Category: Intellectual Property

Open Source Ecology and the Increase of Knowledge

I feel like I need to defend myself before I can even start writing. As a disclaimer, I do believe in capitalism and competition, but I also believe that there are bigger goals in life than maximum profit. This is one of them.

First, go watch this video to see a quick overview of what the Open Source Ecology people are doing.

This was the original goal of the patent and copyright systems. If you look back at the U.S. Constitution, you find a short section referred to as the copyright clause:

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.

Intellectual property is a recent idea. Before copyrights and patents, knowledge was protected by simply not telling anyone. So, if you had an innovative means to distill alcohol, fold metal, or make violins, you would protect the secrets and sell the results. The reason for this is pretty clear… if people were to make public the methods they spent time and labor engineering, others could profit without putting in the same effort. Because of this, many secrets were lost over time, and even today have not been fully rediscovered.

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Sauce for the Goose…

Jonathan Schwartz, president and COO of Sun Microsystems, has written a very insightful post about a conversation he had with the CTO of a “big media company”.

This CTO wanted Schwartz to support technology that would allow media companies to watermark digital media, and prevent thieves from stealing their content. This is the same technology that already attempts to prevent me from backing up my copies of Finding Nemo so my kids don’t break the original.

Schwartz turned the question back the CTO, asking if the CTO would support the same technology regarding the software running the big media company’s systems? He then writes up the response from the IT folks at the media company.

After a few days, I got a response. He’d spoken with their CIO, who dismissed the relevance of my proposal to manage all digital assets under the same scheme. “You’d have to start by proving I’ve stolen something.”

Exactly! Prove that I stole something before you start proactively preventing me. Why should I accept you crippling my system simply because there are thieves out there, who, by the way, cracked your scheme the day it was it released? Your DRM technologies are a headache for the honest, and hardly noticed by the thieves.

I knew I linked to that Schwartz guy for a reason.

The Valuation of a Dragon Sabre

CNET reported that Legend of Mir 3 player Qiu Chengwei, recently, IRL, murdered Zhu Caoyuan, another player, over a stolen virtual weapon. Qui and a friend had won the Dragon Sabre and allegedly loaned it to Zhu. Instead of returning the weapon, he sold it for about $870. When Qui tried to tell the police about his stolen virtual weapon, he was told that it was not actual property, and therefore not protected by law.

On one hand, it is grievous that a person would take another’s life over a weapon in a video game.

On the other hand, what validates something’s existence? The virtual weapon had monetary value. Just because an item doesn’t take up meatspace, doesn’t mean that it does not exist. Continue reading

Who Owns Your Culture?

In 1990, Paul Simon released “The Rhythm of the Saints“, which continued his foray into world music which he started with “Graceland”. The album was very successful, and being as Mr. Simon is a very nice guy, he decided to send a portion of the royalties to the government of Ghana, since one of the songs on the album, “Spirit Voices”, was based on an old Ghanan song, “Yaa Amponsah”.

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Intellectual Property

I’ve created a new category to organize my thoughts on intellectual property, copyrights, and their relationship to Biblical ethics. As I said in a previous post, I’ve been working occasionally on a book on what scripture says about the subject. I think Christians have bought the party line, and we need to do some serious and honest rethinking.

There is even a separate rss feed for those who want to follow just this subject.

Some Rights Reserved

You may have noticed at the bottom of all the webpages on my side, that there is a “Some Rights Reserved” icon. Clicking on it will take you to the Creative Commons website, where you can learn about what rights we reserve and what we’ve “given up”.

Over the last few years, I’ve been doing a lot of research on intellectual property, and especially it’s relationship to Biblical morality. I’ve seen many Christians accepting the entertainment industry’s mantra that violating copyright is “stealing”. After looking at the modern attitude towards intellectual property, and the way that scripture looks at “true” property, I’ve concluded that the idea that copyright violation is not “stealing”, that is, it’s not a violation of the 8th commandment.

I’m currently thinking of writing a booklet on the subject, to pass around for criticism. Of course, when it is done, I will be releasing it in a freely distributable version for criticism.