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Updated: 02/03/05

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"The Assassin's Apprentice"
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Thursday, 03 February, 2005

Attention: Some wonderful person (or persons) tried to send a package to the new house. Unfortunately, they tried to deliver it while we were in Cayman, and UPS has sent it back. [Grumble, grumble, grumble.] My apologies - that was one of the nice things about the condo - there was always someone there to take deliveries. So, if anyone ever needs to send anything larger than an envelope, please let me know and I will give you an office address.

[End of public service announcement.]

I finally updated my reading list (left). Katie and Josh gave me "The Assassin's Apprentice" for Christmakah, and I started it last weekend at the hospital. Fantasy novel stuff - it was a touch slow starting out, but has turned into a very good story. I just ordered the remaining two books in the series.

Out house is filled with models. Horses, robots, airplanes. I used to have hundreds of horse models - well, actually I still do, but it's a much more manageable number now. And they're smaller. And they don't cost anything to feed. And no stall-mucking. Gary has been building plane models since he was little - the robots have been within the last decade or so.

So I was disturbed to see that many of the model kit manufacturers are threatened by something that is totally stupid and in my mind self-detrimental.

For over half a century, kits have been sold that enable military history buffs to assemble scale models of military ships, aircraft and vehicles. But that era is coming to an end, as the manufacturers of the original equipment, especially aircraft, are demanding high royalties (up to $40 per kit) from the kit makers. Since most of these kits sell in small quantities (10-20,000) and are priced at $15-30 (for plastic kits, wooden ones are about twice as much), tacking on the royalty just prices the kit out of the market. Popular land vehicles, which would sell a lot of kits, are missing as well. The new U.S. Army Stryker armored vehicles are not available because of royalty requirements. Even World War II aircraft kits are being hit with royalty demands.

These royalty demands grew out of the idea that corporations should maximize “intellectual property” income. Models of a companys products are considered the intellectual property of the owner of a vehicle design. Some intellectual property lawyers have pointed out that many of these demands are on weak legal ground, but the kit manufacturers are often small companies that cannot afford years of litigation to settle this contention. In the past, the model kits were considered free advertising, and good public relations, by the defense firms. The kit manufacturers comprise a small industry, and the aircraft manufacturers will probably not even notice if they put many of the model vendors out of business. Some model companies will survive by only selling models of older (like World War I), or otherwise “no royalty” items (Nazi German aircraft) and ships. But the aircraft were always the bulk of sales, and their loss will cripple many of the kit makers. Some of the vehicle manufacturers have noted the problem, and have lowered their demands to a more reasonable level (a few percent of the wholesale price of the kits).

Another reader on the site posts that the same thing is happening with model trains - the railroad companies are demanding royalities on not only the current company names, but also the older ones that have been purchased and consolidated over the years. As I said: stupid. Free advertising and good PR for the firms that allow a kid to build a kit of his/her favorite car or plane, but instead the lawyers had to get involved.

[The bard was right.]

Quote du jour:

"First thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers."

-- William Shakespeare, King Henry VI, Part II, IV, ii

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