Montana Jones

Montana n: A state of the northwest United States bordering on Canada. Admitted as the 41st state in 1889. The fourth largest state in the union, it includes vast prairies and numerous majestic mountain ranges.
Syn: Treasure State, Big Sky Country, Last Best Place.

Jones n: slang. An addiction or very deep craving.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Thought Thieves

Microsoft is sponsoring a short film competition in the UK. It is called "Thought Thieves". It is aimed at school children, but any resident of the UK may enter.

The theme of your film should be about how intellectual property theft affects both individuals and society. Think about it: what would a world look like without protection for intellectual property?

This is one of those things that disturbs me on many levels.

First off, how Orwellian can you get with the title? Thought Crime is a phrase symbolic of oppression found in George Orwell's famous book 1984. Did the marketing people behind this actually intend to promote a totalitarian, soul crushing society to live in? Did someone actually think that associating intellectual property protections with a society bereft of freedoms, or choice, a world under the constant surveillance of Big Brother will help promote their cause?

The next bothersome point is the propaganda aspect of this thing. Giving school kids rewards for chanting the corporate mantra of intellectual property rights. Face it, the only people that give a rats ass about IP property are the corporations that think no one else should profit from an idea once they have stolen it for themselves. Forcing kids to chant the Pledge of Allegiance daily to make them patriotic citizens is one thing, making them chant about corporate profits is simply wrong.

Thought Thieves is about people stealing and profiting from your creation or innovation. Think about it: how would you feel if you saw your hard work being passed off as the property of someone else? What would you do?

Lets take a good look at this one from the point of view of the Microsoft Corporation that is sponsoring the contest. The innovation of the graphical user interface was not invented there, it was invented at Xerox. Microsoft has never paid royalties or even acknowledged that this spectacular innovation, profitable to billions of dollars, is not theirs. Microsoft did not invent the word processor or the spreadsheet. They did not invent the computer mouse. They did not invent the World Wide Web or the web browser. How would Microsoft have ever gotten so rich if they had not taken advantage of the hard work and good ideas of others and passed them off as your own. Hypocrisy. If there is one thing I truly hate in this world it is hypocrisy.

So what would the world look like without protection for intellectual property? Reverse that for a second, what would the world look like with greater protection for intellectual property?

There would be no snazzy modern computers because Microsoft would not have been allowed to sell software that used a graphical interface. (Heck there would no computers because there would be IP laws protecting the transistor from being used by anyone other than the inventor.)

The movie industry would be totally screwed. There would be no Walt Disney corporation because Disney lifted their stories from the previous works of the Brothers Grim. The movie Titanic would never have become a hit because it featured a storyline lifted from Romeo and Juliet. The music industry would be at a loss too. Britney Spears would never have recorded the song "oops I did it again" because that is just a remake of a Louis Armstrong song.

In a world with strong IP protection we would have no auto industry because Henry Fords revolutionary assembly line for building cars was not his idea. We would not have Tylenol because no one would have been allowed to follow in the footsteps of Aspirin.

We would have no arts or literature, or music, we would have no television, we would have no computers, we would have no medicine, no machinery. We would be living in a society void of social progress, without soul. Much like the world envisioned in 1984. I am having a hard time understanding what is so great about NOT sharing culture, ideas, and innovation.