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osOpinion: Choosing To Be Free: Ownership of "Intellectual Property"

May 23, 2000, 06:44 (3 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Monty Manley)

[ Thanks to Kelly McNeill for this link. ]

"However, it doesn't take a genius to see that the concept of ownership does not naturally extend to the non-physical realm. How can I own something that does not exist in real space? If I sell an idea, I still have it; I have not transferred the idea in whole to someone else. If my idea is stolen -- someone peeks over my shoulder as I scribble in my journal, or bootlegs a floppy disk upon which I have stored my writings -- then I am angry and demand justice. My property has been stolen. The thief must be caught and punished. Nevermind that I have really lost nothing physical; I am no poorer or unhealthier or less sound of mind than before the "theft"; yet I *owned* something that was taken. And yet if I place no value on the idea that was taken -- maybe it was a laundry list or bad limericks -- then I am not angry at all. The situation is the same -- something was taken without my consent -- and the content is not fundamentally different, yet I call one theft and one not...."

"On one side, you have the people who adhere to the first sense of ownership (the record companies, movie studios, and some highly-paid artists). They believe that if I download an MP3, I am stealing because I did not pay to listen to the song. This means that the record company is not receiving income for producing the song, and the artist is not receiving payment for singing it. But this assumes that I would have bought the entire CD or single had I not downloaded the MP3; they assume that I wouldn't have taped the song off the radio or borrowed it from a friend. They assume that my "theft" cheated them of some earnings, even though there is no guarantee that these earnings would have been forthcoming. It never enters their calculations that I might never have listened to the song at all had it not been for the MP3. The only scenarios they consider are those which produce (or lose) revenue."

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