Friday, October 31, 2014

Copyrights and Patents: A Balancing Act

Copyrights and Patents: A Balancing Act
           There have always been great, cutting-edge ideas and products that come out of The United States. However with such strict and antiquated copyright laws, how can creativity flourish? Unfortunately, there isn’t a simple binary answer. Copyright laws both hinder and promote creativity; it just depends on how they are implemented. The current legislation in The United States leans more towards hindering creativity, plagued with arbitrary standards and frivolous lawsuits. Although a complete abolition of intellectual property laws is not healthy for creativity either. It’s important to find the right guidelines that maximize ingenuity and progress.
            When talking about the evolution of ideas into works or businesses, an argument could be made that no idea is 100% original. With our culture being almost completely interconnected, each idea is sparked from an outside influence or experience that we’ve come across throughout our lives. So it’s silly to assert that anybody could have a completely original idea. Unfortunately, this is how much of the copyright legislation sees it today. Take the example of the podcast: Jim Logan held a patent for a magazine that provided audio with the articles. His broad and vague language has allowed him to assert a patent over all podcasts and require payment. As well, it’s important to note that Logan never made a podcast himself but merely came up with an idea similar, and he is legally able to amend his patent retroactively to assume the role of a podcast. As a result, many recreational podcasters have had to abandon their hobby for fears of being sued. The backward legislation has literally stifled the creative voice that many people had and closes a possible outlet for discourse. Even as I write this blog in my words with my own ideas, all of these words and their products don’t belong solely to me. As I’m geographically on campus and using University Wi-Fi, any money I could potentially receive for this blog wouldn’t necessarily belong to me(purely hypothetical as I don't know why anybody would pay for this). If I weren’t doing this for a purely pedagogical purpose, then I could possibly feel like there is no point in publishing it all. This depicts the crux with too much intellectual property laws.
            Although copyrights and patents can deter intellectuals from putting their work out there, they also give a fiscal incentive to keep creating and pushing forward. If an author didn’t have any assurance that his work would be properly compensated, they might decide not to publish at all. This happens more in developing countries where books are just reprinted without author approval. There has to be a balance between the two because a world free of copyright hinders creativity and expression just as much as an overbearing copyright system. That being said, the current laws that govern intellectual property have to be revised. The retroactive additions and weak standards to get approved for copyright and patents need to be changed for a more creative environment.  This would center the intellectual property debate and lead to an all around maximization of creativity and expression.

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