Can Knowledge/Information Be Regarded as Property?

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Can Knowledge/Information Be Regarded as Property?

Total votes : 18

Unread postby Famed Hero » Tue Apr 01, 2003 4:43 pm

Evil Azn Chris wrote:In my opinion, knowledge should be regarded as property. Property is something that can be owned, and knowledge is something that people own, therefore knowledge is property :D

IMO to own is to buy, purchase, etc in a way that you are given something in exchange for something else. Knowledge is not owned, it is aquired. Property is like having the piece of paper that tells who killed Kennedy, there may be people who know this information but they don't "own" the paper, the source of information in which they recieved their knowledge.

The medium in which your knowledge/information is kept, stored, etc can be regarded as property, heck your brain is your property. The knowledge/information itself that you aquire is yours until you let it out. If it is something original (imagination, thoughts) yes it is your property more or less until someone copies or steals it, which is more or less human nature nowadays.
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Unread postby Coxix » Wed Dec 22, 2004 12:34 pm

I think I certainly do.
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Unread postby Harimau » Wed Dec 22, 2004 11:52 pm

Property Rights are the keystone of a good economy, and then a good society. Without property rights, enterpreneurs will not have an incentive to innovate and take risks, since someone else may just steal their ideas. And yes, it is theft in my view, even though it could be for a non-profit motive.
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Unread postby Lady Wu » Thu Dec 23, 2004 5:02 pm

Let's put a new twist on this question with some information (not copyrighted by me :lol: ) about the native cultures of the Northwest Coast of North America. Most of the Northwest Coast peoples, as far as I know, honour a very strict and elaborate system of intellectual property ownership. Songs, dances, and certain stories are owned by individuals, and may be passed on from parent to child or given away as a gift. Once given away, those "art forms" cannot be used by the original owner. These songs, dances, and stories are generally based on history/myth, and are believed to give certain powers to their owners. A rich man, a powerful chief, is someone who owns lots of these stories/songs/dances. For a powerful story/song/dance, someone may buy it off the original owner, offering material goods or intellectual property of his own. (This is why people working on anthropological or linguistic aspects of Northwest Coast peoples should always obtain permission from a storyteller before reproducing the story in a public domain. For example, I heard a version of the Creation Story from a person from the Musqueam First Nation, but I am not allowed to tell it to this forum here, or even to my family--the story was shared with me that time, but not bestowed on me formally.) In a way, this is akin to the "creative property" Wild_Eyes talked about a year and a half ago.

Apparently, for some people still, knowledge is also property. Making medicine, for example, is still a jealously-guarded thing. I know a First Nations woman from the NW Coast whose mother-in-law would not let her know how to make a herbal concoction for treating TB, even though her son was very ill. The reason for that was that my acquaintance was not married into the family long enough to be considered close enough to share that knowledge. This kind of knowledge ownership is actually one of the challenges anthropologists and linguists have to deal with all the time, and is sometimes a "hinderance" to their work. For example, elders may consider their knowledge of traditional terms or sayings as private and be reluctant to share them with the greater community, even though the language and culture is moribund and require every bit of community cooperation to survive (from a Western viewpoint, that is). Such an example is mentioned in the July/August 2004 issue of Mother Jones (for those of you who have full access to the magazine).

Now, the question is, is how much we consider intellectual property a cultural question? Someone who's brought up in the standard Western European culture would have a difficult time observing the first type of restriction--who among us (brought up the non-Native way) would think it unnatural to repeat a cool story you heard earlier today to a friend? Or hum a catchy song you heard at a party last week? Perhaps it does make sense and is compatible with our definition of "copyrighting", but isn't it a bit "too far"? And doesn't the medicinal stuff ring a bell with the issue of patented drugs for widespread diseases in poor countries--shouldn't people just share a formula or other kinds of knowledge if it would save lives?

There's something "exotic" about those customs, from a non-Native viewpoint. However, they do seem merely an extension of our view of intellectual property to their world. So is it merely a cultural issue, or is our notion of intellectual property a wonky one?
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