Subject: Re: Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Encyclopedia From: Erik Naggum <firstname.lastname@example.org> Date: Wed, 31 Oct 2001 04:26:20 GMT Newsgroups: comp.lang.lisp Message-ID: <email@example.com> * Sam Steingold <firstname.lastname@example.org> | It is not at all clear that it is possible to "own an idea". Intellectual property does not refer to ideas, only their _expression_. Nobody has _ever_ in the history of intellectual property made any claim to own an _idea_. For instance, patents, which prevent an independent invention from being exploited commercially, does _not_ prevent anyone from writing books on the ideas underlying the invention, nor from using it to create new inventions. Quite the contrary, that is the purpose of patents -- to make them open and known -- that is what "patent" means. The purpose of granting commercial rights to copyright holders (apart from any moral rights) is also to ensure that people are encouraged to publish their ideas. Society benefits greatly from _not_ letting people "own" ideas, and obviously so. I find it very strange that those who talk about the ill effects of intellectual property do not care enough to know that it expressly does not deal with "owning ideas". As far as the intellectual property laws are concerned, owning an idea is not possible. | Nevertheless, the bottom line is that IP is _not_ the same kind of | property as a car or a computer, at least not legally. I hope two books I have read recently can help those who have an urge to be opinionated on the issue of intellectual property get a better grip on what they are talking about: Paul Goldstein International Copyright : Principles, Law, and Practice http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0195128850 David R. Koepsell The Ontology of Cyberspace : Philosophy, Law, and the Future of Intellectual Property http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0812694236 Incidentally, intellectual property is considered hard to understand. I do not understand why, but then I have always been looking at it from the point of view of the creator and the obvious right he has to control the distribution of his work -- ultimately by simply withholding it -- not the consumer who generally has nothing to offer the creator but money, and the requirements that a decent society can put on the consumer such that those who can create something, _anything_ of value, are encouraged to do so, precisely for the benefit of those consumers, but also such that other creators can build on what has gone before them instead of having to develop everything from first principles themselves. If the consumers gets "rights" to the works of the creators, the only effect is to seriously limit the incentives of creators to do significant work, and the only new creations will be trivial consumer modifications that are worth what the consumers can get in return for their effort. Most of those who are both creator and consumer will not figure this out until they can no longer get paid for their creative work and can no longer buy (copies of) any new creative works that would have cost so much to create that millions of consumers must pay for it, and the former consequence will happen to small-time creators a long before the latter affects the big-time entertainment industry, but it will dry out from the bottom up: It is already damn hard to _start_ making money in entertainment and it will not get easier when nothing but the largest outfits make money, and that process of favoring big business will come about because people do not understand how today's intellectual property laws protect the small creators against the big ones. I believe the only reason consumers want control over the published works of creators is simple greed, but greed pays off only in the short run, killing off the source of the value that greedy people only _want_. /// -- Norway is now run by a priest from the fundamentalist Christian People's Party, the fifth largest party representing one eighth of the electorate. -- Carrying a Swiss Army pocket knife in Oslo, Norway, is a criminal offense.