Two things came across my feed today. They’re unrelated to one another but demonstrate just how far apart people are who think about these things.
Patents first, via Slashdot:
“The most recent call for curtailing patents comes not just from an unexpected source, the St. Louis Fed, but also in its most basic form: total abolition of all patents. Via the Atlantic Monthly: a new working paper (PDF) from two members of the St. Louis Federal Reserve, Michele Boldrin and David Levine, in which they argue that while a weak patent system may mildly increase innovation with limited side-effects, such a system can never be contained and will inevitably lead to a stifling patent system such as that presently found in the U.S. They argue: ‘…strong patent systems retard innovation with many negative side-effects. … the political demand for stronger patent protection comes from old and stagnant industries and firms, not from new and innovative ones.”
And flip all of that entirely on its head and we have a former US copyright chief arguing that disruptive media technologies should require congressional approval before being allowed to come to market.
One of the reasons why we live in such an innovative society is that we’ve (for the most part) enabled a permissionless innovation society — one in which innovators no longer have to go through gatekeepers in order to bring innovation to market. This is a hugely valuable thing, and it’s why we get concerned about laws that further extend permission culture. However, according to the former Register of Copyrights, Ralph Oman, under copyright law, any new technology should have to apply to Congress for approval and a review to make sure they don’t upset the apple cart of copyright, before they’re allowed to exist. I’m not joking.
Oman’s opinion become known when he filed an amicus brief (PDF) in a case where television networks are suing Aereo, the Barry Diller-backed startup that creates a device that lets you stream TV to your networked screens.
While neither position is policy, and copyright and patents are two entirely different things, these two articles show the fierce legal battles going on between potential disruptors and the potentially disrupted.
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