Intellectual property: creations of the mind: inventions, literary and artistic works, and symbols, names, images and designs in commerce
This is the definition provided by WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) an agency of the United Nations. It is also the topic of discussion for my Gospel and Global Media Culture seminary class for this week.
I can’t help but think back to childhood and life in the sandbox as I mull over all of the details regarding copyright (and copyleft), patent, trademark, private property, public domain and numerous related topics. Basically, what information which has been created by an individual or group can be used by whom, when, for what purposes and to what extent.
There was always a kid in the sandbox that no matter what I wanted to play with, would snatch it out of my hands proclaiming, “Hey, that’s mine”. I hated that feeling of having the object of my desire taken away from me- partly because it didn’t seem I had any control over the situation and partly because I didn’t feel I had any right to possess it. And it didn’t matter if the other’s claim to ownership was valid or not. And if there were more than two kids in the sandbox, there was usually the “plays well with others” variety there, too; the kid who was always willing to give you whatever toy (or stick or random detritus) they had…or even better, would join with you to create something together using whatever was at hand. I guess that is typically considered “playing nice” or “playing fair”.
In the world of “intellectual property” (IP), there are those who claim ownership; some rightfully and others not. In the real world rather than in the sandbox, that ownership is usually tied to matters of monetary gain associated with the idea/concept/product. This is typically accomplished through the legalise of copyright, patent and trademarking ventures. There are also those who believe that ideas shared create better ideas.
In the world of IP, fair use mean borrowing from another’s ideas and creativity without exploiting it for your own personal gain whether that be economic or simply glory by assuming his or her work as your own. I understand that use in terms of limited scope settings such as a classroom, but I still wonder how it all applies in the larger, public world where Internet dissemination of material can occur within seconds. That can become a sticky wicket mired in issues of not only moral and ethical dilemmas but also litigation. Giving credit where credit is due is an essential component. If you are putting something out on the Internet that you didn’t create all on your own, cite the origins of the material. If you can’t track down the source, say that, too and maybe someone else out there can supply information that you don’t have.
The Internet was designed as a tool to share information. There is a volunteer organization, The Internet Society, that addresses standards and usage issues. Who knew?