SAI Contributor Hank Williams is a New York-based entrepreneur. He recently launched a new blog: Why Does Everything Suck? Exploring the tech marketplace from 10,000 feet.
Whether it’s software, patents, movies, or music, as a planet, we have decided that things that exist only in the form of atoms, or are not offered as a service, have no value.
The most fascinating aspect of this is not *why* it’s happening, but the emotional framework that we have built up to make ourselves feel OK about it.
Essentially, we have turned all owners of intellectual property into villains and idiots that deserve what’s coming to them:
- Open source is good. Closed source is evil.
- Patent owners who protect their rights are “trolls.”
- The music industry is greedy, so stealing is just.
Of course, I believe the patent system needs some fixing, and I would not defend historical practices of record labels. But we are demonizing the *idea* of IP. And if we lose the ability to protect intellectual property, we will lose huge engines of our economy. I am politically left, but the idea of some giant robin hood system that takes all IP and redistributes it for free to those that can’t afford it–or more likely *can* afford it but would just rather buy a 10th pair of sweat shop assembled Nikes–is appalling. (Irony alert! Nike = good, record labels = bad)
As I suspect most of you are in some way involved in economic activity that is tied to the creation of IP, we should all be clear. If the current trend and cultural psychology continues to its logical conclusion, many of you will be working with your hands.
Unfortunately, in the end, I think there is little that can be done about this problem. What we are seeing now is cognitive dissonance on a massive scale. For the most part we have just convinced ourselves that this is all OK. As a culture, we have developed wacky rationales for why obviously unethical and self destructive behaviour is justified.
Nevertheless, I don’t think the de-valuation of IP can be stopped. And I would not suggest anyone build businesses based on the idea that it can. Thus, my goals here are modest: If, after reading this, just a few of you feel a little bit uneasy about endlessly fattening your Limewire collections, I will consider it a success.
Perhaps the ultimate form of tilting at windmills. But doesn’t someone have to say this stuff?
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.