Intellectual Property, does it work?

Okay, now I just want to start this discussion off right, so sit down, relax and really think about Intellectual Property if you haven't before.

All right, now that was probably the longest 2 seconds of your life, as most people find IP very boring and pointless. However, Im assuming weve got some tech-savvy people on here, so it may be a little more interesting to us.

Okay from the US Consitituion we have

The Congress shall have power ... 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

Most people consider Copyright some sort of right, God given, to artists to dictate what happens to thier creation. It is however given by Congress, and even then it is optional under the Constitution. Also notice the "limited times" part, and how the "limited times" of 14 years has now grown to 90 after the artists death, with a possibility of extension every 20 years. Communication moves faster and society communicates ideas more efficiently, however copyright terms have gotten longer, hmm.

So now, lets give an example of what Copyright does. If I went out and made a cartoon movie with Mickey Mouse in it, I would get sued and have my cartoon taken from me. Id probably be screwed for a very long time to boot, with the lawsuits and charges of copyright infringement. When you ask most people why I got arrested, some of the responses would be like this.

"You can't do that, the Disney corporation didn't approve it. It's thier character".

Now, in Art Appreciation, about the only thing I really learned was a definition of art that was "a way to communicate emotions between the artist and the audience". Maybe one of you coffee-slinging Liberal Arts majors can elaborate on this a bit. So let's revisit that sentence.

"You can't say that, the Disney corporation didn't approve it".

Suddenly it's a whole different ballgame. You're allowing an individual (or in this case, a corporation) to do what we claim as Americans no one can do, restrict speech in the US. The artist wants to say something to his audience, but if he says something about a property Disney holds copyright over, they can tell him what he can and cannot say. Id also like to note, this is nothing like the "Fire in a crowded theater" example, as there is nothing life threatening or even damaging about the example above.

So that's one argument, that by allowing individuals control over thier creations you are also restricting free speech.

Now, another part of the Consitutional definition is that copyright exists to "To promote the progress of science and useful arts".

I'd also like to argue that copyright does no such thing.

Actually I wouldn't like to argue it, these guys do a much better job.

Heres a relevant excerpt from that paper

Innovation, they argue, has occurred in the past without substantial protection of intellectual property. "Historically, people have been inventing and writing books and music when copyright did not exist," notes Boldrin. "Mozart wrote a lot of very beautiful things without any copyright protection." (The publishers of music and books, on the other hand, sometimes did have copyrights in the materials they bought from their creators.)

Contemporary examples are also plentiful. The fashion world -- highly competitive, with designs largely unprotected -- innovates constantly and profitably. A Gucci is a Gucci; knock-offs are mere imitations and worth less than the original, so Gucci -- for better or worse -- still has an incentive to create. The financial securities industry makes millions by developing and selling complex securities and options without benefit of intellectual property protection. Competitors are free to copy a firm's security package, but doing so takes time. The initial developer's first-mover advantage secures enough profit to justify "inventing" the security.

As for software, Boldrin refers to an MIT working paper by economists Eric Maskin and James Bessen. Maskin and Bessen write that "some of the most innovative industries today -- software, computers and semiconductors -- have historically had weak patent protection and have experienced rapid imitation of their products."

Moreover, U.S. court decisions in the 1980s that strengthened patent protection for software led to less innovation. "Far from unleashing a flurry of new innovative activity," Maskin and Bessen write, "these stronger property rights ushered in a period of stagnant, if not declining, R&D among those industries and firms that patented most." Industries that depend on sequential product development -- the initial version is followed by an improved second version, etc. -- are, they argue, likely to be stifled by stronger intellectual property regimes.

So what is copyright good for? Why do we still have it? That part is simple. It gives control. Like I said earlier, most people don't care about IP. Those that do, are artists and engineers. Just who does copyright give power to? Artists and engineers. Now I am not naive enough to believe that artists or engineers retain copyright on anything they own anymore, it almost always goes to thier employer. However, one of the main reasons I believe copyright still exists in the form that it has is that those who care about it also benefit from it, so they let it slide, whether or not it's benefiting society. I don't really blame them for this, but in the article it's referred to as "rent-seeking" behavior, and is overall bad for the economy.

So what do you guys think? Am I making sense? Do we need to rage against the corporate machine? Or am I looking like Crazy 'Ol Pyro, spoutin jibberish in his long-johns and tutu?

I think it''s a useful tool to protect an individual''s/corporation''s initial investment in a piece of work. Something like ""Terminator 3"" costs a lot of money to make - without copyright anyone could dupe and distribute it legally without paying anything to the original content creators. Obviously that''s a bad situation since no one will take the risk of creating a movie without some sort of restrictions (like only ever releasing it in approved, closed theatres)

In your first example, it depends on what the person is trying to do with Mickey Mouse. If they''re trying to make just a straight-up Mickey Mouse film in the style that Disney would have done, what are they really trying to say? Is it anything that could have been done without the use of Mickey? If so, that''s not right and should generate problems for them.
If they''re using it as a criticisim of Disney and/or Mickey Mouse that should be protected. If it''s not, I think that''s a problem - isn''t this what''s happening over at www.pennyarcade.com?

That being said, I do have a problem with copyrights being ridiculously long and being extended indefintely by constant lobbying. Especially in the cases where the subject matter is derived from work that used to be in the public domain. In that case, the company has taken something from our cultural pool and not put anything back

"Gunmetal" wrote:

I think it''s a useful tool to protect an individual''s/corporation''s initial investment in a piece of work. Something like ""Terminator 3"" costs a lot of money to make - without copyright anyone could dupe and distribute it legally without paying anything to the original content creators. Obviously that''s a bad situation since no one will take the risk of creating a movie without some sort of restrictions (like only ever releasing it in approved, closed theatres)

Thats an assumption. Take the security systems example above, they dont copyright thier designs, yet they make a sh*tload of money creating them. Why? Because they provide the best implementors of the service. In your example, if a movie studio bought a chain of theatres, and only thier movies showed in thier theaters (which they could protect physically, not legally), then they would have an incentive to make movies. Or they could sell theaters ""first rights"" to a movie, like an exclusive deal. This is nothing that could not be protected physically.

People also can''t ""dupe and distribute"" for free. They have to be making money off of it too, or they wont promote it, pay theaters to run it, ect. The digital medium is the only medium that almost costs nothing to make perfect copies, and even then it takes time, bandwidth and storage, all which costs money. Thats also assuming that they want to dupe and distribute ""Terminator 3"", which alot of people don''t, they just want to watch it. Whoever can provide the best experience doing that for the right price will get the money. The studio that makes Terminator 3 will be in the best position to show it properly, and most attractively to the customer.

This is one of the fundamental flaws that I see with people''s perception of copyright. It assumes that all media can be copied instantly, perfectly, and that the owner of the copy is in the exact same position the original creator is afterwards. This is simply not true. A Gucci Knock-off is still a knock-off, only a Gucci is the real thing. Same thing for movies. Sure you could watch some guy''s pocket cam a week later, or you could watch it opening night on an awesome screen, in a good theater, with possibly the environment done by the cast themselves to make it look like the movie. Who else can do that?

Id also like to point out, why does Terminator 3 cost so much money? Because of the $30 million paychecks to Ahnold? The $10k lunches? The hookers for the director? Do you think theyd be getting paid that if there was no copyright? Do you think he deserves $30 million for a few months work?

In your first example, it depends on what the person is trying to do with Mickey Mouse. If they''re trying to make just a straight-up Mickey Mouse film in the style that Disney would have done, what are they really trying to say? Is it anything that could have been done without the use of Mickey? If so, that''s not right and should generate problems for them.
If they''re using it as a criticisim of Disney and/or Mickey Mouse that should be protected. If it''s not, I think that''s a problem - isn''t this what''s happening over at www.pennyarcade.com?

So free speech is only protected if it''s interesting or sarcastic? I don''t understand what is ""wrong"" about saying something similar to what Walt Disney or his corporation says. It may be uninteresting, boring or just plain childish, but not wrong as in stealing wrong. Except in the legal sense, which is the whole debate.

Which brings me to my next point, if its just like what Disney does, only crappier, who will watch it? Remember, you have to ignore price, because there is no copyright, so the prices will be competitive with each other. Thats another assumption of copyright, that knockoffs will somehow be just as good as the original. Theyre not, and almost everyone knows it. Youll still buy the Disney because it is a Disney. Copyright doesn''t prevent this either, I can call a mouse another name and redo also of Mickey cartoons changing just enough to get around copyright law. They will still suck.

People also can''t ""dupe and distribute"" for free. They have to be making money off of it too, or they wont promote it, pay theaters to run it, ect.

That''s true, but the original content creators pay for the creation of the content PLUS the duplication and distribution. If someone duplicates their work, they save on the creation costs, therefore their prices can go lower. I''m thinking of home versions of copyrighted material here. Obviously if you control how the media is accessed, that''s as effective as a copyright, but at the moment only movie theatres act like that. CDs, books and DVDs don''t

If you can set up a shop that can produce high-quality books, for example, you pay some guy to scan the latest hardcover Stephen King book and you run off some as-yet unavailable soft cover versions. Assuming perfect pre-release security, the original publisher''s only advantage is the time between their release of the book and your release of the book. Their cost is the production of the book + Stephen Kings fee. Your cost is the salary of Joe Scanner at five bucks an hour and the production of the book.
Remember - there''s no copyright law, so there''s no reprecussions at all for setting up a professional, high-quality duplication shop in the US. Or even using an existing one!

Thats another assumption of copyright, that knockoffs will somehow be just as good as the original.

Not true. Anybody can copy anything, so actual professional companies can do so as well.

Is a normal consumer going to be able to tell the difference (or care) between the Bantam Books version of ""Dreamcatcher"" and the Penguin Books version? Or the ""Warcraft 4"" game published by Vivendi and the ""Warcraft 4"" game published by Take Two?

"Gunmetal" wrote:
People also can''t ""dupe and distribute"" for free. They have to be making money off of it too, or they wont promote it, pay theaters to run it, ect.

That''s true, but the original content creators pay for the creation of the content PLUS the duplication and distribution. If someone duplicates their work, they save on the creation costs, therefore their prices can go lower. I''m thinking of home versions of copyrighted material here. Obviously if you control how the media is accessed, that''s as effective as a copyright, but at the moment only movie theatres act like that. CDs, books and DVDs don''t

Thats my point. People would make thier money differently than they do now. It doesn''t mean they would make less. They probably wouldn''t sell DVDs of movies at 20 bucks a pop, but theyd probably let you burn your own for a fee. Theyd also have good cases to put it in, liner notes, ect. Basically, theyd have to do more work than they do now, but they could make it worth it to the consumer. You can get a CD-R of an album now, but if you really like a band, are you more likely to get a Boxed set with extra info, and go to thier concerts?

If you can set up a shop that can produce high-quality books, for example, you pay some guy to scan the latest hardcover Stephen King book and you run off some as-yet unavailable soft cover versions. Assuming perfect pre-release security, the original publisher''s only advantage is the time between their release of the book and your release of the book. Their cost is the production of the book + Stephen Kings fee. Your cost is the salary of Joe Scanner at five bucks an hour and the production of the book.
Remember - there''s no copyright law, so there''s no reprecussions at all for setting up a professional, high-quality duplication shop in the US. Or even using an existing one!

Why would they wait to release? What advantage would it give them in a non-copyrighted world? They could send the ebook to stores, which would gladly pay them a fee for a guaranteed error-free copy at a guaranteed time. Then stores could sell them as they print them out. Alot of stores already do this actually.

Also in your equation, the only difference between the two publisher''s costs is Stephen Kings fee. So the real question is, is the lag to distribute (not to mention brand name, guarantee of delivery) worth the cost of Stephen King? For really good authors the answer is yes. Or for bad ones, really cheap authors

Another point, is this entirely rules out gratitude toward the author. How much do the Penny-Arcade guys make per month on donations? Sure, its no rock-star salary, but they pay the rent. In the current system, you already feel like youve paid them, even though most of the time the bulk of the money doesnt even go to the author. With no copyrights, companies couldn''t own an author''s work, so there''d be no incentive for the author to give up a disproportionate share of the cash, as there would be no monopoly on distribution, anyone could join whether or not they signed a contract. Prices would be lower and artists could get better salaries as a result. The only thing that is always going to be scarce is good artists.

People want to repay authors for good work. There will always be cheapskates, but copyright doesnt stop them, and it never will. Those that want to repay the artist will, whether or not you force them to. So copyright doesn''t affect this process at all, it actually circumvents it in cases, by charging you before you know that you want to repay them.

Thats another assumption of copyright, that knockoffs will somehow be just as good as the original.

Not true. Anybody can copy anything, so actual professional companies can do so as well.

Is a normal consumer going to be able to tell the difference (or care) between the Bantam Books version of ""Dreamcatcher"" and the Penguin Books version? Or the ""Warcraft 4"" game published by Vivendi and the ""Warcraft 4"" game published by Take Two?

Again, how much money a game makes now has very little to do with the quality of the product in the box. It goes on Brand recognition, reputation of the artist, and gratitude for previous games. If a game gets good word of mouth, then it may start to sell things later.

The point is, the most valuable thing in an artistic industry is not the artistic process itself, but the filter. If there is no copyright, then the barrier for entry into the publishing business will be lowered, and there will be all kinds of publishers. Likewise, there will be all kinds of artists, because artists will suddenly become more scarce, with alot more opportunities to become an artist.

However, which artists are good? As a publisher, do you make copies of every kind of media on the planet and hope to sell one? No. Thats why the Warcraft 4 analogy seems to break down, the filtering process is already done. Everyone already knows that Warcraft 4 will be good. However, for 99% of the games on the planet, it won''t be that easy.

The artistic landscape will be more diverse, and picking which game to copy will be more difficult. Something like Candy Cruncher, for instance, will probably still make money for Pyrogon, because they are not insanely huge and dont have fanboys straining for the latest leaked beta. They will make money like they continue to do now, selling the game to people who want to play it. There wont be 8000 people waiting to warez it on IRC, the warez networks wont exist. If someone wants to publish it, they can pay them to get a copy, and then distribute it. At some point, someone is making money.

I guess my point is that an artist very rarely makes money directly off the quality of thier work, they benefit from the side effects of good art. Gratitude, reputation and community.

So basically, the artist relies on the goodwill of mankind to get anything back from the people who read/listen to/otherwise consume their work?

Speaking as a budding author, that sucks. Call me misanthropic, but I''m not willing to hand out a book that I slaved on for three years to the general public, say ""g''head, take a copy! make one for all your friends! Hey, put your name on it, if you want!"" and then hope that some renumeration will trickle back my way. Intellectual property is still property. I made it, it''s mine, I have the right to protect my ability to make a living (or a pittance, whatever) off of it. It''s all very well to say that the reward of making art is the making of art, but I think a hell of a lot less people would make art seriously if that was all that you got back from it.

With no copyrights, companies couldn''t own an author''s work, so there''d be no incentive for the author to give up a disproportionate share of the cash, as there would be no monopoly on distribution, anyone could join whether or not they signed a contract. Prices would be lower and artists could get better salaries as a result.

Publishers don''t own the author''s work (I''m talking books here) they own limited right to print and distribute the work. Stephen King doesn''t get paid a ""fee"", he gets an advance on the book, which is then subtracted from his percentage of the profits. If he gives up copyright, he gives up all his earnings from the book except (in your model) what people choose to pay him. He tried this with his online book, remember? He even said that all he wanted was half the people to pay a buck per chapter of a 14 chapter e-novel. The actual number of people who paid was something like 11%. Granted, for Stephen King, who has massive readership, this is still mucha moola. For someone like me, I might as well take up panhandling.

They probably wouldn''t sell DVDs of movies at 20 bucks a pop, but theyd probably let you burn your own for a fee. Theyd also have good cases to put it in, liner notes, ect. Basically, theyd have to do more work than they do now, but they could make it worth it to the consumer. You can get a CD-R of an album now, but if you really like a band, are you more likely to get a Boxed set with extra info, and go to thier concerts?

So how is that different than how it''s done now? In your model someone is still controlling the dissemination of the art. Would it be the artist directly that get paid this fee for burning a copy? How does that work? You''d still need stores/websites/whatever to access the art (not everyone is websavvy, astonishingly). Who pays for the cost of running these access points? What about promotion of the art? Does that artist rely on word of mouth? What sponsors are going to stage massive concerts for someone who has no marketing, no name recognition?
Basically, your model reduces all artists to the band that sells CDs out of the back of their truck after the show.

Just some points to ponder.

The advertising does have a certain bonus to it.

With word of mouth a lot of people will miss out on stuff they would enjoy.

People still miss out on stuff but corporate advertising limits that drastically.

Free expression, art and technology let loose with noone at the helm can be dangerous. Sure the benefit is things go at a much quicker pace. However, its not only greed that motivates ""managed growth"".

Marketing is very sophisticated. You dont want to flood the market. You dont want to starve the market since thats lost revenue. Allthough both those tactics can be purposefully implemented maliciously. Starving the market just enough increases interest. Flooding the market potentially waters down the success of a competitors product.

If it comes between corporate capitalism and developer freedom in this country, freedom will always lose. This isnt always a negative.

"fangblackbone" wrote:

The advertising does have a certain bonus to it.

With word of mouth a lot of people will miss out on stuff they would enjoy.

People still miss out on stuff but corporate advertising limits that drastically.

Free expression, art and technology let loose with noone at the helm can be dangerous. Sure the benefit is things go at a much quicker pace. However, its not only greed that motivates ""managed growth"".

Marketing is very sophisticated. You dont want to flood the market. You dont want to starve the market since thats lost revenue. Allthough both those tactics can be purposefully implemented maliciously. Starving the market just enough increases interest. Flooding the market potentially waters down the success of a competitors product.

If it comes between corporate capitalism and developer freedom in this country, freedom will always lose. This isnt always a negative.

The problem is, copyright isnt capitalism, its a temporary monopoly (now extended to a permenant monopoly). So I dont think the copyright debate boils down to corporations vs artists, or personal freedom vs corporate interests. I think it boils down to cartels vs capitalism. You could actually argue that the removal of copyright would make artists bow to corporate interests more often, as sponsors would need more incentive to invest in an artist, as they would no longer have exclusive distribution rights. The removal of copyright would certainly increase competition, as there would no longer be a single distributor for any given piece of art. So again, Im not sure how the removal of copyright will mean no one is at the ""helm"". There will still be corporations, and there will still be leaders, the market will just be more competitive.

I don''t necissarily agree that developer freedom will always lose to corporate interests, there are plenty of examples of developer freedom balancing with corporate interests successfully. As always, a balance has to be struck between the two to get any real work done. Valve, Blizzard, id, and Maxis (The Sims) show that developer freedom can win out when corporate interests are involved, precisely because they know how to balance the two.