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Max Barry wrote the novels Syrup, Jennifer Government, Company, Machine Man, and Lexicon. He also created the game NationStates and once found a sock full of pennies.

Blog

Thu 16
Jun
2005

Caring about Copyright

What Max Reckons I was pretty sure that nobody gave a stuff about copyright, but my last blog got quite a big response, so either lots of people care about it, or only a few do, but they all have internet access. There was much challenging of my argument that copyright should last just ten years, so, in the time-honored tradition of half-assed essayists everywhere, I have decided to Q&A myself.

(And this is totally irrelevant, but I notice it’s always more fun to write the questions than the answers. It must be the same way evil characters are more enjoyable to write.)

“Since you think a 10-year copyright is such a good idea, obviously in four years’ time you won’t mind if I sell my own print run of Syrup.”

If you publish a reprint of Syrup in 2009, you won’t be infringing my rights: you’ll be infringing Penguin Putnam’s. That’s what happens when you sign with a publisher: you grant it the exclusive right to sell copies. I no longer have the ability to put my novels into the public domain.

“Very convenient. When you sell your next book, then, will you insist that your contract lasts only ten years, after which your books enter the public domain?”

What am I, crazy? If I did that, my publisher would become confused and frightened, I would get a lot of e-mails about “the way we always do things”, and when it was all over I would probably be looking at either a much smaller advance or none at all.

“Aha! Sir, you have been exposed! You say it would be a good thing for copyright to be ten years, yet when given the option, you won’t do it yourself!”

Exactly. My argument is not that shorter copyright would be good for artists. I’m pretty sure it would be bad: not terrible, but definitely worse, at least for people like me who create (arguably) wholly original content. My argument is that it would be good for society, and that’s more important than what’s good for authors.

“Why, you greedy, self-centered hypocrite. You admit that you refuse to do what’s best for society, then?”

Yes. I mean, sure, I’m nice: I recycle my glass and paper, I give to charity, and I smile at my neighbors. But I’m not going to work for free, or take a pay cut, just because I think society deserves to have more of my work for less. It would be good for society for garbage-collectors to take a pay cut, too, but I don’t think they toss and turn at nights about the ethics of it.

When it comes to my career, I plan on doing what I think will help it best. There is a reasonable argument that releasing your work for free helps your career, and I partly agree with this, which is why my short stuff is available for anyone to copy, print, and even sell. But I’m not quite at the Cory Doctorow level, which involves putting your entire novel up for free download. If I thought it would be good for me, I’d do it. But I don’t, and there’s no ethical reason why I should. That’s why we need a change in the law: without it, artists and companies will act in their own best interest, and generally that means grabbing as many rights as possible and hanging onto them forever.

Incidentally, on a systemic level I think there’s something seriously wrong with any plan that requires a lot of people to act against their self-interest. It never works, and the people who benefit most are usually those who don’t join in. The monster that copyright has become can’t be killed by a handful of authors valiantly giving up some of their income, and nor should it be. The law has to be changed. Then everyone can be left to pursue life, liberty, happiness, and profit in the usual, capitalist way.

“Max, you fool. If there was a ten-year copyright, film studios would never buy another book. They’d just wait until the copyright expired and make their film while the author slept in gutters and juggled kittens while begging for food.”

Studios can already make film versions of old books without paying the author a cent, and they’re still buying copyrighted books. There are two reasons, I think. First, if a book-based movie gets made for $25 million, the author pocketed maybe $500,000. A 2% saving is not enough to get a studio worked up.

Second, public domain properties are less valuable, because there are no exclusive rights: the studio can’t do merchandising tie-ins, or make a spin-off TV series, or sequels… or, at least, they can’t do so exclusively. The monopoly is what makes rights valuable, and that’s true whether it lasts for ten years, or twenty, or a hundred. There will still be a massive financial advantage in being the only publisher allowed to produce the new Harry Potter book, and the only studio allowed to make the film, even if that right expires in a decade.

“But the idea of a some sleazy publisher cranking out copies while the author gets nothing… it disturbs me.”

Well, the author gets exposure, which is valuable if he’s unknown, because it builds an audience that might buy his newer books. (In fact, if the author is unknown ten years after his first book, he may be the sleazy publisher: he may re-publish his own work.) If, on the other hand, he’s already well-known… well, he probably isn’t starving.

But to me this is largely irrelevant. I know a lot of people believe in the moral right of an artist to control his or her work, but I don’t. If you invent the telephone, you get a twenty-year monopoly; I don’t see what’s so extra-special about Mickey Mouse that deserves an additional century. Besides, if we’re designing a system to encourage the production of creative works, how happy or rich particular individuals within that system get is of no consequence: what’s important is how well the system works.

“I’ve spent ten years trying to flog my novel to publishers. Under your half-baked scheme, it would have no copyright left!”

I’m pretty sure that the copyright clock starts ticking on the first publication of a work, not on the date of its creation. Also, if you substantially revise a work, you get all-new copyright.

Okay, that’s enough on copyright, I promise. We return to the real world next blog.

Comments

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flute (#1408)

Posted: 5182 days ago

The common good has to have a common approach, simple as that.

Tim Ashwood (#595)

Location: Sydney
Posted: 5182 days ago

Max, it sounds good. I'd have to suggest a Death + 10 years, rather than Publish + 10 years as the expiration point for copyright. A), because your dead and don't care, and B), when you're dead in 60 years time I can repackage "Company" and sell it, and I'll only be (...100, plus the 10 years). Er, you know, maybe Publish + 10 is better.

shabooty (#637)

Location: D.C./V.A/M.D.
Quote: "I will shake your foundation. I will shake the f**cking rafters. Nobody'll be the same -Danny Bonaduce ....& go visit my blog @: http://www.shabooty.com"
Posted: 5182 days ago

Okay Mr. Max know it all...
than how many seconds should a message to James Bond destruct in?

and how would it destucting in 3 seconds as opposed to 5 help society
answer that one buddy
(:

Ashwin Vaidyanathan (#547)

Location: NC, USA
Posted: 5182 days ago

3 seconds allows less time to leak to the KJB, reducing the threat of discovery, interception, and a Soviet takeover of the free world.

Ashwin Vaidyanathan (#547)

Location: NC, USA
Posted: 5182 days ago

Wow, I'm running on autopilot right now...KGB...

Machine Man subscriber Kramy (#818)

Quote: ""it's the way of the future""
Posted: 5182 days ago

On a side note:

Max you disturb me. In your books you write as an American, probably fair enough as that may be your biggest market and where it may be published? But on your blog you write "neighbors". Hmpf, as an Australian it disgusts me.

John Doe (#797)

Location: Live from Omicron Persei 8
Quote: "You're just jealous because the little voices only talk to me."
Posted: 5182 days ago

Does losing copyright imply losing the right to publish a book?

If you get really famous with the tenth book you write, and I read it, then I might be tempted to read some of your previous work as well.

If I buy Syrup or Jen Gov after you've lost your copyright, I'd most likely get it from your publisher. I'd always prefer the printed thing rather than the free version circulating on the net. Wouldn't you still get royalties from the publisher?

Of course, then there's the other side of the picture, where Amazon might stop retrieving copyright-expired books directly from the original publishers, and may start printing them themselves.

Oh well, you'd have your tenth book to collect from anyway. :)

Melissa (#888)

Location: WI
Quote: "When you can't run anymore, you crawl, and when you can't do that, you find someone to carry you."
Posted: 5182 days ago

Technically, copyright begins when you create it, it's just proving that fact that is tricky. I had to take a Broadcasting and Public Policy class for my Radio Broadcasting degree (one more year woot!) At least I'm pretty sure my teacher said that...darn summer for making me forget what I learned...
If I have time later I'll check my media law book and and update if I'm wrong.

DemonNick (#1411)

Location: The sunny beaches of Canada, where it's always spring break
Quote: "When life gives you lemons, crush the Proletariat"
Posted: 5182 days ago

I kind of get the idea of why copyrights should be short, But I disagree. Copyright law is thorny, and authors on occasion (at least the married sort) but the copyright of their work in both their name and the name of their spouse so that it enters into public domain later. On the one hand, I do see an argument for this being important, especially granted he spike in novel piracy in recent years (ever since internet geeks realized KaZaA had a "documents" catagory). I'm tempted to defend long term copyrights, especially granted piracy and theft. Pluswise, as we as a society read less and less, the importance is made even more important.

Terrence McLean (#1393)

Location: Canada
Posted: 5182 days ago

In Max's original post I replied and challenged him to release his books to public domain, I also e-mailed him. After reading his reply to my e-mail and this posting I have revoked that challenge. I understand better now why he believes in the 10 year copyright, I also understand why he cannot, release his current book to public domain, and why he will not seek the right to have his future book release. I agree that copyrights are too long, but I don't think that 10 years is long enough, but there has to be middle ground somewhere that makes sense.

I think however some, including me has missed the greatest point here. That something must be done to stop the corporation from continuously increasing copyright to protect their profits.

Terry

Queen Eve (#460)

Location: Dimensions at SanguinemDraconis.net
Quote: "Sanity is a gift; given at birth, lessened by maturity, and gone from us by the age of reason. --Kestral Lei"
Posted: 5182 days ago

Melissa:

I was under the same assumption and I am almost certain it is the case. In songwriting, copyrights are based on when an artist said they created their work, and it is that date that is important in proving that one artist ripped off another.

I would have to assume that the copyright laws are based on when a piece is created, and my English teacher told me that it would be a good idea to have my works notarized for copyright protection so that they are officially and legally dated, in the event someone tries to steal my work.

Machine Man subscriber Max

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Quote: "I'm my number one fan!"
Posted: 5182 days ago

A work does have copyright protection from the instant you create it, that's true. But I believe the term of protection doesn't start counting down until the date of first publication (or broadcast, or whatever).

Take Jen Gov't, for example: first draft completed in 2001, final draft in 2002, yet in the book it's (c) 2003, which is when it was first published.

Someone correct me if I'm wrong. :)

Machine Man subscriber Adam (#24)

Location: Morristown, Indiana
Quote: "Why do I blog? Simple, because Max Barry blogs."
Posted: 5181 days ago

Thu, 16 June 2005

COPYRIGHTS? I GUESS I AM NOT SMART ENOUGH TO UNDERSTAND THEM.

First of all, this blog has nothing to do with copyrights, but I thought I could get at least one fool to read at least one line of my uninteresting blog. Maybe...you've probably already lost interest, but I will continue anyway. You see, I am one of those people that thinks negative attention is better than no aattention. So if you are reading this now and saying that I am dumb for writing it or using two a's in attention, thank you. Also, it makes me feel good whenever I see someone's name and it has Adam and then some number or their last name, because I know that I have done something that effected someone else. It just warms my internal organs and the other stuff inside of me.

AND SO THE STORY DRAGS ON...

"I have failed everyone...why has this happened to me?"
Electrik begins to sob. Then a strange, deep, James Earl Jones like voice says from the forest,"Electrik, you have been chosen to stop Red Panda from global domination."
"Wait a second, the world is a globe. It's round? That's just crazy talk," Electrik replies still trying to hold back his tears.
"The world is a globe, but that's no the point! You must stop Red Panda. You need to travel to the great bamboo forests of China and find The Great White Panda. He will train you in the ways of Panda Magic and how to serve ice cream at the local McDonald's. That is the only way you can fund your training. Three swirls of ice cream, not two or four."
Electrik face goes blank. "Aren't we already in the GreatBamboo Forest?"
The voice answers with rage. " That's just hogwash created by the liberal media! Head west until you reach the Pacific Ocean and then head North to the Bering Strait. You should be able to walk accross it like the Native Americans. After you make it to Soviet Russia, head south to China."
"If the Native Americans walked the Bering Straight to get to America, they weren't really native to America, were they? Plus, the Bering Strait has water on it now. I can't walk accross it."
"Farewell and good luck Electrik." The voice trails off into the distance.
"Wait, where do I go after I head east?" Electrik began to cry again for the voice was gone. He was on his own now. He had no family or friends. The strange voice had left him. I guess there was only one option. That was to find The Great White Panda. Electrik was off on a very long journey into the unknown. He headed east.

Man, this story is getting good. Maybee I should copyright it. Bwahahahahahahahaha! Ha! I guess I am the only one laughing. Most likely no one else read this far.

Anyways, I can't think of any other worthless things to tell you. Until next Max Barry blog...

Wait a second...I just noticed that the computer asks me if I want to leave a comment. It says "Want to leave a comment, Adam?"

So long and thanks for all the...Fish?

Adam

Hobbie (#1359)

Location: Cornwall, England
Quote: "There was a little man in his hair!"
Posted: 5181 days ago

Maybe its just me, but there is something very weird, almost surreal, about reading a heated debate on copyright which is intertwined with the fascinating world of pandas and McDonalds icecream...

Rod McBride (#688)

Location: Gardner, KS
Quote: "www.MidwestRockLobster.blogspot.com"
Posted: 5181 days ago

If Max was right, I'd agree with him.

Actually, when it comes to corporate abuse of copyright legislation (the literal Mickey Mouse that went on in Congress recently being the obvious case), I get it and Max is right.

The current copyright clock doesn't start ticking until the author dies, and I could totally see cutting off copyright at the author's death or shortly after it.

But the real issue Max is failing to address is that powerful interests will always out. They do in North Korea as easily as in Southern California. And in a capitalist (more or less) setup, large corporations are the fountain of power. Prior to Enron and Arthur Anderson's antics, the Milken thesis that a company of sufficient size simply can't be killed was not only plausible, it seemed a natural law.

Reform the law as you like, an outfit like Disney will figure out how to use their economic leverage to advantage. In fact, where I'd be perfectly willing to make copyright a protection not available to a corporation under any circumstances, the reality is that the only reason why Max Barry or any other individual artist enjoys any protection is because the corporations that pimp their creations benefit from it. The record industry nailing 13-year old girls for downloading lo-fi files of crappy pop songs is not because they care about the rights, well-being, income, etc., of the artist being pirated. The record industry doesn't even care if the artist is dead or alive, they are just as pissed if someone steals a Jimi Hendrix song as they are if it's a U2 tune.

The only thing that's protected authors from the Napster thing is the economy of scale involved in photocopying a novel. It's cheaper to buy the book. The only thing that makes music more commonly pirated is that the recording industry has an unrealistic expectation of the value of a CD they've produced for $1.25. If they retailed it for $3 (they could, profitably), only desperate college students would rip it instead of buying it.

The Soviet Union, among other horrible systems, gives us a rich supply of examples where it comes to asking people to act against what they perceive as their own interests.

The cleverest legislation for copyright law would be one that strengthens the incentives for new creations on both sides, the mega-corporation and the humble artist or inventor. The length of copyright may not even matter. It's less important whether Disney can keep Mickey Mouse as a property than that Disney and its competitors have a reason to come up with something new.

And if the record industry is an indicator, we're all going to be our own sleezy publishing companies soon enough anyway.

Rod McBride (#688)

Location: Gardner, KS
Quote: "www.MidwestRockLobster.blogspot.com"
Posted: 5181 days ago

Oh, the above post is ©2005 by Rod McBride, All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized duplication would be ridiculous anyway...

Machine Man subscriber Max

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Quote: "I'm my number one fan!"
Posted: 5181 days ago

> the only reason why Max Barry or any other individual
> artist enjoys any protection is because the corporations
> that pimp their creations benefit from it.

No argument from me that corporations often leverage their wealth into political power, and work to get favorable laws passed. And sure, this makes it difficult to get copyright rolled back. But hey, call me a hopeless optimist, I don't think we're yet at the point where they *dictate* laws. We still vote for our governments, and if we care enough about something, so will they.

Matthew (#16)

Location: Columbus, Ohio
Quote: "Unicorn on mountain top. Wind blowing through mane."
Posted: 5181 days ago

Oh snap...?

Rod McBride (#688)

Location: Gardner, KS
Quote: "www.MidwestRockLobster.blogspot.com"
Posted: 5180 days ago

Max says:
>No argument from me that corporations often leverage
>their wealth into political power, and work to get
>favorable laws passed. And sure, this makes it difficult
>to get copyright rolled back. But hey, call me a hopeless
>optimist, I don't think we're yet at the point where they
>*dictate* laws. We still vote for our governments, and if
>we care enough about something, so will they.

Maybe it's different in Australia, but in the States the vote is largely symbolic. Our present figure-head is known to be a war-monger, but his supposedly dovish predecessor bombed the hell out of so many places the White House worried about America being labeled the 'mad bomber.'

Or as the old British joke goes, we have a two party system similar to theirs: the Republican Party, which is just like the U.K.'s Conservative Party; and the Democratic Party, which is just like the U.K.'s Conservative Party.

And I tilt at windmills myself, voting third party. People tell me I throw my vote away when I vote Libertarian, but since both the major political parties produce identical results (corruption, irresponsible spending, war, a holocaust of abortions, appallingly high taxes), I'd be throwing my vote away if I voted for a Republican or Democrat.

And I prefer capitalism to other systems, because at least I can generally discern how the elite got where they are in a capitalist economy. The same alpha-types probably rise to power in a socialist system, or in any other. But I can at least figure out how Bill Gates got rich and powerful. And the one place I can exercise a franchise against his kind, who are after all the ones who truly hold power, is to opt out and use open-source software or buy from one of his competitors if one emerges.

Rod McBride (#688)

Location: Gardner, KS
Quote: "www.MidwestRockLobster.blogspot.com"
Posted: 5180 days ago

Oh, I got to worrying that the above comment sounds a tad paranoid/conspiracy nut-jobby.

The problem I have reading a guy like Robert Ludlum is I don't buy the whole 'secret society' running the world thing. The Fortune 500, for the most part, is a hegemonic power in the world, but it doesn't sneak about with encrypted manuscripts hidden in litter boxes or anything like that.

The problem I have with shortening copyright to ten years from publication is that it would hurt artists and I'm convinced that the likes of Disney and Warner Bros. would maneuver it such that their property remained as valuable as possible. And a Fortune 500 company is a wee more powerful than Max Barry or even Dan Brown (or any other wildly bestselling author you care to name).

Just thought I should try and make myself sound sane since obviously people (including Max) read these comments. As opposed to my own blog and site, which combined don't get enough hits to generate 18 replies, not even if every visitor made three comments...

Sophie (#891)

Location: Devon
Posted: 5180 days ago

I think the worst example of misuse of copyright isn't excessively long copyrights on 'art', its pharmaceutical companies getting patents over the new life-saving drugs they develop. And then refusing to sell the drug cheaply to the third world countries who need it most. As no-one else is allowed to develop the drug in question, the people who are in desperate need of the 'copyrighted' drug die in their masses.
To be honest, I'm not bothered how rich Disney or the Beatles get off their copyrighted creations - the people and corporations who are seeking to extend their copyrights over their materials are often the people who haven't produced anything of worth anyway.
Also, thanks for the image of someone juggling kittens ... that is the most awesomeness. I'm might have to kidnap some neighborhood pets and try that myself.

PS. Interesting fact - I don't think India has any copyright laws. Consequently, they rip off technologies from other countries and aren't prosecuted.

flute (#1408)

Posted: 5177 days ago

As far as copyright goes, it doesn't matter a scoot when you write it. Copyright expires 70 years (in the US and thanks now to the FTA in Australia) after the death of the author. Copyright is inate, you don't have to register it, but it must be a body of work. So if I wrote a masterpiece 10 years ago and published it with (c) 1995 that is meaningless as I'm still alive. The whole date thing is relevant with trademarks, patents and designs, not copyright.

Rod McBride (#688)

Location: Gardner, KS
Quote: "www.MidwestRockLobster.blogspot.com"
Posted: 5176 days ago

Sophie (#891) says:
>I think the worst example of misuse of copyright isn't >excessively long copyrights on 'art', its pharmaceutical >companies getting patents over the new life-saving drugs >they develop. And then refusing to sell the drug cheaply >to the third world countries who need it most. As no-one >else is allowed to develop the drug in question, the >people who are in desperate need of the 'copyrighted' >drug die in their masses.

I'm not trying to split hairs, though it might seem so at first blush. There's a difference between patents and copyrights, and drugs are patented. Their names are often 'trademarked,' which as far as I know has no sunset. Bass beer has the same red triangle and rights to it it did before the Industrial Revolution got underway. A drug company (or any other technology based concern) can patented a design for a chemical or machine, and they actually get considerably less protection than a book, movie or song.

Design a drug that lowers people's cholesterol, pay the chemical engineers to figure out how to make it in quantity, test it on animals (and have fun fighting off the Earth First! terrorists while you do it), then get FDA approval to test it on humans, and then maybe you'll get to sell the drug, by which point you haven't just put months or years of your life into it, you've paid a team to do so.

And you'll find your design in the public domain while you're still alive. A lot of people thought Bush I accelerated the Montreal Protocol banning a couple of versions of Freon® by five years so he could be the 'environmental president' he said he wanted to be. But DuPont, who's patent rights had vanished, allowing third world factories to make all the R-12 they wanted without paying DuPont a dime, gave a hefty donation to the RNC. At the same time, DuPont had a patent on a 'next generation' replacement for the so-called CFCs. Nevermind that it was a heavy, inert molecule that couldn't reach the ozone layer if you tried to put it there, nevermind the 'replacement' had just as much potential chlorine to release, or that the 'replacement' was in some ways much more dangerous, the Montreal Protocol banning the manufacture (in countries that signed on) of generic CFC refreigerants guaranteed profits to DuPont while provided about zero benefit to the environment.

And if you're worried about the third world, who's dying of foodbourne illness for want of refrigeration? It ain't Americans.

Drug companies catch hell for selling drugs at higher prices in America than in the People's Republic of Canada, but I'll bet you that either Canadian taxpayers are subsidizing those prices down, or they're exercising price controls that make it more expensive for Americans to buy the drugs than for Canadians, hence the people (like my Mom) who reimport the drugs for the savings.

Drug companies have a small window of time to make their money, the R&D costs plus a profit (they are in business to make money just like we all are, even Vietnamese 'Communists' when you get down to it). If anything, this is an argument against Max's proposal that copyright be shortened. Patent laws have shown that given a short track, powerful interests will ramp up their prices to win the race no matter what.

And in a way, it's a good thing. I had a heart attack at 32. As a result I take more drugs than Abbey Hoffman, including Niaspan, Zetia, Crestor, and Atenelol. If pharmaceutical comapnies couldn't see profit potential in prolonging mylife, they wouldn't put their R&D money there, and I wouldn't be here to post annoyingly long replies to Max's Blog.

Sophie (#891) says:
>To be honest, I'm not bothered how rich Disney or the
>Beatles get off their copyrighted creations - the people >and corporations who are seeking to extend their >copyrights over their materials are often the people who >haven't produced anything of worth anyway.

I tend to agree, as I find the Beatles annoying, and I get more than the recommended daily allowance of Disney by way of second-hand-smoke from my children. But maybe Max is right, I think patents are good for 17 years and can be renewed once, maybe Max Barry and his publisher should have to give up the profits from a book that entertained me for two days sooner than a company making a drug that might add years to my so-called life.

Or maybe people who know me would say that Max and his publisher should get billions of dollars and I should get a referral to Doctor Kevorkian, check into the Motel 6-Feet Under.

>PS. Interesting fact - I don't think India has any >copyright laws. Consequently, they rip off technologies >from other countries and aren't prosecuted.

Prosecuted by India? If they sell it in America, American copyright holders will probably do whatever they can to thwart it.

The biggest area I've heard of in terms of India and intellectual property has to do with India's schools. They identify gifted kids early on and fast track them into math and science courses that make them ideal immigrants to California.

Programmers might make 1/10th the money in India, but maybe their expenses are 1/20th as much, in which case (if they're smart enough to write software or whatever), why whouldn't they stay in India? On the other hand, if they can make $10,000 a year in India or $100,000 in America, and their cost of living in America is only double what it would be in India, do the math.

As long as people have tried to enforce intellectual property rights, there's been people trying to violate those rights. Any kind of property rights, this applies to. You can make an equation out of it: the likely value of my wallet, the odds you'll get caught stealing it, the average penalty you'll pay if you're caught. It's why bank robbers in America are hard to figure: even if they're wildly successful in a given heist, say they walk out with $100,000 (more than average). That one robbery carries a 15-year mandatory sentence and the FBI is pretty good at nabbing bank robbers. Federal sentences, you have to serve 80% before youre eligible for parole thanks to a Reagan era law. So that's what, twelve years. So if you've got a pretty good chance that your best winnings (say $100,000) will cost you 12 years of your life, that's just a little over $8,000 a year, and you could probably do better than that as a novelist.

If you think my bank robbery analysis is inept, subsitute any other kind of theft. I'm not saying I've never copied a CD, but I can honestly say no musician has ever asked me to work for free, so who's the crook?

The general notion that anything goes in India, well, maybe as long as it doesn't leave India. But if you want the creation of drugs, machines, novels, movie, whatever that make your life better, don't think in terms of 'third world countries that need them.' Most poor countries are poor because of the dicatators that are holding them down. Food aid gets diverted to buy guns for slaughtering an ethnic group out of favor with the ruling party, that sort of thing. You could give those countries unlimited free Prozac, Lipitor, Ritalin, whatever, and the best you could hope for is the Idi Amin wannabe in charge could figure out that the Ritalin can be resold to college students somewhere for money to buy more guns.

Sophie (#891)

Location: Devon
Posted: 5176 days ago

Yeah, it is tricky to figure out how to force drug companies to sell their drugs cheaply to those who need them, without removing their profit incentive to produce them in the first place.
My idea would be for the government to remove patents on selected drugs, and give tax breaks/grants/payouts to the drug companies to cover their cost of developing them.
But you're right, the best way to solve these country's problems would be to remove the corrupt/incompetent people in charge, but I don't think anyone is willing to do that at the moment. Especially as the UN is about as intimidating as a newborn kitten. Like the kind Max Barry likes to juggle with. (sorry for mentioning that again, I just think its the cutest image in the world).

Rod McBride (#688)

Location: Gardner, KS
Quote: "www.MidwestRockLobster.blogspot.com"
Posted: 5174 days ago

IMHO, the solution won't be found in finding a way to 'force' a drug company to act against its own self interest. And when governments try to impose price controls, dole out subsidies, exercise eminent domain and so forth, that's almost a sure-fire way to make things worse. Do you really want a medicine that's comparable to public housing? Or drug development with Pentagon-style spending restraint?

The one thing force is fairly useful at is unseating dictators, since they're only in power by force of arms to begin with as a rule. And the UN? It's designed to throw the fat on the fire. They do nothing when common sense dictates action, they take action against all common sense, and powerful countries just ignore them anyway, so I can't see where anything is better for the UN even existing. And if the UN was more aggressive, what, you want 140 Iraqs and Afghanistans? If you tried to use force of arms to unseat all the corrupt regimes in the world, that's what you'd be looking at.

I'm not saying I have all the answers, I'm saying if you look to the government for solutions to anything, what you're likely to get is a new set of problems. Strong arguments can be made that the existing subsidies in the form of Medicare/Medicaid are inflationary pressures on the healthcare industry. With prescription drug benefits for Medicare, I wouldn't be surprised if drugs mainly used by that demographic get more expensive.

Machine Man subscriber David (#1456)

Location: Sydney, Australia
Quote: "Why are the pretty ones always insane?"
Posted: 5156 days ago

The best copyright period for a writer is life + 0. Life + 70 is just extortion and only benefits publishers, etc.

Life + 0 is potentially ideal for an author -- if you're work sells well while you're alive it's in your publisher's interest to keep you alive for as long as possible! Free health care, lots of holidays to refresh the creative spirit (or at least keep the ticker going if you've run out of bestsellers), personal assistants paid for by your devoted publisher to keep you from stressing out and jumping off a ledge or something.

Of course they'd probably insist you give up drinking to excess and partying with hookers in Acapulco. Probably tell you to stop driving the Porsche at 250 km/h and playing with firearms too, so it would have its downside...

Even more interesting is the idea of setting up a sliding scale copyright where you establish an Average Author's Lifespan (AAL) of, say, 60 years (all those suicidal young writers and starving in the steets types drag down the average alas) and then if an author dies prematurely the CR continues for the required period after death to make it to the AAL. If the author lives past the AAL then rival publishers are free to take out contracts on said author from AAL while devoted publishers hire squads of goons to protect their biggest sellers (look out aging mid-listers, you're only getting a cheap handgun, sans ammo, for protection!)

Airborne (#1471)

Location: Anchorage, Alaska
Quote: "C 1/501 Artic Airborne Infantry "Geronimo!""
Posted: 5140 days ago

Max, are you driving a Porche and screwing hookers in Acapulco?

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