The tragedy of the anticommons

Seems very relevant to today’s music industry, and potentially relevant to the internet/software industry in the near future as patent lawsuits become increasingly common:

The commons leads to overuse and destruction; the anticommons leads to underuse and waste. In the cultural sphere, ever tighter restrictions on copyright and fair use limit artists’ abilities to sample and build on older works of art. In biotechnology, the explosion of patenting over the past twenty-five years—particularly efforts to patent things like gene fragments—may be retarding drug development, by making it hard to create a new drug without licensing myriad previous patents. Even divided land ownership can have unforeseen consequences. Wind power, for instance, could reliably supply up to twenty per cent of America’s energy needs—but only if new transmission lines were built, allowing the efficient movement of power from the places where it’s generated to the places where it’s consumed. Don’t count on that happening anytime soon. Most of the land that the grid would pass through is owned by individuals, and nobody wants power lines running through his back yard.

From The Permission Problem, James Surowiecki, The New Yorker Magazine.  A very worthwhile read.

 

Thomas Jefferson on Patents

If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me.

That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density in any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation. Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property.

Society may give an exclusive right to the profits arising from them, as an encouragement to men to pursue ideas which may produce utility, but this may or may not be done, according to the will and convenience of the society, without claim or complaint from anybody. Accordingly, it is a fact, as far as I am informed, that England was, until we copied her, the only country on earth which ever, by a general law, gave a legal right to the exclusive use of an idea. In some other countries it is sometimes done, in a great case, and by a special and personal act, but, generally speaking, other nations have thought that these monopolies produce more embarrassment than advantage to society; and it may be observed that the nations which refuse monopolies of invention, are as fruitful as England in new and useful devices.

– Letter from Thomas Jefferson to Isaac McPherson

Howard Lindzon’s “Web is Dead” series

Howard’s Stocktwits interviews are always really fun.  Some people don’t get his subtly self-deprecating sense of humor but I love it. Besides discussing the usual suspects (Facebook, Twitter, Apple), we spend some time trashing Wall Street and chatting about some early-stage startups including Founder Collective investments Bnter, Giiv, Ze Frank Games, and Canvas (founder of 4chan Moot’s new startup).  Of course I also shamelessly promote Hunch.

Also, Fred Wilson’s interview with Howard is a must watch.

sunbelt blog

Alex Eckelberry has for years been one of the best bloggers on internet security. Personally I can say that I learned a lot about internet security by reading his blog (in addition to, among others, Ben Edelman’s). Today he posted about Yahoo’s announcement that they would use SiteAdvisor to help block certain sites from Yahoo’s search results. I have been reading Alex’s blog for years and get the sense that beyond his business interests he truly cares about protecting ordinary internet users from spyware, phishing, spam etc.