That’s not exactly news to anyone, is it? Today’s installment is however, probably something you missed before, because I try to keep abreast of this and it was news to me.

A story originating on the Tech Dirt website yesterday elucidates the fact that many things patented and under the control of NASA are being sold off, by auction, instead of merely being licensed, which would continue to bring in revenue to a badly overextended central government.

One of the few good things in the US concerning copyright law was the decision to make sure that all federal government documents, that are released, are released into the public domain rather than covered by any sort of government copyright (such as crown copyright found in other countries). However, for some reason, the government has not done the same thing when it comes to federally funded research that is turned into patents. A couple of years ago, we questioned why NASA was auctioning off patents that were taxpayer funded. It appears that NASA doesn’t care. Ben points us to the news that NASA is about to auction off a bunch of other patents as well, including five patents around "automated software generation." There’s simply no reason not to put this research into the public domain where it can actually be used to benefit both commercial and non-commercial projects. By auctioning off a patent monopoly, it will almost certainly be using taxpayer-funded research to stifle innovation.

I happen to believe that the auctioning of the patents will not stifle innovation, but the sales of these things generally occur with little notice, and so things worth much are being snatched up at fire sale prices. I also find it annoying that ideas and processes are being sold to another entity which will certainly make for the general public paying once again for things they already have funded with tax dollars.

So putting this into the public domain, makes sense, since it was the public that paid for it. Allowing the information into the public arena will allow another level of innovation, by letting someone freely use one stepping stone to build another, allowing all of us to go further down the path to  a better life. Sometimes it is one small thing which spurs on the development of an idea, and by having the freedom to use something gratis, the inventor or developer could afford to try out things otherwise thought economically irresponsible.

Sometimes those economically irresponsible flights of fancy lead to great things, that were achieved because the worry of finance was temporarily lifted.

So, either the knowledge should be released freely, or licensed bringing in dollars to alleviate the government’s debt, but not auctioned to be used again against a public that continually gets too little for its dollars.

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The secret of creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.

Albert Einstein

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