IP…We own everything!

Why I oppose intellectual property rights…In its present form

In a recent decision a U.K. judge determined that a photo violated the copyright of another for having a similar look and feel.

[See discussion at DPReview.com, one of the best sites on the web for digital camera and lens reviews.]

But a simple Google search reveals that this is both a common subject matter and a common processing technique. There are hundreds if not thousands of like photos. This example greatly exemplifies the flawed nature of our intellectual property laws in Western society. And while this is a U.K. court decision. Realize that much of the IP laws in the Western World are pushed by the same media conglomerates. Many of the laws are similar because they are driven by the same interests. Namely, U.S./Western corporate cartels which pressure/buy-off U.S. legislators who then pressure other nations to adopt the laws that the copyright cartels have paid our legislators to pass.

Recently, we saw an amazing thing happen in politics regarding the proposed SOPA/PIPA bills. We witnessed a huge industry with a massive and entrenched lobbying arm that has been purchasing politicians for years received the biggest public smackdown in history.

We saw politicians discover the game has dramatically changed. And that the internet industry is not to be taken lightly. How did this come about?

Simple, some of the biggest sites staged a campaign of awareness and service removal. Sites such as Wikipedia became inaccessible. Many other popular sites had intro pages one had to click through in order to continue. Many blogs and smaller internet sites were adding to the mojo. I myself did not, as the determination of the vote had already been turned and the bill was no longer going to pass or be a threat in it’s present form.

In fact, the demonstration of power by the internet industry was very hedged. They new they had already won weeks ago. They did it more so as a demonstration. And yet that simple demonstration sent ripples waves through the entire political system. Imagine what would have happened if Google and Amazon actually shut down access to their entire systems for one day.  For those unaware, a huge portion of the internet runs on Amazon’s Cloud Service, including big companies such as Netflix.

But why is this happening? Where is this war brewing from? And who is right? What is causing this chaos?

I believe that it is due to a universal hegemony of thought control and ownership. Most people have been taught that intellectual property is property and that it can be stolen, and must be protected. But few are introduced to the concepts surrounding the establishment of intellectual property laws, and what their purpose is.

Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the United States Constitution states
“To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries”

No where was the intention of IP to protect monetary profit of cartels.  But that is what it has become.

A couple of key elements are including in that clause. To Promote progress of science & arts. Secure for a limited time. Authors & inventors. Writings and discoveries.

First clause states the reason: “To promote progress”, as such, if the law is not promoting progress one can deem it to be failing it’s purpose.

When a company like Google spends $8 billion dollars buying a company such as Motorola for the sheer reason to shield themselves from legal lawsuits by Apple and Microsoft, one truly has to question is progress being impeded?

The situation has become akin to a game of Jenga. So many blocks stacked on top of one another that to remove one causes the entire tower to fall down.

Second, “for a limited time”, if this is not met than the law is in violation of the passage that grants it authority.

Disney has pushed for copyright extensions. Largely to prevent Mickey Mouse and others of it’s work from entering public domain. Originally the laws specified up to 28 years for a copyright. This has continualy been extended to the point that it now lasts for 120 year or 70 years after death of author. It is hard to refer to such as “a limited time” when it exceeds the lifespan of humanity.

The result is that nothing is entering the public domain. No new works are becoming freely available to the benefit of humanity.

But why should they? I am sure some of my capitalist minded friends believe that they should be owned and profited by in perpetuity. But the problems is that ideas and invention derive and build upon each other. If you apply universal unending copyright law throughout history, you create a system that not only doesn’t promote progress but makes it impossible.

Disney, a stuanch financer of perpetual copyrights built itself on the creative ideas of others Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, Little Mermaid, Snow White, Pinnochio, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Sword in the Stone, Aladdin,….shal I go on and on? Their success is built on the creativity of others.

Likewise with invention. The automobile cannot be constructed without the gear. No gear without the invention of the wheel. A perpetual right and exclusion results in an end of progress.

Next part of the clause we look at addresses who was to benefit “Authors and Inventors”.

Is this being held true today? Who is benefitting? While the Recording Industry Association of American (RIAA) likes to talk about theft and piracy. Anyone familiar with the history of RIAA knows that few have ever stolen more from the artists. An industry cartel that is famed not just for failing to pay artists their due but for being gatekeepers who controlled the industry forcing all artists (until very recently) to go through them in a process where the artists lost much of the right to their creative works.

Likewise in the industry of invention. Very few individuals are receiving patents. It has become a facet of society only accessible to the corporation entity. Even when an individual conceives of some new ‘thing’, it often becomes the property of the employer. Inventors are more often than not laid off after the completion of their design rather than profiting by it and being able to further their inventive skills.

Furthermore, everything has become patentable, or ownable. T-Mobile claims to own a shade of pink and will sue any business that uses it. Amazon believes they have the sole right to check out a user with a single click. Billions of dollars are being spent on patent wars in our court systems, many of which are over intuitive logical progression of thought. For example, a few decades ago the internet was created. Several thousand years ago auctions were created. Yet somehow the idea of an auction on the internet is worthy of the granting of a patent. Newspapers have been around. Now there are e-readers. Does the mere publishing on a newspaper on a new technology constitute invention? I do not think so.

But here is a bigger problem. Invention is becoming the exclusive right of big companies. I have ideas. Ideas I’ve had for years. Some potentially patentable, but I cannot afford the approx. cost of $10,000 to file a patent. Even $1,000 to file a provisional patent is outside the scope of many. Most of my ideas I am not seeking to profit by, and would gladly put into public domain for others to use. Yet our Patent office does not facilitate such, quite the opposite. The swamped patent office doesn’t even really vet most submissions. They collect their money and let tax payer dollars be wasted in the court system by frivolous lawsuits. Which are often won due to the ignorance of judges on these matters. (As seen in the example at top.)

IP laws are becoming stronger and stronger and covering broader and broader applications. While at the same time they are being consolidated in ownership. A handful of industry agents control a large portion of the new creative and innovative works.

Realize that in 2009 there were 482,871 patents filed. Of that, 4,914 were filed by IBM. Literaly 1% of all patents gained in 2009 was by a single company. Talk about being the 1%.

New legislation, such as the America Invents Act will only further this divide. Raising costs of filing patents AND making America a “first to file” nation. Which means while you’re trying to perfect your idea and raise the cash to file, someone with deep pockets could copy your idea and file before you and own your invention.

The scenario has the potential to be even more grave in the future. Some may wonder “Why is a gun blog, talking about copyright?” Besides the fact that many of us bloggers have to dance the line or risk litigation.  I view Intellectual Property as one of the most dangerous threats to society with the potential danger from it only being surpassed by slavery.

What….I’m crazy…or sure sounds like it. And you might be right. But hear me out.

Recent advancements in technology have begun to allow us to understand the brain in a much greater way. Already we’re starting to see prosthetics controlled by the mind. Replacement mechanical eyes that allow the brain to see. There has even been progress made in “reading one’s thoughts”. Granted, all these technologies are very rudimentary. But in 40 years they could become commonplace. What happens if iPhone are no longer in your hand, but in your head. Perhaps even with extra memory storage for your brain. What happens when you whistle that song? Or that tune gets stuck in your head. Suddenly, you might find yourself owing money to a copyright cartel because you saw a trailer for the new Smurfs movie and now you can’t get that stupid song out of your head “La la la la la”.

But the truth is, that Intellectual Property, if not checked and balanced has the potential to become a form of slavery. One in which your thoughts and ideas are owned, and the mere engaging of such creativity could cost you money.

That kind of tyranny, would require an over-throw by force and arms if necessary. Such a world would not be one I would want to live in or see my children subjected too.

Thankfully, with the recent (re)action on SOPA/PIPA, I have a small hope that we might be able to start bringing some sanity and balance to intellectual property laws. Sadly, I think it will be slow and a long time coming.

There are better solutions. One’s that would achieve the goals stated in the Constitution far better, encouraging progress, benefitting the inventors and artists and fostering a more open business climate. One such concept would only allow individuals to acquire patents. And would merely provide a tax break to whatever company employed the patent holder. This strategy does not preclude another company from building and selling a better mousetrap. It just let’s the company that employs the patent holder have a competitive edge. And would create a system where inventors are kept employed, and given freedom and funds to further invent. As opposed to our current system which encourages inventors to be discarded.

And while it is more complex issue that a simple post can detail, and would require a more complex solution. The real point here is that there are serious problems with the present system that are not being addressed, while at the same time new law after new law is being passed to further the divide from original intention to present.  This has been allowed to happen largely because the common person is unfamiliar with the argument.

Downloading is stealing, right?  Really, stealing deprives another of their object. Downloading cloning. What happens when you can simply print a car or a house.  That’s crazy right? What if I told that such technology was potentially right around the corner?

When we create laws. We need to be forward thinking, and consider how these laws will affect the future – both for good and for bad.   

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Published in: on January 26, 2012 at 3:34 pm  Leave a Comment  
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