Re: Intellectual property

Lee Daniel Crocker (
Mon, 24 Mar 1997 18:11:31 -0800 (PST)

> Oh the emperor is declothed, and he is a theif. You say,"then I use the
> ideas". That right there is your crime. Then inventor has gone through
> enormous expense in terms of research and development and you have gone
> and stolen the benefits of that investment without proper compensation.
> In this case, sir, YOU ARE A THEIF!.

Because you have defined me as such, sir. The idea that an author or
inventor deserves monopoly control over the use of his creations to
ensure his just earnings from them is so ingrained in our culture that
it takes some effort to fight it. But that idea is a recent one, is
not universal to all cultures even today, is not the original intent
of the laws that now enforce it, and is simply not supported by the
facts as I see them. I am unswayed by argument-by-definition. If
you want to simply take the "inventions are property" meme as an axiom,
I am powerless to argue against it /is your axiomatic system/. But if
you could, even for a moment, step outside of your mindset, ignore
the arbitrary definitions this culture has put into your brain, and
look at the inescapable objective reality that ideas and bread are
fundamentally different, then we can have a rational discourse about
whether it makes sense to apply bread-property law to ideas. Until
then, it is pointless for me to continue.

> You cite works of art and inventions developed prior to over 95% of all
> inventions in human history. That the present system has encouraged the
> other 95% in as short a time as the last century indicates that the
> present system is more conducive to technological advancement.

Again you confuse "issued patent" with "invention". Most of the useful
inventions of mankind were made /before/ patents. They are things like
language, writing, fire, housing, agriculture, cooking, weapons, cloth,
tools, and the millions of other inventions we take for granted. And
each of those inventions raised the level of technology of society so
that further invention becomes faster, making it seem like everything
that comes to mind when we say "invention" is recent, but that's just
because our minds have supressed the background noise of things we've
grown accustomed to. I will not speculate on how much faster things
might have advanced without patents in the way, because that would be
just pure speculation; but it is also pure speculation to claim that
progress would have been slower without them.

> > What's the /objectively definable/ difference between discovering the
> > inverse-square law of gravity and the LZW compression algorithm, or
> > natural order spreadsheet recalculation, or a process for making soap,
> > all of which are patented?
> The law of gravity is merely a discovery of knowledge of the existing
> structure of the universe, while the others are artifical constructs
> created by the human mind. That there is the difference between a
> discovery and an invention.

But isn't the fact that if I add lye to lard in a certain way, it
produces soap just a discovery of the inherent already-existing
properties of lye and lard? I can use my knowledge of the inverse-
square law to fire a cannon more accurately, and I can use my knowledge
of the soap process to clean myself more effectively. I honestly
don't see an objective difference to justify the fact that any old
grenadier can use Newton's discovery for his own profit, but not the
discovery of the soap process issued US Pat #1.

> An invention which earns a patent not only is something actually new
> under the sun, but also of high enough market value to be worth the
> effort of pursuing the patent process. As for your circular claim, there
> is no such thing in my argument.

The circularity is this: you claimed that patented inventions added X
dollars of value to the economy, and therefore patenting inventions
was valuable. Let's imagine, for example, that instead of passing a
patent law, congress had passed a law mandating that all inventions
must be green. Given the same numbers, your argument becomes, "green
inventions have added X dollars of value to the economy, therefore
making inventions green is valuable."

Inventions do indeed have an objective economic value. The argument
is not what value X may have resulted from patents; the argument is
about the value of the economy, Y, that would have resulted from the
absence of patent law during that same period. You contend that X > Y.
I contend that Y > X. Both are speculation, because we can't do that
experiment. So we're stuck arguing with the data that does exist,
and from reasonable extrapolations from it.

> Ah you show that you do not understand the economics of it. First off,
> "fair use" has been declared legal, as is personal use, which is why you
> can make as many copies as you want, so long as you gain no commercial
> satisfaction from them.

It's your understandiing that's faulty here. Lack of commerical use is
absolutely no defense. The Supreme Court ruled (Sony vs. Universal
Studios) that /one/ copy made by a VCR for time-shifting is "fair use",
but that's all. If you tape a game, and show your friends, you are
absolutely violating the law, and the copyright owner of the broadcast
can prosecute you. Of course, they won't as a practical matter
because it would be impossible. Such absurdities of existing law are
hardly arguments for continuing it.

> Now, Joe was paid on contract for his services. The organization which
> invested in his services have taken a risk, which they value in current
> dollars at a discounted rate from future earnings. Joe didn't take the
> risk, the company investors did, so they are who earns the downstream
> royalties from the broadcast. Just as you, who did a great job
> developing your compression algorithms, were under contract to Piclab,
> or who ever, and were being paid a salary or fee to do the work "for
> hire". your employers made the investment in you to develop the
> algorithms. If you had done it all by yourself, you could enjoy the
> benefits of that invention. Unfortunately, you are like many corporate
> writers, inventors, etc., in that you fall into an individual version of
> the trap Benjamin Franklin described: "That nation which shall sacrifice
> some measure of freedom for greater security shall wind up with
> neither." Because you seek a secure position, you shy away from the role
> of entrepreneur, you wind up giving up your rights to benefit from your
> creations.

I understand all that, and agree. But the fact that they made the
business decision to charge a certain price for advertisements on the
broadcast, basing that decision on the present existence of copyright
law, is not argument that the economics you relate so well would fail
to operate just as well if the assumptions were different. Perhaps
the network would charge more knowing that they can't expect royalties
from others once they've chosen to broadcast it. Please believe that
I absolutely understand how the present system works; I am a part of
it. I'm just not stuck in it. I have a vision of something better,
and solid reasons for it.

> > Lee Daniel Crocker <> <>
> > "All inventions or works of authorship original to me, herein and past,
> > are placed irrevocably in the public domain, and may be used or modified
> > for any purpose, without permission, attribution, or notification."--LDC
> Nice vow of poverty, Reverend. This is, IMHO, not a statement of free
> market principle, but of anti-market sentiment veiled as piety.

I earn quite a nice living, thank you. If by "piety" you mean adherence
to my own philosophy in general, not necessarily religious ones, then
yes that's exactly what it is. Putting my money where my mouth is. I
honestly believe this view will make us all /more/ profit in the long
run, and even the not-so-long run. If I didn't, I wouldn't do it.
If you want to prove me wrong, you'll have to come up with better ideas
than I've seen so far.