Re: When is an MP3 NOT a nonrival, nonexcludable good?

From: Samantha Atkins (
Date: Fri Oct 26 2001 - 00:24:27 MDT

"> If patents or copyrights didn't exist then there would be
> incentive for investors to provide the funds for everything from
> biotech startups to movies like The Matrix.

Some distinctions need to be made for various types of patents
and copyrights. Patents on software, for instance, have a quite
different set of evil effects than patents of physical
inventions generally. Copyrights on music are a great deal
different than copyrights on some other materials. As the
digitial age unfolds what used to make obvious sense to
copyright and was enforceable trivially and with reasonable (or
at least workable and public) restraints for the sake of the
public now make a lot less sense and/or the restraints can
be/are removed thus decreasing the benefits to the public and
society at large.

Distinctions also need to be made between what patents and
copyrights are and are not for and the implementations of
patents and copyrights in particular areas.

Assumptions should not be made without considerable evidence
and/or reasoning about whether this or that would exist without
the current shape and extent of patent and copyright law. We
could also get into negative impacts of current patents and
copyrights on invention, innovation and real wealth and
distribution of wealth more broadly (by creating more wealth
rather than redistributing the existing pie).

> Now note that this is a bit different from the MP3 question
> from the perspective that the infrastructure required for
> biotech startups and movies generally starts at $1-5M.
> That differs from "bands" where the infrastructure required
> might be less than $10K. Generally speaking bands don't "need"
> investors (though one might view the record labels who
> create bands by design as such) while biotech and movies do.

Very true. On the other hand, it is damn hard to make a living
as a musician. I have too many friends who worked at that for
too many years and mostly failed under the old model. If music
diversity is a benefit we care about then new models of some
kind seem to be required. A model that doesn't pay anyone in an
economy where being paid is the only way to survive, much less
strive, is clearly not a more helpful model. But we need to get
more creative rather than more draconian in shoring up
out-of-date systems that don't work.
> So if you want rapid technology progress you *need* to have a
> system where investors believe that they will have a "protected"
> ROI that balances the risk of early stage investments.

I am not entirely sure that our current VC and invested funded
start-up environment is the only or best way to do things from
here on to the Singularity.

> Note that as costs decline for such things as HDTV cameras,
> computer based film editing equipment and VR design tools
> become increasingly realistic and run on faster computers
> I think the film industry becomes more like the music industry
> (in its need for "protection"). The same may be true in the
> biotechnology industry over the next decade as technologies
> develop. I suspect however there will always be some industries
> that will require protection for investors to take risks
> that facilitate their development. Thus, IMO, the solution
> is not to do away with patents and copyrights but to reform
> them to match specific industries (e.g. drug patents that
> last 10 years instead of 20).

The music publishers need "protectection" largely because they
are occupying a niche that is increasingly irrelevant.
Protecting niches that should be phased out is not healthy. It
saps the strength of the approaching Singularity. It limits the
options and depth and breadth of knowledge available to us all.

I agree with some of your points at this particular stage in our
development. But I think we should be more wary of fixed time
periods. We need hedge clauses that allow us to adapt to
quickly changing circumstances.

- samantha

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