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Math You Can't Use: Patents, Copyright, and Software and over one million other books are available for Amazon Kindle. Learn more

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

8 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0815749424
ISBN-10: 0815749422
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"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.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 181 pages
  • Publisher: Brookings Institution Press (November 28, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0815749422
  • ISBN-13: 978-0815749424
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 6 x 9 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: #2,463,391 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By ViSa on December 26, 2005
Format: Hardcover
MATH YOU CAN'T USE
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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Format: Hardcover
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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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Zoe Konovalov on December 14, 2005
Format: Hardcover
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 3 people found the following review helpful By David.et.Sara Pritchard on January 13, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I am a computer scientist and mathematician who decided to read this book based solely on the title. I really enjoyed it and learned a lot, but in some cases the book was dated and I learned from googling around to see the current state of affairs.

The good stuff: explaining the initial history of patent law for software in a clear and interesting way. Talking about the distinctions between patents, copyright, and DMCA rights. Giving accurate indications of how software is generated collaboratively and how it evolves. Talking about what sort of transformations to code are trivial (changing languages, renaming, reordering). Continuing a pretty good distinction between interface and implementation and framing most of the legality around that.

The bad stuff: reducing all algorithms to math. As indicated in the title, the starting reasoning is that programs = math, and math can't be patented. But the = is a misleading over-simplification, in the sense that real devices are constantly interacting with users and hardware. Even comparing a Turing machine to a simple RAM device with no IO, there's a huge practical difference in running time between using a tape and using random access memory... and patents are mostly about practicality. Also, FPGAs seemed to be described inaccurately.

Badly hidden agenda: abolishing all software patents. In some places you may want to skip a paragraph or two of single-minded argumentation towards this goal.

Bottom line: This book makes me appreciate more of the news on patents. If you know lots of math/programming theory but not the business side, I highly recommend this book.

PS: Ben always talks about "programmers in the basement" of every company. Why do they all have to get basement offices? Who is working above-ground at Google?
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