Researchers: Copying And Imitation Is Good For Society

from the it's-damn-important dept

When we talk about intellectual property issues, many maximalists on both the copyright and patent side of things have this inherent sense that “copying” is “bad.” Not just “bad,” it’s downright immoral. You hear words like “freeloading,” “parasites,” “pirates,” “thieves,” “copycats,” etc. Yet, time and time again, when we look at industries or societies where there is less (or no) intellectual property protection, we notice something interesting: while there is definitely a lot of copying going on, it hasn’t proven bad for overall innovation, and at times it’s been shown to be very good for overall innovation. When we’ve talked about things like the chemical industry in Switzerland in the late 19th century (which was not covered by patents), there were certainly many chemical companies who focused on copying — but there were also many who were quite innovative, and the overall impact to the economy was very strong.

The same is true if we look at the fashion industry, which does not have copyrights. It thrives without copyright protection in part because of all that copying. The copying serves a few very useful functions: first, it helps “perfect” the offering, as each “copyist” may improve on it a bit. Second, it helps diffuse the new idea throughout society, by offering it up in many places and ways that the originator was unable to. Third, it offers an element of price differentiation (the wealthy want the original/official version and pay more for it, others want the cheaper knockoffs). Fourth, it actually helps to validate the original idea (if there’s a knockoff, the original must be cool). Finally, it stimulates additional brand new creativity from the original creator, who must realize that he or she cannot rest on any laurels, and needs to get to work on the next great design.

Copying serves an important function in getting new concepts out there.

And, now some researchers have started to look into it, and actually have built a model that shows society is likely better off when copying is the norm. Aaron deOliveira alerts us to the research on this, which tries to model societies with creators and innovators, and finds that society is served best when 30% of the population is involved in creating new goods, while 70% is focused on copying. Now, you can read through the full research and quibble with the methodology, but the basic premise is sound, and has been borne out in real life, in situations where copying was widely allowed. Hopefully there will be more research done in this arena, to see if this sort of modeling can be refined a bit more to take more factors into account. But, for now, this is a good place to start, and a reminder to those who seem to think that “copying” is somehow bad, that it serves a valuable part in the overall ecosystem of building and distributing innovative offerings.

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Comments on “Researchers: Copying And Imitation Is Good For Society”

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UHA says:

like really

um like didnt i say this ten years ago when they started all this stupidity?
WHY does it take some science report to validate what humans all along know.

LARGE CORPORATIONS that gouge and control us are the REAL TERRORISTS

yup they drive up cost and control culture and i will add they increase stress which lowers productivity.
YUP they do not even realize it that there own actions are destroying them in the end.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: What about Cuisine

Of course, copyright works exactly the same way. One person writes a story about a witch. Another person writes a story about a lion, a witch and other characters. Yet another person writes a story about a lion, a witch and a wardrobe. While exact copying is prohibited in copyright, coming up with your “own” recipe is not only legal, consumers demand it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Israel

“To my recollection, I have never seen Israel on any list of “most innovative countries.””

Once again, another example of intellectual property maximists being too lazy to do a simple Google search. You have absolutely no regard for truth or morality, you’re too lazy to even do a simple Google search yet alone innovate (you don’t care enough about truth to do a simple Google search even). Your problem is that you want to make money off of the hard work of others without doing any work and that’s exactly what you intend intellectual property to enable you to do.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Israel

lol…I think it is evidence of intellectual property destructionists being too lazy to support their statement. They have no regard for truth or morality so they are too lazy to provide a simple reference. These are the same people who think that only copies are necessary to make progress in the world. If they had their way, there would be no new creation at all. Your problem is that you want to make money off the hard work of others without doing any work and that’s exactly what you intend destroying intellectual property to enable you to do.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Israel

In fact, one of the key factors leading to Israel being named as one of the most innovative countries is their protection of intellectual property.

Aaron says:

Re: Israel

Yes, my company has bought out three Israel-based companies in the past decade. Israel has been very good at product development, and we’re considering moving part of our R&D activities in the next fiscal year to Israel.

However, these days, for each product sold, a healthy portion of each sale is paid into an insurance plan we have setup. It exists to cover potential legal costs of a patent/copyright claims. It would be nice if we didn’t have to do this and could sell the products at substantially lower costs to our customers. One way to accomplish this is to reform copyright and patent law to incent a healthy marketplace. A market always grows when there’s more competition.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Israel

Very good, it’s nice to hear that intellectual property isn’t hindering innovation everywhere.

I find it interesting that Jews (and I have nothing against Jews) manage to get a monopoly on stuff here in America (ie: Disney) but they don’t have monopolies in their very own country. I think they know that intellectual property is bad for society as a whole but they play it to their benefit in other countries yet they won’t allow it to hinder them in their own country.

Anonymous Coward says:

“A lot of times you’ll just hear things and you’ll know that these lines are the things that you want to put in your song. Whether you say them or not. They don’t have to be your particular thoughts. They just sound good, and somebody thinks them. Half my stuff falls along those lines. . . . I didn’t originate those kinds of thoughts. I’ve felt them, but I didn’t originate them. They’re out there, so I just use them. . . . It’s more or less remembering things and taking it down. . . . songs are just thoughts. For the moment they stop time. To hear a song is to hear someone’s thought, no matter what they’re describing. . . . You have to have seen something or have heard something for you to dream it. It becomes your dream then. Whereas a fantasy is just your imagination wandering around. I don’t really look at my stuff like that. It’s happened, it’s been said, I’ve heard it: I have proof of it. I’m a messenger. I get it. It comes to me so I give it back in my particular style.” — Bob Dylan

Creativity is a hoax, ask any serious artist about it.

Spanky says:

I call horseshit

Since when does business care what’s good for society?

All the things you mention aren’t good at all, because it means business would actually have to WORK to make a profit. That’s anti-capitalist thinking. Capitalism is about selling the cheapest product at the highest price. In the limit, this means sitting on one’s ass, doing nothing, and collecting checks.

Phil says:

Re: I call horseshit

You’re talking about laziness and greed. Capitalists do not have a monopoly on these stellar human qualities. In case you hadn’t noticed, the guys who run communist and socialist regimes have proven just as susceptible to these vices.

So enough of the lefty anti-capitalist nonsense. One can certainly be a capitalist and be opposed to egregious IP.

Besides, one could hardly argue that the fashion industry now, or the Swiss chemical industry of an earlier era were not capitalist.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: I call horseshit

its like the complete opposite of socialism. socialism would require giving out the invention to the world for free. i hear people use the world socialism a lot and i really don’t think any of them know what it means. its gotten to the point that if someone uses the term, they’re almost guaranteed to not know what it means. socialism as a theory isn’t even bad. if someone could make it work, it’d be superior to capitalism. however, it couldn’t work and every time its been tried, its been abused and is therefore used as a negative term. however, socialism in and of itself is *not* negative.

i really hate when people use it as a derogatory term. its like they’re just announcing they don’t know what they’re talking about.

Phil says:

Re: Re: Re:2 I call horseshit

“Socialism” in this thread is not being used in the hypothetical, ideal sense as you might wish it to be, but rather in the sense of how it has been manifested in the real world.
Socialism is government operated monopoly. There is no competition.
Egregious IP is a government mandated monopoly for the benefit of an individual or corporation. There’s no competition there either.

Can you see the similarity now, AC?

isthisthingon (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 I call horseshit

>i really hate when people use it as a derogatory term. its like they’re just announcing they don’t know what they’re talking about.

Me too. Socialism is used interchangeably with communism, Marxism and fascism to mean something terrible that upstanding patriots should reject completely due to its inherently evil nature.

These are all different terms but nobody seems to understand this.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Ummm…no, your comment is not correct. The point was that “Sum of All Fears” could not exist if it contained only those ideas that existed before. It would be merely a rehash of previously existing novels, if even that. However, I am unfamiliar with any novel prior to “Sum of All Fears” containing many of the significant points in that novel, which I thought were quite creative.

The paper pointed to by Mike does a better job of making this point than I do. Any particular book will be a combination of previously existing ideas and creative (ostensibly new) ideas. While the ratio in a book may not be 7:3, or the “optimal” ratio, it will be some ratio of new ideas to old ideas.

I tend to read speculative fiction more than any other genre, which seems to be more creative than other genres. I wonder whether there is a difference in old vs. new depending on the genre. I speculate that romance novels are generally less creative than, say, science fiction. It would be interesting to see a study on this.

hegemon13 says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

First of all, you are wrong. It could easily contain ALL ideas that existed before, but arranged in a new way.

Second, the post you responded to did not claim that it was 100% existing ideas, but rather that it nothing exists in a vacuum. He said that every consists of other ideas, not that it consists SOLELY of other ideas. So, yes, you proved his post rather than refuting it.

Last, what, pray tell, is original in Sum of All Fears. Name one “idea” in the book that has never been used before. You would be quite hard-pressed. It is the expression of an idea that makes the story, not the idea itself.

hegemon13 says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I forgot to respond to the last paragraph.

I also read (and write) primarily speculative fiction. In some sense, it HAS to be more creative. After all, the root of “speculative” is “speculate,” and the very definition of “speculative fiction” is that it contains an aspect that cannot exist in the real world as we know it. The author is bound to be pretty creative when he starts with “what if…”

Still, if you want to compare genres, make sure you use equivalent works. There are creative, enduring romance novels (Clan of the Cave Bear, Pride and Prejudice), and there are canned Harlequin-style pulp romances. There are inventive Horror/Sci-Fi/Fantasy novels (Carrion Comfort, Ender’s Game, Lord of the Rings), and there are canned pulp garbage (name-your-80s-horror-author, Star Wars novels, etc). My point is that creativity often has more to do with the quality of the work that the genre.

However, creativity is only PART of quality. Take, for example, Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot. There is very little new in that book. The vampires follow all the classic rules. King himself said they were based on combining classic vampires with EC Comic vampires. The idea of a town being taken over by an evil force was nothing new. The novel is almost entirely composed of existing “ideas.” Yet, it is a fabulous, gripping novel, one of the most memorable I have ever read. It is the execution of character, setting, and atmosphere that makes it so good, not the “ideas” behind it. A fairly original “idea” was John Skipp and Craig Spector’s “The Bridge.” But, the novel itself was horrible. The writing was pure splatterpunk pulp with no character or plot development and no avenue for the reader to become invested in the story. So “inventiveness” is not the end-all, be-all to quality in storytelling.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

I disagree with you regarding “Salem’s Lot.” I believe it was a reimagining of the vampire genre. Yes, having an evil force take over a town was done by Lovecraft. However, Lovecraft assumed the takeover from the beginning. King imagined how such a takeover might look in today’s society, and how assumptions we make about our society and neighbors would permit that to happen. I am unable to recall anyone putting the kind of detail into a takeover that King did. Indeed, one of King’s strengths, though others might argue it is one of his weaknesses, is that the details he puts into his novels (i.e., ideas) are what really make his novels stand out from those of others. King’s abundant usage of little pieces of this and that to creat NEW ideas is one source of his excellence.

So, creativity is extremely important to quality in storytelling.

Interestingly, you named “Lord of the Rings” as being inventive. I have read about “Lord of the Rings” extensively, including an array of article by or about J.R.R. Tolkien. His book, broken into a trilogy, was based on an array of folklore. In Tokien’s own words, he was not all that inventive, though millions of fans disagree. Certainly the way he put together hundreds of existing ideas or adapted those ideas in a new way was in fact highly inventive and creative, and it was that creativity that made those books.

In general, the more original the novel, in combination with good execution, the more interesting the book, in my experience.

cc says:

Life is information that is stored in our DNA code. Evolution is the selective copying of good ideas from one generation to the next. The article hits the nail on the head.

I expect their model was a “genetic algorithm” simulating the propagation of genes in a population. By prohibiting duplicates (even random ones) you’ll eventually reach a fixed point in the population where no further progress is possible because all evolutionary paths are blocked!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Interesting thought. You should also point out that evolution is more than the “selective copying of ‘good’ ideas.” In fact, evolution is a combintation of copying of desirable or valuable implementations (nature generally avoids ideas) and mutations that may or may not be desirable or valuable. Eventually, the survival of particular combinations end up selected out or propagating. However, note that, to the best of our knowledge, there are no two DNA sequences that are exact copies. So, while short portions of DNA may be a copy, the whole thing is not. Evolution is never blocked even in the face of no duplicates.

wvhillbilly (profile) says:

The problem with copyright maximalists

It’s all about greed. They don’t want anyone else getting any benefit from anything they’ve come up with without their getting a big chunk of money for it.

Back when the term of copyright was 14 years, songwriters and publishers did just fine, and there was plenty of incentive to write new stuff. And others were free to recast and build on previous works once the copyright expired. Now the copyright maximalists want to lock everything up forever, even for a century or more after it is of no further benefit for themselves, by which time it will have long become orphaned and lost to society forever.

It’s just pure greed, and a dog-in-the-manger attitude on top of it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: The problem with copyright maximalists

No, it’s about the costs of development.

Design a new shirt? Hmmm… Got a couple of hours? The investment in new product in clothing (design) is such a low cost in the overall game as to be meaningless. Clothes also have an amazingly short shelf life (3 months or less) before they are “out of style”.

It is sort of hard to put a 100 million dollar movie next to a $200 to design a shirt, and expect that the same rules apply.

Further, and this is key, only the movie is truly unique. Clothing is mostly a long term recycle of styles and design long since passed. There really isn’t anything new.

So the story is nice, but the parallel with music or movies is very poor indeed. It’s a Mike attempt to create the impression that copying everything is okay, without looking at the true economic implications of doing so.

LeBazz (profile) says:

Re: Re: The problem with copyright maximalists

Design a new shirt? Hmmm… Got a couple of hours?

Have you ever seen how designing an entire line of clothes really work ? It’s not simply a couple of hours… You need research teams for fabrics, sewing teams, drawing artists, etc… It’s not as cheap as it may seem… Maybe not in the 100 mil range but still…

Further, and this is key, only the movie is truly unique. Clothing is mostly a long term recycle of styles and design long since passed. There really isn’t anything new.

So you’re telling me Hollywood movies are all great innovative works of art ?? It’s basically a short term recycle of special-effects-enhanced, poor storyline movies based on themes long since passed… IMO…. So where is the difference really ??

Aaron says:

Re: Re: Re: The problem with copyright maximalists

I agree with most of your comment. What’s interesting is your last thought:

So you’re telling me Hollywood movies are all great innovative works of art ?? It’s basically a short term recycle of special-effects-enhanced, poor storyline movies based on themes long since passed… IMO…. So where is the difference really ??

Exactly. Now that HD is mainstream, and programs such as Apple’s FinalCut, Boris, and GenArts exist, it is possible to have a full editing studio on a computer, something that used to be $250,000 if not more. This is an interesting change where technology has progressed to the point where it’s possible for someone with $15,000 to make a movie today that would have cost millions only a few decades ago.

But what’s sad is that in many cases, the rights have been signed away, and the screenplay is locked up. It’s not uncommon that the author gave the screenplay away for $10,000 or in some cases, made nothing on the deal.

It’s very difficult to feel sadness for the copyright maximalists.

Anonymous Coward says:

The Swiss example is wearing a bit thin. How one can say it exemplifies a success without something more than generalized information is not particularly informative. IIRC, the Swiss enacted a patent law under pressure from Germany, which was getting a bit miffed at what it viewed as Swiss protectionism from foreign competition, not to mention that it was coping “freebies” from the research performed by German companies.

The fashion industry has worked without copyright for any number or reasons. One is that by and large copyright protection does not as a general rule extend to utilitarian articles. Some in the industry are lobbying for some measure of protection, but its enactement is far from assured. Next, as you note the industry is highly segmented and caters to distinct markets. High-end fashion designers cater to an exclusive clientele, and knockoffs do not detract from its market. Mid-level retailers are stores such as Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s,etc. that serve yet another market. Lastly, we have the lower end retailers such as Sears, Penny’s, etc. Importantly, the markets are distict from one another, and one market level does not compete with the other.

The sole point to be made is that retailers in one market do not generally compete with retailers in the other markets, so there is really no compelling reason for those catering to the high-end market to get their noses out of joint. Of course, the fact that fashions trends seem to change on almost a monthly basis counsel strongly against preoccupation with asserting rights.

As for the research, abstruse reading at best, is not in my view particularly useful in the “micro” vs. “macro” sense. Quite frankly, my experience, as well as that of most others with whom I have discussed the subject, almost uniformly agree that “innovators” are typically in the order of about 10% and the remaining 90% owe their jobs to the former.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

None of this demonstrates that Switzerland needed Germany to innovate. Switzerland bad fewer patents and they innovated, Germany had more patents and they did not innovate and the only thing this article demonstrates is that patents were imposed on Switzerland, almost by force, for no good reason.

In fact, you apparently do not read your own articles.

“Patents hindered the growth of the chemical industry.175
Unlimited freedom, as known in Switzerland, was more
favorable to the development of the industry than patent
protection.176 Germany, whose industry had a stronger
expansion before the patent era, was an example of the
downfalls of patent law.”

So apparently even Germany had more expansion and (probably more) innovation before patents than after. Switzerland also had more innovation before patents than after. Even your own sources admit.

So once again, I ask you, “Do you have evidence for this or are you just making things up again?”

Griff (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Unauthorised Copying Bad (or at least rude !)

“Patents hindered the growth of the chemical industry”

Note that an individual company is not motivated by what is good for the industry (or for society) but by it’s own bottom line.
Not the same thing.

The other point I’d like to make is that just because copying may be better for the industry or for society or even long term for the artist, it is still wrong if the artist (however wrong headedly) has forbidden it.

If an old lady does not give permission for you to help her across the road, it is wrong to do it, even if she needs it.

Mike seems to conflate what is sensible and even good for people with what is right.

My final point is that comparing clothes or designer handbags with digital goods is inappropriate. An unauthorised copy of an authorised MP3 is indentical to the original. So it can compete directly with the original, unlike a fake Rolex or a Walmart copy of a designer dress.

In the UK James Dyson designed a vacuum cleaner with no bag (cyclonic separation). Now most of the big names have some sort of copy in their product range but initially, when he had some protection, he got a few years at high prices (selling mainly in gadget obsessed Japan) enabling him to work on getting the manuf efficiency up and price down to sell competitively in Western EU.

If he had been forced to contend with blatant copies by Electrolux from day 1 (with their superior manufacturing facilities), he’d never have bothered.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Unauthorised Copying Bad (or at least rude !)

“If he had been forced to contend with blatant copies by Electrolux from day 1 (with their superior manufacturing facilities), he’d never have bothered.”

Wow, it’s like you’re visiting this alternate dimension where IP doesn’t exist and telling us what is happening!

Is everybody a thief? Do they steal everything? They must, right? IP is the only thing stopping the public from degrading into useless savages, after all.

isthisthingon (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I’m sorry but claiming that since fashion has various levels of distinct segments it falls outside the reasonable realm of what justifies copy protection is extremely thin. In fact, it’s really just another greed pie covered in meringue.

Copy protections are thinly veiled protectors of mini-monopolies, period. I’ve spent weeks on end with lawyers on both sides of the patent “infringement” game. It’s a game for the rich and has nothing to do with protecting individuals from having their hard earned inventions “stolen” from them. Individuals lose to others with deeper pockets – almost always. Therefore it’s another case of greed pie with the meringue of “protecting individuals.”

Those that play deeply in this game know this truth. It’s just that they wouldn’t have an income if we all figured it out. They truly appreciate you parroting their smokescreen, especially since you’re obviously an intelligent person.

I would venture to say you either are a good concerned person that drank their punch or truly one of them and probably quite afraid that the world is waking up to this ethical shell game that no longer has a place in the age of information.

And please ask me to back up my assertions. But careful what you wish for, unless you’re ready to have a change of heart on the subject or outed as a capitalist shark if that’s what you truly are.

copyrightwill end says:

to all things there is an end

“”All the things you mention aren’t good at all, because it means business would actually have to WORK to make a profit. That’s anti-capitalist thinking. Capitalism is about selling the cheapest product at the highest price. In the limit, this means sitting on one’s ass, doing nothing, and collecting checks.””

above quoter then should start a campaign about all those bailouts , all the commie bastard shit going on with Hollywood and start killing them off as invaders of the capitalistic way.

BUT remember no true system works
i learned that a long time ago and both communism soviet style and american style have actually failed …..what’s going on is your now going through the oligarchy phase of your capitalism much as the soviets did for there communism many years ago.

After this phase your democracy capitalism will collapse utterly, proof many canadians you know those people that give your businesses resources….are now diversifying into NON american markets cause America is truly tanking in 20 years if your not destitute we’ll see if any copyright laws are left like france and UK equally as bad places to live.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

For starters, you provide the difference between human beings and ideas. However, let us take a look at the similarities between humans and ideas…

According to Hegel, an idea is the result of truth, the complete product of reason. While Spock was envisioned as an alien, certainly his culture valued truth and reasoning, and given that their goal was to be the epitome of truth and logic, it could be said that Vulcans, and those who emulate them, were the embodiment of an idea.

In the movie “My Fair Lady,” and its basis, “Pygmalion,” the goal of the authors involved was to make Eliza Doolittle the embodiment of his mental vision, and thus Eliza became the physical implementation of his idea. Indeed, you could say that Eliza was his “idea,” when equated “idea” and implementation of the idea.

We also commonly use the phrase “he was my idea” with regard to the creation of roles and positions, and similar situations. Thus, the creation of a certain role, which was the “idea” or conceptualization by someone, is embodied when filled by a human, and the human thus becomes the idea in its physical form.

Approaching from a different direction, H.G. Wells stated that “human history is in essence a history of ideas.” If true, humans and ideas become nearly synonymous since one apparently is unable to exist without the other.

So, while there might be a distinction between the “creator” of ideas and the “creation” or “implementation” of the idea, to speak of humans without considering ideas would be akin to speaking of skunks and somehow separating them from their characteristic smell.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

You can share an idea, that’s what they’re for!

That is your opinion. Sharing of ideas is one thing you can do with them, but that is not necessarily their purpose.

How can you share a human being?

I have heard of girlfriends sharing boyfriends, boyfriends sharing girlfriends, wives sharing husbands, ad infinitum. Is that slavery?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Re:

If ideas aren’t meant for sharing, and that being only my opinion, then why have an idea at all? An idea isn’t an idea if you don’t share it with anyone.

You know how many ideas have survived that weren’t shared? Another rhetorical question!

You’re ad infinitum isn’t actually ad infinitum but I can see where I made an error. You’re correct, sharing is in no way, shape or form slavery, in that context.

You can destroy a human being but you can’t really destroy an idea.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:8 Re:

If ideas aren’t meant for sharing, and that being only my opinion, then why have an idea at all? An idea isn’t an idea if you don’t share it with anyone.

You know, I have looked at definition after definition, and not one of them notes that an idea has to be shared to be an idea.

After Tesla died, there was great interest in his notes, which contained hundreds of unshared ideas. That they were unshared did not make them any less ideas, only unshared.

You know how many ideas have survived that weren’t shared? Another rhetorical question!

Ummm…all those that were recorded survived, even if they were not shared. Just think of how many unshared ideas might yet exist in the world. I would suggest there are probably magnitudes more unshared ideas than shared.

You’re ad infinitum isn’t actually ad infinitum but I can see where I made an error. You’re correct, sharing is in no way, shape or form slavery, in that context.

But an interesting consideration…

You can destroy a human being but you can’t really destroy an idea.

I personally think you cannot destroy an idea, but your earlier comments do raise an interesting point. If you have an idea, particularly one that might be singularly unique, and you neglect to share the idea, have you destroyed the idea, even if only until someone else eventually has the same idea?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:8 Re:

Not sharing an idea is like calling baldness a hair color.

Really? I have many ideas. I write many of them down. I found a notebook recently from more than two decades ago with ideas that I wrote down, and never shared. Some of the ideas were quite interesting from my now distant perspective of my distant past. However, I was uninterested in sharing my observations with others. In fact, there were some ideas that I decided were more more personal philosophy and contained more than I wished to reveal about my thoughts about life. I destroyed the notebook.

Just what color is bald? I suspect it depends on the color of the skin underneath.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:9 Re:

Actually, to be honest, I am one of those that believes we should share all of our ideas with one another.

Which is why I am so happy that the internet has come along.

To be even more honest, I haven’t really given these particular ideas much thought. I am just an artist after all and not much of a philosopher. Perhaps in my armchair.

Thank you for sharing your perspective with me.

Chris in Utah (profile) says:


Thought this group-think idea a while back.

Imagine a world where the worlds thinkers are sharing freely for innovation rather than profit.

Sounds a bit socialistic to me but good road to Utopian. Give the scientist the credit where it is do. Immortality has far greater value than the all mighty dollar.

Was going to start a forum called forum4ideas. Know how far it got? Zip nata, zilch. Face it folks we live in a WIIFM(Whats in it for me) society.

When did we loose the what’s in it for my survival? Somewhere the double-speak took over and for me & my survival became the same thing. Look it up, they are not.

That’s my soapbox of the month. Give thanks it’s only once a month.

In frith,
Happy Bird Day
Chris in Utah

Anonymous Coward says:

Copying is not sharing.

Copying is not sharing.

Copying is egoistic, you don’t need to give anything to anybody.

People copy things to sell on the streets that is socialistic?

But copying enables a terrain fertile for advance through conflict that is a better incentive to produce anything than a granted monopoly will ever be able to provide.

IP laws today hamper the conflict part, there is no incentive to invest in new things anymore just advance little by little.

A great example in the electronic industry was the OLPC(One Laptop Per Child) it may never take off, but it already bear its fruits. Netbooks were born out of the conflict between Intel and the OLPC initiative and changed the market forever now people know that laptops can be made for less then $500 dollars when before they cost $1000 dollars or more.

That didn’t came because Intel and AMD wanted too came because of conflict the need to survive. IP laws take that away from the market and that market eventually dies out.

Chris in Utah (profile) says:

Re: Copying is not sharing.

Next time thing before you speak.

“Intellectual” property and patten property. Big difference. One is a protecting a someones idea and the other….

Or what where the 22nd century is finding out that expanding pattens beyond the scope of actual “INVENTIONS” is “””why”” AMD and Intel exist. Who invented the transistor? Remember how big it was? Who invented shrinking it? Anybody’s guess. Who can afford to manufacture them? CHINA.

Who can afford to shrink and maintain a USB drive. Iomega comes to mind and many many many others. It’s f’n amazing when an invention is left to stand on its own.

Guess the difference between a transistor and recorded media and you’ll find the answer you seek. ~~Jedi mind trick~~

isthisthingon (profile) says:

Re: Re: Copying is not sharing.

>Next time thing before you speak.

LOL – “thing” before YOU speak! Intellectual Property is literally a term with the attempt of grouping dissimilar forms of protection into one, simple, combination meal that Fox News Americans can actually wrap their entropied minds around.

Even the attempt to lump someone’s musical art into the same bucket as a functional invention is what we’ve all missed somewhere along the way. Try reading this and use your thinker:

Chris in Utah (profile) says:

Another thought.

Hmm China and socialism producing the #1 invention of this 22nd century.

Hmm USA and democracy producing the manufacturing plant. “THE” invention of the 21st century.

And Economics 101 doesn’t cover who controls the latest contribution to humanity dictates whom will have real wealth.

Oh.!.!.! that’s why were having a health care debate. Wait penicilin was the invention of the 20th! Oh sorry Obama ya might want to get your head out of your. “Oh sorry did I do that. Let me call you a wrecker, sorry I can’t because i’m a pot hole.” ROFLMAO.

Chris in Utah (profile) says:


Sorry my imagination wouldn’t leave it alone….

Dear Mr President why were you going 150MPH towards that pothole. 1st tire was the economy, 2nd tire was the war of necessity, 3rd tire was health care, 4th tire was Gitmo.


Oh wait.. you told us.
“You want to know what type of president I’m going to be look at the people around me.”

We are sooooo screwed!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I really hope that nothing bad happens to the U.S. but the U.S. is a young nation and its practices simply haven’t stood the test of time.

I think throughout history governments gain dominance by serving the interests of those they govern. Eventually they start to become corrupt tyrants, like America is becoming, where their every action and every law is designed for the sole purpose of maintaining a plutocracy, and over time those nations get taken down as a result. Our government and big corporations alike don’t seem to be partaking in self sustainable behavior and society will eventually take them down as a result. Unfortunately it may not happen within our lifetimes.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

(same poster as above)

What I really want is for our government to voluntarily stop serving a plutocracy and to start serving the general public. I hope violence doesn’t come into play in taking down our broken government, hopefully they can be taken down in a peaceful manner where we simply vote out all the corrupt politicians and vote in non corrupt ones (ie: Ron Paul).

To Chris in Utah, I really think that we should try to avoid violence as much as possible. While I do think that we definitely need to do something to overturn our broken government I think we should try to avoid violence whenever possible.

I see more and more people on techdirt suggesting violence is the answer and I really hope we make every effort to try to fix our government in a non violent, peaceful manner.

catullusrl says:

Finally, it stimulates additional brand new creativity from the original creator, who must realize that he or she cannot rest on any laurels, and needs to get to work on the next great design

Does Masnick really understand economics? He is arguing that if you reduce the rate of return for the original creator that this will incentivise him to make more original creations! He might decide that the effort/reward ratio for copying is better than for original creation and decide to concentrate on ripping off other creators.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Mike will slap you up the head about economics. However, I tend to agree. I think that Mike only looks are certain things (supply / demand, example) and extrapolates from there. The real world and the theoretical world don’t always line up.

The risk / reward thing pretty much entirely eludes him.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Totally. Might I suggest getting a real job? If you want to pay your bills.

But that’s the copyright abolishionist in me talking. Copyright lasting for centuries is asinine. It will never be shortened though. The public domain should be growing at an exponential rate but sadly, it is not. Oh well. Who needs that?

Just so long as Some Corporate Trust can make $500,000 a year from the public school system just because they so happen to own the rights to The Great Gatsby.

F. Scott Fitzgerald ain’t going to be writing that sequel. Ever.

If copyright were shortened than I would be completely happy to support a government-enforced monopoly that saw creative works being protected from unauthorized copying. Might I suggest an educational campaign?

But copyright will never be shortened, so fuck it.

We artists can all starve for what I care.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:


You whine about some corporate trust taking $500,000, yet you say that copyright lasting beyond a lifetime is bad.

Let me ask you, Sir, who made “The Great Gatsby” a necessity to school curriculum? Could they have a conflict of interest? Why not another novel?

It doesn’t matter if “The Great Gatsby” was a foundational pillar of your life. It really doesn’t.

But you have to ask, do other authors deserve a chance to be a part of curriculum or are you just being selfish because Gatsby is the man you always looked up to?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

The Great Gatsby is an example of how asinine it is for copyright to last for centuries.

It also has nothing to do with the schools. Why don’t we pay Some Corporate Trust to license out the collected works of Shakespeare?

Because it’s dumb. The artistic works of the past must pass into the public domain. If you cannot understand that than you don’t understand art or culture or being human.

I also have never read The Great Gatsby. I don’t care. It’s an example of cultural control gone bad.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

“If copyright were shortened”

If copyright were shortened it wouldn’t apply retroactively (and it wouldn’t apply on copyright extensions that were applied retroactively either) and when the day comes for the works that are going into the public domain as a result of the shortened copyright to go into the public domain, the copyright length would then be once again extended and that extension would apply retroactively.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

The fact is that intellectual property is not, and was never, intended to promote the progress. Its purpose was always about enriching the elite. To me the strongest evidence of the true purpose of intellectual property is the mere length of intellectual property terms (and the one sided laws that exist in general. Ie: the fines for infringement are astronomical but the fines for falsely claiming intellectual property on a piece of work in the public domain is almost nothing in comparison). The length of intellectual property terms does absolutely nothing to promote the progress and it does a lot to hinder innovation and reduce aggregate output. and if the purpose of intellectual property is to enrich the elite then it probably serves the same function.

BTW, I think intellectual property, if used correctly, could help promote the progress. Unfortunately the rich would tend to find a way to abuse it.

What we need are

A: Reasonable lengths.

B: A reasonable maximum amount of money one could collect if someone else infringes on your work, even if intentionally (though perhaps intentional infringement could be more than non intentional, it shouldn’t be that much).

C: A reasonable maximum amount of money (a cap) on how much one could require from others to license their work to them.

D: With respect to software, the requirement that ALL source code that’s under copyright be released into the public domain either

1: When the copyright expires

2: When the product is discontinued.

(Or else the company, including any parent or child company, and the specific individuals involved should be faced with SEVERE punishments, both monetary and with the inability to copyright any works for a reasonable period of time, perhaps a year or two, for breaking their end of the deal with society).

There needs to be a recognition among government that no one owes anyone a monopoly on anything. It’s wrong for the government to think otherwise. If the government wants to enforce intellectual property rights on the public then the terms need to be equitable to the public. The public needs a fair deal too, we don’t need terms where the public gives someone a monopoly they do not owe and gets very little in return.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Its more like copying creates more competition. In an effort to stay ahead of increased competition you may need to try harder/be more creative. The competition creates the incentive to create more elegant solutions or solutions that better meet the needs of a given market. There is also a difference between exact copies and copying certain, perhaps key, components only. Copying reduces the effort required to produce reward. There are no guaranteed rewards, producing and selling just about anything is a gamble.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Does Masnick really understand economics?

Yes, quite well, but thanks for asking.

He is arguing that if you reduce the rate of return for the original creator that this will incentivise him to make more original creations!

No, please take the time to read again. I am arguing that if you increase the reasons to keep innovating, rather than resting on one’s laurels, that will increase the pace of innovation. In fact, there is tremendous evidence that this is true.

Are you arguing against that concept? Please cite the studies that show this.

Coughing Monkey (profile) says:

it boils down to this

It is what the public will allow to happen. if we pay what the big companies ask it can only go their way. if we demand the prices go down they will go down but, we will need to be ready to withhold on buying their product until they see we mean business. otherwise it will continue in the same direction as it has throughout time. yes it is said the meek shall inherit the earth. approx.: a 6ftX3ftX6ft hole of it. now go back to your cubicles and make plans on how to defeat this in your own part of the world. and feel free to take this chant as your own. “It’s what the public will allow that is the status quo”

Anonymous Coward says:

[quote]It exists to cover potential legal costs of a patent/copyright claims. It would be nice if we didn’t have to do this and could sell the products at substantially lower costs to our customers.[/quote]

The innovative companies who are forced to fight off a succession of regurgitative leeches feel the same way.

“It would be nice” indeed.

Mark Montgomery (user link) says:

Copying is NOT good

I haven’t read the research yet, but I am very familiar with the ideology of the herd that thinks copying is good for society.

This myth is usually spread by those who work in academia or government or a private business that benefits from the work of others, usually without compensation.

The problem with this theory is that it almost never looks at what is very difficult to see, which is the cost to society when the world’s best minds stop sharing innovations, creative ideas, and original inspired works of art — already a severe problem — similar to the Dotcom era and housing bubble — it isn’t trendy to acknowledge (or in popularity contests a winning tactic).

Brian (profile) says:

Re: Copying is NOT good

No its just that science and all technological sectors rely on copying and enhancing the original persons work. Science already divides the same work up between numerous teams trying to do the same thing in 100 different ways all keeping their research a secret hidden from everyone until they are done. If they all worked together on a common problem, shared results and news openly and freely then others could learn from those mistakes much faster and fix possible problems or avoid those they might have. Sure some might share their work but 85% of the time its all about hoard it and keep it secret instead of working towards the collective benefit of the entire world. But of course moving society forward at a faster pace is bad for collection agencies and those who only thrive on the old models and fail to change with technology.

isthisthingon (profile) says:

Re: Copying is NOT good

>”I haven’t read the research yet”

And I’m not holding my breath for you to do so. After all, who wants the discomfort endured when challenging one’s fixed beliefs? No self-respecting market fundamentalist would give the lint from their fur coat pocket to any endeavor that hints at challenging the elitist truths they ride so glutinously high on.

>”This myth (myth??) is usually spread (usually spread? Please itemize the other forms of said dissemination. Otherwise I call BS on “Mark” since you simply must be Ann Coulter) by those who work in academia or government or a private business that benefits from the work of others, usually without compensation.”

Really? Wow. Is this based on a Fox “News” poll or something less credible such as your personal interpretation of said poll? Either way, your passion for factually sound research is admirable.

>”The problem with this theory is that it almost never looks at what is very difficult to see, which is the cost to society when the world’s best minds stop sharing innovations”

The world’s best minds *never* stop sharing their innovations. Only the snake oil hucksters do. Those who would stop sharing their innovations in the area of, for example, cancer research, simply because they couldn’t maximize their selfish profit from said innovation – should keep their poisonous “inventions” to themselves. They should go ahead and live out their lives keeping all that greatness bottled up to appropriately maximize their legacy on this planet.

You, sir, are either one of these energy vacuums or are completely blind to the puppet strings operating your jaw.

>”it isn’t trendy to acknowledge (or in popularity contests a winning tactic)”

Since when did human suffering become trendy? Take a moment to learn about how the IP umbrella keeps 3’rd world countries squarely in their hopeless place. Consider the millions of fallen souls that would still be alive were it not for pharmaceutical patents “protecting” the Pfizers of the world who demand ridiculous sums for their life saving AIDS treatments.

Yep I’m passionate about this and have come to an understanding about the issue. Once you know what’s really going on you simply must reject the IP movement or in my experience you fall into two categories: the ignorant or the greedy. There’s perhaps room for the cowards who are unable to challenge their neocon peers as well. But drinking from the fountain of comfort and support for your ignorance is as bad as pulling the trigger yourself, IMHO.

Jeffrey Nonken (profile) says:

IP protection vs. innovation

The lot of you should take a few hours off and watch James Burke’s series “Connections”. (The first one.) It shows, again and again, how interconnected are some of the most important inventions of our time. He doesn’t actually say but I rather doubt most of them were patented. And yet people went ahead and borrowed each others’ ideas, synthesized, created, discovered, and invented to their hearts’ content.

And always remember: the patent system came out of the practice of inventing things, not the other way ’round. Seems to me that this fact on its own pretty well debunks the myth that patents are necessary for innovation, a cart-before-the-horse problem.

I don’t necessarily think that we should eliminate IP protection altogether, but it needs to be set to reasonable terms. Lifetime plus 70 years doesn’t benefit the author, it doesn’t benefit the author’s heirs, it benefits Disney.

Griff (profile) says:

Patents hindering innovation ?

I always figured that if I invented a really cool vacuum cleaner that we different to all the others, and started to take all the market share, competition would mean someone else thought up a different really cool vacuum cleaner and started competing with me.
With both parties having some sort of IP protection, there would be loads of potential payback for each of them to try and create the new, better vacuum. And at the end of the day, society gets two completely different cool vacuum cleaners to choose from. However, patent holders might keep the price high as they have a monopoly (bad for society ?). But hey, noone has to buy the new, better vacuum cleaner. Supply and demand will make the old, less good kind of vacuum cleaners cheaper, and society can always choose not to buy the newfangled one. If it is too expensive the market will reject it.

However, if 2nd company can simply copy the first company
– 1st company might as well not bother as they are instantly in a price war with a company who does not have to pay back development
– society only gets one new vacuum cleaner technology, and probably not as good at that.

Now, it is quite true that the 2nd scenario might lead to cheaper vacuum cleaners, which might be seen as a societal benefit. It will also enable more untalented companies to go into business making copies.
That might be “better for society” in TD’s world.

I’m obviously comparing two extremes here, but the point is clear.

Now, the “shoulders of giants” argument says that if company 2 weren’t so hamstrung by IP law, it could improve on company 1’s vacuum cleaner. I would argue that tweaking IP law to permit such a thing would be better than removing it.

In terms of innovation I’d be keen to see how this forum sees the problem of “me too” drugs. That is, large pharma companies who spend billions creating another blockbuster to compete head on with one we already have, rather than go off and cure a different disease. Society doesn’t actually need another hypertension drug as urgently as it needs cures to some other ailments. These companies often look for an analog of the original molecule that squeezes through the patent but still works the same way.

But then the new drug does not undercut the former best seller on price (which you might think was a benefit of competition). Instead the companies just wage a war of marketing budgets and keep the prices up anyway.

As far as I can see, the only thing that ever brings prices down in the drug industry is single payer healthcare services refusing the drugs at the current price.

It’s less a problem of monopoly than one of cartel behaviour.

Comparing the vacuum cleaner situation with music has to be done carefully. Copying the vacuum and making and selling it yourself is tantamount to ripping a U2 CD then burning CD’s to sell. If that was legal people would only make a living by playing live and if your style of music is not comaptible with a stadium you’d maybe not actually make a living.

But improving on the original vacuum cleaner is maybe tantamount to sampling U2 on your new song to a greater or lesser extent.
Whether it is good/bad right/wrong is a matter of degree and this is the area where lawyers will always make money.

Personally I am sick of hearing some shitty rap song which is only catchy because of a repeating sample of a Queen song or a Sting song or whatever. Almost as much as I hate endless covers that only sell because it reminds people of the original. I’d have thought that a simple mechanistic solution to sampling IP would be to pay royalties pro rata. If you sample 5 seconds of Sting on a 3 minute song, pay 1/36 of the performer and writer’s cut to Sting.
Of course the artist could just include 1 minute’s fadeout at the end and cut the payout. Hmm, needs some thought…

Anonymous Coward says:

Correction to the post...

The article does not say that 30% of our populuation should be focused on creating and 70% should be focused on innovating or “copying.” In fact, the article says that if 30% of our population is focused on creating, then 70% of our population would be focused on “mindless copying,” which the article says is not optimum.

What the article does say is that the optimum for society is for individuals to be creative less than 50% of the time and to imitate, copy or “innovate” the rest of the time.

Anonymous Coward says:

Fashion Industry no Copyrights? Not quite...

I keep hearing, over and over, that the fashion industry does not use intellectual property. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. In fact, the fashion industry has been using intellectual property A LOT and has done so for as long as the protections have been available.

The most obvious protection is trademark. Logos, names and patterns have been trademarked and been placed on shirts, clothing, handbags, etc. for some time to help slow down the rate of copying. Indeed, since there are fewer protections in the United States for fashion than in Europe, the U.S. fashion industry has developed a heavy reliance on trademarks to protect their designs as opposed to Europe, which has less reliance on trademarks.

Also, design patterns on cloth in the United States can be copyright protected, so fashion designers have sometimes used unique patterns.

So, to say that the “fashion industry” has not used copyright and more broadly, intellectual property, would be a statement without full disclosure of all the relevant facts.

Anonymous Coward says:

How much creating and how much copying?

I only skimmed through the comments, but I wonder that no one has speculated on how much creating and copying/imitating/innovating is actually going on in our society. The paper pointed to by Mike says the optimal ratio is 30% creating, 70% copying/imitating/innovating.

Now, we have more than 3,000 cover versions (which would all fall under the category of copying/imitating/innovating, though how innovative these versions are given that none, to the best of my knowledge, have ever made much of an impression on the world, is questionable) of the song “Yesterday.” That ratio seems a bit beyond 7:3. Indeed, there is a TON of copying/innovating/imitating going on, so much so that I wonder whether we meet, or even get close to, the 7:3 standard. I would suggest, based only on vague empirical evidence (posts on this site and other places) that the actual ratio of copying/innovating/imitating to creation is probably more on the order of 10:1 or 20:1, possibly even more. It would be interesting to see whether there is a study documenting the actual ratio versus the theoretical optimal 7:3 ratio.

In any case, if the ratio of copying etc. to creating is truly as high as it seems to be, it is possible that intellectual property is not as much incentive as we thought. That does not argue for more or stronger intellectual property, but would, if true, suggest that our society fails to value creation as much as it should.

Anonymous Coward says:

The difference between Techdirt & Against Monopoly

Techdirt will discuss a paper that describes the balance between creation and imitation/copying/innovation. Against Monopoly would never discuss how intellectual property might lead to a more optimal balance between creation and copying because that is against their religion (using the Wikipedia definition of religion).

Gena777 (profile) says:

Good luck!

My only comment on this blog post is: “Good luck making that argument to most IP lawyers.” Rights enforcement and litigation can extremely lucrative (particularly in patent law), so I seriously doubt that most IP attorneys would support your viewpoint — for self-interested reasons, it’s true. I don’t think too many lawyers would argue strenuously with the point that copying is good for innovation; but it’s bad for profits, and those can sometimes be sizable. So most likely IP enforcement rights will generally remain strong for many years to come.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Good luck!

You neglect to consider that a ton of copying is licensed copying. The vast majority, if not all, of the copying of “Yesterday” was licensed. IBM has a huge licensing operation for their patent portfolio, encouraging copying. Artists such as Weird Al Yankovic gain permission to adapt the works of artists, though he need not do so. There is a massive amount of copying and imitating going on through licensing and permission – billions of dollars worth.

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