Man Claims Copyright On Mental Math Trick

from the try-calculating-how-likely-you-are-to-enforce-that... dept

There's a wonderful book by Ben Klemens called Math You Can't Use about how the growing encroachment of intellectual property laws on things like basic algorithms and software are locking up math. However, it appears that one guy is trying to take it to an extreme. Pegr alerts us to a story of a guy who claims to have obtained a copyright on a method for multiplying any two numbers in your head, and he's willing to sell you the trick for $33. Of course, there are all sorts of mental multiplication tricks out there (and a quick search of the web will teach you most of them, if you're unfamiliar with them). There aren't many details on the supposed "copyright" on this trick, so it's not clear if he actually registered the copyright or just thinks he has the copyright, but it will be fascinating to see if he stops anyone else from discussing the method, should it actually be new.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Aug 12th, 2009 @ 9:14am

    Acceptance

    The sad thing is that the article doesn't question or even qualify the claim.

     

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    Ima Fish (profile), Aug 12th, 2009 @ 9:29am

    Even if he does have a copyright, it'd be on the specific expression of the trick, not on the underlying trick itself.

    Once again, you cannot copyright an idea!

     

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    identicon
    Matt, Aug 12th, 2009 @ 9:34am

    booklet

    Here's a different article I came across about the same story. It doesn't really sound like he is trying to copyright the idea, but the booklet in which he teaches it.

    http://www.newsobserver.com/news/health_science/story/1641012.html

     

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Aug 12th, 2009 @ 9:38am

      Re: booklet

      exactly. mike linked to what amounts to foxnews' blogspam. the newsobserver article is the original article.

      the guy isn't copyrighting the actual method, but a pamphlet that explains how to use the method.

       

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        Enrico Suarve, Aug 12th, 2009 @ 9:40am

        Re: Re: booklet

        Cos thats sane right?

         

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          Matt (profile), Aug 12th, 2009 @ 9:48am

          Re: Re: Re: booklet

          Well, authors are allowed to copyright books all the time. I generally agree with Mike's views of copyright, but don't really see the problem with this instance when given the details provided in the News Observer story.

           

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            ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Aug 12th, 2009 @ 9:55am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: booklet

            "It becomes clear when you see Clay's written explanation, and it's that six-page booklet that earned him a copyright. You can't copyright ideas, but you can get the legal rights to the way you explain them, said Anthony Biller, attorney with the Cary firm Coats & Bennett, which specializes in intellectual property law."

            This is why lawyers tend to start off as English majors. "The way you explain them" *sounds* a lot more encompassing than "the specific expression of an idea."

             

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    identicon
    ethorad, Aug 12th, 2009 @ 9:39am

    copyright registration

    When you register a copyright, can people turn up to view/read it? Similar to the way anyone can see the details of a patent.

    The copyright in this case is registration number TXu001325432
    http://cocatalog.loc.gov/cgi-bin/Pwebrecon.cgi?Search_Arg=txu001325432&Search_Code =REGS&PID=_2EHbLdcH6qgz4N1vsHFezPvsk&SEQ=20090812123358&CNT=25&HIST=1

    I'm guessing you can't, as otherwise the copyright office would be breaching copyright, but how can you ensure that you haven't broken someone's copyright if you can't see what it is?

    (and on a related note, a thought has occurred to me. What happens if you claim copyright on your patent application in order to try and keep it quiet? Or does submission to the patent process require giving them permission to publish?)

     

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      Enrico Suarve, Aug 12th, 2009 @ 9:43am

      Re: copyright registration

      I like where your thought process is going...

      Someone should file a class action against the USPTO for massive copyright infringement

       

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    dwind, Aug 12th, 2009 @ 9:45am

    my iphone can do that

    as can my mac and even my windows machine once and a while.

     

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    Pwdrskir (profile), Aug 12th, 2009 @ 9:50am

    Mind tricks

    He's copy written the printed booklet so it can't be used in textbooks unless he authorizes the method's printing in said textbook. That shouldn’t stop a teacher from teaching said method if that teacher/school purchases the $33 copy of the pamphlet and teaches the idea.

     

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    identicon
    m, Aug 12th, 2009 @ 9:59am

    Your html is broken. Target for new window is _blank, not _new. With _new all your links open in the same window, named _new.

     

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    pegr, Aug 12th, 2009 @ 11:07am

    Woohoo!

    My first accepted submission!

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 12th, 2009 @ 12:13pm

    This comment is copyrighted.

    This comment is copyrighted. Anyone viewing the comment has illegally copied my creative works and is infringing. So there, please pay me.

     

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    Fernando, Aug 12th, 2009 @ 12:57pm

    Yeah, another big bad IP shark. Except he's nothing of the sort if you bother to read TFA. He wrote a pamphlet. Under US law, he automatically owns a copyright to that pamphlet. He took the trouble to register the copyright, probably for vanity reasons.

     

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    Anonymous of Course, Aug 12th, 2009 @ 5:32pm

    Hmm...

    I wonder if he's using the Trachtenberg system,
    though I'm not willing to pay $33 to find out.

     

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    Pseudonym, Aug 12th, 2009 @ 7:31pm

    Prior art

    There's a rumour that the specific method goes back at least as far as the 12th century Indian mathematician Bhāskara II. But I'm not going to pay $33 to find out, either.

    In the end, it's hard to say what this guy is claiming. It's not illegal to charge $33 for a pamphlet. It is illegal to enforce a claimed ownership of a 900 year old mental mathematics trick.

     

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    John Keifer, Aug 20th, 2009 @ 11:28am

    Information Asymmetries

    The blog does not involve IP law. It is someone who has a method that he is willing to share for payment. He is looking to capitalize on an information asymmetry and nothing more.

     

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    jake, Jul 19th, 2011 @ 1:42pm

    Yeah... just because you multiplied two 4 digit numbers, doesn't mean you can multiply any number using the method. You have to give a proof before you claim that. There are plenty of "public domain" fast multiplication methods (and non-copyrightable I might add) that can do this only within a specific range of numbers. When you travel outside the range, it fails. Unless there is a formal proof, I'm not paying $33.00 for it.

    Also, how can you copyright a formula that is "in your head"? U.S. copyright law only applies to writings or works that are "physically rendered" such as software code. You can't copyright something that is floating around in your brain unless you write it down, and if you do write it down I would find it hard to believe that it wouldn't be disseminated through word of mouth (which is not copyrightable because saying something isn't physical).

    Also, this came from Faux News. Proceed with caution.

     

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