IP Protection ...

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From: John Hall (johnhall@xythos.com)
Date: Thu May 10 2001 - 16:26:17 PDT

Michael McLay wrote:
> On Thursday 03 May 2001 18:51, you wrote:
> > Yes, it is a huge deal. A company is a collection of individuals
> > (employees) financed by another group of individuals (investors) that
> > survives by satisfying the goals and aspirations of another group of
> > individuals (customers). The transactions in that chain by definition
> > everyone in that chain better off than they otherwise would be.
> No, it only makes those who are capable of paying for the right to use the
> secret technology 'better off". See Jefferson's remarks on how sharing
> knowledge is like sharing a flame with someone. It doesn't deminish the
> flame to share it with someone, just like sharing knowledge doesn't
> knowledge. When knowledge is shared, like it was by Newton, Einstein, and
> IETF participants, then everyone in the world benefits. When knowlege is
> hidden in the trap called binary software protected by "intellectual
> property" laws then the only one to benefit are the people who control the
> access ot the knowledge contained in the source code.

Complete BS. The central flaw occurs when you assume that IP protection has
no relationship to the protection of IP. No protection equals damn near
zero IP.

There is nothing STOPPING you from discovering your own IP and sharing it
with the world. IP laws only prevent you from stealing the work of other
people without paying for it.

BY DEFINITION anyone paying for IP is better off than they would have been
otherwise. Nobody buts a gun to their head and demands they buy a piece of
software. Again, each and every individual in the chain I mentioned is
better off, along with other people that become better off due to the
general wealth increase. Which is, namely, everyone.

> So know when Acme
> Software decides to stop selling product X the knowledge contained in that
> product simply disappears.

Not that this is a significant loss, otherwise Acme would never have stopped
selling the product.

> The Constitution did not intent knowlege to be
> considered a "property" in the same sense as physical property.

The Constitution is properly silent on the issue. It only granted the
ability to protect intellectual property as a general grant of authority to
the federal government because it was seen as beneficial to society. Which,
of course, it has been.

> The fact that open source code exists in
> abundance proves that the copyright laws do not need to protect the source
> code in order to encourage people to produce software.

Of course few people run open source in comparison to closed source, and
much of the open source software available involves clones of work done
originally in closed source environments.

Your objection to IP protection is not based upon protecting open source,
open source is doing fine. Your objection is that it allows people to
produce a product and make a living doing so. You would rather steal their
work, or have them not do it at all. That is hardly a defense of individual

> > Protecting property increases the value of all property, and results in
> > more of it, for another group of individuals (the human race).
> That's bullshit. Especially in the context of so-called "intellectual
> property".

It is just Econ 101. You ought to try taking it sometime.

> Try this restatement:

It wasn't a restatement. The key in the above sentence is the definition of
property and making something property. The 'hiding' aspect of it isn't why
it works.

> It isn't IP, that is important to improving the human condition. It is
> knowledge that is important.

Knowledge is IP. And with the protection of IP you get more IP (knowledge)
than you otherwise would. Far more.

> The primary reason people live longer today is because of improvements
> at the turn of the century that targeted public health problems and
> of improvements in the food supply.

All a product of being wealthier.

> When Bill
> Gates complains about people stealing his "property" he is twisting

Property sold under a contract. The theft is in breaking the contract.

You are free not to buy his software. But agreeing to purchase a license
his conditions, and then violating that license, is theft with a capital T.

> My, my, the world would
> probably fall apart within the week.

You can live off of a societies past for awhile, witness the various
communist experiments. It is the replacement of the things that are
consumed, and the lack of new creation, that causes such experiments to
'fall apart'.

> There have been many very important contributions to the world made by
> who gained no compensation for the knowledge they created. Is that fair?

Yes, though not material. Yes.

> Today drug
> companies will let people die of aids simply because those people in poor
> countries are unable to pay the government enforced monopoly prices (20
> the cost of production) to the drug companies. This episode in humanity
> probably be compared to the holacost by future generations. Are they
> fair?

Without the drug companies, there would have been no effect drugs to fight
aids at all. Yes, they are being fair. I see no moral problem in not
selling drugs to people who can't afford to pay for them.

That doesn't prevent YOU from buying the drugs for them, but you don't want
to do that, do you? You want to steal the work of other people. Why aren't
you sitting in a lab trying to come up with a new aids therapy?

You focus is misplaced. You should be noting the people that today survive
because of these aids drugs. Without the ability to sell the products of
their research, those drugs would have never seen the light of day.

Nothing was stopping an African from creating the drug therapies and giving
the discovery away. But that didn't happen.

> The profit motive is not the only motive for humans.

No, but it is a major one. And it while it doesn't prevent love from
working, it works when love doesn't. The larger the social unit, the more
the profit motive is the dominant motive.

> The improvements that
> were fundamental to increasing the lifespan of humans

Was directly tied to the increase in wealth associated with the profit

Note the different lifespans in wealthy countries vs. poor ones, despite the
same knowledge base and potential for government actions.

> With the 17 year duration it
> is effectively an unlimited duration on technology that will cease to
> before the patent runs out.

Hardly. The duration is 17 years. Your complaint is that the knowledge
won't have much value after 17 years, and I fail to see the point or the

> The Sonny Bono act extended it to 90 years so Disney wouldn't have the
> copyright run out on Micky Mouse.

You have a point there, though trademarks are / should be forever.

> When was the last time Microsoft was responsive to your demands?

In terms of building products that have a great deal of value to me and that
I pay for? No other software company on earth is even remotely close.

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