View Full Version : Is Intellectual Property Itself Unethical?

06-12-2010, 12:14 PM
Is Intellectual Property Itself Unethical? | Techdirt (http://techdirt.com/articles/20100519/0404029486.shtml)

He presents a logical progression from things that can be owned (like machines), to things which can't be owned, or at least things that can't be excluded from ownership (ideas, and the expression of).

He brings up the case of the human genome, and that about 20% of it is already patented. And all that's patented is the fact that it's there, and it does some function and that they go as far as to issue C & D's to researchers, whose research includes those genes.

So he asks the question if something is infinitely reproducible, and there's no limitation on the institutionalized concept of ownership, then it's off the type "commons" by default, then how can you ethically label it as yours when it clearly isn't.

I found it interesting from the software point of view, since you are really only patenting the expression or result of an idea, and all of that is reproducible by someone else, but in order to make the industry profitable people have said it's OK to patent ideas and up until computers came into the picture there is case-law that clearly says that's not the fact. So either our definition of patents is incorrect, and has been from the beginning, or the internet is some new hybrid object that's of both the physical, and non physical which can be owned and not owned at the same time.

06-12-2010, 01:12 PM
I believe its been wrong from the beginning, there's a better way.

The whole idea just strikes me as silly, owning an idea. If the results of thoughts can be patented you might as well say thoughts can be patented, 1984 is what I think of and its just ludicrous. In software there are millions of times where code is exactly the same simply because it's an obvious way to code something, and the only way to know if two people are writing it the same way is to look at both of their source code.

I've often thought that in school, plagerism, whats to stop what I'm writing from being exactly the same as what someone else wrote? merely by chance because we both thought similarly enough and found that the idea was best phrased the same way. Then regardless of whether the part of the paper was written off of that other source, or straight from my head no longer matters. We can't be aware of every other persons ideas, or even a small part of the ideas out there.

There's no doubt that when I program something I'm going to eventually do something in a way that was patented, and with the more than hundreds of thousands of patents out there on such ambiguous methods, and even the more precise ones, there is no possible way for anyone to know whether or not they are doing something the same way as protected in the patent unless they happen upon that patent by chance.

All these products and methodologies really can't be patented, there are no original ideas, simply by chance an idea will always be happened upon more than once. It seems very unethical to say you own an idea, when no doubt you weren't the first one to think of it, you were simply the first one to be morally compromised enough to think you should be the only one who can use that idea.

In any case, I think it is better competitively that no one can patent things like that, they will already have the advantage from gaining the idea first, the advantage of time. Any type of enforcement of that advantage seems anticompetitive. You could argue that the company or person spent so much money or time on it, well that's the price you pay to stay ahead. In any case, in a world without patents no doubt the time and money a single company spends will no doubt lessen, as more than one company will be working on the idea. Every successful idea will no doubt be found out, and in the end its as if all the companies were working together on it, with some lag time it takes for the founding company to release a product using an idea, or having the new research leaked.

The pure marketing advantage of gaining the research should be enough to put you ahead, even if other companies copy you immediately. I believe it would be far better for the consumer in a world like that. Though this is all conjuncture as no such world could ever exist for any length of time, as it is not in the best interest of companies to allow that, and all the worlds money is in their or the governments hands.

06-23-2010, 02:12 PM
If there's money to be made (profit+tax revenue) from it you can own it. Another for example is Roundup owning the soybean. It's ridiculous.

06-24-2010, 01:54 PM
It's not the idea itself, it's what method you use to articulate said idea's function.

07-05-2010, 10:39 PM
Patents are an important step to keep individualism alive and keeps innovation healthy.

Without the existence of patents most of the uneducated would just pick the most ripe algorithms for their choosing, that stagnates any drive for progression (why bother if it already exists? why innovate if you don't get rewarded?).

Many engineers have sat down and taken a look at different ways of doing the same thing, better ways. So they can get around patents, without patents they would never spend their energy trying to improve anything... They would just, take, take, take.

07-06-2010, 11:56 AM
i would argue that companies would try to differentiate themselves in a market full of the same products, in order to put themselves ahead. every company would try to use the best of what currently exists, however that means those companies would have almost identical products as their competitors, that is never good, companies strive to have products that set themselves apart from the crowd, it's just good business sense. And therefore they will need to innovate.

And furthermore, with patents most engineers can ONLY look for something that doesn't exist, because they cannot improve upon what already exists, hell you can't even sell an x86 processor without that license, and getting it is a bitch, isn't that right? Coming up with a processor that isn't x86 for mainstream is practically impossible for most companies, as the funds needed to make a matching product in performance is incredible. Patents hinder innovation because only those with the patents are going to be improving that technology, and going around the patent is a painful and inefficient process.

Patents hinder progression on existing technologies to only a few select engineers that happen to be in the company, and only if the company chooses to further that technology, I'm sure many potential technologies have died out simply because the company held onto the patents and chose to improve upon another technology in their patent portfolio.

It also hinders current products as they can only use the technologies they already have patents for, or pay sometimes ridiculous fee's for licensing, which can often times be unprofitable. Instead would it not be better if companies could use the best of all existing technologies to create products that are far better for the consumer? And in order to differentiate themselves they'd HAVE to innovate, instead of going broke because there are no feasible solutions to making a product to compete. The more companies that start up the better, patents make it hard to start up I would assume.

The companies that innovate the most would be rewarded, as they would have the edge for a few months at least until competitors can start manufacturing the same products. Therefore I believe companies would still be able to survive and be profitable by innovating, there will be plenty of companies that just offer old products, but they will be making them cheaper, and they will only have products months after they come out from innovators, still profitable however they will be innovating on making the same parts cheaper.

What happens is more competition, patents reduce competition. I'm not saying we have to do away with them altogether though, but I would like to see them completely restructured at the very least.

K? Pŕo?ćtiόnŹ
07-06-2010, 01:33 PM
Say you make a product, and some big company starts making the same exact product modeling it after yours, selling it for less than half the price because they are outsourcing to china or some **** and your a small company and dont have the resources to do that. They put you out of business with your ideas. How does that sound to you?

Why dont you go plagiarize some of sandmans work and sell it.

07-06-2010, 07:15 PM
doesn't sound too much harder than coming up with a completly origional product lineup, while having to research existing patents, which number in what, the millions, and then still risking lawsuits if you missed one.

07-07-2010, 12:57 AM
I think the problem is not that intellectual property is unethical but the granted length of it is unethical.

I don't see any problem with somebody controlling IP for a very limited time as our founders intended. I DO however see a problem with copyrights and patents being issued for extended amounts of time and those being granted to personage that never dies (corporations). I think the only way to fix the system is disallow corporations from directly owning IP (then they also have the added incentive of keeping the engineers that invented the tech on) and limt patent and copyright to terms of 2-4 years depending upon what area of science / society they apply to. This way society actually benefits from the IP when it becomes public domain and the creator gets the incentive to KEEP innovating and not be stagnant. More specifically, government granted monopolies like copyright and patents should be VERY limited in length to protect society and keep creators creating.

I also think there should be a specific division between natural IP (such as the human genome and etc) and virtual IP (software, etc,) in the system with a scale of rights granted based on the scope of the patent/copyright coverage.

07-11-2010, 03:35 AM
If you restrict ownership of the copyrightable expression a person creates to only 2-4 years, you're going to get a lot less of it. I say this as someone who does this for a living. There are things I wouldn't pursue if I knew that two years later everyone and their mother could start selling copies of my work.

07-11-2010, 02:51 PM
I don't like the idea of 2 to 4 years before it becomes public domain. I still buy 4 year old games and I believe that the maker should get something out of it. I think a much better time frame would be 15 years. Long enough that the product is unlikely to still be producing noteworthy income. I would think that things like product patents should be handled differently though. One example is that I think that the patent owner for the M16 should still get money when one is sold. If List of countries' copyright length - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries'_copyright_length) is to be believed then the current time limit is life + 70 years in both the States and the UK which I feel is too long. I hope it is changed, but maybe not to less than 5 years.

07-11-2010, 02:53 PM
You could think that the shorter lifespan of a copywrite would force people to be productive rather than getting a 1 hit wonder.

K? Pŕo?ćtiόnŹ
07-11-2010, 06:50 PM
So you're trying to force people to do something now? What happened to freedom?

07-11-2010, 08:52 PM
You have the freedom to choose a creative path, just like any other other working person has.

07-12-2010, 01:40 AM
Freedom is best applied If and Only if I see fit, and in only the way that I approve of.

You all have the freedom to do as I say.