Are Intellectual Property Rights Wrong?

What if intellectual property rights did not apply to cyberspace? At first this seems like a ridiculous idea. But you must consider that intellectual property is a relatively new notion. As philosopher Sam Vaknin points out  – in the near past, no one considered knowledge or the fruits of creativity as someone’s property. Texts, discoveries, inventions, works of art and music, all belonged to the community and could be copied freely.

Intellectual property is not scarce like physical property such as a car or house or land. Thomas Jefferson wrote, “He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me.” If someone copies a book you have written, you still have the original book. If you take a car, the owner no longer has it. Even Ayn Rand said, “intellectual property cannot be consumed.” Should we be protecting all this on the Internet or allow people to use it freely as long as they give credit to the original source?

What’s wrong with intellectual property rights? Corporations use intellectual property rights to secure a monopoly on a specific work. That’s why Microsoft fights copyright piracy all over the world. The problem is the poor cannot afford Microsoft products, but Microsoft is the standard and the poor get pushed out creating a gap between the poor and the rich. This IP monopoly pits the interests of companies and their rich investors in direct conflict with the poor and marginalized.

But it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing prospect. Creative Commons is a nonprofit Internet organization created to increase the amount of creativity (cultural, educational, and scientific content) in “the commons” — the body of work that is available to the public for free and legal sharing, use, repurposing, and remixing. Creative Commons was developed to work with existing copywrite law and provide possibilities between full copyright and public domain. “Some rights reserved” copyright allows a free exchange of ideas for the betterment of society while still acknowledging the creator of the works.

With production cost near zero on the Internet, should intellectual property be given up for the good of society? Think about cloud computing such as Google Docs. Google is challenging the old Microsoft way of thinking. Google allows free use of its word processing program in trade for generating traffic and advertising income.

Do intellectual property rights have to be all or nothing?