legal terms: royalty


Royalty: a fee that is paid to the owner or creator of intellectual property when it is used again. Black’s Law dictionary

Intellectual property is a legal concept  and like other legal concepts dependent on definition and open to political use and abuse.

The physical, geographical world has indeed been mapped extensively, some might say: exhaustingly, and to the extent that one may not walk this earth anymore without treading on another man’ or woman’s property.

As we are starting to protect that what we call intellectual property – with good reason, think compensation of artists, musicians, inventors who cannot work for free and live on nothing any more than any other trade could – we also have to think of what it means that we are willing to treat ideas very much the same way that we treat the surface of this planet.

As much as one – at the beginning of tis new century with its overwhelming environmental, cultural and economical problems – could question whether the concept of the exclusive private rights to use the land (property) and its resources has been beneficial one should now very carefully consider whether a similar approach of mapping the works of the mind through exclusive rights seems the path we should follow if we hope to address those problems that are not individual but communal problems, not problems of one country but of all people hoping to keep this earth a home for future generations.

“If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me.” Thomas Jefferson, letter to Isaac McPherson, August 13th, 1813

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