Apparently the current US administration is pushing to ‘reform’ intellectual property laws, and even some popular tech sites have chimed in. Anyone around me for any length of time over the last few years knows that intellectual property is a pet subject of mine, so I can’t help but be annoyed by what they are saying. Is piracy theft? Well yes, but I don’t agree with what they mean. I think intellectual property is an altogether invalid concept, and even find the term ‘intellectual property’ itself objectionable because the word ‘property’ can’t legitimately be applied to ideas, patterns, or arrangements. Property by definition needs to be able to be owned in an exclusive manner. I suppose that is why they had to add the word ‘intellectual’ in front of it – to distinguish it from actual property, in which case they may as well have called it ‘imaginary property’! The argument is framed by the terms used. My aim here will to briefly question definitions. With diagrams I ‘stole’.
There is the somewhat popular graphic that emerged a while back.
And lots of variations springing out of that:
File sharing has evolved some, and I sort of feel it is worth while to illustrate how as it is actually quite relevant to the file sharing legality issue. However, I can’t really do it better than the wikipedia article on torrenting, and this demo (won’t work in IE, don’t try) does a slick job of illustrating a torrent in action.
Copying is duplication, not piracy. Piracy is theft in international waters. Theft only operates in the realm of property and ownership. Property is a scarce resource that can have exclusive ownership. Ideas can have an originators but not owners.