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 >>

“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.

Continue reading

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! >>