I blog because it’s enjoyable. I blog because I want to write something every day. I blog because I want to let others know that I am here. Do I feel the need to protect those things I write? Not often. But sometimes I think about the stories, poems, and other “intellectual property” that I put out there. Is it protected simply because I posted it?
What is intellectual property in the electronic age? What happens when we make our work available on the World Wide Web through blogs and such? Several treaties have been passed to address the problem of vast opportunities for worldwide distribution of copyrighted materials and to protect those writers and artists from theft of their electronic material. However, chat rooms, discussion boards, e-mails, web sites, blogs, and even home pages also make it possible to publish thoughts, ideas, and works that upon “publication” are immediately available for anyone and everyone to access and read. They become public property and can easily be used without permission or commission. The WWW makes it simple and cheap to deliver cost-free copying of information.
With this change in technology, can intellectual property remain protected? According to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), “intellectual property refers to creations of the mind: inventions, literary and artistic works, and symbols, names, images, and designs used in commerce.” Using some else’s intellectual property, words, or forms of expression in a work and failing to cite the source of a direct quote or failing to give credit for a paraphrased idea is a serious offense. In the past, intellectual property was just that—property. It was considered to have monetary value. To publish another’s work without that person’s permission would be a crime equivalent to stealing capital.
Does the capability of the Internet to provide free copying of content change the role of intellectual property? Do writers lose their desire to put out their best stuff as a result of mass copying? What can free writers and such do to protect themselves as well as their intellectual possessions?