Subject: The term "intellectual property" considered useful
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <>
Date: Mon, 01 May 2006 16:26:42 +0900

>>>>> "rms" == Richard Stallman <> writes:

    ...Trade secrets are a form of intellectual

    rms> The term "intellectual property" spreads confusion, which
    rms> people mistake for deeper understanding.  I therefore urge
    rms> that people decide, as I have done, to reject use of the
    rms> term.

I urge that people decide, as I have done, to eschew the phrase
"intellectual property rights" as confusing, and the moral equivalent
of a troll.  "Right" strongly connotes "natural" and/or "inalienable",
and many (including me) believe that the rights conferred by
possession of intellectual property are neither.  Others believe they
are.  Neither view is very useful in understanding application of
existing law.

Because such rights do exist in our legal system[1], the term
"intellectual property" is useful.  Indeed it is an indispensible aid
to understanding how lawyers and courts think about issues crucial to
the interpretation of free software licenses, and related legally
enforceable rights.  In turn, we must understand how lawyers and
judges think, because they are the ones who make the arguments and
decision that determine those interpretations.  True, the abstraction
of "intellectual property" is an imperfect reflection of the
commonalities of patents, copyrights, and various trade rights, yet
were there no such term, we would need to create it.

I hope that everyone will continue to use "intellectual property"
sparingly (since it upsets some free software advocates whose input I
value), but not avoid it when it is appropriate.  Avoiding it when it
is the accurate and precise term creates confusion.

[1]  They differ among jurisdictions, of course, but they exist in
some form everywhere free software does.

Graduate School of Systems and Information Engineering   University of Tsukuba        Tennodai 1-1-1 Tsukuba 305-8573 JAPAN
        Economics of Information Communication and Computation Systems
          Experimental Economics, Microeconomic Theory, Game Theory