[clug] Re: A most interesting read, most interesting

Sam Couter sam at couter.id.au
Fri Dec 29 22:20:41 GMT 2006

Peter Anderson <peter.anderson at internode.on.net> wrote:
> I would be very offended if 
> somebody claimed that my hard work and innovation was for nothing and 
> that the rest of the world has unfettered rights to that work and 
> innovation.

You can be offended all you like, but other people copying your work in
the absence of copyrights *does* *not* *harm* *you*, so you really have
no moral basis on which to object. You want to restrict others freedoms
for no reason other than envy, or some sense of entitlement.

It'd be just as silly for you to complain if your neighbour painted
their house the same colour as yours after you spent some time and
effort deliberating over what would be the best colour scheme. The
neighbour may have gotten something for nothing (the knowledge that the
colour scheme you selected looks good), but you have lost nothing.

> In the case of a corporation (public or private), it spends 
> a great deal of its shareholders funds on developing 
> ideas/products/etc.; surely the corporation has the ownership of these 
> ideas and products.

In the current legal climate, they do own those ideas in some ways. But
that ownership is a concept created by society. It's not an inherent
right in the same way that rights over tangible property like houses and
cars are considered inherent rights.

You've given the exact reason why the copyright bargain has been made,
too: it creates an incentive for people and corporations to invest in
creating stuff.

The downside is that it also gives corporations an incentive to lobby to
extend copyrights indefinitely, rogering the society that gave them the
copyright bargain in the first place. Big problem.

> Now from my recollections as a Patent Examiner, its Sam's views that ARE 

Patents, copyrights and trademarks are all completely different.

> This 'contract' between idea developer/inventor 
> and the State is based on an initial premise that the developer/inventor 
> actually owns the idea/invention, otherwise why is it necessary to form 
> the 'contract' (or grant the protection right).

As Martijn has said, that 'contract' creates a legal right where there
was none. Before patents, people kept stuff secret at a great cost to
society. Keeping the obstetrical forceps secret probably cost tens of
thousands of lives of women and children lost in childbirth. Patents
grant some protection in return for publishing those secrets.


But so far we haven't been talking about patents, just copyrights.

> One other small point, this debate is too interesting to allow it to 
> degenerate into name-calling and nastiness. Sam, perhaps you might like 
> to tone-down some of your criticisms just a little so the rest of us 
> don't have to look at your views through your 'red mist'.

Oops. Sorry about that. Sometimes I fire up over silly comments when I
really shouldn't.
Sam Couter         |  mailto:sam at couter.id.au
                   |  jabber:sam at teknohaus.dyndns.org
OpenPGP fingerprint:  A46B 9BB5 3148 7BEA 1F05  5BD5 8530 03AE DE89 C75C
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