Comments from Frankston, Reed, and Friends
Thursday, January 30, 2003
DPR at 10:50 AM [url]:
The Intellectual Property Meme
Every time you utter the words "intellectual property" you buy into the
idea that all information bit patterns are or should be inherently "owned"
The term "intellectual property" appeared first in the late twentieth
century, first as a collective description for an unrelated set of legal
traditions that arose when kings had the power to grant favors to their
favorites, and which carried forward in the common law.
But during the twentieth century, the collective label has been
reified. We actually are in danger of accepting the absurd idea that
information should be property, ownable and exchangeable.
It won't be long before it is accepted that everything you learn from
experience on the job is the "property" of your employer, just as they
claim ownership of your notebooks, and every creative thought you have, the
contents of every phone call you make (from your office), and every
keystroke you type on your computer. When they can download your brain,
and wipe it clean, you'll be required to when you change jobs.
You can help stop this. Don't ever use the words "intellectual
property". You can say patents, copyrights, trademarks - those are more
well-defined terms, and if Congress doesn't pull another Boner (er, Bono),
they are limited and narrowly targeted at a balanced social purpose. The
authors of the Constitution were wary of royal monopolies like patents and
copyrights, but they compromised because there was a reasonable social good
served by *limited* monopolies on things that would pass into the public
But if you buy into the concept of "intellectual property" it turns this
all around. Limited becomes the exception, not the norm. The burden of
proof falls on the government to explain why property ownership is
"limited". The government imposing a limitation becomes a "taking" for
which the government is required to pay a price which is calculated by
measuring the value that the "owner" would be able to extract if they were
to "own" the "intellectual property" forever.
Society's being conned by a smart collection of devious and dangerous
radicals. These guys pose as "conservatives", but in fact they are
activists, redefining the whole notion of information. Changing it from a
non-rivalrous good into a fully rivalrous good, by getting the government
to synthesize new "intellectual property" concepts into laws, and then
This goes beyond "fair use". The attack of fair use in copyright is only
a small part of this large radical movement.
It's time for those of us who aren't lawyers to fight back. Whenever you
hear the term "intellectual property" you should feel like another landmine
has been planted in this radical cultural jihad against your mind.