intellectual property


intellectual property

The term “intellectual property” carries a bias that is not hard to see: it suggests thinking about copyright, patents and trademarks by analogy with property rights for physical objects. There is no such unified thing as “intellectual property” – it is a mirage. The term is at best a catch-all to lump together disparate laws. Non-lawyers who hear one term applied to these various laws tend to assume they are based on a common principle, and function similarly. Nothing could be further from the case. These laws originated separately, evolved differently, cover different activities, have different rules, and raise different public policy issues. If you want to think clearly about the issues raised by patents, or copyrights, or trademarks, the first step is to forget the idea of lumping them together, and treat them as separate topics. The second step is to reject the narrow perspectives and simplistic picture the term “intellectual property” suggests. Consider each of these issues separately, in its fullness, and you have a chance of considering them well.

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Source: “Did You Say “Intellectual Property”? It’s a Seductive Mirage” by Richard Stallman

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