Thursday, October 16, 2008

Intellectual Property -- the very idea

I just went through and tagged a bunch of posts intellectual property, including all the ones tagged copyrights or DRM, and several tagged copy protection (there is some overlap, naturally). We now have a new number one with a bullet on the list of tags.

I'm not crazy about the term "intellectual property". It hash-collides with "internet protocol", its exact meaning is not particularly obvious, and the usual connotations of "intellectual" feel a bit out of place here. But it's certainly useful to have a general term for, well, what shall we say ... "data having economic value"? I'm not as particular which exact term we use, so long as we more or less agree on what it means and when to use it.

Actually ... one of the great things about the web is it's so easy to look things up. gives the Random House Dictionary's definition, which includes the key phrase "property that results from original creative thought," and -- this was a pretty big surprise to me -- traces it back to the 1840s. So, while we might object to the term as "marketing speak" or to the whole concept on the basis that "information wants to be free", the term has a legitimate pedigree and is clearly here to stay.

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