Stephen Colbert recently did a show in which he used the phrase “an eye for an ipod” and then proceeded to quickly copyright the phrase on national television. It is my personal opinion that “copyrights” and other such intellectual property are inherently immoral. To claim an idea as one’s own reeks of hubris and using the laws of the land to prove ownership of an idea is nothing but petty quarreling – it’s no different than two children arguing over a toy in the sandbox.
To encourage a culture of copyrighting and “intellectual property” is to foster an environment which elevates greed and hoarding over an environment which encourages sharing, giving, and communal ownership. Copyright law creates needless headaches concerning the internet. Because of this a party encouraging copyright law reform (infringement?) has sprouted up – have you heard of the Pirate Party? Here’s the wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pirate_Parties_International
Organizations like the Pirate Party prove that there are other options to copyright law. I would like to propose an alternate way of thinking about the “business of ideas.”
Where do ideas come from? One could easily say, “my brain.” But is that all there is to it? Unlikely. Humans are a lot like ants or bees in that we share a collective consciousness. And so the ideas are quite literally flowing between us as we communicate verbally and non-verbally.
If you’re like me, you’ve had instances where you’re talking to a friend and they pause only for you to finish their sentence. How did you know what they were going to say? Even something as simple as eye-contact has a way of communicating an idea. And simple facial expressions are always conveying feelings and emotions to attentive individuals.
Examining our culture; there are hundreds of instances in which two similar movies pop up in the same season. Or consider how similar sounding bands emerge at the same time. The point being that year after year artistic individuals without any knowledge of each other create similar works completely independent of one another. How then can one of them claim intellectual ownership if the ideas were emerging at the same time?
What’s more is that youth today don’t care about who “owns” a particular idea. They care about whether the idea is any good and whether it is free or not. And it should go without saying that the best ideas should always be free. Any attempt to make money on an idea that betters the human community is corrupt and should not be tolerated.
And so, as a fellow artist, I feel compelled to question Stephen Colbert about his incessant need to copyright stuff. Of course, I realize that his schtick is all an act and that it is likely that he agrees with my particular perspective already – but his obsessive copyrighting is grounds for establishing a dialogue on the social value of the copyright.