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← Everything is a Remix Part 4

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Showing Revision 4 created 09/24/2019 by UWMdhhProgram.

  1. Thanks to iStockphoto for contributing
  2. footage to this episode.
  3. Check them out at iStockphoto.com.
  4. The genes in our bodies
    can be traced back
  5. over 3.5 billion years
    to a single organism: LUCA,
  6. the Last Universal Common Ancestor.
  7. As Luca reproduced,
    its genes copied and copied,
  8. and copied and copied,
  9. sometimes with mistakes.
  10. They transformed.
  11. Over time this produced every one
  12. of the billions of species
    of life on earth.
  13. Some of these adopted sexual reproduction,
  14. combining the genes of individuals,
  15. and all together, the best-adapted
    life forms prospered.
  16. This is evolution.
  17. Copy, transform, and combine.
  18. And culture evolves in a similar way,
  19. but the elements aren’t genes,
    they’re memes—
  20. ideas, behaviors, skills.
  21. Memes are copied, transformed,
    and combined.
  22. And the dominant ideas of our time
  23. are the memes that spread the most.
  24. This is social evolution.
  25. Copy, transform, and combine.
  26. It’s who we are, it’s how we live,
  27. and of course, it’s how we create.
  28. Our new ideas evolve from the old ones.
  29. But our system of law doesn’t acknowledge
  30. the derivative nature of creativity.
  31. Instead, ideas are regarded as property,
  32. as unique and original lots
  33. with distinct boundaries.
  34. But ideas aren’t so tidy.
  35. They’re layered, they’re interwoven,
    they’re tangled.
  36. And when the system
    conflicts with the reality,
  37. the system starts to fail.
  38. ♪♪
  39. For almost our entire history,
  40. ideas were free.
  41. The works of Shakespeare,
    Gutenberg, and Rembrandt
  42. could be openly copied and built upon.
  43. But the growing dominance
    of the market economy,
  44. where the products
    of our intellectual labors
  45. are bought and sold,
  46. produced an unfortunate side effect.
  47. Let’s say a guy invents a better light bulb.
  48. His price needs to cover
  49. not just the manufacturing cost,
  50. but also the cost of inventing
    the thing in the first place.
  51. Now let’s say a competitor
    starts manufacturing
  52. a competing copy.
  53. The competitor doesn’t need to cover
  54. those development costs
  55. so his version can be cheaper.
  56. The bottom line: Original creations
  57. can’t compete with the price of copies.
  58. In the United States, the introduction
  59. of copyrights and patents
  60. was intended to address this imbalance.
  61. Copyrights covered media;
  62. patents covered inventions.
  63. Both aimed to encourage
  64. the creation and proliferation
  65. of new ideas by providing a brief
    and limited period of exclusivity,
  66. a period where no one else
    could copy your work.
  67. This gave creators a window in which
  68. to cover their investment
    and earn a profit.
  69. After that their work
    entered the public domain,
  70. where it could spread far and wide
  71. and be freely built upon.
  72. And it was this that was the goal:
  73. a robust public domain,
  74. an affordable body of ideas, products,
  75. arts and entertainment available to all.
  76. The core belief was in the common good,
  77. what would benefit everyone.
  78. But over time, the influence of the market
  79. transformed this principle
    beyond recognition.
  80. Influential thinkers proposed
    that ideas are a form of property,
  81. and this conviction would eventually yield
  82. a new term...intellectual property.
  83. This was a meme
    that would multiply wildly,
  84. thanks in part to a quirk
    of human psychology
  85. known as Loss Aversion.
  86. Simply put, we hate losing
    what we’ve got.
  87. People tend to place a much
    higher value on losses
  88. than on gains.
  89. So the gains we get
  90. from copying the work of others
  91. don’t make a big impression,
  92. but when it’s our ideas being copied,
  93. we perceive this as a loss
    and we get territorial.
  94. For instance, Disney made extensive use
  95. of the public domain.
  96. Stories like Snow White, Pinnochio,
    and Alice in Wonderland
  97. were all taken from the public domain.
  98. But when it came time for the copyright
  99. of Disney’s early films to expire,
  100. they lobbied to have the
    term of copyright extended.
  101. Artist Shepard Fairey has frequently used
  102. existing art in his work.
  103. This practice came to a head
  104. when he was sued
    by the Associated Press
  105. for basing his famous Obama Hope poster
  106. on their photo.
  107. Nonetheless, when it was his imagery
  108. used in a piece by Baxter Orr,
  109. Fairey threatened to sue.
  110. And lastly, Steve Jobs was sometimes
  111. boastful about Apple’s history of copying.
  112. We have always been shameless
  113. about stealing great ideas.
  114. But he harbored deep grudges
  115. against those who dared to copy Apple.
  116. I’m going to destroy Android,
    because it's a stolen product.
  117. I’m willing to go
    thermonuclear war on this.
  118. When we copy, we justify it.
  119. When others copy, we vilify it.
  120. Most of us have no problem with copying
  121. as long as we’re the ones doing it.
  122. So with a blind eye toward our own mimicry,
  123. and propelled by faith
    in markets and ownership,
  124. intellectual property swelled
  125. beyond its original scope
  126. with broader interpretations
    of existing laws,
  127. new legislation,
  128. new realms of coverage,
  129. and alluring rewards.
  130. In 1981 George Harrison lost
    a 1.5 million dollar case
  131. for “subconsciously” copying
    the doo-wop hit “He’s So Fine”
  132. in his ballad “My Sweet Lord.”
  133. ♪ I really want to know you ♪
  134. ♪ I really want to go with you ♪
  135. ♪ I don't know how
    I'm gonna do it ♪
  136. ♪ Do-lang, do-lang, do-lang ♪
  137. ♪ But I'm gonna make him mine ♪
  138. ♪ Do-lang, do-lang, do-lang ♪
  139. ♪ He's the envy of all... ♪
  140. Prior to this, plenty of songs sounded
  141. much more like other songs
  142. without ending up in court.
  143. Ray Charles created the
    prototype for soul music
  144. when he based “I Got a Woman”
  145. on the gospel song
    “It Must be Jesus.”
  146. ♪ Oh there's a man
    (must be Jesus) ♪
  147. ♪ Goin' around
    (must be Jesus) ♪
  148. ♪ Taking names
    (must be Jesus) ♪
  149. ♪ Oh Lord
    (must be Jesus) ♪
  150. ♪ Say, I've got a woman ♪
  151. ♪ Way over town ♪
  152. ♪ Good to me ♪
  153. ♪ Oh yeah ♪
  154. ♪ She gives me money ♪
  155. Starting in the late 90s,
  156. a series of new copyright laws
    and regulations
  157. began to be introduced
  158. and many more are in the works.
  159. The most ambitious in scope
    are trade agreements.
  160. Because these are treaties,
    and not laws,
  161. they can be negotiated in secret,
  162. with no public input and
    no congressional approval.
  163. In 2011, ACTA was signed
    by President Obama,
  164. and the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement,
  165. currently being written in secret,
  166. aims to spread even stronger
  167. U.S. style protections around the world.
  168. Of course, when the United States itself
  169. was a developing economy,
    it refused to sign treaties
  170. and had no protection for foreign creators.
  171. Charles Dickens famously complained about
  172. America’s bustling book piracy market,
  173. calling it “a horrible thing
  174. that scoundrel-booksellers
    should grow rich.”
  175. Patent coverage made the leap from
  176. physical inventions to virtual ones,
  177. most notably, software.
  178. But this is not a natural transition.
  179. A patent is a blueprint for
  180. how to make an invention.
  181. Software patents are more like
  182. a loose description of what
    something would be like
  183. if it was actually was invented.
  184. And software patents are written
  185. in the broadest possible language
  186. to get the broadest possible protection.
  187. The vagueness of these terms
  188. can sometimes reach absurd levels.
  189. For example, Information
    Manufacturing Machine,
  190. which covers anything computer-like,
  191. or Material Object, which covers
    pretty much anything.
  192. The fuzziness of software
    patents’ boundaries
  193. has turned the smartphone industry
    into one giant turf war.
  194. Sixty-two percent of all patent lawsuits
    are now over software.
  195. The estimated wealth lost
    is half a trillion dollars.
  196. The expanding reach
    of intellectual property
  197. has introduced more
    and more possibilities
  198. for opportunistic litigation—
  199. suing to make a buck.
  200. Two new species evolved
  201. whose entire business model is lawsuits:
  202. Sample trolls and patent trolls.
  203. These are corporations that
    don’t actually produce anything.
  204. They acquire a library of
    intellectual property rights,
  205. then litigate to earn profits.
  206. And because legal defense is
  207. hundreds of thousands of dollars
    in copyright cases
  208. and millions in patents,
  209. their targets are usually highly motivated
  210. to settle out of court.
  211. The most famous sample troll
  212. is Bridgeport Music,
  213. which has filed hundreds of lawsuits.
  214. In 2005 they scored an influential
    court decision
  215. over this two-second sample.
  216. [high-pitched scratching noise]
  217. That’s it.
  218. And not only was the sample short,
  219. it was virtually unrecognizable.
  220. ♪ Runnin' like I just don't care ♪
  221. ♪ Compton's 50 miles but,
    yo, I'ma get there ♪
  222. ♪ Archin' my back and
    on a straight rough ♪
  223. This verdict essentially rendered
    any kind of sampling,
  224. no matter how small, infringing.
  225. The sample-heavy musical collages
  226. of hip-hop’s golden age
  227. are now impossibly expensive to create.
  228. Now patent trolls are most common
  229. back in that troubled realm of software.
  230. And perhaps the most inexplicable case
  231. is that of Paul Allen.
  232. He’s one of the founders of Microsoft,
  233. he’s a billionaire,
  234. he’s an esteemed philanthropist
  235. who’s pledged to give away
    much of his fortune.
  236. And he claims basic web features
  237. like related links, alerts,
    and recommendations
  238. were invented by his long-defunct company.
  239. So the self-proclaimed “idea man”
  240. sued pretty much all
    of Silicon Valley in 2010.
  241. And he did this despite
    no lack of fame or fortune.
  242. So to recap,
    the full picture looks like this.
  243. We believe that ideas are property
  244. and we’re excessively territorial
  245. when we feel that property belongs to us.
  246. Our laws then indulge this bias
  247. with ever-broadening protections
  248. and massive rewards.
  249. Meanwhile huge legal fees
  250. encourage defendants to pay-up
  251. and settle out of court.
  252. It’s a discouraging scenario,
  253. and it begs the question: What now?
  254. The belief in intellectual property
  255. has grown so dominant
  256. it’s pushed the original intent
    of copyrights and patents
  257. out of the public consciousness.
  258. But that original purpose is still
  259. right there in plain sight.
  260. The Copyright Act of 1790 is entitled
  261. An Act for the encouragement of learning.
  262. The Patent Act is
  263. to promote the progress of useful Arts.
  264. The exclusive rights these acts introduced
  265. were a compromise for a greater purpose.
  266. The intent was to better
    the lives of everyone
  267. by incentivizing creativity
  268. and producing a rich public domain,
  269. a shared pool of knowledge,
    open to all.
  270. But exclusive rights themselves
  271. came to be considered the point,
  272. so they were strengthened and expanded.
  273. And the result hasn’t been
  274. more progress or more learning,
  275. it’s been more squabbling
    and more abuse.
  276. We live in an age with daunting problems.
  277. We need the best ideas possible,
  278. we need them now,
    we need them to spread fast.
  279. The common good is a meme
  280. that was overwhelmed
    by intellectual property.
  281. It needs to spread again.
  282. If the meme prospers,
  283. our laws, our norms, our society,
  284. they all transform.
  285. That’s social evolution
  286. and it’s not up to governments
  287. or corporations or lawyers...
  288. it’s up to us.
  289. ♪♪