Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Intellectual Property

My thoughts on Intellectual Property.
After long thought and some violent internal conflict, I have come to a conclusion regarding intellectual property. It's bullshit, but it's not unfounded bullshit.
When a book was the main, often only, means of dissemenating information, I think that copyright may have been justified to some extent. I can still think of several arguments against it, but I can think of a number FOR it as well, in the sense of securing for LIMITED TIMES an exclusive right to market that which you have created.
But even under that rationale, once transmitted by the written word into another man's brain, the ideas are no longer soleley your own, if they ever were. So it's a rough point even under the statist doctrines I once adhered to when I was foolish enough to believe in the concept of limited government.
Now? With the internet and other electronic media that can be transmitted worldwide in seconds? I think that if the idea ever had merit, that day is past. Just as the iron plow has no place in the modern world outside of a museum, the idea of intellectual property AS A REAL, TANGIBLE RIGHT is something that belongs in the pages of history. Probably digitally stored and archived, with free access to any interested party.
This does NOT mean that I think authors and inventors should not profit by their creative efforts! I firmly believe that every man who creates should benefit by it. But, for the sake of argument, let's say I write a book, and I market it in multiple media. If someone then copies my book and sells it on their own, what have I truly lost?
Honesty requires that I answer: Nothing. If they claim the work as their own, they are committing a sort of fraud, but if they merely copy it and charge for the service? Well, you could accuse them of being unoriginal, derivative, perhaps uncreative. But fraudulent, or having committed theft? Not really. I lose nothing. Maybe a potential customer, but even then, there was no guarantee that the persons buying from the other party would have ever even HEARD of me if they had not seen my work via a third party. In the long run, were I cited, it might even benefit me in FUTURE sales of other works. At worst, I have a chance at widening my audience without any personal effort. At best, said audience would seek out the original source after being exposed via third parties.
Same case in the instance of inventions. If they take and market my design, I've really lost nothing. I might even be able to get some prestige by telling potential customers that , yes, Joe makes my widget too, but I invented it. Now if Joe were to steal my actual widget, that would be a different story. But the design? I should have been more careful in concealing my art if I didn't want this to happen. Almost every machine in existence is inspired by prior art. That's a real basic truth about technology. We don't reinvent the wheel every time we set out to accomplish something. More often, the inventor sees something and thinks "I can do it better or more efficiently" and runs with it.
None of this, however, makes me "rebel" at the idea of an author or inventor making an effor to conceal their process or make it difficult to copy their works. After all, they DID expend the energy, mental and otherwise, to create it. Till such time as the information becomes disseminated, they DO exclusively own, or at least possess it. I have no problem, then, with copy protection schemes from a moral or ethical perspective. I do find them annoying and often intrusive, and so seek out other similar programs if I am in need of such, but I have no ethical problem. No force is being employed, they are merely trying to conceal their art and maintain a partial exclusivity.
It's when the Rulers step in and tell me and others that I cannot possess that which is in my head that I start to have a problem. As with all such intrusions, they are making a claim that has no basis in reality and in the long run (often even the short!) harms the market and may even keep important advances at bay for a long time.
I have at this point become fully an agorist, as I no longer believe in the validity of Intellectual Property.

7 comments:

MaikUniversum said...

Wonderful thougths.. My opinion towards IP is pretty much the same. As a creator of music, I don't believe in copyright.

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