Intellectual property law is designed to protect the rights of those who take the time and put in the effort to create something unique that has the potential to add value to the world. Whether this is through artistic expression through various art forms such as film, literature or music or through scientific and mechanical breakthroughs that cure diseases or increase the overall quality of life for people it is important that people are rewarded for their hard work. If they are not given their dues, motivation to keep working diminishes greatly. In today’s increasingly connected world, it has become a lot easier to share intellectual property in a matter of seconds to millions of people. This has given rise to the question of whether intellectual property protection laws are still valid in a world where information can be accessed in a matter of seconds and people can communicate with one another from the most remote and arbitrary places in the world, it is understandable. We have all heard about Pirate Bay and seen the adverts encouraging you to pay for your music and movies after all.
The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is clearly the go to organization when you want to find out what those in the know think of the current state of intellectual property protection. For them, the biggest change with the rise of the digital age is that while when we only had photocopiers and material could be replicated, it would only be kept in one location making it very difficult to distribute amongst large amounts of people. That has all changed with the internet. Now you can post something online and before you know it millions of people have access to it. With the rise of social media (Facebook and Twitter) and websites like Reddit, it has become even easier to distribute information. Intellectual property laws thus need to change and adapt to the evolving face of intellectual property. Nothing stays the same forever, which is what makes us human after all.
Regardless of whether or not people are infringing intellectual property laws on a daily basis, intellectual property is still big business as any high end tech company will tell you. The most recent case illustrating how important intellectual property law is in with the case of Twitter buying IP and patents from IBM in February 2014. The social networking giant bought 900 patents from the patent warehouse after going public after six years of being business. While not in any immediate danger of facing a lawsuit with regards to intellectual property infringements, the company has learned from the lessons of other tech companies and decided to take action before slapped with a lawsuit which will just be bad for business and cause additional and unnecessary headaches. Google has bought thousands of patents from Big Blue as has Facebook.
The question still remains- does IP law currently work? Given that the biggest names in the technology industry are buying masses of patents from all over, it seems as though the current laws do work to an extent. The threat of a lengthy lawsuit and losing lots of money while gaining plenty of bad publicity is enough to scare any big business with a lot to lose as has been shown by Facebook, Google and most recently, Twitter. On the flip side, there has been a growing trend of big companies applying for patents that are too broad and put younger, newer companies off from attempting anything innovative (as is the case with the Candy Crush saga) making it an iffy industry at best.
It seems as though the only real winners are those with money, yes that is so true. They often forget that they too started at the bottom and had to apply for patents just like everyone else. If we are going to carry on being an innovative race making breakthroughs wherever we go we need to change this. The move towards open source software and information is one way to encourage collaboration and make strides towards improving our lives. Platforms like TED and Ubuntu encourage open source collaboration and hide the importance of sharing information with the less fortunate. By finding less expensive ways of getting information we are unlocking the potential of millions of people who would otherwise not be able to contribute towards changing the world because of circumstances beyond their control. Open source software with the right amount of recognition is the only way forward.
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