Ming the Mechanic:
Intellectual Property

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 Intellectual Property2012-01-24 00:50
picture by Flemming Funch

There's no such thing. Certainly it isn't something you can steal. Quite the contrary, it is a license to steal. Specifically, it is a legal construct that gives an exclusive license to one party to stop all other parties from using certain words or certain pictures or certain designs or certain patterns of arranging things, simply because they were the first to claim that they invented those words or pictures, and that they own them. And the purported owner can then extort money from all the other people, or simply stop them from doing anything that looks like what they did.

It is a tired, tired old discussion, but intellectual property is not property. It is not in any way the same as when you own a physical object of some kind, and somebody can steal it. It is not even remotely that way, and you should be insulted if anybody suggests it. If you have a car, and somebody steals that car, by removing it from you and taking it into their possession, then obviously you don't have your car any longer, a car that took quite some resources to acquire, and which took raw materials to build. As opposed to that, with our modern technologies, ideas, words and pictures are extremely easily copied, for almost no cost, while leaving the original completely intact. Your car is still there, even if somebody took a picture of it, just like your website is still there, even though somebody saved a copy of it. Your car is also still there, even if somebody went to the trouble of building a copy of it. Copying is not stealing. Not even close. If you claim so, you're running some kind of scam.

The scam of Intellectual Property is quite similar to how you meet a con artist on the street. They seem friendly and they might ask you for a favor or invite you to play a little game. And before you know it, you owe them 100 dollars, and it isn't quite clear how it happened.

There's a lot of apparently friendly Intellectual Property around. If you turn on the radio, there are dozens of channels playing music non-stop. They actually broadcast songs over all civilized areas, from high powered emitters. Apparently free for anybody to pick up, as long as they have the receiver, which is cheap and ubiquitous. Nowhere are you presented with any contract that says that you'll be punished for saving any of this music, or sharing it with a friend. Turn on your TV and it is the same thing. Dozens of channels broadcasting high quality content to you non-stop, for free. The same people broadcast much of this content for free on the Internet. But if you ever get the idea that you can save some of it for replaying to yourself and your friends, you're suddenly a criminal, because you didn't then drive to a store to buy a CD or a DVD with the music or film you wanted to keep.

Intellectual property is like those apples one always hears about at Halloween, where some wacko embedded razorblades in them. They looked like a nice and friendly gift, but if you go off and actually try to eat them, you get hurt. Or it is like a crack dealer distributing free samples. Seems like a nice and friendly thing to do, but it is a gift you'll pay for later.

There are a lot of bogus cover stories you'll be presented with. It is to support the starving artists and musicians. They need to be paid for their hard work. It is just that those people are rarely the actual people you're being asked to pay. Sony is not an artist. Neither is Warner Brothers. They are businesses trying to make a profit. If you look into the accounting that applies to the majority of artists or authors that have record deals or publishing contracts, you'll find that the vast majority of them make nothing whatsoever, or they even have to pay out of their own pocket to be published. The people who make money are the very few really big names. The Madonnas and Brad Pitts. But much more so the media companies. The rest have been scammed as much as you have.

If you think it is a problem now, it can get much, much worse. Think about patents on DNA. Think about copyrights on 3D wireframe models. Think about big companies using courts to stop people from growing certain things in their gardens and from creating certain objects in their garages. In addition to stopping us from using certain words and certain melodies and certain images and likenesses. What could be a glorious future of local production and distributed creativity could instead turn into a nightmare dystopia where a few multi-national megacorps have the government backed power to turn off the things you create, or use, or grow, because they "own" them. Or have you pay them handsomely for the right to create.

One possible avenue, to avoid this, is to stay far away from anything that looks like Intellectual Property, to refuse to use it, to block it, ban it.

A new Internet2, free from copyrights and patents and any other kind of IP looks like a better and better idea. No, I don't mean a pirate network for sharing their stuff. I mean a network where intellectual property is banned. We just won't play their game at all.

Software has been created for the purpose of identifying "owned" materials, like music or film. Imagine using it in reverse in a new Internet. I.e. anything that is "owned" will simply not be transported. Not by its owners, not by anybody. It simply won't go anywhere. Nobody wants it. In other words:

If you have intellectual property, please keep it to yourself!

Which is what should have happened in the first place. We call your bluff. If you made it and you think it is yours alone, fine, keep it. But don't let us catch you handing it out as a free sample to anybody that you could hope to later entrap. If you really think it is YOUR photo, keep it to yourself in a shoebox or on your computer. Don't post it to thousands of people on the Internet, and then later claim that they stole it from you. They didn't. You gave it to them. So, don't, if you don't want to.

Hefty fines would be in order for anybody trying to distribute their own intellectual property in any way. Some number of dollars for each person you knowingly have distributed it to for free would be quite reasonable, if you then later make demands of money for the very same thing.

So, I'm suggesting reversing the game. Blow the cover off the game when you see it. Don't allow this kind of thing on your networks. It's a crime.

I'm well aware that there are very large and rich corporations that have made themselves the cultural gate keepers who somehow seem to own most of all music and film, and a lot of the words, despite them not having created any of it. And others corporations who seem to own any thinkable way of manufacturing most of the things we need. And, yes, I know that they somehow have bribed the governments of most countries to do their bidding, and their plan of turning their scheme into international law is well advanced. And they have plenty of ways of expanding their scam. Just like they can patent the vegetables in your garden and the cells in your body, they can of course also think up ways of making it seem like the music you create yourself and the videos you record violate their copyrights. They could very well have the power to position a copyright-refusing Internet2 as a haven for pirates.

But if, instead of buying into their game, feeling guilty when they entrap us into pirating their stuff, you recognize it for what it is, it will be a lot harder for them. If you create spaces where their stuff isn't allowed, it will slow them down. If you call them on it, fewer people will be fooled. There's still a chance that this civilization-killing scheme can be stopped and reversed.

Support people who create. Writers, musicians, photographers, artists, makers. Directly. Support their creativity. Help them make a living from it. Oppose corporations and their lawyers and politicians who make a system out of owning and stopping creativity and communication, profiting unscrupulously from the creative work of others.

Create loads and loads of new stuff. In new ways, in new media. Make it altogether impractical for them to keep up. Expand the commons faster than they can privatize it. Use and support stuff that is free. Pay for and reward added value, route around ownership.

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24 Jan 2012 @ 15:28 by ming : SOPN
Here's somebody else saying, essentially the same thing, but more concisely: {link:https://plus.google.com/u/0/104205134740204626607/posts/Riy9n4Fv2SW|SOPN (stop online piracy now!!!!)}

"Under SOPN, all copyrighted material which is not licensed under creative commons or public domain or an equally free and liberal license (collectively called "public") should be banned from the Internet. By removing all such material which is not publicly licensed, SOPN will kill piracy with one blow as there is nothing to pirate.

Under SOPN, the leaking of material that is not publicly licensed (collectively called "private") to the Internet should be considered as a security breach. The rights holder of this material should be prosecuted for not taking adequate security measures to protect this treasured and private material from distribution."  

27 Jan 2012 @ 01:30 by ming : No IP
By all means, spread the message around, in any way possible!  

28 Jan 2012 @ 17:56 by Dom @ : Yes, but…
Another great Ming article. Thank you for it.

I am still doubtful however as to whether in an environment as the one proposed here artists would actually receive a substantial income. With so much Open Source software available, the web community is somehwat spoiled in regards to having to pay for anything at all.

When I look at creatives making actual money on the other hand, I see it is mostly people working for film (like composers, designers or art directors) who would probably not sell much of their work online.

After all, the traditional distribution channels (likes movies) are still a big business. To refuse to participate there (at whichever unfair rates) would mean for many creatives to get a day job.  

28 Jan 2012 @ 18:18 by Dom @ : Another thought
Imagine a singer wanting to sing some good ol' standards (and let's face it, people are more likely to engage people for live gigs who sing and play what they already know). This singer wants to promote herself online, singing "Over the Rainbow". Or whatever. Under SOPN guidelines, that would not be possible as far as I can tell. In that, SOPN would virtually have the same effect on self-promoted musicians as SOPA.

Musicians can create original material of course, but the air has become very thin in terms of original ideas that have the potential to reach as many people as it takes to make a living off it. After all, everyone with a laptop can produce music these days, thanks to cheap or free software at pro level. So there are many millions competing, with more coming in each day.  

30 Jan 2012 @ 15:46 by ming : Music
Well, old standards should really have become public domain long ago. They're part of our shared culture. It is only perverted copyright laws that try to maintain the idea that somebody can own the estate of long dead composers and keep making money from what they created, even though they had nothing to do with it.

Part of the idea in something like SOPN would of course be that it is so drastic that it would force a lot of people to rethink things. It would no longer be possible for copyright owners to leach on to free distribution methods. They'd have to create and pay for their own complete distribution mechanisms, or they'd have to put up with the fact that nobody will care about or even know about their stuff any longer.

I believe in a free market. What I have against most of the copyright/IP laws is that they subvert free markets and create monopolies, by allowing a small percentage of people to not have to compete or produce value, giving them a license to take the value that others create. And those people aren't even the actual creators, and it isn't the people who paid for it already (us), but rather the people who somehow now "own" the abstract creation, by having bought it or inherited it or having tricked somebody out of it with the small print of a contract.

I don't think there needs to be guaranteed incomes for people who compose music or who take photos. I think it would be nice if there were guaranteed minimum income for everybody in the world, but I don't see why a composer somehow has more right to it than do other people who do other types of work. I think that if you want to have extra rewards, you need to keep producing value, and our collective choices will determine how much value it is to us.  

9 Feb 2012 @ 21:47 by a-d : Dear Ming....
we all could mix in to this Brew a little bit of this, ehhh ???


mora and more links with subject popping up...New Awareness breaking through?!?  

25 May 2012 @ 15:12 by David Bartholomew @ : mixed feelings
This entry gives me a lot of mixed feelings. On the one hand a part of me, as part of "New Civ" and One World Flag mindset, knows of the failings of the current paradigm and is open to whatever "economy" we might transition to; but another part-- the one that makes a living solely off of creative/artistic work, feels that there has always been a bit of a thing where creatives (extending this really to any artistic/spiritual endeavor) perhaps don't honor what they do equally to how they value "hard goods". And there are too many these days who feel entitled to just take what is out there with no "energy exchange" in return for it, as if they have a right to it. And under such a dynamic how would a creative and/or spiritual person (who has their certain inner conversation about the evil of money, perhaps) expect to make a living and all that comes with that?

And yes you have major corporations (record companies for example, what have you) hiding behind "protecting" the rights of "the little people" and protecting their own profits. But you do actually have starving artists who are being taken advantage of on both sides. And a certain amount of putting the stuff out for free (radio stations) has been part of allowing people to get enough of a taste that they would indeed purchase the actual product.

The problem of a "free market" is that a certain type of people believe everything is free to them, with less and less compunction to give something in return.

And no I also don't want companies to be buying up the rights to dna and plants and all of the ridiculous things at that end of the spectrum which are happening; and the thing about the intellectual property arguments as I understand them is-- all of these things fall under the same heading, and any legislation to free or protect one type of "intellectual property", queers the deal and sends things into a free-for-all with respect to the other end of the spectrum. And I think this is what is happening: big bucks corporations are seemingly "championing" the rights of the little artist, where they know they are really politicking for some codicile that gains them rights to copyright or trademark natural matter and elements, etc., in watch-the-birdy manipulations as per usual.

I think there is still so much being worked out here in the realm of governing intellectual property of all sorts, and that the speed of change is obviously increasingly being bogged down further and further by the lack of speed of the legal (and any other) system to manage it, and the increasing effectiveness of using mis- and dis-information to cloud the issue in the minds of people who will look no deeper than the soundbites they are fed. All of this speaks-- as much as anything-- to us being in the uncomfortable growing pains place between two paradigms.  

10 Jun 2012 @ 15:51 by Lino @ : Intellectual property
So how on earth am I going get paid for my work as a creative if I don't exercise my rights to my intellectual property?  

10 Jun 2012 @ 23:28 by ming : Intellectual property
It isn't your intellectual property. That is simply a clever trick with words. You don't have any right to stop other people from thinking certain thoughts, writing certain words, or singing certain songs. That kind of thing is not a right. That's another piece of double-speak. We're talking about the practice of giving people a license to stop other people from doing certain things.

I certainly sympathize with starving artists, and with many other types of people who are doing valuable work, who aren't being properly rewarded for it, while somebody who didn't produce anything valuable reaps all the profits. That's one of my points here, and that's a problem that needs solving. How do producers of value get recognized and rewarded, as opposed to mainly the exploiters of value?

I do think that creative/artist work is as any honorable as any other kind of work, and it should certainly be possible to make a living from it. However, I don't think the answer is to give anybody who says they're an artist an automatic income. Lots of stuff one can create is not terribly useful, and sometimes nobody wants it. That's kind of what free market mechanisms are there for: to figure out how valuable things are and how much we want to or should pay for them. If you produce no value, you can't expect to be paid for it.

OK, we could talk about giving everybody on the planet a guaranteed minimum/minimal income, no matter what they produce. I'd be fine with that, but that's a different discussion. Doesn't make sense to specifically give people who produce intellectual "property" a guaranteed income, and not all the others who do other types of also valuable work.

What I suggest as directions for solutions are:

1. An economic system that counts what is considered valuable and that counts actual costs of producing stuff
2. Decentralized money. There should be money enough to pay for everything we consider valuable.
3. A legal/political system that makes business monopolies and corruption impossible
4. Abolishing the idea of remote ownership of stuff one really has little to do with  

3 Jul 2012 @ 19:17 by Lino @ : intellectual property.
Still i.p. is the name we have chosen for what I get my licence fees for: OK, in a totally different economic system there should be a different way for me getting paid for my work, but as long as we have the current one: I can't just say "screw i.p." - and if one graphic object from me is not so valuable to one user that all the work was worth its while i have to sell licences to several people and charge them for each use. Saying i.p. does not exist in this case, is the same as saying, your work is nothing people should pay for. What reasons should make me accept that. I want to be rewarded for my work like everybody else.  

22 Aug 2012 @ 09:30 by Joel @ : Broken link
Hi, I came across your site and wasn’t able to get an email address to contact you about a broken link on your site. Please email me back and I would be happy to point them out to you.



8 Nov 2012 @ 00:59 by ming : Reprints
I'd be perfectly fine with that. If you had replaced my name with yours I wouldn't be very happy with the readers being misled. And if you really set up some business around it, I'd hope you'd think about including me somehow. But even if you didn't, I'd enjoy that you promote my work.

I wrote two books which somebody translated and published in hardcover format in Russia. I never saw a penny from that, but I don't care. I was quite happy with all the attention.  

25 Jan 2013 @ 14:53 by Kamiel Choi @ : Brilliant
I love this "Expand the commons faster than they can privatize it."
Thanks a lot for writing this; a blogger on the same side.  

7 Jul 2014 @ 07:20 by taranga @ : how to improve innovation
I have always been struck by the numerous incidences of really useful ideas being suppressed, delayed or buried completely as a result of the patent process. eg the hovercraft was classified as a military secret by the UK gov. for 11years till the inventor managed to free it from the grip of the defense department - during this time they did absolutely no research or development. Which country's military currently has no hovercraft - yes the UK's!

As the majority of sustainable business has out of necessity to operate on the basis of trust, why not extend that principle to invention?

I have for sometime wanted to set up an ideas website to allow anyone to post inventions on the understanding that by doing so they loose the possibility of claiming exclusive ip rights as it will be in the public domain.

Then anyone with the financial or physical resources can develop any idea, or form a group to develop it, on the understanding that if successful they would honour their obligation to the originator. [whose details and date of uploading would be held by the site as strangely often two or more people seem to have the same idea around the same time]

The amount could be as little as 1% as has been established often the original idea is often the easy part of developing a useful and commercially viable idea.

The main advantage would be the possibility of much faster deployment of innovations and the elimination of them being exclusively usurped for negative purposes. In many conversations i have had with inventors it is often the case that they are often more interested is seeing their idea being used than maximising the financial reward. It would also knock the many patent scamsters on the head

Sadly i've never had the time skills or resources to implement this idea but would be happy for anyone to run with it - and be inerested if people can see obvious flaws.  

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26 Feb 2016 @ 08:20 by Minge @ : Intellectual Property


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Other stories in
2011-11-03 16:51: Seeing the world through the Internet
2009-06-11 18:53: Blogging/Microblogging and work
2008-02-23 17:19: Web 1, 2, 3 and 4
2008-02-22 11:07: Illusion
2008-01-09 22:45: A Communication Model
2007-12-02 20:41: Give One Get One
2007-10-25 21:47: Static or dynamic web metaphors
2007-09-18 22:54: Rethinking blogs
2007-07-04 23:59: Scrutiny of Information
2007-07-03 01:24: Strangeness

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