The Value of Intellectual Property

Did you miss me? I know I’ve missed a few days. It’s been a wild week, but I won’t bore you with all that. Instead, I’d like to direct your attention to a terrific Op-Ed in the NY Times this past week.

Scott Turrow, Paul Anken and James Shapiro talk about the great innovation of Shakespeare’s time–a wall around the theater that required folks to pay to see the play. This meant that authors, such as Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe and Ben Johnson could be paid for their creative work.

The issue for today is whether the internet will change all that by making piracy of intellectual property easy and copyright laws difficult to enforce. Of course, some folks feel this is a good thing. That creative expression will flourish when everyone has free access to creative work. I like the Op-Ed’s response to this:

Certainly there’s a place for free creative work online, but that cannot be the end of it. A rich culture demands contributions from authors and artists who devote thousands of hours to a work and a lifetime to their craft. Since the Enlightenment, Western societies have been lulled into a belief that progress is inevitable. It never has been. It’s the result of abiding by rules that were carefully constructed and practices that were begun by people living in the long shadow of the Dark Ages. We tamper with those rules at our peril.

What’s your feeling? Should the folks who scan and post a book on the internet be encouraged? Should creative work be treated as private property to be sold or licensed, or should it be free for the world?

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