Full Member from US
joined:Oct 9, 2009
I agree with Tedster. The definition of intellectual property is becoming fuzzy. With digital technology, the concept of property is freed from being tied to something tangible. That makes re-evaluating what we mean by "property" inevitable.
It doesn't mean all respect for IP will necessarily go away, though. I actually think the opposite will happen. As people collaborate MORE and share MORE of the fruits of their creativity, there will grow a common sense of mutual respect for everyone's property - however its limits are defined.
An area ripe for change is fan fiction. Unless going through special arrangements, you can't make money off of fan fiction because of miserly intellectual property rights. But fan fiction has blossomed with the Internet - and there's a hugely loyal following. The only reason it's not monetizable are those old-fashioned notions of IP.
But I can think of a couple of business models offhand that could allow fan fiction to be monetized so nobody is hurt (except perhaps the original writer's ego) and everybody wins (including the original writer's pocketbook).
With more liberal ideas of what constitutes fair use, and more models for compensation, we could see such an explosion of creativity it's not funny.
That said, I think all that is in the far future, decades away. In the meantime, we're in a struggle between people who respect IP and those who don't. Although I do think it's a pretty weak struggle, because once again, IP's going through a change. And that change seems to correlate with a generational shift as younger people are staking out their territory online.
The ethics of intellectual property are tied to the daily reality of living. And that reality differs among the generations.
When I was growing up, it was easy to make tape recordings and photocopies and sneak into movie theaters. Our generation (Gen X) didn't think that was wrong; the reasoning went, if it was that wrong, there would be some enforcement, wouldn't there? And anyway (the reasoning continued) the rules couldn't be fair, because not everybody could afford to read, see, and listen to all that media, but knowledge of the media was vital to keeping our social position, which was vital to our finding mates, succeeding in careers, etc., and what kind of "equal opportunity" was that, anyway? And so on. The point is, the world looked different to a Gen Xer than to a baby boomer. (In general.)
These days, it's easy to copy and paste and watch pirated TV on YouTube. Try to tell a Millenial that copying is wrong, mashups are so wrong they're thievery, and not paying for something they can't afford in the first place is malicious mischief, and you'll get looked at like you're insane. Not because they're morally destitute, but because the ethical world you're describing isn't described in the real daily fabric of their world.
And incidentally, there's another dimension here, too, across cultures. It may not always be a lack of respect that's behind scraped content. Though I can't remember the source - sorry - what I recall is that in China, the government is reputed to suppress people's access to certain web content. As a consequence, it's a common practice to distribute content as far and wide as possible, not necessarily, or only, to steal the content, but to protect it.
Not saying that's what is happening even most of the time, or even that that makes a difference to us - after all, from our perspective, scraped content is scraped content - but just that ideas of intellectual property blur from culture to culture because of different degrees of freedom and opportunity.
Once language barriers are surmounted by technology...once the younger generations gain more of a voice...different populations will be influencing each other like mad.
Which is why I just don't know what IP will look like in the future, but I think it's going to be very different from the IP of the past.