Rob Myers
Since 2003
Works in United States of America

Rob Myers is an artist and hacker based in the UK.

I have been creating images of the contemporary social and cultural environment through programming, design software and visual remixing since the early 1990s. My work is influenced by popular culture and high art in equal measures. My interest in remixing and sampling has led to my involvement in the Free Culture movement. I have been involved in the public consultation regarding the Creative Commons 2.0 and CC-UK licenses. All my visual art is available under a Creative Commons license.

My interest in programming has led to my involvement with the Free Software movement. I developed the Macintosh version of the Gwydion Dylan programming language compiler. All my software is available under the GNU GPL.
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If an artist is worried about people stealing their work, they need to talk to the gallery about getting security guards or improving the locks on the windows and doors. If an artist has confused "stealing" with people being inspired by their work, they probably shouldn't exhibit their work. Nobody is forcing them to. And if an artist has this confusion and still wants to exhibit their work while trying to force their audience, including other artists, to behave in a particular way then that isn't something anyone else should feel particularly bad about ignoring.

Coca Cola either won't care about an artist's idea or will have much more expensive lawyers and a much larger patent portfolio than than them. If receiving power and control over others is an acceptable substitute for participating in artistic society then politics or HR are probably better career options than art is.

Artists such as Picasso used the mass media and industrial manufacturing techniques in their work from the start of the 20th Century. What if they had infringed on an art method patent? We would not be discussing them now, and they would not have gained reputations that can be invoked in the name of IP Maximalism. The Mona Lisa has not become less valuable due to the endless millions of reproductions of it. Thomas Kinkade's work has not become artistically any better through reproduction either.

A world in which an artist asserts their authority (what authority???) over others is a world in which others are entitled to authority over them. Unless an artist feels that they will be one of the bosses in this brave new artistic culture they probably shouldn't try to bring it about. And if they do feel they will be one of the bosses, they are concerned with matters quite outside of what actually creates the value of art.

A mediaeval guild system of secret methods and masters is a poor fit to the open space of the Internet or to contemporary artistic society. It is not a solution to any actual problems faced by artists or society. And by trying to afford a few artists an economic advantage over their peers it furthers the cause of controlling and exclusionary legal creep in society as a whole.


Data visualization art

That's a good way of looking at it. Processing calls its projects "sketches", and there's a tradition of exploratory programming in software development and of prototyping in hardware development.

But I think that the core issue here is that sketches, and often works produced as academic coursework, are being exhibited as finished works. This isn't Impressionism, it's a category error.



Countries with weak intellectual property rights and enforcement such as the US prior to the mid 1970s can be economic powerhouses precisely because they are not hobbled by arbitrary restrictions on what people can think or make. China is in a similar position now, and unsurprisingly the US wants them to respect American IP rights to make them less competitive. So the argument that economic weakness correlates in any way specifically with weak IP law is incorrect.

Individuals are at a disadvantage to corporations with or without patents because of their relative economic power. Without patents, if I invent a new computer, Apple or Sun can simply copy it far faster than I can raise the funds required to make it myself. With patents, if I invent a new computer, Sun and Apple each have thousands of patents they can assert against me to prevent me making my new computer or to charge me for the privilege of making my own invention. In either case the problem is relative economic scale, and the moral high ground of being able to pay the tens of thousands of dollars it costs to draft a patent or the hundreds of thousands it costs to defend a patent is cold comfort for a private individual. The best you they hope for is to sell their idea to one of the big players, in which case they have basically agreed to take on the economic risk of corporate R&D without the economic or social rewards.

It is not bizarre that people can be compensated for benefiting society, but we are artists and if we think of ourselves in microeconomic terms we are clearly insane. Economically, we would make more money and benefit society more as plumbers, or if we suffer white collar delusions of grandeur as accountants.

What would be bizarre would be if people were compensated for preventing others from benefitting society. But that is precisely the practical effect of software and business method patents.



Quoting Jim Andrews <>:

> there should be recourse to overturn patents when the "invention" should not
> be patentable.

There are entire classes of "inventions" that are patentable that
simply should not be patentable. This means that every single
"invention" of this class should not be patentable. To make such
"inventions" patentable then allow some to be overturned is a category
error. Software and Business Methods should not be patentable, the
public harm this does outweighs any private benefit.

- Rob.



Quoting Jim Andrews <>:

> patents are only a threat to dullards.

That is untrue. Patent trolls are a threat to genuine innovators. And
the patentability of mathematics and concepts in software patents and
business method patents are a threat. This is true for both economic
and social implementation of both novel and established ideas.

> because they are quite particular. they're not general enough to be much of
> a concern to inquiring, original minds.

Patents are not particular, they are written in impenetrable legalese.

If you saw your own original creation represented as a patent you
wouldn't recognize it. I know, because I once had to help prepare a
patent for something I had created.

> so don't worry too much about them.

"We programmers are often amazed by the simplicity of the ideas that
real software patents cover--for instance, the European Patent Office
has issued a patent on the progress bar, and one on accepting payment
via credit cards. These would be laughable if they were not so

Sure, don't worry unduly about them. But recognize that any expansion
of patents into areas that affect art, and art computing in
particular, is not a positive thing and should be opposed where

- Rob.