I want to write an article on an article that Bill Gross wrote.
Mr. Gross runs the world’s largest bond investing fund. He is famous in the investment community. Recently, he wrote a very important article. It had a catchy title. I would like to share it with you. Unfortunately, I am not allowed to. At the end of the article, in bold face type, we read this:
No part of this material may be reproduced in any form, or referred to in any other publication, without express written permission. Pacific Investment Management Company LLC, 840 Newport Center Drive, Newport Beach, CA 92660, 800-387-4626. ©2013, PIMCO.
I would provide a link to this important article, but I have not cleared this with Mr. Gross.
I find it fascinating that Mr. Gross takes time every month out of his busy schedule, which involves managing several billion dollars’ worth of clients’ money. He does this in order to be read. Then he places a major restriction on anyone actually telling others about what he has written.
I picked up the phone and called an old friend of mine. I would tell you his name, but he is a lawyer specializing in copyright. He will not allow me to mention his name unless I get written permission. He refuses to give it. I therefore will give only his initials: CF. That stands for Copyright Fairy.
This is not a verbatim transcript. I am not allowed to quote him verbatim. This is my version of what he said.
GN: CF, I am wondering about Bill Gross’s copyright restriction. Can you shed any light on it?
CF: Of course. It’s standard boilerplate. I have it in a Word text file. Every copyright lawyer does.
GN: What do you charge clients to use it?
CF: I charge $5,000. But newcomers charge as little as $1,000.
GN; You mean to tell me that someone pays you $5,000 to insert this short clause at the end of his article?
CF: You bet.
GN: But why?
CF: To scare off anyone who would steal a client’s ideas or words.
GN: But it’s not possible to get a court to convict someone who summarizes someone else’s ideas.
CF: You know that. I know that. But clients are dumber than dirt when it comes to legal issues. So they pay me $5,000.
GN: I’m in the wrong business.
CF: You sometimes let Lew Rockwell run your articles for free. You surely are in the wrong business.
GN: But people read my articles on his site.
CF: But you don’t get paid.
GN: But I want people to read my articles.
CF: Then don’t expect to be paid.
GN: Don’t your clients want people to read what they write?
CF: Of course.
GN: Then why do they pay you $5,000 to insert that prohibition?
CF: To protect themselves.
GN: From what?
GN: Lawsuits from what?
CF: From lawyers who sue them on behalf of clients.
GN: On what grounds?
CF: On the grounds that some jury might convict and impose a really big penalty.
GN: A penalty for what?
CF: For damages.
GN: Damages for what?
CF: For whatever a lawyer can convince the jury of.
GN: So, if the writer inserts your $5,000 prohibition at the end of all articles, he won’t get sued?
CF: He can always get sued. But the bold-faced prohibition sends a message.
GN: What message?
CF: That the writer has hired a high-powered lawyer.
GN: How does a plaintiff’s lawyer know this?
CF: Because the prohibition says this: “Caution. Yes, this author is dumber than dirt, judicially speaking. He wants people to read his articles, but then refuses to let readers refer to these articles without first contacting his legal department. Cognitive dissonance? Big time! But he has enough money to pay a lawyer to provide a boilerplate prohibition. Any lawyer smart enough to con an author into paying for this is one smart cookie. Don’t mess with him. You’ll lose.”
GN: So it’s a kind of insurance policy.
GN: But is the clause enforceable?
CF: At some price.
GN: You are starting to sound like an economist.
CF: It’s the other way around.
GN: What do you mean?
CF: Modern economics came out of law schools. Mises got his degree in law. So did Hayek. Back then, there were no economics departments.
GN: So, you mean economists sound like lawyers.
CF: The clever ones do. Look at R. H. Coase. Look at Gary Becker. They won back-to-back Nobel prizes. Why?
GN: Because they sound like lawyers?
CF. Exactly. You have written about this. They think that judges are like God. Judges have something equivalent to omniscience, they teach. And what are judges?
GN: Lawyers with the power to have you fined, jailed, or executed.
(For the rest of this article, click the link.)