[LINK] Can ideas be stolen?

Craig Sanders cas at taz.net.au
Wed Oct 22 12:54:06 EST 2008

On Wed, Oct 22, 2008 at 12:15:51PM +1100, David Boxall wrote:
> Beyond that; after a while, doesn't a successful idea become part of
> our culture?  For how long can an idea be rightly said to belong to
> its originator?


no matter how much those pushing the bogus term "intellectual property"
would like you to think so, ideas are *never* property.

patents cover specific *inventions*, they do not cover the idea that the
invention is meant to implement. e.g. you can patent the invention of a
specific kind of mousetrap, you can not patent the idea of a mousetrap.

copyrights cover specific expressions. e.g. you can copyright your
particular novel about, say, life around the time of the american civil
war. you can not copyright the idea of that.

btw, another question you missed is "how much of an idea is the
inevitable product of the culture and times in which the 'originator'
lives?". throughout history there have been countless examples of
roughly simultaneous but indepenent "inventions" around the same basic
idea - some things just become obvious when the prior knowledge required
becomes common knowledge.

e.g. the idea of atomic bombs was "obvious" to physicists since at least
the 1920s, but it wasn't until the 1940s that a practical invention was
made. the invention was essentially inevitable once the idea became
common knowledge.

> My conclusion is that the excesses of "Intellectual Property" succeed
> in negating any legitimacy the comment in question might have had.

"Intellectual Property" is a propaganda term designed to a) conflate the
definitions of copyrights and patents, and b) make people think that
copyrights and patents are property just like a house or a car when they
are not - they are a short-term government-granted *limited* monopoly
on some kinds of implementation (patents) or copying & distribution

your question "how long can an idea be owned" is itself evidence of
this. the mis-information and confusion works.


craig sanders <cas at taz.net.au>

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