Thursday, May 31, 2012

Could This Patent Actually Be Beneficial?


For most of my life, I ignored/accepted it, but since I've become interested, every argument -- moral or practical -- that I've seen for "intellectual property" has collapsed under even nominal scrutiny. IP doesn't protect anything resembling justifiable claims to property rights, nor does it, as its supporters love to claim, "spur innovation."

At least not usually ... but I think I may have found the exception on the latter count.

The patent in question, granted to Sony last November, would seem to put Sony in the position of being able to demand that anyone wanting to put a TV/radio style commercial -- i.e. one that actually interrupts play for "a word from our sponsor" -- into a video game to get Sony's permission (presumably pursuant to an exchange of filthy lucre).

Setting aside the complete silliness of the patent claim itself (the "invention" they're trying to claim "ownership" of has been around for as long as media, whether it's a full-page ad in the middle of a magazine article, a reading of a list of sponsors between acts of a play, etc.), I can actually see it "spurring innovation."

To wit: If Sony goes all patent troll with this idiocy, trying to extort money from other game companies for the "privilege" of interrupting their games with commercials, those other game companies will probably come up with different, less intrusive ways to monetize their content through advertising.

I doubt that's the outcome Sony has in mind (and it's even possible that the patent is just "protective," to let them do their thing without fear of getting sued by some other troll), but it's one I can live with.

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