Rethinking Intellectual Property Laws? Such Heresy!

from the sanity-will-never-be-allowed dept

It’s no secret that we believe that current intellectual property laws are a problem — not because of any particular philosophy, but because we see the real harm that many of those laws are doing in holding back innovation, which is the core of our economy. However, most discussions around intellectual property reform either degenerate into silly arguing or focus around reforming the tiniest aspects of it (and often to make laws worse, not better). However, some very smart people are now getting together to push for real intellectual property reform, looking at it not as a way to adjust the current system, but to rewrite the current system from scratch, taking into account new technologies and what innovation really means. The coverage of this new “charter” is interesting, but reading the actual charter is worth a minute of your time. It displays a recognition of the core points that many people have been making over the last few years: intellectual property is a monopoly right that should only be granted in very specific cases, rather than handed out to everyone.

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Comments on “Rethinking Intellectual Property Laws? Such Heresy!”

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Jasper says:

Wrong approach

Sorry, I can’t agree with the philosophy or goals of the people behind this. While I’m in favor of radical IP reform, this charter is basically a socialist manifesto. Its main thrust is that IP, as a form of private property, is less important than public goals such as health care, collective knowledge, etc.

I don’t believe any form of private property rights should be contingent on someone’s idea of public good. Property belongs to the owner regardless. However, I do believe IP should obtain only when significant innovation has occurred, and that the control the owner has should be limited, respecting fair use. The main problem with current IP law is that patents are granted for trivialities, punishing rather than rewarding real innovation, and that the DMCA has extended control over media far beyond the legitimate goal of prohibiting piracy.

Pete Austin says:

Re: Capitalism not Socialism

I don’t see this as “socialist” at all.

Jasper thinks health care and knowledge are public goals. Possibly, but not socialist goals, as it’s inconceivable that e.g. a right-wing politician would argue that disease is better then health or ignorance better then knowledge.

My health is more valuable a “property” than any “intellectual property” of mine. By trying to keep a balance between such disparate assets, and seeking to remove road-blocks that prevent competition, the Adelphi charter promotes capitalism.

DoxAvg says:

It does have a socialist ring to it

Rather than “taking into account new technologies and what innovation really means”, a great deal of the charter seems to be focusing on the hot-button items of today, without actually adressing the underlying problems of innovation vs. invention.
A few points:

* “Laws regulating intellectual property must serve as means of achieving creative, social and economic ends and not as ends in themselves.”
The laws will be made ends in themselves by those who seek to leverage the laws for their own personal gain. Short of legislating the morality and intention of those who compete in the marketplace, there is no way to prevent people gaming the letter of the law as opposed to the spirit. Laws must be drafted with this in mind.

* “These laws and regulations must serve… the basic human rights to health, education, employment and cultural life.”
So no IP law should never impinge on anybody’s “right” to have everything they want? Does one have a “right” to health and education regardless of the cost to the other members of society? The triple-bypass-for-the-unrepentant-smoker-to-get-three-more-weeks-of-life surgery, or the PhD in Rhetoric because I don’t want to actually enter the marketplace? Do I have a “right” to employment even if I don’t _feel_ like doing my job? Let’s not even _touch_ my “right” to a “cultural life”.

* “Government must facilitate… non-proprietary models such as open source software licensing and open access to scientific literature.”
Tell me again how this is not a central-planning socialist manifesto? Government will fund open-source software, making it more difficult to compete with a closed-source solution. Item 5 prevents me from pantenting any innovative process in computer code, which can then be duplicated by government-sponsored open source. Can you see a trend to all software developed under the direction and supervision of government authority? Does that not scare you?

* “Intellectual property laws must take account of developing countries’ social and economic circumstances.”
How more topical to the socialist agenda of _today_ (not forward-looking) can you get than the demand that social circumstances alter the effects of property law? “There will be no stealing, except by the poor.” While the incremental cost of distributing intellectual property is zero, the initial cost of development must be amortized across the distribution base.

* Lastly, the demand that “Change must be allowed only if… will promote people’s basic rights and economic well-being.”
Again, the central authority will decide what change will be allowed in the marketplace. It’s like some twisted Randian nightmare. Eech.

Pete Austin says:

Re: It does have a socialist ring to it

To take an objection at random: Does one have a “right” to health and education regardless of the cost to the other members of society?

Of course not. Neither does one have a “right” to property regardless of this cost. If you own the only key to a crowded cinema, and fire breaks out, your property rights are not more important than the right to life of those inside.

DoxAvg’s reply assumes that rights are absolute, which is never the case. What matters is the balance between competing rights, which the charter allows for, and which is ultimately decided by the Supreme Court.

Newob says:

Ideas should be free

Ideas that are secret never accomplish anything, to the degree they are secret. Ideas that are not secret will be copied and the more effort put into preventing their dissemination, the more that effort disseminates the ideas.

Information that can be copied at no marginal cost, as Mike often points out, does not fit into a demand-supply model of economy. Copying information or ideas is not stealing, because the information or idea copied is not missing; there is actually more of it.

People who lack vital material needs do not have time to worry about the worth of their ideas. The innovation that intellectual property is supposed to protect would be better protected by feeding people and clothing people and educating people and curing people’s diseases. As long as people are ignorant and starving and dying of preventable diseases, they cannot contribute to the “marketplace of ideas.”

I’m sure we would all be more profitable if nobody shared anything and we had some dollars in our hands for every skeleton of a person who didn’t make it on their own. No, wait, we wouldn’t.

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