July 21, 2010

Shutting Down the Alternative

Justin Katz

This is the sort of thing about which all Americans should strive to be aware:

Hot on the heels of recent threats from Vice President Joe Biden and Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator Victoria Espinel directed at sites offering unauthorized movies and music, last month U.S. authorities targeted several sites they claimed were connected to the streaming of infringing video material.

'Operation In Our Sites' targeted several sites including TVShack.net, Movies-Links.TV, FilesPump.com, Now-Movies.com, PlanetMoviez.com, ThePirateCity.org, ZML.com, NinjaVideo.net and NinjaThis.net. In almost unprecedented action, the domain names of 7 sites were seized and indications are that others — The Pirate Bay and MegaUpload — narrowly avoided the same fate. ...

Now, according to the owner of a free WordPress platform which hosts more than 73,000 blogs, his network of sites has been completely shut down on the orders of the authorities.

We're all interconnected, out here on the Internet, and it would be very easy to come up with pretenses to take out unquestionably legitimate Web sites with which the powers who be have problems. We're not to the point of virtual black helicopters, yet, but it's critical to have an eye on such developments.

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More casualties of the great corrupt Intellectual Property delusion. A more ludicrous concept than state-licensed monopoly ownership of ideas is difficult to imagine, although I'm sure they'll manage to surprise me in time. Besides the glaring philosophical problems with copyright enforcement, the evidence of economic benefit remains exactly zero in practice, with numerous counterexamples in arbitrarily exempted industries of how the protections are totally unnecessary or counterproductive.

Every year the cruel, unusual, and completely arbitrary 1000x penalties become harsher and the corporate intellectual property monopoly interests grow more entrenched. The intellectual property Drug War is just beginning and the result will be the same. Even if one has been indoctrinated in the religion of "intellectual property," the Constitution allows ownership of creative works for "a limited time." The Judiciary, in its infinite wisdom, has determined that a human lifetime plus 70 years can be considered a "limited time." I wonder if 10,000 years would qualify, some patent or copyright hoarding corporation should try it out.

Posted by: Dan at July 21, 2010 7:04 PM

I am divided on this one. I have little trouble with the idea that an "artist" should own their songs.

When it comes to an "idea" about how to make electrons co-operate, I have a little trouble. Just how much of an alteration of that idea is required before it is a new "idea".

Additionally, we are just finding a way to control natural processes which already existed.

On the other hand, these "ideas" can be very expensive, in terms of making them operable. Who would invest in an "idea" that went immediately into the "public domain".

I am reminded of an old Rhode Island company that invented a machine to make jewelry chain. Rather than patent it, they elected to restrict access. Only the father, son and a trusted employee were allowed into the room with the chain making machine. I think this actually worked out rather well for them, giving them a 40 year exclusivity on very fine chain. Probably not "intellectual property"

Posted by: Warrington Faust at July 21, 2010 9:57 PM

My last post set me to thinking. It seems to me that the entire Rhode Island textile industry (now gone) was based on a "spy" sent to England to memorize the machines used in English textile mills. The machines were copied here and put to work.

Why does this remind me of America and the Far East?

Posted by: Warrington Faust at July 21, 2010 10:01 PM

Warrington, what exactly are you afraid of? The Britney Spearses and Lady Gagas of the world have no opportunity cost to their actions. It's not like the moment they stop making $20 million per year in illegitimate copyright monopoly profits they'll become wall street investors and oil tycoons instead to make up the difference. Song artists make most of their money from concerts performances now anyway. Before copyright law, the great artists and musicians strove to be copied as the ultimate recognition of merit. Anyone who thinks free rider problems destroy profit opportunities for creative works should visit a library - the Harry Potter series being made publicly available at no cost didn't stop J.K. Rowling from becoming richer than the Queen of England. The fashion industry has no copyright protections and it does just fine, talented designers still make huge profits. Copyright is a massive anti-economic fraud.

Posted by: Dan at July 21, 2010 10:47 PM

Warrington Faust you said;

“Why does this remind me of America and the Far East?”

I think you are reminded of the most glaring operational security blunder (OPSEC) the U.S.A. ever made in its history with no espionage involved!

As the security field story goes, Japan saw the value in making certain types of steel that the U.S.A. was making and sent a number of people to Washington, DC to the US Patent Office Library which was manned at the time mostly by librarians who believe all information is free asking for copies of and legally paying for copies over the counter of the US Steel making patents to review for possible process infringement.

Lo and behold they took the copies of the US patents back to Japan copied the process and started making steel themselves!

Japan at the time was immune to international treaty and U.S.A. copyright laws.

The rest is history!

Posted by: Ken at July 22, 2010 2:45 AM

Warrington Faust,

Sorry fast fingers!

I did not finish the last sentence properly as it should have said; The rest is history; Honolulu, HI is the only place you can see the U.S.A. involvement (actual start and actual finish) with WW-II standing in one place.

Posted by: Ken at July 22, 2010 3:03 AM

Jeez you guys, I said I was conflicted and you have all pounced on the idea that I support the status quo.

You make the well known point that "imitation is the sincerest form flattery" and that "designers" have no patents. That causes me to wonder. "Designer labels" are preferred to quality imitations, and people will pay the big bucks. That suggests to me that something other than "design" is being purchased. It woud appear that prestige is being sold, rather than fashion.

The Japanese steel example sets me to wondering. Pouring steel in large quantities was not an American invention. As I recall the process was developed by Krupp in Germany. Makes me wonder how the "idea" got here.

Still, the idea of a completely "free market" of ideas makes me wonder. Most are commercial processes, I think the inestors requires some protection, or, they wil not invest. The fashion designer example seems to suggest that "if you don't have better steak, sell the sizzle".

Posted by: Warrington Faust at July 22, 2010 11:56 AM

A further thought on the Japanese steel example. The "idea" was not steel, steel was not new, witness the Japanese swords. The "idea" that mattered was the ability to produce it in large quantities. Part of the protection was the huge investment required to facilitate large scale production.

Not sure that the Japanese example is a good one. They had purchased most of our scrap metal, the joke in the WWII era was that they were firing it back at us. When I was a kid, I lived near an abandoned streetcar line. The oldsters joked that we had sold the track to Japan and that they had made tanks out of it.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at July 22, 2010 12:04 PM
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