Skip to comments.Don't Forget, Google, Copyrights Are the Foundation of Innovation
Posted on 12/07/2019 4:00:59 AM PST by Kaslin
One would hope that Google would understand the value and importance of copyrights. After all, the search engine giant handles about 2 million copyright takedown notices each day. “Copyrightability” is clearly a fundamental aspect of the company’s business model—a fact that makes some of Google’s recent decisions all the more surprising.
Currently, the search engine company is embroiled in a high stakes legal battle over the very issue of copyright protection. Headed for a showdown at the United States Supreme Court, the lawsuit—Google LLC v. Oracle America Inc.—will no doubt establish lasting precedent about the relationship between businesses and their intellectual property. But rather than defending intellectual property rights, Google is instead seeking to drastically undermine them.
Given its involvement with just about every aspect of information provision on the internet, Google has more in-depth and real-world experience with the ins-and-outs of intellectual property and the importance of protecting them both—Google itself wouldn’t exist without the longstanding protections copyrights afford in the US, and how that forms the foundation of market innovation.
So, why then is Google behaving otherwise?
The answer, as one might imagine, is short-sighted self-interestedness. Back in 2010, Google was caught attempting to copy 11,500 lines of Oracle’s Java code verbatim. The move prompted Oracle to sue Google for the theft. But rather than admitting its mistake—copying the work of other developers and passing it off as its own—Google decided to double down. It didn’t want to pay a settlement, so the search engine giant fought back.
Google argued that the digital information it duplicated, as well as the software encoded therein, was not actually protected under copyright. Rather, its copying of the script represented “fair use,” and any copyrightable claim to the code itself was effectively moot.
Ironically enough, more than any other company, Google should recognize the dangers this argument poses for all intellectual property providers. Google’s own algorithms, the “secret sauce” through which it operates its search engine, are tightly guarded pieces of intellectual property. In fact, their entire business model relies upon the constant innovation that copyrights permit. But if the Supreme Court rules in their favor, Google is likely to lose the innovation it requires to be successful.
That’s because coding, like all other endeavors that can be protected via copyright, is a creative process. New, innovative code designed to solve previously unaddressed problems doesn’t just appear. It must be built by individuals, often through painstaking, laborious processes. It requires work—a lot of it. And for people to engage in the challenging endeavor of innovation, there needs to be a reward for their efforts. Copyrights serve that exact purpose.
By protecting intellectual property from theft, copyrights ensure that the spoils of innovation are awarded to the victor. In a sense, copyrights serve as both the carrot and the stick—incentivizing creators with the promise of exclusive rights over their creation while disincentivizing the theft of intellectual property through the threat of legal repercussions. This is particularly important in relation to digital IP, where thousands of hours of work can be stolen simply by copying and pasting the end product—not unlike what Google did to Oracle.
The problem, however, is that if copyright protections are removed, so is any incentive to innovate. Why should any person dedicate their time and energy toward solving a problem if they don’t serve to benefit? Or worse, if the fruits of their efforts could so easily be claimed by another, why even bother? That's the risk Google takes by undermining the legitimacy of digital copyrights.
Whether we are talking about music, technology, or yes, even coding, copyrights form the backbone of innovative progress within a free-market society. Without a doubt, these intellectual property rights must be defended from any corporate entity that thinks itself above the law. The legal erosion of IP protections is an attack against the foundation of private property within the United States. And such behavior simply cannot be tolerated.
Uh, no. The “Foundation of Innovation” is PATENTS. Similar to copyright, yes, but totally different in effectiveness.
Patents and copyright both serve to protect intellectual property.
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This depends on the the actual code. Is oracle doing one of those things where theyre trying to claim a copyright on addition or something that anyone would come up with?
In that they are similar, but please don't try to tell me that writing a good story is on the same value level with inventing a revolutionary device. In transmission of scientific results, for instance, copyright actually hobbles the process.
The concept of "intellectual property" is modern, artificial, and dubious. It conflates patent and copyright and is used to suppress innovation and guarantee income for entities who do not contribute to innovation. In the Constitution, patent and copyright were to be secured for a "limited time", for the benefit of discoverers, inventors, and creators. Modern law enforces copyright beyond the reasonable lifetime of the creator ensuring that new works will never enter the public domain in anyone's lifetime, and the conflation means derivative work must leap an impossible bar to be considered derivative and not identical. Thus there is no effective limit.
I read an analysis which applied modern rules to the invention of the steam engine. The conclusion was all of modern technology would be infringing on the intellectual property of the inventor of the steam engine. Thomas Newcomen's descendants would own the world.
I never said they were them same, just that they both serve a purpose.
I know of at least one case (through personal experience) where theft of intellectual property was proven because the EXACT same code was proven to exist in a competitors device. Without copyright laws there would have been no course for the plaintiff to recover damages and the defendant would have been free to implement the solution without incurring NRE costs of licensing fees.
In this case the laws insured a level playing field.
I agree that copyrights extend beyond a reasonable time frame, but that aside, they encourage competition rather than stifle it. Why look for a better solution to something if just anyone can now copy your work and produce it without incurring the costs associated with development or licensing?
How about Gulag?
That they do. I think judging from your other posts that we pretty much agree. Copyright needs serious revision to a shorter time (perhaps fifty years). I think patents are pretty much good as they stand.
I have to reject your point because the recognition of Copyright isn't to encourage competition, but instead to encourage original creation (i.e. progress) by securing a monopoly for the original author over the original work and by implication any derivation. But in the arts it's difficult to create without some derivation, and so monopoly on copyright must be limited in time else it will eventually work to prevent progress rather than encourage it. Furthermore legal precedent recognizes "fair use" because there forms of original work (e.g criticism) where in order to refer to another particular work it is necessary to replicate the original in some form, but not wholly.
Foundation of Innovation
As if there was no innovation before copyrights or before patents.
I'd say even shorter. But unfortunately there are now financial contracts founded on risk assessment incorporating the premise that copyright is 70+ years. It would be a taking to nullify them by law. What a mass of rotting spaghetti this has turned out to be, supposedly founded with the best of intentions. Only a Constitutional amendment can cure this, and it won't go down easy. This is another reason why we need an amendment to assure Absolute Sunset, so if ignored, bad law just goes away over time (and our legislators will quit screwing around because they'll be held responsible if good law goes away).
And crucial inventions were lost time after time after time because inventors kept details secret for (rightful) fear of having their work stolen. The idea of "patent" was a successful attempt to prevent such losses. The inventor at least has a chance to enjoy the fruits of his work, and society gets the benefit of new knowledge.
I don’t disagree with that. I’m saying “innovation” predates patents and copyrights, it is not founded by them. You could say that patents and copyrights were innovations.
These days, copyright has been expanded to a regime that required no registration of works, and a term that lasts the life of the author plus 70 years. This is just insane, especially if one looks at the plain text of the Constitution, which is where the issuing of patents and copyright is granted as a power of government.
From Article 1, Section 8: To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries;
Does anyone seriously think that today's massive copyright terms are in any ways compatible with the phrase "limited times"? I certainly do not. The U.S. Copyright terms have generally increased by 20 years every 20 years at the behest of major corporations like Disney and others. In general today, if you're looking at an older work, and are wondering about it's copyright status, and do not want to perform an extensive legal search, the work would have to have been published prior to 1924. This is insane, and the ever-expanding copyright terms have effectively robbed the public domain of an untold number of works over the course of the 20th century.
Yes, I said 'robbed'. The public domain is the natural repository of works, and the framers of the Constitution knew that. Unfortunately, we have legislooters who are easily bought by large corporations to continue to extend terms far beyond anything that could reasonably be seen as a 'limited time'. We, as a society have agreed to grant a temporary monopoly on works in order to encourage their continued production. Who, exactly, is being encouraged 50 years after the author himself has died? This is especially true as the vast majority of works currently under copyright are not actually in print, and are therefore not providing a benefit to anyone. It is a shame that all of these works are nonetheless unavailable to the general public that might have an interest in enjoying or preserving them.
Project Gutenberg currently has over 60,000 of these pre-1924 books available for anyone to download for free on the internet. Those interested in helping to proofread books that have been scanned for publication on Project Gutenberg, can do so in their spare time on the Distributed Proofreaders site. I've done quite a few pages myself, and think it's something worthwhile.
One example where copyright encouraged competition...
In the 80s, Compaq had to develop an IBM Compatible BIOS without infringing on the 9000+ copyrights held by IBM for the softwAre that comprised their BIOS. Compaq could not infringe on even 1 piece of copyrights softwAre or they would be in violation of copyright law. This forced Compaq to create all original code so they could compete in the then burgeoning computer market. Much of the softwAre they produced was better than the original IBM code which then forced IBM to also improve their softwAre in San effort to stay competitive. Additionally, all additional IBM compatible computer manufactures that did not license either the IBM or Compaq BIOS were forced to create their own BIOS softwAre. The fact that a copyrighted solution created a market opportunity and therefore competition in that market cannot be denied.
While it is possible that the intent of copyright law was not to foster competition, it did in this case.
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