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The Decline Of Intellectual Property

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11 months ago

*Disclaimer: This article was written ~7 years ago while I was still in high school. This is the original copy (before citations) of that short essay. I would like to expand on this in the future, though I have yet to revisit the topic. *

My questions are as follows: What is “intellectual Property” and why do we use it?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, Intellectual Property is defined as: 

“Property (as an idea, invention, or process) that derives from the work of the mind or intellect; also: an application, right, or registration relating to this.” however, this does not tell me what intellectual property is in a meaningful way so first we must define some terms.

Property is defined as “Something that is owned or possessed”.
To own is to “belong to”, though belong has multiple definitions.

Definition 1a) is as follows: “to be the property of a person or thing”. This causes the definition to be redundant (“Property is something that is the the property of a person or thing.”) so we must look at another definition of “belong”

Definition 3a) of belong is “to be an attribute, part, adjunct, or function of a person or thing.”

This makes property defined as “something that is an attribute, part, adjunct, or function of a person or thing.”

To derive is “to take, receive, or obtain especially from a specified source.”.
Mind is defined as “the element or complex of elements in an individual that feels, perceives, thinks, wills and especially reasons.”.
Intellect Is defined as “the power of knowing as distinguished from the power to feel and will.”.

This effectively makes the definition of “Intellectual Property” as follows: “something that is an attribute, part, adjunct, or function of a person or thing (as an idea, invention, or process) that is obtained from the work of the element or complex of elements in an individual that feels, perceives, thinks, wills, and especially reasons OR, knowing.”

John Locke proclaimed that “everyman has a property in his person; this nobody has a right to but himself. The labour of his body and the work of his hand, we may say, are properly his.”. This is to say that property ownership derives from one's labour. Labour is defined as “an expenditure of physical or mental effort especially when difficult of compulsory.”

This means that ownership is determined by effort put into a situation. Locke's argument for intellectual property is based upon the idea that laborers have the right to control that which they create. He argues that we own our bodies which are the laborers, this right of ownership extends to what we create. Thus, intellectual property ensures this right when it comes to production If ownership is determined by effort, however, that means that a person cannot ever steal something. We know that this is not the case and must account for and expand our model to fit the reality of the situation.

Ownership is defined, in reality (not arbitrary legal or social constructs) as “possession”. So, in order to have property in reality one must have that something. If one person has a thing, this means another person cannot have that same thing without making it their own, or copying it. If one makes it their own, this means that the “original” owner (despite never being able to objectively prove the past exists) does not have the opportunity to make use of their thing.

This is stealing.

Intellectual property does not have the problem of theft. In order for theft to occur, the original owner must lose the possession that is being stolen. With ideas, once thought up, they are yours. You can only ever be reminded of that idea. For example, in order for one to imagine or think of the way they would like a song to sound, one must know what specific notes and scales sound like. If one were to incorporate these notes and scales (that is to say, the title of the notes and scales and taken and put onto writing) one would be taking anothers' idea that the specified title of the aforementioned notes and scales are the proper way to express the sounds that are the notes and scales. This is not your idea, and you are not taking away the possession or the potential to employ the idea from the original owner. Not a single person involved is losing something. 

This is why intellectual property will fail. You can take and employ any idea without the original idea losing it's function.

The supposed purpose of intellectual property laws are to encourage new technologies, artistic expressions and inventions while promoting economic growth. This is done through three main mechanisms in the western world: copyrights, patents, and trademarks. Copyrights “protect” the expressive arts. They give “owners” exclusive rights to reproduce their work, publicly display or perform their work, and create derivative works. Additionally, owners are given economic rights to financially benefit from their work and prohibit others from doing so without their permission. It is important to realize that copyrights do not protect ideas, only how they're expressed. This is because one can never protect an idea. Ideas have nothing to lose. What this does is it keeps one from potentially lowering the economic value of a piece of art. Value is classically measured by scarcity.

This is why intellectual property will fail.
You can take and employ any idea without the original idea losing it's function.

That is to say that one could take a copyrighted work and do the exact same thing as the original owner without it taking so much profit that it harms or lowers the way of living of the original owner. This is unfortunately contradictory to our current capitalist style of living.

Another mechanism for intellectual property laws is patents. Patents protect an invention from being made, sold or used by others for a certain period of time. There are three different types of patents in the United States:

Utility Patents - these patents protect inventions that have a specific function, including things like chemicals, machines, and technology.

Design Patents - these patents protect the unique way a manufactured object appears.

Plant Patents - these patents protect plant varieties that are asexually reproduced, including hybrids.

Inventors may not assume that their creation is patented unless they apply and are approved for a patent by the US Patent and Trademark Office. This process can be complex and time consuming. Again, this does not, and can not protect an idea. This attaches a name to a way of employing an idea to again, keep one from potentially lowering the economic value of the idea. However, what this also does, specifically with utility patents, is that it keeps one from employing an idea that's not “yours” (you never thought of it “on time”?) in a way that a person doesn't approve of.
I make the claim that this is counter-intuitive to the very purpose of intellectual property laws. One has the potential to take a utility and synthesize, perhaps, a new technology or invention that could improve the way of living. We see this time and time again when companies allow other business entities to make use of their products, software, or machines.

This is why intellectual property will fail.
You can take and employ any idea without the original idea losing it's function.

The final mechanism for intellectual property laws is trademarks. Trademarks “protect” the names and identifying marks of products and companies. The purpose of trademarks is to make it easy for consumers to distinguish competitors from each other. Trademarks are automatically assumed once a business begins using a certain mark to identify its company, and may use the symbol TM without filing their symbol or name with the government. The problem here is within the foundation of how our brains make up the world. A trademark exists within the realm of design. My question is, how far do we take it and why? If the individual who first drew a triangle (or called it a triangle, after drawing it) sold that shape (by drawing it over again wherever the purchasing individual demands) would another not be able to draw a triangular pyramid, simply for containing a triangle? If one argued that the difference lies within the idea that they are separate ideas, one being in a different geometrical dimension and making up (as in, a component for) another; could one make that same argument for if one took an identical replica of a business logo and drew something outside the lines? This would effectively make the preexisting logo only a component of a new logo or artistic works.

This is why intellectual property will fail.
 You can take and employ any idea without the original idea losing it's function.

These mechanisms all are under the assumption that an idea can be original, to begin with. However, if we are to take into account the belief of solipsism or the original thought theory, the very foundation of these mechanisms become null and void.
As an epistemological position, solipsism holds that knowledge of anything outside of one's own mind is unsure; the external world and other minds cannot be known , and might not exist outside the mind.
This means that all ideas of the outside world are ideas that you, or rather your mind came up with already.
This, in practicality, makes intellectual property public domain; this renders the law null and void. The original thought theory states that anything anyone can ever think, has already been thought of by someone else. 

I would like to point out a video titled “How Many Things Are There?” by a channel called “Vsauce”. The claim is made that the amount of physical things in the measurable universe equal 10^183 and the amount of imaginary things one could ever think over the period of time from beginning of measurable time forward a Google years is equal to 1.458x10^227.

“If we’re going to achieve a lasting peace in the knowledge wars, it’s time to set property aside, time to start recognizing that knowledge – valuable, precious, expensive knowledge – isn’t owned. Can’t be owned. The state should regulate our relative interests in the ephemeral realm of thought, but that regulation must be about knowledge, not a clumsy remake of the property system.”

We are living in an age where information is abundant and being shared everyday. What happens if you know something but aren't aware how you came to that conclusion or forgot that you came to the conclusion from an external source? The questions revolving around intellectual property have been a heavily debated topic since the early twentieth century. I see the questions come up more and more frequently with the internet becoming more abundant and I'm interested to see the outcome.

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