A Paper Against Intellectual Property

#Opinion

Mon, Mar 31st, 2014 11:00 by capnasty NEWS

Brian Martin, from Science, Technology and Society at the University of Wollongong, Australia, argues, in this paper published in Philosophy and Social Action, against intellectual property. Mr. Martin says that "the usual arguments for intellectual property do not hold up under scrutiny," and that "the metaphor of the marketplace of ideas provides no justification for ownership of ideas."

Copyright is one of four main types of intellectual property or, in other words, ownership of information. The others are patents, trademarks and trade secrets. Copyright covers the expression of ideas such as in writing, music and pictures. Patents cover inventions, such as designs for objects or industrial processes. Trademarks are symbols associated with a good, service or company. Trade secrets cover confidential business information.

The type of property that is familiar to most people is physical objects. People own clothes, cars, houses and land. When people own ideas, this is called intellectual property. But there has always been a big problem with owning ideas - exclusive use or control of ideas doesn't make nearly as much sense as it does applied to physical objects.

Many physical objects can only be used by one person at a time. If one person wears a pair of shoes, no one else can wear them at the same time. (The person who wears them often also owns them, but not always.) This is not true of intellectual property. Ideas can be copied over and over, but the person who had the original copy still has full use of it. Suppose you write a poem. Even if a million other people have copies and read the poem, you can still read the poem yourself. In other words, more than one person can use an idea - a poem, a mathematical formula, a tune - without reducing other people's use of the idea. Shoes and poems are fundamentally different in this respect.

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