Common Property, Common Power
by Grant A. Mincy
Reuters is reporting that this year the United States Supreme Court is hearing its highest proportion of intellectual property (IP) cases in history. The justices are set to decide eight cases on IP – six on patent laws and two on copyright. A sign of the times, really. In a world of open source content and the creative commons it is becoming rather tedious for the state to apply old laws to new technology.
IP law includes patents, copyright and trademarks. In recent decades U. S. businesses, especially those in the technology industry, have become increasingly dependent upon them to protect “their profits” – business gets the capital, individual labor is rarely rewarded. Reuters also reports that this rise in litigation is the product of differences between rulings by the justices and the findings of a specialized Washington-based appeals court, which handles the nation’s patent cases, because they have failed to reach consensus on some key issues. Keep in mind, rulings on IP can have wide-ranging consequences for society – should the human genome or vaccines be patented or remain common pool resources? I think the latter. The pharmaceutical industry, however, spends a lot of money and political energy on IP, favoring strong patents to protect its multi-million dollar “right” to collect rent on a manufactured monopoly.
Another reason for the sudden rise in IP litigation is because IP restricts human labor and innovation.
Litigation is up in the courts because liberty is the new ethic – the creative commons are here to stay. The open source, technological revolution emerging before our very eyes around the globe, with its theme of decentralization, is forcing a change of the status quo – and special interests don’t like it. Lucky for us, the world is anarchic. The stigmergic revolution works around traditional hierarchies and coercive power – the old order (try as it might) cannot keep up.What we are seeing is social power at work. The courts, legislature and special interests are powerless in the new public arena. The liberated market is not interested in the ownership of ideas, but rather progress, innovation and co-operative labor. The days of corporate colonialism are numbered.
For a society to be liberated its ideas cannot be owned. Once in the market others should be free to add their knowledge to a concept and advance its practice. This does nothing but maximize the innovative capacity of human labor. Best practices should be free to develop. IP restricts the creative, innovative potential of the populace as these laws allow the “ownership” of information. IP laws serve to protect capital at the expense of inclined labor. Ideas are powerful and fundamental to a free society – they should not be caged by legal activism.
Today, due to new tech, information and ideas are free to spread without restriction. Human labor is under new management – the individual now has agency. The use of courts to privatize ideas and prohibit the free flow of information is an aging creed – hence the rise of creative commons. The market always seeks liberation as human labor always works for the mutual advancement of society.
Inclined, liberated human labor is the engine behind free societies. The anarchic order is emerging. By leaving IP behind we are reclaiming our power in the commons.