Perhaps I find this fascinating because I have heard from so many entrepreneurs about how the options presented to them by the current intellectual property legal system fail to meet their needs. Or because of my research on copyright fixation. Or because I’m fairly convinced I was a magpie in a prior life. But through the diligence of a research assistant (thanks, Benton Patterson), I recently came across i-DEPOT, and I find it very interesting.
i-DEPOT is a sort of safe deposit box for ideas, offered in Benelux through the Benelux Office of Intellectual Property (BOIP). The website is very careful to say, repeatedly, that i-DEPOT does not convey any IP rights. Rather, it claims that i-DEPOT is a “legal means of proof that issues a date stamp,” providing that a particular individual is “the rightful owner of a particular creation at a specific date.” It does not offer legal protection at all, except in so far as it serves as a source of evidence. After a creator or inventor submits something to i-DEPOT, the individual receives a certificate with an assigned number. (Here I am tempted to analogize to the Universitatis Commitiatum E Pluribus Unum, but that might be unfair.)
The website of the BOIP recommends that i-DEPOT be used while an idea is in the development stage, or if an individual wants to keep her idea secret. Maybe the patent costs are too great, or the life-cycle of the product is so short that a patent would be worthless. It can also be used for IP rights that do not require formal registration, such as copyright (does this serve as a sort of official validation of the “poor man’s copyright”?). Finally, the BOIP suggests that i-DEPOT enables creators and inventors to feel more secure in negotiations with potential business partners by including the i-DEPOT number in a confidentiality agreement.
The BOIP frames this as a good first step in the innovation process. I’m interested to hear from others on this. What are your thoughts? Does anyone know about anything similar in other countries? Or about how widely used this is in Benelux?
Welcome Elizabeth Townsend Gard to the madisonian.net roster. Elizabeth is Associate Professor at the Tulane University Law School (full official profile here). She is co-director and co-founder of Tulane’s Center for Intellectual Property Law & Culture, and director and co-inventor of the Durationator(r) Copyright Experiment, a software program that determines the worldwide copyright status of every kind of cultural work. With Ron Gard, she is beginning a Tulane University spin-out, Limited Times LLC, that will provide self-help legal educational resources to artists, scholars, filmmakers, content owners, digitizers, and anyone else needing copyright help, which utilizes the research and work of the Durationator(r) Copyright Experiment. In additional to her specialization in copyright, she teaches property, art law, trademarks, international intellectual property, and intellectual property.
I could go on and on, but you get the point (and can look up and download Elizabeth’s excellent copyright law scholarship here, at her SSRN page).
Thinking more about the Apple e-book litigation, I couldn’t help but feel a little sympathetic to the book publishers who, at least on a first read of the facts, didn’t seem to have the first clue how to deal with Amazon or Apple when e-book readers started taking off commercially. I wonder if part of the problem for the publishing industry was that prior to digitization (and the release of the Kindle in particular), the only distribution model the publishers had ever dealt with was the sale of paper-based books to retailers for on-sale to customers. They had never had to deal with “device manufacturers” before. This was not the same for the movie, music and to some extent video game industry who had always had to deal in some way with consumer devices that enabled enjoyment of their content – either by manufacturing and distributing the devices themselves (like some of the early video game consoles) or by contracting with manufacturers of devices like music and movie players. Where there was failure to contract, there was litigation – but that happened much earlier in the day (think player piano and Betamax video recorders). So digitization brought with it not only the threat of digital piracy for the publishing industry (a threat faced by all other digitizing industries) but also the specter of having to deal with consumer devices for the first time (Kindles, iPads, Nooks etc). Does this explain why the publishing industry struggled so much to get digital sales models to work, and why they still haven’t been particularly successful at least in contrast to other digitized industries? Or am I way off base here?
cross posted from The Faculty Lounge …
I’m probably late to the party in noticing Richard Posner’s book on plagiarism that was originally published in 2007, but it was an interesting read. I do have a bone to pick with calling it a “book” or even a “little book” as it’s not much longer than a law review article and you can read it in an hour or two, but it was a fun hour or two on my part. Posner doesn’t answer many of the questions he raises about the nature of plagiarism, why it is considered a wrong, when it might not be a wrong, what are the appropriate sanctions etc. However, he raises great issues worth musing about, and it’s a great survey of the different contexts in which we see conduct that may be described as plagiarism – including academia, judicial opinion writing, commercial fiction, historical literature, and art. While he talks about the significance of digital technology both in enabling plagiarism and in identifying instances of plagiarism, he doesn’t come to any meaningful conclusions about whether plagiarism is qualitatively “different” in the digital world. However, he does look at how different economic models of literary production over the years impact on concepts of the wrongfulness of plagiarism over time. So if anyone is interested in thinking about the broad strokes of plagiarsm, the contexts in which it arises and how it differs from copyright infringement and fraud – and sometimes doesn’t differ that much in practice – this is an interesting read.
I don’t have any deep and meaningful thoughts on this myself, but I’ve been wondering for a while why we don’t hear more about copyright infringement and DMCA infringement in the digital publishing industry. The music, movie and gaming industries seem to have led the charge in protecting their copyrights in the digital world and being extremely vocal about it in the process. But not so the publishing industry. I’ve heard a couple of different explanations for this none of which I find completely satisfying. One is that publishers have different relationships with their customers than other industries – perhaps less adversarial in some senses, and publishers are thus more concerned than some industries about alienating customers by threatening copyright infringement suits. Another explanation has been that the publishing industry has somehow been better at using technological protection measures to protect its content. Again, I don’t know how much truth there is to that. I did correspond with one self-published author who told me that she sends out DMCA notices all the time to folks who illegally copy her work and that when she works with publishers, they also end up sending a lot of DMCA notices on her behalf. This author also mentioned to me that copyright infringement in the book industry is potentially more damaging to content creators (and distributors) because people tend to only read a book once while they go back to other digital copyrighted works – music, movies, games – multiple times and may ultimately decide it’s easier to just get a legal copy at the end of the day. I’m not sure that makes sense either. If people download games, music and movies illegally, I can’t imagine that their ongoing enjoyment of that content would lead them to want to make legal purchases down the track unless there are other incentives.
I’d be interested in whether others have thoughts on these issues. I’ve been trying to puzzle them out for a while.