mining the commons

The pro intellectual property lobby is running around crying about how they need expanded intellectual property rights to make their businesses run.

My business plan is failing! The government must save my precious business plan!!

Well, you know, I have a whole bunch of half-baked business plans that would just love a bit of help from the government. Why are my plans less privileged than theirs?

Oh, no. Oh, no. It's not that at all. Intellectual property is an untapped resource! We need help getting all those wonderful, valuable ideas out of the ground and into our factories, where they can be refined and turned into something valuable!

Uhm, yeah, sure. Fort Knox is an "untapped" resource, too.

But I think this is the core of the disagreement.

Those who lobby governments and citizens for expanded intellectual property rights want us all to believe that they are just asking for rights to an untapped natural resource. Think, shale sands, or a gas field under the sea, etc. Mineral rights. Homesteading.

On the contrary, people who oppose the very concept of intellectual property, want to point out that the "untapped" vein of gold the IP lobbyists are seeing is, in fact, already claimed, and often under active development by the rightful owners. What they are trying to claim is the social equivalent of everybody's private bank account plus the national economic reserves.

No one invents things ex-nihilo. Every scientist, inventor, artist, etc. stands on the shoulders of those who have gone before. (Real artists and scientists understand this.)

All intellectual progress is dependent on the cultural milieu.

These are the intellectual reserves of the entire human society, of nations, communities, and individuals that these people want to be allowed to take out title to.

What they are making a grab for is not a short-term lien on a part of the market place dealing with specific inventions and literary/artistic creations, based on sacrosanct ideas, as the patent and copyright systems of the US were originally envisioned, but a full long-term (practically permanent) lease on the underlying ideas, as property.

Because they don't have the vision to figure out a proper business plan that doesn't involve "capturing" all the economic value surrounding the ideas. Capturing and holding it for ransom.

Well, can I be snarky?

Why does their lack of vision get rewarded when my ideas go begging?

No, not snarky at all. I don't really mind that my ideas go begging. I'm willing to eat dirt and go naked for a while, until I can put those ideas together properly and start doing something real with them. Blood, sweat, tears, and failures are part of the necessary process in processing ideas to produce real value in the external world.

(Sure, my wife minds if our children eat dirt and go naked, and I have a responsibility to try to feed and cloth my children, but that responsibility does not extend to trying to steal the value from other people's ideas.)

I don't mind if other people have more success than I do, as long as they play by the rules so that we can all have our turn too, when we get our stuff ready.

I do mind that they think they have some special privilege to "capture" stuff that they didn't invent or create, just because it is based on similar ideas.

(Yes, much of what they are trying to capture will impair my efforts, if they are allowed to capture it. So they protect the industry from my contributions, I guess.)

Why is the privilege they are trying to claim considered any less offensive to the freedoms of "ordinary" citizens than attempts at establishment of a caste of royals and nobles? (Or, relative to monarchies, establishment of a new caste of claimants to nobility?)

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