Monday, 15 August 2011

google, motorola, vultures


Ah, excellent, something topical for my long-promised copyright post. If you don't listen to This American Life, well, there it is, but I don't know why. In this episode, about three weeks ago, the show discussed patent law. Apple is always buying someone, and so is Google, and so are the rest of them, and the reason is that vulturish companies buy loosely-written patents so they can use them to sue companies which actually do stuff. Apple and Google mostly buy companies to get hold of patents and protect themselves from the vultures.

The result is that patent law hobbles genuine innovation and software engineers hate and scorn it. This is brilliant stuff, in and of itself, but what it made me think about was creative copyright.

Basically, software engineers and former software engineers in Silicon Valley, etc. are at the forefront of the move to open up content because it 'wants to be free'. I wonder if their bitter experience of patent law trolls feeds into their view of creative copyright, which they then blithely threaten, and which me and quite a lot of other people I know depend on for their living. It's one of those times where two groups of people think they are talking about the same thing ('intellectual property') but they are divided by their common language.

I haven't got a fully-formed, final opinion on this, but it feels like part of a large, more complicated story.

Another part, incidentally, is simply age. A cohort at the forefront of copyright theft is the young. The young are A) Young, and therefore poor and B) Young, and therefore not necessarily aware of the difficulties of earning a living. I think the second of these is in enormously underrated part of the complicated story. The internet population is very young, and there are lots of things about dealing with life that it doesn't yet understand.

(Anyone wanting to explain to me why copyright theft is ok (and let's be clear, I have indulged in it in my time, but it is what it is) should read this first. In fact, everyone should read it.)

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