Since the first unlettered hominid used a twig to extract termites from a dry log, nervously yet inquisitively watched by another hominid who shrewdly discerned that using the same method would allow him to increase his own termite intake to a more satisfactory level, human innovation began to spread from individual to individual until we reached such a plane that even undergraduates can open tins of spaghetti hoops. Innovation without imitation is a fine motto for any intelligent species out there in the cosmos which is content to progress no further than nudity and raw termites.
Many people, however, now unquestioningly accept the relatively recent notion that an innovation is the intellectual property of the person who first devised it – or, rather, who first registered it with some bureaucrats and paid the government a fee, in exchange for which the state enforces a monopoly of the idea. Nevertheless, it remains controversial: after all, anything capable of inspiring the fanatical support of both Ayn Rand and the kind of corporatist rent-seekers whom she tore to pieces in Atlas Shrugged must logically be subject to some muddled thinking somewhere. We are grateful, therefore, to Elon Musk, whose announcement that he will not sue anyone who uses his electric automotive technology gives us this opportunity to consider the principles behind copyright and patent law. Read more
Our favourite kind of headline: “Judge rules for pragmatic trade-off between European and UK courts,” a fun consequence of which is that successful complainants will have to give an undertaking to return any compensation later in case the European Patent Office subsequently decides that it disagrees with the decision of a British judge. This is apparently designed to promote commercial certainty. Looking for something to say about the British lawyers’ collaboration with the deranged interlayering of our legal system with Europe’s, or indeed their American cousins’ contortions in favour of the constitutionality of everything from the income tax to Obamacare, one turns of course to Uncle Jack:
“The most eminent lawyers have been fee’d, to find mistakes and flaws in patents, granted for the security of the liberties of the subject, and which for ages have been esteemed not only valid but even sacred.” Read more
Said the Mugger of Mugger-Ghaut, according to his biographer Mr R Kipling, “I am no faithless, fish-hunting Gavial, I, at Kasi today and Prayag tomorrow, as the saying is, but the true and constant watcher of the ford. It is not for nothing, child, that the village bears my name, and ‘he who watches long’, as the saying is, ‘shall at last have his reward’.” A fine paean to constant vigilance, to be sure, but one which would be more impressive had the Mugger of Mugger-Ghaut not been shot to bits with an elephant gun at the end of the story.
It is an ending worth the consideration of the Indian state, whose security measures we have recently been enjoying. The country’s government is apparently determined to demonstrate to startled visitors that it can blithely exceed its western counterparts in going berserk for security, but in an age when blameless American citizens are legally tortured by the police for standing oddly or, like Miriam Carey, riddled with bullets for driving too close to the Presidential Palace, and when innocent Brazilians are killed by British police for running-while-brown and every London lamp-post is a veritable hedgehog of CCTV cameras, India might do better to conclude that the old Anglophone powers have clearly gone glass-chewingly insane and strike out on a different path. Read more
“Beauty,” wrote Oscar Wilde, “is a form of Genius – is higher, indeed, than Genius, as it needs no explanation. It is one of the great facts of the world, like sunlight, or springtime…It makes princes of those who have it.” This may have been the view of Primitive Man before the advent of human rights, but no longer, as recently discovered by Abercrombie and Fitch, a purveyor of expensive cotton t-shirts with advertising on them popular with parentally-funded undergraduates. Some bureaucrats were outraged to discover that the company has been trying to sell clothes by hiring attractive people to wear them, and have started an investigation by the human rights watchdog.
This may prove to be good news for us, since an appearance suggesting some of the less prepossessing creatures in Star Wars will no longer be an impediment to landing a job at Abercrombie, thus marginally improving our employment prospects. On the other hand, we are less pleased to discover that we live in a society in which the physical allure of t-shirt sellers is an issue for politicians, bureaucrats and the courts, reminding us once again that the Whig-Liberal model of society and the state is sunk like Avalon. Read more
European Arrest Warrant, forsooth. Always apply the John Wilkes Test to any procedural aspect of criminal justice:
“To take any man into custody, and deprive him of his liberty, without having some seeming foundation at least, on which to justify such a step, is inconsistent with wisdom and sound policy. If, upon examination (which, surely, the common feelings of humanity would suggest ought to be as speedy as possible), that foundation proves weak, then to detain those persons, or to oblige them to give in bail, in order to obtain a discharge, which, under such circumstances, they have a right to in the most free and absolute manner, is inconsistent with justice.”
The North Briton, No. 27, December 4 1762.
Khat – a kind of flowering shrub native to the Red Sea littoral – produces some unpleasant-looking leaves which have been chewed socially for thousands of years by people who enjoyed architecture and poetry when the English were still living in forests on the wrong side of the North Sea. Yet we descendants of those same woodland savages have now decided, through the worthy deliberations of Home Secretary Theresa May, to make its supply punishable by fourteen years’ imprisonment.
According to her own expert advice, the mild stimulant effects are mostly harmless, and far less to write home about than alcohol and tobacco. Still, reluctant to let an innocent pleasure go unpunished, the state has ignored this advice and banned it anyway. Daily life for most of us will go blithely on as before, but our rightful dominion over our own affairs, already a shrunken and feeble thing, just got a little smaller. Conversely, Theresa May’s dominion over us is correspondingly bigger, and we can not be alone in suspecting that this does not represent a major step forward for civilisation. Read more