back to article Come celebrate World Hypocrisy Day

Thanks to the World Intellectual Property Organization, today is World Intellectual Property Day 2017. Perhaps this celebration needs a dark companion – World Hypocrisy Day. Here's why. In the 17 years World IP Day has been running, there's been a radical shift in corporate power. This has taken place most dramatically in the …

  1. Pompous Git Silver badge

    I miss...

    ... the annual cheque from Australia's Copyright Council I used to receive. It was a nominal sum* to be sure being contributed by teachers photocopying my work for the use of their students. But no more... Makes me wonder if they teach their students to steal other property too.

    * I don't think it ever exceeded more than $100.

  2. retired_in_london

    Not just Silicon Valley. From Britain to Germany, to Israel, etc, IP theft is a major problem.

    "Your brilliant Kickstarter idea could be on sale in China before you’ve even finished funding it"

    Yekutiel Sherman couldn’t believe his eyes.

    The Israeli entrepreneur had spent one year designing the product that would make him rich—a smartphone case that unfolds into a selfie stick. He had drawn up prototypes, secured some minimal funds from his family, and launched a crowdfunding campaign.

    But one week after his product hit Kickstarter in December 2015, Sherman was shocked to see it for sale on AliExpress—Alibaba’s English-language wholesale site. Vendors across China were selling identical smartphone case selfie-sticks, using the same design Sherman came up with himself.

    Sherman had become a victim of China’s lightning-fast copycats. Before he had even found a factory to make his new product, manufacturers in China had spied his idea online, and beaten him to the punch.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      @ retired_in_london

      "Yekutiel Sherman couldn’t believe his eyes." etc.

      You already posted that here a couple of weeks ago. A quick google shows it being posted in quite a few places round the web back in October/November.

      Is it your own IP?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Is it your own IP?"

        If not, he should copyright that immediately! It's quite a bit more thought out than another shitty selfie stick. The world has too many selfie sticks and nothing good for the camera to shoot when they do. That is one corny old-timey story of Mr Sherman. He's not a very good inventor. He's just a whiny prat. People with actual inventions do not flog them on kickstarter. Idiots do.

        Last time I checked (in the 1980s) it was only a few hundred bucks to file a patent, and hiring a patent lawer to perform your search and do the legwork, in the time before the Internet, was a whopping US$1300. If you have a real idea, patent it. If not, head on over to kickstarter and hope some other morons will fall for your plastic snake oil selfie case from the future! Here's a free "idea" for you other budding inventors; take a big stick, get some glue, then glue it to a phone case; BOOM, selfie stick. You're welcome. :P

        Where do I go to sue all of China now?! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!1!

    2. Jedit Silver badge

      "shocked to see it for sale on AliExpress"

      He was probably the only one who was shocked. Whenever a "lifestyle accessory" project like this hits a crowdfunding platform, nine times out of ten it's cheap tat that was already on sale on Alibaba being resold at a 300% markup.

  3. Naselus

    "Who in history has campaigned to make themselves worse off and giant corporations richer?"

    May I suggest Andrew reads any book on the history of the Republican Party from 1870- the present? Because it's traditionally been kind of their USP.

  4. nematoad Silver badge

    It ought to be.

    Copyright is a good idea. The trouble is that it is not being used in the way that the original proponents intended.

    The creeping extension of copyright: "The Mouse Protection Act" provides a good example.

    When first enacted copyright was for a limited period. See the "Statute of Anne 1710". Then copyright was for 14 years, now in a lot of jurisdictions it's more like 70 after the death of the author. What happens when Disney hits the expiry date on Steamboat Willy & Co.? Expect another extension is my prediction.

    Copyright with limits is fine, unlimited copyright is nothing but a government approved perpetual monopoly.

    1. Suricou Raven

      Re: It ought to be.

      Micky is a work-for-hire, not a work of individual authorship, which means in the US and most other countries (though not the UK) it's a fixed term. For the US, ninety-five years from publication.

      1. Naselus

        Re: It ought to be.

        " Micky is a work-for-hire, not a work of individual authorship, which means in the US and most other countries (though not the UK) it's a fixed term."

        Except it isn't.

        The 'fixed term' was set at only 56 years from publication when Mickey Mouse first graced our screens in 1928. Oddly enough, every time the expiration gets close, US copyright term increases.

        Mickey's copyright ought to have expired in '84, but in 1978 congress moved the goalposts and changed the law to 75 years. However, in 1998 (with again only 5 years left before the Mouse became public domain), congress dumped another 20 years onto copyright to take it to the present 95 years.

        Mickey is set to expire in 2023, so expect the sudden addition of another 20 years to US copyright terms some time next year.

        1. Infernoz Bronze badge

          Re: It ought to be.

          The massive hypocrisy of this is that Mickey Mouse was plagiarised off another authors published animation pictures and not paid for, because Disney deliberately based his animation business in Los Angeles, because the local authorities didn't respect any copyrights back then!

    2. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: It ought to be.

      Purely from my observation, I could be very wrong, there is enormous support for IP when it's your stuff or people you approve of) and less so when it's stuff you want to get for free, or belonging to people you don't like.

      And the big corporations. make that worse, because that's exactly what they do themselves.

      1. Anonymous Blowhard

        Re: It ought to be.

        "there is enormous support for IP when it's your stuff or people you approve of) and less so when it's stuff you want to get for free"

        Bender: This is the worst kind of discrimination. The kind against me.

    3. JimC

      Re: It ought to be.

      Why is it right that if I die young, and leave a widow and something wonderful that the world wants to buy for the next 70 years, that the only person who *doesn't* benefit from the something wonderful is my widow?

      1. Naselus

        Re: It ought to be.

        "only person who *doesn't* benefit from the something wonderful is my widow?"

        Are you not intending to leave her anything in your will, then?

        To be honest, the whole 'lifetime of the creator' thing is bullshit and should be dropped. Copyright should be set at something like a fixed 20 years. If what you made was that good, you (or whomever gets the rights when you die, or whomever you choose to sell those rights to) will make plenty of money in that 20 years. After that's expired, it goes public domain and others can acquire it for free.

        This way, you protect the livelihood of artists, but not to the point that you can write one Christmas jingle and then your family doesn't need to work for the next 5 generations. You make older art (or code, or schematics, or whatever) freely available to the whole world, so people can see how it works and make better, more efficient versions of it. And you even encourage competition, by removing an effective monopoly.

        The only possible criticisms of this position boil down to two things: 1) You don't want competitors to see how this thing works (which means you're a monopolist, despite the position usually being held by people claiming to like capitalism), and 2) You want to do one thing when you're about 23 and then retire (usually accompanied by bitching about how other people are lazy).

        1. PapaD

          Re: It ought to be.

          Damn, I'd loved to have done something at 23 that meant I could retire then - but honestly, that's because I am lazy and the idea of living a live of idle luxury appeals massively to me :)

  5. Sloppy Crapmonster

    Andrew Orlowski is ElReg's Richard Stallman. I've come around to the point where, instead of being annoyed that he keeps writing, I'm upset that he's mostly right, most of the time. It just hits too close to home that he's also more cynical than I am.

    1. DropBear

      If I were Stallman, you'd be looking at swords at dawn at minimum for such a disgusting comparison.

  6. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

    The 2006 list is comrprised of two banks, who probably produced their profits from fees and gambling; two energy companies, who produced definite goods but also contributed planet-destroying levels of pollution; and Microsoft.

    Structurally, the 2017 list looks much the same: Facebook is as parasitic as the worst bank; Amazon delivers a useful service but still sucks blood to make coin; Google has managed to produced clear goods, like Chrome, but has trampled over people's IP, and Apple is a manufacturer creating value from the ground up.

    1. /\/\j17

      "...and Apple is a manufacturer creating value from the ground up."

      Umm, don't Pear Technologies, sorry Apple (got confused by the logos - actually make a lot of their money by forcing music creators to accept lower royalty payments for their IP than they would have received through traditional channels that actually had manufacturing and distribution overheads?

      1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

        Re: "...and Apple is a manufacturer creating value from the ground up."

        All of which they're able to do because of the market share of the stuff they "manufacture". I didn't, however, mean to imply there is nothing weighing against them.

        And if you want to be picky, Exxon Mobile, founded by one of the original "Robber barons", no less, don't even make stuff themselves -- they just did up stuff made for them. Of course, in reality, they're a multinational with fingers in many pies and even mining takes effort and ingenuity, but then so does writing Facebook.

  7. Mark 85

    Part of the problem is the history of the Internet. Remember way back when there was "shareware" and "freeware"? No real rules were enforced as people dumped whatever they felt like on their websites for free. Recently, Myspace did it with music until they got clamped down on.

    This "free" mentality is still there and deeply ingrained by now such that any regulation/laws won't have much effect and it's spreading to other industries. People feel they pay for their internet and that gives them the rights to whatever they find. The Chinese actually take it a step a further for actual hard goods. Though in fairness, their laws are a bit different.. they only recognize Chinese patents and copyrights by native Chinese. We seen examples where various bits of tat and equipment were patented by them for stuff invented elsewhere.

    The world has changed and not in a good way.


      Woaow, it's time, for me to re read the story of Edison. To see if the times are really so different .

  8. PyLETS
    Thumb Down

    Property is theft

    One person's property always fences everyone else out of what's been enclosed. It doesn't happen without taxpayer funded cost of the legal protection to whoever is granted this exclusive right. it's all of us who pay the taxes to enforce property rights, but not all of us who benefit from the exclusive rights granted to private individuals and corporations.

    Sometimes there's a good case for it, and sometimes the reverse. Sometimes what spun as benefitting most people will change compared to what's happened before - change is to be expected here. The Bible probably wouldn't exist had the early copyists had a concept of IP as a moral issue, because to survive the burnings of Bibles and the feeding to the lions of those who would copy it in opposition to the state morality at that time, considerable resources had to be invested, given the primitive procedure of copying then with the effort this took. On the other side of the argument you'll find that agricultural productivity increased greatly through the late 18th and early 19th century as a direct consequence of the land enclosures and Parliamentary acts which enabled the conversion of land held in common into private smallholdings which could later be concentrated into the hands of the richest. But it came at a terrible price for those forced off the land into near slavery in the industrial mills.

    Copyright in something close to its current form probably can't be avoided in some sense, but it almost certainly lasts longer than is needed to incentivise the work it protects. It lasts too long, due to the previously successful lobbying efforts of those who would extend it to last for ever minus a day and the improbability of politicians arguing against the private interests of whoever bought ink by the barrel. If copyright lasted a shorter period, perhaps similar to the 20 year lifetime of patents, it would construct fewer barriers to the creation of newer cultural work which has to reference older works by reusing these in some minor ways.!

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Property is theft

      "One person's property always fences everyone else out of what's been enclosed."

      Really? If I make or grow something by my own efforts you should be entitled to it for free because somehow I've stolen it from you?

      1. PyLETS

        Re: Property is theft

        @Doctor Syntax: If I make or grow something by my own efforts you should be entitled to it for free because somehow I've stolen it from you?"

        No form of property is absolute. It always confers _limited_ legal monopoly rights and can come with reciprocal social obligations. This is because the law which enforces legitimate property rights is a balance of public interest exercised at cost to the public through the expense of the taxpayer funded legislature and court systems. There used to be only one informed side to this discussion concerning copyright: i.e. your side, because that's the only side the man who bought ink by the barrel considered fit to print. That's no longer the case.

        There is a wider public interest in the creation of new intellectual property. But no-one is incentivised to create original new work based on speculation of what they might earn 20 or more years after it's published. Those so engaged have better incentive if they are not going to be contested by every stale idea or meme from the past which someone else may have thought of generations before and which new creative work can't avoid accidentally infringing upon, or legitimate reference to. The public benefits from new copyright being established to the extent outdated copyright enters the public domain, but not when copyright durations are extended beyond their original legitimate purpose by one sided terms of discussion and political lobbying.

        If you ever purchase a plot of land, you'll find your rights are also limited. You probably won't be allowed to turn a domestic dwelling into an industrial unit by planning restrictions. You'll have to pay taxes to the local authority. You won't be able to stop aircraft overflying, or miners from undermining. Your house and land ownership is defended by the public purse, to the extent it's in the public interest that you enjoy your ownership for the purpose for which the wider public intended, through planning and other environmental regulations and the local taxation due.

    2. Anonymous Blowhard

      Re: Property is theft

      @ PyLETS

      "The Bible probably wouldn't exist had the early copyists had a concept of IP as a moral issue"

      So you're saying the Christians are lucky they weren't fed to the lawyers?

  9. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    "There are some ideas so absurd that only an intellectual could believe them,"

    I've been digging into AI work on language understanding.

    That quote alone was worth the rest of the article.s

    A couple of other points

    1) Try that picture exercise with teens and then tell them what FaceBooks T&C say they can do with your material.

    2) personal data should also be your personal data. IMHO medical corporations (icluding the NHS) who collect and aggregate the data to sell on are no different (or better) than any other data aggregator such as Google or FaceBook.

  10. AdamWill

    Sigh, so Andrew wrote his article again, for, what is this, the two hundredth time now?

    Let's try a different response to it, this time.

    Honestly, Andrew, I think you have quite a lot of a good point in general. Google, Facebook etc. certainly are doing a lot of benefiting from other people's work, and of course a lot of the reason they push for various legal changes is to let them keep doing this.

    But you never seem to look at the *other* side of the question. You like to talk about copyright in very idealistic terms, about how it protects the rights of individual creators. And it *does* do this, and I agree that broadly speaking this is a social good, and we should frankly disregard the people whose argument is basically "I want to be able to take other people's stuff without paying for it". There's no need to accommodate those folks in a reasonable debate.

    But there *is* a reasonable middle ground to this debate. You never seem to engage with the problem of cynical self-interest on the *other* end of the copyright debate spectrum. In just the same way as Google and Facebook aren't *really* going to bat for ordinary people in most of their IP lobbying, large media conglomerates aren't *really* going to bat for ordinary creators in most of *their* IP lobbying. When large media companies push for yet another extension of copyright terms - what are they up to, now, the life of the creator plus the heat death of the universe? - they're clearly not bothered about making sure creators get recompensed. They want to make sure that large media companies can continue to make money off the creator's work a century after all the creator's descendants have perished.

    When large media companies push for laws that effectively ban format shifting, they're not concerned about individual creator's rights. They just want to try and make more money by compelling us to buy the same thing from them five times.

    It'd be really nice if, in future, you could look at the topic in a more balanced way, and recognize that there are large, rich, cynical, self-interested lobbyists at *both* ends of most copyright debates, not just one end. And that those of us who object to some elements of maximalist copyright laws aren't all just a bunch of pirates or a bunch of saps who've been duped by Google. Some of us are just regular people who are perfectly happy to respect creator's rights but, at the same time, would like to be able to make our own choices about where and in what format we store and consume the content we're paying for.

    1. SundogUK Silver badge

      "It'd be really nice if..." you could make the argument I want to make and not the argument you want to make.

  11. Mage


    Should be creators life + one Generation (i.e. 25 years) Max. The Life + 75 is crazy.

    ALSO publishers should not get the author's exclusive rights for more than 5 years.(Books are worst at traditionally full copyright term even if it's pulped 2 months after release). All publishing. Books, Music composition, Performance, Scripts, Acting etc.

    The publisher should be able to continue Non-exclusively publishing, but pay royalties. We don't what the crazy where BBC wasn't just reusing video tape to save money, because they had no repeat rights etc, but actually destroying films. BBC were the worst Cultural vandals in UK 1960s to 1990s (at least).

    Also collections, stock photo houses, governments, BBC etc defacing photos with (c) when it's now really public domain. Or charging big fees for photos or film archives which copyright has expired or they never owned, they just happened to have to physical item.

    How can 5,200 year old Irish Newgrange interior or French Eiffel tower view be copyright?

    I'm 100% behind copyright and against Google / Facebook / stock libraries landgrab.

    1. Hollerithevo

      Re: Copyright

      As a published novelist, I agree that the long, long shadow of copyright is absurd. I know hat publishers and surviving partners/children are supposed to be able to get continued goodness, but really, in this day and age, are widows/widowers and children really going to live off the after-death royalties? The publisher can publish a 'lifetime round-up' as a reward for supporting the author*, and then enough already.

      Photographs: it is not the subject but the 'artistic' uniqueness of the photo that is copyright. Just as any painter can paint a vase of flowers, but Cezanne's really should be seen as a different and unique work compared to my nephew's.

      * or composer or poet etc.

    2. DaddyHoggy

      Re: Copyright

      The view of the Eiffel Tower isn't Copyrighted, the lighting arrangement on the Eiffel Tower is copyrighted (yeah, weird I know) - Joe Public can still photograph Eiffel Tower at night and post on FB etc, but if you sell that image for profit because it's a really good image of the Copyrighted image of the illuminated Eiffel Tower then you'll be heaaring from the lighting companies lawyers...

      I have friends who had traditionally published novels - the publisher printed a few hundred copies and did nothing more with them. Now 20yrs later, the author wants those novels back so they can turn them into eBooks, since the publishers have never re-released the titles and all have informed the authors that they have no intentions of even producing eBook versions... *BUT* they refuse to give the rights back to the authors simply pointing out the contract signed at the very beginning of their writing careers says they NEVER have to give these titles back...

      I stopped submitting my images to the BBC after I noted they stripped my EXIF data (including my (C)) from the submission (FB keep this info). I think I and others, including El Reg pointed this out to the BBC and they said it was a technical issue that they had since rectified - however, a friend recently had an image published on the BBC weather site and sure enough the EXIF data (including the (C)) was stripped - so this is clearly business as usual for the BBC.

  12. Sanguma

    "What's yours is mine, what's mine is mine!"

    That's the attitude Andrew Orlowski's got the problem with. I suspect he's confused it somewhat with copyright.

    I came across these stories on a site run by our cousins the Aussies. You may find them interesting:

    Zombie Copyright Extensions Unlimited

    "Nobody knew just how the dead author James Arnold Bond received the payments we made, or where they were banked and drawn on, but the law was the law, and had to be observed. Psychics claimed they knew, but then they would.

    Psychics also proffered the writings they claimed our payments had inspired dead authors to write. Our slush piles were overflowing with such detritus. We were obliged to accept a certain number, of course. The Court of Appeals had ruled that contracts were still contracts, even between a dead author and his publishing company."

    Postmortem Copyright

    "Professor John Walton's most popular work was titled: "Perverse Incentives of the Current Copyright Regime."

    I've never read it."

    With a cynical nod to that masterwork of postmortem copyright extenders:

    Walt Disney And The Duck Lord

    Inaugural Broadcast of The Children's Cooking Show: A Transcript

    "But you know something? We discovered the DisneyWorld basements were infested with a group of three-foot-high mice walking around on their hind legs, wearing funny clothes and jabbering away in some outlandish gibberish.

    Yes, dear, it was probably American."

    A close friend of mine once told me I should be careful about life insurance, because it never pays to give someone a financial incentive to kill you. If I write a book at fifty and live for thirty more years and the publisher gets it for another seventy ... do the maths. Cui bono?

    And of course the dead can't enforce the payment of royalties, can they? Cui bono?

    1. Mage

      Re: Inspired dead authors to write

      They are probably Ghost Writers then.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Protecting a producer for a _limited_ time, maybe OK, but rentierism is slavery, thus evil!

    The copyright and patent systems are broken because they last for too long and allow rentierism!

    If a human or specific group of humans create a _unique_ idea and produce something tangile from this fine, they may deserve limited protection for a limited time period, with maybe reasonable period limited licenses, but not rent, but protection for long periods and IP sales/transfers, including to relations, are plain evil rentierism, just like (fraudulent) interest based credit aka Usury!

    Capitalism has a premise called capital, which is just a disguise for renterism, and Marxism is just a conjured straw-man opponent to this (Marx was paid by the same gangster cartel) because they both push deliberately-parasitic, capital-based, Alchemy economics! Most governments are willing parties in this crime, because they benefit from it.

  14. John Savard

    Hockey, Baseball, and Music

    I remember when I was a wee lad, I occasionally read letters to the editor in the local paper saying how unfair it was that a baseball player made more money than a doctor, as the latter clearly did more important work.

    But this ignored the fact that a baseball player could entertain thousands of people at once, while a doctor could only heal one person at a time.

    And, in any case, in sports, the team owners make a lot of money, and player salaries are small in comparison.

    But, on the other hand, the baseball and hockey and football players in the major leagues aren't that much better than those in the minor leagues. The reason their games draw in so much money has to do with the established reputation of the leagues, the large stadiums they play in, and so on. So it could be argued that the team owners deserve their big share of the revenue.

    There are a lot of people out there who can sing almost as well as Britney Spears. Once again, though, the visibility provided by having a major label record contract contributes a great deal to the revenue stream generated by her recordings.

    If the money generated by books, musical recordings, and movies went mostly to authors, performers, composers, actors, and scriptwriters, then it wouldn't be hard to see that copyright laws empower the individual. Since, instead, large companies, that often have contract terms with people in these categories that limit their ability to negotiate freely, are getting much of the money, this is why copyrights are questioned.

    But it's not clear that the situation is genuinely unjust, or a natural free-market result, so it's unclear that there is a "right target" if copyright is the wrong target.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Anne Frank's Healthcare

    The proceeds go not to some corporate bank account, but to the Anne Frank Foundation, a charity that among other good deeds provides medical assistance to Holocaust survivors.

    That's all well and good, but the purpose of copyright was to encourage more creative works to be created, not to provide medical assistance to random strangers.

    Or was the point of raising this to try to introduce the idea that posthumous copyright royalties should all be directed toward providing social health services?

  16. Daniel von Asmuth

    Hypocrisy Day

    Holland celebrates Kingsday today, to remember us that the country has been a member of the European Union since early 1940. The Kings speech to parliament is actually wriitten by the cabinet of ministers, but he is allowed to author his own Christmas speech, which he carefully composes to avoid elements that might annoy the neo-nazi party.

  17. Jim 68

    Startup Entrepreneurship

    Silicon Valley essentially invented IP theft. The whole idea of startup "entrepreneurship" was essentially joining a firm, learning their kit and then going into competition with them.

  18. John Savard

    Copyright Itself May Not Be the Problem

    I do reject the theory that legal protection of intellectual property through copyrights or patents is a natural law human right. It's a monopoly created by the government because it was considered useful to encourage the creation of more artistic works and inventions, and so it is perfectly legitimate to debate what the appropriate extent of these protections should be to achieve the maximum social benefit.

    Why there is such an anti-copyright movement lately, though, isn't because of a nefarious plot by Google or Facebook to brainwash everyone into supporting their plans to enrich themselves at the expense of the little people.

    Instead, I think it's obvious that it's like this: the Internet made it harder to enforce copyright law. And so we have new laws, like the DMCA in the United States, that have become intrusive in limiting what people can do with their own property.

    The music industry wanted to have a law passed to require people to have a license to own a tape recorder back when they first came out.

    That's not promoting freedom.

    1. DaddyHoggy

      Re: Copyright Itself May Not Be the Problem

      In the UK blank cassettes were hugely marked up in cost, because music industry said they needed to be paid a cut for the inevitable copying and loss of earnings.

      I remember my dad's first VHS cassette recorder in 1982 - he paid £20 per 1hr blank VHS tape (for similar reasons).

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The USA had the right idea - at one time.....

    There is nothing wrong with copyright - when it is controlled sensibly.

    The original US Constitution (or was it the bill of rights?) wording was good, along the lines that "Copyright shall exist for a _limited_time_ for the benefit of authors and artists..."

    A limited time for a person is less than their lifetime; not that of their employers, descendants or any other entity.

    The timescale now is ridiculous and totally against that original intention.

    If I remember correctly, someone in the US government tried to raise that exact point a few years ago - and was dismissed as a result..

    [ limit of 20 - 25 years, similar to patents, would give authors etc. good benefit without being overly restrictive long term].

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