Subject: Re: Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Encyclopedia
From: Erik Naggum <>
Date: Wed, 31 Oct 2001 17:54:14 GMT
Newsgroups: comp.lang.lisp
Message-ID: <>

* Christopher Browne <>
| The recent sets of lawsuits surrounding the US "Digital Millenium
| Copyright Act," as well as the DVD/CSS activities, which, if memory
| serves, included the arrest of a Norwegian minor, under eminently
| invalid charges, would seem to suggest otherwise.

  Really?  These lawsuits seem to suggest that intellectual property refers
  to ideas, not their expression?  I think you have conflated the concept
  of an idea with its expression.  I have noticed that some people do this,
  and that it is generally impossible to convince them to separate the two.

| The folks of the US MPAA and RIAA seem to be indicating that they wish to
| claim to own all sorts of ideas.

  Really?  From my point of view, they merely wish to own the expression of
  the ideas expressed by their members.  They also seem to think that you
  do not actually own a copy of the information on the physical medium you
  have bought, meaning that you only have the right to perform the piece,
  not reproduce it.  This is a legitimate legal view, and they _do_ have
  the right to make such limitations on your purchase of the medium.  What
  we have here is a pretty simple case of voluntary licenses and contracts,
  which are protected as such in all reasonable countries.  They cannot,
  however, claim any control over any ideas you get while you experience a
  performance.  That would be the consequence of the ability to "own ideas".
| If you make, and publish, anything that generally seems to resemble
| Mickey Mouse, you're liable to find some folks from The Disney Company
| submitting some legal papers suggesting that you Cease And Desist...

  And this is relevant to owning ideas how?  Sheesh.

| That may be how it appears on your "side of the pond;" while that was
| once supposed to be the purpose of copyright, trademark, and patent
| laws, there seems to be a substantial set of industries lobbying for
| things rather closer to "owning ideas."

  It seems that some people arrive at so strong opinions about "owning
  ideas" (which is so silly that you would have to think other people are
  idiots to believe they hold such a view -- it is somewhat like accusing
  people of believing they are infallible) because they fail to distinguish
  between an expression of an idea and the idea itself.  If you express the
  "same idea" (for some version of the "equal" operator :) independently,
  your independent expression is, in fact, independent.  If you think that
  the idea _is_ its expression, there is no way to make an independent
  version of the "same idea", because it would be the same _expression_.

  I _really_ think those who believe that others want to "own ideas" need
  to read up on copyright law and talk to some people who are working for
  "the other side".  It should be as simple as seeking expert counsel to
  find out how your _own_ ideas are protected under prevailing law, and
  that process should dispell most of the silly confusions.  It appears to
  me that those who fail to grasp intellectual property issues have never
  had an original idea worth protecting and so have never thought about how
  to protect them.  As soon as one has an idea that one would like to make
  money off of, or even base one's claim to fame on, these issues arise,
  and it is pretty stupid _not_ to protect one's work in an environment
  where people copy everything and think they have a _right_ to copy it, so
  as soon as you do something independently, you need to study these things
  carefully.  Those who have not, and still talk about copyright issues,
  appear to me be consumers of other people's idea, only, and only want to
  get their hands on more of other people's work for less money.  I fail to
  see how this can be the basis for a particularly noble cause.

  Norway is now run by a priest from the fundamentalist Christian People's
  Party, the fifth largest party representing one eighth of the electorate.
  Carrying a Swiss Army pocket knife in Oslo, Norway, is a criminal offense.