Whew, that was quite an election, but my hope muscle is hopelessly strained and my change gland is exhausted. So I’m turning to a new pastime: second-guessing the Obama administration’s next moves.
I’m long on questions. Will his new trade representative continue forcing DMCA-like laws on our partners? Will his appointees to the Department of Justice prioritize IP cases? What legislation will he support regarding copyright terms, patent reforms, orphan works, and DMCA reforms?
Since childhood, I’ve bitterly wondered why I don’t have a jet car, or my own robot assistant and constant companion. I would call it Sally, and Sally would keep me organized and help me fight crime at night.
Part of the reason my future has failed me is abuse of the patent system, the part of IP that protects and fosters technological innovation. You can’t copyright an idea, but patents give you a limited time to develop and grow an idea yourself. However, the patent system hasn’t changed much in 300 years, leaving it flawed and exploitable. Nobody exploits the system better than patent trolls.
With a presidential election around the corner, let’s look at how people pervert copyright law to squelch speech. Copyright takedown notices were never meant to stifle whistle-blowers or detractors, yet that’s become a popular use for them. Individual critics are likely to go broke even if they win a case, so people and ISPs tend to back down at lawyer point.
It's a cruel and efficient tactic, of which more after the jump.
Not very long ago, in a land not at all far away, there was a little company called Blueport. It held the copyright on a piece of software that the US Air Force liked using for logistics. Blueport protected its software with a time bomb—a bit of code that made the software self-destruct when the license expired. That date was approaching, and Blueport wanted to negotiate a new license with the USAF—and you know, get paid.
Instead, it got a bit of the ol’ shock and awe. The Air Force not only didn’t pay up, it paid big contractor SAIC ($2.5 million in lobbying in 2007) to reverse engineer Blueport’s program and disable the time bomb. The Air Force also paid SAIC to rewrite the program, and by rewrite I mean simply cut and paste any of the original code that seemed useful.
Who doesn’t love a Caribbean island? Imagine yourself on a beach in Antigua with a drink that comes in a hollow coconut. Beautiful women walk by. The sun begins to set, and you’ve just finished importing your DVD collection to a hard drive. It's good to be free from the DMCA.