Oh Edison, you intellectual property whore…

It was a dark and stormy night on December 18, 1908. Okay—maybe it wasn’t so dark and stormy. But it should have been, because that was the night Thomas Edison tried to hijack the motion picture industry.

“With his beetle brows, long wispy hair, and beatific look, Edison might have seemed the addled inventor,” writes the historian Neil Gabler, “but he was a shrewd businessman and a fearsome adversary who was never loath to take credit for any invention, whether he was responsible or not.”

But the old man wanted it all, so he assembled his rivals and proposed that they join his Motion Picture Patents Company. It would function as a holding operation for the participants’ collective patents—sixteen all told, covering projectors, cameras, and film stock. MPPC would issue licenses and collect royalties from movie producers, distributors, and exhibitors.

Ars Technica: Thomas Edison’s plot to hijack the movie industry

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