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How Corruption Is Strangling US Innovation 391

Posted by Soulskill
from the there-oughta-be-a-law dept.
hype7 writes "The Harvard Business Review is running a very interesting piece on how money in politics is having a deleterious effect on U.S. innovation. From the article: 'Somehow, it seems that every time that [Mickey Mouse] is about to enter the public domain, Congress has passed a bill to extend the length of copyright. Congress has paid no heed to research or calls for reform; the only thing that matters to determining the appropriate length of copyright is how old Mickey is. Rather than create an incentive to innovate and develop new characters, the present system has created the perverse situation where it makes more sense for Big Content to make campaign contributions to extend protection for their old work.if you were in any doubt how deep inside the political system the system of contributions have allowed incumbents to insert their hands, take a look at what happened when the Republican Study Committee released a paper pointing out some of the problems with current copyright regime. The debate was stifled within 24 hours. And just for good measure, Rep Marsha Blackburn, whose district abuts Nashville and who received more money from the music industry than any other Republican congressional candidate, apparently had the author of the study, Derek Khanna, fired. Sure, debate around policy is important, but it's clearly not as important as raising campaign funds.'"
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How Corruption Is Strangling US Innovation

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  • It's more startling that these corporate worshiper types see this as such a major revalation.

    • Re:water is wet (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Blue Stone (582566) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @03:12PM (#42226807) Homepage Journal

      "The money powers prey upon the nation in times of peace and conspire against it in times of adversity. It is more despotic than a monarchy, more insolent than autocracy, and more selfish than bureaucracy. It denounces as public enemies, all who question its methods or throw light upon its crimes. I have two great enemies, the Southern Army in front of me and the Bankers in the rear. Of the two, the one at my rear is my greatest foe.. corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money powers of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until the wealth is aggregated in the hands of a few, and the Republic is destroyed." - Abraham Lincoln

      The more things change, the more they stay the same.

    • Rep Marsha Blackburn, whose district abuts Nashville and who received more money from the music industry than any other Republican congressional candidate, apparently had the author of the study, Derek Khanna, fired.

      Sounds like she is representing the people she is supposed to represent. If you want a candidate who supports your industry, and your industry has a geographical central location like Silicon Valley, Nashville, Hollywood, or any number of other examples, it makes sense to support the candidate

  • by mrbcs (737902) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @02:42PM (#42226555)
    In other news, America seems to be full of people that want money for nothing.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 08, 2012 @02:55PM (#42226665)

      In other news, America seems to be full of people that want money for nothing.

      They also appear to want their checks for free.

  • oh boy ! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by garaged (579941) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @02:42PM (#42226559) Homepage

    What a surprise ! :D

    getting serious, it is really sad what is happening with society, we have come to a stage where pretty much everything we do is getting richer the rich, we see that a lot here in México, every new law is pushing for lower salaries and less benefits, and from some years ago, gov is pushing to convert universities into technicall schools so we can have even more cheap workers.

    • Re:oh boy ! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by pwizard2 (920421) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @03:01PM (#42226705)
      Sad but true. The USA has more wealth inequality than it had in the last 75 years (or more) , mostly thanks to the GOP's plan to destroy the middle class these past 30+ years. Social mobility is getting to be impossible and the only way people can go is down. It's really fucking bleak and there's no end in sight.
    • by Mitreya (579078)

      we have come to a stage where pretty much everything we do is getting richer the rich ... pushing for lower salaries and less benefits

      That process has a natural stopping point.
      What happens when everyone except the top-1% is below the poverty line?

      • Re:oh boy ! (Score:4, Insightful)

        by pwizard2 (920421) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @03:06PM (#42226751)
        The rich will flee the country with as much ill-gotten wealth as they can take with them. They don't care if the USA falls apart because they have stashes in tax shelters around the world so they can just move when things get bad. The rest of us will be stuck in the shithole they created.
      • by abirdman (557790) *
        You make a good point. My theory is the 1% don't realize if they pauperize everyone they'll end up poor themselves. I don't know how it was in other times, but today it's no problem to be both rich and ignorant.

        A poster elsewhere in this thread mentioned personal debt-- negative net worth. This is the definition of slavery, and some among the 1% probably assume they'll make money from usury. Fie.
        • by garaged (579941)

          you are wrong, the secret is keeping the GDP positive, and it is kind of easy by legalizing forms of slavery, as we do now

      • by garaged (579941)

        we have a monarchy

    • by Bob9113 (14996)

      pretty much everything we do is getting richer the rich

      That's only true in the short run. In the long run, the inefficiency resulting from the distortion of economic incentives is hindering GDP growth, which ultimately reduces the income of rich and poor alike. The corruption is not only stealing from the poor, middle class, and upper middle class -- it is also stealing from the rich in the long run -- to line the pockets of today's benefactors of corruption. They are stealing even from their own future met

  • by anyaristow (1448609) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @02:45PM (#42226585)

    With all else that article had to say, the entire summary was about copyright? Hot button much?

  • Steamboat Mickey (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    As soon as Steamboat Mickey is in the public domain I'm going to burn that shit on billions of DVDs and just sell it on the street. I will be RICH cuz everyone wnats da Steamboat Mickey

    • by Mitreya (579078)

      As soon as Steamboat Mickey is in the public domain I'm going to burn that shit on billions of DVDs and just sell it on the street.

      What _is_ this worth to Disney, exactly?
      The Mickey character is presumably trademarked -- so how much money are they making from the Steamboat Mickey cartoons? Does anyone know?

      • by istartedi (132515)

        how much money are they making from the Steamboat Mickey cartoons? Does anyone know?

        Since it's on YouTube [youtube.com], they're at least getting however much ad revenue it generated from the currently 1,537,753 views.

  • I'm not sure it's corruption. It's more like taking advantage of a system that is optimized for helping the Haves get more.

    • by teslabox (2790587)
      There is a simple truism: it takes money to make money. It also takes money to lobby congress, and old-money has more to spend on lobbyists to keep money out of the hands of the proletariat, than working stiffs have to lobby for a fair economy.
      • by shentino (1139071)

        The one who has the gold makes the rules, and the one who makes the rules takes the gold.

        It's a feedback loop.

    • Re:corruption? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 08, 2012 @03:15PM (#42226835)

      I'm not sure it's corruption. It's more like taking advantage of a system that is optimized for helping the Haves get more.

      That's the textbook definition of corruption. Using your public position for personal gain.

      Politicians should be like Nascar drivers and be required by law to wear a vest that has patches of all the corporations (and any individuals that donate more than a set amount per year) that own their votes. The size of the patch directly relating to the amount of ownership. When the amount of ownership gets above 50% that politician can no longer run for public office as it is obvious that he no longer represents his constituency.

    • by garaged (579941)

      you gotta be living in a stable european country, even Greece and Spain have a LOT of trouble with corruption getting them into a lot of economic problems, and that it pretty much the norm on third world countries, I'm sure there are a few corruption scales you can check online to support this.

  • by alen (225700) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @02:54PM (#42226659)

    one of the most popular halloween costumes this year was from Jake and the Neverland Pirates, a Peter Pan spin off that Disney has in its 3rd season now
    disney jr has lots of new characters like Oso, Handy Manny, Little Einsteins and others

    and the popularity of Mickey and its copyright protection is what fueled the children's animation revolution of the last 20 some years
    lion king
    shrek
    all the Pixar movies
    and at least a dozen other movies

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by fey000 (1374173)
      I don't understand your reasoning here. Are you saying that because Disney has created more characters than Mickey Mouse, it's fine that copyright protection be extended ad infinitum? Could you elaborate a bit on your argument please, as I'm sure there is at small step inbetween premise and conclusion that I am missing.
    • I think the fear that one day Mickey Mouse WILL enter the public domain is spurring that revolution. Imagine how much more would exist if it wasn't renewed. THey'd need a steady stream of new characters

    • "The Lion King" was a good movie, but it was far from original; it started as an adaptation of Osamu Tezuka's "Kimba the White Lion", and the plot is heavily based upon Shakespeare's "Hamlet".

      And Shrek is not even a Disney character, fool!

      • by alen (225700)

        i never said shrek was disney. the point is even with mickey protected by copyright there is still lots of new animation coming out and people thinking up new stories

        and shakespeare copied as well. everyone does. nothing bad about it, you just have to make your story unique to make it something new. like Paramount did with DS9 when they used Babylon 5 as inspiration

  • with amazon making it easy to self publish i decided to try my luck with writing. almost finished with my first novella. i got the idea for the story from a meme i saw on Google Plus almost a year ago and used my wife and other people i've met for the characters.

    not very hard

    how is lack of copyright going to encourage people to make up new content?

    • by rknop (240417) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @03:02PM (#42226715) Homepage

      There is a WIDE gulf between completely lack of copyright,and the never-ending copyright terms that we have in the USA today. (And don't tell me that copyrights are finite, because they DO get extended every time things are about to start to enter the public domain again.)

      Arguing against infinite copyrights doesn't necessarily mean arguing for absolutely no copyright at all.

      • by alen (225700)

        so what if copyrights go to infinity? there is an almost never ending pool of new ideas to work on

        Fifty Shades of Grey may have gotten a lot of hype a few months ago but there lots of other romance novels in the kindle store. people are always making up cool ideas for art, creating the product and selling it

  • My problem is that (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nyder (754090) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @03:04PM (#42226729) Journal

    companies like Disney rape the public domain for ideas and never give back to the public domain.

  • by DNS-and-BIND (461968) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @03:15PM (#42226831) Homepage
    We all know the typical way of presenting news - whenever an (R) does something bad, the party affiliation is right up there, and whenever a (D) does something even more despicable, the party affiliation is omitted and both parties are said to be equally bad. We all know this already. What's interesting about this story is how Blackburn is conspicuously identified an an (R) while Khanna's party affiliation is left blank - even though Khanna is a Republican through and through. An ignorant or negligent observer might conclude that (R) are uniquely and despicably evil while (D) never seem to be attached to anything bad.
  • by rsilvergun (571051) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @03:16PM (#42226841)
    this was pointed out during the recent storms (Sandy), and there were several pundits that pointed out that Democrats tended to staff FEMA with professional disaster management folks while the Republicans tended to give those positions out to friends, family and donors. That was why the disaster was as well handled as it was and didn't turn into New Orleans II: The Squeal.

    The hard part about this is even though it's demonstrably true (it's easy to trace the reasons for the FEMA appointments under the two administrations) it's so outlandish to think that a man would appoint someone to such an important position for political points that people just don't believe you when you point it out. Even if you've got the evidence (google it) to back it up...
    • by will_die (586523)
      You need to read something besides your kook sites, there have been plenty of complains from the people and officials about how bad sandy is being run. You even have FEMA officials saying Katernia was better run then what is happening now.
  • I want to say that I'm glad the guy got fired, because he's now become a martyr and a very visible example of how corrupt everything has become.

    Unfortunately, I'm just not that optimistic that it will amount to anything constructive. Things will need to get a whole lot worse before people finally start demanding real change.

    • by geoskd (321194)

      I want to say that I'm glad the guy got fired, because he's now become a martyr and a very visible example of how corrupt everything has become.

      Unfortunately, I'm just not that optimistic that it will amount to anything constructive. Things will need to get a whole lot worse before people finally start demanding real change.

      Actually, the problem is a damn sight worse than that, The only real path to change is through massive wealth redistribution. Taxes are normally used to accomplish this in a socially acceptable fashion. The alternative method uses large quantities of violence... We either need to return to our tax-the-hell-out-of-the-rich method, invent a new alternative, or prepare for the inevitable uprising. In a country with this many guns, its going to be a bloody civil war.

      -=Geoskd

  • The inability to copy previously copyrighted items is strangling INNOVATION? Perhaps they don't understand the word innovation.
  • The Magic Number 435 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by grumling (94709) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @03:31PM (#42226963) Homepage

    We haven't increased the size of the House of Representatives since the 1930s, but the size of the population has grown 3X since then. The House is supposed to grow (and shrink) with population, yet it has not for nearly 100 years. Are we to believe we have the same level of representation as our great grandparents? Just try to get your Representative on the phone, for example. You might be able to reach him if you have a campaign check, but even that's doubtful these days.

    Why is this relevant to the conversation? Because $435 million is a drop in the bucket for most companies, while you'll likely never see your Representative in person, let alone sit down with him/her and voice your opinion. The corporations don't care about who or which party gets elected, just so they remember who cut them the million dollar donation.

    But imagine if there were 1000 or more Representatives. Now how easy would it be for corps to buy the Congress? Yes, a lot of the activity would just switch over to the Senate, but both houses have to agree to get legislation passed.

    • by alen (225700)

      the size of congress is spelled out in the constitution moron

      every 10 years there is a census and the results determine which states lose representatives and which states gain them

      • the size of congress is spelled out in the constitution moron

        every 10 years there is a census and the results determine which states lose representatives and which states gain them

        The size of congress was originally set out to be 1 congressman for as few as 30,000 citizens in the constitution. Now it is closer to 1 congressman for 600,000 or more citizens. Changes were made by congress to keep the size at, or around, 435. See Wikipedia on "History of the United States Congress". Also look up a Frobes article called "The Ultimate Congressional Reforms".

      • by Guy Harris (3803) <guy@alum.mit.edu> on Saturday December 08, 2012 @05:13PM (#42227855)

        the size of congress is spelled out in the constitution moron

        Article I [cornell.edu], section 2, says:

        Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several states which may be included within this union, according to their respective numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole number of free persons, including those bound to service for a term of years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons. The actual Enumeration shall be made within three years after the first meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent term of ten years, in such manner as they shall by law direct. The number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty thousand, but each state shall have at least one Representative; and until such enumeration shall be made, the state of New Hampshire shall be entitled to chuse three, Massachusetts eight, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations one, Connecticut five, New York six, New Jersey four, Pennsylvania eight, Delaware one, Maryland six, Virginia ten, North Carolina five, South Carolina five, and Georgia three.

        (with the first sentence updated by section 2 of the 14th Amendment [cornell.edu], further updated by the 19th [cornell.edu] and 26th [cornell.edu] Amendments), so, if "the number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty thousand", that allows up to about 10,000 Representatives.

        The Constitution doesn't explicitly say how many Representatives there should be per person, it just says that number must be less than or equal to 1/30000 of the population, So "The House is supposed to grow (and shrink) with population, yet it has not for nearly 100 years." is not true and the size of Congress is not explicitly spelled out in the Constitution.

        Blame for Congress not having grown in size can be laid at the feet of Public Law 62-5 [google.com].

  • by rsilvergun (571051) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @03:38PM (#42227021)
    Like Bain and the guys that did Hostess in are what's scaring me. Basically guys with money and connections come in, buy a company, and then immediately start raiding the pension funds and paying themselves huge consulting fees from the loans they take out on the business' good name. Then they blame the whole sodding mess on workers making 45k/yr and unions and shut the whole thing down and move it to Mexico where slave labor abounds.
    br> These guys are what'll stop innovation. They've got it so good (because they're so damn rich) they don't care about innovation. They become intensely, frighteningly conservative. There what's moved the US so far right these days. They don't want anything to change since they're makin' out like bandits. Hell, they've made progress (as in 'progressive') a bad word...
  • by Anonymous Coward

    All that they have to do is revoke all Copyright extensions from the last century, and revert all existing copyright expiration dates to their original dates, subject to the following:

    If the copyright holder wants to extend the copyright, there will be a fee of 1 Million USD per year, per work to do so, doubling each year for that work. This dollar amount is a suggestion - but it should be punitive enough to discourage copyright extensions from being made, and keep the list from getting too big.

    Create a we

  • Although people are often sloppy about the distinction, strictly speaking, that's rent seeking, not corruption. The difference is important. Corruption suggests a criminal offense, and it suggests that the solution is more laws, regulation, and law enforcement. But if you try to fix rent seeking with additional laws, you're just throwing gasoline on the fire, since people will figure out how to use the new laws to their advantage as well.

    Rent seeking grows with the size and power of government. The only way

  • by wiredlogic (135348) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @04:00PM (#42227223)

    I don't see the point of this article. It seems to be based on the common conflation of copyright, trademarks, and patents.

    Copyright terms have no bearing on innovation. It restricts the creation of unauthorized copies and derivative works to the domain of fair use until the term of the copyright expires. These activities are, by their very nature, not innovative. I fail to see how the continual extension of copyright duration impacts innovation in any way.

    • by nbauman (624611) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @04:50PM (#42227673) Homepage Journal

      Back in the 1950s, there was a publisher called Dover, that reprinted out-of-print classics, mostly math and science orphan books that science students had to read an hour at a time on reserve in the university library. (There were professors who owned a rare book that nobody else could get, and could give an entire course by paraphrasing from the book.)

      Dover was very successful, because there was a great need for these books that the free market wasn't otherwise filling. I read many of their books. I thought that was pretty innovative.

      You couldn't do that today. There are important math and science books that are out of print, and nobody can legally reprint them. You might find them in a big academic library, you might be able to buy them on the rare books market for $200, you might be able to find pirated editions, but you can't legally get them when you need them under these copyright laws.

      Similarly with the music industry. There was a record publisher called Nonsuch that used to put out cheap records of public domain or uncopyrighted music. (For most of its existence the Soviet Union didn't believe in copyright, and they had some of the best musicians in the world.)

      Probably the most innovative thing you could do with out-of-copyright works is to compile them into an anthology. Under the old copyright laws, you could put together a pretty good poetry collection of works that were only 14 or 28 years old without royalties. Now you can't do that. You'd have to wait until 100 years after the death of the author.

  • We are in the middle of a huge, global experiment. One the one side we have the American model of almost infinite copyright, fiercely defended by the RIAA and MPAA middlemen, who load on extra costs while a pittance goes to the artists – see http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2012-08-27/entertainment/bs-ae-sugarman-film-20120824_1_strydom-royalty-checks-music-industry [baltimoresun.com] for an example.

    On the other side, we have the rest of the world, where copyright does not exist or cannot be practically enforced. Where

  • Micky Mouse isn't just copyrighted he's trademarked and trademarks are copyrights on steroids and they don't expire. Disney is one of the worst for enforcing trademarks and probably spend more on lawyers than artists. Micky Mouse and some of the iconic characters are different in that they are in a sense the company much as the Pillsbury Doughboy and Ronald McDonald represent those companies. Without trademark protection another company could create a competing business off the corporate logos and character
  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @05:26PM (#42227971) Journal
    Fact1 : Any change will create winners and losers. Be it changes in law, changes in technology, changes in business practices, population, demographics, generally accepted social norms... all changes will create winners and losers.

    Fact 2: Most winners will not know they are going to be winners. Most losers can see they are going to be getting the short end of the stick

    Fact 3: The losing side will fight tooth and nail to avert it.

    When the side that is going to lose is rich and powerful, they employ very powerful techniques to avoid it or postpone it. They will buy out the competitors, engage in collusion, pay the legislators (legally or illegally), spread misinformation, doubt and feat, anything. It is very instructive to read the book by the University of Chicago professor, Dr Raghuram Rajan, Saving Capitalism from the Capitalists [amazon.com]

    Copyright is one place where we can see the dynamics playing out very clearly and use it as an opportunity to educate the public.

  • by OldSport (2677879) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @08:15PM (#42229273)

    My old econ professor said "in the USA, you call it lobbying. In my country and in others, they call it corruption." We have this culture of just accepting it as part of politics when really it should be strictly outlawed, but obviously the only people who will outlaw it are the cunts being paid to keep it legal. Short of a revolution, we are basically fucked. Not in a catastrophic way, but in a "slow, inexorable slide to the bottom" kind of way.

  • by Chewbacon (797801) on Sunday December 09, 2012 @01:11PM (#42234251)
    Money is the key factor there. Perhaps political funding reform is needed? Seems like whoever get the most money and support from those with the most money wins. Political parties were partly designed so Joe Schmo could run for president, but it's a popularity contest where fashion is the dollar.

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