Subject: Re: The term "intellectual property" considered useful
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <>
Date: Sun, 28 May 2006 04:13:40 +0900

>>>>> "Taran" == Taran Rampersad <> writes:

    Taran> Stephen J. Turnbull wrote:

    >> Listen to Larry Rosen!  Look at the law, then you'll know.  If
    >> you don't know at that point, ask your lawyer. :-)

    Taran> The law as it *is* does not define the law as it should
    Taran> be. Whatever it is that should be.

However, the law as it *is* does give important clues about what the
law *could* be.  Even in Napoleanic systems it's not as flexible as
some people seem to think it should be.

    Taran> At the bottom of the entire stack are issues regarding
    Taran> property

That's right, but they're mostly religious, and I don't think we're
going to manage to get everybody to agree that property sucks, all
white people should commit suicide, and give the land back to the
aborigines, and let the commoners' sheep graze on Crown lands.

So that leaves tweaking the law as it is.  In the fine hacker
tradition of tweaking with a double-bladed +10 great-axe, if you like,
but nonetheless starting from the ancient hunk of twisted natural
cellulose we have at hand.

    Taran> and regarding all sorts of assumptions about how all sorts
    Taran> of things work.

Yes.  My point is that the people who are posting in this thread have
demonstrated that they have no idea how patent law works.  I'm not
much better informed, but at least I've heard the word "claim" and
recognize its relevance.

The thing is that although digital technology is new, it's not as
radical a change as software workers would like to think.  As Ben
Tilly was a great pains to point out, "man is the measure of all
things", and the Internet and even nanotechnology and the Universal
Pantograph are not going to change human nature that much.  I'd be
willing to bet that patent and copyright will outlive the electronic
computer, and a mature understanding (achieved within a few hundred
years) will consider that a good thing.  (Of course, I have no way to
bind my heirs to pay off if I lose, so....)

    Taran> When you start challenging those assumptions... well...
    Taran> some people sweep it under the rug because it is 'too
    Taran> difficult'. In my eyes, that makes the discussion of
    Taran> 'intellectual property' as circular as the WSIS was.

Galileo challenged assumptions on the basis of careful observation,
observation that had already been made in detail by Brahe (who was
unwilling to challenge assumptions himself, justified by the
imprecision of his observations, please note), was being codified by
Kepler, and would later be refactored by Newton.

This thread has been conducted by people who don't distinguish between
definition and example, who don't think the notion of "claim" is
relevant to the discussion of patent, and who believe that
restrictions on distribution of manufactures amount to the "ownership"
of ideas and thought control.

It may not be necessary to master a subject before challenging the
conventional wisdom, but at least one should apply for an

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        Economics of Information Communication and Computation Systems
          Experimental Economics, Microeconomic Theory, Game Theory