Thursday, December 16, 2004

Intellectual Rights I

Digital Democracy at Cyberlaw

Reading some of these lecture intros such as :

Class 8: November 4, 2003

Intellectual Property and the Economics of Culture: Indigenous Knowledge, Shamans, Folklore, and Traditional Music

Leads: Andrew McLaughlin, Ethan Zuckerman, Colin Maclay

Some argue that the Internet frees knowledge, builds communities, and enables global distribution of local cultural products; others that it commodifies knowledge, steamrollers local identity, and fosters a global American hegemony of Hollywood to Britney Spears. This week, we look at the effect of digital technologies on the (in)ability of developing countries to afford legal protection to locally-produced traditional and indigenous creative works. As you do the readings this week, consider the following: What interests are really being protected and what interests are being harmed by international intellectual property regimes? Is there any empirical or other evidence that suggests that intellectual property rights help or hinder development? How do intellectual property laws interact with the politics of power, local culture and economics? Can a single policy fit diverse nations with diverse industries, economies, cultures, etc.? What are the costs and benefits of conforming to international intellectual property norms and adopting international treaties?

makes me realise my dream of this global brain with micropayments determining who gets what cash is being undermined by people who already know their digital product is superior and who feel they ought to make sure that others pay to read it, pronto.

Nowadays, If I link to a newspaper and it offers me one article then payment for subsequent ones, I try to remember not to go back to it. Let them Paypal/Eat cake!

The question of payment is hedged around with questions of psychology. Brings to mind all those experiments/games where if given a choice, and even though it ultimately results in nothing for anyone, players given the chance to take all the loot immediately, do so!

So the answer is : it will take a long time, even generations, for the internet to be used as a global brain of the sort envisaged by internet dreamers. As it is, an awful lot of contributers do so without thought of immediate return [e. g. academic papers avoiding screening by journals but still subject to peer review] on their intellectual capital. Humans being human, we all know many expect a return of some sort at some stage, even if, because trained in the techniques of deferred gratification, i.e. they have had or are having, tertiary education, they are prepared to be patient providing the actual payment is biggish when it arrives..

I have now come across Brian Micklethwaite, at Brian's Culture Blog, - no doubt a relation of that other more famous, Micklethwaite (only kidding, he's a Micklewhite) , Michael - who has written several pieces about intellectual property here and here which take me back to some private writing about Umberto Eco.

I came to the conclusion vis a vis textual property, copywrite, that the digital arena left it wide open for exactly happened to the Clinton book described by Brian. However, I suggested that in the digital book (because it would be impractical and too expensive elsewise) the real author could subtly change his original text using some sort of bespoke software, such that the copyists could never keep up. It does ask the sort of question that Eco frequently asks, that's why I used a well read book by him as an example, changing specific words or phrases that others would recognise and be able to judge as fundamentally altering the text beyond a certain threshold. By keeping the title but letting the text subtlely evolve, as is your right as author, your book remains your solely because you were in control of changes that only you can understand. John Fowles, who if my memory serves, altered The Magus substantially in a much later edition, though only because he found the original unsatisfactory.

This can't be done for the molecular structure of a new drug, however. Unless, that is, the patent shifts with the slightly new and better computer designed molecule, leaving the "copyist" in its wake. as the molecule keeps on changing but retains the copywrite name.

This certainly can't be done for the design of a suspension bridge. It is the patent, if there are any unique features, that is safest.

It is certainly is too late for music and its looking pretty bad for film.

Film might well end up sampled, like music. An interesting notion, in one respect, because it hints that film as we know it, full of original ideas and quirks, will disappear to be replaced by "modular" film, which will interest only young people who motly only like to watch things moving across the screen fast. One way of looking at it, though, is sampling might tend to be of film sound-track rather than footage. New films would be made but the dialogue would be from all over the place. This omits to mention that most films will be made digitally anyway, with real actors faithfully digitised to do the sort of things they did in their rea acting.

The future of manufacturing, added value, intellectulal rights, etc, can only be seen in terms of rapid turn around of new designs and micro-construction [nanotechnology]. You could do it yourself now: design a new type of Post-It! With a different shape ( a more complex shape which still tesselates) and a new type of glue. Don't bother to prevent anyone from stealing your idea, just make sure to make the print run to the market you think you can sell to before someone else jumps in. The on to the next product...


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