Chris J Powell

SOPA and Patent Law…what is wrong with American Law Makers?

As we come to the most magical time on earth with nearly 2.5 Billion people around the world celebrating some sort of Holiday in the next week I can’t help but feel a little miffed with my neighbors to the South.  Here in Canada there is much talk about the step away from Democracy with our Conservative Government with its strong majority mandate but in the US there are two things that are hurting technology innovation and strangling the future in the coming days.

 

Between the draconian methods outlined in SOPA that do not address the fact that the world is changing and the idea that Patent Law is anything more than legalized Blackmail we are all in real danger of losing our ability to choose anything for ourselves.  My first big gripe…a gripe that I have written about many times before is Patent Law.

 

Patent Law a Brief History and a Bit of a Rant

Software Patents are a relatively new phenomena with the first ever belonging to British Petroleum (yes BP) Company Limited in 1966 for Patent Number GB1039141.  I did a quick read through it and well 20 pages of a company basically outlining everything that a modern day computer does…does this mean that every company that produces technology needs to pay BP a licensing fee…luckily no as a Software Patent typically only lasts for 20 years.

 

The intentions of the concept of leveraging Patents seems to be honorable:

Patents are intended to promote innovation by encouraging the timely disclosure of how to make and use inventions and by protecting investments made to commercialize inventions. They attempt to accomplish this by requiring that a prompt and full disclosure is made by an inventor of how to make and use the invention and by granting a monopoly right for a limited period of time to a patent owner to prevent others from making, using or selling the invention in exchange for said prompt and full disclosure.

There is debate as to whether or not these aims are achieved with software patents.

 

With Apple “winning” its battle against HTC (and HTC having a work around 1 day later) and other battles before Trade Commissions and Courts around the world I say this to Apple…stop your FREAKING WHINING…the purpose of patents are to protect true innovation and not be a first to the patent office with your paperwork.  I do believe that Intellectual Property is very valuable and should be protected…but Software Patents are not the way.

 

I was reading an interesting article yesterday that points to the fact losing a Patent Battle to Microsoft in the early 90’s may be what has created the Apple we see today.  The masterful builder of all things “tech sexy” and “way cool” but at the same time…is it right that now that they are big enough and have enough money to purchase many foreign countries that they can walk around trying to shut down other companies not by beating them in the marketplace but in the court room…damn it…you products are cool but they all come from re-engineering another product…you just made it better…I respect it but don’t make like you are king because you made it to the patent office before someone else…deal with it…make your stuff affordable and take over the world by being the best…not the biggest whiner!

 

SOPA and WTF are they thinking

 

So a company can’t figure out how to make money leveraging the Digital Age…oh wait…Apple did it and changed the world with iTunes?  But what do the RIAA and the MPAA do…they head off to Capital Hill and buy their way to having their lunacy spread through the American House of Representatives until within some twisted view of the world it is ok to pass an outright Censorship Law.

 

What will SOPA mean to you and I…well at its base…most of us at one time or another have viewed, linked and “liked” a YouTube Video of singing cats, a cool remix or a family video set to a cool track…under SOPA (Stop Online Privacy Act) the creator, the hoster and all linked parties would be guilty of a felony in the wonderful US of A.  Really, a felony?  So I am Joe America…I shoot a video of my Family’s Christmas Gathering, post it to Facebook and YouTube and set it to say Michael Buble…doing this now makes me guilty of a Felony (on par with Rape, Murder, Aggravated Assault, Arson and Battery)…really…ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME!

 

But to the rest of the world…what will SOPA mean…well just as happened with the failing DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) they will follow suit.  Gone will be the days of cute kitty videos and some of the really interesting creative expressions that are out there on the net.

 

What is the solution…well…first thing…make it illegal to gain political favor to buy your way into ANY elected officials office (ie make it a felony to be a Lobbyist), assist Old Media to get their heads out of their butts and embrace the world we have today…iTunes killed the CD, NetFlix and Hulu are killing the DVD and BluRay and Internet TV is going to kill regular TV.  Apple has sold more than 10,000,000,000 yes 10 Billion Songs on iTunes…never having pressed a CD, packaged the item, distributed the disc or even had a retail store that had to have its lights turned on etc…etc.  10,000,000,000 songs have reduced the carbon footprint of the music industry substantially…are there still Digital Pirates out there…sure but the iTunes story makes a compelling incentive to invest in bandwidth not lawyers.

 

Well this has been rather long and drawn out but honestly.  For my American friends…do me a favor…over this holiday season send your Congressman a letter or give them a call, email or some other form of Smack in the FREAKIN head that it is YOU he represents not the interests of failing business models and to get on with the real problems of your country like Education, Healthcare and building a lasting Global Peace!

 

Cheers and have a great day everyone.

 

Chris J Powell

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