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Re: (TFT) Who owns ideas?

J. McGuire at wtsoft@io.com on 7/16/98 11:01 AM said:

>Read again:
>>>IMO, that's excessive. Life *or* fifty years, whichever is longer...
>                                ^                    ^
>                                |                    |
>                 LOOK HERE -----+--------------------'

I understand. I'm just looking at alternatives.

>Dr. A (who I still miss very dearly, especially when I
>get in an elevator at Lunacon and I don't get pinched) certainly deserved
>to reap the rewards of all of his effort, but does his son David, who's
>apparently involved in some highly unsavory things, deserve to have control
>over Dr. A's legacy, and to be able to use the profits to finance his
>ventures in areas that would have probably led Dr. A to shoot him?

I agree in principle, but who is to make that call? You can't let such 
slippery concepts as who is "deserving" get into this, alas.

>(I'm assuming modern longevity and 25-year generations here... not accurate
>for the past, but reasonable for the time since the law was enacted... and
>a 30-year-old "you") Is it reasonable to consider as a "limited time" a
>term that does not expire during the lifetime of the author's

I've got no argument with you on that at all. I'm in Spider Robinson's 
corner (and by extension in yours) -- Elephants never forget, but have 
you ever seen a cheerful elephant? Virtually perpetual protection, 
especially in this age when we eat ideas like candy, is absurd and even 
dangerous to our progress as a species.

>To authors and inventors. Not to the heirs of authors who have been dead
>for nearly a century. To authors and inventors. By a strict reading of the
>Constitution, copyright should expire immediately upon the author's death.
>That strict an application might have some negative effects, such as an
>elderly or ill author's work being unsellable to publishers hoping that
>he'll kick the bucket in a year or two and they'll have it for free -- but
>clearly, 50 or 100 years after the author's death was certainly not what
>was intended.

Even if the forefathers DID intend that, I'd argue that they were 
shortsighted in that regard. Times change, and our current consumption of 
information CERTAINLY could not have been predicted by someone at that 

>The US justice system does not determine who is legally, morally, or
>honorably correct. It determines who has the most money and the best
>lawyers. (couldn't we just compare bank balances and have the lawyers
>arm-wrestle, and save all that time and money?)

You have hit the nail on the head. We have the wild west all over again, 
today. What is yours is limited to what you have a big enough gun to 
defend. In this case, the "gun" is a good legal team. One publisher 
simply decided to quit paying my partners and I contractually-obligated 
royalties on a game line we created because he decided that we had 
"received enough" for our work, regardless of what our contract said. He 
got away with it because we could not afford to contest it at the time. 
On the other hand, try winning a copyright action involving (for example) 
Disney. (The copyrights on some of the Mickey Mouse cartoons either have 
run out or are about to...) Even if you are solidly within the law, 
you'll lose because they can afford to fight you forever.  (And, on the 
Gripping Hand, if I fake a tumble at the entrance to Disneyland, I can 
cost them thousands to defend against a meritless liability suit. No one 
is safe.) To REALLY solve the problem of copyright, you have to solve the 
problem of lawyers-uber-alles first. (And good luck...)

>Anyway, if someone had the money to challenge WotC, that patent would be
>thrown on the same junk heap that the Compton's multimedia patent landed
>on. Difference is, the only company inside the RPG industry with money is
>*WotC*, and nobody outside the RPG industry gives a flying whistle, if they
>even know about it at all.

If there is enough money in it, the patent will be challenged (and 
probably with success). That won't help the "chilling" effect the patent 
registration has on the industry. On the other hand, I could make a good 
case for the idea that the WotC patent has done us all a favor by getting 
companies out of the "me, too" collectible card game rut and forcing them 
to look at other sorts of publications. Hey, I can argue either side. I 
should have been a lawyer. 

>Y'know, there is a way around this, at least for the honorable individual
>author. I think I should put it in my will: "To the Public Domain, for the
>perpetual use and enjoyment thereof, I irrevocably grant the rights to all
>of my creative works, excepting only those for which I filed copyright in
>the ten years prior to my death. The latter shall be given to the Public
>Domain in perpetuity on the tenth anniversary of my death."
>I cannot force others to act honorably, but *I* can act honorably, and I
>choose to do so.

I like that idea a LOT. That would, however, benefit the greedy more than 
the altruistic, which is the usual result of such magnanimous gestures. 
It might, at least, protect the innocent from greed exercised by one's 
own descendents.

I'm in your corner here. I just think that it's a good idea to have a 
devil's advocate to bring out ALL the potential pitfalls.

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