Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Is a Recipe both a Factory and a Widget?

  • Avatar of Stephen Davis
    Stephen Davis September 22, 2014, 10:38 pm
    Ok. Is a recipe both a factory and a widget? What makes particular ideas, knowledge, information, patterns, recipes, etc. both a factory and a widget?

    When a pattern of information is itself a consumer good, it is a widget. When a pattern of information can be used to make identical copies of a consumer good, it is a factory. There are two different senses in which you might be asking about the possible intellectual property rights in a "recipe" - depending on whether you consider the recipe to be a consumer good itself, or merely an element in making a consumer good known as a "cake".

    Sense #1 - The Pattern Itself is a Consumer Good


    In one sense, a "recipe" can be like a story, written on paper. We would wonder if this particular recipe is sufficiently complex and large enough to warrant a copyright. If copies of the recipe could function as a consumer good, then in that sense the "recipe" is like a widget. Certainly a book with many recipes is unique and original enough to warrant a copyright, just like any other book. A book of recipes is like a widget.

    A book of recipes could also be like a factory, because you could use it to mass-produce book-copies. When used for mass-production, I refer to the book as one "book-master", to distinguish it from the many "book-copies".

    Sense #2 - The Pattern Itself is Not the Consumer Good 


    In a different sense, we might wonder about trying to own the underlying methods of cake-making described in the recipe. Such a property right would be a "patent". As we've discussed, I don't find patent to be valid, because a patent merely describes how homesteading could be done, but is not an act of homesteading itself.

    In this sense, a "recipe" is not like a widget, because you cannot eat the recipe.
    In this sense, the "recipe" does not give you the ability to mass-produce cakes. For that, you need a physical cake-factory and also a recipe. Thus, a "recipe" by itself is not like a factory.

    Cakes, Recipes, Methods and Songs 


    A song-copy is like a cake, because you can listen to a song-copy, just like you can eat the cake.  The song-master is like a cake-factory, because it can be used for mass-production of song-copies, just like a big physical building with lots of machines inside could be used for the mass-production of cake-copies.

    A songwriting instruction book "Methods for Writing Pop Songs" is like a recipe instruction book "Methods for Baking Great Cakes". We can copyright the pattern of information printed on the pages, but we cannot patent the underlying methods described.

    Kinsella has done such a thorough job at conflating copyright and patent, I likely will spend the rest of my natural life attempting to unravel his confusion.

    Logical Rule 


    Rule: If it contains the ability to make many identical copies of a good, then it is a factory. If not, then not.

1 comment:

  1. Brilliant work Alexander! I hope you are still pursuing this issue. Kinsella is potentially to copyright what Keynes was to economics. Let's hope he is not as successful. You mentioned a book. Hoping to find it and read more of what you have wriiten!