Brian Micklethwait's Blog

In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Friday February 02 2007

Here is my latest mp3, this time of a conversation earlier this month between me and Michael Jennings, on the subject of intellectual property.  It lasts a few seconds over forty minutes.  (If you are wondering who and what Michael Jennings is, one way to tune into him would be to read his comment on this.  Also, this Samizdata posting was much talked about.)

The IP line Michael takes is that the current rather muddled state of IP law is no very huge scandal, or very huge problem.  After all, there is now no obvious shortage of inventiveness or creativity in the world.  Good IP laws are about encouraging innovation in whatever way will work, and that involves trade-offs between the interests of individual creators and the rest of us.  Creativity is individual, and individuals must be rewarded.  But it is also social.  Creations are the products of intellectual milieus and trends.  Indeed, the very phrase “intellectual property” is unsatisfactory insofar as it implies permanent ownership of things for which in fact one should only be rewarded on a one-off basis.

“Intellectual property” is also more social in its application.  If I steal your chair, you can’t then sit on it.  If I steal your idea for a chair, you can still go on using that idea, even as I use it too.

When I started writing about IP issues for CNE, I hoped I would achieve clarity.  When I didn’t, I felt rather guilty.  What was I missing?  I find it encouraging that someone like Michael actually rather disapproves of pushing particular theories of what constitutes intellectual property, for want of a better phrase, too far.  IP is a cludge, and should remain a cludge.

UPDATE:  Oh dear.  As you may already know, the mp3 file linked to above is only 11 seconds long.  AND, I have lost ALL the editing I did on the original file.  Or if I havn’t, I can’t find the edited version, which is what lost means, right?  SO, I will have to do all the bloody editing again.  Are you angry?  Not as angry as me.  Commenters, be very polite.  PLEASE, no good advice.

UP-UPDATE: Well, I redid the editing, and this time, maybe because I was being more determined, I cut out nearly two more minutes.  Nothing of substance was lost, I promise you.  All should now be well.