Copy – right or wrong?

The main point I took away from the readings this week is that defining intellectual property – especially with regards to intangible material online – is difficult. Wherever one point of view is created, there is always an alternate perception on the matter. Boldrin and Levine (2007) made an interesting point with regards to the analogy drawn from the emergence of the steam engine. The functionality of copyright, as expressed through James Watt’s invention and resultant attempt to eliminate competition through his innovation and patent of the steam engine. They note that once Watt’s patents were secured and production started, a substantial portion of his energy was devoted to fending off rival inventors.


“The wasteful effort to suppress competition and obtain special privileges is referred to by economists as rent-seeking behavior.”


This point caused me to think, that perhaps instead of finding ways to suppress information within the ‘free-flow information economy’ that is the Internet – more measures could be taken to ensure both the producers and users benefit from the sources which are created by and available to consumers? But this would most certainly erupt in a debate of opportunity cost with the producer and consumer, which would seemingly take us back to square one – or in the case of Apple and Samsung – rectangle one.


Lessig (2004) points out that scientists build upon the work of other scientists without asking or paying for the privilege, as one does not have to ask to borrow an established theory. However, one would acknowledge the use of this work in a reference. Consequently, could a reference be perceived as enough? Could the downloading of a song and its reference being its ‘title’ be considered a reference to the content? Does it not hold value for both the producer and consumer in this sense? And the cycle starts again…




Boldrin, M., and Levine, D.K. (2007). Introduction. In Against Intellectual Monopoly (pp. 1-15). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press [URL:].

Lessig, L. (2004). Creators. In Free Culture: How Big Media uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Strangle Creativity (pp. 21-30). New York: Penguin [URL:].

Snapper, J. W. (1999). On the Web, plagiarism matters more than copyright piracy. Ethics and Information Technology, 1, 127-136.


6 thoughts on “Copy – right or wrong?

  1. That’s a really interesting point you bring up within your last paragraph. The example about how scientist and academics can draw on other research and theories and give only a reference to the original creator and not need to ask them for permission is very interesting. Especially when you juxtapose it to the example of music (a source for much debate in relation to copyright)
    It really would be a utopian way of viewing the world! A world where you just have to be honest and reference the original creator. It’s nice to dream about, but it would seldom become a reality

  2. This was a comprehensive post about a key aspect of copyright. The incorporation of the statement i ‘The wasteful effort to suppress competition and obtain special privileges is referred to by economists as rent-seeking behavior, was effective in showing a different perspective to copyright that i have not considered. I think in reality it would be good to introduce more strategic measures to ensure both the producers and users benefit from the sources which are created on the Internet; however, i agree with above post and think it won’t happen and if it does there will be ways to by- pass it. Overall good post.

  3. Everybody loves a bit of recognition, and I like your question whether this is really enough. I am a believer in building off the past; of recreating and reproducing; of learning from the mistakes of others and coming up with something bigger and better. I think we’re doing our ideas an injustice by protecting them with patents; we’re restricting them from reaching their full potential. How about you let me build off your idea and come up with something just a tiny bit better, and just give you some recognition at the end.. how does that sound?

  4. “Wherever one point of view is created, there is always an alternate perception on the matter.”

    I think this is the major problem with copyright debates today. On one hand you hand you have the idea that “information wants to be free” but on the other hand you have a number of people who have worked hard to create something and want to ensure they are given credit for it. It’s a vicious cycle that seems to just keep going and going. Ultimately the key of any business is to be ahead of their competition, to have the best product or idea. An easy way of doing this is to ensure that the competition cannot produce or use the same product or idea. Hence we have monopolies. But should this quest to be the best come at the overall cost of the consumer?

    p.s. Great pun in reference to the ongoing battle between Apple and Samsung- rectangle one!

  5. This post shows great understanding of this weeks reading. Referring to the Steam Engine was a perfect example of Boldrin’s discussion of intellectual property and copyright. I believe this example is directly relevant to that of intellectual property rights in regards to movie and music torrents. As I discussed in my blog post, and you have in yours, the constant battle between producers and users is getting nowhere. Or, as you have stated ‘rectangle one’ – great quote!

  6. Great Blog! I love your pun in reference to the the ongoing battle Apple and Samsung, as rectangle one! You have also opened up new doors, and certainly raised some great unanswered questions, which gives much food for thought!
    Rather than understanding the limitations that copyright can actually bring, I had just accepted the view that piracy and copying intellectual property was wrong. It is against the law so why should I believe anything different?
    I also believe that what we create rarely remains the sole property of the original author- as nothing is new under the sun, all we make builds upon past ideas, and therefore what will be made in the future builds on ours. However, I do think that credit should be given where it is due, and that it shows disrespect towards an artist when you avoid paying for or referencing their work.

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