Innovation is the useful manifestation of ideas. It brings to life the wonders of man in a way that can be given useful application. Unsatisfied needs are problems without solutions, and only through innovation can we solve them. It is discovering new ways of doing things by taking the discovery of facts and truths about the world and molding them into practical applications. Innovation is an action motivated by want, a desire to achieve a goal. Like anything else motivated by want, it can only be fostered when the goal is given a chance to succeed.
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This climate of idea creation is stagnated, made stale by a centralized control of notarization, or the legitimization of ideas. In the case of patents, governments decide what ideas are worth consideration, by requiring people to apply for patent certification, and subsequently approving or rejecting them on an arbitrary basis. By way of this approval process comes the ultimate cause of stagnation, that is granting monopoly use of that idea — specifically any reproduction of work originating from the idea for the use of sale.
However, IP laws can sometimes go beyond monopolizing the profitable use of ideas and impede on the consumer’s ability to manipulate the product, even after the sale has already occurred. This infamously has been the case for the ‘Digital Millennium Copyright Act’ (DMCA), which was passed for the purpose of Digital Rights Management. Digital Rights Management (DRM) is mainly used to limit the practice of jailbreaking, which is breaking into files outside of the file system, or files that the producer never intended to make available for users. Additionally, It was also intended to limit the practice of “burning” or copying content from DVDs and Blu-Rays.
Fortunately, it seems the strict framework of the DMCA has finally been relaxed in order to allow consumers to have more control over their technological devices. On October 29th, 2015, the courts made a new ruling in relation to the controversial 1021 provision of the DMCA. This provision made it illegal to circumvent DRM technologies. In effect, this ruling allows people to rip DVD and Blu-Ray content for the purpose of fair use remixes and to preserve video games after publishers have abandoned them. This ruling comes after congress passed legislation in 2014 that made it legal to unlock phones from their service providers. And, for the first time, the new ruling on the 1021 provision has afforded the same right to tablets and other third-party portable devices.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation was optimistic about the ruling, calling it a victory for fair use.
“We hope each of these exemptions enable more exciting fair uses that educate, entertain, improve the underlying technology, and keep us safer,” the EFF wrote in a blog post. “A better long-term solution, though, is to eliminate the need for this onerous rulemaking process.” Many in the digital community have applauded the ruling, sharing the same sentiments as the EFF.
However, the digital community, along with the EFF, has also used the ruling to spotlight reform efforts for copyright and IP laws that they feel are outdated and fundamentally flawed. A way in which the digital community and the EFF have tried to emphasize copyright reform is by pointing to a bill that the EFF supports, the Unlocking Technology ACT (UTA). The UTA would stop companies from using the DMCA to go after individuals circumventing Digital Rights Management to repair their devices or use copyrighted material for fair use. If the bill is passed, companies will only be able to use the DMCA to prosecute those who circumvent DRM to infringe on copyrighted material.
The overly burdensome bureaucracy that characterizes the approval process of patents and other IP could be better mitigated through a simpler notary system. Notaries are people who are licensed by the government to witness signatures on documents, thus making them legally binding. This, of course, makes the notary process extremely centralized, and the only way to to get IP certified is by going through someone that is recognized by the government to handle such affairs. This means that people who come up with ideas have to wait until they are certified before they can be used. During that time, their ideas could be lost and even usurped by someone else.
A simpler way of providing the same service could be achieved using the blockchain. The blockchain makes the transfer of digital payments almost instantaneous relative to other methods of payment. This same technology could, and has been used to notarize ideas by storing them on the blockchain as a way to provide a “proof of existence.” Instead of going to a certified notary, and having to go through a tedious process, people can use the entire computing power of the Bitcoin network to publish their ideas in real time as they come up with them.
Do you think loosening IP restrictions is a good thing? Let us know in the comments below!
Images courtesy of ClickMinded, Pixabay, Q Look