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back to article UK's Intellectual Property Obliteration office attacked by Parliament

With the British economy now increasingly dependent on "intangibles" - brands, designs, patents and copyright - a cross-party group of MPs and peers has called for stronger support for the industries which produce such things at Whitehall. It has also called for bureaucrats to stop kicking these industries in the nuts whenever …

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We already have copyright, we already have patents, and US software companies are already doing a bad enough job of exporting American "IP" values to the rest of the world.

So, uhm, what the hell was the point of this whole thing?

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Well, writers life + 75 years for music seems insanely long, we could probably stand to relax that a fair bit. We then need to ignore any further suggestions relating to giving away "Current" IP rights, be they TV, Radio, or software.

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Trollface

It's not long enough.

Copyright should be life + 5,000 years.

Patents issued in one country should be recognised (and enforced) globally.

TradeMarks issues in one country should be recognised (and enforced) globally.

Any attempt to by-pass any product protection system or any modification of any product (e.g. rooting) should be a specific offence carrying unlimited fines and jail terms.

Distributing tools that can be used to by pass any product protection system should be treated as an attempt at economic terrorism, carrying the death penalty (yes, even in Europe; the Europeans are far too soft these days).

It is only by these measures that we can continue to gouge the consumer and make the rich richer...err...I mean...protect our investment. Oh, did I mention tax? Yes, none of that please. It stifles innovation and only peasants should pay it.

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Trollface

"one country"?

That would be one country with initials an anagram of S A U?

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Anonymous Coward

This will be the view right up to the point where China, North Korea or a host of Middle Eastern nations, do a bit of looking into the future, a bit of careful musing and begin a systematic patenting, Copyrighting and Trademarking of anything and everything that might be useful to the Western World in the future. After all, they make almost everything the West designs, so they could almost certainly make a good stab at where it's going in the future.

Many stories on this Forum of course are about the US and China ignoring patents, copyrights and Trademarks issued elsewhere in the world, so how this would be enforced when it's mostly ignore by the two big players, I'm not really sure...

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Just for my confirmation

When the current government came into place. One of their biggest arguements was we needed fewer quangos, claiming that they were a drain on tax payer money etc.

And since initially axing what was it, 100 quangos? They're now creating more once again, splitting existing quangos into more distinct parts and well, doing the opposite of what they originally set out to do.

Does that sound about right?

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Anonymous Coward

Nothing can be said about this ...

...that hasn't been said before. I therefore expect many of the comments would be in breach of any proposed (or indeed current) IP regulations.

PS. If somebody has already said this then please accept my house, car and all future earnings as an apology.

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Anonymous Coward

*sniff, sniff* I smell some well lined palms, MPs are best kept well away from issues of law, intelligence and, technology.

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Headmaster

Erm, M Gale...

...the point is that the IPO are effectively encouraging a course of action that weakens copyright, and especially the ability of the individual to negotiate terms of use and pricing for works that they created.

These rights are vital to the operations of, for example, my employer. They're a magazine publisher.

So the point of 'this whole thing' is that Whittingdale and chums are asking the IPO to start behaving like the organisation they're meant to be, and not cosying up to Google and the like.

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Re: Erm, M Gale...

Or - possibly - Parliamentarians getting confused about the enacting laws in the UK that set up the copyright system as a framework of civil licences leaving enforcement up to the rights holder? Those would be the ones that , er , Parliament is reponsible for.... Of course if they want Civil Servants making up new enforcement authority without recourse to Parliament historical precedent suggests it may not be in their interests.

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Headmaster

Re: Erm, M Gale...

"cosying up to Google and the like"

If you don't want people to use Google to find your site, put a simple line in a robots.txt file telling googlebot not to index your site.

There you are, job done. In probably less time than it took you to write that message.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Erm, M Gale...

Your alternative? To cosy up to the likes of the MPIAA and RIAA who want copyright to extend to ridiculous levels like not being able to have the radio playing on a video clip of a kids birthday that you post on youtube.

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Boffin

Re: Erm, M Gale...

It's the job of the IPO to take a balanced view of IP rights and enforcements based upon the interests of UK society as a whole, not just in terms of one form of commerce, and certainly not just in the interests of those selling IP. The broader interests of UK society as a whole in having a proportionate IP system includes respecting various other rights which conflict in some senses with copyright and patent property rights.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Erm, M Gale...

It's for parliament as the expression of the will of the people as a whole (yes, ideal world and all that) taking into account international obligations to decide what IP law is in this country and for the IPO to make it easier for entities (corporate and individual) to register and administrate their IP interests.

The IPO should be in a position to advise the legislators how IP laws affect the IPO but apart from that they should in my opinion stick to stamping the forms and collecting the fees.

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Police investigation needed ...

... into the possible corruption by Google of Civil Servants in and around the copyright office. In the meanwhile, Ed Vaizey MP can be arrested and locked just for being a tory twerp.

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Big Brother

Rights don't exist in isolation

Copyright may well be a form of property, but if so this right has to coexist with other rights. No right is absolute.

Freedom of expression doesn't justify shouting "Fire" in a crowded theatre, or racial abuse at a football match. Privacy of communications don't create a legal right to have communications concerning a terrorist plot kept private from the intelligence services or police. The human right to be able to live safely and peacefully overrides the human rights described above in these narrow contexts.

But an idea once expressed can't be controlled. It may still be reasonable for commerce in a copyright or legitimate patent to be regulated, but not to the extent of prohibiting sale of second hand goods. . It clearly isn't reasonable for non-commercial speech or communications to be curtailed on this basis. Copyright or patents are not mentioned in any bill of rights or human rights convention.

Consequently, these particular forms of property can't justify locking programmers up for what they express in relation to copyright protection technology . Neither can they justify intrusions into non-commercial communications between consenting and private parties .

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Re: Rights don't exist in isolation

"Copyright may well be a form of property"

I doubt it.

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Thumb Up

Re: Rights don't exist in isolation

Indeed. Copyright isn't a property right, it's a state-mandated monopoly on distribution of copies. anyone who tries to convince you otherwise is a con-artist.

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Re: Rights don't exist in isolation

The idea isn't the property. That, and its bedfellow "nothing is new anyway" are just diversions repeated by lobbyists with a vested interest in weak copyright.

Copyright protects the work of people who turn ideas into somthing tangible. Ideas are free, because they're worthless until realised. The property is in the exact expression or realisation of that idea into a useful or entertaining form, and it's earned by putting in the many hours and months of work needed to turn that idea into something worth paying for.

If you take away the "paying for" part, then nobody except the idle rich will be able to produce artistic or creative works, because only they can afford to work for free, or we can go back to patronage, maybe?

But copyright is also the bedrock of licenses like GPL. If you don't accept the concept of copyright, there's no reason to obey the terms of any open-source licence, after all.

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Re: Rights don't exist in isolation

" If you don't accept the concept of copyright, there's no reason to obey the terms of any open-source licence, after all."

You know why the GPL is referred to as "copyleft", right?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Rights don't exist in isolation

"Copyleft" is an odd term though, because the GPL doesn't confer copy-rights, it confers copy-duties

Namely that if you copy, you have a duty to publish everything.

I also don't like the GPL because the duties it assigns are too onerous, requiring you to publish all work using it for free. The L-GPL is considerably better - use this library how you want, if you improve the library then publish the improvements for all.

The GPL is essentially incompatible with commercial interests like getting paid so you can eat.

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Re: Rights don't exist in isolation

>> The GPL is essentially incompatible with commercial interests like getting paid so you can eat. <<

That is totally and utterly wrong. There is *nothing* about the GPL that precludes payment for your work. Other have the opportunity to see your work, but it doesn't mean you can't be paid for the hours you spent writing it.

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Boffin

@Kristian Walsh

"If you don't accept the concept of copyright, there's no reason to obey the terms of any open-source licence, after all."

There are many variations on the theme of accepting or not accepting the concept of copyright, because there are various understandings of what this concept means or should mean. So it's not as black and white as you suggest. It also seems pointless to start out from the viewpoint that only one of these understandings is "right" because if copyright exists in law, this law and future versions of it are governed by politics. And it's not as if might (i.e. the ability to influence legislators into passing your preferred expression of copyright law) is always right.

To the extent any law is political and controversial, it becomes reasonable to accept the parts of it you don't want to be used against you, or the risk of the parts of it you don't intend keeping catching up with you.

Copyleft is also enforced, to the extent that developers of copyleft software intend extension of rights granted to software distributors to be transitive to their customers. I personally quite like the idea of being able to modify the software in my mobile phone, router or telly, and the copyleft licenses used by these systems and their active enforcement by some of the developers enables me to do this.

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Re: @Kristian Walsh

"Copyleft" requires copyright to function. Without the copyright that automatically exists on the sources, I would be free to do whatever the hell I want with them, because the contributors/maintainers of the project would have no legal instrument with which to force me to comply with their terms. "Enforcement by the developers" doesn't mean anything unless that enforcement can impose a legally-binding punishment on a transgressor.

(in the case of FSF-sponsored projects, the FSF ask contributors to assign their copyright to FSF because it makes this copyright protection fall under US law: http://www.gnu.org/licenses/why-assign.html )

Without assigned copyright, the contents of a FOSS project remain copyright of those people who have contributed to the project. Copyright is a right, and therefore automatic. The adoption of GPL then grants other people a licence to use, modify or redistribute that code; provided that they adhere to the terms of GPL. For that "provided" clause to be upheld, it is required that there be a penalty if one chooses not to comply. If one does not adhere to the terms of GPL, then the legal mechanism by which the owners of the code can force compliance is... copyright, because copyright is the only legally-protected right that the contributors to a FOSS project ever had in respect to the code.

Copyright isn't a "concept", regardless of how some might want it to be considered as one. It is, as its name implies, a right. You have rights, even if you don't "want" them, and you can choose to not assert them. However, you cannot choose to ignore the rights of others just because they don't fit in with your favourite company's business model or some other ideological position.

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Re: Rights don't exist in isolation

"Namely that if you copy, you have a duty to publish everything."

Uhm, no you don't. I have copies of GPL software here that I'm not distributing. You should try reading the GPL some time.

As for "publish all work using it".. depends on what you mean. I don't see many of the commercial developers (yes they do exist) being forced to give their stuff away for free just because they made a Linux version.

Now if you're on about making your own Linux, taking the hard work of thousands of others who have given their work to the community, locking it up behind a pretty veneer and a layer of proprietary binaries.. no, no you can't do that. And quite right too.

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Facepalm

Re: Rights don't exist in isolation

Actually copyright is one of the few things related to the oxymoron "Intellectual Property" that can sanely be considered a property. That, and Trademarks and Patents can be considered properties.

The things they are protecting cannot reasonably considered a property (you can't steal an idea, lose them, or permanently give them away: you can have a physical embodiment of a book stolen for instance, but someone taking a copy of your book cannot by any sane definition be stealing it from you, if you keep the original copy).

However, copyrights, trademarks and patents are things that can be taken away (even stolen, if you can get especially creative).

Bear in mind that such so called "IP" rights are implemented as constraints on what other people can do with their own time, energy and materials (as opposed to real property rights, which protect you from losing your stuff).

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Re: Rights don't exist in isolation

So you're not entirely clear on what a Patent is then? A Patent is exactly control over an idea. It used to be that you had to present a physical model to demonstrate your Patent that was kept at the Patent office, such that potential licencees could come and see and understand what it was that they were going to Patent. But no longer, all you need to submit now is a document of sufficiently obscure legalise that it obsfucates the fact that there really is nothing new or innovative in what you have submitted (and if you are really clever, no information at all)..

Copyrights and Patents are both potentially useful tools for encouraging the sorts of people who make the sorts of things that get controlled by Copyrights and Patents to make these sorts of things, but it is by no means clear that they are the only way of encouraging such people, and there are definite indications that extending the term of these rights does cause harm.

The proliferation of Patents is a particularly vicious problem-- a companies R&D expenditure can routinely be spent in greater share on patent searches, patent lawyers and avoiding infringement of useless but restricting patents than actually doing real research and development, and particularly in the software world the patents that are available to license are often in no way helpful in getting you to your solution, they are just methods of making sure that you have to pay someone else for your own hard work.

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FAIL

The trouble with talking about pricacy

Privacy has nothing to do with IP except as some related conceptual ideas, but we see privacy laws routinely ignored by the police. Remember Westminster polices response to BT's Phorm wiretap? "BT did not realize it was illegal, so we are not going to do anything"

People are never going to trust any IP laws where those laws are not enforced across the board. Nor where they see the results of the IP word in action. Samsung v Apple is a great example. Laughable.

Yes It may still be reasonable for commerce in a copyright or legitimate patent to be regulated, but not to the affect we see the moment any laws get passed.

Company's cant be trusted with these sorts of laws. They are used to stifle any and all innovation, or just stifle common sense.

I think the story BEHIND the story is that its no longer as easy to scam people in the Financial world, so England better turn to a new industry to scam . And IP is a perfect scammers haven.

Didn't we used to laugh at the "Boys from Lagos" and their scam emails? Seems the UK is just a more respectable version.

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It's in the first line

"With the British economy now increasingly dependent on "intangibles" - brands, designs, patents and copyright"

Instead of, er, making stuff? Thatcher ripped the soul out of this nation, Blair violated the open wounds, now we're all busy trying to sell branded coffee to each other (with all proceeds going straight to the Caymans). Technology has devastated the ability of monopolists to create artificial scarcity in media markets. That's a genie that's not about to go back in the bottle any time soon, perhaps the IPO simply realise this.

Have a nice day now!

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Re: It's in the first line

> Thatcher ripped the soul out of this nation,

Perhaps. But the 1970's before Thatcher wasn't really a triumph of productivity or production quality. The end was coming anyway.

The problem with intangibles is that they are really difficult to police and unreliable as an income source. Just look at the write-downs the banks had to make when it was realised that the money owed them by sub-prime Americans just wasn't going to materialise.

Intellectual Property is a con because it conflates different things. Few people think copyright shouldn't exist. Few people think patents shouldn't exist, but few people understand how you can motivate someone who has been dead for 69 years to be more creatively productive. Few people see how moving an icon on a screen is an invention. Without the blessing and goodwill of the people (and I mean the populace, not the legislative) laws are ineffective and will be extensively broken. Try reducing copyright lengths and you might get more creativity and more goodwill from the people in keeping the law.

I simply don't believe artists become more creative when there is a guaranteed income stream for so long. Apple would not have picked a different way to unlock their phone if there was less chance of charging royalties on that particular method.

By pushing "rights" too far under the current regime, the "creative" corporates have created a backlash. Did I say "creative"? How many seasons of Big Brother, Strictly Come Dancing, Survivor, X factor do we need? What is it in the "creative media" industry which is creative?

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PT

Re: It's in the first line

"Without the blessing and goodwill of the people (and I mean the populace, not the legislative) laws are ineffective and will be extensively broken."

Indeed, the difficulty of getting civil servants to do some work will seem insignificant against the difficulty of getting a jury to convict under the proposed laws.

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Culture, Media and Sport?

Earth calling MPs. If you think the most appropriate department for IP rights is "culture, media and sport" then you have a seriously messed up organisation and the question of where to put IP rights is the least of your worries.

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FAIL

Intellectual Property is Theft - Marx (Groucho)?

Orlowski and the All Party IP Group want patents, copyright and trademarks collectively to work as absolute "property rights", rather than (as they originally were, and should be) market interventions, to BOTH reward innovators AND TO encourage the spread of innovation.

Framing all IP as a property right encourages the RIAA / MPAA / Cliff Richard view of copyright as an *absolute* *entitlement* to extract cash from consumers for as many decades after the death of the original innovator / creator / author as their lobbyists can persuade the government is OK.

It ignores the broader economic costs of "monitizing" everything - like having tolls for every few miles of road, it makes ordinary commerce so much more difficult. And it encourages rent-seeking entities like patent trolls.

The IPO may not have got all the questions right - but they are right, and Orlowski and the APIPG and paymasters are wrong. The current IP framework needs to change, to be fit for the economic needs of the current century.

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FAIL

Re: Intellectual Property is Theft - Marx (Groucho)?

Errm - you havent read manyof andrew's articles have you? The last thing anyone who has would lump him in with the pigopolists. If anything he advocates a middle ground where copyright/ip is respected with credible methods of monetising said IP without freetards and Noo Medja types making off with it willy nilly for their own selfish ends.

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Re: Intellectual Property is Theft - Marx (Groucho)?

What he ("Gordon 10") said.

For some bizarre reason, humanity seems to be losing its ability to understand concepts, ideas and philosophies properly. Everything is either black or white, yes or no, on or off. Hardly anyone (except Orlowski and a few others) seem capable of consider even the possibility of a middle ground. Of moderation. Of finding a path between the two extreme alternatives that doesn't involve throwing all of at least one baby's toys out of his pram.

This bi-polar, "you're either with us or against us", utterly irrational philosophy of extremism in all things is why the USA's political system is so f*cked up. As is the UK's, which has also lost its moderating influences.

We're raising a generation of people who have no concept of grey. Only of black or white.

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Anonymous Coward

arrest them all!

... especially anyone rash enough to import Darjeeling or OOlong tea into the UK. After all, we all know that proper tea is theft!

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Anonymous Coward

No chance that the IP rot will stop

Not whilst all your Government are belong to Google.

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As a British inventor that has just had a new patent granted, GB2447526, I can say a few things here that should be seen as relevant to the discussion. In the first place, it took the UK IPO very nearly 5 years to deliver the patent, while, at the same time, the Japan Patent Office makes a big thing that they do their best to deliver a patent within days. Their reasoning being that speed delivers a real, definable, competitive advantage to their nation. Here, my own experience shows us that the UK IPO seems to want to see something that they know and can immediately understand. So anything bringing forward new knowledge is suppressed rather than appreciated and they sit on it because they cannot understand new thinking; where in point of fact, true invention delivers something that NO ONE has ever before created.

The other side of the coin is well represented here. Many within modern society seem to believe that all IP is born from giant corporations that must be fought against; rather than recognising that all new IP is the birth child of a single individual who must have some mechanism to earn a living.

Another crucial aspect is there is no mechanism to deliver the equity capital investment that is essential if the originator is to be able to develop their original thinking. The only source being, yes you have guessed it; the giant corporation.....

The total failure of the UK executive government, the Civil Service, to stand up and protect the individual rights holder, is well represented in the ongoing indifference of the UK IPO. One only needs to remember Tony Blair telling everyone that his government was absolutely against "Individualism" to get an idea of the negative mindset inside Whitehall. Then add how the MOD nowadays will only deal with one supplier and we can see that a Parliamentary committee is very unlikely to be able to deliver any real change.

Until the UK economy completely collapses, (not that I wish such), I suspect no one will listen to anything a single inventor has to say; but for the record, the very first thing to do is close down several departments and retire the top 10 levels of the Civil Service. THEN we just might have a half chance of renewing past success as a manufacturing nation based upon Intellectual Property.

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Anonymous Coward

Nice to hear from an individual inventor.

I don't know whether this bodes ill for the future but at my local library among the books being sold off was "Inventing for Dummies"

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