How Much Does Language Frame The Debate Over Intellectual Property?
from the choose-your-words-carefully dept
It’s well known that the language you use can help frame your debate. It’s quite common in politics, but it’s definitely true in technology as well. For a long time, I tried to avoid using the term “digital rights management,” when it really referred to restrictions and copy protection. The same is true of “piracy” or “theft” which denotes something much worse than simple copyright infringement or making unauthorized copies. Now, Tim Lee is suggesting that we should also avoid using the term “intellectual property” since it unfairly equates copyrights and patents as tangible property, when they’re very, very different (some might argue that intellectual property is neither intellectual, nor property). Intellectual property can get especially confusing since it usually refers to copyright, patents and trademarks — all three of which have extremely different rules and characteristics. Unfortunately, though, these words really have become common enough that people expect their common meanings to apply — and sometimes it really just is easier to use them and have everyone understand what you’re talking about (which is why we will occasionally go back to using “DRM” or “piracy” when it fits). That isn’t to say it’s not important to point out the problems with those words or phrases when they’re misused, but eliminating them from the vocabulary doesn’t do much to help either.