Recently, I was listening to the BrainStuff podcast, which I highly recommend, and Marshall Brain, the host and founder of Howstuffworks.com covers the possibility of bacteria or algae being used to create fuel, eliminating our need for fossil fuels. This is quite fascinating, and listeners speculated that the oil companies might simply kill such technologies. Brain then started speculating on ways to get around this possibility, and came up with the idea that an inexpensive do-it-yourself kit might be developed, and spread widely, making it impossible for the cheap and easy method for fuel production to be shut down. This is a very optimistic view, but I think his idea could be jeopardized by intellectual property laws.
If such a method were produced, it is difficult to imagine the bacteria/algae being unencumbered by patents. The patent holders would have incentives to prevent the sort of underground fuel production plants that Brain describes. The oil companies would not need to kill the technology. Unauthorized production of fuel could be addressed in the same way that unauthorized production of drugs and alcohol is addressed: with police raids and tax crackdowns. In fact, one way to help prevent people “unfairly” using the intellectual property of others would be to require the tracking of mileage and gas purchases for registered vehicles, so that no one could own a car, drive 20,000 miles in a year, but not have gas purchases which correspond to the miles driven. The templates for these things are already in place. All which is really needed is a new application. Old wine in new bottles.
Last week I launched a new website called Prometheus Unbound. I aim for it to be a sort of online “magazine,” a libertarian review of fiction and literature. The site will feature reviews, news commentary, articles and editorials, and eventually (I hope) interviews, from a libertarian perspective. I’m entertaining the possibility of publishing original fiction in the undetermined future, but won’t be doing so anytime soon.
I’ve already got a number of posts up, some old and republished from other sites, some new. I’m hoping this won’t be a one-man show, so I’m looking for some regular writers as well as submissions from irregular or part-time contributors. There are already a few others on board, so you should start to see posts from them before long. If you’re interested in contributing a review, news commentary, or the like, contact me.
You can learn more about Prometheus Unbound, my reasons for creating it, and what I’m looking for in submissions by starting with my introductory post. I’m particularly interested in science fiction and fantasy prose fiction, but Prometheus Unbound will be open to submissions dealing with just about any genre or medium, including film, tv, comics and graphic novels, and poetry.
Cross-posted at Is-Ought GAP.
Statism + legislation = destruction and unintended consequences:
… Jon “Maddog” Hall wanted to try to preserve some deteriorating piano rolls, but discovered (much to his annoyance) that copyright may be getting in the way. He points out that many old player piano rolls are deteriorating, and the small group of remaining collectors are hoping to preserve the music by digitizing them. Easier said than done… turns out that Hall got confused about the difference between the copyright on the composition and the copyright on the performance, and his attempt to save a more modern recording of a public domain song — even though that piano roll was deteriorating — was not allowed. After contacting one company that still makes piano rolls, he was told that he was better off not preserving the rolls in his collection:
We ended up agreeing that if I made an mp3 recording of less than 30 seconds, off an old roll, from a company that was completely out of business, kept it completely for my own use and locked up so no one else could hear it, that I probably would not be sued. He also begged me not to use any of his company rolls in this task, as he really did not want to have to sue me. I thanked him for his time.
It only took 100 years, but it looks like copyright law in the US is finally doing what it originally intended to do: destroying piano rolls.
Intellectual property legislation is outright theft. A judge could one day order a famine by declaring certain farming methods and genetic patterns to be “owned” by someone else (probably some corporatist entity backed by the full “faith and credit” of the US–that is, anything from machine guns to nukes.) Great!
Are there any major differences between American and British science fiction (SF)? If so, what are they and what is the reason for them? What the heck does this have to do with libertarianism?
Those without any sound principles about rights and economics are totally confounded by the issue of gene patents. The author of “The absurdity of patenting genes,” in The Guardian, for example, first observes, “Patents are a sensible idea, because people are more likely to invest in innovation …”. But on the other hand, “patents also act as a barrier to innovation, and gene patents bring these disadvantages into stark relief.” So, patents are sensible, because they stimulate innovation … yet they also hamper innovation. Mmm-hmm.
Libertarians, however, having a better understanding of the nature of property rights, are increasingly recognizing that all patents are unjust (see my The Case Against IP: A Concise Guide). And something about gene patents–having the state grant monopolies on the way our genes are configured–is especially galling. Thank goodness this is being fought by the heroic David Koepsell, who is producing the anti-gene patent documentary Who Owns You? (see also Koepsell – Quinn “Debate” on Gene Patents; David Koepsell: Another Austrian-Influenced IP Opponent). And it’s also good that a federal trial court recently ruled against gene patents, in Association for Molecular Pathology and ACLU v. USPTO and Myriad (see Federal Court Invalidates Breast Cancer Gene Patent, Ronald Baily, Reason‘s Hit & Run; Court: Essentially All Gene Patents Are Invalid, Patently-O). [Keep reading…]