Protect the man behind the curtain

Nikola Tesla didn't reap financial rewards from his invention of the AC generator and he died in near poverty. Philo T. Farnsworth's patent ran out before television took off. Protection of intellectual property rights is important, whether we're talking about patents or copyrights. It's a travesty that people like Tesla and Farnsworth lived to see others grow wealthy on their efforts.

But how long should rights be protected? Rights lasting 90 years benefit only corporations like Disney, which got rich repurposing public domain properties like Pinocchio , Cinderella , and Snow White . Now Disney seems to be trying to preserve its rights to Mickey Mouse until well after the next ice age. The company seems to have some clout with the Supremes, who have extended copyrights to 95 years for works owned by corporations.

The ruling protects corporate rights to the films Casablanca and The Wizard of Oz and to the song “Happy Birthday to you,” the rights to which all belong to AOL Time Warner.

The protection and proper use of intellectual property has become increasingly murky, thanks in part to digitization and Internet distribution. If this topic gets your juices flowing, read Jack Ganssle's diatribe on digital rights in The DMCA and us. If you have an opinion on what can legitimately be described as a Mickey Mouse issue, you can respond directly to Jack or make your opinion known in the weekly poll.

Speaking of IP, do processors and instruction sets matter? Some say that evaluating processor chips based on their instruction sets is not worth the effort because most programmers don't know or care about the differences. Is that an accurate reflection of reality? Have high-level languages made CPU chips generic and interchangeable? Our panel of embedded experts thrash out the question here.

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