Firebowls, Copyright And Crowdfunding (Oh My)

from the will-people-understand-the-nuances? dept

A bunch of people have been sending in John T. Unger's story, claiming that someone who copied his artwork is now suing him in federal court over copyrights. The general sentiment from the submitters, it seems, is to support Unger's position. I avoided writing about this for a while, because the story is actually a lot more complex, and since I think Unger is going too far, I thought it might upset some folks. Plus, the story is pretty complex. Thankfully, the good folks over at Consumerist actually really did an excellent job laying out a pretty balanced look at the issues that doesn't automatically side with Unger.

Here's the summary of the situation:
  • Unger makes "firebowls" -- decorative metal bowls that you light a fire in (I had no idea such things existed).
  • He copyrighted the design of his firebowls.
  • He then discovered that Rick Wittrig was making firebowls that look remarkably similar, but are a bit cheaper.
  • Unger got angry and sent a cease-and-desist
  • Wittrig filed a lawsuit to claim that Unger's registered copyrights are not legitimate, as there shouldn't be any copyright on utilitarian objects.
  • Unger writes up his side of the story (small artist being ripped off!) and asks people to fund his legal defense using popular crowdfunding site Kickstarter
As Consumerist notes, it's easy to quickly side with Unger without understanding the full story, saying that he's an artist who got "ripped off," but that's not at all clear. Yes, it does seem pretty likely that Wittrig copied Unger's designs (they match quite closely and at no point does Wittrig deny copying the designs). But it is a pretty big question as to whether or not Unger's work really is covered by copyright (or should be). Now this whole story is the type of thing that people often bring up when I write about why copyright isn't needed. This -- they say -- is a perfect example where copyright is necessary. Unger is mad because this other guy is "ripping him off" and passing off Unger's designs as his own. Except, again, that's not clear at all. Copyright was designed as an incentive to create -- not a system to block all competition. In the fashion world, as we've noted repeatedly, knockoffs are quite common, and have helped the industry thrive. It actually helps make the brand name originators of the design worth more, because people want the "real" original kind.

So, without copyright, what can Unger do? Well, he's actually already doing it. He put up a site that points out that Wittrig copies him, get lots of attention for it, and a lot more people now know about these kinds of decorative firebowls. My guess is that Unger is suddenly selling a lot more than he was before -- and that'll be true whether or not Wittrig gets the copyrights tossed out. And, in the meantime, having Wittrig around as competition should be good for Unger, pushing him to continue innovating and coming up with new designs.

Separately, I have to admit to some fascination over the use of Kickstarter's crowdfunding platform to fund a "legal defense" rather than just as a way to sell products. Even if I don't think Unger should have much of a legal argument, I think it's a cool use of the platform, which also drives more interest and attention to his own bowls.

So, in the end, I think Wittrig should be free to make these firebowls and to sell them in the marketplace and compete with Unger. At the same time, though, I think Unger should be free to draw lots of attention to his own firebowls combined with the sympathy-inducing story of how he originated the designs that Wittrig copied. In the end, then, they'd both be better off, as it ends up getting both of them a lot more attention for the bowls, and those who feel sympathy for Unger, or who just want to support the "original" artist, will pay up for his versions of the bowls, whereas those who would rather save some money will pay Wittrig. In the end, both of them end up being better off, and no copyright battle needs to happen. Unfortunately, in an age where so many content creators have been taught to use copyright as a crutch, that's not what we get.


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  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 30th, 2009 @ 7:06pm

    Those things look dangerous like they could start a fire. I'm not sure they should be legal in peoples houses or around anything that can catch fire.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 30th, 2009 @ 7:10pm

    Umm, I'm pretty sure I've seen similar pieces from...ancient cultures that predate both Whiny T. Unger and copyright.

     

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    Pwdrskir (profile), Oct 30th, 2009 @ 7:22pm

    Bowls of Fire

    This guy better not draw too much attention to his flaming bowls, the Olympic Committee might decide it’s too similar to their symbol and come after him.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 30th, 2009 @ 7:23pm

    wow, you can copyright a 'bowl that you light fires in'?

    nice!

    can i copyright a 'bowl that you drink water from'?

     

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    Nick, Oct 30th, 2009 @ 7:35pm

    wait a sec

    Mike,
    I have never heard of fire bowls, or either or these artists, nor do I know anything about how and where these people sell their works. However, to suggest that a consumer, upon finding one of either of their pieces would then take the time to google their names and learn of this dispute is to impute an inmeasurable amount of consumer awareness on people which, I believe, is totally unwarranted. To be honest, I have neither the time nor the interest to look into how these two sell their works, but I highly doubt their market caters to people who investigate their works to the nth degree, as you suggest people do in your post.

    I've been a reader for a long time and general agree with your writings. However, and again I don't have the time or interest to look into it (but you must because you wrote about it and always seem to criticize various media for research fail), you should be cognisant of the fact that not everyone vets the creative origin of every (if any) item they purchase.

    The merits of an actual copyright suit over these particular works notwithstanding, what's the sound of tree a tree falling in the forest if no one is around to hear it?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 30th, 2009 @ 7:48pm

    I don't understand why a person would fight as hard as Mr. Wittrig has to profit from the work of another. It baffles me because I have devoted my life to making things which are unique and to marketing them as unique items crafted from a detailed personal philosophy. I don't view original artwork as a commodity. I have no interest in imitation. If he had spent the time, energy and money that has gone into this lawsuit on designing original work, with its own story and its own unique appeal there would be plenty of room for both of us to succeed on our own merits. - John T. Unger


    Very well said.


    Parasitism is not "competition". It's parasitism. It's a deplorable way to make a living. It's a deplorable way to supposedly spur innovation. The sad fact is, the knock-off company is likely making a lot more money than the actual artist is. "First mover advantage" will more and more devolve into the "first-to-be-fucked disadvantage" if counterfeiters aren't met with the prejudice and scorn they so rightly deserve.

    The world need more innovators. Not more copycat hacks.

     

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    Beavis and Butthead, Oct 30th, 2009 @ 7:55pm

    huh, huh....huh

    FIRE! FIRE! FIRE! FIRE! FIRE! FIRE! FIRE!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 30th, 2009 @ 7:56pm

    Re: wait a sec

    "what's the sound of tree a tree falling in the forest if no one is around to hear it?"

    It seems Mike likes to research *CONCEPTS* that may be counter-intuitive and even non-traditional. Pretty simple.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 30th, 2009 @ 7:59pm

    Re:

    Yeah, copycats make things cheap for me. I don't need a firebowl, but if I could possibly come up with a use for this, I'd buy the cheapest one.

    We have a few "designer" stores nearby. The prices are ridiculous. If I need a print T-shirt, I'll go to Target. If I need to blow a few hundred on a poorly made product, I'll buy a Windows 7 license.

     

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    Rick Sarvas, Oct 30th, 2009 @ 8:09pm

    -

    As LEGO found out the hard way, you can't trademark shapes. Here's one quick link, but I'm sure you can use Google to find better examples (please post)...

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/judges-knock-down-legos-trademark-case-10 15830.html

    Still, making copies of someone's designs for profit is most uncool, even if it might be legal.

     

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  11.  

    Re: Re:

    A main problem with the "designer" stores is that they often can't properly compete because they're so specialized. They don't have the same level of volume, or revenue per square foot. The only way to offset this is to jack up the prices to cover that major flaw in the business model. Therefore, there can be an unfair advantage built into brick and mortars that sell products on a commodity basis. However, on the Super Highway, there can be more discovery of the complete product line and ability to perform research rather than only competing on price.

    Besides Target, or window shopping, you may find some good deals at, say, Goodwill too, but for some people, money is no object, and going to the designer is worth it to them. It's a matter of personal preference.

    While you haven't been sullied by designer labels and perhaps feel more useful (and valuable!) having greenbacks in your pocket. But there are some people really judge the quality of the pants is based on whether the pricetag was printed on 60 or 120lb card stock.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 30th, 2009 @ 10:07pm

    Re:

    "The sad fact is, the knock-off company is likely making a lot more money than the actual artist is."

    Then the "actual artist" (hint: meaningless term) is doing something wrong.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 30th, 2009 @ 10:23pm

    The complaint includes multiple counts, two of which are particularly pertinent here.

    One count pertains to copyright infringement, and the plaintiff alleges that he does not infringe any of the defendant's copyrighted works. Clearly this implies that the plaintiff denies copyring any of the defendant's copyrighted works.

    Another count pertains to unfair competition under Tennessee law, and in particular alleges that the defendant has been "bad mouthing" the plaintiff to the point that at least one company has ceased doing business with the plaintiff. This is not a copyright claim.

    In any lawsuit a plaintiff alleges multiple counts (aka, causes of action). In this case only two pertain to copyrights, one seeking declaratory relief of non-infringement, and the other declaratory relief that the copyrights are directed to utilitarian objects that are generally outside the scope of copyright law.

     

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    Kevin, Oct 30th, 2009 @ 10:44pm

    "So, in the end, I think Wittrig should be free to make these firebowls and to sell them in the marketplace and compete with Unger."
    But if Unger did not think he could get copyright protection for the artwork on his firebowls, he arguably would have never created the artwork. The purpose of the artwork was to sell bowls, and add value to the bowls. Without copyright, anyone can just copy his exact bowl, and if they can do so cheaper, knock him out of the market. If Unger believed that could happen, he would be less likely to create the artwork to begin with. I think we would lose out on a lot of great art and media if we followed your path to get rid of copyright and just slug it out in the market.

    Copyright in the Internet Age

     

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    harknell (profile), Oct 31st, 2009 @ 2:21am

    Non-scarce goods issue

    There are definitely some distinct issues raised by this situation. It is an example of non-scarce goods, not infinite goods. So distribution is now a major issue, not an irrelevant one. Copyright in this case can be a consideration as to whether this market will be expanded or not. The reason is due to money. If person A originates a design and company B comes in and has way more money and resources and can make knock offs cheaper and publicize wider, they basically win in this case. If artist A sees this and realizes that their right to dictate the "right to copy" is gone they would probably consider stopping. Imagine that company B literally sits there waiting for artist A to develop a new design so they can immediately make a copy and sell it themselves--it's almost like unpaid work from artist A as a designer for company B. This is a strong influence to stop working.

    While on a conceptual basis some things might be true, in the real world this is problematic.

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 31st, 2009 @ 6:00am

    Re: Non-scarce goods issue

    Isn't this exactly how the fashion industry works right now?

     

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    KGWagner (profile), Oct 31st, 2009 @ 6:46am

    Re: wait a sec

    Good points, but I don't think the story is about consumer angst or indignation. It's about an artist whining/worrying that he's getting cheated when it's highly unlikely he is. As Mike points out, it's more likely he's benefiting from the competition, if there's any effect at all.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 31st, 2009 @ 7:06am

    Re:

    Then TOO BAD. Someone else who actually knows how to compete in the marketplace will come up with something else. After all, most other art "techniques" (painting/drawing/sculpting/etc.) aren't locked up by one artist who is afraid of having to compete.

     

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  19.  
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    WammerJammer (profile), Oct 31st, 2009 @ 9:00am

    Firebowls, Copyright And Crowdfunding (Oh My)

    You're kidding me right? You think it is OK for someone to copy an artists designs? Because that's what you said, but you didn't clarify. It is fine for someone else to make Firebowls (competition is good) but Wittrig cannot copy someone else's artwork / design.
    If Unger drew the design before making the Firebowls and included the drawings in the copyright application. Do you you still believe the same thing? We have artists working for us and we always copyright their artwork / designs when produced. How is a Song different than Artwork?
    Why should one be protected and the other one not?
    Who gets to decide which one is copyrightable?
    Frankly I can't believe that you wrote that it was OK to copy / steal Artwork from someone else. I sure hope you copy / steal something of mine because I would sue you from one end of your hell to the other side.
    Unger's problem is he didn't sue. That is a blatant ripoff and we need to have the courts decide these matters rather than some freak writer who thinks it's OK to share Artist's Artwork.
    Who owns the original patent for making Firebowls? Did you take the time to search the patent office. Both of these guys are possibly breaking 6 patents.
    Why did I check the Patent office? Hardware (bowls etc.) is a device that is patentable.
    Artwork / Designs that are applied to the surface of an item are copyrightable which is what Wittrig copied from Unger.
    But both of them copied the firebowl which is patented as a cooking device in 6 different patents. So next time you write an article please put on your thinking hat and do the proper research.
    1. 7,575,002 Barbecue cooking apparatus with ash bin and chimney device
    2. 7,222,619 Storable shelves for a barbecue
    3. 6,981,497 Portable cooking apparatus
    4. 6,220,240 Outdoor fireplace with extendible handle
    5.4,665,888 Serving table for kettle-type barbecue cooker
    6. 4,632,089 Water circulated grill

     

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  20.  
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    Kevin, Oct 31st, 2009 @ 9:00am

    The issue that the company is using his "technique", it is that they are making almost identical products with the same artwork that he copyrighted. After reading the complaint, it is very interesting that the Plaintiff didn't bring up the issue of access and copying. He is only arguing that the firepot artwork isn't copyrightable so he is allowed to copy them.

    Copyright in the Internet Age

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 31st, 2009 @ 9:14am

    Re:

    "Parasitism is not "competition"."

    Intellectual property is just a way that allows intellectual property maximists to parasite off of society by preventing society from doing anything hence stealing societies ability to do stuff.

     

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  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 31st, 2009 @ 9:20am

    Re: Firebowls, Copyright And Crowdfunding (Oh My)

    "How is a Song different than Artwork?"

    The question is do either of them deserve protection and to what extent. Being that art, music, and innovation will continue perfectly fine without intellectual property then I think we should consider limiting intellectual property. The terms are currently much too long for instance.

    "We have artists working for us and we always copyright their artwork / designs when produced."

    So this isn't about the artist, it's about you so that you can get the copyright off of the work of others. You clearly have a conflict of interest in the matter and that should be considered when considering to what extent your position represents what's best for society.

     

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  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 31st, 2009 @ 9:24am

    Re:

    "But if Unger did not think he could get copyright protection for the artwork on his firebowls, he arguably would have never created the artwork."

    Then that's fine, he can go do something more relevant to market needs. That's even BETTER for the economy. Other people will innovate without intellectual property but we do not need the government to use its communist power to allocate resources towards one career over another by giving that career monopolies which only takes away from more relevant sectors of the free market.

     

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  24.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 31st, 2009 @ 9:29am

    Re: Re:

    and I'm not saying that artwork isn't important just that the free market is perfectly capable of producing artwork without intellectual property.

    In fact one may argue that intellectual property reduces artwork because without competition artists have less incentive to improve their artwork and hence to "innovate."

    The point is that the free market is best suited for satisfying market needs, being it artwork or whatnot. To the extent that the free market needs artwork it will provide, to interfere with the free market via granting monopolies will either artificially reduce or increase the amount of artwork to a number different from its relative market need and doing either is bad (increasing it takes away from other more relevant markets and decreasing it takes away from the art market to the extent that it serves a more relevant market demand).

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 31st, 2009 @ 9:36am

    Re: Firebowls, Copyright And Crowdfunding (Oh My)

    Yes, it is okay. Move along (perhaps to the patent office to file a patent on a pot).

     

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    Willton, Oct 31st, 2009 @ 9:49am

    Re: Firebowls, Copyright And Crowdfunding (Oh My)

    But both of them copied the firebowl which is patented as a cooking device in 6 different patents. So next time you write an article please put on your thinking hat and do the proper research.
    1. 7,575,002 Barbecue cooking apparatus with ash bin and chimney device
    2. 7,222,619 Storable shelves for a barbecue
    3. 6,981,497 Portable cooking apparatus
    4. 6,220,240 Outdoor fireplace with extendible handle
    5.4,665,888 Serving table for kettle-type barbecue cooker
    6. 4,632,089 Water circulated grill


    A few things to take into account:
    1. The last two patents you listed have expired. Anyone who makes something according to those two inventions will not be infringing those patents.
    2. The '240 Patent is directed to something that has a handle. The firebowls have no handles. Thus, the firebowls do not infringe the '240 Patent.
    3. the '497 Patent is directed to something with a lid. The firebowls do not have lids. Thus, the firebowls do not infringe the '497 Patent.
    4. The '619 Patent is directed to something that has at least 2 handles and a grill body. The firebowls have no such elements. Thus, the firebowls do not infringe on the '619 Patent.
    5. The '002 Patent is directed to something with a number of elements (e.g. chimney, ash bin, screen) that are not present in the firebowls. Thus, the firebowls do not infringe the '002 Patent.

    So, perhaps YOU should do some proper research before spouting off about what copies what.

     

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  27.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 31st, 2009 @ 10:07am

    Why does it seem like this place is surrounded by lawyers?

    But perhaps the one main reason why white people love lawyers is the sense that they are giving back to the community.

    Most white people major in the arts, and law school is pretty much the only option for anyone with a BA that wants a decent paying job. Basically this love of the law is keeping the demand for lawyers much higher than it should be.


    http://stuffwhitepeoplelike.com/2008/02/06/56-lawyers/

     

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  28.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 31st, 2009 @ 10:30am

    Re:

    "But if Unger did not think he could get copyright protection for the artwork on his firebowls, he arguably would have never created the artwork."

    and without copyright instead of being an artist he arguably could have become a scientist that solves world hunger and disease altogether.

     

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  29.  
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    Mojo Bone, Oct 31st, 2009 @ 2:28pm

    ""Parasitism is not "competition"." Intellectual property is just a way that allows intellectual property maximists to parasite off of society by preventing society from doing anything hence stealing societies ability to do stuff".

    I think that sentence could use a bit more nuance; copyright (IP law) is actually permission from society for the originator of an idea to exploit it for a limited time without competition, so as to encourage new ideas.

    As a side note, is it possible to give the anonymous cowards in a thread a number so we can tell when it's the same one speaking (posting) again?

     

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  30.  
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    Mojo Bone, Oct 31st, 2009 @ 2:49pm

    Firebowls

    Since the heart of the suit rests on Witrig's claims that the bowls are utilitarian objects, I predict he'll lose big, though maybe not in the case of some of the individual bowls-the one that looks like Maori tattoo art, for instance. Witrig's own site refers to his pieces as art, and he doesn't bother trying to assert that the work is his. In my court, he'd be paying Unger's legal expenses. Then again, I thought Lego would win on appeal.

     

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  31.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 31st, 2009 @ 4:57pm

    I have a hard time seeing how a giant bowl with patterns on the edge should be protected. Possibly if the patterns were unique and interesting, they could be protected, but wave and flame shapes have been around since cave paintings.

    I hope the 'originator' gets his balls busted. As far as I'm concerned people like him have pushed 'intellectual property' into becoming a system for destroying humanity's common culture and heritage.

     

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  32.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 31st, 2009 @ 6:38pm

    Re:

    No, it's actually stealing. You're preventing others from using an idea, the proper definition of the word stealing.

     

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  33.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 31st, 2009 @ 6:39pm

    Re:

    "Parasitism is not "competition"."

    it's not parasitism, it's just someone making a living by selling something that competes with you.

     

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  34.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 31st, 2009 @ 6:44pm

    Re:

    "As a side note, is it possible to give the anonymous cowards in a thread a number so we can tell when it's the same one speaking (posting) again?"

    As a side note is it possible for you not to impose stupid laws on everyone by spending your monopoly rents on campaign contributions for politicians that pass stupid laws that no one else wants.

     

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  35.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 31st, 2009 @ 6:56pm

    Re:

    "is actually permission from society for the originator of an idea to exploit it for a limited time without competition, so as to encourage new ideas."

    It's actually the government giving someone claiming to be the originator of an allegedly non obvious idea authority to control other peoples property by telling them what they can and can't do with their property and how they can and can't form it.

    The idea that it encourages new ideas is something entirely made up by you.

     

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  36.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 31st, 2009 @ 8:13pm

    "Imagine that company B literally sits there waiting for artist A to develop a new design so they can immediately make a copy and sell it themselves--it's almost like unpaid work from artist A as a designer for company B. This is a strong influence to stop working."

    That's just silly. The artist and the company have complementary interests: He makes original art, they mass produce it. All the artist has to do is go to the company and say he's not making any more art until they start paying him to do it. If they want to keep selling his art, they'll pay.

    Then the problem is between the large companies who copy each other. "Company B" pays the artist to make art, then "company C" starts copying. But this is where first mover gets you somewhere: The artist makes a new piece of art every week and by the time the copycats have copied last week's art, it's last week's art. The only place you can get this week's art is at company B, and since they're a big company they can afford to match their competitors on price, unlike the artist by himself. They also have the newest art and the "Joe Artist works here" banner, which inherently means more demand and, at the same prices, higher volumes and more units to amortize costs over.

    Which allows them to effectively compete even while having higher costs, like, say, the cost of paying the artist. Everybody wins, no government intervention.

    The only exception would be if customers don't sufficiently care about having "new" art and are fine with the old stuff, to the point that the company can't justify continuing to pay the artist in exchange for the first mover advantage. But in that case paying the artist to create the new art that nobody wants is a waste and he should go on to other things.

     

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    Nina Paley (profile), Oct 31st, 2009 @ 8:21pm

    copyright damages attribution

    Copyright makes it a crime to copy works without permission; thus it acts as an incentive to NOT attribute sources. Were it not for copyright, Witrig could have made his bowls and safely cited Unger as inspiration/reference (if in fact Unger's bowls were - the similarity in the works could simply be parallel evolution, which happens all the time). Instead, thanks to copyright and other IP laws, attributing sources is just asking for more trouble.

    As an artist and author I feel much better protected with an attribution copyLEFT license (CC-BY-SA). It allows everyone to cite my work without fear. They more copies are attributed to me, the more valuable my time, work, and signature become.

     

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  38.  
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    Jason, Nov 1st, 2009 @ 12:08am

    Re:

    "It baffles me because I have devoted my life to making things which are unique and to marketing them as unique items crafted from a detailed personal philosophy."

    To Mr. Unger: Then you're selling a lie. They're not crafted from philosophy. They're crafted from material. The only ethereal thing you've woven into them is your pathetic ego.

    If you had discovered fire, all of humanity would have died in the ice-age. As it is, you ripped off the guy that first made a bowl. Don't see him up in arms. Me, I'll eat my cheerios in peace and piss in the next firebowl I see.

     

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  39.  
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    Jason, Nov 1st, 2009 @ 12:12am

    Re:

    "But if Unger did not think he could get copyright protection for the artwork on his firebowls, he arguably would have never created the artwork."

    Yeah, and when he was a kid and didn't like how the game was going, he probably took his stupid ball and went home. Good riddance.

     

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  40.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2009 @ 12:24am

    No, it's [copyright] actually stealing. You're preventing others from using an idea, the proper definition of the word stealing.

    In what dictionary is that a "proper definition"? Cite your sources.


    it's not parasitism, it's just someone making a living by selling something that competes with you.

    Keep telling yourself that, you hack. Competition would be if Witrig actually INNOVATED and came up with his own distinct designs rather than parasitically copying them from someone else.

    Copyright makes it a crime to copy works without permission; thus it acts as an incentive to NOT attribute sources. Were it not for copyright, Witrig could have made his bowls and safely cited Unger as inspiration/reference

    Ah ha!

    So parasitism is okay so long as you specify who exactly it is you're screwing! Makes perfect sense.

    (if in fact Unger's bowls were - the similarity in the works could simply be parallel evolution, which happens all the time).

    Maybe read the article next time before commenting? There is no ambiguity here as to whether or not he ripped off the designs.

    As an artist and author I feel much better protected with an attribution copyLEFT license (CC-BY-SA). It allows everyone to cite my work without fear. They more copies are attributed to me, the more valuable my time, work, and signature become.

    Have you turned a profit on your cartoon yet? No? Looks like all that attribution hasn't amounted to much...

     

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  41.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2009 @ 6:45am

    Re:

    Stealing is taking something and depriving others from using it. Intellectual property takes an idea and deprives others from using it. It's stealing (whereas infringement does not deprive others of using the idea).

    As for the notion that intellectual property is intended to be for the betterment of society, I think industry has made it abundantly clear that it's not, especially when they kept lobbying for copyright extensions on products that should have been in the public domain a long time ago. That alone gave away their true motives, that copyright has nothing to do with with what's best for society but what's best for the bottom line of rich and powerful corporations and they want to make money off of the works of others (ie: years ago) instead of actually innovating. Copyright discourages them from innovating because they still have copyrights on Mikey Mouse so why innovate and come up with new characters?

    "Competition would be if Witrig actually INNOVATED and came up with his own distinct designs rather than parasitically copying them from someone else."

    Competition is also selling a similar design, or at least a design that the alleged originator thinks is similar.

    and to say that copyright necessarily encourages innovation is nonsense. Why should someone innovate when they can make money off of past ideas? Especially when copyright lasts as long as it does. No reason for it.

    "Keep telling yourself that, you hack."

    Keep telling yourself that just because you can bribe government officials with campaign contributions that your position is somehow best for anyone but yourself. Keep telling yourself that you're not just as selfish person when in fact your lobbying efforts are only designed to server your own self and you make your money off of the government who grants you monopolies that society does not owe you. Keep telling yourself that society owes you a monopoly when they do not.

    No one owes you a monopoly on anything. If society is to grant a monopoly it should ONLY be to the extent that it's beneficial to society. I think the length of intellectual property (and retroactive extensions) has made it abundantly clear that copyright has absolutely NOTHING to do with what's best for society. The fact that it's big corporations and mostly rich people lobbying for these laws and extensions also demonstrates that it has little to do with what's best for society but only with what's best for the bottom line of big corporations and the rich and the powerful. But keep telling yourself the lies that this isn't true. Keep feeling good about exploiting the public and getting rich off of telling other people what to do with their property because you simply can not compete in the free market (ie: without intellectual property).

     

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  42.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2009 @ 6:47am

    Re:

    "Have you turned a profit on your cartoon yet?"

    at least you tacitly admit that copyright is not about what's best for society but it's about what maximizes your profits.

     

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  43.  
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    Wesha, Nov 1st, 2009 @ 6:49am

    Re:

    > But if Unger did not think he could get copyright protection for the artwork on his firebowls, he arguably would have never created the artwork

    Then he is an idiot.

    That's not how businesses work.

    1) Find a niche that is not yet occupied / demand that is not satisfied (or create the demand if you can).
    2) Start filling that niche (provide respective product/service)
    3) Watch other companies noticing that your business is profitable and moving into that niche as well to earn their own share of profits. (Yes, this is landgrab).
    4) Competition leads to decreased margins for everyone, until some of the companies (YES, THAT MAY INCLUDE YOU!) finally decide it's no longer profitable and quit this niche market.
    5) VERY IMPORTANT STEP: GO TO STEP 1!

    The guy in the story is stuck somewhere on step 4.

    Business is, effectively, a frontier, guys. The good news is that there's no West Coast.

     

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  44.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2009 @ 6:50am

    Re: Re:

    Exactly, if he doesn't like the rules then don't play the game. No one owes him a monopoly on anything. I'd rather him not create the idea (as if he's the only one that can come up with an idea or with that idea) than to have him deprive anyone else of using an idea for nearly as long as current intellectual property laws permit.

     

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  45.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2009 @ 9:41am

    Re:

    "Keep telling yourself that, you hack. Competition would be if Witrig actually INNOVATED and came up with his own distinct designs rather than parasitically copying them from someone else."

    I don't think you know what innovation is. Producing, marketing, and/or selling Product X more effectively/efficiently than someone else producing/marketing/selling the exact same product is still innovation in the market.

     

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  46.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2009 @ 10:37am

    Re: Re:

    Just curious why the act of creation is not included in the list when one is talking about new articles?

    How is "progress" enhanced by the mere copying of another's original work?

    Importantly, I am not at all suggesting that copying is involved in this particular instance re "fire bowls".

     

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  47.  
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    bigpicture, Nov 1st, 2009 @ 10:40am

    Re: Copies?

    You are probably right, "there is nothing new under the sun" both of these are probably copies of something from a much earlier primitive culture. (why would modern culture invent a fire hazard) Recently there was a patent case by big Pharma of an ancient Indian herbal cure, but they managed to get it overturned. The plus side was that this started a collection and documentation of all such Indian cultural remedies so that there is a review reference and patenting will be much more difficult.

    But a general observation, patent and copyright are about control and monopoly as a modus operandi. The internet is about freedom, information and innovation, since these are mutually incompatible there are going to be clashes and one will eventually disappear. The only remnant of the typewriter left is the keyboard, and give that a few more years and it will be gone too.

     

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  48.  
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    bigpicture, Nov 1st, 2009 @ 10:55am

    Re: wait a sec

    Anything to do with copyright and patent is always relevant. Because the greedy and the lazy are always trying to stretch the application of these and work the system. Notwithstanding that copyright had its origins and concepts in a different era and is in fact an anachronism.

    The two primary concepts of patent and copyright are "first" and "control". In todays world there is no distinct, "first" there is maybe "simultaneous" or "derived from" earlier concepts. And there is no "control" there is "transparency" and "collaboration".

    How is this article relevant? It is about vigilance against the "dark side" selfish, greedy control concepts. Look what happened to the banking system because there was no vigilance against unrestrained greed and corruption, and much more to come so put your money in a sock.

     

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  49.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2009 @ 11:21am

    Re: Re: Re:

    "Just curious why the act of creation is not included in the list when one is talking about new articles?"

    Who said it wasn't?

    "How is "progress" enhanced by the mere copying of another's original work?"

    If it lowers prices then that's progress. It can also encourage others to create in order to keep a competitive edge.

     

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  50.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2009 @ 11:26am

    Re: Re: Re:

    "How is "progress" enhanced by the mere copying of another's original work?"

    The more important question is how is progress enhanced by giving someone a monopoly on something?

     

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  51.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2009 @ 11:28am

    Re: Re: Re:

    "How is "progress" enhanced by the mere copying of another's original work?"

    Because it's not "mere" copying. There is a lot more that goes into successfully selling a product that "merely" creating it.

     

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  52.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2009 @ 11:32am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "How is "progress" enhanced by the mere copying of another's original work?"

    The burden of proof isn't for us to show that a lack of intellectual property promotes the progress, it's for YOU to show that intellectual property promotes the progress.

    Monopolies universally lower aggregate output and increase price and also giving someone a monopoly is disincentive for them to innovate being they are already getting paid for existing products and have a monopoly on them (so they have no incentive to try and take market share since the government grants them the entire market).

    While I do think that a intellectual property for a SHORT period of time (which current intellectual property laws do not meet) under very specific conditions (which current intellectual property laws assume that ALL innovation deserves a monopoly) might help, you fail to realize that the burden is on YOU to show that intellectual property is good for society (being that monopolies cause known negative effects). Stop trying to shift the burden.

     

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  53.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2009 @ 11:38am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Imagine if I insist on still getting paid from employers that I worked for in the past. No employer is going to indefinitely pay me for past hours worked. Why should artists have a job where they can indefinitely (or for their lifetime) get paid for work they've done in the past? Why should their job be any different from any other job? What incentive is that to continue to work (ie: innovate)? If I still got paid for work I did in the past why should I work?

    I may work for a corporation and write them a program. They may benefit from that program long after I move on to another corporation. Should I STILL get paid for that program that I wrote while working for the previous corporation just because that previous corporation still benefits? Should I get paid indefinitely for it? If not then why should artists and intellectual property holders be any different? Why is their job so special?

     

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  54.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2009 @ 3:35pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Who said it wasn't?


    If you are 45 above, take a look at your last sentence.

    "If it lowers prices then that's progress. It can also encourage others to create in order to keep a competitive edge."

    Yes...X creates and Y copies, so X creates some more and Y copies again, etc. Techdirt-isms aside, at some point in time X is going to ask the question "Why are we investing our profits in R&D?"

     

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  55.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2009 @ 4:02pm

    dumb heading

    what is it with you yanks and your penchant for appending "oh my" to your headings?
    stop it.
    it makes you look idiotic.

     

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  56.  
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    Davey, Nov 1st, 2009 @ 4:04pm

    Re:

    Near as I can tell from the pictures, the Wittig bowls are not exact copies, but use the same (rather obvious) themes. They can hardly be called innovative, since they echo motifs that have been around for centuries.

    If Unger is really as significant artist as he claims, he would have a reputation and a following. People who pay for this kind of thing would want the signed original. If Wittrig signed the pieces with Unger's name, that would be forgery and a felony. I assume he didn't, so this appears to be just another frivolous lawsuit clogging up the courts.
    The story sheds no light on copyright or the markets for crafts.

     

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  57.  
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    Davey, Nov 1st, 2009 @ 4:16pm

    Re: copyright damages attribution

    Thanks for bringing some common sense to the thread.

     

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  58.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2009 @ 5:13pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "If you are 45 above, take a look at your last sentence."

    I am not that person but you seem to be suffering some reading comprehension problem. That person did not say the act of creation is not innovation.

     

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  59.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2009 @ 5:16pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "Why are we investing our profits in R&D?"

    Who are you to tell X what questions they will ask and when? YOU may ask such a question but who are YOU to speak for others?

    You are also neglecting important phenomena like the first mover advantage.

     

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  60.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2009 @ 5:19pm

    Re: dumb heading

    It's because those are in response to the original thread which has that in the heading.

     

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  61.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2009 @ 5:27pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "Why are we investing our profits in R&D?"

    Not to mention you also assume that all innovation requires intellectual property and that innovation can not occur without intellectual property. Innovation will occur perfectly well without intellectual property. The goal of our system should be not to give intellectual property rights to innovation that would occur without such rights and to ONLY grant such rights to innovations that absolutely require it. But the current assumption is that all innovation requires it and this is NOT true whatsoever. That assumption needs to be correct. Also, Intellectual property rights do not need to last nearly as long as they currently do. 20 year patents and the length of current copyright law is absurd.

    Even if X won't innovate Y may innovate because they want a competitive edge and want the first mover advantage as well and know how to position themselves in the market. Or perhaps Y will innovate just because s/he likes to create art and music and wants the world to benefit from such art and music (ie: just look at creativecommons.org where people release a plethora of art and music under creative commons licenses). and in the case of art there are people perfectly willing to produce new art without intellectual property. We should not divert those who aren't willing away from doing something more relevant to the market needs into doing art because that makes the market as a whole less efficient.

     

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  62.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2009 @ 5:28pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    errr/ That assumption needs to be corrected.

     

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  63.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2009 @ 5:39pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Per 45:

    I don't think you know what innovation is. Producing, marketing, and/or selling Product X more effectively/efficiently than someone else producing/marketing/selling the exact same product is still innovation in the market.

     

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  64.  
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    Freedom is Freeloading, Nov 1st, 2009 @ 5:43pm

    Leechenomics

    Intellectual property is just a way that allows intellectual property maximists to parasite off of society by preventing society from doing anything hence stealing societies ability to do stuff.

    ...

    "to do stuff"

    You sound like you're fifteen.

    and I'm not saying that artwork isn't important just that the free market is perfectly capable of producing artwork without intellectual property.

    Yes, the free market, were it to ever exist somewhere, would be perfectly capable of maintaining the quality of art you'd expect from a bunch of hobbyists.

    and without copyright instead of being an artist he arguably could have become a scientist that solves world hunger and disease altogether.

    LOL!

    Not to mention, without copyright, he could have arguably pooped out a beautiful unicorn. Arguably copyright is killing unicorns and is thus infringing on our natural "right to liberty".

    Arguably.

    The idea that it encourages new ideas is something entirely made up by you.

    I think you've mistaken me for one of the founding fathers...I wish that was an easy and frequent mistake for people to make about me but I think the better theory is that you're an idiot.

    But this is where first mover gets you somewhere: The artist makes a new piece of art every week and by the time the copycats have copied last week's art, it's last week's art.

    Yes. That is quite the advantage. One week. Sounds very viable, very realistic. I can tell you know quite a lot about the business of business.

    Everybody wins, no government intervention.

    Well, that's part of the point you're missing. Everyone shouldn't win. Copycat hacks without an innovative bone in their body shouldn't win. They shouldn't be allowed to. If they want to compete, they should do so with a newer and better product, not the same product. That's not innovation, it's regurgitation.

    I also love how your scenario effectively kills off any chance of being an independent artist. All hail corporations!

    If you had discovered fire, all of humanity would have died in the ice-age. As it is, you ripped off the guy that first made a bowl.

    Overreaching, silly analogy.

    Stealing is taking something and depriving others from using it. Intellectual property takes an idea and deprives others from using it. It's stealing

    I'm STILL waiting for you to cite your sources on this. Please provide a link to a dictionary definition that shows how the concept of IP is "theft".

    Copyright discourages them from innovating because they still have copyrights on Mikey Mouse so why innovate and come up with new characters?

    Yes! That makes perfect sense! After all, we all know that Disney didn't "come up with" any new characters after Mikey Mouse...

    Idiot.

    Why should someone innovate when they can make money off of past ideas?

    Why don't you go ask that imbecilic question to the thousands of content creators who continue to create every single day despite already being rich from past successes? Hell, don't even stop there, why don't you go ask ANYONE that's rich why they continue to work 40+ hour weeks. The world if full of these examples.

    Keep telling yourself that you're not just as selfish person when in fact your lobbying efforts are only designed to server your own self

    We all "server our own self" [SIC x infinity] which is why a true free market, were it to actually become anything but a theory could never work.

    I'd rather him not create the idea than to have him deprive anyone else of using an idea for nearly as long as current intellectual property laws permit.

    It's the expression of an idea, not an idea itself that is copyrightable. The fact that you would rather have less art than to allow artists to be the sole financial beneficiaries of their own individual efforts is very telling.

    If it lowers prices then that's progress.

    Sounds like Wallmart might be the most innovative, progressive company on the planet then! I suggest you go work for them.

    Monopolies universally lower aggregate output

    Only if you count the freeloaders, the counterfeiters, and the hacks.

    Imagine if I insist on still getting paid from employers that I worked for in the past.

    You presumably signed a contract as a salaried worker so your "insistence" in this case would be ridiculous.

    No employer is going to indefinitely pay me for past hours worked.

    They're probably not going to give you bonuses either, although many do. They're probably not going to give you a spending account or a company car, although again, many do. They might not give you a 401k, health or dental coverage, although once more, many do.

    What exactly is your point? Royalties are an agreed upon performance-based method of payment in lieu of less front end money. It's not your place to question the payment structure of an industry that has nothing to do with you just like it wouldn't be a Mexican day laborers place to bemoan your five day work week or your free coffee and doughnuts in the rec room on Thursdays...

    Some people make their money differently than you do. Some of them even make MORE money than you do!

    (GASP!)

    Deal with it.

    Why should artists have a job where they can indefinitely (or for their lifetime) get paid for work they've done in the past?

    They don't get paid indefinitely. They get paid per unit sold just like a million other tangible-product businesses all across the planet, all designed around cranking out identical, factory produced widgets that were dreamed up a long time prior, from assembly lines that never stop running.

    Why should their job be any different from any other job?

    You might as well ask why any job should be different from any other job? It would be just as silly a question.

    What incentive is that to continue to work (ie: innovate)? If I still got paid for work I did in the past why should I work?

    You are overvaluing the amount most artist's make on royalties. It rarely provides a living wage and even more rarely provides it for more than a short while. Even if it did however, rich artists in the tops of their fields still produce art. As Michael Long so aptly put it:

    Did Edison just create one invention, and then rest on his laurels? Did King or Clancey or Heinlein just write one bestselling novel and call it quits? Did Spielberg just direct one blockbuster?


    If not then why should artists and intellectual property holders be any different?

    Because they are considered to be more valuable by their employers than you are obviously considered by yours. As such, you each negotiated/accepted different contracts that pay each of you differently. Some people make bonuses at the end of the quarter or year. Some people are given a gold watch after such and such time with the company. Will you be complaining about these inequalities next?

    Yes...X creates and Y copies, so X creates some more and Y copies again, etc. Techdirt-isms aside, at some point in time X is going to ask the question "Why are we investing our profits in R&D?"

    Exactly! It would be far less risky to just sit back and wait for someone to screw rather than actually innovate, or create anything yourself.

    If you are 45 above, take a look at your last sentence.

    Not only is he 45, he is quite likely the majority of the posts in this thread and many others. Techdirt's resident anonymous spammer! I wouldn't be surprised if he was agreeing with himself in posts to try and drum up support.

     

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  65.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2009 @ 5:46pm

    Re: Leechenomics

    "Not to mention, without copyright, he could have arguably pooped out a beautiful unicorn."

    You're missing the point. Your speculation is no better than anyone else's.

     

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  66.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2009 @ 5:47pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Please correct your reading comprehension problem at once.

     

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  67.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2009 @ 5:48pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Please answer my question, where does that person say that the act of creation is not innovation?

     

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  68.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2009 @ 5:49pm

    Re: Leechenomics

    "Some people make their money differently than you do. Some of them even make MORE money than you do! "

    Some people can't compete in the free market so they must lobby the government for a monopoly. Society does NOT owe them a monopoly. Deal with it.

     

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  69.  
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    JW, Nov 1st, 2009 @ 5:56pm

    Firebowls in Singapore

    I'm not sure how it works in the US, but in Singapore and most other Commonwealth countries the problem Techdirt is pointing out could be resolved by looking at the idea / expression test of copyright. The EXACT same design would be protected and likely the shape as it is would be protected IF it is non-utilitarian - in other words it is a form of expression and not the necessary shape all firebowls must be. This would allow numerous close competitors without allowing direct copying. I personally am not a copy-maximalist (far from it actually) but even I balk at the notion that anyone could make a terminator movie - even as I have no problems with people making more and more movies about a dystopian future where mankind is ravaged by time traveling robots as long as they have different names.

    I think the bulk of the issue really should be a close look at copyright terms.

     

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  70.  
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    Freedom is Freeloading, Nov 1st, 2009 @ 5:57pm

    Sir spam-a-lot strikes again!

     

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  71.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2009 @ 6:16pm

    Re: Leechenomics

    "Why don't you go ask that imbecilic question to the thousands of content creators who continue to create every single day despite already being rich from past successes? Hell, don't even stop there, why don't you go ask ANYONE that's rich why they continue to work 40+ hour weeks. The world if full of these examples."

    But the assumption is that intellectual property is needed for people to work and create. America has traditionally been less restrictive than other nations when it came to intellectual property (though not any more) and as a result we have advanced more. The founding fathers have made it clear that intellectual property should be limited and there was great debate over even adding the clause in the constitution knowing darn well the problems it has caused other nations. Without intellectual property people will still create and people do (and have).

    "Not to mention, without copyright, he could have arguably pooped out a beautiful unicorn. Arguably copyright is killing unicorns and is thus infringing on our natural "right to liberty"."

    The fact that you can not see how my post was responding to the post it was responding to just demonstrates a competence problem on your part.

    "Yes, the free market, were it to ever exist somewhere, would be perfectly capable of maintaining the quality of art you'd expect from a bunch of hobbyists."

    Please provide proof that intellectual property is needed for works to release and please provide some objective, quantifiable metric for measuring the quality of such works and to show that intellectual property leads to higher quality work.

    "You presumably signed a contract as a salaried worker so your "insistence" in this case would be ridiculous. "

    But your missing the point. Society should not sign a contract that says you can get paid indefinitely for work you've done ten years ago any more than a corporation would sign a contract with me that says I get paid ten years from now for work I did ten years ago. No corporation would sign such a contract, no employer would sign a contract, so why should we have a broken government that signs such a contract on behalf of society.

    "Yes. That is quite the advantage. One week. Sounds very viable, very realistic. I can tell you know quite a lot about the business of business."

    Uhm... do you have evidence that it's only one week?

    "Yes! That makes perfect sense! After all, we all know that Disney didn't "come up with" any new characters after Mikey Mouse..."

    You're still missing the point. Innovation would happen with or without intellectual property. In as much as one can argue that IP is incentive to innovate one can just as well argue that it provides disincentive to innovate.

    "It's the expression of an idea, not an idea itself that is copyrightable. The fact that you would rather have less art than to allow artists to be the sole financial beneficiaries of their own individual efforts is very telling."

    The assumption is that the lack of intellectual property produces less art and even if it does no one owes an artist a monopoly. The agreement should be fair for both sides, there should be as much consumer surplus as there is producer surplus. Our current laws do not provide for that. Our current laws are entirely one sided in favor of rich corporations who lobby for them. But those lobbying corporations don't care about the artists and they're not lobbying for the benefit of those artists. They're lobbying for their own benefit.

    "What exactly is your point? Royalties are an agreed upon performance-based method of payment in lieu of less front end money. It's not your place to question the payment structure of an industry that has nothing to do with you just like it wouldn't be a Mexican day laborers place to bemoan your five day work week or your free coffee and doughnuts in the rec room on Thursdays..."

    Incompetence problem.

    My point is that no industry would sign such ridiculous contracts so why should society sign such ridiculous contracts with artists? Just because politicians can be bribed?

    I'm comparing the types of contracts that employers sign with workers and showing that they're not as ridiculous as the ones that our government has signed on behalf of society with copyright holders. Yet people at companies work, the fact that employees do not get paid indefinitely for work they've done in the past never stops them from working. Likewise, not granting intellectual property rights that last nearly as long as our current ones or not even granting them at all will not stop people from producing new works.

    "Only if you count the freeloaders, the counterfeiters, and the hacks. "

    You mean the thieves that steal by taking an idea and depriving others of using/selling it via intellectual property. Those that can't compete in the free market so they freeload off the government by asking for monopolies.

    "They don't get paid indefinitely. They get paid per unit sold just like a million other tangible-product businesses all across the planet, all designed around cranking out identical, factory produced widgets that were dreamed up a long time prior, from assembly lines that never stop running."

    But those product businesses continue to work, by producing something, in order to get paid. These corporations/people continue to get paid, indefinitely (or as long as copyright lasts) for not doing any more work but for someone else doing the work of making a copy.

    "Because they are considered to be more valuable by their employers than you are obviously considered by yours."

    It's because big corporations LOBBIED the government for laws that give them monopolies on things on behalf of society despite the fact that society does not owe them any such monopolies.

     

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  72.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2009 @ 6:19pm

    Re: Leechenomics

    "Sounds like Wallmart might be the most innovative, progressive company on the planet then!"

    Well, thank you for admitting that you don't know what innovation is (and admitting that you are Paris Hilton).

     

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  73.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2009 @ 6:23pm

    Re:

    Industry shill strikes again!

     

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  74.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2009 @ 6:26pm

    Re:

    BTW, how much do they pay you?

     

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  75.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2009 @ 6:26pm

    Re:

    BTW, how much do they pay you?

     

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  76.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2009 @ 6:32pm

    Re: Leechenomics

    "It's not your place to question the payment structure of an industry that has nothing to do with you"

    But it is my place and the place of every taxpayer to question the payment structure of society towards copyright holders when society is signing contracts with copyright holders that no reasonable employer would sign with their employees.

    "They don't get paid indefinitely. They get paid per unit sold just like a million other tangible-product businesses all across the planet"

    If I produced a line of code and it helps a corporation more efficiently sell products long after I leave the corporation then should I get paid per unit that the corporation sells even long after I left the corporation? Would any corporation sign such a contract? Why should society be so naive as to sign such a one sided contract.

     

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  77.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2009 @ 6:43pm

    Re: Re: Leechenomics

    "...there was great debate over even adding the clause in the constitution..."

    What eventually became Article 1, Section 8. Clause 8 was one of the most "undebated" powers granted to the federal government. Federalist Paper No. 43 elaborates a bit. The two persons most associated with its inclusion were Madison and Pinckney. Jefferson expressed some concerns, but even he ultimately agree to its inclusion (note...he was not one who helped draft the constitution since at the time he was serving in France as the US Ambassador).

     

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  78.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2009 @ 6:43pm

    Re: Leechenomics

    "Not to mention, without copyright, he could have arguably pooped out a beautiful unicorn."

    My hypothetical was meant to show the ridiculousness of your hypothetical but you missed the point.

     

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  79.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2009 @ 6:50pm

    Interestingly, I have never heard anyone say that because of copyright law they were prevented from creating an original work of authorship.

    Similarly, I have never heard anyone say that because of patent law they were prevented from creating a non-infringing alternative.

     

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  80.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2009 @ 7:03pm

    Re:

    "Similarly, I have never heard anyone say that because of patent law they were prevented from creating a non-infringing alternative."

    That statement is self defeating. A patent by definition makes it illegal to create an infringing alternative so all alternatives must be, by definition, non - infringing.

    However, that's not to say that an infringing alternative isn't cheaper to produce (and hence sell), and more efficient and effective, and just better. Or that the patented product can't be used as a part of some other product that can't otherwise be created to function as well.

     

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  81.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Nov 1st, 2009 @ 10:13pm

    Re: wait a sec

    However, to suggest that a consumer, upon finding one of either of their pieces would then take the time to google their names and learn of this dispute is to impute an inmeasurable amount of consumer awareness on people which, I believe, is totally unwarranted.

    I wasn't saying that at all. I was saying that people who learned about this dispute *first* would then learn about these firebowls. In other words, the dispute is attracting more attention to the firebowls.

    I never said that people who discovered the firebowls would then look up and find the dispute.

     

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  82.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Nov 1st, 2009 @ 10:17pm

    Re:

    But if Unger did not think he could get copyright protection for the artwork on his firebowls, he arguably would have never created the artwork.

    Yeah right. There is no indication he did this for the copyright. He did it to sell bowls. Why do you need copyright for that?

    Without copyright, anyone can just copy his exact bowl, and if they can do so cheaper, knock him out of the market.

    Yes, that's called the free market. What's wrong with that?

    I think we would lose out on a lot of great art and media if we followed your path to get rid of copyright and just slug it out in the market.

    Good thing we don't rely on what you "think." There are actual studies out there and actual industries that prove you wrong (I highlighted the fashion industry) but we've discussed others as well.

     

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  83.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Nov 1st, 2009 @ 10:21pm

    Re: Firebowls, Copyright And Crowdfunding (Oh My)

    You're kidding me right?

    No.

    You think it is OK for someone to copy an artists designs?

    Yes.

    Because that's what you said, but you didn't clarify.

    Now I have clarified. Yes, he absolutely should be able to copy. Why not? Much of the history of art is based on artists copying others.

    If Unger drew the design before making the Firebowls and included the drawings in the copyright application. Do you you still believe the same thing?

    Yes, I still believe the same thing.

    How is a Song different than Artwork?

    Well, one is copyable with no marginal cost, the other is not. But that's something different.

    Why should one be protected and the other one not?
    Who gets to decide which one is copyrightable?


    Well, I'd argue neither should be copyrighted. But if you had to copyright one, the song makes a lot more sense, given the fact that it is non-rivalrous and non-excludable.

    Frankly I can't believe that you wrote that it was OK to copy / steal Artwork from someone else. I sure hope you copy / steal something of mine because I would sue you from one end of your hell to the other side.

    If you can't understand the difference between copying and stealing, I don't see why it's worth discussing this with you. You clearly don't know what you're talking about.

     

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  84.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Nov 1st, 2009 @ 10:30pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Please answer my question, where does that person say that the act of creation is not innovation?

    He did not say that creation is *not* part of innovation. He just said that those other things are *also* a part of innovation. Let me highlight the key words:

    "I don't think you know what innovation is. Producing, marketing, and/or selling Product X more effectively/efficiently than someone else producing/marketing/selling the exact same product is still innovation in the market."

    He is saying those things -- in addition to other things -- are innovation. He did not build an inclusive list but was showing that additional things are also innovation.

     

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  85.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Nov 1st, 2009 @ 10:39pm

    Re:

    Interestingly, I have never heard anyone say that because of copyright law they were prevented from creating an original work of authorship.

    Really? Then you're not paying attention. Thanks to copyright, the hiphop world was decimated by killing off some of the most creative new works that involved sampling. You simply are not paying attention if you think that new works have not been prevented due to copyright.

    Similarly, I have never heard anyone say that because of patent law they were prevented from creating a non-infringing alternative.

    Oh come on. Again, I need to question where you are living or if you've ever actually dealt with anyone in the technology space? Do you know how much tech is not produced these days over fear of infringement lawsuits?

     

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  86.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2009 @ 7:00am

    "killing off some of the most creative new works that involved sampling."

    really, the most creative new works involved sampling. Really, the most creative people in the hiphop world were stifled because they couldnt obtain the rights to a hook. That is ridiculous.

    "Do you know how much tech is not produced these days over fear of infringement lawsuits?"

    A number so large its known only as a Masnick.

     

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  87.  
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    Jason, Nov 2nd, 2009 @ 8:22am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "Techdirt-isms aside, at some point in time X is going to ask the question "Why are we investing our profits in R&D?""

    Honestly? How much R&D goes into a bowl? Seriously?

     

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  88.  
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    Jason, Nov 2nd, 2009 @ 8:27am

    Re: Leechenomics

    "Yes, the free market, were it to ever exist somewhere, would be perfectly capable of maintaining the quality of art you'd expect from a bunch of hobbyists."

    So you freely admit that the issue is really one of your own egocentric sense of elitism and not one of right and wrong. You just want the world to be a better place as you define it. That's nice; now, piss off.

     

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  89.  
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    Sean T Henry (profile), Nov 2nd, 2009 @ 9:17am

    Re: Bowls of Fire

    Fire pits like have been on sale for years. The designs are nothing new and look very similar to designs etched and painted on ceramics that I have seen in a museum.

     

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  90.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2009 @ 10:30am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I KNOW THAT, that was my point in my question. I get it but I'm trying to get the person I'm responding to to overcome his/her reading comprehension problem.

     

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  91.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2009 @ 10:35am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "How much R&D goes into a bowl?"

    Well if you ask the pharmaceutical corporations, 30+ years and 20 billion dollars.

     

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  92.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Nov 2nd, 2009 @ 11:51am

    Re:


    really, the most creative new works involved sampling. Really, the most creative people in the hiphop world were stifled because they couldnt obtain the rights to a hook. That is ridiculous.


    Do you have a point or are you just culturally ignorant?

     

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  93.  
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    Jason, Nov 2nd, 2009 @ 12:17pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Ah, so maybe what AC Re:^4 was suggesting is that the question, "Why are we investing our profits in R&D?" is actually a really legitimate business question that just might be GROSSLY miscalculated based upon current IP thinking/rules.

    Wow, I can't even be sarcastic about that. That's actually been my point all along.

     

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  94.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2009 @ 12:30pm

    Re: Re:

    Nice use of the word "ignorant".

    It really lends itself well to the conduct of a conversation.

     

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  95.  
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    iamtheky (profile), Nov 2nd, 2009 @ 12:57pm

    Do you have a point or are you just culturally ignorant?

    Guess you love watcha say by the game, that song makes me wish samples were outlawed.

    but, how about artists like Greg Gillis who manage to be creative using nothing but sampling? must have been difficult for him to create from others creations with all the legal burdens.

    Or how about finding a couple of top ten rap songs that do not use samples. All my google has is hit songs using samples. But to contend that a truly creative artist would abandon their current work because they are not allowed to reuse an identifiable piece of another's work is reaching, imho. Even the bloodhound gang can rewrite a tune slightly if permission is not granted (see 'she aint got no legs')

    The new jay-z album is my favorite at the moment, heres a running list of samples being used
    http://www.brokencool.com/broken_cool/2009/09/the-original-tracks-used-as-samples-on-jayzs-blu eprint-3.html

     

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  96.  
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    Johnson Seal, Nov 2nd, 2009 @ 1:41pm

    Nothing to stand on

    Being a lawyer I would have to say Mr. Unger has a fraudulent copyright, or should I say none at all. What sparks my interest to this story is that I frequent art shows, and I'm certain I've seen these across the nation on many occasions from neither Mr. Unger nor Mr. Witrig. It appears Unger is simply "going after" his biggest competitor.

     

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  97.  
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    Luis Crede, Nov 2nd, 2009 @ 1:44pm

    Their different

    I just went to both websites. they both have a dozen or so items with only 3 maybe 4 that are similar. What in the world is the Issue other than greed.

     

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  98.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2009 @ 10:49pm

    Society does NOT owe them a monopoly.

    You keep saying this but what does it mean exactly? What DOES society owe...anybody? Give me some examples.

    But the assumption is that intellectual property is needed for people to work and create.

    What?! That was obviously not the assumption I was responding to. I think I made it pretty clear. There is the original comment in italics and my non-italic response beneath it. The italicized comment I was responding to was regarding "why would anyone continue to work if they were still receiving royalties from past work?" to which I replied appropriately and definitively. You are just trying to muddy the waters with straw men.

    America has traditionally been less restrictive than other nations when it came to intellectual property (though not any more) and as a result we have advanced more.

    So less restrictive IP laws is why the United States simply DOMINATES world markets for film, music, and pharma?

    Presumably then, less restrictive IP laws are also why the United Kingdom DOMINATES the world publishing industry (United States is 2nd) despite it arguably having some of the MOST restrictive IP laws anywhere?

    Get real.

    and there was great debate over even adding the clause in the constitution knowing darn well the problems it has caused other nations.

    LOL!

    That is completely and utterly incorrect. The copyright clause was one of the VERY FEW issues during the constitutional convention that passed UNANIMOUSLY.

    Go read a book.

    Without intellectual property people will still create and people do (and have).

    No one denies this. The question is, "how much?" and to what degree of quality? I also don't look back with any fondness on the fact that so many of the world's greatest artists died poor. It is deplorable for people like Masnick to point to these artists as supposed proof for not needing copyright. They deserved better. There have never been more professional, full-time, artists than there are now. There has never been more art, in general, than there is now. It is in great part, through copyright directly or through copyright based industries, that we have unprecedented numbers of artists who don't have to waste their talents on unrelated day jobs only to end up dead and penniless in some gutter.

    and please provide some objective, quantifiable metric for measuring the quality of such works and to show that intellectual property leads to higher quality work.

    LOL, go look at ANY top searches/top downloads on any of the large file sharing sites. Go look at the best reviewed movies, albums, and books. Very little of it is indie, garage bands, or self publishing. Ask your friends what their favorite movies, bands and books are. I bet they won't name a single, truly independent film. I bet they won't name a single self published piece of shit. And unless they're a particular brand of hipster or among the incredibly niche group of tech-industry freetards that comprise this websites main demographic, I bet they won't name a single band that doesn't belong to a label of some kind who makes money per copy sold. Go to other countries and see who the people know -- the filmmakers, musicians, and authors from places with strong IP or from places with weak IP?

    Copyright allows a good many artists to be full time artists. It stands to reason that the artists who are able to invest the majority of their time in their craft will generally produce more work at a higher quality than the artists who have to spend the majority of their time at an unrelated day job.

    But your missing the point.

    No I am not. You have introduced yet another straw man. As was (again) plain to see, I was responding to another commentators very specific point which has nothing at all to do with the point you think I should have been arguing but obviously wasn't. For your sake I sincerely hope you are doing this willfully and are not legitimately this confused by such simple discourse.

    No corporation would sign such a contract, no employer would sign a contract

    Then how do explain them doing just that, literally every day of the week?

    You also seem to be under the assumption that royalties are a payment method that only exists in the copyright industries. This is false.

    Uhm... do you have evidence that it's only one week?

    Once again, I was commenting on a specific quote by a poster. A quote that I had the decency to include before replying to it. You, in your infinite incomprehension apparently chose to disregard it and introduce (sigh) yet another straw man.

    You're still missing the point. Innovation would happen with or without intellectual property. In as much as one can argue that IP is incentive to innovate one can just as well argue that it provides disincentive to innovate.

    That's not the point you FUCKING IDIOT. It might be what you WISH the point was but it wasn't the VERY SPECIFIC POINT I WAS VERY OBVIOUSLY RESPONDING TO.

    Again, for the retards among us, the original comment was
    Copyright discourages them from innovating because they still have copyrights on Mikey Mouse so why innovate and come up with new characters?


    to which I replied:

    Yes! That makes perfect sense! After all, we all know that Disney didn't "come up with" any new characters after Mikey Mouse...

    Idiot.


    It really couldn't be any simpler.

    My point is that no industry would sign such ridiculous contracts so why should society sign such ridiculous contracts with artists? Just because politicians can be bribed?

    Companies sign them everyday. Lots of people continue to cash checks from work performed in the past. Just like lots of people receive bonuses at the ends of various periods for work performed in the past. Do you think bonuses are similarly unethical? You aren't making any sense. The founding fathers disagree with you.

    Yet people at companies work, the fact that employees do not get paid indefinitely for work they've done in the past never stops them from working.

    This is so unbelievably stupid it's not even worth responding to. You might as well tell doctors that since a large percentage of the work force doesn't receive health or dental insurance they shouldn't receive it either. You might as well tell waiters and bartenders that since doctors don't receive tips they shouldn't either. And what about Wallmart greeters? They can't make more than ten bucks an hour. If they keep working despite not even pulling in 30k a year, why does ANYONE need to make more than 30k a year to keep working?

    Do you even comprehend the things you're saying? Do you understand how they're making you sound?

    But those product businesses continue to work, by producing something, in order to get paid.

    Yes. They produce the exact same "something". Over and over and over again from now until eternity. Just like CDs, just like books, just like movies, just like pharmaceuticals. The people at the top of these hierarchies continue to make money stamping out the same thing over and over.

    WHAT IS YOUR POINT?

    These corporations/people continue to get paid, indefinitely (or as long as copyright lasts) for not doing any more work but for someone else doing the work of making a copy.

    How is that any different from a thousand other widget makers who pays others to produce copies of an already developed product?

    WHAT IS YOUR POINT?

    If I produced a line of code and it helps a corporation more efficiently sell products long after I leave the corporation then should I get paid per unit that the corporation sells even long after I left the corporation?

    Just like I already said, "Yes. If that was in your contract". If they thought your line of code was worth issuing royalties for, sure. More than likely, your single line of code and your overall value in the marketplace won't grant you that, just like being a grip on a movie set, or a sound recordist on an album doesn't afford them royalties even though they also contributed to the project.

    This same hypothetical you're using could be used to point out the inequality between you and ANY job whose employees receive bonuses for work performed in the past.

    Yes, that's called the free market. What's wrong with that?

    And THAT's why you, Michael Masnick, will forever be the Patron Saint of Chinese Rolexes and parasitism.

    So you freely admit that the issue is really one of your own egocentric sense of elitism and not one of right and wrong.

    It has nothing to do with ego or elitism you cross eyed retard. It is only logical that full time artists will generally produce higher quality work than part time artists just like full time doctors will generally be better at their jobs than part time doctors. This is true for anything. What you are essentially arguing is that experience and practice don't matter. This is an inherently imbecilic position. Now kindly take your own advice and piss off.

     

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  99.  
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    Rick D. Wittrig (profile), Nov 3rd, 2009 @ 10:36am

    FirePitArt and Rick Wittrig

    I needed a fire pit a couple years ago. My friends make food smokers from old propane tanks. Cut the end off and down drops a bowl. Perfect! Big and heavy duty, it suited my preferences well. My friends saw mine and asked me to make more, so I did. This looked like a good small business as there is so much Chinese junk out there and nothing well made. I did my research and the patent and copyright offices did NOT have anything listed with them on record. I asked an IP lawyer if I could patent or copyright this and she said no, utilitarian objects cannot be copyrighted. Spoons, bowls, fire bowls, things you use are not available to copyright. So I went to work anyway without any protection. Unger's work, several others doing the exact same thing and mine have several similar features but the majority of mine are very different. John threatened to sue me in Michigan courts for everything I own and the ONLY reason I filed was to protect myself and not have to go to Michigan but fight it here in Nashville where I live. John recently filed for copyrights and by his own words found it hard to get these fire bowls accepted but finely got them through by describing them only as 3-D sculpture without any other purpose. One of those copyrights is on an original piece of mine. John has clearly benefited from his creative, fact fuzzy and emotional story. His previous money making fund drive was to build him a new studio in Michigan, now he is planning a move to Texas after this money maker is over. I have offered him an opportunity to resolve this in front of a judge in a settlement conference and an out of court setting. Perhaps we can work something out in person that should have been handled by a telephone call.

     

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    Pwdrskir (profile), Nov 10th, 2009 @ 10:05am

    Re: Re: Bowls of Fire

    I know that, but the Olympic committee does not and has a history of "protecting" what it believes to be Olympic symbols.

     

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  101.  
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    Mark Fox, Nov 10th, 2009 @ 7:30pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    The reason "designer" stores succeed is because they *are* specialized. They utilize a low volume, high quality, philosophy that attracts conscientious or elite cliental. The narrow product selection actually enhances the perceived value of the items as it reflects an elite or specialized product line.

    The stupidity of this article is to assume that Unger's specialized designs, which modify a basic utility object, are somehow unworthy of a modicum of copyright protection from a sly producer/wholesaler (not a fellow creative, as is the case of fashion design argument). Rather than partner with Unger, Wittrig simply reverse engineered his works and is undercutting him by mass-producing. As a matter of taste Unger's works are better, slightly more elegant and graceful (though I prefer the simpler designs). The main way artisans like Unger β€” who are truly creative β€” survive is to deal in market where there product is unique and low in supply. Unlike clothing, firepits can't have the same high demand with intense seasonal turnover: people may buy one or two of these things in their entire life. Claiming that copyright hurts innovation in this case is rather bizarre, if Unger provides all of the innovation, while Wittrig simply mass-produces the results WITHOUT sharing any of those profits with Unger it is rather stupid to suggest that Unger overall benefits. Luckily he is smart enough to turn this problem into an opportunity through his legal defense fund.

    I do think limiting the length of time for intellect property is certainly a worthwhile reform, but all of you reactionary anti-copyright folks really must not see the inherent value of copyright on specialized forms of labor. If mass marketers want to access to this creative resources, they need to pay for it, either through formal contracts or their own R&D.

     

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  102.  
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    Mark Fox, Nov 10th, 2009 @ 7:55pm

    Re: Re:

    "To Mr. Unger: Then you're selling a lie. They're not crafted from philosophy. They're crafted from material. The only ethereal thing you've woven into them is your pathetic ego."

    This has got to be the stupidest thing I've read all day. It's extremely hard to prove that Unger's statement is disingenuous and yet (unless you have some familiarity with the man outside his well penned statement) you boldly claim otherwise. Even if you disagree with his claim of originality, why attack his convictions and character without cause?

    As far as I know most bowls that one can encounter in daily life are not suitable for containing large bundles of burning wood. Not to mention the forms that his bowls take are not typical of any mass produced object on the market. Perhaps you are not interested in his product but you're argument is baseless and you sound fucking stupid.

     

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  103.  
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    Mark Fox, Nov 10th, 2009 @ 8:40pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Unger is playing by the rules. The rules exist to ensure that people play the game fairly, Wittrig is the one that isn't playing fairly. If the game isn't fair, then we all lose.

    Depriving is an interesting word, it implies that the Wittrig had a similar idea independent of Unger but in reality all of the evidence supports the idea that Wittrig is depriving Unger of market share by plagiarizing his product.

    A single person monopoly is almost an improbable misstatement considering that Wittrig is trying to drive Unger out of his own business. I would not be surprised if Wittrig also sued any third party that would copy his copies. There is every indication that he is not creating new ideas, he is co-opting someone else. Rather than investing in Unger's enterprise in a straightforward manner he is trying to circumvent the research & development and thereby deny Unger his return on investment for his own labor and development process.

    A key difference to keep in mind is that Unger is not say artisanal fire pits are "his", Unger clearly invites Wittrig to try to create unique products, but Unger rightly defends his unique product line from a predatory competitor. The fire pit market is not peril by Unger 's claim β€” rather Unger the product line is in peril because Wittrig's copying.

     

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  104.  
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    Mark Fox, Nov 10th, 2009 @ 8:55pm

    Re: Re:

    > Yes, that's called the free market. What's wrong with that?

    MIke,

    You are unbelievably smug and/or completely naive to think that there is nothing wrong with plagiarizing and undercutting as a business practice. There is difference between two competitors battling it out on price / quality / speed / quantity (the normal function of the market) and people who simply fuck up the whole thing by leeching off the hard work of other people. Granted there is plenty of grey area as to the degree and severity of plagiarizing in any given situation, but is universally accepted (including in free markets) that uniqueness has an inherent value and accordingly we have copyright laws to reward the invention and production of novel, new, interesting, unique things. Of course there is a reasonable period of time in which the ubiquity of a thing demands that it become public domain but you seem to glibly side with anyone with the gaul to undercut anybody and applaud it as a miracle of the market. There is a difference between piracy and inspiration and nowhere in your writing on this subject am I convinced that you have a grasp on the difference between the two.

     

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    identicon
    B. Arnor, Nov 19th, 2009 @ 9:04am

    Re: Firebowls, Copyright And Crowdfunding (Oh My

    "Copyright was designed as an incentive to create -- not a system to block all competition".

    This is in fact untrue. Historically the aim of copyright laws is to organize innovation and progress through a trade-off: instead of having secret recipes or secret knowledge you don't share and which may last for centuries and block progress, you're making public your design and you receive a limited in time monopoly over this design.

    Once this time is over everybody including your competitors can freely use your design and even improve it. Imitation is possible.

    This system works well and indeed hasten innovation while providing inventors a rather short period of time to benefit from their inventions.

    When you're throwing away the limited time where the inventor is protected against copy that's the whole trade-off you're rejecting and indeed what you're enforcing is a "keep everything secret, share nothing" attitude that does not help innovation or competition.

     

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

  106.  
    identicon
    Daniel, Jan 8th, 2010 @ 3:46pm

    IndieGoGo.com

    This is definitely a really interesting story and innovative use of internet crowdfunding, a relatively recent tool for fundraising. IndieGoGo, a successful crowdfunding site for film just opened up its platform for all types of projects, allowing for this type of unfamiliar croudfunding ventures.

     

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


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