Techdirt Reading List: Steal This Idea: Intellectual Property And The Corporate Confiscation Of Creativity

from the problems-of-intellectual-property dept

We’re back again with another in our weekly reading list posts of books we think our community will find interesting and thought provoking. Once again, buying the book via the Amazon links in this story also helps support Techdirt.

This week, we’ve got an oldie, but a goodie, it’s economist Michael Perelman’s 2002 book Steal This Idea: Intellectual Property and the Corporate Confiscation of Creativity. And, I should note that despite the price being listed in the widget as $32 (at the time I type this), if you click through, there are used copies of the book currently on offer for $0.01. I will state upfront that there’s actually plenty in this book that I end up disagreeing with, in that Perelman seems to reflexively dislike corporations and assume that corporations and the public are almost always at odds, which sometimes appears to cloud his thinking — but that’s only on the margins.

For the most part, this book is an excellent exploration into how the concept of intellectual property has been abused over and over and over again to harm the public, rather than help them. The book is chock full of examples and history and details of how companies have turned intellectual property into a tool to hurt creators, inventors and the public. Some of the arguments you’ve probably heard before, but this book goes into great detail on some examples that you may have missed. If you’re skeptical of the use of intellectual property, this book is for you. If you think intellectual property can do no wrong, this book is definitely for you. And, yes, it’s a bit outdated today, but many of the examples still apply, and the general ideas and principles it discusses absolutely still apply.

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Comments on “Techdirt Reading List: Steal This Idea: Intellectual Property And The Corporate Confiscation Of Creativity”

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6 Comments
Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

I will state upfront that there’s actually plenty in this book that I end up disagreeing with, in that Perelman seems to reflexively dislike corporations and assume that corporations and the public are almost always at odds

What’s wrong with that? Given that past experience shows that corporations–particularly of the multi-billion-dollar megacorp variety–almost always are at odds with the interest of the public, it’s a very reasonable baseline assumption to start from.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

If you think intellectual property can do no wrong, this book is definitely for you.

This is demonstrated by the fact that the author or anyone reviewing or discussing their book could be sued simply for using “stealthis” in a URL.

“Intellectual property entrepreneur” Leo Stoller claims a trademark on “stealth”, among many other terms. And has sued companies for the term “stealth” whether in sporting goods, fishing line, movies about stealth aircraft, banking, etc. That includes legal threats to stealthisemail.com – with the claim that their address as “stealth is email,” not “steal this email.”

(Sure, the court eventually approved an auction and sale under which Stoller’s trademark assets were transferred to the Society for the Prevention of Trademark Abuse, LLC. But that hasn’t stopped him from continuing to claim trademark rights on the term. And people are still out money and time fighting off trademark trolls – IF they can afford to fight back.)

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