Against Intellectual Monopoly – some exciting new installments

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Last Christmas I was doing some writing on intellectual property and got interested in how James Watt was a bit of a forerunner of Bill Gates.

Microsoft bought MS-DOS and built an empire out of it. James Watt did better, and introduced an important innovation, but his was an important incremental innovation which became as successful as it was by virtue of Watt’s being in cahoots with a well connected fellow (I think in London) who convinced Parliament to double his patent life (though it was quite unnecessary to seeing the innovation through to production.

Watt and Bolton were then ruthless in ruining at least one entrepreneur who introduced a superior engine, and no doubt scared off several others. Anyway, having thrashed around in my usual inefficient way for way too long trying to write up this story as a prelude to a discussion of IP, I became thoroughly disheartened by reading what Michele Boldrin and David K. Levine had written in their book Against Intellectual Property.

In their first few pages they’d covered the story and its implications in vastly less space and at least with the impression of taking vastly less time than my own effort. Their book is marvelous and just as Dickens published his great novels in installments, you can be part of this book’s being written.

A year ago four chapters were written. I’ve kept an eye on it ever since and all of a sudden there are (I think) another three chapters up there. For those who are interested enjoy! I’ve not read the new chapters, but the old ones are terrific.

Oh and the picture – that’s the first steam engine we know of – invented by Hero in the first century AD.

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