Saturday, October 01, 2005

Why "Intellectual Property" is a Misnomer

The term "intellectual property" is troublesome. Real property in the physical world cannot be transferred or shared without diminishing the utility of the property to the original holder. So called "intellectual property," on the other hand, can be transferred easily to others or shared without damaging any utility to the original holder. For this reason and others, folks such as Richard Stallman suggest that it is best to make a firm decision not to speak or even think in terms of 'intellectual property'."

Here at Right to Create, we will sometimes use the term "Intellectual Monopoly" or "Idea Monopoly," both of which are more accurate descriptions of the common problems with abuses of copyright and patent systems, and will use the terms 'copyright' and 'patent' to discuss their particularities.


Blogger Q said...

I expressed a similar sentiment on my blog as well. Basically, the phrase "intellectual property" is oxymoronic because that which exists as pure intellect cannot, by definition, be regarded as property. The reason: physical objects have a singular existence within reality (occupy a unique spacetime volume), however, since ideas are not unique within reality they therefore cannot be "owned". If ideas cannot be owned, then they cannot be regarded as property (since property implies ownership).

9:44 AM  
Anonymous apotheon said...

Until very recently, I would have agreed with this without hesitation. In fact, I've been known to refer to "intellectual property law" as the "intellectual protection racket". I've since come to the conclusion, however, that the problem with the term "intellectual property" isn't an inaccuracy of the term itself so much as a problem with the colloquial understanding of the term "property". Property is, in fact, a legal fiction created by extending the symptoms of possession beyond possession itself.

As such, intellectual property is as real and valid a concept as any other form of property, so long as you realize that property is not a fundamental right but a legal fiction created to foster convenience in dealing with the interaction of possession (or occupation) and the right of self defense.

I am by no means defending intellectual property law by saying so, by the way. Quite the contrary: outside of the realm of individually explicit contracts, there's no ethical justification for a system of law wherein abstract concepts, or their expression, are the target of monopolistic practices. The product of the intellect is only ethically protected by proprietary interest while it is a secret or covered by direct, individual, explicit contractual agreements with all possessors of the knowledge in question.

That's my take, anyway. More on the subject at Patently Absurd: Ethical Property Law if you're interested in seeing a recent pontification on the subject by me.

8:25 AM  

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