Community, rant

Intellectual Property is Theft

In response to Dougald Hines call for articles around the theme COMMONSense. and this has been bubbling under for some time now, so it’s time to splurge.

Intellectual Property is theft

Let us not decieve ourselves any longer, all forms of property and property rights are about control and power. They change the rules of the world, and make us play zero sum games.

The fencing off and privatising of the “Commons” represents nothing less than theft from the community, it prevents the community from utilising a resource that belongs to us all. It artificially conveys rights to the priviledged and the powerful, enabling them to control the flow of resources. This applies to the Intellectual as well as the Physical Commons.

Ideas are not ours to possess, they are not our solitary creations. They’re built on foundations of years of prior thought, innovation and perception. An idea is just waiting to be spotted, just because there is a cost attached to look for it, doesn’t mean you have the right to it when you stumble across it. Proprietary rights prevent social advancement, imagine if we had IP before the wheel, the spade and the plough.

If restricting access to ideas and knowledge results in death, what right have we to put profit over people?

Freedom is a word touted by the Capitalist ecosystem, without commons access we are not free.

Licenced under Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial license (see


5 thoughts on “Intellectual Property is Theft”

  1. Great argument for creative commons. Well said, I couldn’t agree more.

    From a capitalist perspective though, how would you respond to the criticism of lack of incentive to invent anything new if your rights to that idea are not controlled. Why should an individual place the community before him or herself and not reap the benefits of said idea.


  2. Thanks Kurt, in response to your question, please see the below.

    Firstly the notion that an individual will only create something if they can reap the benefits devalues the whole creative process. Such myths shift the nature of creativity into a capitlist model as a means of controlling it. For years I myself struggled with such notions.

    However I now realise that this is a myth, we create because we derive pleasure from the act of creating. For most of my life I kept my ideas to myself, with the notion that they had a value I could one day exploit. However the truth of this notion is that I can only exploit it in this context with money. Therefore I need money to create, and must give away a share of the idea to see it bare fruit.

    Is this freedom?

    Did the great artists of our time work for money, or for love?
    A glance at the work arising from communist and even oppressive regimes also dispenses with this myth. People have created even when it is detrimental to their very existence, and in some cases the loss of their lives and freedoms. Creation is a source of pleasure, an act of freedom, let us not be so quick to crassly commoditise our souls. To do so is prostitution of our finest gifts.

    This question goes to the very core of society – what motivates a man? The capitalist system reduces man and his works to commodities, it perpetuates the myth that the only value to be derived is one of financial gain. These external systemic values then find their way into our own internally driven value systems, we subscribe to these myths, leading to misery and a twisted peception of our own value being related to our financial worth.

    We must consciously first address the value systems that we hold dear, and our entire perception of self.

    It is possible to profit from ideas in a free environment, what is lost is Control, and what right do we have of Control our fellow man because of mere creative endeavour (although in fact this control still lies with those who have the money to defend the idea). A musician does not have the power to defend his own work, if he wishes to he must surrender it to those with money so they can protect it.

    The generation of profit and control as incentive stems from businesses, but has permeated our entire perception of self. It is a terrifying malaise that must be addressed.


  3. Did the great artists of _our time_ work for money, or for love?

    For money surely. On the whole. And I think it has long been this way. Artists have been subject to the system of patronage for millennia (according to wikipedia). How many arts council grants does it take to make a 20-foot lightbulb?

    But for love surely. Otherwise it wouldn’t ever be done. Patronage is just a means to an end…. It’s a would be nice and it will pay for the beer and pot and 800 rolls of masking tape – so I’ll fill out the forms and jump through the hoops.

    In this day and age now we have an all-pervasive medium for self publishing and a gazilliard of free-ish services to let us do it ourselves or collect donations or advertising revenue for our artworks or otherwise engage in new and exciting models of distribution…. it still leaves the question: What are we really valuing here?


  4. Hi Jay,

    Two comments:

    Are you perhaps conflating different types of “creative activity”? Some people create for love and others do so for money (Lord knows what motivates some people) – I know RCA graduates who create for money because their skills at design (problem solving) are valued by individuals and business.

    If you’re arguing that the process of creativity is essential to our being free then there are a number of processes that force us into ‘subjectification’ and not just this one. The familial ‘institution’ is the first and ‘capitalism’ and it’s various forms of power and maintenance are others. Indeed, I would argue that the process of ‘creating’ *can* be enhanced by the corporeal powers of the capitalist system and dare i say it, ‘exploitation’. That is the process of us being subjects and how we deal with that can itself be creative and lead to creative ‘stuff’.

    Heady stuff! 🙂


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