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Posts Tagged ‘copyright

“He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine”*…

 

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Article I Section 8 | Clause 8 of the U.S. Constitution provides that “[The Congress shall have power] To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.”  And so that family of protections/rights in the intangible things that we now know as “intellectual property” was enshrined at our nation’s birth.  But has that affordance gotten out of hand?  More specifically, is the concept of “intellectual property” itself a problem?

The grand term ‘intellectual property’ covers a lot of ground: the software that runs our lives, the movies we watch, the songs we listen to. But also the credit-scoring algorithms that determine the contours of our futures, the chemical structure and manufacturing processes for life-saving pharmaceutical drugs, even the golden arches of McDonald’s and terms such as ‘Google’. All are supposedly ‘intellectual property’. We are urged, whether by stern warnings on the packaging of our Blu-ray discs or by sonorous pronouncements from media company CEOs, to cease and desist from making unwanted, illegal or improper uses of such ‘property’, not to be ‘pirates’, to show the proper respect for the rights of those who own these things. But what kind of property is this? And why do we refer to such a menagerie with one inclusive term?

The phrase ‘intellectual property’ was first used in a legal decision in 1845 and acquired formal heft in 1967 with the establishment of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), a specialised agency of the United Nations that represents and protects the commercial interests of holders of copyrights, patents, trademarks and trade secrets. The ubiquitous use of ‘intellectual property’ began in the digital era of production, reproduction and distribution of cultural and technical artifacts. As a new political economy appeared, so did a new commercial and legal rhetoric. ‘Intellectual property’, a central term in that new discourse, is a culturally damaging and easily weaponised notion. Its use should be resisted…

Samir Chopra (@EyeOnThePitch) argues that copyrights, patents and trademarks are all important, but the term ‘intellectual property’ is nonsensical and pernicious: “End intellectual property.”

[Image above: source]

* “He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me.”                    — Thomas Jefferson

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As we share and share alike, we might recall that it was on this date in 1937 that Wallace Carothers, a chemist at DuPont, was granted U.S. Patent #2071250A for “Monocomponent artificial filaments or the like of synthetic polymers; [and the] Manufacture thereof from homopolycondensation products”– or as we know the product in question, nylon.

Nylon was the first commercially successful synthetic thermoplastic polymer.  It’s first commercial use was in a nylon-bristled toothbrush in 1938, followed more famously by its use in women’s stockings or “nylons” which were shown at the 1939 New York World’s Fair and first sold commercially in 1940.  During World War II, almost all nylon production was diverted to the military for use in parachutes and parachute cord. But these wartime uses of nylon (and other DuPont-patented plastics) greatly increased the market for the new materials– and thus, for DuPont’s patents– in the post-war era.

220px-Wallace_Carothers,_in_the_lab

Carothers in his lab, stretching a sample of nylon fabric

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Written by LW

February 16, 2020 at 1:01 am

“Widespread public access to knowledge, like public education, is one of the pillars of our democracy, a guarantee that we can maintain a well-informed citizenry”*…

 

Top Row (left to right): André Breton; Buster Keaton; László Moholy-Nagy   Middle Row (left to right): Gertrude Stein; H. G. Wells; Frank O’Hara; Alfred Stieglitz   Bottom Row (left to right): Evelyn Waugh; D. T. Suzuki; Paul Nash; Mina Loy

Via Public Domain Review

Pictured above is our top pick of those whose works will, on 1st January 2017, enter the public domain in many countries around the world. Of the eleven featured, five will be entering the public domain in countries with a “life plus 70 years” copyright term (e.g. most European Union members, Brazil, Israel, Nigeria, Russia, Turkey, etc.) and six in countries with a “life plus 50 years” copyright term (e.g. Canada, New Zealand, and many countries in Asia and Africa) — those that died in the year 1946 and 1966 respectively. As always it’s a varied gaggle who’ve assembled for our graduation photo, including the founder of the Surrealist movement, a star of the silent film era, the Japanese author behind the popularisation of Buddhism in the West, two female writers at the heart of the Modernist scene, and one of the “fathers of science fiction”…

More on each of the “graduates” at Class of 2017.

* Scott Turow, attorney, author, President of the Author’s Guild

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As we share and share alike, we might send foresightful birthday greetings to Erasmus Darwin; he was born on this date in 1731.  Erasmus was an accomplished doctor (he declined an offer to be personal physician to Charles III).  He was also a restless inventor, devising both a copying machine and a speaking machine to impress his friends (inventions he shared rather than patenting). But he is better remembered as a key thinker in the “Midlands Enlightenment”– a founder of the Lunar Society of Birmingham and author of (among other works) The Botanic Garden, a poem that anticipates the Big Bang theory in its description of an explosion, a “mass” which “starts into a million suns,” and Zoonomia, or, The Laws of Organic Life, which contained one of the first formal theories of evolution… one that foreshadowed the theories of Erasmus’ reader– and grandson– Charles… all of which are in the public domain.

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“Enjoy every sandwich”*…

 

In late August, the U.S. District Court for The District of Puerto Rico dismissed an appeal on a civil suit filed there. The dispute, between Norberto Colón Lorenzana and South American Restaurant Corp., stemmed from a fried-chicken sandwich…

Both amusing and illuminating– the tale in its tasty entirety at “Can You Copyright a Sandwich?

[Special intellectual property bonus: “The International Fight Over Marcel Duchamp’s Chess Set,” featuring Scott Kildall, whose “Playing Duchamp” was featured here earlier.]

* Warren Zevon

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As we ask for extra mayonnaise, we might note that this, the 20th day of National Chicken Month, is National Punch Day.

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Written by LW

September 20, 2015 at 1:01 am

Digital wrongs…

Readers experience DRM– digital rights management– everyday, as a feature of the software they use and the entertainment they consume; it turns out that one doesn’t buy the services and experiences one thinks one’s buying; one rents them– on restrictive terms specified by the provider.  Those providers take their rules very seriously indeed:  they monitor their customer’s behavior for transgressions, sue their customers whenever they suspect a violation (c.f., here and here, for instance), and work surreptitiously with governments to extend their controls abroad (e.g., here).

Their success-to-date hasn’t gone unnoticed by those selling atoms as opposed to bits.  Monsanto, for example, patents its seeds and licenses them to farmers, so that those farmers can’t use the seeds from their crops to replant– as for centuries they have– they must repurchase (or relicense).  And like the litigious software and entertainment giants, Monsanto aggressively protects its interest through law suits.

Where might all of this end?  A group of eight designers competing in The Deconstruction, gave us a peak:

email readers, click here

The DRM Chair has only a limited number of use before it self-destructs. The number of use was set to 8, so everyone could sit down and enjoy a single time the chair.

A small sensor detects when someone sits and decrements a counter. Every time someone sits up, the chair knocks a number of time to signal how many uses are left. When reaching zero, the self-destruct system is turned on and the structural joints of the chair are melted…

[TotH to Hexus]

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As we decide to stand up, we might recall that, while dentures date back (at least) to the Etruscans circa 700 BCE,  it was on this date in 1822 that Charles M. Graham of New York City received the first US patent for artificial teeth.

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Written by LW

March 9, 2013 at 1:01 am

Many Happy Returns…

 

The Free Music Archive has found a replacement for the most recognizable– and probably the most lucrative– song in America– “Happy Birthday To You.”  Together with WFMU, FMA ran a contest to find a new copyright-free (and free to use) “Happy Birthday” song…

The “Happy Birthday To You” melody was published in the late 1800s by two sisters who taught elementary school, and it was registered for copyright, as “Happy Birthday To You” in 1935. Time Warner acquired the copyright in 1998. The song reportedly brings in two million dollars a year from licensing for films, TV shows, advertisements and the like; it won’t enter the public domain until 2030 at the earliest.

WFMU thought it was dubious that the song still deserves copyright protection, but rather than mount a court challenge, it sponsored a competition for a new birthday celebration song. Among the judges were Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Lessig and Yo La Tengo’s Ira Kaplan.

As WFMU says, the new song puts the happy back into birthdays, and takes the cease and desist out of them.

The winning tune, by  Monk Turner + Fascinoma lacks the opportunity to shout out the birthday person’s name; but there is room to build in a call and response element. You can download the sheet music in the key of B (pdf, google doc) or the key of C (pdf, google doc). Also, check out the alternative versions of the song including two piano tracks and an instrumental version.

And you can hear it, playing behind Bloomberg Law’s recounting of the case, here:

[TotH to Laughing Squid]

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As we hum a different tune, we might send public domain birthday greetings to Wilhelm Carl Grimm; he was born on this date in 1786.  The younger of the Brothers Grimm, Wilhelm and Jacob collected and published folk and “fairy” tales… a great many of which, freely available as they are in the public domain, have been used as the texts of animated and live action films that are– and will for decades be– under strict copyright protection (c.f., for example, this list of Disney films based on fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm and others).

[Cake photo sourced here; Grimm, here]

 

Written by LW

February 24, 2013 at 1:01 am

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