Patents, copyright and competition

Judge Posner, one of the authors of the leading modern text on the economics of intellectual property (amongst many other things), has published a controversial blog post questioning whether patents and copyright law, but particularly patents, are granting excessive protection.

Judge Posner accepts that patents for pharmaceuticals are the “poster child for patent protection”, but contrasts that to patents for computer software.

The IPKat explores some aspects of this part of Judge Posner’s critique.

In his judicial capacity, Judge Posner recently dismissed both Apple’s and Motorola Mobility’s attempts to use their respective patent portfolios to extract injunctions and damages from the other (pdf of the Opinion).

On copyright, Judge Posner is particularly concerned about the term of protection: currently (i.e., until Mickey Mouse next nears expiry) 70 years after the death of the author(s) for published works and the very restrictive approach to “fair use”. Amongst other things, Judge Posner refers to the music companies’ practice of requiring licences for “samples”.

Wonder what he would make of the Kookaburra that scotched Men at Work?

The 1709 blog delves into this part of his Honour’s views.

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Linking should infringe?

Judge Posner (of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in the USA) writing extra-judicially on his blog has stirred up a maelstron in the blogosphere with a typically  thoughtful and provocative post contending that linking to websites should be copyright infringement. (At the time of writing, there are only 211 comments!)

Less contentiously (at least in terms of blogosphere reaction), Prof Becker’s reaction is that newspapers are doomed:

That the Internet is a more efficient provider of news and opinion than newspapers is seen in the fact that hardly anyone under age 40 now reads papers. Readership is also declining among older persons ….

Although the printed newspaper industry is doomed, and will be missed by those of us that remember newspapers in their heyday, they are being replaced by good substitutes in the form of blogs, social networks like Facebook and Twitter, online news gathering by various groups, including newspapers, and other electronic forms of communication. People in democracies will continue to have access to independent and often quite accurate, reports on events in their own countries and most other parts of the world.

from The Social Cost of the Decline of Newspapers? Becker

Marty Schwimmer rounds up some of the reaction to Judge Posner.

Judge Posner has seized on what is widely seen as a crisis in the newspaper industry. That crisis has led Rupert Murdoch and Associated Press, in particular, to start waging a public relations war against Google. The difficulty is, if they really don’t want the links (and all the incoming traffic), they can block them quite simply.

Read Danny Sullivan’s thoughtful expose of the threadbare nature of these Emperors’ clothes: esp. here and here.

(ps Of course, here in Australia, you do have to be careful you are not linking to websites that contain infringing content themselves – Cooper v Universal.)

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