A Plagiarized Defense Of Plagiarism…

from the well-done dept

I’ve been a big Jonathan Lethem fan for a while. A friend introduced me to his books a while back, and I’ve read them all at some point or another. He’s an enjoyable and entertaining writer, and I was thrilled when I recently heard about his new Promiscuous Materials project, where he offered up a bunch of random stories he’d written for anyone to adapt, free of charge, however they wanted to do so. In announcing the project, he noted that he was inspired to do so as he was working on an article for Harper’s about intellectual property and how it often leads to the opposite result of its intended purpose (to promote the progress of useful arts and science). However, at that time, the Harper’s article wasn’t yet online. Boing Boing today points us to the incredibly long, but absolutely worthwhile essay on the problems of intellectual property. It touches on everything from plagiarism to copyright to patents and trademarks, and it’s wonderfully written and put together. It talks about how all creations are inspired by others and put together in new and different ways, and the idea that you should be able to then stop others from doing so makes almost no sense. It points out how the phrase “copyright” is loaded and not accurate, and how “usemonopoly” is a better term. Of course, despite its length, you need to read to the end of the article, in order to find the real nugget of beauty in the article, which itself was inspired from someone else’s idea.

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Comments on “A Plagiarized Defense Of Plagiarism…”

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Ken (user link) says:

Ecstasies of influence

I couldn’t agree more. I happened onto the essay by accident on a coast-to-coast flight, and couldn’t help but say “wow” when I got to the punchline at the end. The essay is (clearly) inspired brilliance – I’ve already recommended it to several colleagues, and will be using it in any technopolitics class I teach. Simply brilliant.

Brad Anderson says:

Intellectual Property

It’s a fact that Bill Gates built his empire on clever use of intellectual-property laws, rather than actually creating a better product; he simply monopolized the Windows operating-system, while copying the PC-design from IBM but still obtaining monopoly on selling it. This resulted in a mediocre system while protecting him from competition, enabling Gates to become a 20th-century robber-baron who monopolized the computer-market, cheating progammers and robbing programmers and other corporations, until he became literally too powerful to stop.
Likewise, software-copyright laws protects it far longer than the possible sellable-period for the software (i.e. life of the author + 56 years), and thus discourages improvement by preventing it from entering the public domain after a few years: instead, it is protected just as if it were a book, rather than simply an unpatented design (which it is).

While IP laws can be helpful to smaller artists, the “realpolitik” (i.e. political reality) of modern society renders it simply a tool of monopoly at the corporate levels.

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