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.

http://blog.carsieblanton.com

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.

Intellectual Property on Wall Street?

A fascinating although quite long article by Michael Lewis in Vanity Fair. Michael Lewis is an amazing non-fiction writer, best known to me for Moneyball (about baseball) and Liars Poker (about Wall Street.)

Michael Lewis: Did Goldman Sachs Overstep in Criminally Charging Its Ex-Programmer? | Vanity Fair:

A month after ace programmer Sergey Aleynikov left Goldman Sachs, he was arrested. Exactly what he’d done neither the F.B.I., which interrogated him, nor the jury, which convicted him a year later, seemed to understand. But Goldman had accused him of stealing computer code, and the 41-year-old father of three was sentenced to eight years in federal prison. Investigating Aleynikov’s case, Michael Lewis holds a second trial.

 

Patents: Innovation Nation

An interesting view on patents from Judge Posner:

“In Posner’s view, many patents are unnecessary. Patents, he believes, are important for drug companies that spend hundreds of millions of dollars bringing a new drug to market — a drug that can easily be copied by a competitor. Without the protection that a patent affords, pharmaceutical companies would have far less incentive to come up with new drugs.” (from New York Times)

In another article that discussed Posner’s view on patents: “Why there are too many patents in America” (from The Atlantic)

 

 

Intellectual Property? Copyright? Or just a lot of LOVE?

I was rather proud of the art I designed for a t-shirt this summer. It’s cool but of course it’s a direct ripoff, um, no, I mean, it was inspired by a well known piece. If I show you my design, below:

JBSlogoonly

You will immediately see the resemblance. You might say, oh that was on a postage stamp:

220px Lovestamp

Or you might say, oh, that was a New York City thing. But you would be remembering wrong:

I Love New York svg

Actually, the stamp was based on an design and sculpture by Robert Indiana.  Yes, it was a sculpture first:

200px LOVE Indiana

 But you can see another copy of the same sculpture in New York City. I saw it just a few days ago:

LOVE sculpture NY

Actually I didn’t take that picture, because if you see it on foot, there is always a line of kids waiting to pose for pictures with it. 

Anyway, you can see that my idea for a T-Shirt design was clever but hardly original. I admit to having some guilt about appropriating the design, but also I have been keenly attuned to see who else and where else folks might have borrowed the design.

In Chicago, I saw this:

LI sculp hope 001b

On TV I saw this:

Go On intertitle

In a promotional email from the Institute of Contemporary art I saw this:

GeneralIdea AIDSwallpaper for mc

So, what do you say? How badly did I infringe the copyright of Robert Indiana? Will I be asked to take it down (and destroy the 16 one-of-a-kind t-shirts.) And will I win the case in court, because, “everyone else is copying it”?