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Free Minds & Free Markets

Owning Ideas—An Outdated Idea?

Maybe intellectual property in its current form has outlived its expiration date.

For most of history, people suffered in miserable poverty. Then, in a few hundred years, some new ideas made life hugely better for billions of us—things like running water, the printing press, the steam engine, electricity, the Internet. We want people to keep coming up with new and better ideas. But there's a problem: Why would you bother to spend years inventing something if other people can just steal your idea? Who will devote years and millions of dollars to making a big movie? Or a dozen years and billions of dollars to bringing a new drug to market? Almost no one.

Filmmaker Kirby Ferguson sums up problem: "Let's say a guy invents a better light bulb. His price needs to cover not just the manufacturing costs but also the costs of inventing the thing in the first place. Let's say a competitor starts manufacturing a copy. The competitor doesn't need to cover those development costs, so his version can be cheaper."

Then he profits, but the original inventor goes out of business. That's why America grants time-limited patents and copyrights to creators of songs, books, movies, paintings, drugs, etc. Fine.

But today Fox won't let me sing the song "Happy Birthday" on my TV show. That's because Warner Music bought the rights to it in 1998. People now have to pay Warner about $2 million a year to use the song in commercials and movies.

Sheesh. Why does Warner get such a long copyright? The song already existed. It's not like the composer needs protection.

Bridgeport Music, a business that makes no music but obtains copyrights and then sues people, won a lawsuit over two seconds of sound. When we questioned that, their lawyer wrote back: "I personally do not understand those who criticize people for protecting their intellectual property ... (We) happen to own valuable music."

Give me a break. He's an opportunistic parasite.

I wonder about my former employer, Disney, too. It paid nothing for the Snow White story because it was in the public domain. But then Disney managed to get its version of Snow White copyrighted for 95 years. Will 95 years of protection make Disney's animators more creative? I doubt it.

In the era of the Internet, when young people take mashups and do-it-yourself parodies for granted, maybe intellectual property in its current form has outlived its expiration date.

David Koepsell, of the Center for Inquiry, says today's rules are hostile to free speech. "Intellectual property law actually prevents me from making certain expressions, things that are allegedly other people's own."

Lawyer Stephan Kinsella, author of Against Intellectual Property, says copyright decreases intellectual output because it "prevents people from saying what they want to say, from copying, learning, sharing, remixing." That stops some books from being reprinted and movies from being remade.

When Hollywood complains about "piracy," Kinsella asks, "Why call it piracy? Pirates stole. But if you copy ideas, you don't take anything away from the originator." Thomas Jefferson once agreed, writing, "He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper (candle) at mine, receives light without darkening me."

Kinsella points out that movie-industry income doubled even though films are now widely copied. "The danger to artists and to people who want to get their name out there is obscurity, not piracy."

I'm not sure what to think. Some of you watch my shows on YouTube. I like that because it means my show reaches more people. But those who post my videos do actually steal from Fox. If everyone can do that, why would Fox pay me or cover the cost of doing my show? When I see myself on YouTube, I both smile and cringe.

So how should ideas be protected? Magicians and comedians found ways to protect their inventions without government—by keeping tricks a secret or shaming people for stealing jokes. I'll explore these ideas on my TV show in its new slot, Friday, 9 p.m. Eastern. And if some clips from it turn up on YouTube...

© Copyright 2015 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

Photo Credit: dullhunk/Flickr

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  • Unreconstructed||

    This is a hard problem. I agree that current "intellectual property" law is broken, but there definitely needs to be *some* protection for inventors and creative types. Where to draw that line is tricky indeed, and any solution will involve tradeoffs. Ownership of the output of one's labor (the creative work) is an important principle. Corporate ownership of works adds complexity to the situation. Patent/copyright trolls are just useless drags on society, and need to die. There's probably an answer somewhere, but I'm not sure I've heard a good one yet.

  • Scarecrow Repair||

    "Definitely"? Surely you jest. If it were definitely true, you wouldn't have needed to explain why it's definite.

  • taker||

    I would extend the comments to say that in my opinion, all of jurisprudence is antiquated and dysfunctional. It is a system designed and run by government and it's "officers," the lawyers and judges to extract the maximum amount of money for the least amount of services. It is the world of "create a need and fill it." Worse, only the rich can afford these services of government compulsion on personal behalf, most recently demonstrated by the lobby for 99 years of copyright. How can they do that with a straight face?

    We will never make any progress in IP until we design a new system from the ground up. Without traditional jurisprudence.

  • Scarecrow Repair||

    I would start by requiring victims (or their guardians, powers of attorney, etc) prosecute, that judgements be in the form of restitution only, that losers pay including all court costs, and that losers who refuse to pay restitution be barred from redress for the amount owed or less.

    If I sue someone for $500 and the court costs $100 (some guy at the mall that we agree on, say) and win, and the loser refuses to cough up, thenhe owes $600 and has no recourse to courts for anything less or equal to $600. I could presumably steal enough from him to get my $600, but that would be pretty uncommon.

    At any rate, the point is that now "stealing" IP can be thought of as stealing by IP holders, but they have to prove that my copying something actually cost them money for the restitution. As far as I'm concerned, both sides of the issue get what they wanted. If singing "Happy Birthday" is theft, then show me what restitution I owe. And noen of that statutory damages crap -- this is actual harm for value lost. Like when a college kid is found with 30,000 downloaded CDs -- prove you would have had a chance at actually selling that many CDs to a college kid and we can begin to discuss restitution.

  • Stormy Dragon||

    So you want a world where the rich would be free to murder people as long as they can afford to pay for the lost wages?

  • ace_m82||

    I think he was referring to repaying something in kind. If the murderer doesn't mind paying for his murder with his life, there is little else you can do to him (torture?).

  • Stephan Kinsella||

    This is not a hard topic at all: once you realize that patent law is about protecting firms from competition and copyright amounts to censorship.. Both are totally antithetical to capitalism, freedom, property rights.

    Stossel is heroic to tackle this controversial topic, and he seems to be leaning the right way.

    for people who want more information, see my Liberty Magazine article on IP: http://mises.org/library/intel.....rtarianism and other material at www.c4sif.org

  • ||

    This is not a hard topic at all: once you realize that patent law is about protecting firms from competition and copyright amounts to censorship.

    In a sense, yes, but that term is limited. If I know that any good idea I have will generate me essentially no revenue once it's offered for sale, but a lot of cost to develop, guess what? I'm not going to bother. Patents and copyrights are a great benefit to individuals. Term length is a reasonable argument, but eliminating the ability for a creative to benefit from an idea is cray cray.

  • OldMexican||

    Re: Old Man With Candy,

    If I know that any good idea I have will generate me essentially no revenue once it's offered for sale, but a lot of cost to develop, guess what? I'm not going to bother.


    To reverse-engineer something that had high-initial costs is just as costly, OMWC.

    YOU may not want to bother but there will be PLENTY of people who WILL bother. How do you think the first automobiles were developed? All had high initial costs and their commercialization required a lot of backers. All of that withOUT a patent.

  • ||

    Spoken like someone who has never reverse engineered things nor invented things. I've done both, it's my profession. NO comparison.

  • OldMexican||

    Re: Old Man With Candy,

    Spoken like someone who has never reverse engineered things nor invented things.


    I have reverse-engineered things. You face Opportunity Costs just like an inventor. Don't forget that.

  • DarkSide||

    I have reverse-engineered things. You face Opportunity Costs just like an inventor. Don't forget that.

    What if there is no need to reverse engineer, or doing so can be done in a short amount of time.. Say I have a product that is fairly simple, yet still not thought of. I take it to market where anyone can reproduce the same thing.

    Does the simplicity mean the product not deserve some sort of protection?

  • MarkinLA||

    Opportunity costs? I don't think you know what you are talking about. You are copying an already successful product on the market. What costs do you have compared to the guy who made the first one without knowing what the sales would be like? The only market cost to you is the other guy has first mover advantage like Apple did for a lot of it's products. People still bought Apple even when cheap Chinese products flooded the market using similar but not the same technology.

  • MarkinLA||

    To reverse-engineer something that had high-initial costs is just as costly, OMWC.

    Bullshit. Anybody in engineering knows this is bullshit.

  • Sam Grove||

    People will continue to develop and sell their product, they will just have to face increased competition and all will strive to outperform each other in production efficiency.

    Converting raw petroleum into products was a competitive industry when John Rockefeller entered the fray and developed new and more efficient means of production. He didn't have to rely on patents, he merely outperformed existing producers and went to the front of the pack.

  • MarkinLA||

    When the limit on entering a market is an enormous amount of money in start-up costs patents aren't as important IF nobody else has them. I doubt that Standard Oil never took out a patent on any of it's products or it's processes.

  • rosenjcb||

    "If I know that any good idea I have will generate me essentially no revenue once it's offered for sale, but a lot of cost to develop, guess what? I'm not going to bother."

    You got out of the information market because you think that the only way to collect revenue from information is by marketing it as a private good? What's funny is this isn't even primarily how information is used in market activities. Advertisements, which are essentially information, are produced at a cost because revenues are realized from other economic activities (advertised items being bought). In academic realms, information is seen as a means of reputation building through publication ventures and patents are seen as unhelpful for new scientists (i.e. many scientists at big R&D firms like RAND were forced to patent their works at the company and were not allowed to share their work with universities and other research programs). You don't have much good business sense if the only way you can realize revenues is through the direct selling of private goods.

    "Patents and copyrights are a great benefit to individuals." Of course they are, monopolies are great for the monopolist! Not so much for the rest of the world though.

  • Stephan Kinsella||

    "In a sense, yes, but that term is limited."

    So what. So is minimum wage law. At $7/hour, it's not too harmful. At $100/hour it would be more distortng. So what?

    "If I know that any good idea I have will generate me essentially no revenue once it's offered for sale, but a lot of cost to develop, guess what? I'm not going to bother."

    You do realize this is not an argument.

    "Patents and copyrights are a great benefit to individuals. Term length is a reasonable argument, but eliminating the ability for a creative to benefit from an idea is cray cray."

    So what is the optimal term, and how do you know? Is it zero, 14, 28, 70, or infinity? Waht's the right answer, O Grand Planner?

  • OldMexican||

    Re: Stephan Kinsella,

    Both are totally antithetical to capitalism, freedom, property rights.


    Of course they are, but even pro-capitalist libertarians regard IP as a valid concept even when it can ONLY be enforced by government force and not by physical means, precisely because ideas SPAWN in people's minds even when not directly witnessing the concept (for instance, there were TWO inventors of the telephone but only ONE reached the patent office on time, so who owns the telephone?)

  • rosenjcb||

    "but even pro-capitalist libertarians regard IP as a valid concept even when it can ONLY be enforced by government force and not by physical means," This isn't entirely true. Some do, some don't. Kinsella is a "pro-capitalist libertarian" and doesn't see it that way.

    "because ideas SPAWN in people's minds even when not directly witnessing the concept (for instance, there were TWO inventors of the telephone but only ONE reached the patent office on time, so who owns the telephone?)"
    Just because the idea spawns into your mind doesn't mean it can't spawn into mine as well. Let's say you pray really hard and you get a car, and I pray really hard and I get a car as well. Did I infringe on your property rights by using prayer to get the car? It spawned before your eyes before my car spawned before mine.

    "(for instance, there were TWO inventors of the telephone but only ONE reached the patent office on time, so who owns the telephone?)"
    You're referencing a first to file versus first to office debate and I'm not sure which side you're taking.

  • OldMexican||

    Re: rosenjcb,

    Just because the idea spawns into your mind doesn't mean it can't spawn into mine as well.


    That is my exact point. Arguing that I.P. is true property is meaningless precisely because ideas can SPAWN in people's minds at once, even if inspired for different reasons.

    The first to file or first to office debate is also meaningless. If I.P. was true property, then by virtue of having the idea FIRST any other mind should be incapable of holding the idea, the same way as having MY car excludes everyone else from having it at the same time. But as the exact same ideas can be held by different minds at the same time, it follows ideas cannot be held as property.

  • rosenjcb||

    "That is my exact point. "

    Gotcha'.

    "The first to file or first to office debate is also meaningless. If I.P. was true property, then by virtue of having the idea FIRST any other mind should be incapable of holding the idea, the same way as having MY car excludes everyone else from having it at the same time."

    It's what happens when you go down the rabbit hole. Like Neoclassical business cycles are meaningless debates, but that's what you gotta' do when you accept the claim that people are doing calculus in their heads.

  • Stephan Kinsella||

    This dude seriously thinks the term "spawns" injects meaning into this conversation. No wonder he's a nym.

  • Stephan Kinsella||

    "even pro-capitalist libertarians regard IP as a valid concept even when it can ONLY be enforced by government force and not by physical means, precisely because ideas SPAWN in people's minds even when not directly witnessing the concept (for instance, there were TWO inventors of the telephone but only ONE reached the patent office on time, so who owns the telephone?)"

    Is this supposed to be some arguement for IP? The idea is not that is is a "valid concept". But that it is a legitimate law. Do you have an argument for this?

  • MJGreen||

    Damn Mildred and Patty Hill, those miserly old crones!

    Filmmaker Kirby Ferguson sums up problem

    Kirby sum up good.

  • Mickey Rat||

    As someone who makes his living in design, I am rather resistant to the notion that I only own the product of my mind as long as nobody else sees it. It suggests that the only thing one can truly own the product of your muscle, which seems to be going backwards in civilization.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    The problem is, my production of something like yours doesn't deprive you of ownership. The only thing IP law gives you ownership of is a monopoly on the production of things like that which you produced.

  • Mickey Rat||

    If you developed it independently of me, no it does not as you likely spent a similar amount of time, effort and materials developing your version. If you just took my design and swapped your name out for mine then you are exploiting my effort and can undersell me as you don't have to cover my costs.

  • Mickey Rat||

    So you want to revert to a guild system where everyone jealously guards their processes and techniques and scientific sharing of such knowledge in stifled? Because that is what you are going to get as I don't want my intellectual effort subsidizing Dalasio's lazy unethical ass.

  • Mickey Rat||

    If memory serves the government attempted to compel Reardon to share his formula for making his metal. I don't think Rand shared your notions about the nonecistance of intellectual property.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    So you want to revert to a guild system where everyone jealously guards their processes and techniques and scientific sharing of such knowledge in stifled?

    As opposed to a legally enforced monopoly on those processes and techniques? Are you really saying that without a hint of irony?

    I don't want my intellectual effort subsidizing Dalasio's lazy unethical ass.

    Except, beyond a certain point, the only intellectual effort you're employing is that aimed at exploiting the legal system to maintain a monopoly.

  • Edwin||

    //As opposed to a legally enforced monopoly on those processes and techniques? Are you really saying that without a hint of irony?

    monopoly, but temporary.
    small societal cost for a permanent societal gain

  • MarkinLA||

    There is nothing stopping you from making something similar without violating the existing patents. You can't patent something extremely vague like "a computer". Apple could not keep IBM from building the IBM PC. It couldn't keep IBM from choosing the same microprocessor as the Apple II even if they wanted to.

  • MarkinLA||

    They didn't choose the same microprocessor of course IBM using the Intel chip instead of a Motorola I believe. But IBM could have and it might have been a problem for Apple since the PC quickly became more popular in the engineering and programming world.

  • ace_m82||

    WD-40

  • Sam Grove||

    I helped a friend develop his idea into a successful product. His former employer attempted to emulate my friends success by essentially reverse engineering the design and making a similar version.
    Fortunately, the lead time my friend had and his attention to quality led to the failure of the knock-off. Eventually, his former employer had my friend's company relabel a version for sale.

  • Sam Grove||

    No copyright was involved.

  • ||

    The real issues are:

    1. Term: 95 years is ridiculous. Patents are 20 years, which is much more reasonable. Maybe not perfect, but more reasonable.

    2. Legal: It costs nothing to be a plaintiff. Magic word is "contingency." It costs a fortune to be a defendant, and it's generally not recoverable. Best solution that I know- loser pays, and if loser can't pay, loser's lawyer pays.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    There's an additional set of issues. That is the generality of that for which intellectual property status can be granted. I mean, we see patent suits over "look and feel" or trolls trying to copyright "je sui Charlie". It strikes me that there needs to be more rigorous standards around that for which an exclusive monopoly can be granted.

  • ||

    There also needs to be better examination. The current system is more than a bit nuts in that, as one example, the examiner cannot consider prior art submitted by third parties. European law is much better in that respect (the patent is laid open for public examination, sort of crowd-sourcing). It's much worse in other regards, especially its treatment of individual inventors or small entities.

    I won't argue that there's a lot of problems with our current patent system and it's badly in need of reform. But limited term monopolies in exchange for public teaching (which is much of what a patent is) is something which is necessary to incentivize innovation by anyone other than megacorps.

  • MarkinLA||

    There was a recent article in Design News or some technical industry publication. Apple was patenting a folding phone. As near as I could tell it was a put together collection of off the shelf components, some rigid and some flexible, put in the right place so that the phone could fold like a trifold wallet.

    The defenders kept making the claim that the patent was valid because it was patenting the production of this device and not the general concept of a "folding phone". However, I kept asking and never got an answer of why this is even patent-able since all it is really is a parts layout of available off the shelf components. Are you saying to can patent a run of the mill parts layout that any engineer could do? Stuff like this should not get patent protection.

    Worse than that when Samsung makes a folding phone with the flexible parts in a different place, Apple will sue as a delaying tactic to keep Samsung out by claiming every flexible phone violates their patent in some way.

  • Stormy Dragon||

    Are there any limits to that? If you want to file a court case, there's no reason you had to hire 50 $500/hour lawyers to file it, so why should I have to pay for your extravagance just because I lost?

  • Stormy Dragon||

    One big problem with our civil system is that in cases where a party with more resources is suing one with less, the wealthier party can win by drawing out the process until the poorer party is bankrupt and win regardless of the merits of the case.

  • rosenjcb||

    I really wish we could introduce loser pays.

  • Stephan Kinsella||

    "1. Term: 95 years is ridiculous. Patents are 20 years, which is much more reasonable. Maybe not perfect, but more reasonable."

    How in the hell do you know? What is the optimal term?

    "2. Legal: It costs nothing to be a plaintiff."

    This is false but ... what is the relevance of your saying this?

    What implicaitons does this have for what property rights the legal system should recognize?

  • everywhereguy||

    In the 1800s the copyright term in the US was 28 years, and creators did fine. Authors' main issue was pirating internationally, e.g., U.S.-author novels reprinted in the UK without royalties, a problem fixed later in the 1800s by international agreements.

    The near-century copyright term resulted from crony-capitalist lobbying on the part of commercial creative companies in the 20th century. The Clinton era extension of copyright term was significantly the result of Disney properties such as Mickey Mouse imminently entering public domain under the prior 70-year regime.

    Maybe 28 years was just fine. If it takes you more than 28 years to make money on a creative idea, it wasn't that commercial in the first place.

  • OldMexican||

    Owning Ideas — An Outdated Idea?


    Outdated? It was never a valid concept to begin with! You can't own an idea. Only rivalrous and exclusive goods can be property and thus owned.

  • Mickey Rat||

    Return to the barbarous concept that property can only be produced through muscle labor, not mental labor.

    What you will likely get is something similar to the old guild system where processes and techniques were jealously guarded secrets, not a free flow of ideas.

  • Stormy Dragon||

    We already have that with the trade secrets doctrine.

  • rosenjcb||

    "Return to the barbarous concept that property can only be produced through muscle labor, not mental labor."

    You're confusing the labor metaphor with the actual common law property rights system. He's not saying that a good is a good because it was made with hands, he's saying a good is a good because rivalrous and exclusive/private goods are scarce. We have property rights because of the problem of scarcity, there isn't any scarcity on intellectual items aside from their means of storage and transport.

  • Mickey Rat||

    The capability of producing intellectual goods is scarce, but it not being considered property makes it profitable to be a plagiarist rather than a producer.

    Anti-IP, where libertatianism meets entitlement to free shit.

  • rosenjcb||

    "The capability of producing intellectual goods is scarce, but it not being considered property makes it profitable to be a plagiarist rather than a producer."

    If I tell you what my favorite flavor of ice cream is, there is no cost to me, other than the sharing of that knowledge. Like, if you saw me eating chocolate ice cream in the ice cream shop and came to the fact that my favorite flavor is chocolate, I don't endure any cost. The means of production of knowledge are scarce, after all minds need to molded and scientists funded to explore the natural world, but once the discovery, the idea is born, it does not cost pretty much anything to share that idea. If I figure out that the cure to cancer is some weird bean found in Thailand, nobody suffers a cost if I tell you about this secret as well.

    "Anti-IP, where libertatianism meets entitlement to free shit."

    Libertarianism is about property rights, intellectual property isn't actually property, it's a monopoly system created by government policies like the Statute of Anne. Look, making something pseudo-market isn't an advocacy of Libertarianism. We have carbon trading, but would we say that carbon trading is a libertarian solution to pollution? Of course not. Now stop doing the same thing with ideas.

  • Mickey Rat||

    Your favorite flavor of ice cream was developed at no cost to you, nor does it have any value to anyone who is not interested in supplying you with ice cream which would be a mutally beneficial arrangement for you rather than a competitive one, like your rival stealing your R&D.

    The knowledege required developing a cure for cancer has tremendous cost whicj will be even more difficult to recoup undt a mo IP regime. That will incentivize the hiding of methods of technological advancement in perpetuity, not an open flow of information.

  • OldMexican||

    Re: Mickey Rat,

    Return to the barbarous concept that property can only be produced through muscle labor, not mental labor.


    What's barbarous about pointing out the fact that property has to be rivalrous and exclusive?

    What you will likely get is something similar to the old guild system where processes and techniques were jealously guarded secrets, not a free flow of ideas.


    Be serious. What's the difference between an idea you can't copy and one that is closely-guarded? At least the guild cannot cry foul when their methods are discovered by others, not unlike then Europeans discovered how to make fine porcelain. Instead, I.P. turns all activity that "seems" to copy someone's "invention" into criminal activity, even if the processes were derived from parallel inspiration.

  • Mickey Rat||

    A patent brings a technological advance into the light of day where it can be studied snd tinkered with. The guild is incentivized to keep the secret onto perpetuity. The effect of anti-IP will be the closing of technolgical advances, not the opening of inquiry.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    A patent brings a technological advance into the light of day where it can be studied snd tinkered with.

    Except for the inconvenient little fact that it can't be tinkered with, at least in any way that benefits the tinkerer. The patent-holder maintains his monopoly.

    The guild is incentivized to keep the secret onto perpetuity.

    Exactly as the patent-holders are.

  • Edwin||

    that's not true.

    I'm pretty sure you can get a patent based on another patent.

    I don't know how that situation works out, sounds awkward, two monopoly-holders, but I do believe it is possible

  • Edwin||

    //The guild is incentivized to keep the secret onto perpetuity.

    Exactly as the patent-holders are
    //

    You have to file for a patent, where when granted it becomes public record, dumbass

  • Bill Dalasio||

    You have to file for a patent, where when granted it becomes public record,

    Public record where I can sue anyone making use of it. And that's a distinction of any meaning to you? Or are you playing silly semantic games?

  • Edwin||

    rivalrous and exclusive?

    So you can't own land?

  • OldMexican||

    I'm not sure what to think. Some of you watch my shows on YouTube. I like that because it means my show reaches more people. But those who post my videos do actually steal from Fox.


    You're already begging the question when assuming that posting a copy of your show in YouTube amounts to "stealing", John.

    In the first place, your show as shown on the Fox Business Channel and the show as shown in YouTube are two different goods. The first enjoys the benefit of first-showing, meaning a person that has access to FBN does not have to wait for your show to be on YouTube.

    Also, peruse the comments in some of those YouTube postings. People do ask from time to time "Where can I see this show?". The fact that more people know about your show, the more AUDIENCE it brings to FBN or at least the later streaming by the network.

    If everyone can do that, why would Fox pay me or cover the cost of doing my show?


    Because it still brings revenue from advertisers?

    C'mon, John. You can argue better than that.

  • ace_m82||

    Why does the government think ideas (something that can be infinitely copied) can be owned but actual property (money, land, etc that cannot be infinitely copied) are all theirs?

    Do they tax the ideas?

  • Edwin||

    yes. Copyright and patent and IP laws reward work and investment, but they have to expire after a time to maintain competition, and it isn't necessary for them to last for so long because eventually the costs are recouped and the profit is made.

    Now if only libertarians could see that the same applies to land/homesteding

  • Robert||

    Magicians practice trade secrecy because their secrets aren't all that valuable; they don't sell for much. And that's because anybody skilled in the art of magic (and in this case "skilled in the art" just means having familiarity, even with no actual practiced skill) can without much work figure out a way a trick is done or how to do it just as well. The actual secret adds very little to the overall value of the performance.

    For example, see the 2-part YouTube of Derren Brown doing "Mystery Box". It helps if you recognize the trick as in the class known to magicians as "predictions". Predictions all work by the magician's or a confederate's having access to an object at a time the audience doesn't think such access exists. Watch a few times and you'll figure out when the access must take place. It also helps to know that magicians often wear clothes that easily blend in with the drapes around draped objects to make it difficult for anyone except in a very narrow viewing angle to see what's on the side of what. If you've gone thru this process, you'll even figure out what the spool of yarn was for. But, even knowing all that, watch it again and...isn't it a great performance?

  • Robert||

    Check out Tannen's magic supplies (www.tannens.com or visit the store) to get an idea of the prices. This is for non-exclusive rights, of course. But even exclusive magic tricks are licensed for far less than an exclusive utility patent would—cash sales, not royalties, are the norm in magic. The trade secrets are of about the same cost as perfume formulas, to take another field where reverse engrg. is feasible & not overly expensive.

  • BambiB||

    The problem is not that we have copyrights or patents - but that they have been extended to the point of absurdity.

    A patent good for 15 or 20 years, a copyright good for 25, may be beneficial where a patent good for 100 years or a copyright good for 150 might be a cause of stagnation.

    As for the balance between public domain and intellectual property - let the owner of the IP decide (during the term). If you want to release some copies of your videos on Youtube and not others - do so. Placing something in the public domain may be the price you pay for notoriety... er... publicity.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    A patent good for 15 or 20 years, a copyright good for 25, may be beneficial....

    Not even. If your claim is that you want the patent originator to be able to recoup his start-up investment, we'd be talking five to ten years, max. Most of the sales and market penetration for products are in the first few years. After that, all you're really doing is granting the patent-holder a lock on leveraging that development for future developments.

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