Wednesday, December 7, 2011

On intellectual property (also introducing bittit.info)

REACT! 
I hate almost all kinds of intellectual property. I find even the phrase "intellectual property" irrational, disgusting and childish. It reminds me of what kids do when they play: "Hey I though about being batman first, you can't be batman, it was my idea!". Owning an idea is absurd. You had an idea? Great. Use it. Keep it to yourself if you want. Or, why not, sell it. But once I understand it I don't see why it's more yours than mine. It's a part of me as much as it is a part of you. The whole human civilization has gone that far because people copied, spread and improved ideas of other people. Who are you to deny me the right to use an idea to make my life easier once I fully understand it?? The reason we have property is that if I take your car you will no longer have a car. But if I take your idea we can both use it freely so no harm is done. You'd say that harm is done actually because you could make money from it if you could enforce your patent. Well... who cares? The only reason you can now make money from an idea is the existence of an absurd law that allows you to make money from it. You can't make money from ideas in a free market. Because in a truly free market, such as the one that we will eventually reach, it will always be more expensive to enforce intellectual property laws than to break or circumvent them. People have two options:

  1. Pay millions for the enforcement of laws that can hardly be enforced unless they give up many fundamental rights. For example the internet should be surveiled, police should be able to raid servers, Tor/Freenet/I2P/Bitcoin should probably be banned and encryption should be regulated (which equally stupid to regulating whispering). In return, if you ever have such an awesome idea you might be able to sell the patent rights HOPING that law enforcement will work.
  2. Pay nothing for enforcement of stupid laws and have free access to every publicly known human idea or intellectual creation. You could still be able to sell ideas or intellectual creations in some cases but once it goes public, it's public.
I trully believe that any rational person would go for the second option. I think that the only reason we currently have intellectual property laws today is that governments have convinced people that it's for their own good or that they promote innovation. The truth is that people are innovative not because some law protects their intellectual creations but because that's the way their brain works. It is also true that currently mostly big corporations are profiting from patents and copyrights. Microsoft is currently making more money from Android (for which has written not a single line of code) than from Windows Mobile! Considering how big corps influence governments there is no wonder why governments favor copyrights and patents

If people realized that, they would probably preffer to stop paying for the enforcement of a practically unenforcable law and would start sharing their ideas for free, rather than pay for such laws hopping that some day they will have some awsome idea that will sell for millions IF these laws could be enforced. I don't believe people would wan't to give up their rights to whisper, encrypt, talk anonymously just to get this trivial benefit in exchange.

So if we had a totally free market somewhere, let's say in the internet or in an anonymous network like Tor. How would one be able to profit form his intellectual creations? Remember that you only control the use of your idea until you reveal it to someone else. If you trusted other people you could sell the idea to them under the terms of a contract that prohibits them from sharing that idea or creation (by creation I mean, song or movie or whatever) with other people but that wouldn't work because if one broke the contract the idea would go public and, without intellectual property laws everyone would be able to use it freely. So contracts wouldn't work if you can't 100% trust people. Even worse it wouldn't ever work in an anonymous market.

But you still control your creation until it gets to one person. So you could easily charge to release you creation for the first time. If possible you could even release your creation in steps getting paid for every bit you release. That would have the benefit that someone would be able to see what you created before paying the full amount you requested. You could even give a small part of your creation for free to start things up. That idea could at least work with music, pictures, videos, text, and, in some cases, programs. Currently I made, with help from a friend in the beggining, a site that allows you to do that with pictures. You can upload a photo, set a price for it and a starting resolution. For example let's say you got an amazing photo with a resolution of 5000x5000. You upload it and the site hosts a 100x100 version of this picture which is given for free to everyone. Now people are able to pay for the picture and the website automatically increases the resolution of the hosted picture so that everyone can get the bigger versions of the picture as payments are made for it. When the total price you set up has been payed, the picture will have reached 5000x5000 and everyone will have access to it. The site uses Bitcoins for payments and that means that the uploader receives payments directly (no fees) while the website watches for the total ammount deposited for each uploaded picture to increase the resolution accordingly. The site is free to use and you only pay to become a verified uploader (which also means that I'll have to know who you are).

The site is this: bittit.info
Υou can also access it via Tor here: ejz7kqoryhqwosbk.onion

bittit is a marketplace where copyright enforcement is irrelevant. Whether there are such laws or not, bittit works the same way. You get paid to release pictures on the public domain or you pay to make others release their pictures on the public domain. And the best part is that both can be done gradually and in a crowdsourced way.

One last thing. When I was making it I had to decide whether I should accept any kind of legal picture, including pornographic or nude pictures. Taking reddit's GoneWild into consideration I thought bittit could be useful for such pictures so I decided to alow them and put them in a separate NSFW category which is obviously not suitable for minors, or so the laws say.

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