by Mike Masnick
Fri, Oct 26th 2007 8:41am
In general, we have a problem with the term "intellectual property" since it implies something that simply isn't true: that things like copyrights and patents are "property." That's clearly not the case as there are significant differences between traditional property and something like copyrights and patents. We also have a problem with trademarks being included within the umbrella of "intellectual property" since it's quite different from the other two, and was developed not as incentives (as copyright and patents are) but as a method of consumer protection (keeping you from being mislead about the origin of a product). However, it is somewhat useful to have a larger term to explain copyrights and patents. Some people (including our Founding Fathers like Jefferson and Madison) prefer to use the term monopolies, which has been adjusted by some these days to "intellectual monopolies" or even "use monopolies." Tom Bell is now suggesting that a better term may be "intellectual privilege" and has written up a research paper establishing the reasons for this. While it makes for an interesting academic argument, it seems unlikely that people are going to adopt the phrase any time soon. I'd tend to side more with those who refer to it as an intellectual monopoly, as that's much more descriptive. Intellectual privilege, for all the niceness of retaining the "IP" designation, probably requires too much explanatory baggage.
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