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?