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20 Dec 2007

Intellectual Property

Addressing Intellectual Property. The notion of assigning a value to a thought; usually an idea. I will refer to it as IP for short now.

It's something I think about a lot. It needs work.

Across the board IP effects every part of our lives. As the world changes the impact of a notion of IP is pivotal. What is IP? Should IP exist?

Consider the following scenarios.

A restaurant creates an innovate Molecular Gastronomic dish. It's a sensation. A rival restaurant begins to serve that recipe. Should they be stopped? Should Joe Public at home also be stopped from serving to his family?
If we reward the innovation this costs energy and stifles competition. But if don't the innovation gets little support.

Another example.
A fan listens to a new song at his favorite band's gig. The melody remembered, he stums it back on his guitar at home. People are impressed. In fact, friends encourage him to play for more people. Eventually he plays at the local open mic night and this may be involved in attracting more business for the venue. The guitarist gets no money for this. Should he be stopped? Should he be jailed? Should the venue be fined or shutdown?
A different fan makes a bootleg recording and remixed the tune so that it is enjoyed in a different way than previously possible. Should that be prevented? Would doing so help the original writer?

What about software. That's a common situation.
A company develops a way to process customer information in a very fast way. The program to do this has some protection. It is very expensive. Only international corporations can afford this technology.
A programmer, inspired by this investigates the program and releases a free version. Now the public can all benefit from this technology. With small companies using the technique used in the software the economy is visibly boosted.

Medicine. Lives are at stake here. Don't think this is some airy intellectual discussion. People are dying because of IP, so consider this real example.
International mega corporation has a cure for disease X. However, Mega Corp also produce treatment for the symptoms of disease X. As a result they patent the cure and but never produce it to protect the profit that can be gained from leaving the problem as it is.
Aids drugs are make-able for much cheaper than current price but this is not allowed. In fact, when Venezuela tried to manufacture aids drugs for Africa on the cheap countries on the beneficial from the drugs companies made threats. A quiet political discourse hidden from unified media.

Am I getting through? More examples!

Cosmetics. A less serious example. A chemical formula is available for perminent hair removal. This and any attempts to develop another formula to do this are patented and bought up by the cosmetics industry who have developed a massive industry for hair removal - eppilators, razor blades and waxing strips. Permanently easily remove that hair and the industry is gone.

Piracy. If you would never pay for a product then what damage is done? Most computer users have collections of IP on storage that are greatly in excess of their wage; 300gb of mp3's, is that £9,000 of CDs? DVDs at £15 each how many on your hard drive? What about software? Would you pay for Excel/Office at £200, Photoshop at ~£120, Dreamweaver £300, Cubase ~£200 and all the rest? Imagine we could force everyone to pay - I would wager that everything would come to a halt such a large majority is built on pirate software. Not just infrastructure where licenses can be tracked to businesses but the creative industries like music, media, TV. And all the creative day to day things like when someone needs to make a poster for a local jumble sale. It would effect everything. What can be done? Programming has to be funded somehow.

Trademarks. In time words like ipod, perspex, hoover, oakleys & tomtom get absorbed into everyday language. It becomes tenuous to communicate without using a trademark. This benefits the trademark owner and that is good but it means that people are censored on free speech. I have a Vaccum to sell on ebay, yet no one uses the word vacum, instead using Hoover. I can't communicate. For some words there isn't even an alternative. Ebay's Vero scheme is in a way good because it rewards the efforts of the brand... but how do people find the competition if there is no common word to search for? How do we find the alternative for Perspex and Selophane? Answer: We no longer can because we are censored. So IP is damaging communication here too.

At the moment there's lots of madness about round IP. Fair and efficient, where? Strange situations are occurring. What can be done?

There is one possible unifying answer.
- drop it in all forms.
But I don't think this can happen. I just think it's too much and someone is leading us to try to do the opposite. Perhaps it is workable for a micronation but with compromise to avoid wars on politics like drugs (should all be legal).

In the mean-time education helps. Publicize and educate to bring the world forward on this. Tell everyone you know. Watch for this in everything you see.

On a similar thread of thinking, isn't it best to legalize use of drugs and allow an arena for this kind of thing in sport?

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