About intellectual property and other things

I came across a wonderful quote about intellectual property. I am not sure I agree with it myself but wanted to share it. It is from Carsie Blanton’s blog post “New Rules for the Music Business” and it goes like this:

“Intellectual property” is an absurd concept that only a society of clueless, museless marketers could possibly conceive of. It’s an idea that serves markets, cripples muses, and is willfully ignorant of all of human history.

We are stealing from one another constantly and shamelessly, and that’s a blessed and beautiful thing. Every folk song is a mashup of all previous folk songs. Every film stands on the shoulders of all other films. Every sentence, poem and novel exists only for the creative gumption of all previous speakers of language, which is itself a collaborative invention of the entire human race. The whole history of human invention is characterized by a kind of joyful, infinite plagiarism.

Ideas are not commodities. They are made to be shared, not owned.

That said, I do get the point. If somebody covered one of my songs and got it on the radio and made millions and didn’t pay me, I’d sue the bajeezus out of the motherfucker. If you’re going to turn my song into a commodity, I expect to paid as though it’s a commodity (even though deep in my heart, I know it’s not).

BUT, if somebody covered one of my songs and put it on youtube, or wrote a song that was an homage to one of mine, or burned one of my CDs and gave it to a friend, or used a song of mine in their broke-ass indie film, I’d high five them. Why? Because there is a big difference between sharing someone else’s work and profiting off of someone else’s work.

And it’s time for all of us to get real, real comfortable with the former.


What I like about this is that it straddles both my impulse that ideas are not commodities and that everything I create is built upon the shoulders of those who came before. Or as I like to say “Ideas are cheap”. But on the other hand, if you figure out that you can make money from my creations then there is a basis in fairness that I get some of the benefit of it. Schizophrenic, I know, but it captures it nicely.


This is actually a keynote to a conference, but it had some very interesting ideas in it. The article is called “The New Science of Morality” and it’s by Jonathan Haidt.

I don’t know if it makes full sense out of context, but read this section. It makes an important point and it might draw you into reading the whole thing.

“[…snip]Morality is like The Matrix, from the movie “The Matrix.” Morality is a consensual hallucination, and when you read the WEIRD people article, it’s like taking the red pill. You see, oh my God, I am in one particular matrix. But there are lots and lots of other matrices out there.

We happen to live in a matrix that places extraordinary value on reason and logic. So, the question arises, is our faith justified? Maybe ours is right and the others are wrong. What if reasoning really is the royal road to truth? If so, then maybe the situation is like chemistry after all. Maybe WEIRD morality, with this emphasis on individual rights and welfare, maybe it’s right, because we are the better reasoners. We had The Enlightenment. We are the heirs of The Enlightenment. Everyone else is sitting in darkness, giving credence to religion, superstition and tradition. So maybe our matrix is the right one.[…snip]” (from “The New Science of Morality” and it’s by Jonathan Haidt.)

If you liked that one, there are two referenced articles, also worth looking at: