The estimable distractedbyzombies in his post, Intellectual Property says “I’m not sure I believe in the concept of intellectual property.” Well, I’m pretty sure that I do, although not necessarily for the obvious reasons associated with “fame and fortune.” As the published author of three books, I have no particular aversion to fame or fortune. but neither of them define why I write or what I write. I will admit that I enjoy receiving a royalty check, but my royalty check only serves to confirm that I do not write for fame and fortune.
Intellectual property is inextricably tied to personal identity. I have argued elsewhere that creativity is the capacity to look at the same thing everyone else is looking at and to see something different. Any product of the creative process (whether it is a story, a painting, a song or most anything else) is an intensely personal creation and the theft of that creation feels to me like identity theft.
Now, let me make this clear. I am not suggesting that my stories spring fully formed from my own experiences, devoid of any literary or other influences. I am happy to have a discussion of those influences. Neither am I suggesting that I should be paid every time someone reads one of my books. I love nothing more than finding my books on the shelf in a public library, where one book sale may translate into hundreds of readers. I like the way that ideas may be shared on the internet, generating little bursts of inter-connected creativity in the unlikeliest of places. But I don’t believe anyone has the right to download one of my books for free, from a site that doesn’t have my consent. Just because technology makes something possible, doesn’t make it ethical. It is pretty obvious that we need a new interpretation of copyright in a digital age.
I enjoy sharing much of my writing on the internet. But I make choices as to what I share, because once shared, ideas take on a life of their own. So there are things I choose not to share. As an author, I believe that I have the right to exercise some degree of ownership over my creation. I believe that I am entitled to some recognition and some recompense, and though that may never equate to fame and fortune, acknowledging intellectual property seems to me to be an essential part of the equation.