General Agenda for the Next President
I hope that our incoming President Obama practices a more ‘open’ technology policy: open standards, open source, open data formats, open competition between vendors, and much less weight on the ‘intellectual property’ rights of large corporations. Open access for Americans to our government files, with a commitment to shred / delete any information that is not absolutely necessary. Open government processes, without hidden backroom deals and without allowing special access to corporate lobbyists.
Open net connectivity rules, what we call ‘net neutrality’, to curb the monopoly power of wire / cable owners, enabling new and improved data services to flow through those ‘pipes’ as well as price competition among those who provide those services. A commitment to move federal documents and files from their present proprietary file formats to open formats—open standards, created with open processes that are open for any stakeholder to participate, and which are open for any vendor to utilize at any time—like the OpenDocument Format, a widely-available format for office applications.
Shut down the secret and illegal overseas interrogation-slash-torture prisons, the domestic surveillance programs, and corporate welfare programs meant to protect overpaid CEOs from the consequences of their choices. Oh, and one more thing: long prison terms to those whose actions threatened our Constitution over the past few years.
In fact, I encourage my readers to use ODF-formatted files in any correspondence with government agencies. Include a link to Sun’s ODF Plugin for Microsoft Office. As you might imagine, fans / users of a certain competing format are doing the same thing already.
Update: We have the incoming administration’s technology agenda. It looks bad for those who re-use or re-purpose pre-existing ideas to create new uses. Since all ‘new’ ideas are recycled old ideas with a twist, you may safely expect the ‘IP mafia’ goons (RIAA, MPAA, BSA) to shut down what little economic vitality we have.
* Protect American Intellectual Property Abroad: The Motion Picture Association of America estimates that in 2005, more than nine of every 10 DVDs sold in China were illegal copies. The U.S. Trade Representative said 80 percent of all counterfeit products seized at U.S. borders still come from China. Barack Obama and Joe Biden will work to ensure intellectual property is protected in foreign markets, and promote greater cooperation on international standards that allow our technologies to compete everywhere.
* Protect American Intellectual Property at Home: Intellectual property is to the digital age what physical goods were to the industrial age. Barack Obama believes we need to update and reform our copyright and patent systems to promote civic discourse, innovation and investment while ensuring that intellectual property owners are fairly treated.
In part, this is because the IP mafia groups are keeping prices higher than they should be. It costs almost nothing for them to duplicate the material once they have it, so they need to drop their prices substantially. At some point, it is no longer as lucrative for knock-offs, especially considering the cost of shipment from overseas. This is first semester economics here. The RIAA and similar groups are cartels, like OPEC. Their continued insistence on clinging to their old business models and mark ups will fail, simply because duplication costs and distribution costs, once the barriers that kept most competitors out, have fallen precipitously.
That is part of the problem, is that copyrights, patents, and trademarks are not very similar in use or purpose to what physical assets were in the industrial age. The analogy does not fit, and legal restrictions based on those analogies are doomed to fail. Jim Robertson sums it up nicely:
It’s not that artists don’t deserve payment; they do. The problem is that technology has run past the way the law was designed. Copyright law was designed for a time when it was expensive (and relatively difficult) to create copies – and very difficult to create lots of copies. Now? It’s not only easy, it’s something we can do without thinking about it.
When people think that entering the music, television, movies, or software fields automatically means you will have high incomes, you know something is distorting the market. Rather than trying to misuse the legal system to back up an out-of-date, failing business model, let us get out of the way and let new business models arise which will get rid of some of the unnecessary middlemen (e.g., RIAA and MPAA member companies), while bringing lower prices to the consumer and still bringing revenues to the talented creators who make what we read, watch, and listen to. Those revenues may be lower (or they may be higher with the middlemen’s percentage returned to its rightful owners), but it will also help drive out the money-grubbers who join a field only because of the high returns, rather than because they actually desire to do the work.