Intellectual Property

Trying to get my head around the morasses of issues surrounding Intellectual property has lead me to do some investigating and I think I am starting to make some progress…..

Firstly, there are several forms of IP protection as explained by the Design Council. They include:

Patents – “apply to inventions such as new or improved products, services and processes that have business applications. They give an inventor the right, for a limited period, to stop others from making, using or selling an invention without permission”

Trademarks – “A trademark is therefore a ‘badge’ of your business. It is used as a marketing tool so that customers can recognise the product of a particular trader.”

Designs – “design as ‘shape, configuration, pattern or ornament which can be judged by the eye in a finished manufactured article or set of articles’.”

Copyright – “gives the creators of material such as literature, art, music and broadcasting control over their own output. It can be transferred to others for making copies, performing in public, broadcasting or using material online. Copyright applies as soon as there is a record of the work.”

It is important to note that the very act of creating something means that you hold the copyright, i.e. there is no longer a requirement to ‘take out’ a copyright as it exists as soon as something is created.

It is this change coupled with the burgeoning growth of the www that lead to the development of the creative commons licence. The problem is a simple one, if we are to leverage the www to its full potential for creative collaboration, we need to know what we can do with published material, what are the creators intentions? This lack of explicit labeling holds back this collaboration as we don’t know what we are allowed to do with material. If on the safe side we assume that all material is big ” copyrighted, then much of the potential of the www is lost. This neat video clip explains all of this well.

There is another dimension to this of FLOSS (free/libre and open source software). The Open Source Initiative explains this in detail with examples of licences. “The basic idea behind open source is very simple: When programmers can read, redistribute, and modify the source code for a piece of software, the software evolves.”

For both creative commons and OSS approaches there is a simple principle at work. By having access to other peoples work we can both push back the boundaries of knowledge faster and also create the conditions for a wider pool of people to be involved in this knowledge creation.

1 thought on “Intellectual Property

  1. Jeff in CT

    Thanks for the link to the Creative Commons piece about copywriting et al.

    In return, here is an interesting video about the history of something called “the amen break”. It starts out as a musical history of sorts, and ends with a distinct note about copywriting in the digital age. Enjoy –


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