Intellectual property and business competition reforms in the 21st century

A Presentation of jrm&aFLUX

(latest major update of this section on or about 12-12-2001)

by J.R. Mooneyham

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The world was actually in dire need of some major reforms in intellectual property practices long before now-- such as in the late 20th century and before. But rather than improvements, things were only made steadily worse by legislators, executives, and courts, as a frightening convergence of government and big business succeeded in warping the original intent of intellectual property laws, leading to less opportunity for everyone but a few powerful corporations, and less real innovation, over succeeding decades. Such legislated increases in the power of monopolies produced many excesses, and did enormous harm to the world economy and living standards. It took years for the global economy to finally screech to a complete halt from its effects, thereby forcing reforms to finally begin being put into place. Of course, the huge corporations and many corrupt or plain misguided politicians and portions of the electorate did everything they could to stall or reverse reforms, which meant still more years of stagnation and worse. But finally, eventually, it was obvious to all that things could not continue on as they were. Obvious that humanity was headed into a new dark age from which it might never emerge again, if big changes weren't made.

And humanity was freed at last.

People often tell me (J.R.) that the technological progress I describe in my timeline is much too slow. I say to them, look around. As of the beginning of the 21st century big government and big business are converging in ways that should frighten anyone familiar with history, or George Orwell's 1984, and other apocryphal works. If this convergence continues, we'll be lucky if technology continues to advance at all, after another decade or two. For innovation is born of competition, and democracy is dependent upon free speech. If all meaningful business competition is squelched, and wholesale surveillance and severe curbs on civil liberties (including free speech) realized, from where will competition and democracy flow then? The simple answer is, they won't. And we'll all be trapped, until and unless we can suitably separate the interests of government and business for good.

Lawrence Lessig believed as of 2001 corporations were increasingly usurping the government's proper role in regulating the internet. The result appears to be a transformation of the internet from a public resource to a massive new market manipulation tool. The sort of tool that geopolitical governments seeking to control or limit the freedom of their citizens will be happy to use for their own ends, as well.

Lessig recommends a mild form of government supervision over internet affairs, in order to provide some modicum of consumer protection from otherwise unfettered industry excesses. Lessig believes things like the patenting of internet business methods reduce the pace of innovation, and the potential practice of ISPs limiting the access of internet users to the ISPs' own preferred sites should be outlawed.

Lessig says that so far governments like those in the USA appear to be doing the bidding of big business in things like preventing some technologies (like DVDs) from being accessible at all in open source operating systems like Linux. The US Congress also continues to extend copyrights to absurd lengths, again, to appease big business interests.

"...We're in the worst possible time to have to rely on our government to do the right thing. Government has been captured..." -- Lawrence Lessig

-- The Accidental Activist by Brendan I. Koerner; March 20, 2001;

2050-2100: Badly needed intellectual property reforms take place in the last half of the 21st century...

During this period some important geopoliticals join the virtual states in several measures limiting the present and future power and influence of mega-corporations in order to gain various economic and technological benefits for civilization as a whole.

These measures include (but are not necessarily restricted to):

Why and how does a shorter patent lifespan accelerate innovation and improve living standards for populations? In these ways:

SPECIAL NOTE: The basics of market economics rest upon the laws governing supply and demand. Almost everyone instinctively comes to grasp these basic economic principles in terms of physical, tangible goods during childhood. The more people that want the same thing, the more valuable that thing is-- at least if there is a finite number of such objects. Conversely, the more there is of a particular item, or the fewer people who want it, the less valuable that item is. Thus the interplay of supply and demand.

Almost the entire world economy exists solely upon the changes in balance between supply and demand for various physical products and the services which directly or indirectly support/provide them.

But what of virtual or imaginary items? Things which can be instantly, easily multiplied to satisfy as many people who might want them, for costs so low as to be essentially free?

In this case manufacturing and distribution costs practically don't exist. Especially with the near negligible costs in computing, storage, and bandwidth today. So any involved costs must stem from the initial creation of an item, and/or any tangible assets spent in creating an awareness of and demand for that item.

But in a world with instant global communications and ubiquitous AIs constantly searching for items which might benefit their owners in some way, practically the only purpose for marketing or 'spin' would be, basically, to scam people into doing something that wasn't really in their best interests.

Ergo, marketing or 'spin' is now becoming little more than a tool for the criminal, corrupt, or malevolent to use upon peers or subordinates in efforts to create modern versions of 20th century cults and/or other unhealthy or ill-advised relationships of various sorts. Is it any wonder then that marketing and advertising as widely practiced in the late 20th/early 21st centuries is outright banned in many places and heavily regulated in others today?

So, in effect, the costs of marketing and advertising for a given product or service is today falling to negligible levels too. The savings from this tend to be put towards new product/service research and development and quality control in general. Of course, as quality control done right itself saves huge sums (as proven by the Japanese in late 20th century auto manufacturing), as well as often propels related products/services skywards in comparative reviews and ratings, increasing sales, the increased attention to quality control likely produces net profits for most organizations, rather then costs. The vast improvements in computing and network efficiency and flexibility have served to make R&D efforts much more cost-effective than ever before in history too.

So R&D and quality control likely present net costs primarily to those companies which are extraordinarily incompetent at managing same, during this period. Indeed, much R&D today may be carried out entirely by automated simulation software, generating and testing billions of ideas in days or weeks to find the best combination for a given market. Moving the concept from virtual to physical reality is also easier than ever. For one thing, many projects today never require transformation from the virtual to physical worlds at all. Once fully formed in VR, they are done and ready to ship! But moving from the lab to physical factory too is not much more difficult, when companies can simply print 3-D objects and models directly from computer memory to a wide variety of physical production facilities.

In general, the more advanced our manufacturing and production processes become, the more like virtual intangibles even physical items can be (in terms of related costs). Likewise the less valuable even intellectual creations become, as the physical means to invent and manufacture become ever more effortless and negligible in cost, and advances in artificial intelligence and other mind amplification (or replacement) make innovation itself an ever more trivial task

So it's getting harder and harder today to find a substantial cost source in the creation and production of many products and services. Throw in the fact that quite a bit of intellectual property is created more out of love of the work itself (or other personal benefits derived) rather than for financial compensation, and potential costs drop still further.

But never fear: individuals, business, and government have come up with a new way to assess the market value of a particular good, even under conditions like these which tend to push costs towards zero for many items-- and especially purely intellectual goods, such as an old fashioned text novel, with no added VR values and zip in the way of distribution costs.


A summary of this new method and some examples follow below.

Today, it's becoming increasingly evident that trading in time is becoming the major market of the world-- maybe the only market, eventually. Everything else about life is becoming amenable or replaceable in some fashion. But time remains an item in short supply.

Thus, the probable impact of a given product or service on the time of its customers or consumers, in relation to the benefits it provides, is becoming more and more important. Time sinks are not only worth less than time multipliers, they can actually force the producer of a related product or service to pay someone to use it, rather than the other way around.

Where decades before many companies exploited various laws and circumstances to play something akin to a lottery game with their customers-- I.E., a purchase only meant a chance at getting a desired product or service, not a guarantee that you'd get what a business had offered you for your money-- now the tables have turned, so that companies avoid the lottery game if at all possible. For one of the elements of the lottery game was a business shifting time deficit burdens out of their operations onto their customers. Now, that is no longer acceptable, both by market demand and by law. Companies today struggle mightily to avoid costing a customer a time deficit, as that can effectively force them to provide the related product or service at significant discount, entirely free, or along with a financial compensatory reward to the customer in question. The time constraints reach all through the supply chain in the business world now.

On the other hand, if a business successfully manages to instill an element of time multiplier into their product or service, they may sometimes reap substantial profits, tax breaks, and other benefits. The smallest whole unit of a time multiplier factor is 100%; that is, the product or service costs the customer no time at all after the initial transaction, in terms of its proper use. One example of such an item might be a peripheral ordered for your computer. It's delivered to your home sans any packaging, since it's of a single piece and sturdy: like the Batmobile of Batman films in the late 20th century, the peripheral possesses built-in extendable protective shielding for transport, which retracts automatically when the owner instructs it so. It also self-installs wirelessly and instantly onto your computer once it's in close proximity, and just plain works on demand. Thus, no appreciable time sink factor; indeed, a time multiplier factor of 100%, as the customer enjoys a discrete expansion of his or her computing capabilities now, with no significant price in time invested to make it happen, beyond that spent during the transaction.

A piece of furniture you must put together yourself rates as a time sink. Thus, unless it offers some very unique and useful features compared to others of its general ilk, it's unlikely the manufacturer will be able to charge very much for it in the marketplace. Because it'll rate as something like a 300% to 800% time sink factor. A big negative.

By contrast, a piece of furniture which is delivered to your home without any extra work on your part, unpackages and assembles itself when prompted, provides contextual help information regarding special features automatically via a built-in voice system, and moves itself into the position you dictate in your home, would probably rate a 100% time multiplier factor. Pretty decent positive.

Of course, the expected functionality, uniqueness, or certain other qualities of a given product or service also figure into the equation. For instance, a piece of shape-shifting furniture capable of becoming literally any sort of furnishing you might require in a home could be a top-of-the-line product/service of this period. Thus, if it also rated a time sink factor of 300% to 800% because you had to spend some time in your kitchen performing the final chemical activation of the item, it could still command a premium price-- because its other features outweighed its negative factors for most potential consumers during this period in history.

All this has led to packaging and specifications touting the proven time multiplier factor of given products/services, as one of their competitive features.

Of course, although time is obviously becoming the most important commodity over decades, during this period there still exists a few other elements to consider in determining the market price of a particular product or service. Elements like a product or service's impact on the environment, the mental and physical health of the user or others, the likely result on the user's future employability, etc., etc., etc. These items help determine whether an item is taxed, subsidized, or otherwise impacted by various government policies and other factors. In an environment like this, lethal 20th century-style cigarrettes would have a lot against them. Heavy taxes to make up for the health and employability damage to the user and others, and the agricultural resources used to grow the tobacco, which could have been used for something more productive.

One of the byproducts of all this (and other trends of the time) is a change in the medium of exchange too. Hard cash had mostly become electronic cash long ago, in the developed nations. Anonymity of electronic cash transactions eventually became available too, for the price of a percentage premium on the cost of the items involved, and a contractual bond with a sort of insurance bureau which represented you in all your online transactions. If your transactions ever resulted in substantial legal or military action against the bureau, they were obligated to keep you informed of the mounting pressures in regards to your identity, and continue protecting your anonymity up through a certain period of time, based on the size of the premiums you were paying on purchases and any monthly fee (if any). This timespan was meant to allow you time to (a) turn yourself over to authorities to get a more lenient sentence if convicted, (b), possibly do your own investigation and prepare a legal defense, (c) to move away, or (d), do whatever else you'd wish to with the time provided. After this time ran out, the bureau would hand over everything they knew about you to the authorities-- which was usually quite a bit. Getting an anonymous e-cash bond or license requires passing an investigative examination of a fairly detailed application, which the customer completes upfront. After all, the bureau exists only to protect average citizens wishing for privacy in relatively insignificant matters; it does not exist to protect terrorists or criminals. One exception to the bureau protection limitations is free speech. In most cases if the authorities cannot provide significant evidence that their target is not wanted on pure censorship of reasonable free speech grounds, then the bureau is obligated to stand its ground against almost anything, including a full-scale military assault. Some bureaus possess their own armed forces, and operate out of their own sovereign territories to increase their independence and reliability.


AUTHOR'S NOTE: The concept of 'economies of scale' applies primarily during periods of intermediate technology and raw resource development. The more advanced technology becomes, the more flexible and less costly it is in resource usage and end use customization, as well as scalability in production-- either up or down. END NOTE.

Assuming the problem of bloated corporations and their depressing effect on innovation (as well as upwards pressure on costs) are solved-- and simplifying the issue to one of individual to individual transactions of value-for-value, how might the creation of desirable intellectual property be encouraged and rewarded, while keeping the costs to consumers relatively low as well?

Note that individual human beings and their families could never be as wasteful or resource-intensive as the big corporations of their time. Thus, their overhead would be much lower, and much less in the way of financial returns would be necessary to insure their prosperity, compared to what a large corporation might require. People also live much shorter lives than corporations, which works out to much shorter periods for which a given product or service might be desired to support its makers (note that the shorter lifespan and smaller size of makers might serve itself to increase the pace of innovation-- for longer-lived and powerful large corporations have many reasons to prolong the useful lifespan of a product or service in the market, and much resources with which to enforce the event (such as monopolies, market collusion, and others).

With the presence of mega-corporations minimized in the markets, small players like individuals and small businesses could flourish more easily around the world, leading to a wider, fairer distribution of wealth, even as competition and innovation increased. Small to moderate-scale marketing efforts would have much better chances of success than before, thereby leading to much lower marketing costs than would exist under the big player scenario.

Advances in technology by this time also have allowed reductions in administrative and government costs, while at the same time improving related services-- thereby allowing government (or dedicated small business concerns) to take over some of the duties once left to mega-corporations to perform in-house.

So, in this scenario we have a more level playing field, consisting possibly of hundreds of millions of small businesses and self-employed individuals (if not more), occupying nearly every major market sector, rather than just a handful of mega-corporations commanding same. END SPECIAL NOTE.

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The above article(s) come from and make references to a collection copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 by J.R. Mooneyham (except where otherwise noted in the text). Text here explicitly authored by J.R. Mooneyham may be freely copied and distributed for non-commercial purposes in paper and electronic form without charge if this copyright paragraph and link to the timeline ( are included.

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