Excelent Article on Intelectual Property

Personally I think that “Intellectual Property” is an oxymoron, and a nothing more than a speed bump on the road to innovation. A speed bump which, is already becoming a serious obstacle and given enough time it may cause the road to be blocked completely. But that’s just me. I’m a dirty, GNU loving, Linux using, good for nothing blogger – so my opinion obviously does not count here.

But, sometimes I am able to find other people to share similar beliefs like me who do not belong to the social groups universally hated by corporate America and Washington DC. For example, it is refreshing to see a Noble laureate to speak about serious issues involved with intellectual property (story via Boingboing). Joseph E. Stiglitz got a Noble Prize in Economics – so I think he is perfectly qualified to voice his opinion on this topic. Certainly, he can make much more sense out of the whole IP mess than me and you.

Here are some great quotes from his excellent article:

Ideas are the most important input into research, and if intellectual property slows down the ability to use others’ ideas, then scientific and technological progress will suffer.

And this is exactly what is happening right now! You can’t write software anymore without doing extensive patent research!

In fact, many of the most important ideas – for example, the mathematics that underlies the modern computer or the theories behind atomic energy or lasers – are not protected by intellectual property.

Well… It used to be that way. Now it’s free for all. Anyone can patent a mathematical theory, or even a logical operator these days.

Moreover, so-called “patent thickets” – the fear that some advance will tread on pre-existing patents, of which the innovator may not even be aware – may also discourage innovation. After the pioneering work of the Wright brothers and the Curtis brothers, overlapping patent claims thwarted the development of the airplane, until the United States government finally forced a patent pool as World War I loomed. Today, many in the computer industry worry that such a patent thicket may impede software development.

I didn’t even realize that patent retardation like the one we have right now has happened before. Here we have a fine historical example of what might happen if you let IP run out of control. Yet hardly anyone knows about it. It seems that patent office has not learned anything from the history.

The growth of the “open source” movement on the Internet shows that not just the most basic ideas, but even products of enormous immediate commercial value can be produced without intellectual property protection.

Yup! Open source is doing great without patents. The only problem is that everyone else has them and is just waiting for an opportunity to sue someone.

I served on the Clinton administration’s Council of Economic Advisors at the time, and it was clear that there was more interest in pleasing the pharmaceutical and entertainment industries than in ensuring an intellectual-property regime that was good for science, let alone for developing countries.

See – this guy was there. He knows what’s going on. It’s not like we sit around making up tinfoil hat stories. This shit is real!

So complaining about IP is not just the domain of linux zealots and hairy GNU/Hippies (cough*RMS*cough). It’s not just the paranoid tech savvy engineer club that’s freaking out about this. Internationally acknowledged economists are seeing this mess too! Which means that something really, really wrong and scary is happening. Economists are usually blind as bats when it comes to technology issues…


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