Philosophy of Intellectual Property
Peter McWilliams Philosophy of Intellectual Property
MY PHILOSOPHY OF CREATED STUFF
(AKA “ART”, AKA “INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY”)
Here you will find the complete text of all my books currently in print, plus works “in progress.” You are welcome to read, search, download, copy, print, or give away any of it. Just don’t try to sell large chunks of it, or I’ll call the FBI. (See the first 30 seconds of any rental videotape.)
You’re certainly free to incorporate portions of these books in what you create, and sell that. That’s the nature of the creative process. There’s no need to ask me to “grant permission”. Who the hell am I to “grant permission”?
Created stuff is meant to be shared. That’s why the creative person created it. Why else do creative people exist? “I burn to be seen!” as someone wrote. Well, maybe someone wrote that. I just made it up, but it sounds as though someone else might have written it earlier. Maybe I read it somewhere, or saw it on an Arts & Entertainment documentary on Paris in the Twenties. Who cares? It got said, and it fit what I wanted to say, so I said it.
Creativity stimulates the creators and entertains everybody else. The vast majority of people need to be entertained. God bless them every one. Creative people, however, need to be stimulated, inspired, nudged, cross-pollinated, and occasionally kicked in the ass. Art both entertains and inspires at the same time. (I use “Art” here in the broadest sense of the word – everything from Jeopardy! to Goethe to Graffiti.)
Art, therefore, needs to be readily available – available to the general public for entertainment, and available to artists for pilfering. Artists should be able to incorporate – consciously or unconsciously, credited or not – the work of other artists.
Andy Warhol makes an epic film: Empire – twenty-four nonstop hours of one view of the Empire State Building, and where would David O. Selznick’s King Kong be without the climatic scene atop the Empire State Building? Yet neither Warhol nor Selznick give credit to the architectural firm that created the building: Shreve, Lamb, and Harmon. But was it Shreve, Lamb, and Harmon themselves, or some nameless geniuses within the organization?
As one explores more closely the sources, inspirations, and antecedents of any creative work, the more it becomes difficult to give full credit to any one person, just as a single letter on a computer screen becomes just dots when examined more and more closely. To credit everyone who contributed anything to a work of art would excessively burden even the sturdiest creation.
Obviously, there must be some protections – creative people have to live and are entitled to a fair return for their labor. What concerns me is that art has now become “intellectual property”. It is bought, sold, and litigated over by an anonymous group of bean counters who collectively aren’t creative enough to make a decent pot of baked beans.
So, I throw my intellectual properties onto the net to stimulate or appall, comfort or enrage, entertain or exasperate.
Revised December 12, 1997
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