Which Causes More Harm: Copyright Or Patents?
from the hard-to-choose dept
There are many Types of Intellectual Property, and all of them are bad, and most of them are getting worse and expanding. The worst two by far are patent and copyright. Some say the patent system is worse than copyright, because most innovations are inevitable anyway and there is no independent inventor defense, whereas it’s unlikely someone else would independently write Romeo and Juliet (of course, Shakespeare had no copyright and he borrowed freely from previous stories, but let’s not let facts get in the way of the romanticized notion of copyright). This argument overlooks the fact that copyright prohibits not only literal copying but non-literal copying of “similar” aspects of the copyrighted work and also the making of derivative works.In the end, he plumps for copyright, and gives three main reasons.
Others think copyright is worse because it lasts longer, for example.
Length. The patent term is about 17 years, while copyright usually lasts over 100 years (life of author plus 70 years).It's interesting that there hasn't been the same push to lengthen the patent term in the same way as for copyright. Is that just because it needed companies like Disney with skilful lobbyists to push through legislation extending copyright, or is there some reason that people feel that the heirs of artists have a greater "right" to this protracted monopoly than the heirs of inventors?
Trends. Copyright law keeps getting worse, while patent law has been basically the same for a while now, and in fact has slightly improved–in recent years it’s more difficult to get injunctions; and the recent patent reform law, the America Invents Act, actually added a general prior commercial user defense, the first significant legislative improvement to patent law … ever.Again, is that simply a function of corporate greed being more prevalent in the copyright industries? Or maybe it's because there is a greater concentration of power in the world of music or films, say, that makes it easier for a few corporations to exert pressure on politicians. There is no equivalent concentration in the patent world. In fact, there is a very clear tension between different sectors – the pharmaceutical industries just can't get enough patent power, whereas the computer industry is far less enthusiastic.
Taxation versus Censorship, the Police State, and Regulation of the Internet. The patent system imposes costs of at least $100 billion a year, by reducing innovation and competition. So it basically acts like a tax. It’s bad, it impoverishes us, it slows things down. But it’s just another tax.The Internet works by copying files multiple times as they are transmitted across the network. Everything we look at online is a copy. So there is a fundamental dissonance between copyright, a monopoly that seeks to stop people from copying, and the Internet, which is built on it.
The copyright system, by contrast, besides imposing untold billions of cost on the economy, consumers, and artistic creation, and distorting the entire domain of creative works, is also being used as an excuse by the state to increase its surveillance, warrantless searches and seizures, punitive bans of people from the Internet without due process, censorship, cutting off websites accused of piracy, and control and regulation of the Internet and related technologies. As the Internet is one of the most significant tools ever to emerge to help people battle the state and communicate and learn and spread ideas, this is very chilling. In the name of stopping copyright piracy, the state is trying to squash mankind’s greatest anti-state weapon. Taxes are bad, but killing or restricting the Internet is just horrible.
This explains why previous laws to stamp out online copyright infringement have failed: it's inherent in the system. It also helps us understand why the latest iteration of those laws – E-PARASITE/SOPA – is about destroying the Internet as we know it. Turning the clock back really is the only way of preserving copyright's 18th century approach to controlling copies.
Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and on Google+