Knowledge vs “IP”

There is an article on this subject here which highlights the absurdity that is IP. It’s better expressed, via examples, than I could ever manage:

“Fundamentally, the stuff we call “intellectual property” is just knowledge – ideas, words, tunes, blueprints, identifiers, secrets, databases. This stuff is similar to property in some ways: it can be valuable, and sometimes you need toinvest a lot of money and labour into its development to realise that value.

But it is also dissimilar from property in equally important ways. Most of all, it is not inherently “exclusive”. If you trespass on my flat, I can throw you out (exclude you from my home). If you steal my car, I can take it back (exclude you from my car). But once you know my song, once you read my book, once you see my movie, it leaves my control. Short of a round of electroconvulsive therapy, I can’t get you to un-know the sentences you’ve just read here.”

In this context, I think it may be appropriate to include the text of an email received by Richard Stallman, last year:

” Your site is an interesting one. Some of the ideas seem useful; some of them are amusing, and would qualify as chindogu. (Look that up on

However, it’s really very bad to use the term “intellectual property” to describe what this is about. That term doesn’t have a coherent meaning; it is an overgeneralization that covers up confusion and makes it appear meaningful. Whoever the term “intellectual property” is typically either confused or trying to confuse others.

One of your posts, a few items down from the top, was about the patent system. It speaks of “a share of the IP”. Do you mean “a share of any income from patent licenses”? If so, would you please correct it to say that, and thus avoid the term “IP”?
See for more explanation of this problem.
Worse, it seems to me that by demanding secrecy to create monopoly, the patent system is seriously damaging innovation.

I agree. I just made a link to which explains just how bad this is.

The article used to have a different URL which used the term “intellectual property”, but I convinced the author to change it so as to avoid that term. He changed it today 😉 . “

And here’s a view from Arthur C Clarke, just before his recent death:

“I’m often asked why I didn’t try to patent the idea of communications satellites. My answer is always, ‘A patent is really a license to be sued.’ “

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