Six Shooters, Arcade Fire, and IP Hell

Today I want to speak about the anti-human, anti-liberty, anti-creative practice of IP, or Intellectual Property.  This commentary was inspired by the anti-human, anti-liberty, anti-creative band, Arcade Fire, who recently decided to sue a number of songwriters and musical acts because they used the 5-3-5 musical progression.

This article originally published here;

From the article:

“After careful and sometimes agonizing consideration,” says Jared Fleming, Arcade Fire’s longtime lawyer, “the band contends their signature ‘Wa-oh-wa-oh’ sequence has been plagiarized by several top acts, and therefore seeks fair and just compensation.” Arcade Fire claim that artists from Katy Perry to Fall Out Boy owe their success in part to their wrongful use of the euphoric snippet. Proof, they say, comes in the form of their 2004 hit “Wake Up,” which showcases the rousing sequence, which the band created in the summer of 2002 in a church in Montreal that served as their rehearsal studio. A video of the precise creative process has been submitted as evidence along with their legal actions.

Read my article on this news here:

Arcade Fire’s ‘Millenial Whoop’ Lawsuit Demonstrates All that is Wrong with IP


Here’s a link to that video that inspired these litigious fascists to file their suit:

Arcade Fire’s ‘Millenial Whoop’ Lawsuit Demonstrates All that is Wrong with IP

I want to now tell you the story of a man who made a simple discovery, allegedly (though there’s some debate that French designers beat him to it).  That discovery was this, to make a cylinder for a revolver that would allow for easy extraction of bullets.  And how did he do this?  Well, he decided to bore the hole the straight way through the cylinder.

For gun enthusiasts, you already know his name, it’s Rollin White.  His story is an important story in the tale of the anti-human, anti-liberty, anti-creative practice of IP, intellectual property.

Previously, most revolvers were still using black powder cap and ball ammunition.  The ball, along with wadding and black powder, was loaded into each hole of a cylinder.  The other side of the cylinder was closed, with a nipple on the other side of each hole where a cap would be placed.

With the rise of rimfire and centerfire cartridges, the nipple was replaced by a slightly larger hole to allow the firing pin at the end of the hammer to strike the bullet and trigger an explosion.  In 1855, Rollin White, then working for Samuel Colt, designed a revolver so that the bore went all the way through, enabling the bullets to be loaded and unloaded from the breech.

Samuel Colt didn’t see a future for cartridges, so he rejected it.  White filed for a patent called “Improving in Repeating Fire-arms.”  He then signed an agreement to give Smith & Wesson exclusive rights for the patent.  He received $500 and $.25 for every gun sold.  But, and this was the ultimate undoing of White, he had to defend every patent violation.

Many gun manufacturers gambled that the patent would not hold up in court.  After all, there was a similar French Patent that had expired years before White’s American patent, and does anyone seriously believe that others would not have quickly figured out to bore the hole completely through the cylinder to make it easier to load and unload cartridges from a revolver?

Apparently, the courts did not, and they stuck to the letter of the law, with multiple gun manufacturers going out of business, and much innovation that could have taken place during this period of time being hampered by a patent that granted one company exclusive “rights” to manufacture effective revolvers.

White himself would be a victim of his own patent when he made his own revolvers in 1861.  He ended up making 4300 revolvers, closing down in 1864.  The plant was bought out by Lowell Arms Company, which then proceeded to continue to make the revolvers.  White had to use his own money to sue a different company to stop making the revolvers he created.

Some of the gun manufacturers affected by this patent were the Manhattan Firearms Company, Allen & Wheelock, National Arms Company and Merwin & Bray.  See a video on the Merwin & Bray revolver by Forgotten Weapons:

If you haven’t heard of them, it was in large part thanks to the patent lawsuits they had to defend.  Again, all of them assumed that no sane court would find that simply boring the hole through the whole cylinder would actually be recognized as a unique ‘patent.’

White applied for a patent extension in 1870, but was denied.  After making $70,000, and spending more in his obligation to defend his patent, White went to congress to get out of the obligation.  Congress passed the Rollin White Relief Act, which would have extended the patent and also relieved him from his obligation to Smith and Wesson (meaning he could sell the patent to another company).

Ulysses S Grant, the President at the time, vetoed legislation, citing his Chief of Ordinance, Alexander Bydie Dyer, who said, “its further extension will operate prejudicially to its interests by compelling it to pay to parties already well paid a large royalty for altering its revolvers to use metallic cartridges.”

There was also animosity against White, whose patent, Dyer argued, prevented Union forces from having more effective centerfire cartridge rifles during the Civil War.

Rollin White died in 1892, penniless and broken, and now, outside of gun enthusiast circles, largely forgotten.  In essence, he was hoisted on his own petard.

And so too, now, Arcade Fire has entered into the IP fray, attempting to lock down a phrase that utilizes one of the simplest progressions in music, the 5-3-5, which is, by the way, essentially going back and forth in major thirds (for you music theory practitioners).  What could be for Arcade Fire a glorious recognition of influence over a whole generation of music is destined to become, for them, a life in courts, litigating, defending the un-defendable and, even beyond what White had to suffer, facing rising enmity from everyone in the music industry, and the fans not just of their music, but the fans of the musicians they are now targeting.

IP is, was, and always will be a control over competition, one in which the biggest and the richest reigns supreme over anyone who might dare take someone else’s idea and produce something better than the original designer had intended.

As far as can be seen, White was a one-trick pony who stumbled upon a good idea, one that he doesn’t even appear to have done first.  He was, as we call them today, a patent troll.  He ended up sapping all of his energy, effort, creativity to defend what should never have been defended.  Who knows what other innovative designs he might have come up with if he hadn’t decided to defend what should never be defended, alleged ownership of an idea, an idea that is ALWAYS a part, as my friend Andrew Marich likes to say, of the human aggregate.

Arcade Fire is opening up the door to head down the same path as Rollin White, but, unfortunately, the argument among most people is NOT against the anti-human, anti-liberty, anti-creative practice of IP, but ONLY against designating the 5-3-5 musical progression a patentable idea.  Just like in White’s time, the argument by other gun manufacturers was not against IP, but against an idea as simple as boring the hole completely through the cylinder being a patentable idea.

Unless and until ‘we’ have significant numbers of people who choose not to cower before competition and demand earthly kings with lethal force to protect them from that competition, the age of the IP will proceed forward, still hampering innovation, still destroying creativity, still protecting those who should not be protected.

About Paul Gordon 2943 Articles
Paul Gordon is the publisher and editor of iState.TV. He has published and edited newspapers, poetry magazines and online weekly magazines. He is the director of Social Cognito, an SEO/Web Marketing Company. You can reach Paul at

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