Why intellectual property laws slow down innovation

As you may have learned from previous posts, I am not a big fan of intellectual property laws*. In theory, these laws should arrange that the ‘creative people’ get a fair pay, but in reality what they do is they make sure no one else can work with an idea unless they pay silly amounts of money. And of course, there are people making a comfortable living doing nothing but threatening companies with lawsuits about patents they don’t even own.

Fear leads to…

Intellectual property legislation, copyrights and patents are all based on fear. Fear of the possibilty that someone else might take advantage of your idea. At the same time there actually are other people taking advantage of this fear, and making a lot of money using the ‘rules of the game’. Patent traders, farmaceutical companies, entertainment multinationals et cetera are, on an ethical level, no better than for example, the Pirate Bay. Don’t hate the player, hate the game? Well, if we’re playing the quoting game, I’m quoting the greatest of philosophers, Yoda. “Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.” So there.

Lego

10083559456_d0ae17543d_oAnd while we’re on the subject of Star Wars, I find a great example of how nòt having patents could benefit all, including the one who would be holding those  patents, is Lego (Sorry Angry Nerd) This idea came to while building a really REALLY big Lego Star Wars set.(I could lie that I bought it for my son, but… well.). During the building process I had several  ‘wow’ experiences. It’s not just a matter of efficiently putting blocks together untill you have something resembling a Star Wars spaceship. Putting everything together you start to appreciate the details, there are little designer jokes, stuff that’s hidden in the end that no one knows about. This got me thinking about the Lego Star Wars animation series that you can find on YouTube, even if this stuff would sell really well on DVD. You can play Lego Star Wars online games for free. And even though the for-sale games are better, the free games could easily be sold. Many developers ask money for much less. There are many blogs, vlogs and communities out there making use of Lego Star wars content that are not being persecuted to death Disney style. Why would that be?

Just bricks

In the end, it’s just bricks. Lego used to hold a patent on their bricks, but the time frame ran out. And now there are many other companies that build stuff  that fits onto Lego. Megablocks for example. This could have been the end for Lego. All the industries I mentioned earlier claim that copyright infringement and piracy will be the, unfair, end for them. But Lego proves that’s bullshit. Lego is thriving. It’s not just the bricks, even though their bricks are of much better quality than the competition. It’s the whole Lego-universe, if you will. The bricks, the video’s, the games, the clothing, the magazines, the communities… Lego doesn’t have customers, it had fans. Fans who spend money. Happily. If Lego would only start making medicine…

*I make the obvious exception for Creative Commons Licencsing.

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