Thursday, December 17, 2009

Predator drones as victims of "intellectual property"

The Wall Street Journal today is reporting that:
Militants in Iraq have used $26 off-the-shelf software to intercept live video feeds from U.S. Predator drones, potentially providing them with information they need to evade or monitor U.S. military operations.
The article also tells of one difficulty in correcting the problem:
Predator drones are built by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. of San Diego. Some of its communications technology is proprietary, so widely used encryption systems aren't readily compatible, said people familiar with the matter.
Proprietary technology is a product of "intellectual property" which itself is an artifact of government intervention in the natural conduct of free trade for the benefit certain commercial interests. The real public interest lies with voluntary commercial standards promoting interchangeability of standardized components and competition based solely on price and quality of the products. Encryption technology does not need to be either secret or restrictively licensed to be effective. Indeed, this example shows that the opposite is true in practice.

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