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A Replacement Term for 'Intellectual Property'? 177

femto asks: "Every time I read the words 'intellectual property', I get peeved off. It is an oxymoron. A term loaded with invalid assumptions. To even use such words is an admission that intellect can be owned and controlled like a car, clothing or other thing made of atoms. Can anyone propose a replacement for the words 'Intellectual Property'? Something that implies intellect cannot be owned. Something that implies [what Jefferson once said]: 'He who lites his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me.' Once we have this term, we need to get it accepted. Use it in publications. Cite these publications to get it in dictionaries. Get the term into everyday conversation and writing. So far, the best I have come up with is 'Intellectual Controls'. Can Slashdot come up with something better?"
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A Replacement Term for 'Intellectual Property'?

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  • Two words: (Score:3, Informative)

    by pompousjerk ( 210156 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @01:13AM (#6317996)
    "Public Domain."
    • But public domain already has a totally different meanint, it is the relinquishment (spelling?) of ownership.
      • Re:Two words: (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Directrix1 ( 157787 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @08:24AM (#6319017)
        The assumption of unowned Intellectual Property is called (brace yourself): an idea. When it is associated with a person it is my idea or Jim's idea. If its useful then its a useful idea. OK, go ahead and start work on getting this magical wonder word introduced into the dictionary. I'll talk all the lawyers into changing all the IP law.
    • In what way is Public Domain the same as Intellectual Property? (which is what the OP was asking).

      Public Domain is the exact opposite, therefore not a very good substitute IMO.

  • by ChrisSontagsAnus ( 685214 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @01:22AM (#6318030)
    Ours.
  • I've always liked that. Free as in thought.

    How to distinguish Manufactured Property from Untetherable Concept?

    Perhaps it's just Hardware and Software.
  • Intellect IS a property.

    Latin intelligere -- inter and legere -- to choose between, to discern; Greek nous; German Vernunft, Verstand; French intellect; Italian intelletto).

    The faculty of thought

    Better terminology would be commercial invention, process, or procedure. Emphasis on the COMMERCIAL.
  • "Information licensed by creator" "Copyrighted Ideas" "Licensed Original Ideas" "Protected Inventions" "Intellectual Progeny" "Monopolized Ideas" Ok, that last one was a joke.
    • Since copyright, patent, and trademark are not the same thing, they nevers should have been lumped together under any single term. Lets refer to them by their proper names. The term, "intellectual property" belongs in the dustbin of history.
  • This seems about the silliest thing I have ever heard. The term is a narrowly defined legal term. Changing a term does not ipso facto change the underlying discussion. Call it "Ice Cream Dog" and you would still be talking about ownership of those things which issue from your intellect and which you should have a right to do with as you see fit. Please stop trying to "sanitize" the language and deal with the actual problems, not get caught up in whatever the term de vogue might be.
    • You could call it "wild sex"!

      "SCO sues IBM over wild sex"
      "IBM wild sex brings in millions in revenue"
      "Here, at CorporateAmerica, we value our wild sex.."
      "Wild sex is an important lubricant of the computer business world"
      "It is illegal to steal your employer's wild sex."
      "After a while, some wild sex falls into public hands"
      "Without wild sex, life as we know it could not exist."
      "Ask Slashdot: I don't like people using wild sex. Is there something better than wild sex?" the answer: No.

    • If its such a narrowly defined legal term (it isn't) why are there no laws dealing with it?

      Answer: Becausec copyright, trademark, patent law all try to deal with intellectual 'product' differently based on what the thing is (original work, marketplace differentiator, innovative idea). Intellectual property does not appear in laws because there is no such things. Copyrights are copyrights, trademarks are trademakrs, and patents are patents.

      "IP" as a term was invented not so long ago as the Joe Sixpack term
      • Ironically, as registered patent attorneys have to "qualify" to sit for the USPTO examine by having a "hard" science degree (e.g. engineering or biology,)we registered patent attorneys tend to believe that the phrase "Intellectual Property Law" came from non-patent attorneys that wanted to "share" in the field.

        Historically, registered patent attorneys not only practiced in the field of patents, but also in the fields of trademarks, copyrights, trade dress and trade secrets. However, other attorneys notice
    • Say what? "Intellectual property" isnt very narrowly defined at all, nor is it a strictly legal term. It's more a jumbled up hodgepodge referring to everything from trademarks through copyrights to patents, all of which are extrordinarily different legal concepts with little to do with eachother. There is no real underlying discussion because the concepts are so different that it's impossible to have a single coherent discussion about such varied subjects.

      In fact, the term is so grossly and widely used and
    • The term is a narrowly defined legal term. Changing a term does not ipso facto change the underlying discussion.

      As others have pointed out, the above aren't strictly true. This doesn't exactly detract much from CiceroLove's point, though, which is that going after terms like this is the wrong battle to fight.

      Then again, the original text by femto that started this article follows the standard "state opinion as fact" mantra. The law says that, under certain circumstances, intellect can be "owned" in a

  • by mr_tenor ( 310787 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @01:38AM (#6318087)
    I assume you've seen
    http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/words-to-avoid .html

    Personally, I find it easiest to call a spade a spade - if you're talking about patents, call them patents, copyrights copyrights etc. The default nature of information and ideas is free - look at the past 4000 years or so of science. The idea of saying "so and so is mine" or "only I'm allowed to do this" with respect to ideas is pretty new, to the best of my knowledge.
    • by Radical Rad ( 138892 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @01:54PM (#6320449) Homepage
      The default nature of information and ideas is free - look at the past 4000 years or so of science. The idea of saying "so and so is mine" or "only I'm allowed to do this" with respect to ideas is pretty new, to the best of my knowledge.

      If you look at History you will find many examples of information that was lost precisely because it was kept proprietary. That was the main purpose of the medieval guilds, as well as clerics and numerous secret societies. It is why secrets like how to make Damascus Steel were lost. It is a better argument for intellectual freedom to point out how the free flow of information has bettered our world, for example the Gutenberg Bible and medical knowledge, than to say, incorrectly, that it was always like that before and now we are being oppressed.

      Second, by what spade do you call the conglomeration of concepts known individually as copyright, patent, trademark, servicemark, and tradename? I think this was the original question.

      • It is a better argument for intellectual freedom to point out how the free flow of information has bettered our world, for example the Gutenberg Bible and medical knowledge, than to say, incorrectly, that it was always like that before and now we are being oppressed.

        But in order to be granted a patent you must publish all the details of the thing you've patented. Try actually reading beyond the title "A method of doing X" and you will find the method described in great detail. You can study it all you wa
      • If you look at History you will find many examples of information that was lost precisely because it was kept proprietary.

        But this contradicts the very raison d'être of patents.

        Patents are an exchange: in return for publishing the details of your research so that, in time, the whole world will benefit, you are granted an exclusive right to benefit from that research for a limited time. At the end of that time, your exclusivity stops, and the whole world can do with the information as they wish.

      • ...by what spade do you call the conglomeration of concepts known individually as copyright, patent, trademark, servicemark, and tradename? I think this was the original question.

        The original question posits that IP is an oxymoron. So you're right, we're supposed to find a term that merely circumscribes the individual concepts - without introducing prejudicial concepts.

        I'm a big fan of RMS and his ideas, but personally I think he over does it with his semantic quibbling. The term "Intellectual Property

  • "Intellectual Property" means "products primarily of the labor of mind," not "owned intellect." It is not a mystical incantation. It's a modified noun. Irreplaceable pieces of the communal cosmic meta-mind which your question presumes are not being stolen and hoarded away from you--as your Jefferson quote would tell you, should you choose to understand it. Those of us who live primarily on the labors of our minds already know that you, who would ask such a question, envy our baby-soft skin and want us to b
    • Well... I agree with you, but you really come off as damned pretensious.

      The problem with this ask slashdot is the poster isn't asking for a new word for intellectual property. He's asking for a word that exemplifies the Thomas Jefferson quote. Well I've got news for you. That's not how most intellectual property holders feel about it.

      I think it would be great if we could all follow Jefferson's example, but we can't just change the word to imply that intellectual property should be shared rather than ho
      • by OwnerOfWhinyCat ( 654476 ) * on Saturday June 28, 2003 @04:01AM (#6318474)
        While I agree that the poster is looking for a word that exemplifies the Thomas Jefferson quote. I disagree with CdotZinger's objection to the request.

        I think it's very relevant because usage makes the language. I don't like this either, but it's a fact. I've observed the following instances of people fighting against this.

        • ESR's attempts to reclaim the word "hacker" when (to the non computing public) it clearly includes "crackers." This is probably mostly do to the fact that they are the only ones doing anything that would appear interesting on a silver screen. Can you imagine a movie about kernel module development? I'll take Battlefiled Earth thank you. But I digress.

        • Liberals true to the ideals set forth early in US history are quite different from Socialists, and in conversation they will point this out and attempt to reclaim the term, unsuccessfully for the most part.

        • Bugs, to most people, seems to include any non-aquatic invertebrates that crawl. If you use the term around entomologists, you'll get a speech to the effect that "True bugs belong to the order Hemiptera" and they go on about leathery based hemelytra in much the same helpful and nourishing fashion as CdotZinger above.

        The ugly fact these three observations have in common is that common usage adds meanings to words. In some cases these connotations are objectionable, and it doesn't seem at all unreasonable to look for new terms that lack the objectionable connotations.

        I consider patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets to be what I'm referring to when I say "IP." As such it's a very convenient term to use in conversation.

        SCO and other large companies before them have attempted to add an additional, non-legal, but purportedly moral connotation to this term. They have been selling the public on the idea that they do in fact own "ideas." That this ownership is called "IP" and that it is their legal right. They are specifically selling the concept that if they do something first in their software, that every future piece of software that serves the same function is in part their "intellectual property." A term they use very much in the sense of "owned ideas" and not at all in the sense of "products primarily of the labor of the mind."

        Even though he elsewhere acknowledges that the parts of Linux that were allegedly copied can be replaced, (thus eliminating the application of Copyright's derived works section), Blake Stowell (SCO spokesman) still maintains: "Linux could still be used; it just wouldn't be free," Stowell said. "These people are upset because they've been enjoying a free ride for some time. They're upset their free ride will potentially be gone."

        So exactly what gives him the right to tax our cup of tea?

        He doesn't have a patent on SMP. He won't have even have the desperately weak copyright claim 24 hours after the "offending code" gets published. He doesn't own the Trademark, and it's clearly not a Trade Secret.

        He is convinced that we who use Linux owe him money based on this nebulous 5th category based on the principal of "idea ownership."

        I think femto is very right to want his/her conversations to lack endorsement of this stupidity, and I wish him/her good luck in coming up with a good replacement. Till then when people refer to IP, I will gently and without a hint of corrective authority ask them to clarify which aspect of IP they are referring to, and we'll talk about it "long hand" until such time as someone answers femto's question with a catchy, Jefferson compatible, substitute.
      • Well... I agree with you, but you really come off as damned pretensious.

        -- A guy who posts with the nick "Descartes", yet can't spell :-)
    • by hysterion ( 231229 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @05:53AM (#6318681) Homepage
      "Intellectual Property" means "products primarily of the labor of mind," not "owned intellect."

      Amazing. You make an excellent case for saying intellectual products , and then without even noticing, you immediately identify product = property .

      "Area of the unit sphere = 4 \pi" is a product of Archimedes' intellect. Is it ipso facto "property", with all the connotations of the word in our ambiant ideology?

      (Example of such connotations: trespassing your neighbor's property is a crime; in Swiss culture it is a right.)

      So no, "Area = 4\pi" is not Archimedes' property. But he has an inalienable right to it, namely to be recognized as the author. What the French legal tradition calls Author's right (droit d'auteur).

      Different name, different connotations. Thus for instance, being inalienably yours the author's right cannot be sold in French law. Compare the U.S., where the first thing publishers demand of aspiring songwriters is to sell them the copyright as part of the deal.

      Which of course, is the very mechanism through which untalented businessmen end up thinking they own 20th century culture, or UNIX.

      Note that this leaves open the question of what material rewards law may, or may not, be attached to Author's right. Certainly one may argue for a mechanism to compensate authors when their (recent) intellectual products are traded in books. Indeed French law has something to this effect.

      But to immediately declare it's going to be treated as property, as part of the very grammar, is trumping the cards from the get go.

      • Mod up, please! (Score:2, Interesting)

        by hummassa ( 157160 )
        Author's rights it is. (PS: it's the legal Brazilian term to copyrights: "Direito Autoral")
        • Author's rights it is. (PS: it's the legal Brazilian term to copyrights: "Direito Autoral")

          The problem with 'Author' is that it's quite common to assign copyrights to others and to do works for hire. This leads to the semantic issue of the person with the "Author's Rights" not being the true author of the product.

          Patents, Copyrights, and Trade Secrets really seem to do the job quite well. Intellectual Property is just yet another term to describe what you are protecting - which in this case is a me

          • The problem with 'Author' is that it's quite common to assign copyrights to others

            But that's the whole point. Author's right is not the same concept as our copyright-as-property.

            The former cannot be assigned to others, but does make sense for intellectual productions like "Area = 4 \pi".

            Some Swiss in Berne once chose that term, "intellectual property". But as I tried to illustrate, "property" itself may have been a much less loaded term to them than it is today in **AA-think (where nothing gets on the

          • Hes right on. Original copyright law didn't ALLOW the author to transfer his rights (that happened later).

            Just because you recognize that we *can* tranfer the rights that copyright law grants us doens't mean its a good thing or that we should recognize that right.

            This is what the original asker is saying: we take cetain things as axioms simply based on the terminology we use. Change the terminology, change what people believe are the axioms of that system.
      • "Area of the unit sphere = 4 \pi" is a product of Archimedes' intellect. Is it ipso facto "property", with all the connotations of the word in our ambiant ideology?

        But, how can you call a property of the universe intellectual property? That's as bad as patenting gene sequences that have existed in nature for millions of years. Archimedes owns the process he used to determine that formula - and genenetic researchers own the processes they use to discover gene sequences.

        They both also own process wher

        • "Area of the unit sphere = 4 \pi" is a product of Archimedes' intellect. Is it ipso facto "property", with all the connotations of the word in our ambiant ideology?

          But, how can you call a property of the universe intellectual property? That's as bad as patenting gene sequences

          That's right, and still it was an intellectual production of Archimedes, so that goes to confirm that not every production should automatically become property. The problem is with people for whom nothing even exists unless it can

        • No. No no no.

          Copyright law, patent law was ALL created to *prevent* people from owning things. (Like the secret guilds, etc where historical scientific processes were lost.)

          The very reason we introduced these laws was to ensure that ideas became available to the public at some point.

          Some people wish to retain what you call 'property of the universe' (and the process) forever. See any number of monopolies, both capitalist and feudal over the previous centuries. Copyright laws, patent laws, laws that deal
  • Every time I read the words 'intellectual property', I get peeved off
    Anyone else amused with the irony here? That he hates the artificial term "intellectual property" but saw fit to manufacture "peeved off?"
  • knowledge-sharing restrictions.

    • But patents are not "knowledge-sharing restrictions." In fact the whole point of patents is to trade a restriction on everyone except the inventor for a complete and careful sharing of the inventor's knowledge. If the patent doesn't explain how to make, produce, or create the device, chemical, or process patented, in such a way that a reasonably knowledgable person in the field can do it, then the patent is invalid.

      Even copyrights aren't really restrictions on sharing knowledge, they are restrictions on
    • by Parsec ( 1702 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @01:18PM (#6320251) Homepage Journal

      How 'bout: "Knowledge Restrictions And Permissions" or long for "KRAP".

    • Patents require the holder to share the knowledge. The point is how you are allowed to use that knowledge during the time immediately following the grant of the patent.

  • by Cokelee ( 585232 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @01:50AM (#6318117)

    {joke}

    Can Slashdot come up with something better?

    Erm, no. Sorry.

    {/joke}

    $smarty style [php.net]

  • Expression monopoly (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Mammothrept ( 588717 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @01:58AM (#6318133) Journal


    I don't think "intellectual controls" works well. "Intellectual property" is an intentionally dishonest term but only half the problem is with "property." Substitute your least favored pop culture expellers for my examples but I fail to see the "intellectual" property in the music of Britney Spears or a song like "I want to sex you up" by Five. If the assertion that much of what goes by the name of "intellectual property" is "property" is dishonest than the claim that it is "intellectual" is pretentious. Browse over to http://autopr0n.com and tell me if you think those copyrighted images are appealing to your intellect (they may be appealing but they are aimed at a different organ).

    Stallman is mostly right when he rails against the conflation of copyright, patent and trademark law into "intellectual property." Right insofar as it is at best sloppy thinking to lump things together that are so dissimilar. Only partially right because the "intellectual property" field also includes things like publicity rights, right to privacy and moral rights. So if it isn't "intellectual property" or intellectual controls", what then? The most accurate term I can think of to cover most of this ground is "expression monopoly."

    What copyright, patent and trademark have in common is that they all regulate who can use the expression of certain ideas. Copyright law assigns rights to who can make literal or derivative copies of a specific expression. Patents cover who can express an idea regardless of the the specific form. Trademarks are about who can use specific expressions in a commercial context.

    The common denominator is the monopoly power granted by the government.* There are assertions in US law that patents aren't monopolies but it is safe to regard those claims as dishonest semantics (unless arguing before the dishonest judges who make the claims).

    Even "expression monopoly" doesn't cover the ground perfectly. For example, moral rights have more to do with mandated expression rather than monopolized ones.

    * For those (Americans) who insist on the "property" part of intellectual property, reread the copyright and trademark clause of the Constitution and tell us if there is any reason that Congress must grant authors a monopoly. I can see why the just compensation clause would prevent Congress from nullifying existing copyrights and patents but it would not be unconstitutional for the government could stop issuing new ones tomorrow. Unlike real property, "intellectual property" is a creation of the state and one which it is under no obligation to go on creating. When the government grants something that it is not obliged to, it is generally described as a privilege rather than a right.
    • i'm not sure that i would say that "real property" is "real", outside of government choices. we implement it because it's been a long-standing tradition ... and without the law, i might just resort to cludgeoning the next guy who steps on my land, rather than having him arrested. the point is, governments ordain all laws of the land -- everything else is just a result of anarchy. murder bad? sure -- you commit murder, and i'll have you thrown off a cliff. is that law? does that make it moral? gosh no.

      when
      • all law is arbitrary. therefore, intellectual property exists on the same level as any other property, though its origins differ.

        I'm afraid I disagree. Go reread the Jefferson quote that's been posted. Ideas are not the same as physical objects. Regardless of any underlying legal structure someone can own a physical thing, like say a rock. In a true anarchist state, you could own it by virtue of being strong enough to maintain control over it regardless of anyone else wanting it. And while you do maintain
        • you mean like when man and wife own the same money, same house ... ? it's not uncommon for several entities to own the same item at the same time -- thus, your argument is wrong.

          as to owning ides: you can also be the "one" person to own the idea by being strong (having lots of money and lawyers) and beating to shit anyone who attempts to make use of the idea (it's hard to tell they have it until they make some attempt to use it.) therefore, you may retain control of the item -- which is the basis for 'owne
          • you mean like when man and wife own the same money, same house ... ? it's not uncommon for several entities to own the same item at the same time -- thus, your argument is wrong.

            That's all ownership within a legal system. In the fundamental physical sense only one person can truly be in posession of a material object. Even if I say "my wife can have this rock anytime if she asks" and thus claim an abstract ownership she doesn't have the actual object when it's in my pocket.

            as to owning ides: you can als
            • in the physical sense, i'd say you don't own something unless someone tries to 'steal' it. it's a callback function -- when someone tries to take it, your ownership is manifested. the rest of the time, the rock's just sitting there. do i known it's "owned" by anyone, just by looking at it? unless you paint it all over it, no. (and even then, that's a layer of paint on top of the object -- the object itself, really, doesn't have a marker of ownership.)

              unless someone disputes your ownership, you have no reas
              • Good points, and would make for a good discussion, I imagine. However, we're probably getting a bit far afield from to topic of addressing how to fight the abuse of the 'intellectual property' semantic. =)
    • I've been using "Government Granted Temporary Monopoly", or GGTM for short. I think this manages to convey much of the issues you've outlined in a fairly concise form.

  • disagreement (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Goldsmith ( 561202 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @02:02AM (#6318146)
    I disagree. As a scientest, I do so have "intellectual property". It doesn't even have to be in the legal sense of the term. There are things I do that no one else does. They are my intellectual property, the property of my intellect.

    Once you have done something that as far as you know, no one else has ever done, it's yours. It doesn't and shouldn't matter what the world says about it, as far as your intellect is concerned, you "have" that idea.

    Think about the difference between when you learn something out of a book and when you learn independantly. There is a definite sense of accomplishment and personal ownership.

    In the legal sense intellectual property should be used as a way of determining ultimately who is responible for the rest of the world knowing something. Recent political perversions of this ideal have nothing to do with the (in my opinion) justified concept of intellectual property.
    • No, it's not "yours". Ideas are like secrets. The only way to keep them is to never tell another person. But then they're pretty worthless.
      • Just because I give an idea to someone doesn't mean it's not mine anymore. It's not a thing that you need to keep to yourself in order to use it later.

        Now that we're talking in parables, think of the expression "I have an idea". Just because you then tell people what it is doesn't mean the idea's not yours.

        To keep an idea to one's self goes against what I was saying. You can tell anyone you want what your idea is. Someone else can have discovered it before you, it doesn't matter, it's still your idea.
        • To keep an idea to one's self goes against what I was saying. You can tell anyone you want what your idea is. Someone else can have discovered it before you, it doesn't matter, it's still your idea. Who is going to reach into your head and take it out?

          Thank you for pointing out the flaw in your own assertion. Because the idea cannot be 'taken away', it fails to behave as property in the traditional sense. You're "mine" is speaking much more in an "Author's Right" sense than a "Property" sense. The fact th
          • You're absolutely right, it's not property in the "owning property" sense. It's property as in "the property of this object is..."

            There is more than one definition of property. Really, we're arguing semantics now, I think we both agree on the fundamentals here. It's just the use of the english language which is in question. I can understand now the objection to the word "property".
  • We shouldn't be using "intellectual property" or any replacement at all. The term implies that such disparate ideas as copyright, trademark, and patent have an overarching parent idea enshrined in law, which they do not. It deliberately confuses them, with an intent to grant the most restrictive properties of any one to all three. That is to say, referring to "intellectual property" conjures the illusion that copyrights are perpetual as long as they are not abandoned, like trademarks; that patents can be

    • I keep telling me there are four kinds of "intellectual property": copyrights, trademarks, patents, and bullshit. When not specified, I assume most companies talk of the fourth kind. Makes their drivel a bit more entertaining to read.

  • One Word (Score:3, Funny)

    by skinfitz ( 564041 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @03:49AM (#6318444) Journal
    "Mine!"
    • Re:One Word (Score:2, Insightful)

      by JWL-23 ( 606275 )
      Actually, given that the nature of property is to control access to a particular resource, a more accurate term would be "not yours."

      If I own a hammer, I can control who has access to it. I can prevent you from using it. So the important point is not that I can use it, but that I can prevent you from using it.

      • Actually, given that the nature of property is to control access to a particular resource, a more accurate term would be "not yours." If I own a hammer, I can control who has access to it. I can prevent you from using it. So the important point is not that I can use it, but that I can prevent you from using it.

        "Mine!" - i.e. to have complete and utter say in it's use. If you get to use or access the resource then it's because "I" said you could use it.
  • Top Terms (Score:5, Funny)

    by DeadSea ( 69598 ) * on Saturday June 28, 2003 @05:43AM (#6318660) Homepage Journal
    Refer to it as you will, I think I can find a few other terms:
    1. White Collar Products
    2. Stuff We Thought Up
    3. Material Under Copyright
    4. Those Things of Artistic, Scientific, or Trollish Nature
    5. Products of the Mind
    6. Intellectual Works
    7. Brain Droppings
  • How about... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by lga ( 172042 ) * on Saturday June 28, 2003 @06:42AM (#6318775) Homepage Journal
    Work protected by a temporary monopoly.

    I think this conveys the idea far better than "Copyright" After all, could you see Disney lobbying the government on this?

    "So, you would like your government-granted temporary monopoly extended to 150 years? And how does this fit with the word temporary?"

    • Re:How about... (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Mammothrept ( 588717 )


      The term "protected" is no better than "intellectual property." Privileged is more accurate. The holder of the privilege can exclude others from using the same expression so the holder is "protected" from competition but that obscures the nature of what is going on. Rights are protected, privileges are granted. Monopolies are granted to those priviliged enough to get them. It is right to grant some privilege to authors but we should be clear about what we are doing and why so that we do not grant to
  • Maybe you are looking for mind commons.

  • by cgenman ( 325138 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @07:28AM (#6318867) Homepage
    It's funny that we would even be having a discussion about what to replace the rather laughable term "intellectual property" with, as it has been 5 years or less since it was forced into the popular lexicon by what were previously referred to as Copyright lawyers. The '79 OED hasn't even heard of the term.

    You can't replace the term, because it implies a subtle change in the language, and any such drop-in replacement would also fall into that changed structure. Without that term, you are just talking about government - protcted copyrights and patents, all of which have existing terms. What you need to do is change the dialog whenever it comes up from amorphously rights-asserting terms like "intellectual property" to hard-and-fast real and limited rights such as copyright, inherent authorship rights, etc.

    What should we use when we want to say "Intellectual Property?" Nothing: Not only are the connotations of that word wrong, but the structure of the argument is wrong if we're trying to use it. Don't legitimize the term.

    • I thought it was patent lawyers.

      At any rate, the trick is that it lumps together a number of basically unrelated fields of law: copyrights, patents, trademarks, trade secrets, and a bit of miscellaneous things like publicity rights.

      My problem with it is that people think that it refers to the things covered by such laws, when really it only refers to the laws themselves.

      (also there are no inherent authorship rights)
      • It has been a while since my law courses in college, but aren't not-for-hire authors afforded certain non-transferrable rights, such as the right to not have the work be misrepresented, and the right to claim authorship?
        • a) Not always

          b) That's still not inherent; they're explicitly granted by Congress and what Congress giveth, Congress can taketh away

          c) They're an amazingly stupid idea, and we'd be best off repealing it, finding out who proposed it, and setting that person on fire as a warning to others.
    • how about that?
  • If you're thinking of "IP" as one monolithic clump, then the term "Intellectual Property" has already wormed its way into your thought process.

    Use "copyright [law]", "trademark [law]" or "patent [law]" when appropriate, and explicitly recognize that they're separate things.
  • by reallocate ( 142797 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @07:35AM (#6318883)
    This notion reminds me of those inane /. arguments in which someone tries to score points by looking up the dictionary definition of a word: "See? The dictionary says I'm right?"

    Changing the name of something doesn't change that "something".

    Intellectual property is not about intellectual activity inside someone's head. It is about what is created when someone uses language and other forms of symbolic representation to record and communicate the results of that activity.

    That is exactly what I am doing, right now, by posting to SLashdot. The activity in my brain determining what I want to say is not intellectual property; whatever's going on in there is completely, and forever, unknowable by anyone else if I don't record it in some fashion. That recording is intellectual property.
  • by _iris ( 92554 )
    Intellectual Rights.
  • Can Slashdot come up with something better?

    Yes, but then you'ld have to ask us permission to use it.

    .

    .

    .

    :)

  • Info-monopoly? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cabalamat2 ( 227849 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @09:59AM (#6319323) Homepage Journal

    "Copyright" is a propaganda term for our opponents, since rights are seen as good things. But copyrights aren't rights; copyright doesn't mean the right to make copies, it means the right to prevent others from making copies, so copy-restriction or copy-monopoly are more accurate terms.

    If we want to stop our opponents benefitting from these propaganda words, we'd better use words that more accurately reflect the monopolistic nature of so-called copyright and other similar concepts such as patents:

    • A "copyright" is a monopoly on making copies of a work, so call it a copy monopoly.
    • A "patent" is a monopoly on the use of an idea, so call it an idea monopoly.
    • A generic term that covers both might be information monopoly or simply info-monopoly.
  • Intellectual Controls is even WORSE than Intellectual Property; it implies that you can control what people think.

    I agree that intellectual property is a bad term, but not for your reasons. It lumps together trademarks, patents, copyrights and trade secrets when in reality these areas of law have very little in common, and are often confused by people who really want to argue against one or the other making their arguments weak or flat out invalid. Patents themselves are such a broad area that you really n
  • IP (Score:3, Funny)

    by quantum bit ( 225091 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @11:21AM (#6319699) Journal
    Not to mention that IP stood for "Internet Protocol" long before people ever used it for "Intellectual Property".

    Those asshats need to get their own acronym.
  • by kalidasa ( 577403 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @11:27AM (#6319728) Journal

    Ultimately, all forms of "property" are abstract. Is your car still your car when it's in a public parking garage at the airport 6,000 miles away on vacation? Even though you do not have possession of it? Of course it is.

    Let's take a simple question here: if an abstract principle cannot be property, why is it that the NJ Nets can trade Keith Van Horn and Todd MacCulloch for Dikembe Mutombo? What is the property here? Obviously it isn't the people, as ownership of people is a violation of the 13th amendment. They are trading the contracts - the property changing hands is the contract of Dikembe Mutombo, for the consideration of the property of the contract of Todd MacCulloch and the property of the contract of Keith Van Horn. And by contract, we do not mean merely the piece of paper on which Dikembe Mutombo's signature is written, but the abstract principle of that contract.

    The real problem with the term "intellectual property" is that it conflates many different kinds of "property" - copyright, patent, trademark, trade secrets, licenses - all of which have different spheres of significance, and all of which are treated differently under the law. So the replacement terms are obvious: "copyright", "patent", "trademark", "trade secrets", "licenses".

    Femto also seems to be confused with a number of other issues regarding "intellectual property". A posting he made in another thread suggested that the EFF might set up some kind of database of prior art:

    Maybe EFF/FSF's contribution can be to set up a wiki which can be used to make a permanant, easily searchable, record of all these ideas?

    The problem here is that the wiki is by definition editable by any contributor, and therefore cannot be relied upon as a record of past events. This means it could not possibly be a useful tool to prove prior art. What one needs to prove prior art is a literature search - a search of published scientific literature, as the fact that it is published will provide proof of date and proof of widespread awareness. Ultimately, what Femto is suggesting here would serve precisely the same purpose that patent registration serves; the solution is not to have another registration that is independent of (and likely, unless sufficient resources are provided, inferior to) the government registry, but to invent a process which will reform the existing registry.

    Later in the same posting, he writes:

    If a patent is only gong to be used as a bargaining chip, it probably doesn't have to be particlarly strong, so it might be possible to D.I.Y. and eliminate legal fees. That way, it might be affordable to patent some of the 'better' ideas.

    A DIY patent is very, very unlikely to be accepted. The patent application process is part of a specialized professional discourse, and a patent that is not written "properly" simply will be rejected out of hand. Sometimes I believe that the most important reason we have so many problems with the patent process is because the discourse of patents has become so specialized that the ability to read a patent is almost exclusive of the ability to create one - one can have time to be an expert in patents, or one can have time to be an expert scientist or engineer, but very few have the time and wits to be both. So a patent that describes a new process in a field in which the examiner is not familiar is not immediately recognized as obvious (most of the patents being complained about on Slashdot are invalid, if invalid at all, because they violate the necessity that an invention, to be patentable, be non-obvious), but is accepted because the form of the patent description is correct - everything is in its proper place, and everything hangs together.

    Now, if Femto were talking copyrights here - that's easy; a copyright just involves shipping a couple of copies of the publication with a simple form attached. Copyrights do not require any form of specialized knowledge. But patents are much harder to write. Look at

    • That last sentence is supposed to read "So, please, could we at least apply a more rigorous process to the choosing of Ask Slashdot subjects than we all think the patent office applies to patent applications." Sorry. (Some might mistaken that typo as meaning that I'm somehow connected to the patent process, and I'm not).

      Femto's energy is applied in the right direction: but if he wants to fight the status quo in intellectual property, he should probably become an intellectual property lawyer first, so he ca

    • Is your car still your car when it's in a public parking garage at the airport 6,000 miles away on vacation? Even though you do not have possession of it? Of course it is.

      Only because the law says so, i.e., because society collectively chooses to recognise that fact. If it didn't, anyone else could just take your car away, following the "possession is 90% of the law" idea.

      This is why debates like this are always a bit silly. Any concept of ownership and rights to anything, beyond the level of forcibly

  • by smoondog ( 85133 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @11:56AM (#6319863)
    Can anyone propose a replacement for the words 'Intellectual Property'? Something that implies intellect cannot be owned.

    I always get annoyed when people rag on the patent system because people claim that "information or ideas cannot be owned." This, of course, is BS. Ownership is something that our society has created (and other societies), it was created so we don't go around bashing people to get things that we want. Since ownership is totally a societal convention, then society decides what can be owned and what can't, and what ownership entails. It does not have to be tangible, such as a car, a spot on the moon or a computer. It can be a thought, a word, a piece of air or a volume of empty space. Like with solid objects, it is then up to society to determine what "ownership" means. Intangible objects are more difficult to control, but that certainly doesn't mean that they cannot be owned.

    -Sean
  • by dubStylee ( 140860 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @12:29PM (#6319988)
    How do other cultures define IP?

    American Indian tribes have many many different approaches to intellectual property. Along much of the Northwest Coast stories and artistic images are considered to be associated with specific clans and there are sanctions for use without permission. A family has rights to the myths and images that define them as a family. These are the same tribes that had the potlatch - an institutional way of ensuring that property was not hoarded.

    Another approach was that of Chief Joseph, who although he fought to protect the land of his tribe still denied that his tribe "owned" that land or that anyone could "own" land. He prefered to say that he and his tribe had *guardianship* of the land.

    So perhpas we could think about IG instead of IP, talk about the guardianship of ideas that *belong to everyone*. This allows for protection of author's rights -- they are guarding the ideas that they put forth and no one should be able to deny that the author is the guardian of their own work or that someone else should be able to mangle the work and distribute it as though from the original author. But it also allows for treating human progress as the property of all and provides a basis for insisting that laws protecting guardianship do not become a form of intellectual hoarding.
  • "knowledge property"

    "information property"

  • 'research', 'findings', 'discoveries', 'developments', 'creations', 'art' or even just get people to use 'intellectual achievements'. But i think it's wrong to lump all those in the same category. Someone who performs a song has done something tremendously different from a research group who finds out how to make buckyball tubes.
  • I vote for Intellectual Innovation, because

    1) Whether or not it has commercial value, I don't believe the commercial is the point here(we give patents, trademarks, etc...) to encourage people to innovate for the greater good.

    2) It enhances the idea that whatever the person did, was think of it first, and should benefit the most from it... As a reward for being the first

    3) It reduces the emphasis on those ideas being sellable, hoardable property... The RIAA(or any other lawyer-box) wouldn't be so able t

  • control? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by frink_exp ( 647091 )
    'intellectual controls' sounds just as bad. I think many people may interpret that as 'mind controls.'

    The term 'intellectual property' is merely that - a term. The term 'white paper' isn't too accurate either - the documents are usually electronic and aren't entirely white. The purpose of language is to communicate - if people know what you mean when you use certain words, then the purpose is fulfilled.

  • Intellectual Content (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Mad Bad Rabbit ( 539142 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @08:24PM (#6322494)

    I suggest "intellectual content", to talk about bits and ideas, since it doesn't carry any hidden notions of control or ownership.

  • Nonrivalrous good (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mlinksva ( 1755 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @10:32PM (#6323017) Homepage Journal
    A nonrivalrous good is one such that an additional person can benefit from its use without reducing the benefit to others using the good. E.g., information.

    For legal regimes that restrict the use of information in the manner than copyright and patent do, I prefer "information monopoly", though "expression monopoly" suggested by others here is perhaps even better.

  • by sir_cello ( 634395 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @11:20PM (#6323204)

    If we are referring to the existing state of play, then using the term Intellectual Property is the correct term - whether we like it or not, the existing laws and statutes make it clear that copyrights, trademarks, patents, design rights, and so on are indeed intangible property rights. The subject matter is a sort of property, and the mechanisms confer rights.

    To look to a brave new future, then choose a term that is backed by a new framework or doctrine. It seems to me that for all the complaints about the existing IP system, there has been no tangible alternative put forward.
  • I think that Controlled expression pretty much says it. Not quite as 'pretty' It pretty much describes what Copyright and patents are intended to do -- control (as in limit) our expression of certain ideas.
  • I think "Bits of People's Souls" is a good term,

    "Bob, we own that part of you now; wherever you go we dictate how you think about it, and how you can use it. Here's your check and have a nice day!"

    think about it, you are not wholly 'you' anymore, part of you is own in perpetuity by someone else. :-/

  • I've tried to explain this as well as I can, but I'm tired :|

    Imagine I wanted to reduce pollution in an area where people were complaining. Let's say I gave you the right to pollute over your area of land, perhaps for a specific period of time (maybe 10 years or so), as part of owning land. You could sell that right onwards, or perhaps put further restrictions upon it. This would help to reduce the externalities from pollution. Each area would lose out by not allowing people to pollute.

    This is what in eco
  • My contribution (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jamie Lokier ( 104820 ) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @08:43PM (#6327883) Homepage

    I prefer the term Shared Knowledge.

    Think about corporate press: "XYZ corp. has been building on our Shared Knowledge portfolio for maximum return on investment blah blah."

    vs. "XYZ corp. has been building on our Intellectual Property portfolio for maximum return on investment blah blah."

    Which one is more inspiring?

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Monday June 30, 2003 @12:07AM (#6328631) Homepage
    Worse, new kinds of intellectual property have been created by legislation recently.

    Trade secret law has more teeth than it used to. It's now possible to make trade secret claims against third parties, which is new.

    The DMCA created new kinds of property rights that previously didn't exist, leading to wierd results like the ink cartridge compatibility ruling.

    There are also "proprietary rights in drug and agricultural chemical safety data", to prevent generic drug makers from getting approval for drugs using clinical testing data supplied by the original drug developer to get Government approval. This is in addition to patent protection. It's in the TRIPS agreement, so every country in the WTO has to implement this or the US stomps on them.

  • Intangible Assets (Score:2, Informative)

    by Cyberdog00 ( 463529 )
    .. as a term currently used in accounting for exactly this sort of thing.

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