People who believe that software should not be patentable often argue that there are only so many combinations of instructions that can be made. Since the universe of instructions is limited all possible combinations are conceivable and therefore obvious and of course each instruction acts in a predictable manner. If we used this line of reasoning for music, which only has thirteen unique notes (all of which act in a predictable manner), you would assume that over the course of history every song has been written. And yet we find that people keeping coming up with new songs. It is very rare for two songs to be the same or even similar unless the second composer had access to the first composer’s song. With so few basic building blocks, much fewer than any high level computer language, how is this possible. We hear the Free Software Priests tell us it happens on the time in the world of software. Perhaps a little math can help us unravel this conundrum. The number of possible combinations for combining thirteen notes at one time is 6.2 billion. Now it would be fair to say that some of the combinations would never be found in any musical score, but this is just for one note in time. If we assume the average song is three minutes longs at 100 BPM (Beats Per Minute), which at the lower middle range of a metronome, and a unique combination of notes is played every beat, then we end up with 1.8 trillion possible songs. It is not too surprising, given this that artists do not simultaneously create the same song and that we have not run out of songs.
This whole line of reasoning also degrades what the creator of a song does. It suggests that they just string together random notes and then decide which random group sounds is pleasing. To listen to each of these possible combinations would take 10.8 million years. Even if one in a thousand of these combinations was a useful song that would require fifty hours of listening and then having the discernment, intelligence, and diligence to pick it out of that random group. Something I bet only a skilled musician could do with any meaningful success rate. So it is clearly absurd to suggest that just because the number of unique notes in music is very limited that it takes no or even ordinary skill to create a quality song. It is even more absurd in the case of software. The number of instructions in high level software is in the hundreds or more. While each instruction may not be unique changing the variables on which it operates makes it different. So clearly software has many more building blocks. But the Free Software Priests might complain that most software is executed one instruction at a time. This is true, but even a slow processor, such as the 80386 could execute three Million Instructions Per Second (MIPS) so in comparison to the thirteen unique notes at 100 BPM we are talking about more than 1.6 million unique combination per beat. Clearly the numbers get astronomical. The Free Software Priests (FSPs) are pedaling their own Kool Aid in order to steal other people’s work or cover up their inadequacies as programmers.
PS. Chemistry is made up of only 102 elements. How long do you think it would take you to discover a simple element like methane by randomly combining elements? There are at least 108 million possible combinations and this hardly covers the problems of how to create these combinations. The FSP are not dealing in logic and reason, they are dealing in propaganda that hides their anti-property, anti-individual, anti-reason thesis.
 In one octave there are only 13 notes including sharps and flats. Other octaves are just harmonics of these notes.
In a replay of President Obama’s famous “You didn’t build that”, speech Google is arguing that if the collective adopts a technology then it becomes part of the public domain. Google’s present attack is against Apple who is asserting that Google’s Andriod phones have violated a number of Apple’s patents. In a letter to the Senate Judiciary committee, Kent Walker, head legal council for Google explained their theory as
While collaborative [Standards Setting Organizations (SSOs)] play an important part in the overall standard setting system, and are particularly prominent in industries such as telecommunications, they are not the only source of standards. Indeed, many of the same interoperability benefits that the FTC and others have touted in the SSO context also occur when one firm publishes information about an otherwise proprietary standard and other firms then independently decide (whether by choice or of necessity) to make complementary investments to support that standard in their products. … Because proprietary or de facto standards can have just as important effects on consumer welfare, the Committee’s concern regarding the abuse of SEPs should encompass them as well.
The quick translation of what Google is arguing is that the patents of Apple (or whoever else gets in their way) are invalid if Google decides to adopt these technologies. Of course, Google is not doing this for its own benefit, Nooo this is in the interest of “consumer welfare.” Perhaps we should confiscate Google’s profits in the interest of consumer welfare – the consumer would be better off if Google’s profits were distributed to all its consumers.
Google’s argument comes straight out of Atlas Shrugged. Rearden Metal was too valuable for one company to own, so for the welfare of the people every steel company was given the right to make Rearden Metal.
Ayn Rand said patents were the laws recognition of the source of man’s creative ability – his mind. She also felt that patents or the debates surrounding them were like a Canary in a coal mine, they indicate the intellectual and moral direction of a country. She complained that the so called defenders of the free market often did not even understand the nature of the debate, particularly when it came to patents. We can see this in the Von Mises Institute’s, CATO Institute’s and Reason Magazine’s attack on patents.
Other terrifying indicators of where we are headed include:
Myriad Genetics Patent Case: The ACLU has argued that breast cancer patients’ needs for Myriad’s technology trumps Myriad’s property rights in the technology.
America Invents Act: This bill was riddled with special interest give aways to Wall Street, pharmaceutical companies, and foreign inventors over US inventors
Mayo v. Prometheus Supreme Court Decision: Where Justice Beyer rules that only black magic is patent eligible .
News: Patent are portrayed as monopolies; Demanding that you get paid for someone using your inventions, gets you labeled a patent troll; the constant drumbeat that the Patent Office hands out bad patents – without any supporting evidence, by people who do not understand how to read the claims of a patent.
There is a moral decay going on in the United States and the World, but it has nothing to do with a lack of devotion to Christianity. It is an attack on the reason, logic, and the mind and in the law that means attacking patents and intellectual property.
The arrest of Kim Dotcom and the raiding of Megaupload plays into the SOPA & PIPA argument about stopping online piracy. Goggle & Wikipedia just did a blackout to protest these pieces of legislation. The problem with this whole area of legislation is that it is dominated by special interests instead of based on fundamental understandings of property rights and the due procedure. The two groups doing battle are Hollywood and the content providers against Google/Wikipedia and the free internet nuts. The legislation was written by Hollywood and basically allows the government to take down a website without any due process. It allows “in rem” suits in which the website is the defendant instead of the owner – essentially making it a one-sided hearing. Hollywood wants more tools to stop online theft. However, Hollywood has gotten a number of laws related to this problem passed already. My other complaint is that Hollywood is great at publicizing its plight, but the more economically important theft going on is the theft of our technology. In that case we have a government website that tells people exactly how to steal out technology – it’s the USPTO website. Google and friends don’t have much of a moral ground to stand on, since they have been happy to steal other people’s intellectual property. Google pushed for laws to weaken patents (property rights) and has been unwilling to pay patent holders for the technology they have used in their Android phones. In addition, their heavy handed approach to other people’s copyrights in their Google Books Library Project shows they are not above stealing other people’s intellectual property. Google’s founders are quite happy to manipulate the laws of this country for their own benefit. For instance, they invested in several solar energy companies and were quite happy to take tax dollars to bail themselves out of their failed investments. (See Throw Them All Out, by Peter Schweizer). Unfortunately, this whole area is just power politics at its worst.
Donald Trump is fond of saying that China is stealing our economy from us and he attributes this to China manipulating its currency. Here is an article, Counterfeit Chinese Parts in US Military Weapons, that would appear to support his point of view. The article explains that counterfeit Chinese parts are found in U.S. military weapon systems and the implication is that this is happening even more widely in the US economy. Pat Choate’s excellent book Hot Property: The Stealing of Ideas in an Age of Globalization, documented this problem. Counterfeit products are not the result of currency manipulation but lax enforcement of intellectual property rights. Our politicians talk a lot about protecting our intellectual property, but ten years ago they required U.S. inventions be published for all the world to see and steal at 18 months from filing a patent application. They passed the America Invents Act this year which made it easier to challenge patents issued in the U.S. and effectively eliminated the one year grace period. Congress is a bunch of hypocrites when it comes to intellectual property, they only want to protect Hollywood and software copyrights. They have done everything in their power to undermine our inventors, who are much more important to our economy than Hollywood.
The U.S does have a legitimate complaint with China, but it is not currency manipulation it is the theft of our Intellectual Property – particularly our inventions. Here is what Congress should do to revive our economy and protect our inventors.
1) Repeal the publication requirement for patents
2) Demand that China and other countries require reciprocity for patents. This means that if you receive a patent in the U.S. it is enforceable in China and vice versa without the cost of filing a patent application in every country around the world. The present situation with respect to patents is exactly the position that existed with respect to copyrights in the 1860s. We realized that it made no sense for copyrights and it makes no sense for patents to only apply in each country.
3) Fully fund the Patent Office. It now takes from 3 to 10 years to obtain a patent. This is severely hurting our technology startup companies. When combined with the publication requirement it has allowed China and the rest of the world to steal our technology.
4) Apply tariffs to those sectors of Chinese goods that have consistently violated U.S. intellectual property rights.
This Guest Post is by Christine Kane.
Downloading the latest hit song can be as easy as pressing a button. With no investment necessary, any song or movie or even program can be found on person to person file sharing networks such as Limewire, Frostwire or BitTorrent. But is this downloading of free stuff really free? What does it cost us in the long run?
- Copyrights – Historically, copyright laws have protected intellectual property, such as music. A copyright is a form of legal protection provided to the authors of original works of authorship, whether books, music, film or other creative works. Its aim is to allow authors, musicians, directors, etc., (and the companies that back them and distribute their work) to profit from their creativity and so encourage them and others to produce other works in future.
- Stealing – When ‘free’ stuff is downloaded, you are actually stealing that persons/groups intellectual property. Trading MP3s is just like stealing a CD from a store. MP3s may not be tangible, but they can be stolen. This means that you can be fined, sued, and even go to jail.
- Sharing – There are certain rights protected for the purchasers of copyrighted music, such as the right to make unlimited copies for their personal use and the right to share what they buy with their friends and family. But how far do these rights go? If one person purchases a song legally, do they then have the right to distribute that song to an unlimited amount of people? If that person shares a legally purchased song with you, without you having to pay anything, is the copy you have still legal? No. Sharing is like borrowing, you have to give it back. Keeping something someone else gave you, even if they paid for it, is still stealing.
- Viruses – Nearly all the music that is shared and downloaded is highly commercial. Free file-sharing sites often transmit viruses and ad-ware. Legal online file-sharing services exist at fair prices and are much safer. Pirated software can carry viruses or may not function at all. Plus, unlicensed users do not receive quality documentation and are not entitled to receive technical support or product upgrades, patches, or updates.
- Prices – Online free file-downloads have damaged legitimate sales. The media industry might have to compensate for a lack of sales by raising prices of goods; which means more stealing, which means higher prices. See the cycle? Plus the cost of fighting off the piracy has to come from somewhere, right?
- Quality – Unregulated file-sharing could reduce the appeal and quality of related industries. Software piracy stifles innovation. The cost of combating software piracy, plus lost revenues, could be spent on research and development to benefit users. That means that quality suffers. If you have no money to get better equipment, fresh people with new ideas, then how can the quality improve? Answer: it can’t.
- Effort – Musicians and music companies spend significant time and energy creating and promoting new music. It seems unfair that, after all this hard work, the product of their efforts is subject to a free-for-all with no obvious flow of money back to the producers. What’s the incentive of putting forth all that effort if you don’t reap any benefits?
- Global Economy – Illegal distribution of software affects the worldwide economy. “With an estimated 36% piracy rate globally, the economic effects are significant.” In 2001, according to the Business Software Alliance, piracy cost the global economy over $13 billion U.S. dollars in lost tax revenues that would benefit local communities. Hundreds of thousands of jobs in software and related industries were also lost.
There you have it. Piracy hurts the producers and the consumers. It stifles creativity and promotes lawsuits. So the next time the urge strikes you to get the newest song or movie, please take the time and money to actually purchase it. You’ll be thankful in the long run.
- Hayek: Friend or Foe of Reason, Liberty and Capitalism?
- The Austrian Business Cycle Debunked
- The Irrational Foundations of Austrian Economics
- Dale B. Halling Invited to Debate at Freedom Fest
- Inventing to Nowhere: The Movie
- Self-Ownership: A Conservative Conspiracy?
- USPTO’s Secret Program to Deny Politically Inconvenient Patents
- Yale Law Professor’s Attack on Patents: A Comedy, Farce and Tragedy All Rolled into One
- Competition is for Losers