Subject: Re: The term "intellectual property" considered useful
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <>
Date: Sat, 13 May 2006 03:37:28 +0900

>>>>> "Ben" == Ben Tilly <> writes:

    Ben> Newton's Law of Gravity.  Stokes' Theorem.  DeMorgan's Laws.

    Ben> Our language reflects the practice of science: ideas are
    Ben> owned by their discoverers, whose ownership rights are
    Ben> limited to an insistence that they be acknowledged. :-)

You wish.  There are also the ownership rights that derive from mere
possession.  25 years ago I had a really good idea.  Unfortunately, as
grad student I couldn't afford the time or money to collect the needed
data.  Fortunately, a perfect data set existed.  Unfortunately, the
researchers who had collected it refused me permission to use it, even
with their names on the paper.

Unforgiveably, when I went back to ask five years later, the data set
had been lost in a fire.  And no, they never did write anything like
the paper I had proposed.

Or take (if you can get near it, that is) the Karmarkar algorithm for
linear programming, whose inefficient version is patented, and whose
production version is still not public AFAIK.  My OR colleagues don't
like the patent, no, not at all.  But what gets them into a lynching
frenzy is the trade secrecy.

    Ben> I would beg to differ.  People CAN be owned and HAVE been
    Ben> owned.  However it is WRONG to own people, and once it became
    Ben> economically feasible to act on that, society did.

I think it has been economically feasible to abolish slavery for a
couple thousand years or so.  (Cf. Fogel and Engermann, _Time on the
Cross_, for an extensive simulation of 18-19th century America without
slavery.)  What happened in the last couple hundred years is that it
became outright profitable to do so.

Graduate School of Systems and Information Engineering   University of Tsukuba        Tennodai 1-1-1 Tsukuba 305-8573 JAPAN
        Economics of Information Communication and Computation Systems
          Experimental Economics, Microeconomic Theory, Game Theory