Sunday, 29 February 2004
Deep linking to CFR citations, from GPO
Sabrina Pacifici over at beSpacific was a bit excited today about the U.S. Government Printing Office's (GPO) "new" service that permits deep linking to sections of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). I had no idea this service was either new or under testing — I have been using it for nearly six months.
I found by accident last summer that GPO's search engine returned search results in a format containing the title and section numbers in the URL. Combine this with Proxomitron's blockfiles, and you have a fast, versatile tool to look up any CFR citation from your browser address bar. Same goes for such references as the U.S. Code, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and Federal Rules of Evidence (all courtesy of the Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School) and U.S. Patents, courtesy of the Patent & Trademark Office.
This past month — my first as an IP attorney — has uncovered many wonderful things for me. The most wonderful has been the attitude of several attorneys that it has been my pleasure to work with. Although none of them have ever (to my knowledge) been an activist or "copyfighter," they seem genuinely concerned for the public interest in the area of IP law.
Like all good patent litigators, they avidly watch the Federal Circuit for interesting decisions. However, these folks occassionally cheer when the court limits the scope of patent law in ways that limit the rights of patent holders and expand the public domain. They cheer notwithstanding that such decisions may ultimately mean less money in their own pockets. When I described the size of statutory damges authorized by the Copyright Act, one partner refused to believe me until I showed him a copy of § 504. Even then, his reaction was, "Hmmm...what did Disney pay to get that?"
There are many good reasons why I chose to join this firm.
The New York Times ran an interesting article on Sunday that I just got around to reading today ("The Pornography Industry vs. Digital Pirates"). It compares the pornography industry's mature response to copyright infringement online (20 years in the making) to the recording industry's reactionary response.
Music executives say their campaign of lawsuits has been successful. They say they have spread the word that downloading free music infringes on copyrights and that there could be consequences for large-scale file sharers.
But the pornography industry has been dealing with Internet copyright issues since the 1980's. By comparison, the movie and music businesses are relative newcomers. [Tom Hymes, the editor of AVNOnline, a business magazine for the industry] said companies in his industry had come to realize that suing consumers and promoting "draconian laws" were not the answer. "No law written can stem the tide," he said. And so, he said, companies are seeking ways to live with the technologies that threaten them and are trying to turn them to their advantage.
This post gives me an opportunity to ask a question I have had rolling around in my head for a while. When, in the history of copyrights, trademarks, trade secrets, patents, and the like, did people begin to think of these things as a unified whole — as intellectual property? When did these intangible things cease to be limited monopolies and start to be monetizable assets? Jason points out that Marvel and DC are the two major competitors in the field of comic book publishing, and the letter they apparently sent (together) to the author of "Super Hero Happy Hour" makes it obvious that they think of their trademarks as revenue sources — not a means by which they can differentiate themselves from one another. The trademark itself is an asset, not the goodwill associated with it.
I have studied IP seriously for around five years now, and I have become increasingly frustrated by my lack of knowledge of the economic history of the field. My studies have focused on the economic theories underlying IP in general, the current state of the law, and the history of major amendments to the law. What I never got in school was the economic history of intangible assets. I would sincerely appreciate a pointer to a good book (or group of books) that covers this topic.