Ridiculous

Techdirt reports on a fairly disturbing new development in the world of patent lawsuits.

Would I be right in thinking the possibility of doing something like this is a relatively recent development? Or is this simply the result of an exponential curve that started over a hundred years ago? Certainly, the emergence of Big Content as a powerful lobby group in the US over the last thirty years or so (RIAA, MIAA, etc), combined with a vast increase in the amount of IP-related litigation (250% increase in the US Federal Courts between 2000-2006) and the exceptional length of copyright terms has turned IP law from something that feasibly (although arguably) protected creators into a giant stick used to beat a cash cow.

I’m not meaning to gloss over the difference between patent-based IP and copyright-based IP, but this is a social trend which shifts the focus of the intellectual property away from its intended purpose of “promoting innovation” which is “for the benefit of society”. The fact that nobody can now touch anything made since 1915 with any certainty that it is in the public domain is a travesty. This issue is pretty exhaustively documented/ranted about elsewhere on the interwebz.

This is almost certainly not what Thomas Jefferson had in mind. He even says so in his blog post of 13 August, 1813.

But then, I guess this is nothing new. Businesses have been using lawyers to screw each other for a long time now. One of the terrible things about late capitalism is the paradox introduced by the following:

1. making money is good, by any legal means necessary.
2. in an effort to minimise collateral damage from (1.), governments introduce regulations or protections.
3. any given regulation can be used as a weapon to attack somebody else. In accordance with (1.), above, any given regulation almost certainly will be used as a weapon in litigation.

The paradox being, of course, that increasing regulation actually increases collateral damage, by providing the tools. It’s like trying to stop gang violence by giving everybody guns. I often wonder if there’s any way out of this other than a court standing up and saying “Actually, no, you’re being a moron”. And then, perhaps it’s much too late for that, insofar as courts are bound by precedent.

Regardless, Intellectual Property needs a shake-up. Preferably sometime before we lose a century of science and culture. Y’know, like, twenty years ago.

Incidentally, anybody who hasn’t read Lawrence Lessig’s book Free culture should do so. It can be downloaded for free under a creative commons license from here.

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3 Comments

  1. scott mc laughlin

     /  March 3, 2010

    “1. making money is good, by any legal means necessary.
    2. in an effort to minimise collateral damage from (1.), governments introduce regulations or protections.
    3. any given regulation can be used as a weapon to attack somebody else. In accordance with (1.), above, any given regulation almost certainly will be used as a weapon in litigation.”

    1a. if the means is illegal, lobby the government to change the law.

    Reply
    • SoundisGrammar

       /  March 3, 2010

      Yeah, totally, although I didn’t really want to get into that! 🙂

      Reply
  2. Schumpeter and Stigler predicted such effects in the post World War II era, of government and mega corporations holding each other up.

    Reply

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