TED Conversations

Carolyn Noelle Llige

Management Consultant, Tridel Technologies, Inc.

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To whom does an idea, a poem or design really belong to?

In the movie 'Il Postino' Pablo Neruda was scolding Mario Ruoppolo (his postman) for plagerizing his (Pablo's) poem so he (Mario) could woo the woman he was pursuing. Pablo said that Mario can't just use someone's work (in this case Pablo's poem) without owner's permission. Mario wanted to know why. Pablo said because it didn't belong to him. But Mario argued that poems don't belong to the writer, they belong to whomever needs it.

At first blush Pablo would seem to be right in his claim, but on deeper consideration, maybe Mario has an even more valid point. Writings, designs and ideas are never created in a vacuum. They always happen within a context of circumstance, of culture, of geography and of language. It could never be created without all these external input. Likewise any idea or creation would have no value except when released within that same context. So why then should the 'creator' claim exclusive ownership if his ability to create and the value or utility of his creation are contingent upon the context within which he creates?

Could anyone really be able to create anything without a language, without some form of education, without resources, all of which were made available to him (the creator) by entities other than himself. And even if he could, of what value would his creation be, if only he were to use it.

I am proposing therefore, that perhaps our concept of intellectual property rights are flawed. That since the creation and viability of the intellectual property require participation from a much larger base then ownership should likewise be shared with that base.


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    Nov 5 2011: I just saw another video on TED about open-source cancer research, which absolutely convinces me that all 'intellectual property' belongs to humanity, that no one entity should own it. That it is crazy to allow anyone to own this kind of information, for 2 reasons, 1st, the delay in progress that protective secrecy will inevitably cause. Without the open sharing of ideas and collaboration all over the planet, breakthroughs will be very slow. And 2nd, if a solution exists that could cure person or even save his life, this treatment should not be withheld from anyone and certainly not for considerations of monetary gain.

    Here's the Ted video: http://www.ted.com/talks/jay_bradner_open_source_cancer_research.html

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