When did copying become creating?

Everyone knows the great Steve Jobs was a fan of the saying “Good artists copy, great artists steal.”

Don’t believe me? I have proof:

However, that doesn’t really apply here. Notice that the saying doesn’t have anything to do with who creates, and that, my friends, is the point of the patent lawsuit that Apple just won against Samsung. And soon against HTC.

Andy Ihnatko thinks this will stifle things. John Gruber nicely disagrees. I call bullshit. Complete and utter bullshit.

The only thing that stifles creativity is the patent laws themselves. The concept of a patent does not stifle. Nor does enforcing and owning your own ideas. Yes, that almost seems contradictory, but no no, my friend, it isn’t. Bear with me, this could take a while.

The current U.S. Patent system rewards people for coming up with an idea, and it used to reward those who came up with it first, now it rewards those who file for the patent on the idea first. Which is also utter bullshit, but that’s a digression that is best summed up by this interesting tidbit: did you know that the system called Postscript by Adobe, which is the most accurate way to reproduce font-faces and page layouts. It’s super powerful, and, in fact, does some really amazing things with fonts, so amazing, that its copyrighted, but not patented. You know why it’s not patented? Because patents are published, and then after they are published, everyone can see how you do what you do and then, BAMMO, your patent expires and your competition can use your invention. Which is how patents are supposed to work. You make something that improves things for everyone, and you solely benefit from it for a while, then it becomes public. That’s patents. Adobe never bothered patent PostScript because they didn’t want it to ever be public. Which was smart when it was still “invent first, and it’s yours”. Now that it’s publish the patent first and it’s yours, I’m wondering how long Adobe can keep leaving this core technology out of the patent office. Adobe, you might want to think on that. Prior art is one thing, but when the prior art is so long ago that it can be disputed who did what, it could very easily be a mess for Adobe that they should never have to deal with. But again, this is a digression.

Regardless, the idea of a patent itself, and more specifically, the patents that Apple has asserted against Samsung, do not stifle creativity. They stifle copying and theft, but we, as a society, have made it clear that we’re ok with that. “Don’t steal” is pretty common, and “Don’t copy” isn’t terribly far behind.

We regard creating as a magic, tho. And some people suck at it. Some organizations suck at it. And others, who think that copying and stealing is somehow creative, get pissed when the only way they know is now blocked to them.

Tough shit.

Samsung is now being told that if they want to build phones, they need to build something new, think outside the iBox and do their own thing. They should have been doing this all along. The problem is they fell for Android, and then tied themselves to it so tightly they didn’t even realize they were in a darkened iBox from the start. This isn’t a dig at Android, per se, simply because Android is what it says it is – an OS. It’s assumptions are made by Google, and if Google wants to make a cheap knock-off of iOS, by all means, go for it. When you add in that Samsung is making the hardware equivalent of Android (a cheap knockoff of the iOS devices) you see where trouble brews.

Now, ultimately, this problem birdy is going to come home to roost at Google. If anyone there thinks this lawsuit wasn’t about them, they are fucking stupid. Google needs to get this fixed, immediately. And they can. They are bright people, and they own the source code (even tho it’s “open”) and can make changes to avoid this issue. They could hire the right people to really think about the problem and find an excellent solution, with elegant UIs and touches, that doesn’t mimic iOS. I know they can, because let’s face it, fucking Microsoft, of all companies, figured out something new, and, astonishingly enough, awesome.


Yeah, that Microsoft. I don’t know that it’ll be a smashing success, but it’s innovative and different and smart and fun and interesting. Google should be able to do that, and if they can’t, there’s the source of the problems.

So no, Apple winning this lawsuit doesn’t stifle anything, unless you’re not creative and can’t come up with something new. And if you can’t, that’s fine. Don’t steal. Don’t copy. Don’t be a douchecanoe. Worse, don’t be the Microsoft of 1999.






Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.