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Intellectual property and physical objects

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Johanna Blakely giving her TED talk on intellectual property in the fashion industry.

Johanna Blakely giving her TED talk on intellectual property in the fashion industry.

Johanna Blakely’s TED talk on the lack of intellectual property protections in the fashion industry, and why it thrives regardless, is an interesting watch for those interested in industries where copyright seems less enforceable than in pre-digital days.

The key quote, to my mind: “We don’t really recognize a book as something that sits on our shelf, or music as a physical object we can hold. It’s a digital file, it’s barely tethered to any sort of physical reality in our minds, and these things, because we can copy and transmit them so easily, actually circulate in our culture a lot more like ideas than like physically instantiated objects.”  Which is tricky; that’s a little unlike most of the industries she discusses like fashion, cars, and furniture, where the copying of objects isn’t done at the consumer level.  She’s discussing, in almost every case, industries that don’t protect creators from copying by other creators – designer versus designer, comedian versus comedian, musician versus musician – and how that spurs innovation, rather than industries that don’t protect creators from copying by consumers.  While her points are good ones – I certainly support them, as a supporter of open source, of remixing, and of the artistic and scientific leaps that happen in open environments – very few of her examples are discussing a creator-consumer relationship.  The bar to entry is different, for one thing.  Downloading a movie is very different than making a knockoff jacket.

Open source was a good call, though, because that is a case of consumers freely copying something provided by the creator.  Panera’s “pay what you want” restaurant experiment is another interesting data point, of a creator making their product freely available to the consumer.  I think there are very good reasons to rethink the role of intellectual property control in the creator-audience relationship, but I don’t view it as the same issue as protecting your creative work from copying by other creators.

 

(via Ted Hope)

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