Do You Own What You Create?

Posted: 2008/12/02 in Digital Freedoms

While this would seem like a basic concept often times these lines get blurred in courtrooms. Techdirt has a very interesting article on this. Based on a recent ProIP ruling that was questionable to say the least. They point out a few valid points of this discussion and even quote a very good plain English description of “ownership”.

“If a baker bakes a loaf of bread, he therefore owns it.” And likewise, for “music, movies, software.” But note the mistake here Johson makes: “If a baker bakes a loaf of bread, he therefore owns it.” The “therefore” is the giveaway: he says this because he thinks of the creation of the loaf as the act that gives rise to ownership. Then this leads to the analogy with other created things, like music. But creation of the loaf is not the reason why the baker owns it. He owns the loaf because he owned the dough that he baked. He already owned the dough, before any act of “creation”–before he transformed it with his labor. If he owned the dough, then he owns whatever he transforms his property into; the act of creation is an act of transformation that does not generate any new property rights. So creation is not necessary for him to own the resulting baked bread. Likewise, if he used someone else’s dough–say, his employer’s–then he does not own the loaf, but the owner of the dough does. So creation is not sufficient for ownership.

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