What is Intellectual Property?

Intellectual Property is a legal concept, which claims that ideas can be owned. This is a convenient and seemingly necessary legal fiction that plays an important role in publishing.

Whole industries exist around Intellectual Property, or IP for short. Examples include the recording and film industries, as well as the traditional publishing market. Because the ability to transfer information digitally makes costs of replication nearly zero, "intellectual" -- non-physical -- property will continue to play an ever-increasing role.

Many of us accept that plagiarism is wrong. It robs the creator of due recognition, it constitutes a lie in that one claims to be the author of something he or she did not create, and by hiding the original author, it makes it difficult to trace and validate a corpus of research, etc. IP law operates not on any moral-ethical basis but upon an economic one; intellectual property is assumed to have economic value. Hence, while it is this author's belief that others should document their sources and give credit where credit is due, while believing at the same time that "information wants to be free" (see the GNU project), the creation of these pages is driven more by the need to outline the legal aspects of IP.


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