no third solution

Blogging about liberty, anarchy, economics and politics

Soon, no one will be able to use any words without paying royalties

December 21st, 2011

If someone can “own” a word, or a particular series of words, and if they are able to slap lawsuits and cease-and-desist letters from high-priced attorneys on anyone who even approximates their protected verbiage, then in the long run we are all screwed. A friend of mine comments, “Soon, no one will be able to use any words without paying royalties…” in response to this.

the atlanta braves have a problem with the name of pixar's latest film

Mickey Mouse & Bobby Cox (AP)

The Atlanta Braves are spending lots of money “policing” their trademark (even though they do not have any trademark on the singular “Brave”) and Disney will be forced to spend lots of money countering what is by any reasonable interpretation, a frivolous assertion on behalf of the Atlanta Braves, who are spending lots of money objecting to the title of a forthcoming Disney movie called “Brave”.

Stitch Kingdom notes that “companies must actively police and enforce their trademarks and take all reasonable action to protect them otherwise the trademark may be considered abandoned and thrown into the public domain.” So perhaps this is just a case of due diligence and the Braves’ legal guys aiming to bill a few more hours. (more info…)

All of this money is 100% wasteful, and these costs, among others more-or-less frivolous and ridiculous, are ultimately built in to the prices you pay as a consumer. And this is just a silly Disney movie and a silly bunch of overpaid, politically privileged monopolists in the MLB duking it out over something inconsequential.

Multiply by infinity and you’ll have some idea of the true costs of “intellectual property” in aggregate.

Ultimately, my friend’s comment sounds perhaps a bit hyperbolic, but if you follow the intellectual property argument to its logical conclusion (to say nothing of the the practical issues about so-called “intellectual property”, the completely batshit insane arbitrary nature thereof, etc.), his concern is warranted.

The “Race to the Bottom” is Only a Symptom

August 30th, 2010

Last week the NYT highlighted an ongoing labor struggle between Dr. Pepper Snapple and a local labor union, which Dissent Magazine characterizes as the latest installment in an ongoing “race to the bottom“, something like Marx’s iron law of wages. Per the Times,

The strike has become so important because of the prominence of the brands and because of its unusual nature: a highly profitable company is taking the rare and bold step of demanding large-scale concessions.

Dissent notes that the productivity gains of the last several decades have simply not “trickled down” in to the pockets of the American worker, instead they’ve been pocketed by the corporate elite. If this sounds somewhat familiar, it should.

Mike LeBerth, president of the local union echoes a familiar, but mistaken refrain:

“This whole economy is driven by consumer spending, so how are we supposed to keep the economy going when they take away money from the people who are doing the spending?”

Mistaken, because economies aren’t driven by consumption, they’re driven by production. The standard GDP-economy puts the cart before the proverbial horse. Per J.B. Say, Production must precede consumption; prosperity increases where production is permitted.

In fairness, I have to admit I’d be hard-pressed to find a better example of corporate greed, than a company which showed a $555M profit on $5.5B revenue in FY2009. What LeBerth describes, is not the problem. The real problem, or problems, are much greater.

The case of Dr. Pepper Snapple illustrates nicely that the “race to the bottom” is but a symptom* of monopoly rents.

In this instance, a substantial portion (approaching 100%) of their profits are attributable to intellectual property, a considerable barrier to market-entry enforced by the government under penalty of law. Make no mistake: this is not a “right” in any sense of the word, it is a privilege granted by government, to corporations X, Y and Z, protecting them from A, B and C and anyone else who might otherwise be tempted to start their own competing business. The effects of such privilege are obvious: where a lucrative market exists, profits are concentrated among those who benefit thereby.

Insofar as this case embodies a “race to the bottom”, it is the monopoly privilege of intellectual property which drives a wedge between workers of various classes: those inside the protected industry may enjoy leverage over those outside. To a probably substantial degree, the wages taken by the union are a derivative economic rent, extracted from the rest of the economy (i.e., the non-union employees in other industries in the local market), but coming first and foremost from the privilege granted the corporation. And it is precisely this privilege which enables a corporation like Dr. Pepper Snapple to exercise such a degree of economic power over its own workers, as to demand considerable concessions even when posting record profits.


* For brevity’s sake I will limit discussion to this one problem, although I do not doubt that you could point out several more, each of which would merit examination of its own.

Why Did The Police Seize Jason Chen’s Computers?

April 27th, 2010

Last week, blogger Jason Chen of Gizmodo published an article after coming in to possession of an Apple iPhone prototype. An Apple employee lost the phone at a bar, and Chen eventually purchased the prototype from an as-of-yet unnamed source.

Gizmodo’s Jason Chen told ABC News technology reporter Becky Worley that $5,000 was paid for the device.

For Chen, the shit has hit the proverbial fan. A computer crimes task force recently seized all of his computers, a server, mobile phone, etc., and he faces possible felony charges.

An investigation appears to be underway to determine whether trade secrets were sold and whether Gizmodo was in possession of stolen property.

Says one ABC legal analyst, Dean Johnson:

“It’s a crime to offer money to obtain an article that contains a trade secret, so just the exchange of money is an element of the crime.”

Chen committed no crime, because crimes involve real victims.

But the law, serving the corporate interests of “intellectual property”, says otherwise. And the agents of the law (paid for by the public at-large) have been used exclusively to the benefit of those corporate interests.

The only crime in this story is the crime which has been perpetrated by the police, against Chen.

no third solution

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