September 06, 2005

IP on IP

One class of finance applications that is interesting is that of developing new Intellectual Property (IP) over the net (a.k.a. IP). Following on from Ideas markets and Task markets, David points to ransomware, a concept where a piece of art or other IP is freed into the public domain once a certain sum is reached.

People seem ready for this idea. I've seen a lot of indications that there is readiness to try this from the open source Horde) and arts communities. The tech is relatively solvable (I can say that because I built it way back when...) but the cultural issues and business concepts surrounding IP in a community setting are still holding back the push.

Meanwhile, the CIA has decided to open up a little and build something like what we do on the net:

Opening up the CIA
Porter Goss plans to launch a new wing of the CIA that will sort through non-secret data
By TIMOTHY J. BURGER Aug. 15, 2005

In what experts say is a welcome nod to common sense, the CIA, having spent billions over the years on undercover agents, phone taps and the like, plans to create a large wing in the spookhouse dedicated to sorting through various forms of data that are not secret-such as research articles, religious tracts, websites, even phone books-but yet could be vital to national security. Senior intelligence officials tell TIME that CIA Director Porter Goss plans to launch by Oct. 1 an " open source" unit that will greatly expand on the work of the respected but cash-strapped office that currently translates...

The reason this is interesting is their obscure reference to translation, which we can reverse engineer with a little intelligence: the way that the spooks get things translated is to farm out paragraphs to different people and then combine them. They do this so that nobody knows the complete picture and therefore the translators can't easily spy on them.

Now, this farming out of packets is something that we know how to do using FC over the net. In fact, we can do it well with the tech we have already built (authenticated, direct-cash-settled, psuedonymous, reliable, traceable or untraceable) which would support remote secret-but-managed translators so well it'd be scary. That they haven't figured it out as yet is a bit of a surprise. Hmm, no, apparently it's scary, says Eric Umansky.

Unfortunately, they didn't open up enough to publish their article for free, and on one page at least Time were asking $$$ for the rest. More found here:

... foreign-language broadcasts and documents like declarations by extremist clerics. The budget, which could be in the ballpark of $100 million, is to be carefully monitored by John Negroponte, the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), who discussed the new division with Goss in a meeting late last month. "We will want this to be a separate, identifiable line in the CIA program so we know precisely what this center has in terms of investment, and we don't want money moved from it without [Negroponte's] approval," said a senior official in the DNI's office. Critics have charged in the past that despite the proven value of open-source information, the government has tended to give more prominence to reports gained through cloak-and-dagger efforts. One glaring example: the CIA failed in 1998 to predict a nuclear test in India, even though the country's Prime Minister had campaigned on a platform promising a robust atomic-weapons program.

"If it doesn't have the SECRET stamp on it, it really isn't treated very seriously," says Michael Scheuer, former chief of the CIA's Osama bin Laden unit. The idea of an open-source unit didn't gain traction until a White House commission recommended creating one last spring. Utilizing it will require "cultural and attitudinal changes," says the senior DNI official. Sure, watching TV and listening to the radio may not sound terribly sexy, but, says Scheuer, "there's no better way to find out what Osama bin Laden's going to do than to read what he says." --By Timothy J. Burger

So what's this got to do with Intellectual Property? Well, all the systems that will work to distribute IP over IP (and especially what is being discussed at the moment) also look uncannily like systems designed to pass intelligence around. It's no wonder - they are both combining small parts from many places and creating greater works from it. Content management is not the exlusive domain of the recording world.

Posted by iang at September 6, 2005 06:36 PM | TrackBack

I'm not sure that such an approach will find widespread traction. One of the problems is that most artists generally have no a priori idea which if any of their works will be successful (financially or otherwise). Some artists will produce no works of any substance. Others will produce only one or two good or great works and those may be their earlier ones. A good example, Anthony Burgess, one of whose first books, "A Clockwork Orange", proved to be his masterpiece. Burgess sold rights to the book for about $600 and was never very successful afterward.

I examined some copyright alternatives in my article, "Copyleft: Rethinking Intellectual Property in the Digital Age," I recommended that copyrights be treated similar to trademarks. The failure to keep a work available from original sources (such as the artist or publisher) would, after a brief time, cause the works to become public domain. My thinking was that if a work was in enough demand it would remain published. If not, then it should be public property.

Posted by: Steve Schear at September 6, 2005 12:05 PM

Curiously, that document didn't list the Auction idea - is that something that is recorded elsewhere? And, given the apparent abandonment of that URL, isn't it time to find a better home before its own rules come ironically into play?

Having no value previously ascribed to art is something that all artists face, sure. But the same goes for software, and it is arguably even worse as the capital costs of large software projects are normally not recovered; at least with art, it can be stored and released later on, and nobody thinks of paying nothing for art.

The only way to avoid this problem is to reward the producer on future popularity. This is what royalties do ... but it is also the system that is so under threat. So either we figure out a way to re-engineer royalties under the new economics or figure out a way to predict the future!

Posted by: Iang at September 6, 2005 02:26 PM

> ransomware, a concept where a piece of art or other IP is freed into
> the public domain once a certain sum is reached.

Arguably this accurately describes the business models of many scientific journals, whereby articles become free after a 6 months to a year, when the novelty value of the material has faded and its revenue-generating potential is largely over.

Posted by: O.L. at September 7, 2005 07:41 AM
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