Using A Mallet to Smash Shiny Myths

The new, fully archived blog is now: www.cambridgeblog.org

Full of whacking metaphors?! My favorite kind of review!

Marginal Revolution takes Against Intellectual Monopoly to task. In addition to all the whacking, poster Alex Tabarrok does my other favorite kind of review; one that really engages the authors and argues nuances with them.

Against Intellectual Monopoly is a relentless, pounding, take no prisoners attack on patent and copyright law. It joins Lessig’s Free Culture and Heller’s The Gridlock Economy as an instant classic and a must-read on these issues.

Many people argue that the patent system has gone wrong in recent years, Boldrin and Levine argue that the patent system was rotten from the start. James Watt they say was a “scoundrel” who with his politically-connected partner Matthew Boulton used the patent system to crush their innovative opposition and delay the industrial revolution.

During the period of Watt’s patents, the United Kingdom added about 750 horsepower of steam engines per year. In the thirty years following Watt’s patents, additional horsepower was added at a rate of more than 4,000 per year. Moreover, the fuel efficiency of steam engines changed little during the period of Watt’s patent; however between 1810 and 1835 it is estimated to have increased by a factor of five.

Will books be published without copyright? Boldrin and Levine point out that the 9-11 Commission Report was profitably published by Norton despite being available free for download. Not to mention the fact that most of the great works of literature were published without copyright. Boldrin and Levine are top-notch theorists but AIM is widely accessible and it succeeds best with its many historical discussions and contemporary anecdotes.

Read the rest of the review on Marginal Revolution >>

One Hundred BILLION Dollars!

The new, fully archived blog is now: www.cambridgeblog.org

It has nothing to do with a nuclear-armed drill, or liquid-hot mag-ma however.

The US has spent $100 billion on contractors since 2003. And as we know, it was well accounted for, and spent prudently. Right?

The Pentagon’s reliance on outside contractors in Iraq is proportionately far larger than in any previous conflict, and it has fueled charges that this outsourcing has led to overbilling, fraud and shoddy and unsafe work that has endangered and even killed American troops. The role of armed security contractors has also raised new legal and political questions about whether the United States has become too dependent on private armed forces on the 21st-century battlefield.

This article has the scoop. Contractors outnumber troops on the ground.

The cover image from Paul Verkuil’s book really says it all. There are the billions, right on that table.

Paul Verkuil is an expert in administrative law and professor at Cardozo. His book was a huge wake-up call, and I really hope message gets out!

“Dark Knight” Lasts 38 Hours Before Pirated

David K. Levine on keeping your monopoly just long enough to benefit from it — but not so long as to be, well, a monopoly. Further, Dark Knight did it without government intervention!

An interesting story in the LA Times about the movie “Dark Knight.” They went to great lengths to make sure that bootleg DVDs wouldn’t hit the streets for the first two days after the movie was released:

Avast!

Avast!

Warner created a “chain of custody” to track who had access to the film at any moment. It varied the shipping and delivery methods, staggering the delivery of film reels, so the entire movie wouldn’t arrive at multiplexes in one shipment, in order to reduce risk of an entire copy being lost or stolen. It conducted spot checks of hundreds of theaters domestically and abroad, to ensure that illegal camcording wasn’t taking place. It even handed out night-vision goggles to exhibitors in Australia, where the film opened two days before its U.S. launch, to scan the audience for the telltale infrared signal of a camcorder.

Warner Bros. executives said the extra vigilance paid off, helping to prevent camcorded copies of the reported $180-million film from reaching Internet file-sharing sites for about 38 hours. Although that doesn’t sound like much progress, it was enough time to keep bootleg DVDs off the streets as the film racked up a record-breaking $158.4 million on opening weekend. The movie has now taken in more than $300 million.

The success of an anti-piracy campaign is measured in the number of hours it buys before the digital dam breaks.

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Trademark Abuse

David K. Levine is a professor at UCLA and author of Against Intellectual Monopoly. This post, from Against Monopoly, along with the ensuing discussion, poses some questions:

Do trademarks represent an identity? What rights do we have to our identities, corporate and otherwise?

From AM:

As you may know I am much more favorably inclined towards trademarks, than other forms of intellectual property. (Michele is less favorably inclined.) It seems to me a good thing that it is possible to tell who you are doing business with, and no downside monopoly. That may be the purpose of trademark law…but there is another part of creeping IP: the apparent right under trademark law to protect the image of your product. Daniel Monchuk directs us to an article in the WSJ about what seems to me to be trademark abuse. The article is about costume companies that are being sued by trademark holders for providing costumes based on trademarked characters. For the life of me I don’t see what this has to do with identity: there is no claim that these costumes are authorized by the trademark holder, nor can a costume based on a comic book be confused for a comic book. Perhaps Justin or someone else who knows more about the law than I do can comment on whether this is a proper use of trademark law as it exists. Certainly if the law allows it, then there is a big problem with trademark law.

Read on! >>

It was only a matter of time…

The folks at Slate have been so kind as to put together a Venn Diagram of The crimes committed by the Bush Administration. Oh, where to start?

Though you can follow the chart well enough from here, I’d suggest you click on it for the interactive version. It fills one with a strange kind of righteous irritation.

Well, the good kind.

All those memos on torture were documented by someone, you know. Karen Greenberg and her colleagues did a lot of research legwork documenting torture in the administration.

Meanwhile, Laura Donohue has assembled a great resource detailing loss of civil liberties in the administration’s war on terrorism.

Global Trade Governance Not So Global

This week’s lead story in The Economist addresses what folks have suspected for a while — a lot of the institutions that are supposed to promote all sorts of good things like trade, good economic policy, human rights, and stability are getting more than a little outdated.

CLUBS are all too often full of people prattling on about things they no longer know about. On July 7th the leaders of the group that allegedly runs the world—the G7 democracies plus Russia—gather in Japan to review the world economy. But what is the point of their discussing the oil price without Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest producer? Or waffling about the dollar without China, which holds so many American Treasury bills? Or slapping sanctions on Robert Mugabe, with no African present? Or talking about global warming, AIDS or inflation without anybody from the emerging world? Cigar smoke and ignorance are in the air. Read More >>

Mmmm... delicious hospitality...All that on top of the bad publicity that some leaders like Gordon Brown got for devouring an 8-course dinner after attending G8 meetings on food shortages. Now I have my two cents on this one: the Japanese are among the most gracious hosts in the world, as my wife’s treasure trove of teapots and beautiful stationary from her father’s Japanese colleagues can attest. Should a world leader refuse hospitality fit for a world leader?

Dennis Patterson and Ari Afilalo would have something to say about all this. The G8 and international institutions, not the big, delicious meals.

Turning a big, special meal down would probably be a bit impolite, but the renovations to facilities and infrastructure detailed on the same Independent article are pretty wild, because after all, Japan is in dire need of infrastructure improvement… right?

Oh well. Here I go, shamelessly posting the dinner menu in full, grabbed from The Independent. Whoa. They’re even drinking Latour. And as for the dessert: un-sexiest dessert name ever.

UPDATE: Some blogs have coined this whole affair G-Ate Gate.

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Back to the Future, with Barack Obama

Timothy Lynch and Robert Singh

Barack Obama is now the repository of the hopes and dreams of all those cosmopolitans and sophisticates who still see Iraq as a disastrous mistake, the war on terror as a fiction, and a return to the Bill Clinton years of supposed ‘peace and prosperity’ as seven years overdue. But these expectations are already so high that, assuming the Illinois neophyte wins in November, a strong element of buyer’s remorse is almost inevitable in 2009, for three reasons.

<<Jonah Goldberg’s LA Times commentary on the future of Bush’s reputation>>

Firstly, if Obama does make it to the Oval Office, it will not be as a McGovernite ‘bring the troops home’ candidate but as a ‘hard power’ Democrat. As it has since 1972, national security remains the reliably painful Achilles heel of Democratic presidential aspirants. Obama’s platform thus far, such as it is, promises not to abandon the war on terror but to rebrand and wage it more effectively. His main rationale for getting US forces out of Iraq is not to turn their swords into ploughshares at home but to redeploy them to Afghanistan. Obama has committed to using US forces in the border states of Pakistan against al Qaeda if Islamabad refused to do so. Notwithstanding the unforeseeable threats that will arise after 2009, an Obama presidency will not see the end of action for the US Marines, Predator drones or special forces.

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