News.com Opinion Piece On IP: Satire, Trolling... Or Just Seriously Confused?

from the can't-figure-it-out dept

I've had the column by Michael Kanellos of News.com open all day. I keep returning to it and trying to figure out how an opinion piece could have gone so wrong. Officially, it's called "Why I love patents and copyrights" but is so far off the charts bizarre that I can't quite figure out what Kanellos intended the column to be. It may simply be News.com trolling for links and traffic. Or, it might actually be satire. I can understand why some people who haven't looked at the research would say that without IP tech innovation would slow to a crawl (the research suggests the opposite, but that's ok), but to then suggest that the only reason that open source exists is to spite Microsoft's proprietary software shows a bizarre and totally incorrect understanding of the world of software development. But where the column really clearly slips into satire is the following: "Think of Larry Page toiling away on the early PageRank patents. Think of Mark and Colleen Hayward. Imagine all those evenings they had to spend listening to Donovan spout Celtic gibberish or helping get John Bonham out of hotel security custody during those years they amassed their photo and video collection. Surely some reward is in order." Larry Page wasn't toiling over patents -- he was toiling over the actual technology of making Google work. The actual idea behind PageRank was borrowed, copied or "inspired" by work done at MIT by Jon Kleinberg. And the idea that without patents Google wouldn't be in the dominant position it's in today is just ridiculous. Google's position has nothing to do with its patents, but its ability to develop a useful service people find value in using. As for the story of the Haywards... well, that's clearly a joke, right? Please? Either way, it seems like a really odd and confused piece, even if it is satire. Kanellos never bothers to back up his position, uses a few anecdotal examples, ignores the actual problems and constraints of intellectual property and seems to brush off anyone who disagrees with him as never having done anything creative. Of course, it's also doing some damage to News.com's reputation, as many of its readers are smart enough to wonder why the site would bother to publish something like this.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
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    RandomThoughts, May 10th, 2007 @ 7:59pm

    Maybe thats why its called an opinion piece. Doesn't mean it has to be a good one.

     

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  2.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker, May 10th, 2007 @ 8:38pm

    You don't always get what you pay for

    Reads like a plain old deadline-beating, I've-got-nothing submission to me. If you can't be +1 Insightful, be +1 Troll.

     

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  3.  
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    James Hatchenson, May 10th, 2007 @ 8:41pm

    Theroy

    I would like to venture a guess that his buddy Jack Daniels helped him write that piece.

    Clue: it was posted at 4:00am pst. But I digress...

     

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  4.  
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    James Hatchenson, May 10th, 2007 @ 8:43pm

    Re: Theroy

    Under review, it appears all "perspectives" are published at 4:00am

    Oh well. Your right though, trying to follow his ramblings makes my head hurt.

     

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  5.  
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    grimace, May 10th, 2007 @ 8:46pm

    I often find that the way one deals with a real issue that poses a problem to their world view is to ignore it. You did that with the Haywards.

    So, just for the ignorant and slow, please explain how the Haywards have no relevance to the issue?

     

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  6.  
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    angry dude, May 10th, 2007 @ 8:54pm

    Who is complaining ?

    Well, well, well..

    One absolutely clueless guy (Mike Masnick) is criticizing some cheap piece of writing by another apparently clueless guy...

    Makes me think: Gosh, all these totally clueless people writing about serious tech policy issues... Damn it...
    Do they have something else to do with their time other than misleading general public ?

     

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  7.  
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    Brian Hayes, May 10th, 2007 @ 9:40pm

    Claims are askew

    Making a claim of property is diligent commercial practice, now very fashionable too. But I agree with Mike's tone in this post and others that there's something rotten in Denmark.

    We've seen the errors in the Patent Office while increasingly trademarks and copyrights are vulnerable to abuse.

    Not too off-topic, I just posted a story about Kentucky Fried Chicken's effort to sue Tan Hill Inn, a small pub in northern England, for using "Christmas Day Family Feast" in their menu. What part of "Christmas Day Family Feast" is KFC's private commercial property? What part of "Christmas Day Family Feast" is legitimate private property?

    Making an effort to re-discover the purpose and the limits of our intellectual property rules is critical. Otherwise, we grant greed too much.

     

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  8.  
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    watchingeyes, May 10th, 2007 @ 9:42pm

    Stupid C|Net Article

    http://watching-eyes.blogspot.com/2007/05/stupid-cnet-article.html

    (Techdirt doesn't have a trackback thing...)

     

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  9.  
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    Mike (profile), May 10th, 2007 @ 10:16pm

    Re:


    So, just for the ignorant and slow, please explain how the Haywards have no relevance to the issue?


    I didn't say they have "no relevance" to the issue. I was just amazed that Kanellos could be so ignorant of intellectual property's purpose. He claims that they deserve some "reward" for having to live through what they did.

    Intellectual property is NOT a reward system. It's not welfare. It's incentive for creation. That's it. It makes no difference how hard you toiled or how much you suffered. The idea that it's ok, because they "suffered" somehow and "deserve" a "reward" is laughable and has nothing to do with intellectual property laws.

     

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  10.  
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    happydude, May 10th, 2007 @ 10:39pm

    Re: Who is complaining ?

    OK Here is your chance, give us a clue so we are not clueless anymore.

     

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  11.  
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    sam, May 10th, 2007 @ 10:53pm

    hey mike...

    since you're so adamant that the patents that google holds has nothing to do with the success of google, why don't you get them to allow others to copy their approach without the threat of patent infringement....

    i'm asking because the following logic would then apply. if i can essentially exactly copy wht the patents cover, then i would essentially have a search engine that is a duplicate of google... which means i can start to create a dup search process..

    i'm willing to bet that google wouldn't be terribly excited about me copying their patents...

    so who's coorect about the value that google would place on the role of their patent protection.. you.. or google..

    although i do find your consistency on this issue somewhat humorous...

    peace.

     

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  12.  
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    Mike (profile), May 10th, 2007 @ 11:43pm

    Re:


    since you're so adamant that the patents that google holds has nothing to do with the success of google, why don't you get them to allow others to copy their approach without the threat of patent infringement....


    What makes you think I have any power over what Google does?

    i'm asking because the following logic would then apply. if i can essentially exactly copy wht the patents cover, then i would essentially have a search engine that is a duplicate of google... which means i can start to create a dup search process..

    Sam, I've gone over this already with you, though you don't seem to remember. Yahoo and Microsoft each have search engines that studies have shown are equally good in quality to Google, yet Google is still gaining more users.

    It's not the technology that has people coming back to Google.

    i'm willing to bet that google wouldn't be terribly excited about me copying their patents...

    How does that prove anything? Besides, so far we haven't seen Google suing companies over patent infringement -- so it would seem to suggest that they don't care all that much about this issue. They know they can continue to beat others in the marketplace, and that has nothing to do with patents.

    Can you explain how Google's position in the market would be ANY different without patents? As far as I can tell, the only difference at this point is that they'd actually be a few hundred million richer from not having had to pay Overture.

     

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  13.  
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    Susheel Daswani, May 11th, 2007 @ 12:13am

    IP

    Mike,
    I'm a bit confused what your stance on IP is. Sometimes (like when you wrote about KSR a few weeks back) I feel you are a moderate when it comes to IP, i.e., as long as it provides incentives for 'writings and discoveries' that would not have been created without the presence of IP, you are happy. Other times (like this post, and your economics of non-scarcity posts) it seems like you don't think IP should exist at all, i.e., it is just economic dead-weight. So which one is it, or is it something in between?

    Thanks!

     

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  14.  
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    Mike (profile), May 11th, 2007 @ 12:27am

    Re: IP

    I'm a bit confused what your stance on IP is. Sometimes (like when you wrote about KSR a few weeks back) I feel you are a moderate when it comes to IP, i.e., as long as it provides incentives for 'writings and discoveries' that would not have been created without the presence of IP, you are happy. Other times (like this post, and your economics of non-scarcity posts) it seems like you don't think IP should exist at all, i.e., it is just economic dead-weight. So which one is it, or is it something in between?

    Susheel, I'm pretty sure you and I have discussed this before...

    My position on IP is pretty consistent. If there's a case of market failure, then I can accept the reason for IP. What I'm having trouble with is finding an actual case of market failure. The deeper you look, the less such a case can be made.

    That said, I also believe that whether or not an IP regime exists, it's often BETTER for people to ignore the IP rights they are given, because I believe it hinders their own market opportunities.

    My position is simple: I think that whatever is the best process to continue to drive innovation is where we should be focused. Anything that hinders that process is a problem. If IP is used to enhance innovation, then I'm all for it -- but my problem is that I can find almost no cases where IP actually enhances innovation, and many, many cases where it hinders innovation.

     

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  15.  
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    Dosquatch, May 11th, 2007 @ 5:29am

    Re:

    Yahoo and Microsoft each have search engines that studies have shown are equally good in quality to Google

    Kinda OT, but still I want to answer this: I can't speak to what studies these are nor what they may have shown, all I can speak to is my own personal experience. I was a Yahoo user in its infancy. When it went corporate, the interface bloated and the search quality dropped, often returning pages so far off the mark that I suspected the search returns were purely randomly generated noise. I switched to Google because A) it actually returned relevant pages, and B) it has a nice, clean front end.

    I stick with Google because it still has the cleanest front end, and (even though Yahoo's results have improved) Google continues to give me more relevant hits on my searches.

    Google is simply the better tool for my needs.

     

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  16.  
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    Placid Dude, May 11th, 2007 @ 5:34am

    Re: Who is complaining ?

    C'mon, dudes, y'all are harshing my mellow. Let's just take it down, man, waaaayyyy down... yeah, it's kinda like you're floating, right? Yeahhhhh.... hey, pass the Cheetos, dude...

     

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  17.  
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    Petréa Mitchell, May 11th, 2007 @ 9:16am

    My guess is...

    I think he's serious, but trying to be ironic in the hope of drawing fewer flames.

     

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  18.  
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    Susheel Daswani, May 11th, 2007 @ 11:48am

    Re: IP

    My position on IP is pretty consistent. If there's a case of market failure, then I can accept the reason for IP. What I'm having trouble with is finding an actual case of market failure. The deeper you look, the less such a case can be made.

    Thanks for laying out your opinion, Mike. I see the logic in what in you're saying. That said, where is the evidence that there is not an actual market failure? How do you extract the motivation of creative individuals in order to rule out that patent protection has not created innovations that the market would not have bore without patent protection?

     

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  19.  
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    Duke Kahanamoku, May 11th, 2007 @ 12:13pm

    Misguided IP Rantings

    Reading your piece I could not help wondering whether you are doing the very thing you accuse CNET of- spectacular ranting for links/ page hits.

    I actually work full time in intellectual property and I can tell you that, like many other issues, it is complex. You absolutely cannot make a statement that there is no need for patents or that nobody every rips off another company's designs/ products/ technology. Many companies deliberately employ a fast-follower business model in which they systematically copy the products/ technologies/ designs of others.

    Patents are a key tool for innovators seeking to capitalize on their hard work. Innovative companies such as Qualcomm, IBM, Philips, Thomson, and many others have made profound technical contributions to the world but may not always capitalize as competitors such as Microsoft, Cisco, Dell and Samsung may have superior marketing, sales, or understanding of the customer that allows them to win in the market. This does not give them the right to use the valuable innovations created by others to serve their customers. In such situations, a patent or technology license is often the solution that allows the innovator to earn a bit from its invention while the sales & marketing leader benefits as well by delivering the best solution.

    Your extreme rantings would be akin to my saying that there is no need for blogs because we already have newspapers and magazines available to publish any useful information so what possible worthwhile material could a blog publish? Blogs should be abolished right?

    This is an issue with 2 sides. Try thinking about it a little.

     

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  20.  
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    Mike (profile), May 11th, 2007 @ 1:25pm

    Re: Misguided IP Rantings

    I actually work full time in intellectual property and I can tell you that, like many other issues, it is complex. You absolutely cannot make a statement that there is no need for patents or that nobody every rips off another company's designs/ products/ technology.

    Have I made either of those statements?

    Many companies deliberately employ a fast-follower business model in which they systematically copy the products/ technologies/ designs of others.

    Yes, and in the real world, that's called competition. It helps drive more innovation faster. It's good for society. There are plenty of studies that support this.

    This does not give them the right to use the valuable innovations created by others to serve their customers. In such situations, a patent or technology license is often the solution that allows the innovator to earn a bit from its invention while the sales & marketing leader benefits as well by delivering the best solution.

    That's the party line, sure, but when you look at the research it doesn't support this. First of all, you are clearly confusing innovation and invention in the paragraph above. The key, constitutional reason for patents is to promote innovation -- yet, they tend to promote invention instead. Invention is a part of innovation, but only a part. It's NOT intended to be a welfare system for inventors as many people like to think. It's only supposed to serve to help put in place incentives where none would occur others (market failure).

    Your extreme rantings would be akin to my saying that there is no need for blogs because we already have newspapers and magazines available to publish any useful information so what possible worthwhile material could a blog publish? Blogs should be abolished right?

    No, I'm not sure how thoroughly you've read my discussions on this topic, but that's not what I said at all. I'm not talking about abolishing any kind of product. I'm talking about removing inefficient, government regulations that are barriers to innovation.


    This is an issue with 2 sides. Try thinking about it a little.


    I have and continue to back up all my positions with detailed explanations, research and examples. "Try thinking about it a little" is condescending and simply wrong. I think about it constantly. If you have a specific problem with my position, let me know what it is and we can discuss. Telling me I haven't thought about is wrong. Point out something I got wrong and then let's discuss.

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 11th, 2007 @ 2:13pm

    Re: Misguided IP Rantings

    I actually work full time in intellectual property...
    So what does that mean? It could just mean that you're a janitor for the RIAA or something.

     

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  22.  
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    Dosquatch, May 11th, 2007 @ 3:50pm

    Re: Misguided IP Rantings

    akin to my saying that there is no need for blogs because we already have newspapers and magazines available to publish any useful information so what possible worthwhile material could a blog publish?

    Actually, as I read Mike's position, blogs would be more akin to "innovation" and "competition", and efforts to squelch them by "traditional, established" publications (which has happened, BTW) would be the parallel to the patent nuclear stockpiling suits. (or worse, some random nobody who happened to slip a "method for presenting glyphs to an audience" patent through - your standard patent troll) So, pretty much exactly the opposite of what you said.

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Duke Kahanamoku, May 11th, 2007 @ 4:30pm

    Valenti's former #2 man

    Actually I was Jack Valenti's "#2 man" until recently, responsible for stalls 1-3 back at HQ, and also for the college outreach program. It's been great working with the kids- makes the whole thing worthwhile.

    The new guy eats mexican for lunch just about everyday and I am doing a lot of overtime now. If you are really interested in IP I could probably get you a job here at the RIAA.

    I actually don't care a whit about IP- I was just trying to help you generate some excitement here in the comment section to jack up your google adsense hits...

     

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  24.  
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    IronChef, May 12th, 2007 @ 1:20am

    Re: Valenti's former #2 man

    I'm pretty sure that Jack Valenti was at the MPAA, and I have a lot of respect for him and his work.

    Thanks for the job offer at the RIAA though.

    Feel free to elaborate more on your current position at RIAA/MPAA...

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Susheel Daswani, May 12th, 2007 @ 10:18pm

    Woah...

    Mike said:
    The key, constitutional reason for patents is to promote innovation -- yet, they tend to promote invention instead.

    The Constitution says:
    "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."

    Obviously, the meaning of words has changed, but Mike's statement is surely an opinion, not a incontrovertible fact.

     

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  26.  
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    Charles Griswold, May 13th, 2007 @ 6:05pm

    Re: Who is complaining ?

    Well, well, well..

    One absolutely clueless guy (Mike Masnick) is criticizing some cheap piece of writing by another apparently clueless guy...

    Makes me think: Gosh, all these totally clueless people writing about serious tech policy issues... Damn it...
    Do they have something else to do with their time other than misleading general public ?

    And yet . . . you're reading it. A lot, apparently. The thing is, Mike makes money spending his time on this. What's your excuse?

     

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  27.  
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    angry dude, May 13th, 2007 @ 7:57pm

    Re: Re: Who is complaining ?

    "What's your excuse?"

    Preparing for some ugly patent litigation to shake down some big crooked boys.
    Mike's comments about patent system are totally clueless - he never had a patent of his own and he never will...
    But since he brings up each and every big patent case in his shitty blog it's just as good as any other place to see the shitty picture of the (business) world.
    Yes, my little Linux-loving friend, this world is a shitty place...

     

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  28.  
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    Mike (profile), May 14th, 2007 @ 1:53am

    Re: Woah...

    Susheel, are you saying that "promoting the progress of science and the useful arts" is not the same as "promoting innovation." I think innovation is the same thing as "progress of science and the useful arts." I'd be curious to understand why you don't believe so.

     

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  29.  
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    Wow, May 17th, 2007 @ 6:16pm

    Satire..

    It is so obvious that this is a satire piece that I don't even know where to begin. Its actually pretty funny I laughed out loud the first time I read it

     

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  30.  
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    Sam, May 17th, 2007 @ 6:19pm

    LOL

    Don't use the word innovation! Its a lowly! marketing word! DOn't use it it makes the marketers horny!! AHHH marketers!

     

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  31.  
    identicon
    Sam, May 17th, 2007 @ 6:20pm

    LOL

    Don't use the word innovation! Its a lowly marketing word! DOn't use it it makes the marketers horny!! AHHH marketers!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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