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.

earlier posts

Rights Violations Aren't the Only Bads

In my latest article, "Rights Violations Aren't the Only Bads," I argue that it makes no sense for a pro-IP person to say to an anti-IP person, "Well, if you don't believe that ideas can be owned, then you can't complain if someone plagiarizes or adulterates your work."

I try to show that this response is total nonsense.

Intellectual Property Fosters Corporate Concentration

My latest piece on IP is "Intellectual Property Fosters Corporate Concentration."


Slave Labor and Intellectual Property

My latest contribution on intellectual monopooly is "Slave Labor and Intellectual Property."

Apples Owns "App Store"?

From the Wall Street Journal:

Apple sued Amazon.com over its use of the phrase "App Store," accusing the online retailer of trademark infringement.

Does Apple also own the words "app" and "store"?

"The Social Network" and Intellectual Property

The Daily Caller has an excellent article on the portrayal of intellectual property rights in the movie "The Social Network." Here's a quote:
"The Social Network" should also be celebrated for casting an intellectual property dispute as its central conflict and in doing so, chipping away at the legitimacy of modern intellectual property protections.

E-book Price-Fixing Probe

The attorney general of Connecticut is investigating whether e-book makers Apple and Amazon have engaged in pricing fixing with book publishers. In this article on the investigation, I am quoted saying:

Alleged price-fixing agreements in cases like this have but one source: the government's monopolistic grants to e-book makers and publishers through so-called intellectual property laws. In a fully free economy, where ideas cannot be locked up and competitors are free to enter the market, such agreements would have no force whatsoever.

Men At Work Hit for Using Riff

From the BBC:

Earlier this week, a federal court in Sydney ruled that Men at Work had plagiarised Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree in its 1983 hit, Down Under.

"It's all about money, make no mistake," said Down Under author Hay.

But Norm Lurie, owner of Larrikin Music who filed the case, said it highlighted "the importance of checking before using other people's copyrights."

This is beside the point, but I can't hear the similarity in the two patterns of notes. (One cannot actually own a pattern of notes. But one can get the government to stop others from using a pattern one claims to own.) You can listen to both at the BBC site.

Reponse to Levine & Boldrin

The Christian Science Monitor published this response to David and Michele's op-ed (sorry if it's already been posted):

Reform, but don't destroy, patent law

In their commentary, "The patent system: End it, don't mend it," David K. Levine and Michael Boldrin propose wiping out centuries of Anglo-American legal heritage in intellectual property (IP) rights because they don't like some features of the current American patent system. This radical proposal is based on an erroneous understanding of patent law's history and the economics of innovation. It would be akin to tearing down a house because the hot water heater broke.

The Founders explicitly recognized the advantages of using intellectual property rights national in scope to replace the state-granted rights that existed under the Articles of Confederation. As James Madison wrote in Federalist No. 43 "[t]he utility of [the IP clause] will scarcely be questioned. The copyright of authors has been solemnly adjudged, in Great Britain, to be a right of common law. The right to useful inventions seems with equal reason to belong to the inventors. The public good fully coincides in both cases with the claims of individuals."

There is no question that patent law provides critical incentives for innovation. Without the potential economic rewards and ability to facilitate commercialization patents provide, who would invest the millions of dollars needed for the development of new drugs, medical equipment, and medical devices? It is thus patent-driven innovation that creates the drugs that Messrs. Levine and Boldrin claim are locked away from the world's poor. It would be sadly ironic if an effort to provide access to essential medicines by eliminating patent rights destroyed the system whose incentives yielded those medications.

Levine and Boldrin also misunderstand the point of the Constitution's IP Clause. The issue the IP Clause settled was not whether there should be patents and copyrights, but which government would provide them. The expensive litigation the state IP system had spawned in the 1780s persuaded the Founders to adopt a national system. Even Thomas Jefferson, initially the Founder most skeptical about intellectual property, quickly changed his views and played a prominent role in the early development of American patent law. The system worked: Americans were inventing and patenting at a rate that astonished European observers within a few decades of the first patent act.

While the heart of the incentive provided by patents is restricting others from using an inventor's invention, this right to exclude is limited in time and scope. As a result, it balances rewarding early innovators and enabling later ones to create improvements. Patents' limited scope means they rarely provide their owners with an economic monopoly as there are almost always viable substitutes. Nor are patents "simply a ticket to lifelong litigation against a giant," as only 1.5 percent of patents are litigated.

Patents also provide more than incentives for innovation. Recent studies of start-up companies reveal that patents can play an important role in securing venture capital, capturing revenue through licensing, and enhancing reputational value. And patents serve as coordination tools among private parties, thus preventing many of the problems Levine and Boldrin identify.

For example, in information technology and life sciences, patent holders engage in considerable licensing activity, privately solving the problem of access. A recent National Academies of Science survey concluded that in both ‘‘the number of projects abandoned or delayed as a result of technology access difficulties is reported to be small" and that few investigators had to "revise their protocols to avoid intellectual property complications or pay high costs to obtain access to intellectual property.''

Patent law can undoubtedly be improved. But destroying widely held and valuable property rights in pursuit of short-term gains would truly be a case of killing the goose that lays the golden eggs. Neither the American economy nor the world's poor could afford such an ill-conceived up-rooting of rights deeply embedded in Anglo-American jurisprudence.

Craig A. Nard, Professor of Law, Case Western Reserve University Cleveland, Ohio

Andrew P. Morriss, Professor of Law & Business, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign Urbana, Ill.

Kindle DRM Cracked

From BBC News:

Hacker cracks Kindle's copyright

An Israeli hacker claims to have broken the copyright protection on Amazon's Kindle e-reader, reports say.

The hack will allow the ebooks stored on the reader to be transferred as pdf files to any other device.

The hacker, known as Labba, responded to a challenge posted on Israeli hacking forum, hacking.org.

It is the latest in a series of Digital Rights Management hacks, the most famous being the reverse engineering of iTunes.

The Kindle e-book reader has been very successful since it was launched in the US in 2007.

Amazon hopes to have sold a million devices by the end of the year.

It leaves it to individual publishers whether they want to apply DRM but books in its main proprietary format .azw, cannot be transferred to other devices.

It did not immediately respond to the news but it is likely it will attempt to patch its DRM software.

DRM has long divided opinion. While rights holders regard it as a crucial tool to protect copyright, consumers tend to hate it because it limits what can be done with content.

"DRM is not an effective way of preventing copying nor is it a good way of making sales. There isn't a customer out there saying 'what I need is an electronic book that does less," novelist and co-editor of the Boing Boing blog Cory Doctorow told the BBC when the Kindle was launched.

As soon as a new DRM system is active, hackers begin to try and break it.

Most famously Jon Lech Johansen, known as DVD Jon, cracked the copy protection on DVDs in 1999.

He went on to break the copyright protection on iTunes, leading Apple to offer DRM-free music.

DVD Jon now runs a company with an application to take the pain out of moving different types of content between devices.

Dilbert Says It All


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A Texas Tale of Intellectual Property Litigation (A Watering Hole Patent Trolls) Aunque suena insignificante, los números son alarmantes y nos demuestran que no es tan mínimo como

James Boyle's new book with his congenial IP views free to download

French firm has patents on using computers to choose medical treatment 1

French firm has patents on using computers to choose medical treatment 1

French firm has patents on using computers to choose medical treatment 1

French firm has patents on using computers to choose medical treatment 1

French firm has patents on using computers to choose medical treatment 1

French firm has patents on using computers to choose medical treatment 1

French firm has patents on using computers to choose medical treatment 1

French firm has patents on using computers to choose medical treatment 1