Thursday, 16 February 2012

The Trouble With Copyright Laws & Collective Intellectual Property

It's in the news. Who really owns it? Truly, it is the first person to patent it.

Copyright Laws are government-granted monopolies that control who can use or view new works of music, film, or literature. Actors, writers, film crews, and those who work on a film project, may be able to share revenues. The end result is that some actors are sitting on fortunes, others go from gig to gig. This, perhaps, is why a family cannot visit a theatre without spending $100.

The pharmaceuticals are a whole different story, with millions invested in research, and profoundly limiting access to generic drugs which are much more affordable.

The question is, who actually created this intellectual property, and thereby owns it? In some cases, it is the first person to register the copyright in the patent office. In most cases, inventions are built on the creations and the shoulders of those who have gone before us!

Alexander Graham Bell's phone is a prima facie case.
Bell filed his patent on February 14, 1876.
An American engineer, Elisha Gray, filed a statement of intent to patent, for a similar item, on the same day. McQuaig and Brooks (The Trouble With Billionaires, 2010) write that the log book at the patent office enters Bell at patent #5 and Gray #39 that day. 
They speculate that one or the other could have sent their patent in by mail, and the order received may not have been the order in which it was developed. 
Are you old enough
to remember punch cards?
Sent off to the university main frame,
only to be returned weeks later.
'Syntax error, line 535!'
Not only that, but Bell's submission had design problems and he had to redesign and refile it later. (Original source: Alperovitz & Daly (2008), Unjust Deserts: How the Rich are Taking Our Common Inheritance

Copyright Laws vs. Collective Intellectual Property
Copyrights and patents, especially in the US, contribute to people like Bill Gates, who made a fortune from something he did not wholly invent. Gary Kildall, who put much work into computer language CP/M, had CP/M adapted by Tim Paterson, which was patented by the latter, and then Peterson's patent was bought by Gates and Microsoft.

Why should Bill gates be worth $53 billion?

Who truly invented the computer?

The Trouble
Was it Bill Gates? Apparently not. His OS was inferior to that designed by Kildall, and it is said that Gates sold out his friend. Gates' product needed work.
Did it begin with the Jacquard loom: punched cards and mechanisms  designed to change silk threads into a woven product in a fraction of time? From producing 1 inch per day if silk material, to creating 2 feet per day, production speed and profits increased, employment decreased.

  • Babbage invented the calculator. 
  • Hollerith used the punched-card technology of the loom to create a tabulator, decreasing the time to crunch data. His company merged with 3 others in 1911, to become International Business Machines (IBM).
  • By the 1930 IBM was building 1500 per year. Unlike the first phone or fax machine (who could you call?!!), the passing of the Social Security Act of 1935 resulted in the US government buying 500 such machines from IBM.
  • Do you know your times tables?
  • During WW II, the U.S. Army funded IBM who created an automatic digital calculating device 51' x 8', based on the punchcard technology.
  • Two engineers at uPennsylvania, Eckert & Mauchly, with more funds from the US government, developed the electronic computer in the 1940s.
  • By the 1950s, technology resulted in computers that were ever smaller, faster, and better. The US Air Force funded inventions such as the mouse.
  • New inventions: graphical user interface (GUI); the keyboard, screen, menu, that allows the drag and drop of modern day. MS-DOS (the much-maligned Microsoft Operating System) prepared us for Windows.

How the Rich Are Taking Our Common Inheritance

 and Why We Should Take It Back

How to tax
How is it that Gates can sit on his $53 BILLION, an amount - if he counted it at $1 per second- would count it in 1680 years! What irks many of us is that while some people like this can become philanthropists, most do not pay their fair share of taxes. Their money doesn't go to people who need it, but to university buildings or a hospital wing with their name on it, not into the fabric of society.


Linda said...

Interesting reading this morning - food for thought. Have a great day!

Red said...

Interesting that the early form of the computer was developed so long ago. Like the picture of the old phone. We had one in our house on the farm but it had a crank not a dial. it's still in the old house.

Yogi♪♪♪ said...

I remember punch cards and typed many of them. chunk chunk chunk they sounded like. Put all your cards together and if you were lucky the program ran, if not you got the message you talked about.

I don't think anybody ever accused Gates of being a technical genius. I wouldn't blame him, I blame IBM for picking his DOS.