What kind of property is “intellectual property?”
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What kind of property is “intellectual property?”


The topic of the first panel was really looking
at a lot of what the conference wants to do, which is ‘how do you put property back in
intellectual property.’ That may seem odd, because it’s called intellectual
property. There’s a long-standing debate, especially
among commentators and scholars about whether it really was supposed to be property or whether
that’s just recent name. Part of my argument that I was addressing
today at the panel is that we had to see that there’s at least four different kinds of property
in what we called intellectual property today. The first is this notion of a private sphere
where I have ideas in my head. Those are very much my property. That’s not the subject matter of intellectual
property. That’s a natural property right that I shouldn’t
be forced. No one should torture me to get my ideas out
of my head. To get things to come out of people’s heads
and be put out into the world in a useful way, states then created nation states created
statutory law to say here’s an incentive for if you put it out in the world, we’ll give
you an extra layer of rights with strong certain kinds of penalties if people infringe. Also, once people do put things out in the
world, they make copies them, copies of books, copies of machines. In those things then there can be title and
property to that as personal property. Meaning, the automobile I have is my property
as a physical thing as well as it might be covered by patents and perhaps, copyright. That’s another level of property involved
here. The final one is if I do lease a car, there’s
a contract that I have. In that contract, I can buy and sell that
contract. I can assign it to someone else under the
right conditions. Those are at least four layers of property. A lot of the debate now gets stuck by conflating
them together, making it as if there’s one kind of property. I think that’s where a lot of the confusion
is stemming from today.

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