The idea of patents wasn't exactly new in Watt's time, as patents had been around since the Middle Ages in the form of letters patent. Those were basically complete monopolies granted by kings to certain merchants, who were the only ones allowed to trade or invent in a certain area. Of course the kings received huge profits by sharing a cut of the obscene wealth gathered by those merchants.
The patents in Watt's time were under the newly codified and reformed patent system from Queen Anne's time (yes her), which are similar to what we have today. In contrast to the medieval patents that preceded them, these patents were actually allowed to expire after a certain period, so perhaps there's a case to be made that even though Watt's patents delayed the Industrial Revolution by several decades, the fact that patents were no longer perpetual is what eventually let us move forward.
So now every time you think about the 20-year delay between the granting and expiration of a patent, think of it as a 20-year dark age waiting to end. That's the true effect of monopolies on progress.
We just need another brave reformer who isn't afraid to stick his neck out, who'll finish what Queen Anne started so long ago. The story for copyright is similar, though the dark age lasts quite a bit longer.
In a state where greed is glorified, money is an ideological goal, albeit a morally bankrupt one. In both cases, the end result is exactly the same: more power to the powerful elite, less power to the powerless peasants.
There are various formulations of this problem, and what Mike says is indeed correct. You could even have a single monkey typing away for infinite time, if you want. You don't need both infinite time and infinite monkeys.
The moral of the story is that as the number of monkeys tends to infinity, the amount of time needed tends to zero (1 attempt -- and vice versa). Infinite monkeys would produce the works of Shakespeare immediately. And of course, given a sufficiently long amount of time it's almost certain that even a single monkey could do it.
The moronic comment in question was actually posted by one of the Anonymous trolls, and then the Anonymous trolls went and reported it to the government??
I've said this before, and I'll say it again. Some of these people sound like crazy stalker types and they might actually mean you harm, Mike. Having a troll infestation is one thing, but if they are trying to get Techdirt into trouble things are a lot more serious!
I disagree with part of your comment. My definition of marketing involves both finding and keeping customers, and I believe that marketing done right doesn't require any suckering.
In this particular case, however, I agree. Not only did the publisher fail to find the right customers, the ones they did get were left disappointed because they were essentially lied to.
Overall, this was just a terrible business decision that ignored the author's wishes and tried to sell the wrong thing to the wrong people for quick and dirty profit.
If you look at the bigger picture, to the publisher an author is no different than a sack of potatoes. They sell hard to shift as much product as they can before it goes out of date, and whatever's left is sent to the landfill of out-of-print books.
A quick search on Amazon gives this listing of her work. The top book is called "It's A Man's World" and the cover has the "slender legs" she talks about in the article.
The product description starts like this:
This is womenís fiction with bite! Join Alexa as she battles her way through the chauvinistic lads magís industry and makes real progress - it might be a manís world, but it takes a woman to run it.
The marketing does totally make her book sound like chick lit, doesn't it? But, let's look at the reviews to get some perspective; the worst one (2 stars), while praising her writing, says:
It's A Man's World wasn't the book I was expecting. Reading the synopsis, I expected a male vs female battle-of-the-sexes type novel where Alexa had to strive to make her mark in the male-dominated environment of Banter, a lads mag. And whilst Alexa does strive to make her mark, it was nowhere near how I expected it to be. Instead, It's A Man's World is one long, epic tale of how, frankly, lads mags are ruining the world. So where I was expecting a relatively lightish read, instead I get something more hard-hitting and something infinitely harder to take than I'd have liked.
She is completely in the right to be angry with her publisher because they totally failed to find her market -- when she has readers complaining about the misleading advertising it means her publisher really screwed up the marketing!