Thursday, January 8, 2009

Intellectual Property Update


Man, it’s like IP Daily around here this week!

And the big news from last night is that the audience voted no on the question “Is Intellectual Property Theft?” — but narrowly.  It remains a contentious topic — and one I’m torn about myself.  I mentioned some IP-related stories that amuse me in last night’s closing comments, though, including:

•Libertarian (and for now humble Institute for Humane Studies staffer) Anne Fortier is at the center of some exciting IP news: She sold the film rights to her not-even-out-yet novel Juliet, and it already has director James Mangold, the writer/director of Girl, Interrupted and Walk the Line, attached to it.

Her novel’s a natural for Hollywood, though: a woman in Italy discovers that her ancestor may have been the inspiration for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.  Yeah, now you almost wish you wrote it, don’t you?  Congratulations, Anne.  (Here’s hoping she urges Mangold to talk his old colleague Angelina Jolie  from Girl, Interrupted into finally getting around to playing Dagny Taggart in Atlas Shrugged.)

•Popeye is now public domain in Europe.  Well, blow me down!

•Without IP, many worry, someone like George Lucas might not have gone to the effort to make Star Wars — but then again, his original desire was to remake Flash Gordon anyway, and he only did Star Wars because he couldn’t get the rights to Flash (and if you want to feel old, by the way, try asking people under thirty if they know who Flash Gordon is).

•Maori tribes tried to sue Lego’s Bionicles robot toy line because the robot backstory is based on Maori legend.  Think of the traditionalistic constraints upon creative people everywhere if the Maori’d won that strange fight.  (Would Juliet be possible?  Would the actual Romeo and Juliet have been written in the first place, given that Shakespeare rarely came up with his own original plots?)

•Should I feel guilty enjoying another Underworld movie in two weeks, given that it’s pretty likely the producer of the films ripped off the idea of a vampire-werewolf war from a role-playing game?  And should nerds resent him even more for being married to Kate Beckinsale in addition?  Or does that, combined with the films, make him more god than man (at least some sort of unnatural hybrid)…and thus above your earthly laws?

And if you don’t think Kate Beckinsale herself has unnatural powers, you’ve plainly forgotten this photo I linked to about six months, six days, and six hours or so ago, of her trick or treating with her daughter.  But enough Satanism — let’s get back to statism, the real threat, by which I mean Obama advisor Cass Sunstein, about whom, more tomorrow.


Christopher said...

Just tell those under 30’s that flash is, ah-ah, King of the Impossible.

For the record, those wacky commies over at Volokh seem to be pretty darn thrilled about the Sunstein pick.

mark said...

You can add Watchmen to the list of successful new intellectual property made in response to the challenges posed by old intellectual property. It’s doubly ironic, given the fact that both “Star Wars” and “Watchmen” are relatively younger, but have gone on to eclipse the original source material.

reason had a good post on the “Popeye” becoming public domain property in Europe:

Todd Seavey said...

Ah! And I swear I didn’t realize Jesse Walker had used “Well, blow me down!” in his headline — but to make it up to him for my being redundant, I will urge everyone to listen to his awesome punk-and-more radio show _Titicut Follies_, Thursdays noon-3pm Eastern time, on out of Ann Arbor but audible online. Yesterday, he went from Iggy and New York Dolls to Patsy Cline, so it was like I was in one of those “dive” bars with the Bettie Page bartenders I’ve praised. And I heard “The Good, the Bad, and the Kowalskis” by the Avengers (the band, not the superheroes) for the first time.

DC Comics in some sense has three versions of the characters in _Watchmen_ walking around right now — the original 60s characters they bought from Charlton comics (who now interact with Superman et al), the Watchmen based on them by Alan Moore (who is also the anarchist genius who grouped public-domain characters into the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and put Peter Pan’s friend Wendy, Dorothy from Kansas, and Alice from Wonderland into an erotic graphic novel called _Lost Girls_ — even though Wendy turns out not to be public domain), and just recently a (resurrected/reformulated) Earth-4 housing Charlton characters with just a _dash_ of dark, Watchmenesque tone — indeed, you can see that world’s “Quantum Superman” interact with the traditional Superman _in 3D_ in two weeks when the second and final issue of Grant Morrison’s _Final Crisis: Superman Beyond_ miniseries is released.

For those who (like me) know the Charlton characters but didn’t immediately recognize the Watchmen as parallels when he saw them: Blue Beetle > Nite-Owl; Solar > Ozymandias; Nightshade > Silk Spectre; Captain Atom > Dr. Manhattan; Peacemaker > Comedian; and perhaps most important the Question > Rorschach.

Another desecration/restoration wrinkle we can add to the Popeye story, by the way, is my gratitude to Ted Turner (who used to put up “Who is John Galt?” billboards before he turned all green and pro-U.N.) for colorizing and thus repopularizing those hilarious early Popeye cartoons by the Fleischers, without which I’d never have known we should love Popeye.

Popeye was also featured in perhaps my all-time-favorite joke IP swipe, which was the appearance of his tattooed arm among superbeings who had been captured by the Avengers in the story “What If the Avengers Beat Everybody?”

My favorite non-joking non-swipe remains Bryan Talbot’s use of the underground, anarchist Russian (and busty) cartoon character Octobriana, who was always public domain precisely because any cartoonists who claimed ownership of her would have been punished by the ruling Soviets, in his miniseries _The Adventures of Luther Arkwright_, which is _my_ favorite comics miniseries of all time, not to be overly dismissive of the greatness of _Watchmen_.

As for Sunstein, more in my 1/9/09 entry.

Dirtyrottenvarmint said...

Addressing property rights in legalistic terms is a straw man type of argument doomed to failure. A “right” is something you have. You own yourself; you own yourself’s production; you own the fruits of that production. None of this is granted to you by a fucking patent office.

It can, however, be taken from you. You can say this violates your “rights”, but you are still screwed. It is your responsibility to defend yourself and your property. This defense is always, always, always based on force (violence). It is very nice and beneficial to all when the threat of this force is a clear, foregone conclusion to all parties, so that actual violence is not necessary.

Most of the crap these days about “intellectual property rights” is just legalistic masturbation. Whether or not some patent or copyright says X or Y is immaterial. What matters is that the PRA of the PRC has a lot of bodies and a lot of guns, so unless you want to start a land war in Asia, they are going to take your software code and do whatever the _____ they want with it, and ____ you.

Jesse Walker said...

Thanks for the plug, Todd. As of this week the show will probably move to Tuesday afternoons. Same time as before: 12-3. I’ll post the details on Hit & Run once they’re confirmed.