A long time I was thinking of ways the government might help to promote the use of open-source software (OSS). Now I realize I was looking at the issue from the wrong side. Proprietary software depends on the enforcement of intellectual property rights by the government. Continue reading Opensource and taxation
Intellectual rights can be divided into main categories: copyrights and patents. Intellectual rights are also known as intellectual property, but we believe this is actually a misnomer because property usually refers to the ownership of tangible object, while nothing is more abstract than ideas.
The concept of intellectual rights, especially if called intellectual property, is quite controversial. On one hand there are people, in particular among the far-left, who oppose the very concept of intellectual property. We do not want to abolish intellectual rights, since inventors, writers, musicians and artists invest much of their time, efforts and money in developing new ideas. Many of these ideas are quite influential and important for society, and hence these people deserve a decent reward.
Instead we believe that intellectual right should be reformed. In this post we will discuss some ideas how to organize intellectual rights in the Humanist Republic of Mordan.
All works of writing or music will eventually become part of the public domain, usually several years after the death of the author. However, the duration of patents is usually a fixed period of time (usually 21 years). We propose a fixed term for the duration of copyright of 25 years after initial publication.
The collection of copyrights was not that difficult in earlier times, since printing books and making gramophone records was a costly process. The sale of books and gramophone records could easily be overseen, and hence the collection of copyrights. When copying machines and tape recorders became widely available, clandestine distribution became a serious concern. The widespread use of Internet has made copyright enforcement virtually impossible.
If we accept the premise that authors and artists deserve something for their efforts, we need to find a solution for this problem. The industry with its established interests, typically lobbies for better enforcement of traditional copyrights. Not only do the proposals made by the industry, pose serious threats to civil rights, they also place a serious burden on society. The costs of effective copyright enforcement in its traditional form, as huge and are paid by the state. If these cost were fully passed on to the industry (in the form of taxes), they would probably go bankrupt.
Better would it be to make downloading and sharing e-books, music and videos legal, and introduce alternative methods of compensating authors (as opposed to the corporations who currently collect copyrights). An interesting suggestion is made by the French organization Association de Audionautes, they propose to levy a lax on internet service provider subscriptions to fund an alternative compensation system. Quite predictably the industry opposed this proposal, but we need to recount that the industry is primarily concerned with generating profits for their shareholders, and that the interests of the artist are of secondary importance for them.
By counting clicks on legal download sites and peer-to-peer sharing sites, it will be not difficult to obtain accurate estimates how many copies of intellectual works are in circulation. The funds raised by the above mentioned levy, can be divided proportionally over the respective authors and artists (and by-passing the industry).
In order to facilitate a smooth implementation of this policy, it’s important that there will be a trade union of authors and artists. This trade union will be the official discussion partner of the civil authorities in this matter, and the corporations which currently dominate this industry will be ignored.
Lone inventors who invent important stuff, are nowadays extremely rare, and most modern inventions are the result of expensive research and development programs of universities and private businesses. The idea behind patents is that a temporary monopoly would enable inventors to earn back their investments. But patents are not without criticism.
One example of patent controversy are patents one genes. Since genes are natural things, and not human inventions, we oppose such patents. Another controversy are pharmaceutical patents. Pharmaceutical corporations are accused of making medication unnecessary expensive through the use of their patents. We propose that the government will fund all medical and pharmaceutical research, and all resulting medication will be license free.
Software patents are yet another common controversy. Earlier we have proposed a “prize” system for encouraging programmers to develop open source software.
A serious issue with which should be dealt are patent trolls, companies which hold patents but do not manufacture anything and only exist to collect patent fees. Patent trolls should be prohibited and prosecuted.