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

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

I've had the column by Michael Kanellos of News.com open all day. I keep returning to it and trying to figure out how an opinion piece could have gone so wrong. Officially, it's called "Why I love patents and copyrights" but is so far off the charts bizarre that I can't quite figure out what Kanellos intended the column to be. It may simply be News.com trolling for links and traffic. Or, it might actually be satire. I can understand why some people who haven't looked at the research would say that without IP tech innovation would slow to a crawl (the research suggests the opposite, but that's ok), but to then suggest that the only reason that open source exists is to spite Microsoft's proprietary software shows a bizarre and totally incorrect understanding of the world of software development. But where the column really clearly slips into satire is the following: "Think of Larry Page toiling away on the early PageRank patents. Think of Mark and Colleen Hayward. Imagine all those evenings they had to spend listening to Donovan spout Celtic gibberish or helping get John Bonham out of hotel security custody during those years they amassed their photo and video collection. Surely some reward is in order." Larry Page wasn't toiling over patents -- he was toiling over the actual technology of making Google work. The actual idea behind PageRank was borrowed, copied or "inspired" by work done at MIT by Jon Kleinberg. And the idea that without patents Google wouldn't be in the dominant position it's in today is just ridiculous. Google's position has nothing to do with its patents, but its ability to develop a useful service people find value in using. As for the story of the Haywards... well, that's clearly a joke, right? Please? Either way, it seems like a really odd and confused piece, even if it is satire. Kanellos never bothers to back up his position, uses a few anecdotal examples, ignores the actual problems and constraints of intellectual property and seems to brush off anyone who disagrees with him as never having done anything creative. Of course, it's also doing some damage to News.com's reputation, as many of its readers are smart enough to wonder why the site would bother to publish something like this.
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  1. icon
    Mike (profile), 11 May 2007 @ 12:27am

    Re: IP

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

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

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

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

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

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