It is an odd thing but I am finding more and more that when I post on all my blogs on the same day the themes of the posts, if not exactly the same, at east compliment each other. Maybe it is not so odd since they originate in the same mind. This has not been by intent initially, but it somehow seems to complete the process if I do it on purpose, so now I post with this idea in mind. Sometimes the photo comes first (the case with today’s photo), sometimes a random thought or creation posted here, sometimes an event I share on the Ninja Cat Journals. The most profound times are when they all develop together, and it is downright freaky when I do my random old post of the day selection and it matches the theme of the moment.
Today as glimmers of spring make their presence known (even if it may still be in the distance), planting the soul with the seeds of possibility, I am thinking about thought itself; about creativity and the concept of ownership of ideas. It is something that has been percolating in the coffee pot of my mind for a while now, and it seems a fresh cup of coffee is now ready to be poured.
So the question of the moment for me … can anyone truly OWN an idea? For that matter, can anyone truly OWN anything? What does it mean to own something? How we view this simple word has a profound effect on how we interact with the world, and how our very society is shaped.
Our whole view of the world, especially in a society designed around material wealth, is fundamentally linked to this word. And if we truly explore the definition, it is simply a matter of belief in our power to control something. If something is within the realm of our control, then we ‘own’ it. And when ownership defines our concept of status, that plays a very important role. “You can not have access to this thing that I ‘own’ without my permission.
Otherwise I lose my sense of control.”
That is really the essence of it. Much of our legal system, our very economy, our political and social motivations, our personal drive, even our sense of self revolves around what we think we ‘own’.
A lot of power for a little word isn’t it?
Nomadic Peoples (for instance the Roma or ‘Gypsies’, and various indigenous tribal cultures of the US) have often been viewed as thieves and criminals by the more fixed societies that they pass by. I believe this has more to do with their concept of ownership then some inherent ‘moral failing’ of said Peoples. Think about it. If ownership has to do with control over something, then it requires a certain amount of stability and non-change to truly feel we own something. Real estate is the perfect example. A nomadic culture who does not stay in any one place for too long will generally recognize that they have no ownership over a piece of land, even if they are using it. But establish roots there, especially over a period of lifetimes, and suddenly we think we actually control that piece of land, or “own”it, even if our perceived control is actually very limited in time geologically speaking. Or even in terms of human history for that matter. Similarly, the nomad would view personal possessions as transitory, because they can’t take everything with them as they move. So they would distinguish between using something and ‘owning’ it, and might not even believe something CAN be owned. So in their eyes it is not thieving, but simple practicality. “It is here so I will use it”.
One of the rages of the moment seems to be this concept of regulating the use of and protecting the rights to ‘intellectual property’. The fundamental basis of this whole concept is that we can ‘own’ and idea. But how can anyone own an idea? When we are charging money for something that falls under the category of intellectual property, for instance, we are not charging money for the idea itself, but for the use of it. Or more correctly, for permission to use it because we have laid some claim to it. So if someone else has actually come up with a similar idea independently, but has not filed a legal claim to it … they are now ‘stealing’ our idea, and thus should be subject to punishment.
But to me ideas are the result of multiple factors, and not the unique province of one person. If circumstances generated an idea within me that was apparently ‘unique’, it does not mean only I have a right to that idea. It just means I was the correct person in the correct situation to allow that idea to arrive. It could just as easily have been someone else.
So how can I claim ‘ownership’ of that idea?
Now granted if the idea takes a tangible form, such as a photo, or writing or music, we might have some claim to control of it if we put effort into making it tangible. But the moment it becomes tangible, it is no longer actually completely ours. For every person that beholds it now has access to that idea. So when we insist that one obtains permission to use that idea, we are basically just being greedy of our own power. I ‘created’ that, therefore I am owed something by anyone who has access to it.
That does not actually sound reasonable to me. If I take a picture and make it available to others (especially online), how is it still my picture? Sure I saw a vision and captured it with my own skill, but that does not mean the vision is mine alone. Nor does it mean that because someone else sees what I captured and finds a use for it that they somehow owe me for my time of creation. The same applies to music, or even writing. How can we truly expect that everyone who encounters a song should need to seek permission from someone to use it? Why do they owe someone something simply because that someone was fortunate enough to be the vessel of that particular idea? If an idea were truly ‘owned’ than it would not longer exist after the death of its owner. But we as a society try to set arbitrary limits on who has rights to an idea for … as far as I can tell … the power to ‘own’ more things. Kind of a funny way to go about things in my mind.
Of course many people would disagree with this view. But that is ok. I don’t own it. It is simply an idea. Do with it what you will.