posted Oct 26, 2003
in Communication Ethics

Communication Ethics book part for Message rights, not Intellectual Property. (This is an automatically generated summary to avoid having huge posts on this page. Click through to read this post.)

I'm not good at naming things, but I would propose we need to move to a message-rights based understanding of communication to completely replace the concept of intellectual property in the domain of communication. The question that truly needs to be answered is who has the rights to do what. Note the terminology involving "rights" is already used in practice, "intellectual property" is only used as an aggregate term, and as a rhetorical term. It is very rare to hear of people actually talking about licensing "intellectual property", though I've heard some lawyers use the phrase in public. Typically one talks about licensing the rights: "I licensed the movie rights to the book." I think part of the reason can be seen in that sentence: The word "rights" can take an adjective like "movie" in a way the phrase "intellectual property" can not: "I licensed the movie intellectual property from the book." doesn't make sense, because there is no movie intellectual property until the movie already exists.

This, incidentally, is another way the "property" metaphor breaks down; "property" can not be meaningfully traded or manipulated until it exists. Future rights to physical property can be, though, just as rights to messages that do not yet exist can be.

If the Intellectual Property metaphor's foundation looks something like this:

Then I propose a foundation like this:

This is why I believe that even though this essay is apparently related only to communication ethics that it provides a complete replacement for the concepts of "intellectual property", by building from a superior foundation that better reflects the real world.


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