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Math You Can't Use: Patents, Copyright, and Software [Hardcover]

by Ben Klemens
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

November 28, 2005 0815749422 978-0815749424

This lively and innovative book is about computer code and the legal controls and restrictions on those who write it. The widespread use of personal computers and the Internet have made it possible to release new data or tools instantaneously to virtually the entire world. However, while the digital revolution allows quick and extensive use of these intellectual properties, it also means that their developers face new challenges in retaining their rights as creators. Drawing on a host of examples, Ben Klemens describes and analyzes the intellectual property issues involved in the development of computer software. He focuses on software patents because of their powerful effect on the software market, but he also provides an extensive discussion of how traditional copyright laws can be applied to code. The book concludes with a discussion of recommendations to ease the constraints on software development. This is the first book to confront these problems with serious policy solutions. It is sure to become the standard reference for software developers, those concerned with intellectual property issues, and for policymakers seeking direction. It is critical that public policy on these issues facilitates progress rather than hindering it. There is too much at stake.

Editorial Reviews


"This adds some interesting perspective to the debate about software patents." —Karl Friedrich Lenz, Lenz Blog, 1/18/2006

"Ben Klemens...cognetly spells out the arguments against softward patents, and also the next fronteir: Mathematical algorithm patents." — Butler Group Blog, 8/17/2005

"Regardless of where you stand on the software and process patent issue, this book is worth a read and should be on every software developer's and manager's bookshelf." —William Wong, Electronic Design Online, 5/24/2006

"Klemens' book is interesting and engaging. It is also ultimately an important contribution to the debate over the appropriate means to protect the fruits of the innovation economy." — Canadian Business Law Journal

About the Author

Ben Klemens is a guest scholar at the Center on Social and Economic Dynamics at the Brookings Institution, where he writes programs to perform quantitative analyses and policy-oriented simulations. He also consults for the World Bank on intellectual property in the developing world and computer-based simulations of immigration policy.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 181 pages
  • Publisher: Brookings Institution Press (November 28, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0815749422
  • ISBN-13: 978-0815749424
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,865,222 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Book Review December 26, 2005
By ViSa
by Ben Klemens
pp. 181, Brookings Institution Press, Washington D.C., 2005

It is the ideas of inventors that drive the continuous technological progress in our societies. It then becomes important to ask if these inventors are getting the right incentives to innovate. What rights should an inventor be allowed to have over his invention/idea? Is his idea his alone? or is the idea anyone's who understands it? What does it mean to own an idea? The question of whether the "fugitive fermentation of an individual brain*" is a public good or the justifiably exclusive property of the individual brain is clearly an urgent one given the value we place on technological progress.

The subtleties of what constitutes an intellectual's excludable property and what constitutes the general public's property are usually outside the grasp of the general non-specialist crowd. Even amongst specialists (economists, computer people and so on) the discussions on the subject remain constrained by disciplinary boundaries and jargon in the blind men and elephant sort of way. Economists shy away from conversations with computer scientists who generously return the favour. Stated differently, the problem is that few economists write video games and even fewer video game writers would like to be spotted reading economics texts. This is a pity because if economists and software writers could talk to each other what else but the market for intellectual property in computer software would they talk about? The good news is that Klemens is at least, an economist and as he points out several times, he did write a video game.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a book you can use... December 14, 2005
Klemens has a knack for bringing humour and spirit to a subject most people might be inclined to regard as dull (i.e., software patent policy) - as well as explaining why addressing that subject is crucial. His background as a trained economist and practicing computer programmer gives him inside understanding of both the theoretical policy debate as well as its practical impact on the work of coding. The book is an invaluable resource - and you'll love the banana protective device diagram.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The definitive book on software patents October 4, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I first read this book about five years ago, and ever since then I've been recommending it to people as the definitive case against patents on software. Some of the specific legal doctrines have, of course, been superseded by legal decisions handed down since 2005. But the book's conceptual framework remains valid, and I don't know of any good books that have covered the topic since then. And with the rise of patent trolls and renewed debate in Congress, the topic is more relevant than ever. Strongly recommended.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
MATH YOU CAN'T USE: PATENTS, COPYRIGHT, AND SOFTWARE uses the author's experience as a programmer and an economist to describe why modern intellectual property rights are in a big mess - and how to fix the problem. MATH YOU CAN'T USE could also have been featured in our computer section, but is highlighted here for its wider-ranging interest to any college-level collection containing not only legal and computer books, but holdings considering intellectual property rights, issues, and development protection.

Diane C. Donovan, Editor

California Bookwatch
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