Subject: Re: The term "intellectual property" considered useful
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <>
Date: Fri, 05 May 2006 21:13:33 +0900

>>>>> "Forrest" == Forrest J Cavalier writes:

    Forrest> Do you have any anecdotes involving ordinary people
    Forrest> working to discuss and reform ineffective laws and
    Forrest> practices (that give unjust preference to individuals)
    Forrest> when those people do not understand the laws?

Sure.  The FSF.  Debian.  The OSI.  FSB.  Gee, that was easy!

Face it.  People rarely do such work because they understand those
laws.  They do it because of sustaining personal harm, or a sense of
injustice.  The understanding is necessary ... for a very small number
of members of the movement.  The rest are there because of an
intuition no more reliable (and no less!) than that of a creator's
"property" in her creations.  And most will have no understanding,
only memorized propaganda, indefinitely.

    Forrest> How is being MORE specific, by avoiding the term
    Forrest> "intellectual property", bad propaganda? [1] Isn't it the
    Forrest> other way around?

Of course not.  Generalization is unavoidable; that's what people do.
Taking away the the general term simply makes it very hard for you to
compare *your* generalization with *mine*, and both of them with the
received opinion of the real experts.

Consider this exchange about "propaganda" between Richard and myself.
His objection is that "property" is something that you have a right to
protect or to ask the government to protect, and Richard doesn't want
anybody to have a right to protect restrictions on distributions and
use of software.  So the problem *here* is not that people confuse
patent with copyright; it's that people confuse intellectual property
with real property or personal property.  Ie, we've got the right

And I don't think this "confusion" about ownership and property is
confusion at all.  How often do free software advocates say "I don't
want people deriving from *my* software if they're going to put a
proprietary license on it?"  You betcha they mean it!  And that's
*how* they mean it.  "My intellectual property, put to good social
use, just 'cause I'm that kinda guy."  Of course, many will deny
subscribing to that motivation (especially using *that* term), but you
hear it on GNU lists all the time.

Property in one's creations is a genuine common intuition.  If you
can't fight it when you call it "intellectual property", how can you
really win?

    Forrest> [1] - Many people use the word "propaganda" to mean "bad
    Forrest> or misleading propaganda."  The definition includes no
    Forrest> negative connotation.

Excuse me?  According to my dictionary, propaganda is "a campaign of
indoctrination."  On FSB, you're darn tootin' that has a negative
connotation.  At least, I hope so.

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