Transparency Is Not A Zero-Sum Game... But Neither Is Intellectual Property

from the sharing-ideas dept

Author David Brin, who frequently presents ideas that make me think deeply, even if I don't always end up agreeing with him completely, recently wrote an interesting blog post, discussing transparency, security by obscurity and zero sum games. The starting premise is that too many people assume that everything is a zero sum game -- a point that I've made repeatedly over the years, and am in complete agreement with Brin on that pont. I also agree that not understanding the differences between a zero sum game and a non-zero sum game is a huge part of the problem we often see in policy debates.

Brin, not surprisingly, is arguing that security by obscurity really is not a good idea, and challenging a recent paper that suggests that, when the situation is a zero sum game, then some security by obscurity may very well make sense. He's not challenging the actual details in the paper, but rather the idea that it matters very much, since (he suggests) most situations involving security are not zero sum games. It's a good point, and one worth thinking about.

But there is part of his post that troubles me, in that I find that he seems to then make the identical mistake himself, when it comes to intellectual property. After talking about zero sum games, he throws his weight behind the idea of strong IP laws, as an example of regulations that are designed to spread knowledge, and thus create a non-zero sum outcome. Here's just a snippet, but it goes on for longer, so go read the post linked above:
One of the most ingenious “regulations” — supported by Adam Smith and Ben Franklin etc, — was the notion of intellectual property or IP. Patents and copyrights were never intended to mean “I own that idea!” No, intellectual property was born entirely as a pragmatic tweak, offering creative people a subsidy in order to draw them into openly sharing their discoveries… so that others might use and improve them and we get the virtuous cycle of positive-sum improvements, ever-accelerating knowledge, skill and wealth.

Let there be no mistake. That is one of many ways that regulated competition delivers on the promise of markets and Smithian capitalism vastly and demonstrably far better than anything that ever resembled laissez faire or Randian cannibalism festivals.
He brings this point back up later, in arguing that stronger IP laws make sense because, he argues, without such laws encouraging the publication of ideas, people will keep everything a secret, and that will actually hinder creation and innovation:
But Pavlovic is describing a specialized case. A situation in which things are already decidedly zero sum. In which your company knows that its competitors cheat. They steal IP and our Enlightenment civilization is all too often failing to do anything about it. As America and other western nations are failing miserably to protect western IP… the goose that lays the world’s golden eggs.

Reciprocity has broken down and with IP no longer protected, innovators must fall back on the old ways. Concealment. Trade secrets. Squirreling away your tricks so the other guy won’t get to copy them.

Overall, that is the world we’re heading back toward, for a number of reasons. Because certain countries and companies are rampant intellectual property thieves. Because Western leaders won’t act to stop it. Because some western mystics and idiotic “legal scholars” actually believe that IP is based on principles of palpable ownership, and thus secrecy is somehow equivalent to patent declaration, instead of its diametric opposite!
In other words, he appears to be arguing that we need IP laws, because without it, everyone would keep stuff secret, and that would be bad. But... I'm not sure reality agrees with that sentiment. First of all, it ignores the idea that many (if not most) ideas you simply can't keep secret. It's as if he's relying on the myth that patents really "disclose" new ideas that others had no idea about. That's extraordinarily rare. For many products, if they're in the market, they're no longer secret, whether or not there are any intellectual property laws around them. Second, he seems to ignore the idea that there may be other, non-IP law-based reasons for people to share their ideas/inventions/innovations/creativity. For many people there are tremendous reasons: whether it's to sell a product or (often more importantly) because sharing and opening up one part leads others to make your work more valuable and useful.

In fact, if you look at the research, much of it suggests that in the absence of IP (or, at the very least, with much weaker IP) you actually get a massive positive sum game, because there's much more benefit to sharing ideas, rather than hoarding them and locking them up behind a toll booth. The more widespread sharing of ideas, leads to greater innovation and output, making it very much a positive sum game.


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    darryl, Oct 21st, 2011 @ 8:11pm

    what no comments ???

    This article would make some sense if you displayed knowledge of ZERO SUM GAME.

    And what it actually MEANS...

    Zero sum game means in a transaction one party of that tranaction gains something, but the other person loses the same amount ie. ZERO SUM.

    MOST transactions are not zero sum gains (from gaming theory.... Watch "A beautiful mind".

    What is being argued and Mike you appear to miss the point completely, and that strong IP laws, Ensures it is NOT a zero sum game

    This is achieved by all parties in the transaction GAINING something, and not one party gaining and the other losing the equal amount.

    The inventor of a technology GAINS from selling the rights to his invention, and the company who pay for those rights gains from the advantage that invention provides.

    If we did not have patents and IP laws, then it would be a zero sum game as the inventor would lose and the person who stole his idea would gain.

    IP or protection of IDEA's is no different to the basic human rights issue of protection of your property, you house, your car, your basic rights and freedoms.

    As you are free to own a house, you are free to own an idea.

    As you are free to sell your house (if you want to) you are free to sell your idea.

    so IP laws are no different to car theft laws, it is a protection of your basic human rights.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 21st, 2011 @ 8:37pm

      Re: what no comments ???

      If we did not have patents and IP laws, then it would be a zero sum game as the inventor would lose and the person who stole his idea would gain.


      What does the inventor loose, exactly? He still has his idea, and when others get the idea, theare able to improve the idea which the inventor can then use himself.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Oct 21st, 2011 @ 9:44pm

        Re: Re: Illusory Gains

        "The inventor of a technology GAINS from selling the rights to his invention, and the company who pay for those rights gains from the advantage that invention provides."

        Citation needed. This is the standard story told by patent lawyers. The real world does not work that way. Pay attention to how patents actually work, not the fantasy put forward by patent lawyers.

        What happens with patent trolls is that they buy junk patents (foolishly granted monopoly privileges), then find someone who has a business which they can claim infringes, then sue. The business never used the contents of any patent in the development of their business, because engineers do not read patents. Either no invention or independent invention occurred. However, there is no independent invention defense to the charge of patent infringement. Patents are also presumed valid. So the business loses. They have to pay someone who contributed nothing, which is unjust and an economic loss.

        The other thing that happens is that companies patent their existing products. That allows them to stop competitors from direct copying. That is anti-competitive. Consumers (and the economy) would be better off if copying was allowed. So that is another economic loss caused by the patent system.

        That is the way it goes with the patent system. The benefits are illusory. The losses are real, large and increasing. The answer is to abolish the system or remove the monopoly privileges from it.

         

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        The eejit (profile), Oct 22nd, 2011 @ 2:19am

        Re: Re: what no comments ???

        Great Theory. Got any real-world evidence, or is it just like string theory?

         

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          Richard (profile), Oct 22nd, 2011 @ 6:38am

          Re: Re: Re: what no comments ???

          As a theoretical physicist I think you are insulting string theory there.

          String theory has some deep mathematical foundations - Darryl's comments on the other hand....

           

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        Anonymous Coward, Oct 23rd, 2011 @ 8:26pm

        Re: Re: what no comments ???

        he loses the GAIN

         

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      The Groove Tiger (profile), Oct 21st, 2011 @ 9:15pm

      Re: what no comments ???

      Holy crap, darryl managed to write a ZERO SUM comment.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 21st, 2011 @ 9:20pm

      Re: what no comments ???

      It doesn't ensure everybody gain something it assures only one party will gain and stop all others from entering that market.

       

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        darryl, Oct 23rd, 2011 @ 8:36pm

        Re: Re: what no comments ???

        name some inventions that have stopped a company from entering a market ?

        So have Microsoft got a whole bunch of patents that have stopped any other company entering the OS market ?

        So Apple, Linux, UNIX, VMS dont exist ?

        Does motorola or nokia have a bunch of patents that stop other companies entering the market ?

        Do motorola or nokia therefore have a 'monopoly' on mobile phones ?

        Does Microsoft have a 'monopoly' on operating systems of "office suites" ?

        Do you see what you are say, and what Masnick is saying no NO RELATIONSHIP WITH REALITY!!!

        Mike you appear to just say things, and assume people will believe you, but you have to same thing that agree with the real world, if you want more than a few of your worshippers to believe what you are trying to tell us, being your 'alternative reality'....


        Your Koolaid might be free, but it tastes very bad...

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Oct 24th, 2011 @ 12:16am

          Re: Re: Re: what no comments ???

          Microsoft had something better until the 90's the power of leverage of the American economy, that is gone now.

          Microsoft can't go running to the government and ask other governments to kill some project that could affect them negativaly, open source made sure of it, it lives in a space where there are no governments to threat.

          Now Microsoft create have a new way of doing it, through patent trolls that go after their competitors, they also make grandiose claims of ownership of tech that they never show to anyone and are using that to make others pay them.

          Explain again how is patents beneficial to society when a company that didn't develop squat is making others pay them for the work of others?

           

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          chris (profile), Oct 24th, 2011 @ 7:31am

          Re: Re: Re: what no comments ???

          So Apple, Linux, UNIX, VMS dont exist ?

          they exist, and according to microsoft, they violate microsoft's patents. android too.

           

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 21st, 2011 @ 10:25pm

      Re: what no comments ???

      "As you are free to sell your house (if you want to) you are free to sell your idea."

      You are confused between scarce goods (houses) and infinite goods (ideas). Ideas have a price of zero, and are thus not worth selling, because the supply is infinite and the demand is limited. Please improve your understanding of supply and demand curves.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 22nd, 2011 @ 1:02am

      Re: what no comments ???

      C'mon darryl help DARPA create their weapon of mass control.

      http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-10-darpa-master-propaganda-narrative-networks.html

      W e all know you are the man for that job.

       

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      Richard (profile), Oct 22nd, 2011 @ 6:35am

      Re: what no comments ???

      This article would make some sense if you displayed knowledge of ZERO SUM GAME.

      You on the other hand have consistently displayed a complete ignorance of just about everything.

      What is being argued and Mike you appear to miss the point completely, and that strong IP laws, Ensures it is NOT a zero sum game

      No - actually IP laws work on the assumption that it is. In particular the assumption that a monopoly needs to be granted on new inventions because every copied item represents a loss to the original inventor.

      However if that is not true then ther is no need for the monopoly because the original inventor and the copyer can BOTH succeed.

      The rest of your comment demonstrates that you don't understand what the phrase "not a zero sum game actually means" as you consistently assume that everything is a zero sum game.

      Your version of "not a zero sum game" seems to actually be "a zero sum game in which the rewards are shared out in a way that is fair" (in your opinion).

      A real nonzero sum game is one in which each party concedes something they could have retained - but gains in return a reward from the increase in the overall pot.

      Actuially the linked article is flawed because it assumes that patents (for example) actually achieve their stated goal of encouraging disclosure.

      The reality is that everything that CAN be kept secret is kept secret (patents or no patents). The things that are patented are always the things that must be disclosed if the product is sold and the things that are obvious anyway.

      In practice copyright also encourages obfuscation - in flat contradiction to the linked article - because people try to defend copyrights with DRM.

      I did like one bit of the linked article however - the bit where he said
      "...idiotic “legal scholars” [who] actually believe that IP is based on principles of palpable ownership"

      I think he meant you there Darryl - since you said
      IP laws are no different to car theft laws,

       

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      Atkray (profile), Oct 22nd, 2011 @ 1:07pm

      Re: what no comments ???

      The problem is Darryl, that when you sell your house someone else can build a house just like it, but with IP laws when I try to copy your idea I suddenly become a criminal.

      Now if you are arguing that we should relax IP laws so that when someone copies something (say a painting) they can freely distribute and profit from that endeavor then I agree with you.

      Also welcome back, the guys that have been filling in for you have been doing a very poor job.

       

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      Qritiqal (profile), Oct 23rd, 2011 @ 8:40am

      Re: what no comments ???

      I love how you say Mike completely misses the point when you so obviously miss HIS point (and the point in general).

       

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    kyle clements (profile), Oct 21st, 2011 @ 8:30pm

    "As you are free to own a house, you are free to own an idea."

    As you are required to pay property taxes on a house, you are required to pay creativity taxes on your ideas...wait...no you don't....I guess they aren't the same after all.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 22nd, 2011 @ 9:06am

      Re:

      You are required by the IRS (and, I believe, states with income taxes) to pay taxes on income earned, as well as capital gains taxes upon sale.

       

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      gabriel bear, Oct 22nd, 2011 @ 6:28pm

      Re: creativity taxes

      :", you are required to pay creativity taxes on your ideas"
      yes. to the extent you derive benefit from them.
      in the case of a house it's called "shelter."
      in the case of i/p, it's called "royalties."

      take a look at what happens to patents never put into benefit deriving streams--they become harder to defend.

       

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      darryl, Oct 23rd, 2011 @ 7:23pm

      Re: paying taxes does not you do not own it.

      what you pay taxes on EVERYTHING you own ?

      So you find a nice shinny rock on the beach, do you pay taxes on that rock ?

      and paying property taxes does not mean you DO NOT OWN that property... is that what you think ?

      so if you own a car, and have to pay for petrol for it, do you think therefore you do not own that car ?

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Oct 23rd, 2011 @ 11:43pm

        Re: Re: paying taxes does not you do not own it.

        If you own it really own it, nobody would be able to take it away from you without a fight, the government is the one who owns the land, you just get the illusion of ownership.

         

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    darryl, Oct 21st, 2011 @ 8:41pm

    Idea's, secrets and IP and reality

    In other words, he appears to be arguing that we need IP laws, because without it, everyone would keep stuff secret, and that would be bad. But... I'm not sure reality agrees with that sentiment. First of all, it ignores the idea that many (if not most) ideas you simply can't keep secret. It's as if he's relying on the myth that patents really "disclose" new ideas that others had no idea about.

    This sums you up very well Mike, you say I'm not sure reality agrees with that sentiment.

    There you go right there, your not sure reality agrees with that sentiment!!!

    But you know really CONFIRMS that sentiment very well.

    Examine any endevour that does not have IP protection and you will see SECRECY

    If you have thought of an idea you think will do something no one else has done (invented something).
    You keep it a tight secret until you can ensure it is protected.

    Military - Military systems are secret the technology employed is a closely guarded secret, because you cannot trust your enemy to not steal your IP, you HAVE to keep it a secret.

    Fashion:

    Fashion designs are keep a very close secret until the official release show to stop immitators copying their idea, as they do not have strong IP laws.

    Mike if "idea's" are so think on the ground and things are so easy to 'come up with' then why have you not ever come up with anything ?

    Isn't CwF+Rbt an "idea" Mike ???

    do you think that idea could be of VALUE to anyone ?

    I have to assume you do, therefore you must believe it has VALUE to you!!!!

    Value is property, therefore idea's have value, and idea's are property...

    You have a human right to protect your property, and if there are not laws in place to achieve that right (ie for military secrets) then you have to keep you idea's SECRET.

    There would be an infinite number of idea's and an infinite number of secrets. Most idea's are secret.

    Most idea's are rejected, humans perceive the world as 'idea's' you have an 'idea' to make a cup of coffee, or go for a walk, you migh execute your idea or you might not.

    You probably do have the same idea's as lots of other people, but not all people have the same idea's.

    What is someone else's idea is not by rights therefore your idea. Regardless of if the idea is a 'good' one or 'bad' one, it is NOT YOUR ONE..

    an idea is not the execution of an idea, it is NOT how you are going to do something, it is the end result of what you want to do..

    ie, have a cup of coffee, that is an idea.
    Everyone has idea's all the time, what is the IP behind that idea is the knowledge of COFFEE and how to make it into a drink.

    The IP is in the METHOD of making the idea a reality, in the case of a cup of coffee, it is the knowledge of the plant, how it is harvested, processed, and prepared into a drink.

    Without the IP or knowledge and the VALUE that knowledge provides it would not be possible for you to execute your idea.

    And a big hello to the usual crowd who will make some silly one line comment but fail to address anything related to the article.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 21st, 2011 @ 8:59pm

      Re: Idea's, secrets and IP and reality

      Ideas aren't actually property. Where are you getting yours from?

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 21st, 2011 @ 9:31pm

      Re: Idea's, secrets and IP and reality

      The problem is nobody needs today incentive to produce anything.

      I do recall that until very recently in history the US tech was just crap, that is why others were able to surpasse it(see Lockheed Martin scandal trying to sell the "Widowmaker")

      It is a mistake to think you produce everything, just as it was a mistake to believe others couldn't be able to achieve quality and production levels of American industries.

      At some point someone will get better at something and will be able to stop the US from innovating, just by using the same tools that are being talked about it now.

      Of course at that point Americans will try to weasel their way out and ignore all those things, while trying to hold others accountable, no country on earth will accept that unless they are full of stupid people, maybe in Africa that can still fly, but even in South and Central America that kind of crap is not flying anymore.

       

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        ahow628 (profile), Oct 21st, 2011 @ 9:55pm

        Re: Re: Idea's, secrets and IP and reality

        At some point someone will get better at something and will be able to stop the US from innovating, just by using the same tools that are being talked about it now.

        This is extremely important and I hope people pay attention to this. The US (arguably?) has a lead in the tech industry. All the IP disputes going on are slowing us down, significantly. If India, China, and the rest of the world were looking for a time to cut to the inside of the track and slingshot past us, they better take their shot because we have left the door WIDE OPEN.

         

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        Anonymous Coward, Oct 22nd, 2011 @ 11:49am

        Re: Re: Idea's, secrets and IP and reality

        Way back at the time of the scandal it was "Lockheed". The merger of Lockheed and Martin Marietta did not take place until the mid-90's.

        BTW, the scandal arose from the alleged payment of bribes to foreign officials. As a result, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act was enacted forbidding US companies from such activities. Unfortunately, many, if not most, other countries do not have such a law. Hence, in international procurements US companies are oftentimes significantly disadvantaged. I can recall one international procurement where a US defense contractor was unofficially declared the winner, but before it became official money changed hands between the procuring government and one of the competitiors. Later that same day the unofficial winner became the official loser.

        As for the F-104, it was developed at the Skunk Works and is widely accepted as an outstanding example of US technological prowess. Like any high performance jet aircraft it was not without its problems, but they were certainly no greater than has been the case with other aircraft that push the technological envelope.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Oct 23rd, 2011 @ 11:51pm

          Re: Re: Re: Idea's, secrets and IP and reality

          Yah right that is why everybody referred to it as "widowmaker".

           

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          Anonymous Coward, Oct 23rd, 2011 @ 11:59pm

          Re: Re: Re: Idea's, secrets and IP and reality

          How many years did the F-104A stayed in the US Airforce again?

           

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 21st, 2011 @ 9:37pm

      Re: Idea's, secrets and IP and reality

      dear fucking wall of text gracious

      darrylrrhea strikes again with his own special blend of verbal diarrhea & copypasta shill thinking

       

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      ahow628 (profile), Oct 21st, 2011 @ 9:48pm

      Re: Idea's, secrets and IP and reality

      Military - Military systems are secret the technology employed is a closely guarded secret, because you cannot trust your enemy to not steal your IP, you HAVE to keep it a secret.
      Not a good comparison. Military systems are secret but only because they aren't sold to the public.

      Take the iPhone for example. Let's say there were no patents. Apple comes up with the touchscreen that they used in the first iPhone. If Apple were the military, they would hide that tech and only those with appropriate clearance would be allowed to use it. Since Apple is a commercial enterprise, they have an interest in making money, so they put it into a product and sell the product. Maybe HTC reverse engineers the tech, but as we've all seen, Apple does it better, has cornered the production market making it more expensive for others to produce the same product, and they are making a shitload of money off of all handsets sold.

      In a world without patents, there are two options, hide your secret and make no money off of it or release it to the public and hope you do it better than anyone else. The IP monopoly isn't protecting the best, it protecting the lazy.

      Fashion:

      Fashion designs are keep a very close secret until the official release show to stop immitators copying their idea, as they do not have strong IP laws.


      People don't buy a dress because it has innovations like an extra pleat or extra sequins. They buy it because of the label that is attached to it. People want Hugo Boss or Manolo Blahniks. They are willing to pay a premium for that name and the exclusivity that goes along with it.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Oct 22nd, 2011 @ 7:42am

        Re: Re: Idea's, secrets and IP and reality

        "People don't buy a dress because it has innovations like an extra pleat or extra sequins. They buy it because of the label that is attached to it. People want Hugo Boss or Manolo Blahniks."

        It's why fashion companies tend to come and go. They are depending on a mystical and artificial "label envy" to make their world go around, while knock off artists bang out the copies at a high rate of speed and actually make the money.

        What they are really doing is the same stupidity as the old "CwF" selling the scarce bullshit. What happens is as long as you have a few idiots willing to massively overspend, you can claim success. But it is such a narrow market that even a small error makes you lose the few sales that were propping you up, and you are done.

        When the value isn't found in the product, but found in the name or the label on the product, then you are much closer to failing, because the sale isn't about anything other than an emtional reaction.

         

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          Richard (profile), Oct 22nd, 2011 @ 8:33am

          Re: Re: Re: Idea's, secrets and IP and reality

          It's why fashion companies tend to come and go.

          Citation needed.

          In fact all private sector companies tend to come and go. I don't believe fashion companies are particularly ephemeral. There are some relatively old ones.

          e.g.
          Chanel - 1909 - older than most tech. and content companies!

          The only institutions that survive really long term are those that have motivations outside money.
          If you look at organisations that have lived >200 years you will mostly find churches, monasteries, schools, universities and (for some strange reason) bell foundries.

           

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          Anonymous Coward, Oct 24th, 2011 @ 12:11am

          Re: Re: Re: Idea's, secrets and IP and reality

          You don't have a clue do you?

          81% of all companies go under after 10 years.
          55% of all companies go under after 5 years.

          http://smallbiztrends.com/2008/04/startup-failure-rates.html
          http://www.google.com/search ?q=start+up+failure+rate

           

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        darryl, Oct 23rd, 2011 @ 7:45pm

        Re: Re: Idea's, secrets and IP and reality

        Military - Military systems are secret the technology employed is a closely guarded secret, because you cannot trust your enemy to not steal your IP, you HAVE to keep it a secret.
        Not a good comparison. Military systems are secret but only because they aren't sold to the public.


        that is not true, military systems are sold to governments and governments are owned and run by the public.


        Military secrets are kept to stop the 'enemy' from working out an effective countermeasure.

        German enigna machines, or the first computers used to code breaking, radar, radio, cryptography were all highly kept military secrets, and not secret because they were not sold to the public, but they were kept secret because if that knowledge (IP) fell into the hands of the enemy they would be able to develop their own, and develop methods to counter that invention.

        Radar, was kept as a high secret during WW2, not because it was not a valuable commercial product (it is a very valuable commercial product) but because it gave the allies an advantage and the enemy a advantage.

        have you heard of "THE ARMS RACE", that is a race to develop military technology, and a race to keep up with the enemies technology developments.

        It's NOT because those products are "not sold to the public".

        And you don't get that ?

        People do not buy a fashion item simply because it has a specific name on it, they buy that name, because they know that if it has that name on it, it therefore is a item of fashion designed by someone with a reputation for creating very high level of quality of fashion items.

        in a world without patents, you HAVE to hide your inventions to make money on it, you lose the option to tell people and retain that option to make money on it without patents.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Oct 23rd, 2011 @ 11:41pm

          Re: Re: Re: Idea's, secrets and IP and reality

          What happens in a world that if you hide dozens of others make the same shit?

          Oh that is right you don't make money at all.

           

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      identicon
      Goyo, Oct 22nd, 2011 @ 7:55am

      Re: Idea's, secrets and IP and reality

      "If you have thought of an idea you think will do something no one else has done (invented something).
      You keep it a tight secret until you can ensure it is protected."

      I don't think Mike does this. I for sure don't.

       

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 21st, 2011 @ 8:59pm

    fuck mikey

    can't you ever do anything besides rag on IP & copyright? There is more to technology.

     

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      ahow628 (profile), Oct 21st, 2011 @ 9:57pm

      Re: fuck mikey

      Is there a way to sarcastically press the "insightful" button? You do realize this is a blog about IP and copyright, right?

       

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      PaulT (profile), Oct 22nd, 2011 @ 3:42am

      Re: fuck mikey

      Can't you do anything else than attack Mike? There is more to life than obsessing over a writer on an opinion blog...

      Seriously, do you think that sort of comment does anything except make people think "that AC, what a frigging moron"?

       

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 22nd, 2011 @ 2:08am

    Shock an horror some people realized that piracy is not a technical thing is a behavior thing.
    It's not about about technology, technology can always be circumvented. It's about incentives, we put the technologists back in the box, and started to look at why people do it. It's about how you change the incentive structure, it's not a technological thing.

    Source: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/10/21/website_blocking/

     

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    ahow628 (profile), Oct 22nd, 2011 @ 6:21am

    Still something missing

    After thinking about this some more this morning, I think something is still missing. People keep talking about zero-sum and non-zero-sum games. But no one is making a distinction amongst the positive-sum games and the negative-sum games.

    For society as a whole over time, how do IP laws affect the benefit to the public? Too often these debates center around the benefit offered to the inventor. Rarely (never?) do they center around the benefit to the public.

     

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    Dr. Q, Oct 22nd, 2011 @ 10:41am

    "That is one of many ways that regulated competition delivers on the promise of markets and Smithian capitalism vastly and demonstrably far better than anything that ever resembled laissez faire or Randian cannibalism festivals."

    David Brin is apparently unaware of the fact that Ayn Rand was a huge supporter of strong intellectual property laws.

     

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    aikiwolfie (profile), Oct 22nd, 2011 @ 11:08am

    If you can't use information or knowledge then what's the point of knowing about it? And that's what IP laws do. They lock-down knowledge and stop people from using it. So it really makes no difference if people kept their knowledge secrete without IP protection. It's a rare event when there's only one person working on an idea. The world wouldn't suffer without IP laws.

     

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      darryl, Oct 23rd, 2011 @ 8:09pm

      Re:

      That is making the assumption that there is ONLY ONE METHOD to achieve something, for EVERYTHING.

      in reality that is NEVER the case,

      Did the patent on the steam engine, stop the invention of the steam turbine, or the petrol engine, or the diesel engine, or the jet engine, or the electric engine ?

      Did the invention of the quill stop the invention of the ball point pen?

      Did the invention of the telephone stop the invention of the cell phone ?

      none of these inventions, or any inventions have stoped people from using them, they have simply stoped them from using the same method for themselves to achieve that same result.

      If you dont want to use a steam engine to power your machine, you can design your own version (method) to power your machine, it can even be powered by steam, simply not the SAME METHOD as someone else has thought of.

      If it did work the way you say, then everything would be 'locked up' at VERSION 1 of the 'thing'.

      If you could patent "driving a machine by using energy" then when someone comes up with a wind mill or water wheel, that would be the end, you would claim your patent rights on it and LOCK IT UP.

      HERE IN THE REAL WORLD, that simply does not happen, and it simply NEVER happens.

      that is why you can patent "A SPECIFIC METHOD OF ACHIEVING A RESULT".

      then you can patent a method of turning water into power to drive a machine.

      then you can patent a method of turning petrol into power to dive a machine, then you can patent ANOTHER method of turning petrol into power. FOR EVER.

      NOTHING IS LOCKED UP, and all that is asked from you, is that if you think that method is of value to you as well as to the person who came up with that method, and you cannot come up with a better method, you reward that person.

      If you are not willing to reward that person, and not willing to come up with your own method, you just have to do without.

      But nothing is locked up.

      The reason for that is so it WILL NOT BE a zero-sum game.

      and most transactions are not zero-sum games, unless you are stupid enough to enter into one.

      the most common zero sum game is when you are robbed, one party makes profit and the other party loses the same amount.

      zero sum game (gain).

      If you have a patent, and someone approaches you and askes you if they can use your idea, and pay you, you profit (if you agree to the deal) and they profit, NOT a zero-sum game.

      As both (all) parties gain from the transaction

       

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        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Oct 23rd, 2011 @ 11:37pm

        Re: Re:

        The steam engine was halted by decades, aviation in the US was halted by decades and it cost Americans lifes in WW I you dumbass.

         

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    Gene Cavanaugh (profile), Oct 22nd, 2011 @ 12:17pm

    IP laws

    Again, good article, totally agree.
    As an IP attorney, I have clients who are trying to get products to the market. Since I do small entity patenting, they are obviously thinly funded, and especially when doing business which is attractive to certain foreign countries, they have found from hard experience that they MUST have SOME IP protection (though most of them agree that 5-10 years would be enough).
    However, the way LARGE entity IP is done today serves NO valid purpose (other than increasing campaign "contributions").

     

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    gabriel bear, Oct 22nd, 2011 @ 6:35pm

    the usual suspect platform

    mike makes the continual techdirt presuppositional error of insisting that somebody brings the milk and cookies and does the cleanup.
    franklin & smith know that there people in the "idea business" whose thought is the product; even as lincoln noted that a counselor's product was his time.

    i used to tell linux guys that the problem with their world view was that it brought forth a world in which everybody wrote code all night while living in their mother's basement and had a day job at starbux.. but nobody had any money because nobody could affords to tip.

    strong i/p laws that both protect the creator and promote fair use are the only real way for a "creative class" to eat.

     

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      k-h, Oct 22nd, 2011 @ 11:22pm

      Re: the usual suspect platform

      strong i/p laws that both protect the creator and promote fair use are the only real way for a "creative class" to eat.

      It's hard to know where to start with that sentence.

      "Creative class" Shades of Ayn Rand. That'd be a hereditary class would it?

      "The only way for a creative class to eat?" Yeah perish the thought that the creative class and their descendents and poublishers and their publishers descendents had to do any work like everybody else.

      Protect the creator? Our current laws don't do that, they protect corporations.

      Promote fair use? Nope, our current laws and projected laws do not promote fair use. They make "fair use" almost impossible to define except in court, and impossible to defend except if you have enough money to go to court and risk losing.

       

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      PaulT (profile), Oct 23rd, 2011 @ 1:27am

      Re: the usual suspect platform

      "i used to tell linux guys that the problem with their world view was that it brought forth a world in which everybody wrote code all night while living in their mother's basement and had a day job at starbux.. but nobody had any money because nobody could affords to tip."

      Ah, I see your problem. You don't seem to be addressing the real world, and are in fact basing everything on cliched nonsense that has nothing to do with the way things really are.

      Here, for example, you seem to be assuming that Linux is created and maintained by penniless hobbyists who can't even afford their own apartment. The reality is that while volunteers are very welcome and an important part of the development process, many major corporations employ people solely to provide code and things to both Linux and other open source projects. These are then used to make money for the companies in question, and the coders are paid well for it. Businesses who have included open source into their business models and are not depending on selling infinitely available code alone, are doing very well out of it.

      Since you're so wrong on this point, you'll forgive me if I don't take your word on IP in general.

       

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      Richard (profile), Oct 23rd, 2011 @ 7:07am

      Re: the usual suspect platform

      i used to tell linux guys that the problem with their world view was that it brought forth a world in which everybody wrote code all night while living in their mother's basement and had a day job at starbux.. but nobody had any money because nobody could affords to tip.

      No -one who actually has any understanding of how money really works could write that.

       

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Oct 23rd, 2011 @ 11:49pm

      Re: the usual suspect platform

      Those coders may not have had money, but they did had time and talent, things that you can't simply dismiss, doing that is saying that that intellect is not valuable and that goes contrary to your believe in the IP monopoly that you so love, because it is all based on the assumption that intellect is valuable and needs to be protected.

      So which is it, intellect has value or intellect has no value?
      If it is valuable that contributing that is equal to giving money to some cause it is not?

       

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    identicon
    k-h, Oct 22nd, 2011 @ 7:26pm

    Brin is assuming the zero sum game is: make your invention public or keep it secret. And he assumes patenting rights allow the inventor to make it public without losing. He ignores other options like giving it away, letting people copy it and improve it. He doesn't count the many problems with the current patent systems. The costs. The endless litigation, the thickets. The fact that large corporations win at this.

    He ignores the facts that the enlightenment's core discovery was open collaboration between scientists without the state intervening; that the US got to where it is, or was, by ignoring the IP, copyrights and patents of other countries and "stealing" their IP and is losing now because it is tying itself and attempting to tie other countries into its IP thicket and that tying is throttling innovation.

    He ignores the basic fact that the real and most powerful positive sum game we have is open sharing of ideas.

     

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    identicon
    k-h, Oct 22nd, 2011 @ 7:49pm

    And, oh yeah his view of innovation is that it is all the US: "Western IP". Notice his examples: the Baghdad battery, the Antikythera Device, Hero's steam engine. They were lost because, well we don't really know, except the Antikythera device maybe because of the political situation, the steam engine because of lack of associated environment. But there are other inventions we do know about. Many things were invented in China and the reason they were never developed is mainly because of government (imperial) intervention and/or lack of conducive environment (printing with movable type doesn't make sense with Chinese characters) or lack of need for machines when there was an over-abundance of cheap human labour.

    None of those reasons have anything to do with "protecting IP".
    If competition results in a new oligarchy, you get right back to the pyramid again, with topmost cheaters restoring zero-sum thinking, and everybody loses.

    Which sounds remarkably like what we have right now and what he's arguing for.

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 23rd, 2011 @ 8:24am

    What is truly funny on this one is that even Darryl nailed Mike on this one, absolutely perfectly.

    Add in Gabriel Bare kicking it solidly with a little reality check about the Unix world, and we pretty much have it done.

    Sorry Mike, but you really missed on this one. When Darryl can pull you down a peg, you know you are slipping!

     

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Oct 23rd, 2011 @ 10:08am

      Re:

      What comment section are you reading? I saw those posters make their points and those points were then addressed and even taken apart.

      Try threaded view next time.

       

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    •  
      identicon
      abc gum, Oct 24th, 2011 @ 7:55am

      Re:

      Your unsubstantiated conclusions are meaningless, perhaps you could elucidate?

       

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 23rd, 2011 @ 11:13pm

    Our society is doomed without the raising of the bar for innovation through monetization of IP - our greatest natural resource. Make no mistake about it, IP rights are absolutely critical for our nation's economy to grow.

     

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    David Brin, Oct 24th, 2011 @ 12:45pm

    a generally fair appraisal

    But I must quibble. My point was a moderate one, caught between what I see as extreme positions. On the one hand, people who want IP enforced as if it were an actual property right, instead of an openness bribe.

    These folks then conclude that you can patent everything in sight... and withhold the IP from general use, extorting payments that cripple the very thing that IP was designed to encourage... flow of ideas. These are fools. IP should spread with fair - and fairly minimal - licensing. Some countries even have compulsory licensing, which seems problematic but is probably a good idea, given the behavior of patent trolls,

    On the other extreme you have mystics who actually believe open source is the answer to everything. Look, I portray is working in a lot of ways in the future... in my new novel EXISTENCE.

    But I am also a member of the species that behaved very differently for 6000 years. The secrecy failure mode still lurks. And the Open Source mystics who forget what IP was invented FOR do so at the peril of the very thing they love.

    With cordial regards,

    David Brin
    http://www.davidbrin.com
    blog: http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/
    twitter: http://twitter.com/DavidBrin1

     

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    identicon
    David Brin, Oct 24th, 2011 @ 12:48pm

    a generally fair appraisal

    But I must quibble. My point was a moderate one, caught between what I see as extreme positions. On the one hand, people who want IP enforced as if it were an actual property right, instead of an openness bribe.

    These folks then conclude that you can patent everything in sight... and withhold the IP from general use, extorting payments that cripple the very thing that IP was designed to encourage... flow of ideas. These are fools. IP should spread with fair - and fairly minimal - licensing. Some countries even have compulsory licensing, which seems problematic but is probably a good idea, given the behavior of patent trolls,

    On the other extreme you have mystics who actually believe open source is the answer to everything. Look, I portray OS working in a lot of ways in the future... in my new novel EXISTENCE.

    But I am also a member of the species that behaved very differently for 6000 years. And failure to learn from such a broad and pervasive lesson is just foolish. The secrecy failure mode still lurks. And Open Source mystics who forget what IP was invented FOR do so at the peril of the very thing they love.

    With cordial regards,

    David Brin
    http://www.davidbrin.com
    blog: http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/
    twitter: http://twitter.com/DavidBrin1

     

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


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