Intellectual Property

My thoughts about Thomas Jefferson Writes a Letter in The Public Domain

Historical Significance

  1. Patents have been an issue for centuries, even before the issue of cheaply distributed intellectual property became possible. Even previous to this “new” inventions were building upon those of the past.
  2. In many places in Jefferson’s time only specific, privilege works were given a monopoly that we might now refer to as copyright.
  3. This generation of thinkers tended to be wary of monopolies, especially those given by the state. 

Key Points

  1. “Stable ownership” is “a gift of social law”. The right to own something, even something physical, isn’t inherent in our beings, but rather given or not by the laws of our particular society. 
  2. Jefferson Warning – how to draw the line between what should get a copyright and what shouldn’t
    1. The purpose is, or should be, to promote innovation
    2. People are not entitled to them, aside from whatever the society deems reasonable, because they are not a natural right. 
    3. They should only last as long as is necessary to promote innovation
    4. Because copyrights hinder the spread of knowledge they may inadvertently hinder innovation. 
    5. There are many more questions that will need to be addressed after deciding on an intellectual property system. 
  3. A dead person cannot be encouraged to produce any more creative works and most people are not encouraged by the rights they might have after death. Extending the copyright term after his death, therefore, cannot encourage him to create anything. Thus, extending copyright further after the death of an author does not benefit him, but does increase costs to those who might benefit from his work.
  4. Descendants etc. who might inherit copyrights might disagree with a work and stop publishing it or trying to project it might stop others from commenting, at cost to the public.
  5. Some consider intellectual property a natural right – people own things they create (but for how long?)
  6. The aforementioned arguments are usually against monopolies rather than for something else.
    1. Information is hard to value before you have it, but impossible to stop possessing once you do.
    2. A society is built on it’s commons/public domain (e.g. language, big ideas)

My thoughts about The Apple of Forbidden Knowledge in Intellectual Property: Law and the Information Society

Historical Significance

  1. So far law does not protect physical objects from the possibly of theft of their idea. E.g. bags of chocolate chips always suggest that they are the best chocolate chips for their recipes, but, you can make nestle cookies with any chocolate chips you want.

Key Points

  1. The language of physical property is being applied to questions of intellectual property. Is it possible to break into the idea of an ipod?
  2. Companies believe they have the right to control the use of something they’ve sold after they’ve sold it
    1. e.g. voiding warranties if things are used contrary to the way they want them used. This seems reasonable, since a warranty is not the same as a mobile phone.

Questions for Discussion

  1. What are the rules about generic things? There seem to be plenty of them, but do they violate patents? 


  1. First sale doctrine (law)- once you by something it is yours. Nobody can restrict your action with it.
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