Screaming Planet

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Intellectual Parasitism

Posted on | January 18, 2012 | No Comments

[flickr]photo:6721977933[/flickr] The rallying cry, as far as there was one on this feel-good protest day against SOPA and PIPA seems to be “end piracy, not liberty”. I am aware that for some, it is highly impractical to outright support piracy, especially since many still believe there is a non-constructed, deeper moral right in content creators being paid for their intellectual property. This, however, is a fallacy.

Intellectual property, as a concept, is a very, very fresh invention in human history, and for the most part, it seems to be a parasitic memeplex intent on stifling the free flow of information. This line of argument seemingly veers into the naive sloganish “information wants to be free” direction, however, there is more to it. Yes, the concept of intellectual property does  provide for individuals who “come up with new stuff” to live off of “coming up with new stuff”, but this is not, in fact, how our modern understanding of IP works.

The modern concept of IP is that when a person whose job it is to come up with new stuff does, in fact, do their job, they get paid for it. And then get paid again. And get paid again and again, whenever someone makes use of, or in some forms of this twisty system, even mentions what they came up with. You could argue that this is a fine system, since the person who came up with something should get duly compensated for that piece of cominguppingness, but I’d argue that the moment they cease coming up with new stuff, and start living off of others using stuff they already came up with, they are becoming a parasitic life form.

I am aware that analogies are always imperfect, but in general, in proper economic branches, people get paid to provide a scarce item or to provide scarce, desired labor; let’s say we are dealing with a miner. A miner would get paid for providing designated labor – mining things – for a set amount of time, with an expected level of productivity. If this miner suddenly decided to stop doing their job, they would, naturally and without moral qualms on the part of society, stop getting paid for their labor (to simplify things, I am ignoring temporary cessation such as sick leave, etc.). The result of their previous labors, the materials being mined, would likely go on to benefit society in some way, either as energy, or as raw materials, and would twist and wind their way through the economy, yet the miner who mined them would not see a dime off these subsequent uses – for him or her, there is no percentage, there are no rights retained against the nugget they dug up, the equation is simple: keep working to get paid, and get paid a set sum for your skills and efforts, regardless of whether your product goes on to be a lump of coal burned carelessly to heat a sports stadium or a nugget of precious metal that will go on to become a hi-tech gizmo that will help launch people into orbit. Yet with the concept of intellectual property, the system we are trained to believe is sane is: do a bit of work, get paid constantly, and get paid exorbitant rates and percentages, based on how good other people’s uses of your comeupping are. That, to me, sounds like straightforward parasitism.

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    Written in minutes and fact-checked in seconds via Google. May contain unsafe levels of self-righteousness. Past cleverness is no guarantee of future results.
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