The first political victory for open source

The first political victory for open source

Summary: We're finally admitting that copyright absolutism doesn't work. And that's a very important story.

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TOPICS: Patents
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WIPO logoThe WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization, logo at right) Development Agenda is usually a great way to put folks to sleep, but this week it represents what may be the first political victory for open source.

Negotiators in Switzerland have agreed on 24 points nominally aimed at making Intellectual Property issues easier for developing countries to deal with.

In order to get the deal done the U.S. had to back away from a hard line it has taken for more than a decade. It is certain that business interests played a major part in making this happen.

Writes James Love, Chairman of the Union for the Public Domain, "WIPO is finally entering the new century, and responding to the growing demand for reforms, and a more balanced approach to intellectual property protection."

The agreement sets the stage for June negotiations that will consider a proposed treaty on access to knowledge, which Love says would be a radical departure "from WIPO's longstanding efforts to focus largely on expanding the scope and enforcement of intellectual property rights."

Love gives credit all around, but I don't think it would have been possible save for two facts:

  1. Open source has proven a business model exists that lets customers own software.
  2. Apple has shown that in demanding DRM publishers lose control of their own distribution channels.

In other words we weren't being nice to foreigners. We're finally admitting that copyright absolutism doesn't work. And that's a very important story.

Topic: Patents

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  • Exactly what we have been saying all along!

    [B]"1. Open source has [U]proven[/U] a business model exists that lets customers [U][I]own[/I][/U] software."[B]

    ]:)
    Linux User 147560
  • Re: "In other words we weren't being nice to foreigners."

    Who are these "foreigners" of which you speak?
    Scrat
    • That is easy... Nearly everyone...

      US policy, which includes the policy-laundered 1996 WIPO treaties, is protectionist in nature in that it protects business models dominated by US incumbents to the detriment of all other human creativity and innovation.

      Look at this World Mapper map of "royalties and license fees"
      http://www.worldmapper.org/display.php?selected=168

      "Over half (53%) of the value of all royalty and license fees paid in 2002 were received in one territory: the United States. Large proportions of these fees were also received in Japan and the United Kingdom."

      Quite a bit of this collection of royalties is based on bogus administration, such as the massive amounts of poor quality patents granted by the USPTO (IE: patents that would not survive adequate scrutiny of utility, novelty and unobviousness) and the massive expansion of the scope and term of copyright. The USA lobbies to disallow other countries to do the very thing that the USA did to build its domestic capacity: not honour foreign intellectual exclusive rights.

      I'm a Canadian and have to ensure the pressure exerted by US government agencies claiming that Canadian copyright law is "lax". The reality is that US privacy protection is lax, and that is the major difference between Canadian and US law as it impacts P2P filesharing. The only reason the USA isn't on the "Special 301 Watch List" is because the USA is the author of the list.

      This is how bad the US government treats its neighbours, and how it treats other countries in this area of policy is far worse.


      Canadians should sign: http://www.digital-copyright.ca/petition/ict/
      russellmcormond
      • Come on...

        I'm all for getting rid of bad patents, but copyrights? Heck no! If I write a piece of software, or produce a piece of music, you better bet I'm going to claim ownership of that product and you do not have a right to it without my permission.

        I'm not sure where you're getting this stuff about the US dissallowing other countries to "do the very thing that the USA did to build its domestic capacity: not honour foreign intellectual exclusive rights". Please cite examples.
        Punchey
        • modern-day copyright

          The problem with U.S. Copyright law is that it's being perverted by corporations protecting their profit margin.

          Copyright law was originally intended to protect the "individual's" creation, and grant him/her proceeds from that creation for the totality of their life. (75 years) It was NEVER intended to line the pockets of corporations. Yet Disney successfully lobbied Congress (Bill introduced by Sonny Bono) to extend copyright - all to keep Mickey Mouse from falling into the public domain.

          The MPAA and RIAA, plus leading technology companies (you know who you are), are using Congress' ignorance of copyright law to erode the concept of Fair Use, hog-tie the consumer and increase their stock price. To think the U.S. government has not done the same in the global market is fairly naive.

          Those in power will do anything to protect their place of privilege. This is why Ayn Rand's concept of pure capitalism is flawed.
          conspicuouschick
          • Wrong.

            You are completely mixing up two diametrically opposed concepts. The power of which you speak is of a political variety, not economic. The only reason there is a crossover between the two is because government has insinuated itself far too much into the economy. In short, politicians can be bought only because they have something to sell. If the government kept out of the marketplace (except to deal with fraud and theft), you would have a LOT less businesses clamouring and lobbying for political influence.

            There are usually two kinds of lobbying efforts on the part of businesses:
            1. Lobbying to protect themselves from legal restrictions being imposed against them.
            2. Lobbying to impose legal restrictions on competitors.

            If such restrictions were banned, businesses wouldn't have either motivation to get in bed with politicians.

            As for copyrights, I don't necessarily disagree that there should be a reasonable expiration date. Though corporations can rightfully own copyrights (since more and more, content is produced by a team of individuals who jointly hold rights, or have sold those rights to a third-party).

            I still don't see where this idea comes from that the US has violated foreign IP but protects its own. Please, examples are in order.
            Punchey
          • Idealism is charming, but...

            The idea that government isn't or shouldn't be involved in the world of business is charming and idealistic, but naive and historically inaccurate.

            The American government has been intimately concerned with business issues since its founding. The Progressive era, at the turn of the last century, was all about the need to set up a counter-weight to business interests that were strangling the people. The New Deal was meant to save capitalism, through a variety of means, at a time when systems that specifically rejected it -- fascism and communism -- were on the rise.

            The idea of a reasonable expiration date for copyrights, by the way, is in the Constitution -- Art. 1 Clause 8 -- enumerating the powers of the Congress in making laws.
            DanaBlankenhorn
  • Great to see this covered!

    I have been trying to BLOG about the WIPO Development agenda on http://digital-copyright.ca . This represents a turnaround from the FUD of the early 1990's that suggested that new technology would mean the end of creativity and innovation. The thinking in the USA that lead to the 1996 WIPO treaties was simple: if new technologies could be used to infringe copyright, then non-professionals should not be allowed to own and control these technologies.

    Hopefully the Development Agenda will eventually lead to amendments to effectively revoke the 1996 WIPO treaties, and get down to modernizing Berne. Berne was written at a time before computers and databases, and the whole concept of not requiring registration no longer makes sense. It is far cheaper to have a database of works that are currently in copyright, then trying to track the vast majority of human creativity that is already in the public domain.
    russellmcormond
  • This smells...

    I followed these links and all the documentation I can find is nothing but a bunch of vague wording that could be interpreted a million different ways. But all of it has the distinct smell of a leftist attempt to plunder the IP of INDIVIDUALS who live in so-called "developed nations" to the supposed benefit of "developing nations". Granted, some types of IP, such as many outrageous patent claims, should not be considered property. But there's a lot of IP that SHOULD. And legalized piracy is not the answer.

    As this applies to opensource, well, I don't really see how it does apply to be honest. Unless you're talking about siezing people's intellectual property and rendering it "opensource". The only point at which politics should intersect opensource is to uphold the legality of using material that is clearly licensed as such (under licenses such as the GPL, etc). What this has to do with "developing nations" I have no idea.
    Punchey
    • what about patenting something trivial

      like a "swing". Then forcing everyone to pay you money.
      A "swing" was successfully patented to show how ridiculous the IP system was.
      This allows people to stake out trivial IP and plunder money from everyone else.
      The whole point of patents is to protect ideas that are hard to develop for the betterment of society.
      If you give up developing because it's too costly avoiding trivial patent minefields, then how does this push things forward.

      The US is the only territory that has software/business idea patents to date. The US has pushed through the WIPO to try to get other countries to adopt the same ridiculous system, and failed over and over.

      This move was designed to work in the interest of the US, so that IP royalties would flood in. But what it probably will do is destroy innovation inside the US, and other countries will accelerate past the US in technology. (look at China now).

      Even Iran has high technology: cavitation torpedos that go at 250 miles per hour.

      What you're saying is keep the laws that have dulled the blade of the US. Why are you saying this? Greed? Or do you want the US to slow down in invention?
      stevey_d
  • Wrong.

    You are completely mixing up two diametrically opposed concepts. The power of which you speak is of a political variety, not economic. The only reason there is a crossover between the two is because government has insinuated itself far too much into the economy. In short, politicians can be bought only because they have something to sell. If the government kept out of the marketplace (except to deal with fraud and theft), you would have a LOT less businesses clamouring and lobbying for political influence.

    There are usually two kinds of lobbying efforts on the part of businesses:
    1. Lobbying to protect themselves from legal restrictions being imposed against them.
    2. Lobbying to impose legal restrictions on competitors.

    If such restrictions were banned, businesses wouldn't have either motivation to get in bed with politicians.

    As for copyrights, I don't necessarily disagree that there should be a reasonable expiration date. Though corporations can rightfully own copyrights (since more and more, content is produced by a team of individuals who jointly hold rights, or have sold those rights to a third-party).

    I still don't see where this idea comes from that the US has violated foreign IP but protects its own. Please, examples are in order.
    Punchey
    • The patent/copyright system is supposed to push forward invention

      Extending copyright doesn't make people get off their rears to make a new even better tune.
      Allowing trivia to be patented works against invention.
      Everyone has waste time avoiding a minefield of trivial patents instead of focussing their efforts on the core new idea.

      I agree that governments legislate far too much. They interfere far too much.

      I think the "US violating foreign IP idea" comes from the early days of the Union. The 13 colonies didn't want to be paying Britain a tax on ideas.
      stevey_d
    • Do you still want examples?

      Punchey keeps asking why, I'll try to explain.

      Patents in America were first instituted to encourage the independence and growth of America. A patent was intended to cover a real product, in those days building a product required building a factory (or mills or foundries, etc.) that required capital to build. The creator of a novel idea could seek the patent protection of a limited monopoly in exchange for open publishing of the idea after the monopoly had expired. This allowed him the protection to seek capital knowing that no others in America could produce his product during the time period. Patents from all other counties were ignored. This is simplified but think back to the time of the early union when imports from England were being discouraged.

      Copyrights on the other hand were enacted in America to protect authors and songwriters (and other creative works) from dubious printers (or other duplicators that were available at the time) who would reproduce others works without permission. This system started to only protect registered works. The hole (some say intentional) was foreign works which were not registered and thus allowed to be copied. Anyone familiar with old books will know that most of the books published in early America by foreign authors were reproduced without permission. That was legal in the US but England called the Americans pirates. It also had the positive effect of creating the American printing and publishing industry.

      Now America is acting like old England running around the world telling young countries to not do what it did. And to make it worse copyright has been changed to not require registration and there presently is no expiry to copyright privileges (contrary to the Constitution). The expiration and subsequent falling into the public domain was the deal for the granting of monopoly privileges in the first place.

      Here's a couple of side notes on the S. Bono/Disney deals which allowed early Mickey Mouse works to remain copyrighted.

      The infinite extensions to the copyright period has created a quagmire, think of the many lessor works where the owner can not be found for permission. How do you know if you are infringing or how do you find an author if there is no registration? Owners of obscure works may at any time pop up and make any demands. This is having a stifling effect and is causing a loss of works that were intended to protected. If you want to do a work based on an earlier work and the owners cannot be found it may be better to leave the work alone then risk potential law suits.

      This is one I find kind of sinister and is what can be expected when you have a room full of lawyers to do your bidding. Disney was also successful in lobbying for an act that prevents the original creators from renegotiating their contracts. What does this mean? Well the artist who worked on the original Mickey Mouse (and others of course) had contracts based on the return over the length of the copyright. Change that length and more money is made, why should not the "creators" be compensated? That is a huge change on the concept of copyright which was to encourage creative works of art and protect artists. I guess lawyers see their work as being pretty creative too.
      webweave