Technology companies adore patents.
They gobble them up like Pac-Man snacking on digital pellets.
And they use the patents like clubs to bludgeon everyone and anyone who dares “to violate” them. Patent battles are making headlines everywhere. As a recent Boston Globe article noted:
“Patents have become a costly and controversial part of the business world: In every sector of the economy, companies spend an increasing amount of time defending, prosecuting, and worrying about the billion-dollar lawsuits that could be on the horizon. Seemingly overnight we have seen the rise of an entire class of companies – monetizers or so-called patent trolls – that do nothing but buy up existing patents and then sue manufacturers for violating them.”
Violate a patent and you’re in trouble.
Unfortunately – or maybe fortunately depending on where you sit – this type of litigious passion doesn’t exist for copyrights.
In fact, technology companies hate copyrights almost as much as they love patents.
This is because copyrights get in the way of technology. Google search depends of lots of content being online. Device manufacturers want news, sports, books, movies, songs and artwork to be readily available – for free of course – online. Without all of this great free content on the web – well, why would anyone be on the web?
So when artists, musicians, filmmakers, authors and other creatives want to strengthen copyright law so that they are paid fairly for their endeavors they are met with scorn from technology companies – and their hordes of rabid supporters.
“Content wants to free!” we’re told.
When artists last year supported the Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA), which would have given the U.S. government greater authority to fight copyright infringements online, you would have thought the legislation was crafted specifically to destroy the internet rather than to protect artists from having their works stolen.
Many technology companies, including Google and Wikipedia, went so far as to black out their websites in protest. Google went so far as to link SOPA to a tool oppressive regimes would utilize.
SOPA went down in flaming defeat. Global technology brands have a lot more clout – and better lobbying – than folk musicians.
Google and its ilk are all for open standards and free access to information – when that information is protected by copyright – and insist it will create a better informed and more innovative society.
Yet at the same time Google is pursuing dozens of patent lawsuits to protect its own intellectual property.
You decide, but I think the answer is obvious.