Intellectual Property Rights
A short note
First posted to FaceBook
by Thomas M. Miovas, Jr.
A short note on intellectual property rights: Since I
am the one writing this paragraph and this posting, arranging the words
according to my thoughts, I own it. I created it in material form (the
form that makes it possible for you to see it), and therefore it would not
exist without me making it. That fact that I made it makes it mine -- I
didn't copy and paste it from someone else's posting. This means that I
have control over who gets to have it and who gets to distribute it. Now,
since I post to FaceBook, I agree to their terms of submitting a post on
their forum, and so I grant them the license to distribute it on their
network. And because I tend to make my FB posts public, then they can
display it somewhere on the web (not sure where) by my permission. But for
someone else to take my words and claim them as their own would be a
violation of my rights as the creator of this material property -- this
posting. Of course, under the fair use aspects of copyright law (which I
agree with) quoting a paragraph or two in the context of a larger work
written by you is acceptable.
I'm stating this because there seems to be a great deal of confusion
over the idea of intellectual property rights being brought out by the
suicide of the founder of Reddit, who also stole a bunch of intellectual
property from various schools and universities and published them on the
web somewhere without their permission. He didn't own any bit of it. The
fact that most of them were public schools or universities only confuses
the issue, but nonetheless he, himself, did not own any of it. He didn't
create any of it. He didn't do the research and write a research paper at
any of those schools.
We live in an age where it is extremely easy (in some cases) to get
ahold of someone else's intellectual property and copy and paste it
somewhere else. But the fact that you have the resources or the knowledge
to do something doesn't make it right to do that action. Morality is not
based upon the fact that you have free will and abilities to do something,
especially to someone else's property. I could go over to my next door
neighbor's yard and plow it up, if I had a plow, but that wouldn't make it
right, not without his permission. Similarly, plowing up someone else's
intellectual property stock pile and carting it off and redistributing it
doesn't make it right, even if you know how to do it.
The following was written prior to the above, but is
a response to a story implying this thief stole his own property, which I
For the record, I am against the outright
sympathy for this thief of intellectual property. While it is a tragedy
that he committed suicide and while 50 years my have been an overreach
(depending on what was stolen), it has to be remembered
that he published copyrighted material on a massive scale that did not
belong to him -- and no, that material does not belong to you or any other
particular tax payer who supports the Public University School system via
taxation. Those schools should not exist, but just because you pay the
taxes doesn't mean you can go down there and get your thousand dollar's
worth of loot from them, just as you cannot go to the local Interstate
Highway and take your thousand dollar's worth of concrete from that road
to pave your driveway.
Those universities do their own research and
own that property (or the State does) and while one may be against this
forced participation of government schools (as I do), it doesn't mean that
the millions of dollars worth of intellectual property generated by such
funding belongs to you, any more than the future plans of cars made by GM
belong to you.
As a continuation the following day:
Somewhat of an update on my special note about intellectual property rights. Judging from that one thread I got involved in and delisted that person for not standing up against the thieves, evidently they believe that so long as something is stored / displayed in digital format, then it is no longer material property and becomes "just information" (you know, a lot of numbers). And so, just as one cannot own a scientific formula (i.e E=mc^2), so one cannot own a stream of data made of binary numbers. They also say no harm is done if that data is copied and posted all over the internet (i.e downloadable music and movies are up for grabs).
As I tried to indicate from my actual posting on the topic, I still created it and therefore still retain the rights to it (assuming no prior commitments like doing it at work on the boss' computer or whatnot). It doesn't matter *what* material form it takes, I own it, and as the owner I have the right to decide where it is going to be displayed and who gets to see it and under what terms and conditions. And, yes, believe it or not, electrons and man-made configurations of electrons are material things. As are the servers and the disks the data is stored upon.
One clear giveaway to this type of mentality is that they will talk about "paywalls" -- you know, the fact that you are prevented from retrieving this data stream without paying for it first to gain access. The mere fact that I own something in digital form and will charge you to access it under certain conditions of payments and use is totally repugnant to them. They want any sort of "information" to be free for the taking and free for the re-distribution -- on their terms when they had nothing whatsoever in its creation.
So, be wary of people like that on the internet, because if you give them access, they feel free to take anything of yours they want and they have a whole slew of rationalizations for stealing it and giving it away.
I guess there still seems to be some controversy surrounding Aaron Swartz and whether or not he should have been prosecuted for violating both MIT's and JSTOR's terms of service agreements not to continually download vast amounts of JSTOR's data base, especially with the intent of publishing it elsewhere on the web. Turns out JSTOR dropped the charges, but I don't think MIT did, and though Swartz was an MIT Fellow, no one granted him the authority to download more than a few articles they have databased and certainly did not give him permission to publish them at his own leisure.
Again, we can argue about who actually owned those databases -- the taxpayer, since he basically paid for them -- or the State, since it is a State institution who made it -- or just any random passer-by who happened to stumble across JSTOR. But the point is, he took it upon himself to steal many gigabytes of information that was owned by someone else. And he wasn't even arrested for doing that per se according to one article I read, but rather because he continued to access the database after he had been banned several times from access. So, by law, he violated someone else's computer without their permission multiple times, and that is what he was being charged with.
I have absolutely no sympathy for his cause of making everything free on the internet -- to turn the internet into a "Creative Commons" whereby everything is at no charge, regardless of who's data or who's terms and conditions or who's copyrights are violated or who's private property is being taken over by the semi-Marxists out there who hate the idea that some people charge for internet service of one type or another.
What makes the internet work and what makes it so valuable is that most of it that you have access to is -- get this -- *private property*! From the articles to the videos to the databases, to the wires to the wireless frequencies to the personal computers to the privately owned servers and server farms -- all of it is private property. And it works because those private property rights are respected, for the most part. My website Domain Name and my content all belongs to me and I don't have to get anyone's permission to write what I want to write and to post it at my convenience because it is recognized as private property -- both intellectual and real.
Those who seek to turn the internet into some public property haven are evil for their attempts to destroy the internet in the name of equal access for all or egalitarianism.