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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Rethinking Media Piracy

Reihan Salam of National Review weighs in and concludes that "the case against panicking over media piracy seems pretty strong."

Read his thoughts on the subject here:



John Bennet draws our attention to a blogpost by Felix Salmon at Reuters.It's about a report by "Joe Karaganis and a big team of international researchers" which unfortunately I seem to be unable to access, at least without paying a fee. The report debunks all the made-up numbers used by the big media firms to direct U.S. antipiracy policy. The blog post is worth reading, and post a comment if you can figure out how to access the report. (There is link to scribd, but that site appears to be unusable.)

Some links:

from Michael Hills (Please note, the download link will expire after 120 hours from now or after 2 attempts, which ever event happens first.) the link works and I now have a copy - very good report

John Bennett gives a link to the movie.

Mike Masnick's blog post

Is file sharing now safe in Switzerland?

When people get sued for online piracy, it is usually thanks to firms who troll on file sharing sites and analyze who is there, collecting IP addresses to build a case. The Swiss Federal Court has recently ruled that IP addresses are private and thus fall under strict privacy laws. This means they can only be used for criminal cases, whereas online piracy falls under civil law. This puts the incriminated firm, Logistep, out of business.

Note that the Swiss Federal Court is not a constitutional court in the US sense, as it only interprets federal law. Thus the Swiss Parliament could reverse this decision by adopting a law.

Hat tip: ars technica

NYTimes magazine reviews the Asian knockoff business

Brand name product piracy has long been with us and continues to grow if one is to believe the New York Times magazine section link here. The story focuses on sneakers produced in huge quantities in South China where the product range is broad and the copies range from very good to shoddy.

The author, Nicholas Schmidle, has got both Chinese producers and the US feds to talk to him about how the business works. He shows how good the copies are in a series of photos; it would take a professional enforcer and a photographic memory to see some of the differences. But they seem to sell. Indeed the copyright holding makers are reluctant to complain too loudly, for fear of souring the market for all, legitimate and not.

As a one-time economic counselor in our embassy in Seoul Korea bsck in the days when Korean pirates were rampant, I found it was really hard to get the cops to close the pirates down. They were small businessmen providing jobs at a time when Korea was very poor. All this changed when Korea got rich enough to want IP law enforced to protect its own export goods. But I suppose now the name brand producer is Korean while the pirates are Chinese.

Don't Call Them "Pirates"

So says Big Copyright, which adopted the term for copyright infringers because of "its suggestions of theft, destruction, and violence." But now, the "pirates"have "co-opted the term, adopting it with gusto and hoisting the Jolly Roger across the Internet (The Pirate Bay being the most famous example)."

I agree. Copyright infringers should not be called pirates. A pirate is a robber, plunderor, predator. The term much better describes the patent and copyright lobbies, which use state monopoly grants to plunder and rob the masses.

[Mises; SK]

File-sharing is worse than murder and child abduction

Jammie Thomas downloaded 24 songs from Kazaa and was sentenced to a fine of US$2,000,000. Joel Tenenbaum downloaded 30 songs and was fined $675,000. These amounts sound improbable, but could have a justification à la Becker: If the fine is high enough, then it should deter everyone from this activity. In fact, if the fine is infinity, then their would be no crime at all. That only works if there is no risk of error in the determination of guilt, in which case, the fine need to be reduced to account for type I errors. The level of a fine then reflects the gravity of an action and the likelihood of errors.

How do the above fines compare to other crimes? Gapers Block uses the Illinois Criminal code to find that file-sharing is worse than arson, child abduction and second-degree murder, among others. This just shows how ill-conceived laws are sometimes, and copyright and patent law unfortunately provides too many examples.

How Digital "Piracy" Creates Value

EBay just sold a large portion of Skype after a long legal dispute with Skype's founders. What interested me was the Skype's code evolved from the founders' earlier venture, the file-sharing system, Kazaa. In effect, the experience with the "illegal" Kazaa allowed the founders to develop technology that had a great value, especially for people communicating internationally.

The founders, Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis, blocked the sale for a long time on the grounds that EBay violated an agreement not to tamper with the code without their approval. In effect, Ebay acted like a pirate, while the pirates became anti-pirates.

Perhaps someday someone will catalog all the other benefits that that the pirates developed.

I don't know how to break off the post to keep from taking up the entire screen,so here is some background information:


Your doctor recommends piracy

File piracy is not limited to basement dwelling teenagers. According to an article in the The Internet Journal of Medical Informatics, there are websites with a lively exchange of toll-gated articles from medical journals. People register and post request for articles by providing URLs. Good souls with subscriptions then post the requested PDFs. The article reports on an unnamed website with various discussion forums, some of which featured such requests. The author interprets the existence of such forums and the willingness of subscribers to help out as a clear signal that more open access to research is needed.

NB: The article reporting this is open access, no need to feel dirty when clicking on the link.

Unintended Benefits of IP

(via Ricardo Lagos) The story of Prada is an interesting one. The company is owned by Miuccia Prada who is also the chief designer. In 1978 when Prada was a relatively small designer label, in good Southern Italian fashion, another company started making knock-offs of Prada bag designs. At a trade fair Miuccia Prada bumped into the owner of the copycat firm and "harangued him ... for allegedly copying some of her bag designs." So: big expensive lawsuit against her rival Patrizio Bertelli? Apparently not. The two got married and combined her design sense with his manufacturing ability and made Prada into the multi-billion business it is today. If IP lawsuits are a form of business warfare, I suppose the moral of the story is "Make love not war."

File sharing activists help to break the information monopoly in Iran

Those dedicated to the destruction of file sharing networks often fail to recognize (or at least admit to) the side benefits that such networks can bring towards overcoming efforts by autocratic regimes in stifling free speech.

Many free market activists often cite the nexus between free economies and free speech, yet some fail to exhibit even a glimmer of cognitive dissonance when it comes to the free flow of IP. The trouble for their position is that the current world of IP has so thoroughly fused the concepts of speech and commerce that one side of the other will now have to bend to keep the other side flowing.

I suppose it would be a bit much to try and portray the RIAA as de facto supporters of fascist Islamic regimes in their efforts to try and shut down networks such as Pirate Bay, but I'm still getting a kick out of Pirate Bay's efforts to help facilitate freedoms in Iran. ;-)

Details here.

The 'Anonymous Iran' site can be found here.

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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