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Tuesday, October 6, 2009


Again, these are just my non-lawyer views.

Copyrights and patents are both forms of intellectual property—the result of someone making an investment to create something. I guess people here still believe in hard work and contribution should result in reward? Whether one puts one’s work effort down in craft and then on paper, as in a patent, or on code, as in a software copyrights, both are work efforts.

Most if not all ownerships are actually rights—a right to possess something. A person doesn’t really own a car until the State grants the right from others infringing on the car’s possession. Copyrights, trademarks, and patents all belong to intellectual property rights. They are very similar in that the ethical underpinnings are that these are the result of intellectual work efforts. The State is basically saying—to motivate your work efforts, we’ll give you certain rights. Very similar work-ethics-reward rights.

Hence, if the argument is made that patent work efforts are worthless, by fair-effort-reward logic, it follows that copyright work efforts should also be worthless. Both are simply abstract rights of intellectual property efforts. There is no more tangible “theft” involved in copying code (no one took anything) than in copying idea (no one took anything).

Patents have extended power of the idea; but so do copyrights. For example, a movie script based on a book doesn’t use the same words (and indeed a silent movie can use no words), yet must pay royalties to the author. And copyrights do restrict innovations. For example, my recollection is that Gone with the Wind has never had a sequel, because the copyright holder refuses; and even printings of sequels were suppressed, if I recall. Also, it’s my understanding that copyrights are used in look-touch-and-feel litigation, even though codes may be quite different.

Fundamentally, both copyrights and patents are State’s motivation rewards for intellectual efforts and both have extended rights. So, if banish patents, it follows logically from ethics of work efforts and rewards, why not also banish copyrights?

Regarding the core of the argument here—do patents harm or help individuals and small companies, in practice….

Let’s first decide whether patents are DESIGNED to help individuals and small companies or not. Greg and I think they are designed this way. If we agree on this point, we can then discuss how and why in practice they work for or against small companies.

P.S. I won’t be able to post as frequently because of pressing projects.


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