Intellectual property

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As works of a largely informational nature (art, music, writing, computer programs) become an increasingly significant part of our daily lives and increasingly easier to copy, the traditional rights of the creator to control (and profit from) copying are undergoing intensive re-examination.

Counter-movements have arisen to produce freely-copyable works in all of these categories, the best-known of which is the open source movement.

Technically, pure ideas are not supposed to be copyrightable or patentable; what is protected is the expression of the idea, not the idea itself. In practice, however, patents are being granted for such in large numbers, e.g. the Amazon "one-click checkout" patent.

Related Pages






to be filed


  • Free Culture UK: for the promotion of free (freely copyable) works of art and culture
  • The Pirate Party: supporting copyright reform (there are sister sites for several other countries)
  • Eric's Commentary on the Shutdown of MathWorld: how an author was sued for copyright infringement of his own work by CRC Press (formerly the Chemical Rubber Company). This is a good illustration of how corporate ownership of copyrights seems to compel agents of said corporations to behave like utter jerks.





intellectual property rights encourage innovation?

As a counterweight to any argument about the necessity of intellectual property legislation for encouraging production (by protecting the creator's rights so they have an incentive to create), it should be mentioned that the current legal tangle actually makes it more difficult to create certain types of works:

Even though there was no infringement, and certainly no intent to infringe, the mere fact of a rumor of possible infringement made it necessary for a team of lawyers to spend what would have been many thousands of dollars of time investigating the situation in order to establish that it was safe to continue working on this project. (This determination would have been financially impossible had the legal team not donated their time.)

The developers also have to be careful not to accidentally get hold of any of the proprietary code, or their work runs the risk of becoming "tainted" once again, requiring yet more legal hours to prove its purity.

An entire organization, the Software Freedom Law Center [1], was founded in 2005 due to the repeated necessity of clearing open source software projects from claims of IP encroachment.

Creative Commons

Not sure where things like Creative Commons fall in the "movement" scheme; are they aligned with open source in any way? Should I be saying "counter-movements" (plural) or "a counter movenent" (singular)? Is there a more general "openness" movement which embraces things like open business? Is "open source" related to transparency, and if so how? --Woozle 15:08, 2 July 2006 (EDT)