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Here we'll explore the nexus of legal rulings, Capitol Hill policy-making, technical standards development, and technological innovation that creates -- and will recreate -- the networked world as we know it. Among the topics we'll touch on: intellectual property conflicts, technical architecture and innovation, the evolution of copyright, private vs. public interests in Net policy-making, lobbying and the law, and more.

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June 21, 2005

Scrivener's Error Replies to Stallman

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Just below, Jason Schultz links and excerpts Richard Stallman's recent piece in the Guardian (Patent Absurdity).

Scrivener's Error has an interesting (and harsh) critique of Stallman's essay (Time is of the Essence). Petit of Scrivener's Error focuses on the limited term of patent. He's right about that, but I imagine that a patent on literary works would have a tremendous effect on the market nevertheless. I suspect we would be looking at much more consolidation among publishers, for example. And a market that is much more expensive to enter.

Comments (4) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Counterpoint


COMMENTS

1. Jason Schultz on June 21, 2005 11:09 AM writes...

Also, consider the relative time frame. Sure, 1862 seems so long ago, so why should we care about a 20-year monopoly on ideas? But in the software world, 20 years is an eternity. Think about it -- what was software like in 1985? Would we really want to be still stuck there, except when we're willnig to pay monopoly rents?

I'm not saying Stallman's analogy doesn't break down in places, but the time limit critique isn't convincing to me.

Permalink to Comment

2. Ernest Miller on June 21, 2005 11:29 AM writes...

One also notes that many physical patents are relatively difficult to violate, unless one has plenty of resources. Violating many method and software patents (or literary) patents is well within the means of just about anyone.

Permalink to Comment

3. C.E. Petit on June 21, 2005 5:47 PM writes...

Perhaps I overemphasized "time" in my opening, but if you read on you'll note that what I'm really getting at is novelty and obviousness; the temporal dimension just makes the poor logic that much more, umm, obvious (but, I'm afraid, not novel).

The real problem is not patent law per se; it is implementation of it, in that (1) we don't give examiners adequate resources and (2) at least in the US, we actually steal resources from the examiners. Leaving aside the theoretical problems with software patents, it seems to me that this argues not for changing the law, but changing the administration of existing law, before we go about changing the entire system for an unforeseen set of problems from a hypothetical new system. I'm no friend of software/business method patents, but I think that a well-trained, properly supported set of examiners is capable of dealing with the worst of the problems they create—and we need to remember that no human system is perfect.

Permalink to Comment

4. Cory Doctorow on June 22, 2005 1:18 AM writes...

Time is a red herring. The slipshod world of examination means that all sorts of things are patented and then re-patented once the term runs out (or even overlapping with the original patent) -- and have to be litigated to clarify their status.

Regarding novelty and obviousness: that's what Stallman's talking about. Maybe all the examples in Les Mis have prior art in the Old Testament, but progress bars and buying things from the Internet have prior art in sources just as venerable, albeit in Internet years.

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