Technology gives us the global telepathy that biology failed to provide. Copyright showcases our failure to adapt. The problem is easy to express. In fact, the Buddha stated it plainly over 2,500 years ago.
People try to lay claim to the immaterial rather than the material. The effort to "own" the insubstantial is what leads to a multitude of problems. Technological telepathy will require you to make a decision about whether there can be such a concept as "intellectual property" when somebody else claims ownership over your own memories. Personal liberty and freedom of expression are concepts that will run directly into the wall of corporatism, profiteering, and ownership.
We should sidestep the distraction of the various recording technologies (cameras, tape recorders, page scanners) by acknowledging immediately that humans themselves have always functioned as recording devices. Recording cannot be prevented reasonably, so who owns these human records now? Sounds reach my ears, sights reach my eyes, and experiences in total are stored in my memories. The technology is already in development that will allow me to directly share my experience. My auditory experience
can be shared. My visual experience
can be shared. My memories can eventually be stored
outside of my body and shared with others. Are my memories "mine", in total, or are they not? Why should anyone have authority to prevent me from sharing the history of my life experience, even when a moment of it incorporates somebody's copyrighted work?
I see only three beneficial solutions: we end intellectual property, we recognize benefaction rather than ownership, or we seize intellectual property for the commons. In all three cases, plagiarism is still possible (as a false claim of original authorship) but not theft.
Keeping our existing laws is ghastly; it will soon mean that someone else owns your memories. Solution #1: Eliminate Intellectual Property
It would be foolish to share something then demand that every recipient is now bound by a code of silence forever, but that's exactly how copyright works today. You are not allowed to share your experience of a concert or movie except at the lowest fidelity by transcribing your audiovisual experience into mere words that describe your recollection. If the original experience was already in the realm of words alone (reading a story, for example), then additional restrictions apply.
The easiest solution is to eliminate copyright altogether. End intellectual property. I prefer this method for its simplicity. Immaterial ideas could be owned as private property only if they remain private. Taking ideas or experiences from the mind of the sole individual who harbors them would indeed be theft.Solution #2: Eliminate Ownership
An alternative is to end "ownership" of ideas but instead recognize "benefactors" of creative works. If there is ever any benefit (money or services granted) for a creative development, then the original author may lay claim to that benefit. So someone can freely use any image, video, audio, or text on their website, but if they earn any money from the publication, then the original author(s) can claim a portion of those collected fees.
I already endorse this approach. If you look at the source code for my personal webpages, you see this notice in the meta tags. It is the closest version of benefaction that I can easily achieve on my own with current laws.
<META NAME="COPYRIGHT" CONTENT="Copyright (c) 2005 by Terry Walker, you may use this content in any way that is not for profit">
I think this approach is encouraged by the efforts of the Pirate Party
. I notice that scientists also seem to favor this approach, as they abandon
strict journal ownership of articles
in favor of peer review through easily shared sources. Authorship is important, but ownership is not.Solution #3: Seize Public Property
I mention this idea only to be thorough in my examination of possibilities. It relies on government actively working to benefit people, which no government should be trusted to do continuously. Government could counterbalance the intellectual property problem by asserting the community's ownership of its ideas. Government could place a movie or book in national archives where everybody could use it. Government could take a patent and make it publicly owned.
When was the last time you heard of a government claiming "imminent domain" rights over intellectual property? Yeah, me neither. Government is so beholden to corporations that it is actively stealing from the public commons to benefit the private corporations. It does so already with limited physical resources
. The U.S. government now also has permission from the Supreme Court
to take items out of public domain and return them to copyright protection.
The easiest solution is still to end copyright.