More IP Polemic

Aside from the aforementioned pragmatic rejection of IP that I and many others hold, there exists a (currently very unpopular) idealistic aversion to it. The argument states that there is no way to ‘own’ ideas. Given that we’ve legislated a lot of other intangibles into existence (citizenship, time, etc) I’m not doubting our theoretical ability to legislate the ownership of information. I’m not even asserting that information wants to be free, though the statement has its merits. I’m just very, very skeptical of the idea that information can belong to a person.

For one, unlike other types of property information isn’t even close to a scarce good. Once it exists, it can be replicated over and over for free, being built upon in any number of ways. To have exclusive ownership of something infinitely replicable seems beyond human ability.

Once a person invents something – a joke, a meme, a new and useful process – I can agree that they’re the sole holder and proprietor of every iota of that idea. But once it’s outside the mind of that person, I’d be forced to argue that it belongs equally to everyone who witnesses it. They’ve already multiplied it in their mind, potentially forever, and can’t disown it for any amount of money or effort. Are they just borrowing it? If they don’t own the copy in their mind, does the creator (or whoever the creator sold the idea to) own that region of their thoughts, or just the observer’s rights to share it?

The idea strikes me as preposterous on a really basic level. Please remember that I’m thinking of this as someone who traffics in information for a living, at let me know where I’m differing from a thought-out schema of our ability to own data.