Infinite Supply, the Problem with Copyrights & Patents

January 2, 2007 · Posted in abundance, copyright, economics, patent · 2 Comments 

In a comment to Economics Of Abundance Getting Some Well Deserved Attention a reader complained that there isn’t an infinite supply of good books, good music, and movies. This is flatly false, there’s an infinite supply of any intellectual property and it can be mathematically proven. How is that for being emphatic?

Don’t fear I’m going to back up that statement and do the following:

  1. Prove there is an infinite supply of information.
  2. Show some reasons why Copyrights & Patents are logically flawed.
  3. List one form of intellectual property that is real and very valuable.

Digital media makes my point very clear. When you digitize a song, book or movie you convert it into numbers. And how many numbers are there? Infinite, you can keep counting forever. Computers store everything as a series of electrical impulses. We think of those as 1’s and 0’s. So inside a computer the music, videos, books and everything else is just a big number.

If you converted the phrase “infinite supply” into a stream of ones and zeros the way the computer sees it this is what it looks like:

01101001 01101110 01100110 01101001 01101110 01101001 01110100 01100101 00100000 01110011 01110101 01110000 01110000 01101100 01111001

As you look at that I’m sure it looks like a meaningless number. And that is the point. That phrase, “infinite supply” is just a meaningless number to a computer. Now look at this article. Up to this point it is 1,462 letters. When I save it on my computer it’s converted to a stream of 1’s and 0’s, it’s just a number. And like every number you could start at 1 and count up to the number equivalent of this article.

To count to the number that represents “infinite supply” you would pass “infinite supplx” and “infinite supplw”. You would also pass “supply”, “infinite”, “finite”, “in” and “a” and every possible combination of letters up to the 15 letter combination that make “infinite supply”. That is 2,954,312,706,550,833,698,643 combinations if we only include the letters “a” through “z” and blank space.
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