Friday, October 10, 2008

Patents and Copyrights vs Web Traffic (guest Post by Amir Michail)

(Guest post by Amir Michail)

Title: Patents and Copyright vs Web Traffic

Software patents are intended to reward innovation, especially by startups with limited resources. But in today's Web 2.0 world of social sites such as twitter, a service is more useful when it has more users. Even if the implementation contains something that is worthy of a patent, getting such a patent is not particularly important because the service will generally have an overwhelming advantage over its clones in terms of number of users -- new users will generally pick the service with the most users, thus resulting in much more web traffic growth for the original service.

Similarly, one could argue that copyright is unnecessary on the web -- those who copy are unlikely to get anywhere near as much web traffic as the original source. For example, someone may copy posts verbatim from a popular blog, but it is unlikely that he/she will get anywhere near as much traffic. In particular, people already linked to the original source, thus giving it higher PageRank.

Admittedly, there are occasions where things don't work out like this and where patents and/or copyright would have been helpful. Consequently, we could have a law that requires search engines to provide a link back to the original source if any for each search result. This would be done using a completely automated heuristic matching algorithm. In this way, those who copy are even less likely to get anywhere near as much traffic as the original source.

6 comments:

  1. It seems to me the wrong way around.
    Indeed a very popular site probably does not need copyright protection.

    However imagine that this site is copying the contents from some unknown blogger. The blogger might be happy with the exposer. However it might be very annoying if he didn't get any credit and someone is using his work for their own profit.

    Finally what would you do if you found some of your work in a corporate related publication (without any reference and without your permission). Is there anything you can do? What if they contribute money to your university?

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  2. However imagine that this site is copying the contents from some unknown blogger. The blogger might be happy with the exposer. However it might be very annoying if he didn't get any credit and someone is using his work for their own profit.

    Search engines would be required to provide a link to the original source (if any) in search results. In this way the unknown blogger will be more known and will make money via the copy.

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  3. What about political sites?

    Could you elaborate? What's special about political sites?

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  4. Assume that the site quoting you is dedicated to a political party you oppose and they are using your stuff to promote their goals.

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  5. While it is true that there is a feedback loop inherent in ranking highly for a particular term in a search engine ("the rich get richer", link-wise - or Dorogovtsev's "popularity is attractive"), to count on the first-mover-advantage provided by "PageRank" (which, itself, is only a single factor in what determines results for a particular query at Goog) is quite short of a guarantee of placement for a particular query...

    The idea of placing the burden on and (worse!) the responsibility with search engine companies to both determine and enforce some derivative "copyright" concept is a bad one - workable or not (and, I suspect, not - see also RIAA/MPAA vs The Internet).

    At any rate, there are already a number of algorithms in place which attempt to determine, loosely, "originality" - in order to deal with the problems of duplicate documents or cookie-cutter content cluttering up the index. (None of them are terribly efficient, even in more defined indexes such as Scholar.)

    -t

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