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Fair IP Laws? 723

Posted by Cliff
from the injecting-sanity-into-copyrights-and-patents dept.
epsalon asks: "Most of us are against the current status of Copyright and Patent law, and are outraged from stuff like the DMCA, SSSCA, et al. We know that this system is wrong, and must be changed. However, nullifying all IP laws is IMHO a bit too strong, because there will be no incentive to create anything for mass market sale except out of goodwill, or for leveraging other revenue (aka Linux). Assuming you could rewrite the entire world IP law, and even create a new social system, my question is: What laws can be written that will be fair both to content creators and to users, while cutting the middleman?" Here's your chance to do something other than complain about the current state things. How would you revise or restructure IP and copyright law to make both sides of the fence happy?
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Fair IP Laws?

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  • I would really like to see a period of public review prior to issuance
    • We'd need to see something a lot more specific than that...

      Would issues be required to be addressed? Would there have to be a certain minimum amount of feedback on EVERY patent (because let's face it, some things are sufficiently obscure that few people if any will bother or even be able to comment)? Would a popular "vote" against the patent's validity be sufficient to prevent it from being awarded?

      I'd require at least prior art claims to be addressed by the applicant, if they meet some hard-and-fast criteria in terms of verifiability (especially if the prior art isn't itself patented).

      Xentax
    • Re: Public Review (Score:3, Insightful)

      by kogs (221412)

      Once a patent application is published, anyone can send prior art to the relevant patent office. This is one of the reasons that patent applications are generally published.

      However, you've got to provide the evidence.

  • by Kohath (38547) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @03:08PM (#3560279)
    What was wrong with the laws we had 10 years ago? IP owners got protection, but didn't get to run your life. Sounds roughly fair to me.

    Didn't the patent office used to more-or-less do their job correctly back then too?
    • Well, things are moving a bit faster than they were 10 years ago. More people have computers, we have the Internet which has changed everything, and technology is booming in directions no one had dreamed of 10 years ago.

      Things are being patented, today, like gene sequences garnered from unsuspecting patients, new forms of life, processes which are a natural progression of technology (these patents tend to block progress) like hyperlinks or links to certain forms of content or content delivery systems.

      I think that a period of public review for patents (suggested by another reader on Slashdot) is a great idea. There is a fly in the buttermilk though... full public disclosure may be unwelcome to the pantent applicant.

      If only we had cloned Albert Einstein - then we'd have a great Patent Office Clerk.
    • Didn't the patent office used to more-or-less do their job correctly back then too?

      Unfortunately, no (not if your conception of what they should be doing is anything like mine). The difference is this: a few decades ago, it was not generally thought that you could patent software or methods of doing business, so very few patents were applied for, and granted, for these things. Today, these areas are patented quite regularly, these areas impact the growing information technology sector, and people are up-in-arms about it.

      The problem, however, is not that there is something intrinsically worse about patenting software or methods of doing business, it is just that the impact of patents (which is to screw lots of people for the benefit of a few) are felt by many more people today, given the widespread patenting in these areas. While it may have seemed like the patent system worked a few decades ago, you likely wouldn't think that if you were one of the people who had their entire business taken away because of a patent you had never heard of (and had no reason to know of). Before we jump to the conclusion that patents are just fine over there, in that other field where we don't try to make our living, stop to think how you'd feel if you were one of the folks working in that field.

      I am happy to see people waking up to the fact that something is terribly wrong with the patent system, but just because fewer people got ensared by it back in the good 'ole days doesn't mean that it was any better (structurally) than it is today.

      -Steve (a former patent attorney)

  • by pnatural (59329) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @03:10PM (#3560292)
    "First thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers."

    --Shakespeare, King Henry VI, Part II, IV, ii

    Yes, yes, I know the quote is out of context, but it's still damn insightful.
    • by ari{Dal} (68669) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @03:17PM (#3560352)
      Having studied law in a previous incarnation, I think we should look at the ramifications of such actions before beginning the slaughter.

      1st, we'd decimate the government. As we all know. most of em have at least some kind of legal training.

      2nd, we'd lose the entire justice system. Everyone would be gone except for the cops. And who'd keep them in line?

      3rd, we'd certainly end up living in a rampant, copyright infringing society where p2p ruled all.

      Having said all this, I say we start at the student level and work our way up. That way, we get some practice in on the lower echelons before moving up to the big time. Now where'd I store my shotgun shells...?
      • 1st, we'd decimate the government. As we all know. most of em have at least some kind of legal training.

        2nd, we'd lose the entire justice system. Everyone would be gone except for the cops. And who'd keep them in line?

        3rd, we'd certainly end up living in a rampant, copyright infringing society where p2p ruled all.


        So... you are saying the lawyers are already dead?
    • I've only met two groups in the business community that in general think logically, engineers and lawyers, though only the engineers base their ideas on reality.

      If we kill all the lawyers, we'll end up with more marktroids and PHBs.

      Joe
  • The best change that could be made to IP laws would be to speed up the time that it takes a work to enter the public domain. Maybe 10 years or so of protection would be good -- after that, no more protection.

    Content providers would still have an incentive to create content -- lots of money could be made during that 10 year period. But overall, this would drastically reduce the bad consequences to the public from IP laws.
  • by Pop n' Fresh (411094) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @03:11PM (#3560305)
    It was originally designed to balance the rights of the copyright holder against those of the public, and the interests of creating an 'intellectual commons'. If we could just strip away all the BS the content industry has tacked onto copyright law over the years and go back to what we started with, that would be an improvement. Isn't the expiration of copyright now almost as long as it's been since Jefferson died?
    • by MoneyT (548795) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @03:55PM (#3560690) Journal
      How about making copywrites non-transferable. The creator of something retains the original copy write. If they decide they want to be paid for their product, they can sell a copy of such a product to someone. They can arbitrarily decide whether or not a certain use of their invention violates the copywrite. That way, those people that want to keep their ideas to themselves can, and those that want to allow their stuff to be availible can. Instead of RIAA deciding that downloading the songs is bad, let the artists decide. And let them take the people to court. Everyone should be able to decide what happens to their own inventions, not some corporation, not some publisher, the individual. And when the individual dies, the item becomes public domain, none of this stuff where Michael Jackson owning the rights to the beatles music.
  • by Bonker (243350) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @03:11PM (#3560306)
    In the first place, it was created to protect individuals against corporations. Now it's used by corporations to take advantage of individuals. There are just too many advantages to having no restriction on the flow of information. As the poster put it 'leveraging other business' should be the only way people who make information, be it text, code, music, etc... make money. It's the way I and everyone I work with makes money.

    It's also the way I spend a great deal of my free time [furinkan.net].

    Patents, copyrights, and 'intellectual property' has got to go. If not, then when we, as a society, manage to convert fully to a non-scarcity based economy, those who have the ownership rights to information will be kings and everyone else will be paupers.

    I wrote an essay for my website about this subject some time back. You can find it here:

    http://www.furinkan.net/display.php?pageid=75 [furinkan.net]

    The one exception that I would make to getting rid of all IP laws is the use of Trademarks. These are less in the way of making a piece of information which *should* be able to be copied freely uncopiable, but is a lot more about an individual or a business uniquely identifying themselves.

    Other than that, IP law has got to go. End of story.
    • The problem with your plan is that there would be no sharing of information. If you outlaw intellectual property, then there is very little incentive to share ideas with others. That would basically mean that companies and people would hide their ideas, and much time would be wasted by having multiple companies repeatedly inventing the same things.

      The idea of intellectual property laws is to encourage sharing of ideas by granting exclusivity to the creator for a limited amount of time. I believe that idea has been corrupted by corporate interests, but I don't think we should throw out the baby with the bath water.
      • If you outlaw intellectual property, then there is very little incentive to share ideas with others.



        And this is different what what's happening right now, how?

        The idea behind a patent is that anyone can license the information that a patent protects, right? Why then do pharmeceutical companies refuse to license drugs to third-world countries? (Don't tell me that its because those countries can't afford them. If you don't lower your price to the maximum limit a customer can afford, then you're losing a sale.)

        Same way with the music industry. The current licensing schema with DRM and the recent webcasting descision is not designed to make the information in the form of music shareable and profitable. It is designed to keep the music firmly in the hands of the record industry so that they have unquestionable control over it.

        That's what it boils down to really. Anyone who follows the current IP debates will readily agree. It's not about money, or making information available. It's about control and power, plain and simple.

        The idea of intellectual property laws is to encourage sharing of ideas by granting exclusivity to the creator for a limited amount of time. I believe that idea has been corrupted by corporate interests, but I don't think we should throw out the baby with the bath water.

        Information is power. I beleive very firmly that as long as any method exists for the rich and powerful to influence laws, that they will do their best to 'extend' laws that make information artificially scarce in order to increase their own powers.

        This is not a case of throwing out the baby with the bathwater, but amputating the baby's infected, cancerous limb in order to save its life.
      • The problem with your plan is that there would be no sharing of information. If you outlaw intellectual property, then there is very little incentive to share ideas with others. That would basically mean that companies and people would hide their ideas, and much time would be wasted by having multiple companies repeatedly inventing the same things.

        It is possible that the economic inefficiency involved in a certain amount of reverse-engineering would be less (indeed, much less) than the economic inefficiency inherent to the thought-monopoly regime. Yes, reverse engineering takes time and effort, but perhaps this time and effort would be less expensive and more rewarding, both to its direct beneficiaries and to society at large, than the various costs of thought-monopoly.

        What you call "intellectual property", recall, is merely a form of governmentally enforced monopoly on the application of thought, hence my term thought-monopoly. Like any other monopoly, or any other use of government force, it creates economic inefficiencies. The "social contract" backing this monopoly -- as represented in the U.S. Constitution's copyright clause -- is predicated on the belief that the benefits of this monopoly outweigh its costs. This is not a necessarily true claim, and where and when it is not true, thought monopoly is demonstrably unjustifiable on economic grounds.

        (I set aside the question of whether thought monopoly is justified, or even permitted, on moral or "natural rights" grounds. I happen to believe it isn't, but I think the economic argument, being a scientifically investigable one, is more likely to be convincing than the moral one.)

    • it does not have to go. it just needs to be restricted to small amounts of time.

      I think Software needs to be defined as one thing or the other. it is either an invention, hence the patent, or it is a peice od art, hence the copyright.

      there than that, I think the patent laws need to be revised for the speed of our society na dshould be shortened to 10 years. also, I think copyright needs to only last 14 years with one renewable 14 year term. that keeps artists pumping out work on a regular basis, and also adds plenty of work to the public domain in a short amount of time.

      a fair balence is what we need. not an off balence. abolishing IP is as bad for the creators as having the SSSCA is for the consumers. IP at the minimum guarantees that the creator is given the public credit for the work.
    • I wrote an essay for my website about this subject some time back. You can find it here:

      http://www.furinkan.net/display.php?pageid=75 [furinkan.net]


      Your analogies in this essay are either incorrect or irrelevant.


      The prehistoric example is simple. A refugee from a war loses most of his tribe to the invading barbarians, but manages to escape to the next village. If he tells those people of the invasion and moves on, they will help themselves by preparing for the fight or evacuating, and probably taking the refugee with them out of thanks or desire for his experience. If he were to stop at the village, get food and water, and then leave without telling everyone of the approaching ruin, the survivors of the resulting carnage would probably not be so kindly disposed towards him.


      This makes no sense whatsoever. It means nothing to IP law. In the above scenario, with or without IP laws, the scenario could be the same.


      A more recent example would be the various gold rushes, both with real or imagined minerals. While there was very little real gold in California, the uninhibited spread of information about all the new business opportunities in the area in the late nineteenth century turned an otherwise undesirable region into the one of the hottest business centers on the planet.


      Again, you're trying to say that somehow a lack of IP laws was responsible for the west coast's success. Wrong. The idea that gold might be out there helped, but your assertion that flow of information such as news events would not have been possible due to IP Laws is bogus.


      The concept of public libraries, which originated around a century ago, is also a clear demonstration of this fact. I don't think that there is anyone who doesn't consider the nation's public libraries to be noble institutions. When they first starting being constructed, however, the publishing industry was in an uproar. People cold go to libraries and read for free rather than pay the publishers for books. It is almost a direct mirror of the current uproar the record industry is making about MP3's and file-trading services such as Napster and Gnutella.


      Again, this is a flawed analogie. A library provides access to a single copy of a book for a single person at a single time. They paid the publisher money for that book. Napster provided access to anyone, anwhere, anytime unlimited copies of that item without ever buying that item.
      In the library example, the library increased the efficiency of the book by letting any number of people use it over it's lifetime.

      Also, the central part of your argument that infinite supply = 0 cost and that the only cost should be in delivery, is rediculous. Record companies spend money to crete music. Software companies spend money to create software. Authors and publishers spend money/time to create works.
      You're advocating a communal system that would make any career mentioned above worthless. Your delivery pipes would have NOTHING to deliver since there is no incentive to create.
    • A non-scarcity based economy assumes that there are unlimited resources, a population limited by natural means to a fixed upper limit, or that people are willing to share what resources they have freely, none of which is true.

      We don't have unlimited amounts of even the most basic necessary resources (ie., water). Our population continues to expand, usually in regions of the world that can ill afford it in the first place. We've pretty much proven that people are at the least somewhat greedy and will hog resources if they perceive a shortage.

      And we have no natural predators.

      The non-scarcity based economy will remain a fantasy for Star Trek watchers and pipe-dreamers for some centuries to come.
  • by swhalen (30377) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @03:12PM (#3560313)
    We'd be fine if we went back to the Patent and Copyright law as it existed before the recent (last 20 years) unwarranted expansion of both.

    We'd go back to the 17 year copyright with 17 year renewal, and eliminate "soft" patents including "software" patents, business process patents, etc...

    Going back to the basics on both fronts would eliminate most of our current problems.

    Our founding fathers had it right in the constitution: "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;"

    • Hear, Hear!

      I was just about to make this exact point. Copyright has worked very well in the past. It's what happens when you try to extend copyright law into something it's not that gets you in trouble -- DMCA, what not.

      And software patents are silly. Yeah, it would be nice if they could be made workable. There are fields where patents are very beneficial (pharmecueticals for one), but with software, patents don't work. Can you think of even one example of software research and development that was carried out because of patents? Patents are supposed to foster research, but it's too much of a craps game in software to be able to bet on it. So research and development isn't helped by patents on code. With software patents, then, we get all of the bad consequences of creating an intellectual monopoly, but none of the good ones. And because of the nature of the software, there is simply no way to reform the system to make it workable.
  • I wholly support the right of any copyright holder to defend their copyrighted works and pursue those responsible for violation of said works. On the other hand, the numerous extension acts for copyrights have given to much to the content creators, and too little to the content consumers. As I see it, copyright is inherently a balance between the producers and the users. It is designed to ensure that the creator is compensated for creating, and the consumer allowed to properly utilize the creation. Without such a balance, either there is no incentive to create, or no reason to use said creation. Extension acts, such as the Sonny Bono Copyright Extension Act (S.505), and the DMCA give far too much control to the content creators, thus eroding copyright law's intent, to "promote the progress of science and the useful arts."

    A fair copyright law needs to reestablish this balance, taking into account the digital revolution. There is nothing keeping congress from redesigning copyright laws for the digital age. Unfortunately, current policy seems to instead favor the opposite. The CBDTPA in particular desires to handicap the digital age in order to maintain the current copyright machinery. This is counterintuitive and an assured disaster.

    I would prapose that copyrights be granted in this way: First, draw a distinguishment between a corporation and an individual. I think that a corporation should have a smaller "term" of copyright than an individual, simply due to greater resources. This would also promote a more competitive and innovative business sector. In the same manner, place restrictions on the duration of patents based on individual inventor or corporate status. However, one should also readjust the patent lenght based on the patent itself. In particular, patents dealing with human DNA are bioinformatics research should be strictly monitored. Likewise, software patents should be limited in scope since so much of coding "innovation" relies on code reuse and modularity.

    • Edits/additions on last paragraph:
      I would prapose that copyrights be granted in this way: First, draw a distinguishment between a corporation and an individual. I think that a corporation should have a smaller "term" of copyright than an individual, simply due to greater resources. This would also promote a more competitive and innovative business sector. In the same manner, place restrictions on the duration of patents based on individual inventor or corporate status. However, one should also readjust the patent length based on the patent itself. In particular, patents dealing with human DNA or bioinformatics research should be strictly monitored. Likewise, software patents should be limited in scope since so much of coding "innovation" relies on code reuse and modularity. The bottom line: Copyright law as a whole should be redesigned to ensure that it is easier to prosecute "real" pirates while enabling the honest consumer to continue utlizing fair-use clauses in copyright law. The patent business needs to be reevaluated to ensure a firm commitment to granting patents only to truly "innovative" ideas, and without hampering future inventors with frivolous patent arguments. Basically, the system should be rewritten with a much more precise and strict version of the original goals, both with respect to copyright and patents.
      ------------rhad
  • Zoinks! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by I am the blob (239590) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @03:13PM (#3560323) Homepage
    The day we live under the assumption that financial reward is the only reason to do things is the day this society falls apart.

    Oh, wait.

    --blob
    • Re:Zoinks! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Peridriga (308995)
      Do you understand the reason why there are protections for IP?

      SO PEOPLE WILL MAKE THINGS

      Without a finiancal reward people do not do things. Do you goto work everyday wishing that you won't receive a paycheck? No, because you want to be rewarded for your efforts. If your company stopped paying you would you still work? If I were your boss I would like to challenge your ideals by halting your paychecks until you understand that people are rewarded for their actions fiscally.

      Perfect example of the failure of your statement is the USSR. No rewards for production, production fell to the point where they were completely unable to sustain themselves.

      Get educated. Read a book. If you are really intrested buy a copy of Atlas Shrugged [amazon.com]. Best 13 bucks you'll ever spend.
  • IP is too long (Score:5, Insightful)

    by conan_albrecht (446296) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @03:13PM (#3560326)
    IMHO, the techo world moves too fast for traditional IP laws. For example, copyrights on file formats should expire after 3 years or so. That way a company gets a small time to make money off of their new format (as well as permeate the market).

    But then after three years, other companies can use the format. What would the world be like if MS had to release the exact specs on .doc the same way that Adobe freely releases the specs on .pdf? WordPerfect, OpenOffice, and others could seamlessly import .doc files and people would no longer have to use Word to collaborate with others. MS would have to compete on product quality alone.

    In sum, I'm not against IP laws, but I think the time limits simply need to be (much) shorter for tech areas.
    • Re:IP is too long (Score:3, Insightful)

      by kevin42 (161303)
      You can't copyright a file format. Copyright covers content, not ideas. You can patent a file format though.
    • Re:IP is too long (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Target Drone (546651)
      It's not just the tech world that needs to have the time shortened.

      For corporations copyright used to last for 56 years from date of publication.
      Then it was extended to 75 years in 1978
      Then it was extended 95 years in 1998

      With the distribution of media getting faster and faster copyright should be getting shorter not longer. At the current rate of extensions anything created today will likely be copyrighted forever.

      How many movie or recording studios actually need 95 years to recover the cost of making a movie. If copyright were say 20 years how much money would the studios loose. I bet 95% or more of the money a film/album makes is within the first few years. Some hit movies like Star Wars continue to bring in money but the cost of creating it have been recovered many times over. I think the real reason that they don't want copyright to ever expire is because:

      1. Old content would compete with new content. Studios couldn't just put out crap and force people to pay for it because they could get the "good old" (copyright expired) stuff for free. This would force studios to create fresh innovative entertainment.
      2. If copyright expires on a movie there's nothing stopping competing studios from creating sequels to a movie. Imagine if someone (other then Disney) could create a sequel to Fantasia staring Mickey Mouse.
  • by TootsMutant (522541) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @03:13PM (#3560329)
    I'd be all in favor of all the usual stuff: limited life copyrights (some reasonable length of time), a clear definition of fair use that won't fall apart with the next change in technology... you know, that sort of thing.

    By far, the thing I'd like to see the most is for the copyrights to stay with the artist. In the system we have now, the publisher, production company, record label owns the copyright, then spends all their money trying to figure out how to get out of paying royalties to the original artist. This is not new, either (just look at some of the original jazz/blues artists). If the publishers, recording companies or studios had to license the copyright from the artist (instead of buying it for a song), perhaps they'd learn a little respect.
  • Why not go back to strict 14 years? Maybe 5 for software, since most software is obsolete after 5 years anyway - and if it isn't it's of obvious benefit to the public at large.

    The Constitution says that copyright is there to encourage creativity - and if you give someone the ability to create one thing, then sit back and rake in royalties for ever amen, there's no incentive to create any more. It's gotta expire sometime, or what's the point?

    You can't make both sides happy, because both sides are greedy and unreasonable, and won't compromise. (this is perhaps because corporate greed is driven by investor greed, and investors are consumers anyway).

    But if the system was, at one point, not broken, and is obviously NOW broken, why not go back to basics, and return to the system that was not broken?
  • by JordanH (75307) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @03:15PM (#3560341) Homepage Journal
    Seeing as the whole purpose of IP is "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;", it's absurd to hold a copyright on software for 70 or 90 years or whatever the current law holds.

    It's just way way overkill. Rather than promoting progress and the "useful Arts", the current system just extends a monopoly into the indefinite future and discourages anyone from building on your work constructively.

    Really, if you can't get enough benefit out of writing a piece of software in 10 years, then it's someone else's turn. Note that you could make modifications in those 10 years and those could be copyrighted, but let the original software go back to the public domain in a reasonable time.

    Ten years is just notional. I'm not sure where I'd set it, but I know 70 years is ridiculous and the 90 years granted to corporations (most Software copyrights on proprietary software is probably held by corporations) is even more out there.

    Software is different than other IP. It's greatest benefit to society is in it's use and in it's flexibility. A sensible policy wrt to software copyrights would encourage more flexibility and more use.

    • I agree with this but I'd go a bit farther. Software patents should be good for 2 years. I could be persuaded that 5 years might be okay. Anything longer than that is just goal tending. With the way things change rapidly in internet time, I believe a software patent should not last longer than 2 to 5 years.

      I believe other types of IP might be allowed longer life. A copyright on a piece of music or literature should not extend beyond the life of the author or composer.

      Software copyrights are another matter. I'd like to see things go into the public domain after they are no longer being marketed. I think a 10 or possibly 20 year copyright should be long enough.

      My point is that the people who create IP should get some benefit from their work. However, the point of copyright laws should also reflect the interests of the general public.

  • Reset all IP laws to what they were prior to the release of "Snow White" in theaters. Then update them to cover current (and projected future) tech.
  • Just a start... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Dr. Bent (533421) <<moc.tni> <ta> <neb>> on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @03:17PM (#3560357) Homepage
    This is a huge issue and I'm no lawyer, so I'm just going to give my opinion on once piece of this puzzle:

    EULA's are out of control, and they shield software companies from lawsuits which would motivite them to produce better software. In an effort to stop this I would propose the following:

    1) EULA's for commercial software must be agreed to BEFORE the software can be purchaced. If software companies do not provide a mechanism for this then they must allow users to return the software for a full refund.

    2) Implied warranties like the warranty of merchantability and fittness for a particular purpose cannot we waived in a commerical software EULA. Free (as in beer) software can be distriubuted 'as is', but the second you exchange money for software, you take responsibility for it functioning correctly.

    I realize that this will increase the cost of software in the short term, especially as companies scramble to get their software up to code before the changes go into effect. However the long term effect of ignoring faulty software cannot be overlooked, and the sooner we do something about it, the better.
  • by redhog (15207)
    I know thi might sound like communim or something. But it might be the only alternative:

    Remove all ip-law what so ever. Then have the state research which tunes, software programs or poems are listened to, used or read by people (same thing as companies do today, and call "market-research"), and pay the creators of those works accordingly, with tax-money. Then we can copy as much as we like. Good artists will get paid, and bad ones (the ones no-one is litening to) won't get paid...

    I think this is the only alternative to having ome middle-man RIA-workalike pirate the users/listeners.
  • by FreeUser (11483) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @03:20PM (#3560388)
    We know that this system is wrong, and must be changed. However, nullifying all IP laws is IMHO a bit too strong, because there will be no incentive to create anything for mass market sale except out of goodwill, or for leveraging other revenue (aka Linux).

    This is an assumption that is stated so often it has become arguably an axiom of intellectual property proponents.

    But, the history of the human race, indeed of our own civilization, doesn't bear it out. Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Ulysees, Shakespear, Van Gogh, Michaelangelo, and other artists too numerous to mention had all the incentive they needed to create the greatest works our civilization has ever known, all without the existence of copyright or any other form of "intellectual property."

    There are other ways to insure artists are compensated, without granting them (or, more likely, their publishers) an exclusive monopoly on their work, for any length of time.

    It is unfortunate that our society never even discussed, much less considered, alternatives to copyright when the republic was founded, instead saddling us with an approach whose original conception was designed to facilitate censorship of the press, a design flaw which a little tweaking to help give something back to the artist is insufficient to alleviate.

    We should be discussing alternatives to copyright which can be implimented to insure that artists get compensated for their work, without imposing artifical, government mandated monopolies upon our society, monopolies which are antithetical to free markets, to freedom of speech, and ultimately, to freedom itself.
    • The very reasons that the examples you cite work are the facts that they're both SO revolutionary and that the creators mentioned weren't really after making a lot of money off of them.

      For one thing, creators like Van Gogh operated under sponsorship -- they were paid to "do their thing", not for specific results. It doesn't work like that anymore.

      Many ideas created at the time were so revolutionary that no-one else could even claim to understand them; heck, half the ideas were considered, well, "crackpot" at the time they gained notice, and there's little danger in someone stealing your work if they think its madness, right?

      These days, most "breakthroughs" are more evolutionary than revolutionary in nature, and/or are the solutions to known problems (like, say, a cure for cancer). The little guy who finds the answer has little defense against the big corporation that can more quickly capitalize upon it, UNLESS it's either so "breakthrough" that they can't even do it without his help, or he gets legal recognition of the fact that he did it *first*.

      Xentax
      • Anyone who tries to capitalize on a cure for cancer should be shot dead. Period. If you're going to withold something like that because you aren't getting paid, you're an evil asswipe that should not be living.
    • But, the history of the human race, indeed of our own civilization, doesn't bear it out. Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Ulysees, Shakespear, Van Gogh, Michaelangelo, and other artists too numerous to mention had all the incentive they needed to create the greatest works our civilization has ever known, all without the existence of copyright or any other form of "intellectual property."

      That is a flawed statement, because there was no way to easily copy these works when they were created (with the possible exception of Van Gogh who did suffer problems with copy cats and poorly made copies).

      In a smaller world, it is easier to maintain control of one's intellectual property. Thats not to say that others didn't make money from the works of art (for example theater owners likely made ticket money from presenting Shakespeare), but somebody else couldn't take a play and derive profit from it without compensating or crediting the author (because everbody knew Shakesphere and his plays, just like everybody knew Beethoven and his symphonies).

      There are other ways to insure artists are compensated, without granting them (or, more likely, their publishers) an exclusive monopoly on their work, for any length of time.

      Could you please cite some examples?

      I believe that copyright law is neessesary to protect intellectual property, though I do not support recent changes in the law. I believe that Walt Disney should enjoy some protection for his mouse (but not for enternity). I believe that I should have certain rights under law if I choose to express myself artistically to protect me from others unlawfully gaining profit from my song, painting, movie, computer program, etc...

      We should be discussing alternatives to copyright which can be implimented to insure that artists get compensated for their work, without imposing artifical, government mandated monopolies upon our society, monopolies which are antithetical to free markets, to freedom of speech, and ultimately, to freedom itself.

      This would be the argument of the non creative who seek to make money from other's achievements. If you produce a song, should others gain money from your achivements? What if you are not strong enough (politically or physically) to demand payments that are yours? If there is no copyright protection, who ensures that you will receive due payment?

      And if you are a creative person that feels that these laws are too restrivtive, then by all means, release your intelletual property to the public domain without demand or setoff.

      I agree that copyright law has been abused and battered over the years. I also agree that the laws need a serious overhaul. But I do question your motives for eliminating intellectual property and copyright all together. It is my opinion that copyright law provides equal protection under the law to all who choose to use it - from the mega colglomate that copyrights a new music song, to the 69 year old grandmother that has just penned her first novel.

      I urge you to respond and defend your positions a bit closer.
    • A lot of people in this thread pointed out the obvious flaws in the parent, but there is a level of truth to it.

      You don't want your works and creations to be copied, don't make it easy to copy. If you have book, and you don't want mass copies of the original to be made, leave it as a hand written manuscript. All copies will be cheaply made imitations. Only original handwriten versions will have worth. The same goes for music, don't want it copied, leave it as sheet music only to be performed. These are ways you keep your property under control, but there is no such thing as perfect control. There will always be a copy cat somwhere, but imitation is the best form of flattery.
  • Here's mine... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Amazing Quantum Man (458715) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @03:21PM (#3560396) Homepage
    Copyright

    All copyrights must be held by a private individual. No corporate entity may hold a copyright.

    Copyright terms may vary up to a period of 17 years (depending on content type -- To Be Specified), with a single renewal for the same period of time

    Copyright expires upon the death of the copyright holder.

    Copyrights cannot be assigned to another entity

    If a work has some form of access control, that access control must be disabled when the work enters public domain

    Reverse engineering any sort of access control is legal

    Patent

    Patents must be held by individuals, not corporate entities

    Only physical objects and processes may be patented.

    (Corrolary) No patent shall be granted for algorithms or business processes

    A working implementation of the patented process must be provided (upon request of USPTO)

    Naturally occuring results of processes may not be patented (ex: DNA)

    The USPTO must conduct a good faith search for any prior art

    • "Copyright expires upon the death of the copyright holder."

      Oh hell no. I can't even begin to imagine the types of strange "accidents" that people might start to have if that happens. Especially considering the questionable activities of corporations lately.

    • Re:Here's mine... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by interstellar_donkey (200782) <pathighgate.hotmail@com> on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @03:33PM (#3560496) Homepage Journal
      All copyrights must be held by a private individual. No corporate entity may hold a copyright.

      How would that work? Large companies (like Microsoft) do, and should have a right to protect their work (although we should change the limits of that control).

      A a large software package is the result of hundreds, if not thousands of coders. If a company cannot own that copywrite, who gets control? The company president? What if he or she dies?

      What if a rock band wants to protect their work? Does the band have to sit down and decide who gets to control the copywrite?

      I like where you're going with this, I just don't see a single owner as being feasible when so much media today is the product of a collaboration of so many.
      • A a large software package is the result of hundreds, if not thousands of coders. If a company cannot own that copywrite, who gets control? The company president? What if he or she dies?

        Just guessing: when you write a function or module, you would own it forever. You could give a permanent license to your employer to use it. Of course if the licensing terms of sufficiently skewed towards the employer, they will effectively "own" it anyhow.

    • Patents must be held by individuals, not corporate entities

      Ok, so my team makes a patentable discovery, and we are granted a patent. Then, we break off from our company and start a new company and refuse to allow our former company access. Is this fair? The former comapny DID fund the project.

    • Technically (note I say technically) this is the way the system is supposed to work now, and here's the existing loopholes around some of your points, or my commentary on how I would add to what you proposed: (My comments start with -->)

      All copyrights must be held by a private individual. No corporate entity may hold a copyright.
      -->If you look at the patents now, you can see actual individual names on the patents. However, the company that employed that actual person paid for that work, and they (the corporation) take it as their property in compensation for continued employment/pay. Company X pays person Y to generate Patent Z for Company X. Then company X pays individual Y $1 + salary for Patent Z. Nasty - yes. Legal - sadly yes.

      Copyright expires upon the death of the copyright
      holder.
      --> I would not like to see this. I could imagine a whole underworld business designed to assassinate copyright/patent holders to make their work free for all. Companies with shitty business ethics might kill so they can practice a patent free of charge.

      Copyrights cannot be assigned to another entity
      -->Currently this can be done (and patents as well) under liscencing. Otherwise - you wouldn't see all the cool Star Wars toys made by Mattel, not-so-cool Episode II Crunch by General Mills, etc. Eliminate liscencing and you're limited to whoever owns the copyright having to promote and pay for all of their own stuff.

      Patent

      Patents must be held by individuals, not corporate entities
      -->See my comments above

      Only physical objects and processes may be patented.
      -->That's how it is now. If the "process" generates a "virtual object", that's covered as well.

      A working implementation of the patented process must be provided (upon request of USPTO)
      -->This I agree with completely! Currently, under US Law, you don't have to provide any working example (or proof) that your patent is real. Only novelty of idea. Europe is different where you have to prove novelty AND improvement over existing processes and materials. However, I would amend this to not be upon request, but with every patent. If you can't prove your patent isn't bullshit, you should not be granted a patent.

      Naturally occuring results of processes may not be patented (ex: DNA)
      -->Technically, chemical reactions are natural reactions, so you just threw out every single chemical process. How would one define what is natural and what is man-made (un-natural)?

      The USPTO must conduct a good faith search for any prior art
      -->The USPTO does this now for every patent they review. With every patent, in the USPTO is a "binder" which shows the prior art search (some are rather impressive and deep). However, current patent examiners ARE NOT experts in the art, so they don't know how to interpret the prior art correctly, which is why a lot of patents which are garbage get allowed, and some patents which are legit never issue. What the patent office really needs is a body of real experts who review patents for hire. The problem is finding individuals who don't have conflicting interests to review those patents.

      -->I fully agree that the current patent system (not just in the US) needs an overhaul, but mostly they just need to enforce the rules as they exist now and get better patent examiners.

    • All copyrights must be held by a private individual. No corporate entity may hold a copyright.

      This can easly be circumvented by an exclusive license, and many many other legal instruments.

      Copyright terms may vary up to a period of 17 years (depending on content type -- To Be Specified

      Any boundary you make will be blurry. What is a movie that is generated by a computer program dynamically? This is inflexible and won't scale.

      Copyright expires upon the death of the copyright holder.

      Thereby making it impossible for me to use copyrighted material as an asset? Oh brother. Your solutions are worse than the problem.

      Copyrights cannot be assigned to another entity

      See above. There are tons of legal ways to get around this... why? If I want to sell it I should be able to. It is a limited monopoly afterall, it has value, and thus I should be able to use it in the marketplace. Copyright law is silent on all of these issues for good reason.

      If a work has some form of access control, that access control must be disabled when the work enters public domain

      Good idea, hard to enforce. A better way is a registry; if you want to copyright binary source code, you must include the source code to the copyright office for escrow, as soon as the copyright expires, the source is released.

      Reverse engineering any sort of access control is legal

      Yes, withdrawing DMCA is a great idea. But I'm not certain if you can go any further. Tradesecret law is important...

      Patents must be held by individuals, not corporate entities

      They are held by individuals, they just happen to be assignable/licensed to companies.

      Only physical objects and processes may be patented.

      How do you make this distinction? A can-of-worms this is.

      No patent shall be granted for algorithms or business processes

      I'm not certain this is such a good idea, just about everything shoudl be patentable, IMHO, but only if it "advances the sciences and useful arts".

      A working implementation of the patented process must be provided (upon request of USPTO)

      This is called "reduction to practice" and it is already a requirement.

      Naturally occuring results of processes may not be patented (ex: DNA)

      Once again, it's hard to make this distinction. Any guidelines? The patent process is by necessity a one-by-one kind of thingy.

      The USPTO must conduct a good faith search for any prior art

      But they do already! They just hire idiots to do it who are impressed by anything technical sounding... the problem is more how they get funded. The funding of the PTO comes from patent applications. Thus, to get more funding, they need to increase applications. And what a better way to encourage the applications then by approving a big chunks of them.

      Perhaps a better solution is to make them accoutnable so that the PTO can be sued a fixed fee for patents which should not have been issued. This, or some other accoutability mechanism is needed to provide a dis-insentive to approve applications without doing due dillegence.

      Overall, nice ideas though. You need some serious thinking on this stuff...

    • Re:Here's mine... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MikeTheYak (123496)
      -All copyrights must be held by a private individual. No corporate entity may hold a copyright.
      -Copyright terms may vary up to a period of 17 years (depending on content type -- To Be Specified), with a single renewal for the same period of time
      -Copyright expires upon the death of the copyright holder.
      -Copyrights cannot be assigned to another entity

      All this seems unnecessarily complicated. Why not just a flat copyright term which can be transfered to any individual or corporation? Is there a reason a copyright should become less valuable toward the end of a person's life? Let it act like property; the copyright passes to the next of kin. Moreover, except for the death clause, I don't see any real difference between corporate and private ownership of a copyright, unless you just decide that you don't like corporations.

      -If a work has some form of access control, that access control must be disabled when the work enters public domain

      By who, exactly, if the author has just died? I don't think there should be an extra burden placed on anybody who creates an original work, even if they decided to encrypt it before releasing.

      -A working implementation of the patented process must be provided (upon request of USPTO)

      Disagree here, too. What about the clever inventor who has a brilliant idea but doesn't have the money to implement it? How does he keep venture capitalists from simply stealing his idea? The whole idea of patents is to provide an incentive for people to publish their ideas without the fear of having them stolen. This restriction encourages people to keep them secret until they are able to provide a (potentially very costly) implementation.

      My big beef with patents as they stand is not the patent laws themselves, but the ways that they are enforced. It is far too easy to slip a silly patent through the USPTO and far too difficult to challenge its novelty.


  • Naw, that's a stupid [earlyamerica.com] idea.
  • Reduce the duration of copyright, trademark, patent, etc. back to some smaller duration. It's more than just going back 10 years, it means going back at least 40 years, and probably 100 years or so.

    I would also be in favor of significantly shorter durations on software patents if we're going to have them (2 or 3 years max?). Of course, the best thing to do would be to eliminate them entirely, but I'm trying to be realistic (in this dream scenario ;-) ).

    For patents in general, I would suggest that we find a way to shorten the amount of time it takes for for the USPTO to turn around patent applications. It's too slow. The length of time it takes to turn around a patent applicaiton often itself leads to several kinds of abuse. I'm sorry to say that I have no meaningful suggestion on this topic, other than throw more people at it.

    I've also often thought about a Fair Use Amendment to the Constitution that would codify the basic thinking behind fair use, and would create a definition of what fair use is and why we need it as a society. Academic research, and fostering creativity need. I realize that this is controversial, and would be very difficult to properly write, let alone pass, but the existing lines in the Constitution get ignored so often because they don't come out and grant fair use.

    If a constitutional amendment is outrageous, than at least some legislation that would make it clear that no law can ignore certain basic provisions.

    Finally, I would ask that we legislate the rights of corporations by not defining them as people, and defining what rights they have. This is by far the single most onerous situation in our current legislative landscape. Corporations aren't people. They shouldn't have the same rights as you or I.

    Sujal

  • Unfortunately, it's not gonna happen. Why? Because the law moves slowly.

    One of the first lessons I learned in law school (yes i admit, i was a law student before i started a real job in programming), is that the law is like a supertanker. Big, clumsy, awkward, and once you set a course, you'd better hope no icebergs get in the way, cause it's damned difficult to change course or stop.

    Our common law system works kinda like a pecking order. The supreme courts are at the top of the order, and anything they say cannot be countermanded by lower courts. So the only way to even think about getting a law that's been given the stamp of approval by the highest court is to go through a lengthy and expensive round of appeals all the way up through the justice system. and that's only if they choose to hear the case in the end, and assuming they do hear it, that the majority changes their minds on their previous stance. They could just say 'we've already done this. we're not doing it again' and stop your appeal right there. Of course, by the time you get to this stage, most of the judges that heard the last case are probably dead of old age, and new ears are hearing it.

    So, best case scenario you try and change a law that hasn't been brought to the supreme court yet. Unfortunately the ones backing laws like the DMCA are the big boys, with deep pockets, who can afford all the highly paid, specialized lawyers they want. Most of em just keep pushing knowing that the little guy doesn't have the time or money to keep up with them. They can appeal all the way up the ladder, and wait for you to run out of money and patience. When/if that happens, they automatically win.

    Personally, I'm completely pessimistic about seeing any real changes coming our way anytime soon. It's in the best interests of the government (they do get paid to make laws like this after all), courts (who get paid to interpret the laws), and big business (who get to keep their stranglehold on everyone else) to keep things just as they are.
  • Copyright time limits should be dramatically shortened (and copyright law should punish those who violate copyright, not those who engage in actions which may lead to other people engaging in other actions which may lead to copyright infringement - but I digress). How short? IMHO maybe 20 - 25 years, but that's not based on much real analysis.

    Patent is a bit more complex - the core problem I see is that some fields (EG: computer science) are advancing so rapidly that even a 7 year patent seems astronomical. Meanwhile other fields (EG: heavy industry) are more established - patent worthy innovations are far more rare, require significantly more up-front investment, and take longer to build a market. This is problematic - 4 year patents would be insufficient for the automotive industry, but 15 year patents would strangle computer science.

    It seems that the most efficient solution would have to have different patent expiration periods for different industries. The inevitable result would be increased corruption and reliance on lawyers.
  • by Tri0de (182282) <dpreynld@pacbell.net> on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @03:29PM (#3560468) Journal
    All laws and systems exist, in the end, to ensure the Greatest Good for the Greatest Number.

    Thus the goal should be to ensure sufficent renumeration for the creators to have an incentive to create while ensuring that the products of their creativity are made available as soon as possible to serve as the foundation of further creativity.

    The question, of course, is quantification of the length of time; 3,5,7 or 99, years.
    Secondary question: should all forms of IP have the same protection? Arguably, a patent should expire, but what about a Trademark?

    IMHO the Constitution got it right with 7 years for a patent. I cannot see ANY justification whatsoever for Copyright to extend past the life of the author. Trademark *IS* important, if you buy a Plextor drive or drink Jolt you have a right to be sure that the product you get is the product you expect to get; otherwise it's fraud. But I do think that Trademark should be subject to Fair Use, especially in the realm of satire and product review.

    "Our" core geek mantra is sound "Information Wants To Be Free". The greatest good for the greatest number is best served by erring on the side of too free a dissemination of information rather than too restricted, if err we must-and err we will!
    • Arguably, a patent should expire, but what about a Trademark?

      That's a good question. One of the problems that Disney has inflicted on America is this: because it doesn't want Mickey Mouse to be used by competitors or pornographers or whatever, it is forcing all copyrights to be extended. But if Disney could protect something that has become so central to its identity without locking up everything else, that might be a great compromise. If you could revert copyright back to its original form -- 17 years plus an extra 17 years if requested -- and then let Disney put the "ears" (the round black Mickey Mouse ears) into a permanent trademark, you might be able to give Disney the lock it wants while at the same time freeing insane amounts of copyrighted material.

  • Given the opportunity, the media middlemen will outlaw or surcharge for anything resembling fair use. They seem to think that encryption and legislation will let them turn every user's activity into a revenue stream. If this becomes a "pay-per-click" world, then I'll join the opposition.

    Job #1 is to define precisely what fair use is, and to enact meaningful penalties for those companies who violate it. It might be as simple as legalizing piracy of those products that violate the "Fair Use Bill of Rights (FUBOR)". Want to market a non-standard/crippleware CD? Great, but you have no recourse against anyone when it's cracked and P2P'ed onto every PC between here and Jupiter. To me, the concepts of backup, time-shifting, space-shifting, and media-shifting are fundamental. Those distributors who play games with the fundamental principles of fair use should be left to suffer the wrath of the hacker community.

    Make no mistake, the consideration of consumers' rights is key to the process. Currently, the DMCA and other related legislation makes it a clear-cut battle of all consumers against all media distributors, or "the pirates" vs. "the greedy sleazebags". The current one-sided approach to legislation is not going to achieve voluntary compliance. Anyone who chooses to crack, copy, and distribute their media will think of their actions as the modern-day equivalent of "The Boston Tea Party".

    The media companies need to realize that their interests cannot be fully protected without consideration for their customers.
  • by Compulawyer (318018) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @03:33PM (#3560498)
    ... is a CONSTRUCTIVE criticism of software patents. I've seen plenty of comments that reduce down to "patents are bad" but no one ever says why. As a patent attorney who writes and litigates software patents I'd like to find out what exactly people are against with patents in this area. Is it because the USPTO has so few good examiners in the area that there is a sense that the quality of software patents is poor? Or is it simply that because there are so many talented programmers out there who can write code that does the same thing as the patented code that they don't want any impediments whatsoever? As for the former, I agree it is a concern, but one the USPTO is trying to address by hiring more (and more talented) examiners. As for the latter, I have serious problems because I see this as simply asking for special treatment in the eyes of the law.

    Patents are most necessary in areas where it is EASY to copy inventions. If everyone needed a few million $ worth of hardware to make the invention, the patent doesn't add that much value against the masses of people who want to copy your invention, it only protects you against the few who have the actual resources to do so. Every other industry has dealt with patents for years. It is time for the software developers as a whole to do so as well.

    • Not all patents are bad but in the case of a monopoly power such as Microsoft, don't you feel it would be easy to in order to maintain and expand their monopoly power? If Microsoft incorporates a patented protocol and then incorporates it in some way into their operating system it essentially becomes the standard due to the fact that about 98 percent of computers run their OS. Who can compete?
    • by caesar-auf-nihil (513828) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @03:57PM (#3560707)
      In the chemical industry (where I work) here's how patents have gotten out of control and have become an inhibator to innovation, rather than a protector/promoter of innovation.

      It starts with patent examiners not being experts in the art. Therefore, what is "obvious to those skilled in the art" who wrote the patent is not obvious to the patent examiner. Therefore, you see patents where claims are made that have no basis in scientific proof because the patent examiner can't find a previous claim which would invalidate the patent claim. The reason for this is that the science behind the bullshit claim does not exist, and therefore, cannot be discovered as prior art.

      Here's another abuse of the system. Very often a company will produce a patent with no intention of actually practicing the technology. Instead, they do it to prevent their competitor, (who can make the chemical cheaper with their unique process), from making the chemical for profit. Instead, the non-patent holding company now has to pay a royalty fee to sell the chemical for its original use. So, the company without the patent instead never makes the material, no matter how good it is, because the proposed royalty fees are outrageously expensive.

      The patent system is not just broken in the area of software, its also broken in the scientific field. This is why you see corporations trying to patent DNA sequences, natural compounds, basic research, and everything they can to prevent others from using it. I imagine that the practices I listed above are probably also used in the software industry, where a company will issue a patent just to prevent someone else from using a similar piece of code.

    • I don't understand why some software is covered by patents (i.e. Unisys) while some is copyrighted (i.e. GNU). I'd like to see that resolved, one way or the other.

      I think software patents are bad simply because programs are expressions of ideas in a form that should be copyrighted. The ideas expressed are not dissimilar from those in books or recipes and other "idea" things that are usually copyrighted. Things that are patented are typically some material good or manufacturing process, or a "physical" thing, more or less.

      In other words, programs are more suitable for copyright than patenting. It seems that patents are counter to my notions of programming. It seems entirely unreasonable to me that I can't implement an algorithm because it is patented. It seems much more reasonable to say I can't plagiarize, but if I create my own implementation I can copyright it and so can the first guy and so can anyone else who creates an implementation.

    • by jafac (1449) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @04:06PM (#3560789) Homepage
      Well, I'd tell you some constructive criticism, but it's patented, you see, so we'll have to arrange a licensing fee before you start building your software patent litigation career based on the mind-blowing information I have to tell you.

      Or, let me put it this way. Imagine where humanity would be today if 300,000 years ago, Oog the caveman had been granted a patent in perpetuity on his wonderful invention, FIRE. And that this patent was enforced. For the next 300,000 years, people might try to find ways around licensing Oog's invention, and probably fail miserably, because they have no sound foundation of knowledge to back up any other way to heat things. Possibly leaving things in the sun on a hot day, but those aren't really times you want stuff to be hot anyway.
      Without free use of fire, we'd be eating raw antelope meat and dying from parasites and whatnot. But that's beside the point. Nobody would have invented bronze, or iron, or any metal for that matter. Hell, we couldn't even fire mud-bricks to build houses, so we'd be living in tents made of animal skins and sticks, that is, when we weren't running from predators attacking our villages at night because we couldn't chase them away with fire.

      Oog becomes the richest man in the stone-age, with many wives. But he's not living in a mansion. He's still living in a fucking cave.
    • by CaptainCarrot (84625) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @04:18PM (#3560892)
      IANAL, so I'm arguing at a significant disadvantage here, but maybe I'll learn something.

      The main problem as I see it is that the discipline of Software Engineering is still in its infancy. It doesn't even have the advantage that, say, Mechanical Engineering had at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution where all the basic building blocks (wheels, gears, pistons, cams, flywheels, etc.) had already been devised centuries before for the most part, and no one had to hesitate to make use of them for fear of violating someone else's IP rights. Software engineers are still, by and large, inventing the wheel. Or maybe we've advanced as far as the cam. The point is that all the basic tools of the trade, which in other disciplines were developed long before IP law was even remotely contemplated, are still in the process of assuming their standardized forms. It can only benefit "the progress of science and useful arts" to allow these tools to develop unimpeded.

      But there's another aspect that's a problem that you pointed up in your post when you said, "Or is it simply that because there are so many talented programmers out there who can write code that does the same thing as the patented code that they don't want any impediments whatsoever?" The task that the software is accomplishing ought not be patentable. Imagine if the inventor of the locomotive had been awarded a patent that covered any form of self-propelled conveyance. Had such a patent still been valid some 80 years later (and it wouldn't have been at the time, but bear with me -- we may be headed this way anyhow) then the inventor of the automobile would have had to license this patent to build the first car! Rather, it's the underlying method by which this task is performed (steam engine vs. internal combustion engine) that ought to be patentable, and as I understand it, traditionally has been in IP law.

      I don't say even that without a qualm or two, since computational methods (algorithms) traditionally have been in the domain of the academy, and in many cases patenting of an algorithm is as absurd as patenting a mathematical theorem. That is to say, it's to an extent an implicit property of the formal system in which it exists. But one does have to draw the line somewhere, and truly clever and innovative algorithms ought to be rewarded with a temporary monopoly, IMO. (But if the same task can be accomplished with an algorithm that is not mathematically identical, that's another story.)


    • We dislike software patents because we do not see software as a product. We do not pay for the software that we use, and we do not charge for the software that we write.

      Patents make (some) sense when a product is involved: if you want to produce my invention as a product, then you have to share some of profits with me. If the product is a physical thing, then it is produced and sold in a market, so there is always money involved. Since our software is not sold (many of us (see other posts) don't even believe it makes sense to treat information as something that can be sold) there is never any money involved: none for us, and none to share with the patent holder.

      In essence, there are two different ways of looking at software: as product that can be sold, and as community developed and Free. These two dichotic attitudes can coexist right now because for the most part there is little intersection: my computer does not run a single proprietary program, and I have no need to. I don't bother people who do sell software, and they don't bother me. But software patents break this boundary: they are legal invasions by those who view software as a product into the world of us who don't. If an algorithm that we need for that program is patented - that does not compell us to play fair with the patent holder, that restricts us completely from having anything to do with it.

      Ask us what we feel about software patents if they affected only proprietary software and left free software alone, and I think most of us wouldn't really care. The business people can play there little games ad infinum for all I care.

      Also, you ask for "CONSTRUCTIVE" criticism against software patents - but the person in support of patents is the one asking for proactive legislation. Why don't you give "CONSTRUCTIVE" reasons why software patents are needed? Most studies have found that they are not economically beneficial [eurolinux.org] at all, and there are many examples of how software patents hold entire fields back (look at encryption - modern encryption was invented in the late 70s, yet it was nearly unused when the patents expired in the late nineties, only to have become an everyday thing today).

    • 1. Time Limit
      The pace of change in software is radically different than that of, for example, heavy industry. Software companies that cannot recoup their software R&D investment within a few years are malfunctioning, and should not be protected from the free market. They should die and their resources should be incorporated into faster companies. Software is one of the most aggresively self-catalyzing fields of research in history. To assume that the patent time frames that make sense in material sciences are equally valid in information science is irrational.

      2. Novelty / Non-Obviousness
      I would assume that this is most related to the quality of examiners. My personal example is the one click patent. When I was developing an online computer hardware sales sites in 1996, my boss asked if we could use cookies to store a person's information, allowing them to checkout more rapidly. He didn't get the idea from Amazon, and wasn't an expert in the field. The solution was obvious to anyone who knew anything about online shopping and cookies.

      I am not sure if the standard is obviousness to laypeople or obviousness to those in the field. If it is obviousness to the layperson, I would also find this to be counterproductive. Computers are such a rapidly advancing field that even IT professionals rarely have a solid comprehension of areas which are outside their specialty. To expect a layperson to even understand what a software patent is talking about strikes me as highly dubious, let alone using them as the standard of novelty and obviousness.

      Patents are most necessary in areas where it is EASY to copy inventions. If everyone needed a few million $ worth of hardware to make the invention, the patent doesn't add that much value against the masses of people who want to copy your invention, it only protects you against the few who have the actual resources to do so.

      I completely agree with this, and think you have left out a significant correlary. Patents are least necessary in fields where research and development costs are low or easily recouped. That is, if the cost of developing a new technology is low, or the speed with which the investment can be recouped is high, the length and/or force of a patent should be reduced.

      Patents are not intended to be an unquestionable monopoly in the Ayn Randian / solipsist sense. They are intended to maximize the economic benefit from R&D investment and from dispersal of technology.
    • by Chris Colohan (29716) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @04:48PM (#3561149) Homepage

      I believe the fundamental reason why software patents are viewed as flawed is cultural. Software developers are taught from day one that modularity is the best way of creating software. You start with your toolbox of parts (perhaps the functions provided by the OS and standard C libraries), and you build them up into more useful parts, which you then package as a new library. You then integrate those parts together into a program, which solves a problem in a useful way.

      The software engineer builds up a toolbox over time -- perhaps by creating lots of programs, by sharing with other engineers, or by purchasing libraries from other companies. It is assumed that if you write some code starting with just what you think up and what you find in your (legally acquired) libraries you end up with a piece of work that is yours to use and sell. Under copyright law this is true -- you only break the law if you copy someone else's code without their permission. Since it is clear who owns each piece of code, you know clearly if you are breaking the rules.

      Patents don't work this way. It is possible for an average programmer to write a program and not know they are violating a patent. The program can be used and/or sold for years without any clue that a patent is being violated. If the patent owner finds out, they can sue! If patents were only granted for truely novel software techniques that were not likely to be independently re-invented, then this would not be a problem. But this is not the case -- programmers have a valid fear that any piece of code they write might be violating somebody's patent.

      The software design process (as we know it) has no easy way for incorporating a patent search. Fear of being blindsided by a patent violation can fundamentally change how software development is currently done, by adding significant extra time and manpower to any project to ensure it is not infringing on any patents.

      As an attorney, would you like it if you could be randomly hit by lawsuits from other lawyers even though you are just doing your job? If for every case you prosecuted or defended you had to think up entirely new arguments on behalf of your clients, out of fear of re-using a patented argument that someone else has used before? Programmers like to create software, and like to use available techniques for doing so. Having to constantly worry about which techniques are currently "allowed" or "forbidden" just detracts from the real job to be done.

    • TMTOWTDI (Score:3, Informative)

      by Nindalf (526257)
      For almost any software problem, there are a thousand ways to solve it. A good programmer will pick one very quickly. Another equally good programmer will pick a completely different one, in about the same amount of time. Arguably, each of the thousand ways is non-obvious, even though any skilled programmer will pick one, because even if you take ten programmers and ask them to solve the problem, there's only about a one in a hundred chance than any of them will pick the one you're testing for obviousness.

      By the standards of any other field, most full-time programmers come up with a dozen or more patentable ideas every day. Unlike in other fields, where an idea takes an expensive cooperative idea to develop, the programmer also implements them about as fast as he invents them, and it costs almost nothing to distribute the development. The main barrier to patenting software is not finding ideas worth developing, but the cost of the patent process itself.

      Patents don't really promote invention. They promote factory-building. Manufacturers don't want to take a chance on a novel product when another manufacturer can just come along, see how they did it, and do it for a quarter of the investment. This consideration obviously doesn't apply to software.

      Patents make some degree of sense when there's a large enough investment in developing a product that the additional trouble of doing a patent search is a small part of the total expense, because the cost of design is dwarfed by the cost of manufacturing. When there's nothing but design, and the cost of patent searches threaten to be the main cost, then patents are utterly counterproductive.
  • Yes, I have no patents, copyrights, or trademarks. Let we who have nothing to lose make the rules!

    You can bet that if I did have one of the above, one that was capable of making boatloads of money, I would be defending the current IP laws with the best lawyers and politicians I could buy. Until I could suck no more money from the people- then I'd let it pass into public domain.

    Since I'm unlikely to be in that situation, I say down, down with the institution! Share the wealth! Down with current IP and patent laws!

  • by photon317 (208409) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @03:38PM (#3560537)

    On Copyright:

    Copyright should last 25 years maximum.
    Copyright should be non-transferable and non-extendable.
    Copyright should always allow fair use and duplication by individuals.
    Copyright should only prevent outright mass-distrubtion.
    Copyright should only prevent this with law, not with technology (which means if someone's violating copyright, you notice them doing it and track them down and prosecute... you don't hopelessly try to manpiluate technology to prevent it in the first place)

    On Patents:

    Patents should last 10 years maximum, ever.
    All patentable things must meet the following criteria:
    1) Non-obvious - a technical person (or technical review board perhaps?) in the field in question wouldn't consider this a trivial and obvious solution.
    2) No prior art - it has never been done before.
    3) No inclusion of prior art - The work being patented must be the sole intellectual work of the patentee. It cannot contain intellectual work of others, even if those others didn't patent their work (example, patenting a peice of software that relies on algorithms you got from a programming magazine... you could still patent portions of your software, but not that portion, and no "portion" that contains those algorithms).
    • Couple things:

      Copyrights:
      Copyrights almost HAVE to be assignable -- not an _exclusive_ assignment necessarily; but without a non-exclusive copyright, a publisher can't distribute your Great American Novel (tm) legally. Even disallowing exclusive transfer of copyright is dangerous -- shouldn't the company that employs me have exclusive right to the code they're paying me to develop?

      I agree with the general spirit though -- the goal is to prevent financial exploitation of your innovation by others without your express permission.

      Patents:
      3 -- I don't think this can work. If you can't cite relevant prior art that serves as ... "inspiration" for lack of a better term ... for your own work, you can't really patent ANYTHING.

      If I just invented the helicopter, and I couldn't cite the airplane, someone else could say "look, he stole that idea from the prior art, the airplane" -- I have to be able to acknowledge existing technology that relates even though my idea IS new, non-obvious, and useful.

      Obviously, the "portion" that's new in that example is identifiable; but I'm not sure it's ALWAYS true that the new parts can be identified so; the citation of relevant pre-existing work makes it easier for a review board (good idea) to decide if your work IS sufficiently new, non-obvious, and useful.

      Xentax
  • I propose a centralized copyright system (registry of deeds) whereby software is free as in libre, but not necessary as in gratis. To read the most succinct version I've come up with, go here [clarkevans.com]. Unfortunately, my distributedcopyright.org isn't up.
  • "Most of us?" (Score:3, Interesting)

    by foobar104 (206452) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @03:42PM (#3560570) Journal
    Now I'm really curious. The submitter, epsalon, said, "Most of us are against the current status of Copyright and Patent law...."

    Is that really true? Of course there are vocal posters on Slashdot who oppose not only bad copyright and patent laws, but all such laws. But is that the majority opinion?

    I, for one, love copyright and patent laws. They enable me to make a really amazing living, all things considered, just sitting here thinking about stuff! If intellectual property couldn't be protected, it would lose all of its value, and I'd be out of work. I'd have to go out and get a real job painting houses or something.

    So I pose the question to the committee: good versus bad laws aside, is it the majority opinion of Slashdot readers and posters that copyright and patent law are, prima facie, bad things?
    • The submitter said that most of us are against the current status of copyright and patent law. Not that we are against copyright and patent law.

      ... good versus bad laws aside, is it the majority opinion...

      If we put aside the distinction between good and bad laws, we are hardly talking about the current status of copyright and patent law, are we?

  • I've said this before in more detail, so I'm just going to say the main points here:
    • Retroactively repeal all retroactive copyright extensions - set everything back to the way it was when the content was created. If it was good enough to encourage creation then, why isn't it enough to encourage creation that has already taken place? And yes, this question does not make sense.
    • Set copyright term to a percentage of the average human lifespan in this country (recalculated regularly), essentially defining "time-limited" as relating to the time limit on the people who create and consume copyrighted content. Somewhere around 50% should be agreeable everyone (at least everyone who wants there to be a realistic time limit).
    • Abandoned content clause (optional) - provide a mechanism to invalidate copyright if the content is not legitimately available to the public after a certain time period. This might not make the cut, but could be used as a bargaining chip (in the unlikely event that any bargaining takes place).
  • by Flower (31351) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @03:44PM (#3560586) Homepage
    software patents have to go. After examining the issue I find myself unable to reach any form of middle ground about it. Software is not going to get a special protection to limit the time of the patent. US patent law does not require that a patent advance the state of the art and after examining the history behind the RSA patent I don't think it was good for the consumer or for MIT. The US also allows for overly broad patents. Software patents hinder open source development which I support and quite honestly I don't think hiring more examiners will improve anything.

    But what really clinched it for me was when I had a chance to hear a presentation by Radia Perlman this year. Here's one of the top ten minds in the field and then to hear her basically say "Well I wanted to research subjectX (i can't remember the specific atm) but the field is so littered with patent issues it wasn't worth my time." That right there was enough to convince me that software patents were not promoting the arts and sciences.

    I wonder where networks would be if spanning tree had been patented and only one company had been allowed to use it for 20 years.

  • This is a simple change. On the copyright form put an expiration date whereby the submitter can put in a date less than the maximum allowable. In this way we can have competition for when a given copyright expires. So, I imagine adding "copyright expires" column to your pc week style feature reviews. Once this is on the charts, it will be a factor in competition.

    "Oh yes, our product is $500, but our copyright expires in 3 years when we become public domain. Our competitor only wants $100, but they are keeping the copright for 100 years!"
  • I want a static IP, but the broadband companies only want to sell me one at an outrageous price. Who can I write to in Congress to protect my IP rights?

    (for the mod-clueless, try +1, Funny)
  • I think the best way to handle a lot of the problems with today's legal system, not just IP problems, is to take away the abuse that is "corporation as an individual." IP should be owned by the original creator, and it should not be possible to transfer that ownership to a corporation. It should not be possible to transfer ownership, at all. A license, with a maximum of 20 years duration. But the individual still has all his/her rights.

    Along the same lines, corporate boards should be legally reponsible for any and all illegal activity by the corporation. Corporations cannot be jailed, because they are not people. BODs can be jailed, and should be. As it stands, the corporation gets a fine, and the board of directors gets a bunch of golden parachutes.

  • ...that IP laws are not the entire problem. Who cares how fair the laws are if everyone just ignores them and jumps on Gnutella?

    How about Asking Slashdot for a way to convince people that being honest and ethical and buying things they want is better than stealing them? How about finding a way to remove the idea from people's minds that if it is at all possible to get something for free, it is their God-given right to do it and anyone who tries to stop them is Attacking Free Speech?
  • Here are a few concepts that might change the way IP works

    1. IP is owned solely by the creator and is not transferable. It may be licensed by the creator to others, but can not be sold, taken, contracted or otherwise wholy transfered. (Artists may not have their ideas taken by contract)

    2. IP may be held by a company if the creation was explicitly contracted by the company with the creator before the creation took place, and the contract explicitly stated that the transfer is part of the contract. After-the-fact transfer/claim/sale is not possible. (employers may not claim activity of an employee that is not previously explicitly contracted or declared But normal employee activity in assigned roles can be considered company property)

    3. Uniform licensing of material at standard prices (relative to cost) if the material is considered to be life/health critical (drugs).

    For starters...
    Any more like these?

  • Speaking as a content creator (music, literary, and fine art):

    1. Revert copyright lengths to a reasonable amount of time. A maximum of 17 years in which financial interest in the copyright could be assigned to another person and another 17 year period during which the copyright would mandatorily revert back to the original author(s). This would provide corporations an incentive to fund content creation, and still provide opportunity for the author to receive continued monetary advantage without corporate interference.

    2. Examine the possibility of prohibiting a corporation from holding a copyright. As an earlier post mentioned, if corporations had to license the work, they might behave in a more civil manner.

    3. Remove the possibility of creating a "Work for Hire." The author of a piece is the author of a piece. If an author is caught falsifying a copyright registration (e.g. he has a contract saying that someone else (like a corporation) is the author, the work immediately and irrevocably falls into the public domain.

    4. (Here's one dream item...) Amend the Constitution to say that Congress shall not pass any law containing an amendment. This is how the majority of our pork and shady dealings come about, and it's time for it to stop. There's no reason to attach an amendment giving $500,000 to Topeka for studying the mating habits of the purple-nosed shrew to a law covering federal highway funds. This kind of thing happens all the time, and it's often how bad copyright and patent laws get through - 11th hour additions to bills that have absolutely no relation.

    5. In that same constitutional amendment, make it a law that Congress shall make available in multiple formats, for no less than 30 days prior to the vote, a common language "impact statement" for any law. If I have to file an Environmental Impact Statement for something I'm doing on my own property, then the government should damn well have to file an impact statement when passing laws that change the way I live my life.

    Lawyers are human modems: you need one on each end of a bill/law figure out what the hell it actually means. I understand the need for legal language to eliminate ambiguity, but when it ceases to be understandable to a person of even above-average-intelligence, things have gotten out of hand.

    Before I explained the DMCA's impact to many of my friends and family, they didn't see the big deal. And I have to rely on other people's interpretations of the law because it's a pain to wade through it: too long, too obscure, and uses phrases I'd need to be a 2nd year law student (at least) to understand. I shouldn't need a law degree to know whether a bunch of people (most of whom are not from my state) are about to tell me I can't do something anymore.

    Whew. Sorry for the rant. I think that the current "Who Wants to Pay Off A Senator" method of buying legislation is largely responsible for these seeming nonsensical laws. Back to copyright...

    6. Remove the "legal entity" status for corporations that Santa Clara County in California helped us bring into the world. Dissolve Santa Clara county and give it to Gilroy as punishment for inflicting a really stupid decision on the rest of the country. (tongue in cheek, folks... but with a grain of sincerity).

    It's hard to come up with specifics because the system is so overwhelmingly broken. But I think that a combination of reexamining the ability for a corporation to own a copyright and significantly reducing copyright terms would be a great start.

    If the government is truly interested in upholding the Constitution (and I get more and more skeptical of that every day), then they need to go back and read the damn thing. I seriously doubt that the copyright provision was put in place so that 5 multinational corporations could run amok.

    Wow... I've really rambled on. Sorry for that. This is an issue with few easy answers, but it's definitely easy to identify that there's a problem.

  • The main problem I have with the laws is who is held responcible for the copyright/patten infrengment.

    These laws are try to stop poeople from pointing to websites that violate the law and have copywritten or pattened information. This is an unfair act because a site can contain more information then just Illegal information it can also obtain legal and fair use information as well. If you are going to sue someone for violating your copyrights then sue the person who is violating it and not the person who is pointing to it.

    Citizans should be able to browse the web and Download what they want without feeling liabale for getting illegal information where they can be prosicuted. It is the responcibility of the content provider to very the legality of his information. This is also true on P2P networks such as music sharing systems. They do not actually hold the music it is just a bunch people saying "hay this is what I got and you can have it" The P2P networks have no means of checking to see if it legal or not and the responcibily falls on the person distributing the content.

    Music fair use. I beleave it is fair use to distribute a song or track without a charge to a limited amount of people. I beleave that if you give away the hole CD or album is unfair use. You should pay for having all the music you want on the CD and not pay for the indivual songs. By giving away the hole set crosses the bounds because it takes away all the work the record company made. Its like listing to music on the radio you raily hear the hole CD you just hear a song and the next piece they pay is from an other CD.

    And I dont think you should differieate from IP laws from ordany laws. There is no real difference.
    Hacking or Cracking into a compuer is the same as breaking and entering and tresspassing (It dosent matter if the computer is unsecure or not). Piricy of software is simular to going into a store and taking the Software (which is the same if you give away the whole package or album of a music)
  • The purpose of intellectual property laws in the US is simple. An inventor/creator is given for a limited period of time a monopoly over his/her creation. The time limits are meant to be long enough for the person to recoup costs of creation and make a profit off of it thereby encouraging people to create. There're two problems now. The current time limit in the US for copyrights is bizarre. It discourages people from creating more than once, assuming they create something enjoyed on a mass scale the first time. The authors life + X years system also encourages an intellectual nobility in that the children and possibly grandchildren will continue to benefit from the invention of a parent thereby having no incentive to create. The most you could justify is something along the lines of authors life or 30 years, whichever is longer. That way you avoid a situation in which the primary wage earner dies unexpectedly and thereby leaves his/her family out in the cold. I'd be in favor of a flat 40 years, myself. Plenty of time to recoup costs and make a nice amount of money, not so much time that it stretches into the bizarre. However I'd temper that with the condition that a copyright held by a corporation lasts only 25 years. As for patents, 14 years is fine. The problem is the silly nature of some patents granted these days. The solution for this is for congress to begin properly funding the USPTO again. The USPTO is currently reliant on people filing for patents and trademarks for its funding. It's underfunded with a builtin incentive to grant patents to encourage people to continue filing. Patents only last 14 years and if they're too stupid they are challengeable, but the granting of somewhat silly patents can slow down scientific progress. Trademark law seems mostly fine with a few exceptions (the despair.com frownie comes to mind). But those are only valid if enforced anyway. If someone with a common speech/use trademark ever brought suit it'd get struck down (think kleenex).

    -Mike
  • Being a former intellectual property attorney, I have spent a lot of time thinking about this very issue. I have to disagree with the notion expressed by epsalon in the original posting:

    However, nullifying all IP laws is IMHO a bit too strong, because there will be no incentive to create anything for mass market sale except out of goodwill, or for leveraging other revenue (aka Linux).

    At the end of the day, all copyright and patent laws are an attempt to create some incentive for certain kinds of creation, at the expense of limiting the right of the public to use certain ideas. In essence, this is nothing more than a subsidy (the IP owner gains a limited monopoly right, the public loses freedom of action with regard to the subject of that monopoly). Just because the "price" of the subsidy paid by the public is not directly monetary doesn't mean that it is any less of a subsidy.

    A lot of people who (in my opinion, correctly) reject the notion of government subsidies as unnecessary and, on balance, harmful to society still accept the notion of IP because they don't see it for what it is. The backers of IP laws would have you believe that a world without IP laws would be a bleak, gray unhappy place with no creativity. Of course, the world before IP laws looked nothing like that, and the world won't look like that when people finally undo these mistakes of history.

    -Steve

  • by Otterley (29945) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @04:10PM (#3560823)
    Intellectual property is a corporate (or individual) asset used to obtain revenue, just like computers, desks, chairs, etc. As such, it is treated as a capital expense under Internal Revenue Code. The full cost of producing the IP must be amortized according to the Code, and amortizations are a time-limited period chosen when the property is first claimed for deduction.

    So, why not just tie the protection of said IP to its amortizations? Once the IP has fully capitalized, it should no longer qualify for protection and then fall into the public domain.

    This would make IP holders think *very carefully* about how long they want to take to amortize -- it would make them choose a balance between tax savings and IP protection.
  • by schon (31600) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @04:13PM (#3560850)
    The answer (at least to me) is pretty simple:

    For copyright, set copyright dates in stone - fixed term (none of this "life of the author +X years.) Each work gets the same amount of protection, and there is no discrimination.

    Second, return to a registration system. If you want copyright protection, you must register for it. You must register ALL incarnations of something to get copyright for any of them ie. you must register your source code AND runtime, if you want protection for the runtime. That way, once the work falls into the public domain, the public is guarateed access.

    Third, registration would have to be renewed every so often (5 or 10 years.) This would prevent "IP hoarding", and eliminate the current problem with "abandonware."

    For patents, I don't think the system is horribly flawed, it's just poorly implemented. Enforcement of the (original) rules needs to done. (ie. You can't patent something you can copyright, better checks for "originality", and for scientific merit.) If the idea is simple, but the implementation is difficult, no patent.

    Trademarks? No opinion. Just don't start doing it like Germany ("Hi, I'm a lawyer, and you might be infringing on a trademark. You must now give me money for telling you this."), and we'll be OK.
  • For the holder of the copyright / patent:
    For the first year, pay $1.
    For the second, pay $2.
    For the third, pay $4.
    Then $8, $16, $32, etc....
    After 10 years, you would have paid >$1,000.
    After 20 years, you would have paid >$1,000,000.
    For different industries, you can set
    different starting points (so a $1 starting point could be good for books, maybe $1000 for software patents, etc).
    So short term, anyone can benefit, and long term, more things will go back into the public domain.
    That way, if it is still economically sound for you to hold your copyright/patent, you still can.
    If not, it goes into the public domain.
    The money collected could help fund basic research.
    Oh, and this should be applied retroactively to all current copyrights/patents (take that Disney!).

    Also, maybe allow copyrights be to held by coporations, but say every 5 years, it has to go back to the person/people who created it. Allow them the option of re-licensing it back to a company though.
    • This is a fantastic idea. I'm in D.C., I'll try to shop it around. Legislators have never met a tax bill they didn't like.

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