Credit but not Control

I’ve said before that I don’t believe in intellectual property. Here’s an elaboration on what I mean by that, since often when people hear that they say, “wtf?!?!”

I do think that inventors, writers, programmers, etc, should be rewarded for the work they put into their discoveries. I use “discoveries” not “creations” for a reason. It is often said that an inventor discovers a new way of doing something, not that he creates that way of doing it. The same, I say, applies to writers and the stories they tell, or programmers and the way they design their programs. Computer programs are not created, they are discovered. Anyway, these authors (of methods, books, programs, whatever) should be rewarded. They should receive credit for what they’ve done. People shouldn’t be able to steal credit for other people’s discoveries. As far as that goes, I have few disagreements with anybody.

But I don’t think that the authors should have control over their work. An inventor who discovers a new way of, say, making ice cream shouldn’t have the right to stop anybody from in turn improving on his design, or incorporating his discovery into a larger work, or selling a similar product at a lower price so long as it is made clear that the original inventor was the discoverer of the method. And the same with literary works. The fact that an author wrote a book about a given subject should not stop anybody from writing an extremely similar book, or from improving the author’s original book and changing it to fit their own view of how it should have went, or from republishing it and selling it or distributing it for free, without paying royalties.  As long as credit is given where credit is due.

The question arises of course, of why anybody invent or write or program if all they got was credit. Well, just because ‘all they get is credit’ not absolute control over their discoveries doesn’t mean they can’t get paid for it. How would they be paid? The same way authors, inventors, and suchlike were paid before the (relatively recent) genesis of copyright law. Wealthy people commissioning pieces, people auctioning their services as inventor, author, etc, not selling specific works, and so on.

You think it wouldn’t work? I think it would, though of course it would change every single intellectual-property based industry.

With invention, I don’t think it would allow people to stop innovating. If anything, it would force companies to be more innovative, since the advantage they get from a new discovery would no longer be 20+ years from a patent, but only until the competition figured out what exactly was going on. (They wouldn’t be required to publish the internal documentation or plans for their products, after all.) And after the competition figured out what was up they would still be at a disadvantage, since the original company’s name would be attached to the discovery for all eternity.

It would indeed reduce the number of published authors (and musicians and filmmakers and…). Would that be so bad, considering that so much of what is currently published is, well, worthless? And this would, among other things, make authors of artistic merit more likely to be published, since the criteria for who got well-known and who didn’t would change from who could sell the most copies of a book to who could bring the most prestige to his patron. It would change things, definitely. But, I think, not for the worse.

This system is, really, already in place for many programmers, voluntarily. Hence the GPL.

Note that the only change this would institute is having the government no longer have patent or copyright laws – or, rather, have no copyright laws and have patent laws that were much different from current patent law. It would not change what agreements could be made between individuals or companies; there would be no requirements to publish or anything like that. It’s very possible that it would lead to huge “clubs” aka corporations that functioned much as the current government does with regards to these things and used contract law to enforce it. The main point of this is to get the goverment away from enforcing these things.

Anway, the main point is – credit, but not control. People shouldn’t be in charge of how their discoveries are used once they publish them.

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One Response to Credit but not Control

  1. Urs says:

    I tend to agree with you – but what about art? I’m not so much arguing with you as much as saying ‘how would that be different?’ – Basically, Im just throwing this out there for the drm debate.

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