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Stop, thief!

Just because you buy something, you don’t really think you own it, do you?

As a good American, I stand forever vigilant in my struggle to increase corporate profits. As such, I am inspired by the creative solutions of many companies protecting their intellectual property. Consider Intuit’s recent adoption of a Microsoft-like product activation strategy to make sure you don’t install TurboTax on two computers. Or Lexmark’s special toner cartridge chip, fighting the good fight against third-party printer suppliers.

From such inspirations come these suggestions for other companies seeking to control the way we use the products we buy–excuse me, license–from them.

Computers

An estimated 65 percent of all personal computers are used in business, and a full 15 percent of those businesses make a profit. Where is the computer manufacturer’s rightful share of that profit? Is it in the PC’s licensing agreement? Who knows? No known mortal has ever read an entire licensing agreement.

If it’s there–and it should be–it must be enforced. That’s why I’m advocating a special chip in each motherboard that analyzes your financial documents and automatically downloads funds from your bank account.

Scanners

Scanners lack an aftermarket. Once you’ve bought a scanner, you don’t have to buy anything for it. That’s bad planning and bad economics. And that’s why companies like HP and Epson must start selling special scanner paper with their own unique, copyrightable watermarks.

Not that the scanners should be designed to work only with properly-marked paper–that would be bad publicity. Other, inferior papers could be used, but they would cause the scanner’s resolution to drop to one point per square inch.

Modems

Here’s a frightening statistic: Most users still access the Internet via old-fashioned dial-up modems, yet every modem on the market can call any ISP in the world. The only possible solution is to…OK, you saw that one coming.

But think of the advantages. Not only would modem manufacturers receive kickback fees from the grateful ISPs, but they’d sell more modems. After all, people would have to replace their current model every time their ISP folded–think of how profitable that would have been two years ago!

Audio CDs

We all know one of the dangers inherent in the audio CD format: People make copies, share them with friends, even post them on the Internet as MP3 files. Worst of all, many CDs can actually be played on more than one player! That’s right–someone can play the same music on the living room stereo, a Discman, and a car. In fact, there is nothing to stop a consumer from playing that CD with another person in the room!

The solution is cdvx, a new CD technology that checks with the record company before it plays on a particular machine. Not only will this confine the audio playback to a particular stereo system, but if it senses more than one warm-blooded presence in the room, one of them must die.

Automobiles

Is an automobile intellectual property? Of course it is. After all, my Saturn came with an entirely different instruction book than my wife’s Dodge. So why do they both take the same type of gas?

It’s high time that General Motors takes a cue from Microsoft and gets into the oil and road construction business. Think of the possibilities: GM comes out with a new engine and a new gasoline, promising that the new gas will work with any car. But on the road, the gas knocks loudly and gets lousy mileage on anything but GM’s latest models.

GM would, of course, offer to help its competitors make their cars compatible, despite the new fuel’s 100-percent compatibility with old cars. In three years, just as other companies are bringing their compatible cars to market, the gas gets an upgrade.But the gasoline improvements will be nothing compared to the new, intelligent roads, which will recognize a car by the tread of its tires (intellectual property if ever there was any). Spikes in the road will rise to meet all “inappropriate” tires.

Books

Did you know that when a person buys a book, he or she can read it over and over again, lend it to others, and even give it away? In fact, cities all over the world have special, municipally-funded buildings where anyone at all can borrow a book for free. Talk about creeping socialism!

What’s more, a high proportion of books–mostly those written before the last century (yes, there were people back then)–are in the public domain. Anyone can legally copy them! Fortunately, that problem is being dealt with by the major publishing companies now asking Congress to extend copyrights back to the time of Plato.

But that doesn’t solve the severe problem of people sharing books with others. Licensing agreements are clearly ineffectual. Some publishers have considered chips that track how many times a book is opened before setting it on fire, but there are insurance issues.

In the final analysis, there is probably no safe technology that will allow corporations to completely control the flow of books. That leaves us only one option: They must be banned.

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