Intellectual Policy, not Intellectual Property

In late 2007, I read “Copyrights and Copywrongs” by Siva Vaidhyanathan in which he argues that the rise of intellectual “property” (IP) threatens creativity. He argues that IP is a misnomer, preferring instead the term “intellectual policy” as a term-neutral expression to describe how American law protects creators, authors, musicians, and others who contribute non-tangible things to society. Siva presents a strong case that America historically was copyright poor and that over time we have become copyright rich with a concomitant strengthening and lengthening of copyright protection. With stronger copyright laws, Siva argues that we are stiffling invention and creativity. I agree.

To some individuals, it may seem more difficult to create something worthy of such strong copyright protection. We may also feel as if someone or some company will sue us if we “borrow” too much from them, or from what used to be in the public domain. Time will tell if the U.S. copyright policy is out of balance with the corresponding American ideals and policies which hopefully encourage creativity and invention instead of pooling creative works and inventions into the hands of a shrinking elite.