Ideas = Property?


Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Currently, I’m taking a technology, and the Professor, Mr. Steve Katz (@stevekatz), encouraged us to take a look at a video entitled “Everything is a Remix” by Kirby Ferguson in order to get a sense of whether or not ideas should be considered property. As I was navigating to the link he’d sent me, I was saying, “Duh, if it were me, I wouldn’t want anyone taking my ideas!” After watching the video, though, I feel more conflicted than assured about this stance.

I completely understand an entrepreneurial spirit wanting to have exclusive rights to their ideas. If someone has invested their time, money, or supplies into something, they should have the right to make a profit off of it.

However, results don’t lie. Humans had copied each other for centuries with the intent of creating a massive pool of information in which people could contribute to, scrutinize, experiment with, and ultimately make better. Some of the greatest thinkers in history didn’t have the same protections we do now, yet we continue to credit them for their ideas. They were able to create some of the greatest theories, advance our world and thought processes more than anyone would have imagined at the time, but they were able to do it without being bogged down by poachers (i.e. trolls) and didn’t have to worry about the trustworthiness of those around them or who was chomping at the bit to use their ideas. They just created, worked, made things better, and grew.

Now, we have to worry about the poachers, our associates, and sometimes our own family more than we worry about creating. It has stifled our ability to create. That slowdown has been hidden somewhat because of the nature of the technologies being created and their capabilities. Imagine, though, if all of these companies knew that others would use their stuff, or even encouraged it, and were able to use others’ ideas to create even greater things. What would our world look like? Would the bigger companies lose some profit? Probably so. Would the world of creation be better off? I’m inclined to think so.

If everyone were to get on the same page, move in the same direction, stop worrying so much about what’s his or hers or theirs and just create using every means available, we would be able to do much more at a much faster pace with greater accuracy than we do now. I’m sure that some companies would lose their profitability; however, I’m also convinced the world would be much better off.

Given my opinion, what would be my solution? Well, I still think creators need some time to be able to make a profit off of their inventions. However, the current copyright laws don’t really make sense. I believe they’re highly detrimental, actually! In some countries, a work can’t be used until 100 years after the creator’s death!

Here is a quote from the video that more eloquently sums up my thought process: “In the United States, the introduction of copyrights and patents was intended to address this imbalance (i.e. the fact that original creations can’t compete with copies from a financial standpoint). Copyrights covered media. Patents covered inventions. Both aimed to encourage the creation and proliferation of new ideas by providing a brief and limited period of exclusivity. … This gave creators a window in which to cover their investment and earn a profit.”

I believe that 25 years is plenty of time for someone to invent, perfect, produce, and profit from an idea or creation. If you can’t do it in that amount of time, I’m not sure you should be able to hold the idea hostage. Someone else would have most likely had a similar idea in that amount of time. They should have the right to use their idea, too, rather than having it held hostage and remain undeveloped. While I believe creators should have a period of time to use their idea to make a profit, they should not be able to hold ideas hostage for an excess of two lifetimes.


Author: Mr. Matt Savill

I am an American citizen in my seventh year of teaching in Korea.

One thought on “Ideas = Property?”

  1. Lucid expression of a reasonable opinion and solution. I think you’re right…make your money for a quarter century then share alike. I’ll watch the vids this week and we can chat about it!


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