Sunday, October 13, 2002

Andy writes:
Roger says the punitive judgment against Philip Morris is unreasonable. Yes, I'd agree, but that doesn't make it unconstitutional. State legislatures define what's legal and what isn't, and Fortune 500 companies can fend for themselves there. Courts shouldn't bail them out for refusing to back conservatives.

Roger claims "You need Fourier transforms to understand the uncertainty principle."
Hardly. From Roger's own link, the principle simply means "the better position is known, the less well the momentum is known (and vice versa)." Quantification adds little to this insight.

Re: the Coase theorem, Roger writes "It is just an observation."
Yes, like all of math and science.

In the Eldred v. Ashcroft copyright case, we all missed an argument that the copyright extension essentially creates inalienable interests contrary to the Rule Against Perpetuities (RAP), the Framers' intent, and Coase. The new copyright period is life of the creator plus 70 years. Assuming 30-year differences in generation, that leaves scattered grandchildren and great-grandchildren controlling the copyright, ultimately making it inalienable (if unsold until the end).

The RAP requires alienability within 21 years of the death of children, which in actuary terms would be about the life-plus-50 year period of the 1976 Act. The RAP does not require alienation, of course, but property taxes do. Copyright, lacking such taxes, creates practically inalienable property near the end of its term, and should not go beyond the RAP equivalent of life plus 50. This argument would have given the Court a way to differentiate the 1998 Act from the 1976 Act.

Though I could find nothing published on this, Coase reinforces the brilliance of the RAP in economic terms. Yet some states are quietly repealing RAP.

FYI, one scholar commented that the American revolution changed the view of property here from a political construct to a legal one. Anyone familiar with that? I suppose the Constitution does have strong clauses prohibiting government interference with property which were lacking before.

In QM, the wave function of a particle can be expressed as a function of position or as a function of momentum. One is the fourier transform of the other. Your statement of the uncertainty principle is just a crude statement of a property of fourier transforms. Theorems about fourier transforms give more precise quantitative info.

Andy cites the uncertainty principle as a example of a non-quantitative breakthrough. In fact, it is quite quantitative. As quantitative as any other breakthru I know. Does he think that a fourier transform is not quantitative?

In math and science, it usually takes a little more than an observation to win a prize. Mathematicians consider Nash's Nobel-prizewinning work to be his most trivial work.

So Andy would be hoping the US SC would find that the Constitution's "limited times" coincides with the ancient RAP limits? I doubt that would get any votes.

I guess the problem is that we need Breyer's vote, and Breyer thinks that invalidating the 1976 term extension would cause chaos. Breyer is nuts. Why should shortening a copyright cause any more chaos than extending a copyright? It is possible that contracts are written based on the expected life of the copyright, and that if a party misjudged the term, then he might have made a contract concession that he didn't need to make, and thereby lose money. But that can happen whether copyrights are made shorter or longer. No difference.

Perhaps Breyer was referring to the possibility that those who have been paying royalties on old works might suddenly demand their money back for what they paid since 1976. Yes, that might be chaos. But that would never happen anyway. Those people could have contested the 1976 law, and chose not to. There are statutes of limitations on contesting contracts. The SC would probably not invalidate the copyrights retroactively, but I don't think it would make much difference if they did.

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