Why should humans own all the world’s copyrights? The question is prompted by a photograph that’s made worldwide news. In Indonesia, a female crested black macaque monkey picked up a camera owned by photographer David Slater. I won’t focus much on the story of the monkey and her selfie because that topic has already been well-discussed in the media. Yet the story sets the table for more intriguing and ultimately more important issues.
You wouldn’t think that there was much protectable intellectual property in the classic “Hangman” word game. In Hangman, as you probably know, one player thinks of a word or phrase and the second player tries to figure out what it is. The word or phrase is initially represented by a fixed number of dashes, which comprise the number of letters that it contains.
The wildly successful TV show Wheel of Fortune is based on the Hangman game. If you’re interested in more details about how to play the game, as much (or even more) than you are in reading about the intellectual property issues please see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hangman_(game).
Patent trolls – “non-practicing entities,” which are companies that acquire patents with little or no intention of doing anything with the patents except to hunt down and sue patent infringers have received much criticism and little love. President Obama has gone so far as to say “They don’t actually produce anything themselves. They’re trying to essentially leverage and hijack someone else’s side and see if they can extort some money out of them.”
It’s good to be an Internet Service Provider. While content owners worry about piracy and erosion of copyright, and thus revenue, ISP’s (the companies that provide us with Internet access) do not have substantial copyright worries. They are considered, in effect, common carriers and as a result are generally no more liable for copyright infringement by its customers than the telephone company would be liable if you slander someone during a phone call. The concern is the copyright misbehavior of ISP customers, namely people like us.