A friend of mine, illustrator by trade, was asked by a company to sign a permanent lease for them to use one of his drawings as their logo. In exchange for a small amount of money. He was happy to do so until he found a clause in the contract saying that if the originality of the drawing was challenged in court, he would have to accept all responsibility.
No worries, right? He knows he drew the logo.
Except he doesn´t know how to prove that he did, should it be challenged on court.
Now, he´s an over imaginative guy, what are the odds?, really? But that´s the way he is. And when it dawned on him that he is always liable for his illustrations, whether he signs a contract or not, that really hit his peaceful nights. What if someone says he stole the idea for an illustration from them?
Well, I think he shouldn´t have to answer such an accusation. Ideas should be free to steal, copy or be inspired from.
Not one of us when we come up with a creative idea comes up with something uniquely original. We sample, we copy, we take inspiration from what others have done and add our own twist to it.
Such is the creative process. It´s not stealing.
Even the latest research tends to not be original. As Mark Lemley of Stanford Law School has showed, almost all significant new technologies are invented simultaneously or nearly simultaneously by two or more teams working independently of each other. (By the way, I pinched this piece of info from the blog TechDirt by Mike Masnick).
It tends to be a coincidence who registers the idea first, in a system that also permits inventors to delay others working in the same field.
The argument in favour of copyright and patents are of course that nobody will have an incentive to innovate if ownership of an idea is not guaranteed by law. Without it artists would not survive. Worse than that; music, film and literature would not survive.
So how come this is not true for the fashion industry?
They´re making billions and billions with no copyright, no protection against people “stealing” their design and reproducing it. Fashion designers don´t seem to need ownership to create and innovate.
How come the perfume industry can survive without copyrights? And the fast-growing “cooking-shows-in TV and books”-industry? Recipes are not protected by copyright.
And what about the extremely creative and even faster growing tattoo-business (worth 2-3 bn US dollars)?
They all “steal”, sample, copy and rework what their colleagues are doing and no one seems to be the poorer for it. Or any less creative.
The Internet and new technology – such as 3D-printers! – has already made it near impossible to keep ideas and their execution under wraps.
Some people go along with this development. Young scientists are throwing out centuries of tradition of protecting scientific ideas and opening up their data bases on-line as well as their thinking processes in exchange for input, criticism, new ideas.
Ah, but who gets acclaimed for coming up with the right answer in the end, earning a good career boost on the ticket?
The young scientists don´t seem to worry, seeing that clever people tend to be noticed and find their way forward even in this new, strange world.
Professor Jörgen Örström Möller at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies argues that these young scientists are part of a new development – the world is moving into a new era with the economy based less on material resources (becoming more scant day by day) and more on knowledge.
Based on ideas.
This is where we should be directing our efforts, not on going in the opposite direction.
I´m even tempted to think it is too bad Italy and Spain didn´t win their attack in the European Court on the newly created European Patent.
Their arguments were absolute rubbish but it would have put another hamper in the EU efforts going on for 40 years now, to find stricter ways to protect European ideas.
What Europe needs it not more of protecting ideas, it is more of sharing ideas.
 ’HOW ASIA CAN SHAPE THE WORLD, from the era of plenty to the era of scarcities’, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore 2010.
 I They claimed it could undermine existing EU laws on the single market or on its social, economic and territorial basis. Or interfere with the rights and responsibilities of member states.