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June 10, 2006

Good news! There's still IP protection in the future

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Came across this little gem the other night flipping channels. I encountered a familiar old episode of the original Star Trek series called "I, Mudd." This episode featured the character Harvey Fenton Mudd, a freelance scam artist and charlatan who appears in at least two Star Trek episodes.

Anyway, it turns out that Mudd is the Larry Lessig/Jamie Love of the future. Doesn't surprise me in the least. I'm surprised Mudd wasn't wearing one of Jamie's A2K tee shirts.

Here's a portion of the transcript featuring the relevant dialog:

Mudd: Yes. I organized a "technical information service" -- bringing modern industrial techniques to backward planets, making available certain valuable patents to struggling young civilizations throughout the galaxy.

Kirk: Did you pay royalties to the owners of those patents?

Mudd: Well ... actually, Kirk, as a defender of the free-enterprise system, I found myself in a ... in a rather ambiguous conflict as a matter of principle.

Spock: He did not pay royalties.

Mudd: Knowledge, sir, should be free to all.

There are several fun things here. First of all, Mudd's "technical information service" by which he steals inventions from developed planets and sells the technology to developing planets sounds an awful lot like the "technology transfer" we hear so much about from developing countries. Except that in the minds of these countries, they want the intellectual property of developed nations given to them for free. At least Mudd was able to derive some economic benefit from the patents.

Second, when Mudd justifies his theft of intellectual property by wrapping himself in the attractive-but-meaningless phrase "knowledge should be free to all," it's just so much like what the CopyLeft/A2K/IP skeptic activists say that I had to laugh out loud from the exercise bike when I heard it on the TV.

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