Posted on October 31, 2007 in IP, Private Good, Public Good, Thomas Jefferson by Brian RoweComments Off

This is Thomas Jefferson’s basic argument for why IP is not property. Jefferson outlines the properties of a Public Good when describing IP. This basic argument is one of the strongest foundations for arguing against trying to regulate IP with free markets since IP is not a private good. In essence we are using the law to redefine the basic nature of copyrights and patents.

“If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of everyone, and the less, because every other possesses the whole of it.”

“He who receives an idea from me, receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening mine.”

“Inventions then cannot, in nature be a subject of property.”

Letter from Thomas Jefferson to Issac McPherson (Aug. 13, 1813),

Expanded text of Jefferson’s letter
Wikipedia on Private and Public Goods

Edit: fixed link to letter thank to reader feedback!

Posted on October 30, 2007 in CC, creative commons, DRM, Magnatune by Brian RoweComments Off

Magnatune is a Creative Commons licensed music site that allows you to listen to all their music streaming online for free. If you like the music you can purchase music CD’s or download MP3′s for for a price of your choosing. Many advocates of strong All Rights Reserved(ARR) copyright claim that ARR copyright is need to help new artist make a name for themselves. Distribution models like Amie Street and Magnatune are challenging this assumption head on.

They have a portion of the site dedicated to Why They are Not Evil.

Top 5 reasons they are not evil:

  • Musicians get paid: 50% of your purchase price goes directly to the musician, not to labels and their lawyer.
  • Give to your friends: We encourage you to give 3 copies of any music you buy to your friends
  • Remix friendly: Tons of our music, acapellas and samples are available for Remixing at CC Mixter All our 128k MP3s are some-rights-reserved Creative Commons licensed
  • No major labels: we have absolutely nothing to do with major labels or the RIAA
  • No DRM: No copy protection (DRM), you can do what you like with your music, unlike iTunes and Windows-media based web sites.
  • Freedom for IP greatly respects the work done by Magnatune and encourages the development of new business models in the music industry to appropriately reflect our technologically advanced culture.

    Posted on October 25, 2007 in altlaw, findlaw, Westlaw, wikipedia by Brian RoweComments Off

    Several years ago FindLaw was the best free website for legal research. This is the Findlaw I fondly miss:


    Look at the great features on the front page search for case, Supreme Court case, Laws and Code.

    Now look at the FindLaw of today:

    Since Westlaw purchased Findlaw it has been striped of utility and litterd with obtrusive advertising. WestLaw has even locked some of FindLaw’s content behind logins. That is just what we need, our privacy striped away when viewing law. FindLaw has become an advertising service with limited functionality and atrocious usability.

    What is worse is that FindLaw has a page rank of 8! WT%. For a long time FindLaw was the only public resourse for online codes and caselaw. Many wikipedia entries still link to findlaw cases that have been transformed from pages of useful text to pages full of ads and pop-ups. Here is one example from the wikipedia entry for International Shoe Co. v. Washington

    This is not the quality of external link Wikipedia is known for. Legal contributors to Wikipedia should serious consider other options before linking to FindLaw. The best alternative for case law right now is A free service from Columbia Law School’s Program on Law and Technology, and the Silicon Flatirons Program at the University of Colorado Law School.

    Has Westlaw learned nothing from Google? In purchasing Findlaw, WestLaw had an opportunity to provide an amazing service to the public, free accessible case law and code, but they have blown it, with too many ads and too little useful information.

    Vote against Findlaw online, remove your links and send a message about quality online. FFIP will be removing Findlaw from our links page.

    Posted on October 25, 2007 in Amazon, patents, USPTO by Brian RoweComments Off

    1 click
    Many of the broad claims in this patent were invalidated on October 9th 2007. Pat number 5,960,411. The USPTO went well beyond the original request to review claims 11, 14, 15, 16, 17, 21 and 22 and rejected claims 1-5 and 11-26. This is a powerful reexamination on obvious web processes. It looks like we need to update our Case law page. With private citizens, Public Patent Foundation and EFF all submitting requests for reexamination it beg the question it ask how tough is it to get a bad patent. Do we really want a system that where reexamination is only balance? I am curious to see if peer-to-patent will change this trend.

    Full article:
    Credit also to Boing Boing also for covering this story

    Posted on October 25, 2007 in Cory Doctorow, Michael Geist, Quote, WIPO by Brian RoweComments Off

    “World Intellectual Property Organization (which bears the same relationship to bad copyright law that Mordor has to evil in Middle Earth)”

    -Cory Doctorow
    Boing Boing

    This quote was taken for a recent post about Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement and the adverse effects it could have on copyright. The full article Michael Geist is available at his website

    Posted on October 24, 2007 in creative commons, IP, nonprofits, NTEN by Brian RoweComments Off

    I just finished doing NTEN’s online survey for 2008 NTC Agenda. I was surprised to not see a single topic or part of a topic that dealt with online copyright issues. When distributing information online ones IP strategy should play a central role in letting users know what they can do with your content and what happens to their contribution. SecondLife, Myspace, Wikipedia, Flickr and YouTube all have different ways of controlling and enabling distribution through IP choices.

    I would love to run a session on using Creative Commons and alternative licensing of intellectual property to reach more constituents and more people in need. Using a culture of sharing as a form of distribution can empower your IP to work for you. If you are attending NTC this year and would find a copyright session useful please let NTEN know.

    Posted on October 22, 2007 in Fair Use, privacy, UGC by Brian RoweComments Off

    This week CBS, Disney and Viacom among other(who I call media middlemen) drafted and published “Principles for User Generated Content Services.” They want to require “Identification Technology” be used to limit your rights on User Generated Content sites (UGC’s.) Identification Technology is notoriously bad if not entirely unable to identifying Fair Use.

    Beyond the obvious fair use problems which are explained in more detail by Kevin Donovan at Student for Free Culture. I am also bothered that the principles request that UGC’s to for keeping record on their users and turning them over to Media Middlemen if a take down occurs or if content is filtered by . Users privacy rights should be protected at least until there is a court order. UGC’s should be protecting users from baseless litigation and threating settlement letter by anonymizing user specific data like IP’s not handing it over to sue happy companies with lawyers that make predatory lenders look like your friend.

    Here is the section that violates privacy:

    “10. Consistent with applicable laws, including those directed to user privacy, UGC Services should retain for at least 60 days: (a) information related to user uploads of audio and video content to their services, including Internet Protocol addresses and time and date information for uploaded content; and (b) user-uploaded content that has been on their services but has been subsequently removed following a notice of infringement. UGC Services should provide that information and content to Copyright Owners as required by any valid process and consistent with applicable law.”

    UGCs should refuse to use Identification Technology until it effectively identifies Fair Use 99.9% of the time. Other wise identification technology will just be a censorship tool that prevents us, real users from exercising our first amendment rights.

    A full copy of the principles is available at:

    Posted on October 18, 2007 in copyright, Tim Wu by Brian RoweView Comments

    Tim Wu wrote an interesting piece in Slate about “tolerated lawbreaking.” There is a whole section dedicated to copyright that I recommend reading. I appreciate his identification of harmless infringement and focus on tension between copyrights extremely broad control the positive benefits of increased publicity. I do wish Tim had taken time to discuss ways to improve the system such as expanded fair use or explicit exceptions for noncommercial uses. Maybe this will be a future project

    Wu writes:
    “The paradox is that the current [copyright] law is so expansive and extreme that the very firms that first sought it cannot even make use of it. Nor would they want to. In a well-functioning political system, the copyright law might be reformed in a grand negotiation between all interested parties, with the long-term goal of separating out the harmful infringement from the harmless. But in 21st-century America, that’s not a result our political system is capable of reaching. And that’s why, here as in the rest of the series, we leave it to tolerated lawbreaking to find some way out.”

    Read more at Slate: part 4 is on Copyright

    PS his about me page on his personal website is under a PD no rights reserved. I have to respect that!

    Posted on October 16, 2007 in Defective by Design, DRM by Brian RoweView Comments

    Defective by Design has started a mail in campaign to let Netflix know that people are unhappy with the DRM in there streaming content video on demand.

    The best part of the campaign is the mini letters they provide for people to send, when one sends back ones netflix dvd’s. The letters are cute, well worded and to the point! This is not as cool as their amazon campaign to tag products with DRM as “defective by design” but it is good.

    Download your own Anti DRM Netflix min letters.

    More information on this campaing is avilable here.