Category: Games

Should chess moves be subject to copyright?

There has been a controversy:

Last week, ChessBase was apparently ‘forced to cease Internet broadcasting of the Topalov-Kamsky match’. As we noted
in our report on the first match game, live broadcasting of the chess
moves in this match without permission was prohibited by the Bulgarian
Chess Federation (although they didn’t seem to have a problem with
Chessdom’s, Crestbook’s, ICC’s and TWIC’s live coverage). This has led
to heated discussions on this site. The key question here is: can you copyright a chess move at all?

Plus this is transmission over the internet, so which law applies?  As I understand U.S. law, you can put chess moves into a book and the players have no rights to residual income from that book.  Which is how it should be.  Transferring income to chess players is not a goal per se.  Useful chess books usually contain many games, and requiring rights permission would make the volume harder to assemble.

Maybe grandmasters would play more games, or play better games, if they could charge for rights of reproduction.  When it comes to playing more games, I suspect there is already an ample supply of games and easy reproduction will do more to increase real consumption than spurring more contests over the board.  If anything is underproduced, it is the salience of the games which have been played (take a game between two 2550 players and call it "Clash of the Titans" and produce more excitement; most chess players won't know the difference between that and a game between the two best players at 2770.) 

And better chess?  I believe the effort elasticity is low with respect to residual rights income from reporting of the games.

Comparable debates have been held over residual rights to reporting real time stock prices and NBA scores.

Try to predict shifts in relative prices!

Matt Yglesias asks:

Brad DeLong observes
“In Agatha Christie’s autobiography, she mentioned how she never
thought she would ever be wealthy enough to own a car – nor so poor
that she wouldn’t have servants.”

This kind of thing gets a bit hard to get one’s head around when
thinking about the future. What do you think will be the equivalent 100
years from now of Agatha Christie’s car and servants?

I await your answers.

Odd terms

Isn't it funny how they call them the "toxic assets"?  OK, a lot of them aren't worth very much.  But would it not be better to speak of the "toxic liabilities"?  This may sound like a semantic point, but the toxic assets terminology breeds the idea that the mere creation of a "bad bank," built from these assets, will boost the financial system.  It won't.

Overpaying for the toxic assets is another matter entirely.  Yves Smith, by the way, has a good critique of current bank aid proposals and of course Paul Krugman has been making related arguments.  The frightening thing is that many brilliant people — such as those on the Obama team — think this is the best we can do, all constraints taken into account.  We'll see, as they say.

The other development is the proposal to limit executive pay to $500,000 for any bank taking "large amounts" of bailout funds; maybe that is the secret plan for keeping the bailout plan affordable.  The drawback is that it discourages relatively healthy banks from using the funds to buy out the sick banks which, although it sounds inappropriate, is actually one of the better chances for making the program work.

The median voter theorem, in action


Steven Chu, the Nobel laureate scientist who is President-elect Obama’s choice to be energy secretary, said in testimony prepared for his Senate confirmation hearing Tuesday that high oil prices were a threat to the economy, backing away slightly from statements made in his last job, as director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, that gasoline prices should be higher.

Here is the story.  Technically speaking, all of his words are correct and do not contradict each other.  Still, if he can't get appointed for favoring higher gas prices, and in a honeymoon period at that…well…you see where this is headed.

More Krugman-Bush captions

Sadly typepad is slow with some comments, I believe due to a switch of platforms (you’ll notice some funny formatting and spacing in some posts as well; our apologies).  Some of the Krugman-Bush photo captions are still not up but I wanted to pass along a few of my not-yet-published favorites.

Can you show me that ‘push on a string” trick again?

Paul, I did everything I could to make that book of yours,
The Return of Depression Economics, a bestseller.

Boy, did we put one over on those gullible Americans

“I’m glad this is almost over, he must not understand what I

“They think we actually believe the $hit we say; pretty
funny, huh?”

My favorite is: “So Paul, ever been to Cuba before?”

If you think you can beat these, please let further suggestions in the comments on this post.