Apparently the current US administration is pushing to ‘reform’ intellectual property laws, and even some popular tech sites have chimed in. Anyone around me for any length of time over the last few years knows that intellectual property is a pet subject of mine, so I can’t help but be annoyed by what they are saying. Is piracy theft? Well yes, but I don’t agree with what they mean. I think intellectual property is an altogether invalid concept, and even find the term ‘intellectual property’ itself objectionable because the word ‘property’ can’t legitimately be applied to ideas, patterns, or arrangements. Property by definition needs to be able to be owned in an exclusive manner. I suppose that is why they had to add the word ‘intellectual’ in front of it - to distinguish it from actual property, in which case they may as well have called it ‘imaginary property’! The argument is framed by the terms used. My aim here will to briefly question definitions. With diagrams I ‘stole’. There is the somewhat popular graphic that emerged a while back. [caption id=”attachment_200” align=”alignnone” width=”345” caption=”In a simple way gets at a core issue. Scarce vs. non-scarce entities. ‘ownership’ is not violated by duplication in the way it obviously is by theft. “][/caption] And lots of variations springing out of that: [caption id=”attachment_201” align=”alignnone” width=”437” caption=”Didn’t like the original, so attempts to recast the ‘pirates’ as evil without really dealing with the scarcity issue. I guess the underlying claim is that piracy ‘steals’ the possibility to profit exclusively, and those potential profits were somehow owned by an ideas originator, however, you can’t really own an opportunity any more than you can own an idea so it doesn’t hold water.”][/caption] [caption id=”attachment_202” align=”alignnone” width=”300” caption=”Just decided pigs were more fun than stars I guess…”][/caption] Some people prefer hexagons and shopping carts [caption id=”attachment_203” align=”alignnone” width=”480” caption=”A feeble attempt to appeal to the plight of the starving artist while again ignoring the core issues. Has this person lived under copyright for so long they have no ability to imagine alternative models of profitability? Do they really think without IP all creativity and innovation will cease? In general IP benefits the big guys more than the little guys. Many independent artists thrive without IP, others just prefer to do art for arts sake. “][/caption] [caption id=”attachment_204” align=”alignnone” width=”300” caption=”Pulls into question the usage of the term ‘piracy’ with a touch of humor.”][/caption] File sharing has evolved some, and I sort of feel it is worth while to illustrate how as it is actually quite relevant to the file sharing legality issue. However, I can’t really do it better than the wikipedia article on torrenting, and this demo (won’t work in IE, don’t try) does a slick job of illustrating a torrent in action. Copying is duplication, not piracy. Piracy is theft in international waters. Theft only operates in the realm of property and ownership. Property is a scarce resource that can have exclusive ownership. Ideas can have an originators but not owners.