26 October 2007

Intellectual Monopolies Are No Privilege

We often call copyright a species of intellectual property, abbreviating it, “IP.” This brief paper suggests that we consider copyright as another sort of IP: an intellectual privilege.

When I first saw this idea, I thought it was wrong, but for the right reasons: "intellectual property" does not exist, but calling it "intellectual privilege" is not the way to flag that up. For the lay person, it makes it sound like it's a privilege to access it. Let's call them what they really are: intellectual monopolies - which nobody is going to mistake for something nice and cuddly.

Against this background, I was glad to see Mike Masnick, that bellwether of sound thinking on these issues, broadly in agreement with me:

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.


Bill Hooker said...

Related: don't say "intellectual property" and (scroll to bottom) a better term (though it'll never catch on).

Glyn Moody said...

Thanks for those links.

I'm a big fan of Lee's writing, but I think he's wrong on this: if we don't offer an alternative to "IP", people will use "IP".

For me, the great thing about "intellectual monopoly" is that it emphasises the downside of the practice. After all, who's in favour of monopolies (well, apart from Bill Gates and his chums)?

As for "ius mentis", all I can say is "eheu".