Intellectual Property

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by NickZac, Feb 3, 2011.

  1. NickZac macrumors 68000


    Dec 11, 2010
    With a few other threads relating to this, I am kind of curious to hear everyone's thoughts. 'Intellectual property' has been a commonplace idea in the US only in the late 20th century and, it as least seems, this idea was driven into the spotlight by the Internet and newer electronic mediums for spreading ideas. IIRC England and France have used this term for over a century, and the concept originated in Germany over a century and a half ago. With that said, it was by no means as big of an issue 100 years ago as it is today. WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) became active in the 1970s. Today, WIPO has a HUUUGE operating budget that does not come from 'public' funds, and it is highly criticized. To date, what does and does not fall under the ideology of deserving protection as 'intellectual property' is still debated. The Internet, has in many ways, thrown many people's ideas throughout a body that defines anonymity and where someone's 'unique' ideas are seem to be debated.

    So, what are your thoughts on the concept of 'intellectual property', and what should its limits be?
  2. NickZac thread starter macrumors 68000


    Dec 11, 2010
    Interesting. I knew the idea went back a few centuries but I didn't realize it was so closely defined as to what it is today. Mind you, I have more of the American perspective (as I am an American) and the idea of intellectual property went from something out of the ordinary to 'dinner talk' status in the mid to late 1990s...much of it was fueled by Napster and the potential (at the time) violation of copyright laws.

    Of course the idea has been in academia in the US for a while, but even in the field of academia, it has become a much more common topic as of the past 1-2 decades, presumably because of the notorious 'copy-paste'.
  3. Zerozal macrumors 6502

    Apr 3, 2009
    You might want to rethink your premise.

    The concept of intellectual property has been around for hundreds of years, even in the US. It is actually written into the US Constitution:

    "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;" From the United States Constitution, Article I, Section 8, Clause 8.

    Also, the first US Patent Act was passed into law on April 10, 1790.

    You should probably read through History of Patent Law for some additional background.

    Of course, the concept of Intellectual Property includes more than patents--copyrights, trademarks, and trade secrets are other examples, all of which have a long history in the US and in other countries.
  4. NickZac thread starter macrumors 68000


    Dec 11, 2010
    My 'premise' stated the words "commonplace idea". I am not saying it did not exist in the US until the late 20th century; I am saying it was not a common topic that the public frequently debated. Today, pre-teenagers know what intellectual property is and it is a common topic due to the Internet, plagiarism surge, and recent thefts of ideas that were highly publicized.
  5. awmazz macrumors 65816

    Jul 4, 2007
    So what would happen to the progress of science and the useful arts if there were no such laws? As soon as the idea or writing became public everyone had a right to it?

    Like writing™ itself - patent #8264692953749403525 the Cuniform® Corporation?

    To me these laws to promote science and the arts are no such thing. They are business laws to maximize profit and promote financial gain.

    I think of a gold rush in terms of progress. Whole cities and economies grow and prosper vibrantly from the free-for-all. Compared to the one-company mining towns who have all the rights to the mine and the miners are all workers living in soulless pre-fabs.
  6. iStudentUK macrumors 65816


    Mar 8, 2009
    I'm currently studying law, and I am very interested in IP. I think it is vitally important. Briefly, for those who don't know, there are three main areas of IP law-

    • Patents (pronounced with a soft 'a'!)- Protect inventions by giving a monopoly for a fixed period of time. Imagine you invented something after a lot of time and effort only to have the guy next door start producing and selling it? Probably at a lower cost as he wouldn't have to cover R&D costs.
    • Trademarks- These protect logos and phrases, they are registered and nobody else can copy them. The importance of this is clear- it wouldn't be fair if someone could produce "Coke Cala" with a similar font on a red label.
    • Copyright- This covers things you create, from a simple sketch to a novel. Without it how could people make money through create means if anybody could copy and sell it without permission?

    There other areas such as design rights, trade secrets etc.

    I think the core ideas surrounding IP are excellent. Patents, copyright and trademarks cover the main areas- what you invent, what you create, how you identify your brand.

    However, there are problems with the system. We have all seen the stories about all the technology companies suing the others over patents. It seems that patent law hasn't adapted as quickly as society has moved on. Removing patents is obviously not the answer- companies need to protect themselves to make profit and make more breakthroughs. On the other hand, companies that exist to hoard patents need to be dealt with more effectively.

    The trademarks system seems to be doing fine, probably because companies still use logos and slogans and nothing much has changed.

    Copyright law may need to adapt to the digital age. There is a great backlash against DRM, and downloading is common place now. I can understand why people object to spending £10 on a CD and the artist gets 10p! More power to creators may shift the balance of power back a bit. Digital media is also enjoyed in so many ways- DVD, Blue-ray, files on mobile devices or in NAS devices. Where is the incentive to buy a DVD now only to have it redundant in 5, 10, 15 years with no easy way to get it into a modern format? These are all issues that need to be addressed.

    Overall, IP has its problems, but it certainly does a lot more good than harm.
  7. NickZac thread starter macrumors 68000


    Dec 11, 2010
    So where is the line drawn between intellectual property and say, collective property and/or common knowledge.
  8. Liquorpuki macrumors 68020


    Jun 18, 2009
    City of Angels
    You should go PM cmaier. The guy is a lawyer with a background in patent law. By extension he should have a solid foundation in IP
  9. Sydde macrumors 68020


    Aug 17, 2009
    Right now, if an abstract thing can be locked down, someone will try. The GPL was created so that programs could be distributed freely without someone being able to either lock them down or plagiarize the code (which would amount to theft, sort of like stealing water from the Mississippi). There have been instances of severe abuse of the patent system, where companies try to gain IPR over prior art and, though they might not ultimately succeed, their efforts are a nuisance or worse.

    What is reasonable for non-physical property? Should you be able to acquire a patent that might compromise volume sale of your product in order to prevent the its application? Should your great-grand children be collecting royalties on something you authored sixty years before they were born? I believe the issues surrounding IPR are indicative if broader problems pervading our culture. We can deal with IP how ever, but if we gloss over the issues that underlie it, nothing will get better, and more IP-related problems will surface down the road.
  10. ravenvii macrumors 604


    Mar 17, 2004
    Melenkurion Skyweir
    That's the thing about copyright law - the duration is way too ****ing long.

    It should mirror the rule against perpetuities - life of the author plus 21 years. MAXIMUM. RAP, after all, is a property concept, and copyrights is intellectual property.

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