Slouching toward Winklevi

My original post lamenting our potential “Age of the Winlevi” is here. And here’s the latest evidence:

Kickstarter is a cool website that you may have heard about. Basically people with ideas can propose them on the site, and then raise funds from a distributed network of Kickstarter readers. It’s not a revolutionary concept, people have been raising money from investors from time immemorial. But with the Internet, it’s easier to reach a kind of broad audience and you can cut out some of the active work of financial intermediation.

It seems, though, that someone already “invented” this idea and wants to sue. In particular, Brian Camelio, who runs an actual site and is by no means a pure troll, holds a patent on “Methods and Apparatuses for Financing and Marketing a Creative Work”

That’s Matt Yglesias. As he said, that’s what we usually call competition. I ended my last post on this with a long Lessig quote. Here’s just part of it:

This is a hard fact for lawyers to understand (protected as they are by exclusionary rules such as the bar exam), but most of production in our society occurs without any guarantee of government protection. Starbucks didn’t get a government monopoly before it risked a great deal of capital to open coffee shops around the world. All it was assured was that people would have to pay for the coffee they sold; the idea of a high-quality coffee shop was free for others to take.

This matters a lot. If we allow ourselves to fall into the trap (or don’t climb out of it, depending on your view) of a Winklevi IP culture, we’re signing innovation’s death warrant.

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