16 February 2011

Yet Another Reason to Abolish IP

America’s favorite humor site explains why IP sucks:
The natural thought is to say, "Well, screw them, then. I'll just refill my cartridge or get a generic one that won't suffer from this defect." Yeah, you can't do that, either. The supplies for printers (such as ink cartridges) make for 90 percent of their profit, and the printer companies aren't willing to let that go quite so easily. Those chips that the printer companies (including HP, Lexmark, Canon and Epson) install on their cartridges also limit the use of aftermarket cartridges.
HP disables certain features on aftermarket ink, while Lexmark blocks it outright. One remanufacturer, Static Control, attempted to make a cartridge that mimicked the use of the "smart chip" that Lexmark puts on its ink, and was subsequently sued by Lexmark for violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
IP defenders would do well to remember that the rationale behind IP, as found in the constitution, was to encourage individuals and small businesses to take risks in inventing/innovating. The thinking was that if one were to be guaranteed monopoly control over his idea, at least initially, he would be inclined to pursue it, thus enriching and advancing society.

IP was never intended to be used to enrich mega-corporations; it was intended to encourage individuals to pursue risky ventures that would lead to social benefit. As such, the DMCA is, in this case, being used in a manner that is antithetical to the constitution.

Furthermore, IP law is harming consumers. Why should consumers be forced to pay a higher price for ink? Because large corporations want them to, and have successfully lobbied the government to ensure that they do. How, exactly, is this free market? How is this good for society, per the reasoning of the constitution?

Now, before people accuse me of being anti-business, it should be noted that my problem isn’t with businesses making a profit as much as it is with businesses using the government to distort the market in their favor. Were copyright law abolished, the price of printers would likely increase slightly while the price of ink would radically decrease. This is a more natural result, for there is absolutely no reason to assume that printer manufacturers must also produce printer cartridges (indeed, when one thinks of PC manufacturers, it is obvious that no manufacturer produces all the components used in assembly. Why should printer manufacturers be any different?)

Of course, it is impossible to know what results the free market will bring about. However, it is somewhat possible to know what results won’t occur. And, contrary to IP supporters, removing IP law will not cause the world to end. Actually, it will be better for consumers, and that’s reason enough for me to support its demise.

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