Subject: Re: The term "intellectual property" considered useful
From: "Ben Tilly" <>
Date: Fri, 12 May 2006 16:22:59 -0700

 Fri, 12 May 2006 16:22:59 -0700
On 5/12/06, Stephen J. Turnbull <> wrote:
> >>>>> "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.

Good point.  However within science it is also accepted that if party
A has a good idea, but sits on it, and party B publishes, party B gets
their name on it.  So while you have the power to not share, you have
a potential loss as well.

> 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.

I'd say that what has them upset here is that they are dealing with
someone who is not playing by their rules.  Science is about
communicating and sharing.  Not secrecy and patents.

>     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.

I'm sorry, but I fail to see where profit comes from in abolishing slavery.