If there’s one thing Schoolhouse Rock taught us all, it’s that the easiest way to explain a dry topic to someone with a short attention span is to show them a cartoon. So kudos to George Mason University economist Alex Tabarrok and Idea Rocket Animation for putting together this delightful two-minute clip laying out the case against software patents, a by and large nerds-only conversation topic that deserves way more attention than it receives. The video’s got Jeff Bezos, a club-wielding giant, Isaac Newton, a crashing airplane, and a surprisingly funny joke about licensing fees. Best yet, it’s explained in language anyone — even a Congressman — could understand.
Just in case those two minutes are too long, though, here’s Tabarrok’s point in brief: Patents make sense for products, like pharmaceuticals, that are expensive to develop, but cheap to copy. That’s because nobody would spend the money to create them if a competitor could just swoop in and steal their work. But software doesn’t need that protection. It’s less expensive to create and less disastrous if someone else imitates your work. Moreover, huge patent portfolios let companies keep competitors out of their market, which slows down innovation.