September 5, 2013
Copy Rights and Wrongs
There are a litany of copyright and patent infringement stories that can be found online. You can find large and small cases, or general or specific cases, but you will definitely not find a shortage of these cases with one Google search. While going through various articles regarding infringement, I was very interested to find an article regarding Red Box. Founded in 2002, Red Box did not become the booming business it has become today until a few years ago. And, of course, with the growth of any business comes law suits.
In June 2013, a man by the name of James Satchell filed suit against Red Box for apparently violating a patent that he filed and received in 1998. The source, WFSA, reported that Satchell’s son stated that, “Any vending machine that dispenses physical items and transactions using swipe cards, over the Internet are basically infringing on the patent.” (WFSA) The statement by Satchell can be tied back to “The Future of Ideas” by Laurence Lessig, in which Lessig quotes Davis Guggenheim; “if any piece of artwork is recognizable by anybody . . . then you have to clear the rights of that and pay” (Lessig 3) Though this quote is taken in the context of film production, it can be applied here as well in the respect that Red Box featured a piece of patented intellectual property of another person’s in their product, and therefore, they are liable for it. Another good quote from Lessig regarding film further clarifies why Satchell is filing a suit against Red Box. “[A]lmost every piece of artwork, any piece of furniture, or sculpture, has to be cleared before you can use it”
Since Satchell’s patented idea is being used by a now multi-billion dollar company, one has to believe that this supposed violation is very damaging if indeed Satchell did patent the idea he claims that Red Box is using, despite the fact that Satchell never really made any money off of it. This can be tied into Immanuel Kant’s article titled “What is the Enlightenment?” in which he talks about people being too reliant on the ideas of others to get through their lives thinking on their own. This quote may be a bit of a stretch but I think it is a good way to see what’s going on with this Red Box dispute from a somewhat abstract perspective. People are always trying to come up with fresh ideas in this tech-driven world, but it is getting tougher and tougher to come up with original ideas, so tweaking old ideas and bending them into something that looks original is what many people in today’s world do. People make little changes to older ideas in order to create new ventures and companies, but when we get to reliant on tweaking old ideas, we find that “it is very difficult for the individual to work himself out of the nonage which has become almost second nature to him. He has even grown to like it, and is at first really incapable of using his own understanding because he has never been permitted to try it.” (Kant)
Whether or not James Satchell wins his suit, it is clear that he had a patent for what Red Box is using. If Red Box used his idea but changed it in order to use it then maybe nice guys do finish last. I guess that is why God made us the way we are, sneaky, selfish, and money hungry. But take this quote from John Milton’s “Areopagitica”, in which he explains that good things would not be praised if God had made Adam an artificial human being. He speaks of virtue and how our reason gives us the power to decide to commit actions, whether they be good or bad.
“If every action which is good, or evill in man at ripe years, were to be under pittance,
and prescription, and compulsion, what were vertue but a name, what praise could be
then due to well-doing, what gramercy to be sober, just or continent? many there be
that complain of divin Providence for suffering Adam to transgresse, foolish tongues!
when God gave him reason, he gave him freedom to choose, for reason is but choosing;
he had bin else a meer artificiall Adam, such an Adam as he is in the motions. We
our selves esteem not of that obedience, or love, or gift, which is of force: God
therefore left him free, set before him a provoking object, ever almost in his eyes
herein consisted his merit, herein the right of his reward, the praise of his abstinence.
Wherefore did he creat passions within us, pleasures round about us, but that these
rightly temper’d are the very ingredients of vertu?” (Milton)