The mainstream press seems to have picked up the scent of a very hot topic. Some important publications, such as the Financial Times, have turned their attention to those who endorse the message of monopolies/oppressors using daemonisation terms or — contrariwise — glorification terminology. Here are some good examples that political blogger are all too familiar with.
One sure sign of a lack of political vision is a rise in the number of pieces of acronymic legislation. After September 11, the US Congress passed the euphoniously named “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act” the initials of which spell out “USA – Patriot.” The Patriot Act is a pretty bad piece of legislation, but at least its drafters worked hard on the acronyms so that opponents could be labelled “anti-patriot” – a perfect level of analysis for Fox News. Admittedly, in this administration, having public officials torturing acronyms rather than detainees might be counted as a plus, but I still find the whole practice distasteful. I’d suggest that politicians vow to vote against any piece of legislation with its own normatively loaded acronym, no matter how otherwise appealing. It might make them focus a little more on the content.
In any event, Congress has been at it again. The House just passed, and the Senate is considering, the Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property Act of 2008 – or “Pro-IP” Act. (If it passes, a version is sure to be urged on Europe as a matter of “harmonisation.”) Are you pro-intellectual property? Then surely you must be for this piece of legislation! The name says it all.
This will hopefully raise more people’s awareness. Harmonisation in this case is somewhat like the joining of oxygen and methane. Not every combination is a healthy one, especially knowing what we already know about people who scream in protest against the USPTO. It is a system whose poor state is irreparable, having permitted too many people to invest in patents that should not have been granted in the first place.
We shall continue to keep track of those who are involved in ruining the system on a global scale for smaller players to suffocate [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8]. It’s well disguised and a lot is happening behind closed doors.
Apropos — patents are not unique here; it has been the same problem when it comes to copyrights. According to Larry Lessig, such corruption is very common. He’s venting backed by historical evidence.
On a massive display screen, he [Larry Lessig] loaded up a portrait of legendary New England statesman and eventual Secretary of State Daniel Webster, whose professional conflicts of interest would have been enough to make even the most lukewarm of political bloggers cringe.
“Bribery wasn’t even a crime in our Congress until 1853. The 19th century was a cesspool of this kind of corruption,” Lessig explained. “Up to 25 percent of the voters literally sold their votes. I’m not talking about a golden past.”
“Just putting money on the table removes the conditions of trust,” Lessig said. “Money destroys the opportunity for trust. Eighty-eight percent of the people in my district believe they have their votes bought.”
He left his role as founder and CEO of copyright reform advocacy group Creative Commons in April to focus on Change Congress.
Over at IEEE Spectrum (latest issue), more problems with the intellectual monopolies systems get highlighted, but it’s not specifically about software patents.
You can learn a lot by searching patents, but what you learn can sometimes be dangerous. If a court should ever find that you infringed on a patent knowingly, you might have to pay triple the damages, together with attorney fees.
The message to a programmer (in the US, Australia, Japan, etc.) seems clear:
- Spend your time reviewing patents instead of developing and at the same time increase risk;
- Ignore patents, reduce risk and penalties, dive straight into actual work
Some laws are simply too ridiculous — if not impossible — to comply with and obey. Welcome to a world where mathematics is a minefield because politicians are foolish enough (or compensated sufficiently) to do the unimaginable. █
“If people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today’s ideas were invented, and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete standstill today.”