Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Random Thoughts on Intellectual Property

Copyright:

1. All works are automatically copyrighted, but the initial period lasts for only a short period of time, say 5 years. After that works have to be registered, and a yearly fee assessed in order to maintain their copyright. The price per year should increase exponentially such that the first 5 years (amortized) essentially charge storage and processing fees. The next five to ten years should be easily affordable by anyone with modest distribution numbers. It should be economically infeasible for Disney to keep copyright on something for somewhere between 30-40 years.

2. Copyright should be changed such that it prohibits publishing (sending a copy to another person) and not copying. As the law stands today, doing things like operating a computer makes a person a criminal.

3. Update work-for-hire rules. Seriously - the whole contractors own their work by default thing is pretty silly. The legal default should be what people expect.

4. Vigorous enforcement. Some of the statutory damage numbers are ridiculous; they need to be changed. That being said, there are also an awful lot of laws on the books that conveniently make it nearly impossible to prosecute violators. In exchange for shorter copyright lengths, copyright holders should be able to expect vigorous enforcement - particularly since the early years tend to be where creators make the majority of their money (excepting a few wildly successful outliers).

Patent:

1. The proposed harmonization with European first-to-file is retarded. First-to-invent is the current (and obvious rule).

2. The point of patents is to encourage research and knowledge sharing by rewarding inventors with the exclusive use of an idea in exchange for a full description of how that idea works. If no one is benefiting from the descriptions on file, the case for patents in a particular vertical becomes quite weak. The case I am thinking of is software patents, but I'm sure there are other verticals where independent invention is much cheaper than looking through patent descriptions.

3. In tandem with point 2, patent length should be alterable for verticals that warrant such tuning.

4. Verticals that need patent-like mechanisms to exist, but who really shouldn't be using the patent system (I'm thinking primarily of the medical field) shouldn't be forced to torture the patent system with twisted case law; they should just have a separate (albeit probably similar) system.

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