Intellectual Property

IANAL (I am not a lawyer.)

I’m a proud cog in the information economy, and I make my living on manufacturing information. We all buy and sell information every day. The volume of information going around is rapidly increasing as time progresses, and I think it’s clear that we don’t have a good system for regulating the information economy.

On a legislative level, we currently have several failed systems for the regulation of intellectual property:

– There is no universal or global acknowledgment of intellectual property, and most systems of regulation simply break when the information leaves its creator’s jurisdiction. This leads to copyright being nearly meaningless in certain countries where IP is not recognized, not enforced, or neither.
– ‘Fair use’ in the United States is at best a cruel joke, and protects almost no one. The segment most unable to make fair use of a product are professional content creators, whose producers are reluctant to take any risk of costly litigation.
– Users are an enormous, slow-moving target for IP owners seeking legal recourse, and cannot muster even a token defense against whatever claims are brought against them. If not for groups like the EFF, few IP suits against end users would ever go beyond settlement.
– The largest content owners and producers (along with as umbrella industry groups and PACs) take it upon themselves to sponsor politicians friendly to their interests, resulting in well-funded campaigns for any legislators willing to cooperate with them.
– The United States Patent and Trade Office is an outdated, Kafkaesque organization with no semblance of understanding and a completely broken system of patenting. This is more arguable when one is discussing non-software patents; due to a gap in understanding between those who write or patent software and those who approve and adjudicate patents, the system currently in place for patenting software is rife with abuse (even according to many owners of software patents).

On a physical level, mechanisms so far intended to prevent violation of intellectual property rights have done little more than decrease the quality of products, while increasing the cost to manufacture them.

– To date, no system of DRM-laden content has ever shown promise in avoiding being subverted, gamed, or bypassed. In the arms race between secure distribution schemes and the holders of encrypted data, the odds will always be stacked clearly in the favor of unlocking information.
– Even a theoretically secure system is still entirely susceptible to transcoding or transcription. Regardless of how difficult it is to mass-distribute a strongly encrypted, watermarked, time-expiring piece of information, if the data is viewable by a human it is likely copyable, often perfectly, to another medium.
– Streaming, proprietary, or encryption-bloated data, often infused with the mandatory viewing of warnings about redistribution, is inherently less usable and much less desirable (to varying degrees) than content distributed otherwise.

Why is it so hard to regulate our god-given rights to information? Why should we be ‘punished’ for sharing information with the world?