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Freedom of Information

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Following are articles concerning the application of free content for use in fiction.

Why Own an Idea? Edit

A world famous artist reached the pinnacle of his career creating a portrait of the likes had never been painted before. The very existence of the portrait generated a type of art form and went down in history as one of the most valuable and intriguing works ever created. What if Leonardo da Vinci kept the Mona Lisa in his private chambers because he was afraid someone would copy it? In 1928, Sir Alexander Fleming saw that the natural mold Penicillium could destroy harmful bacteria. If he kept that information only for the highest bidder, how long would have taken before Penicillin was born? How would we have managed modern technology if Newton decided to keep the inner workings of his mathematical formulas secret?

The problem with intellectual property is that many confuse ownership with credential. When a new idea is generated and harbored in secrecy for fear of duplication or held above a community until the right price is given, the idea does not gain the benefit of blossoming and cannot go as far when implemented. Owning an idea stifles the idea from growth, expansion, adaptability and usefulness, where as credential gives credit to whomever created the idea, adapted the idea, distributed the idea, or further found use for the idea.

The argument for owning an idea has been made that one could capitalize on it far more effectively, then if the idea was given away with no copyright. The fallacy of argument occurs in that one can capitalize on an idea just as much if it is owned than if it is open for others to use. The benefit to knowledge propriety is only that one can capitalize on it in the short term rather than the long term. If one keeps exclusive ownership of an idea, then the idea is naturally limited to the abilities, prospects, connections, vision, and ability of the owner. When the idea is released openly, the potential of the idea is effectively limitless.

Take a novelist for example. Charlie the Novelist writes the Great American Novel and keeps full ownership of his ideas through a standard copyright. Charlie is limited to the whims of publishing companies who take his idea and strip it into a marketable piece. The publishing company then markets the piece explaining, in various details, why the public should buy the product. Charlie now has the distribution channel through a publisher and since he owns the idea and that is the limit of his ability, the novel and the ideas therein plateau at the distribution channel and then, through natural economy, eventually declines. Should someone else have an idea on how to revitalize or further distribute the novel, the rights would have to be purchased from the publisher and vicariously from Charlie. Charlie may get the royalties from this new distribution channel, but unless someone else buys the rights again, that is as far as it will go.

What if Charlie didn't own the idea and only kept the credential?

Charlie goes through the distribution channel he already has access to, a publishing company. Someone reads the novel, loves the idea and writes another novel, crediting Charlie but releasing it through another publisher. Charlie, without doing anything, now has twice the market he once had and the new writer has plugged into Charlie's existing market. Although Charlie did not receive royalties for the idea, he received the market and so can capitalize on a market he previously did not have access to.

Taking a more extreme example, let's say that a Hollywood movie director read Charlie's book and wanted to make a movie. If Charlie owned the idea, he would have to sell rights to the director who could then make the film. Charlie would receive royalties from the film, but no more had access to the film's materials then if it were a movie based on someone else's book. If Charlie kept the rights free, the movie director could make the movie without charging Charlie, however keeping his name attributed. Charlie, then, can write another book based on the movie and use a much larger market. Charlie never could have captured the market the movie director suddenly gave him and can now capitalize freely and indefinitely on a movie he had nothing to do with.

Open content and free knowledge does not mean creators do their work for free, it means they utilize an organic, socially supportive economy. Owning ideas is a misunderstanding of idea integrity. Contributing your idea to the community improves the potential for the idea and gives you broader boundaries in which to operate. In favor of social progress, one should not keep ideas from the public. The more everyone with ideas contributes to a knowledge community, the more educated, informed and complete the community becomes. Hiding ideas from those who cannot afford them or limiting ideas to only one individual's vision stifles intellectual progress and as artists and creators, intellectual progress should be a priority.

By keeping knowledge open and free, one can still generate a healthy capitalistic economy while at the same time ensuring society benefits from the knowledge. Through the natural broadening of potential and the access to previously unknown or unseen markets, the contributor benefits just as much as the community when the knowledge is left open. Da Vinci gave us the Mona Lisa and although there certainly were copies made, the art world absorbed what was learned in his masterpiece and advanced as a result and now he is called a master. We all know who discovered Penicillin and although the discovery was made public, Fleming kept the credential furthering his own career and putting him down as a major contributor to the welfare of humanity. Newton proved his theories through mathematics and by letting the science community take his notes and advance them we were lead directly into modern technology. Open ideas help the community and the thinker. When you create an idea think about why you must "own" it, when the world you live in could benefit while you still keep the credit and profitability.

--Laveaux 10:36, 9 December 2005 (CST)

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