Wednesday, 16. May 2012

Ask Slashdot: What If Intellectual Property Expired After Five Years?

As a thought experiment, what if the constitution of the U.S. was amended so that no idea (with exceptions only for government use, like currency) could be protected from copy or use beyond January 1, 2035 for more than a five-year period. After a five-year span, any patent, software license, copyright, software NDA or other intellectual property agreement would expire. (This is not an entirely new idea, but would have had significant recent ramifications if it had been enacted in the past.) Specific terms are up for debate, but in this experiment businesses must have time to try to adjust to sell services and make the services good enough to compete with other businesses offering the same basic products. Microsoft can sell a five-year-old variant of OSX, Apple can sell Windows 2030. Cars, computers and phones would, or at least could, still be made, but manufacturers would be free to use any technology more than five years old or license new technology for a five-year competitive edge. Movie, TV and book budgets would have to adjust to the potential five-year profit span, although staggered episode or chapter releases would be legal. Play 'What if' with me. What would be the downsides? What would be the upsides?

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