You need to pay me to read this post!

One of the rages of the moment seems to be this concept of regulating the use of and protecting the rights to ‘intellectual property’. The fundamental basis of this whole concept is that we can ‘own’ and idea.  But how can anyone own an idea? When we are charging money for something that falls under the category of intellectual property, for instance, we are not charging money for the idea itself, but for the use of it. Or more correctly, for permission to use it because we have laid some claim to it. So if someone else has actually come up with a similar idea independently, but has not filed a legal claim to it … they are now ‘stealing’ our idea, and thus should be subject to punishment.

But to me ideas are the result of multiple factors, and not the unique province of one person. If circumstances generated an idea within me that was apparently ‘unique’, it does not mean only I have a right to that idea. It just means I was the correct person in the correct situation to allow that idea to arrive. It could just as easily have been someone else.

So how can I claim ‘ownership’ of that idea?


Now granted if the idea takes a tangible form, such as a photo, or writing or music, we might have some claim to control of it if we put effort into making it tangible. But the moment it becomes tangible, it is no longer actually completely ours. For every person that beholds it now has access to that idea. So when we insist that one obtains permission to use that idea, we are basically just being greedy of our own power. I ‘created’ that, therefore I am owed something by anyone who has access to it.

That does not actually sound reasonable to me. If I take a picture and make it available to others (especially online), how is it still my picture? Sure I saw a vision and captured it with my own skill, but that does not mean the vision is mine alone. Nor does it mean that because someone else sees what I captured and finds a use for it that they somehow owe me for my time of creation. The same applies to music, or even writing. How can we truly expect that everyone who encounters a song should need to seek permission from someone to use it? Why do they owe someone something simply because that someone was fortunate enough to be the vessel of that particular idea? If an idea were truly ‘owned’ than it would not longer exist after the death of its owner. But we as a society try to set arbitrary limits on who has rights to an idea for … as far as I can tell … the power to ‘own’ more things. Kind of a funny way to go about things in my mind.

Of course many people would disagree with this view. But that is ok. I don’t own it. It is simply an idea. Do with it what you will.