Weakening patents would make it harder to “own” ideas. I’m one of those crazy sorts that thinks that our current patent system actually does way more harm than good. That is, a free-for-all might cut into the profits of some innovators, but that would be less damaging to innovation than the cloud of confusion, litigation, patent squatting, and patent abuse that currently makes up our patent system.
One important distinction between clothing and (say) movies or software, is that in the case of the latter the idea is also the product. I can “steal” a clothing design if I want, but afterward I still have to go out and make real clothing with that pattern. I need to turn raw materials into something people can wear.
If we wanted this same openness with movies and games, then you would be free to steal ideas from those as well. You can blatantly copy story ideas, tunes, dialog, gameplay mechanics, and character designs. But! You’d still have to shoot your own movie, perform the music, enact the dialog, or program the game yourself. I’m all for this style of free-for-all where ideas are free for the taking but you still have to realize them yourself.
But what we always end up talking about is a world where you make a product and people simply copy it outright. We’ve had this conversation at least a dozen times on this blog alone, and it always ends with two people arguing over the morality of piracy and whether or not it’s “stealing” if you’re making a copy of something.
For a long time the anti-copyright crowd was basically just pirates with a nuanced set of excuses. But now these ideas are getting a chance to prove themselves as people who produce content join the free & open crowd. Instead of consumers demanding that the entire copyright system be repealed and destroyed (which I don’t ever think can happen, at least not in my lifetime) we have people like MC Lars ignoring the system and simply making content for free. The idea seems to be to give away the music as a way of getting famous enough to live off of concerts and T-shirt sales. Kevin MacLeod is another, in that he gives his music away in exchange for credit for writing the music. That’s a pretty good deal if you need a score for your internet show of obsessive nitpicking and you don’t have a budget.
It will be interesting to compare the new and old music systems a few years down the road and see how they play out.
The Best of 2012
My picks for what was important, awesome, or worth talking about in 2012.
The Best of 2013
My picks for what was important, awesome, or worth talking about in 2013.
What Does a Robot Want?
No, self-aware robots aren't going to turn on us, Skynet-style. Not unless we designed them to.
Grand Theft Railroad
Grand Theft Auto is a lousy, cheating jerk of a game.
Do It Again, Stupid
One of the highest-rated games of all time has some of the least interesting gameplay.