One of the most important areas of policy for the pirate movement is that of patents. You know, the protection of inventions through rights and legislation. A bit like copyright, patents gives the creator/inventor rights to exploit the process or the object, and copycats can be sued. This may sound fair enough, but patens also cause damage. For example, if a medical company invents a new life-saving medicinal drug, they can patent it and thus control the distribution of it, which in turn means they can decide how much to charge for it and who can buy it. That limits the drug from being used by as many people as possible. Many will even die because they can’t get it or it’s too expense. Have you ever been to a pharmacy and the clerk asked you if you wanted a different medicine that had another name, but was cheaper, and otherwise exactly the same as the more expensive drug? That’s your advantage – the patent isn’t in effect anymore, so anyone can make that drug! Competition is good for mankind.
Patents is a huge thing in the medical business, but some patents are just idiotic, even if they are not about “important things”. Idiotic, but they should not be laughed at, because they display the problems of patents very clearly.
This time I’m talking about Amazon trying to get a patent for shooting still images against a white background, with the camera put on a table.
Is that even an invention? If the patent is not overthrown (it’s already approved), will you need to pay royalties to Amazon every time you photograph something against a white wall?
The reputable website Ars Technica sums the patent itself up like this (the highlight is mine, to emphasize what Amazon wants to have sole rights to):
The white-backdropped photo and video studio layout, which looks and sounds similar to basically every other photo studio in existence, includes: “A front light source aimed at a background, an image capture position located between the background and the front light source, an elevated platform positioned between the image capture position and the background, and at least one rear light source positioned between the elevated platform and the background.”
The patent, granted in March, even describes the use of a table: “A subject can be photographed and/or filmed on the elevated platform to achieve a desired effect of a substantially seamless background where a rear edge of the elevated platform is imperceptible to an image capture device positioned at the image capture position.” (Look out yearbook pictures everywhere.)
Amazon now appears to have control over putting a camera on a table and using a white wall or cloth as background. Keep that in mind when you take pics of your kids, folks.