When IP gets in the way of … IP.

August 24, 2010

Intellectual Property in the context of Internet Protocol: Two IPs don’t always make a right.

It would seem that one of the great drawbacks of the Virtual Revolution is the fact that intellectual property doesn’t get on particularly well with the Internet’s (our) voracious appetite for forwarding, retweeting, downloading, paraphrasing, appropriating facts, figures, information. Ours is the copy/paste generation. Which raises the question: in this Age of Engagement, creative commons and citizen journalism, is intellectual property still an issue or not really relevant anymore? Well, maybe I’m going to sit on the fence here, but let’s see if we can unravel the ‘thread’ looking at both sides of the question.
Staunch defenders of intellectual property would point to the blatant copying of music and film as clear examples of the expropriation of others’ works and ideas. It goes without saying that underpinning all of this is a strong economic argument. Music companies and film producers stand to lose, and have lost, plenty of money at the expense of downloading freeloaders. However, regulation is tricky because depending on which side of the fence you’re on it can be criticized as being censorship. With the Internet there’s a strong sense of freedom of speech. After all, the Internet as we know it today is like a teenager that doesn’t like being told what to do and answers back. It’s in that ‘growing pains’ stage and is still coming to terms with who it is and what it wants to be when it becomes ‘grownup’ and ‘responsible’.
The other camp asserts that IP has a monopolising effect and stifles the sharing of information, creativity and ideas. They embrace the idea of sharing, passing on data, information and knowledge as one of the Net’s raisons de être. Yet, like everything else, many expect to get a return on their investment, whether it’s clicks or selling jingles, and the Internet is no exception. Their approach is more permissive, which doesn’t necessarily mean no regulation at all. A sort of code of conduct prevails whereby you identify your sources and respect people’s IP. In fact, the applications we use for sharing are ‘regulating’ this process themselves by including the ‘who’ and the ‘what’.
Anyway, this discussion/thread will carry on for a long time yet, so I’ll sign off here. Feel free to share it!

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