguments against copyrights.

I also wanted to thank you for this sight. I have been visualizing a world with no intellectual property and the one thing I see is real innovation to solve the problems of humanity, together.


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