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Why should we keep others from selling our work?

Techdirt discusses why you shouldn’t be concerned if someone “steals” your work and sells it, noting that “it’s not necessarily a bad thing.”

By Kristopher A. Nelson in

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The caterpillar does all the work but the butt...
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Techdirt discusses why you shouldn’t be concerned if someone “steals” your work and sells it, noting that “it’s not necessarily a bad thing”:

If someone actually figures out something that works well, then that’s useful info to us, and would allow us to then incorporate those findings into our own offering. That’s actually good for everyone…

via Is It Really Such A Problem If People Sell Your Works? Or Is It Just Free Market Research? | Techdirt.

I don’t disagree with this reasoning, at least in the case of the professional production of intellectual property (not necessarily for profit), and most especially when the producer continues to produce content. Thus, this idea makes perfect sense in the case of Techdirt (or most media companies, Twitterers, blogs, newspapers, and so on), since their real value is not in any one particular story, but rather in the relationship between readers/consumers and producers/innovators.

I do worry about “one-off” artists — painters, designers, novelists, musicians — anyone who may invest countless hours in the production of a single item that can then be easily reproduced at virtually zero cost. (Note that my above points would apply to a music label, perhaps, or even a movie studio, since they produce a constant stream of content which can create relationships.) How do we encourage the small-time innovator who may not produce more than a few works? How do we keep free-riders (I might include music labels and publishers in this list…) from discouraging true, one-off innovations by people who may not be interested in innovating in business as well?

I do not have a good answer to this, but I think it’s an important question. (I also think this possibility is used by media companies to “hide the ball” when it comes to their desire to hold onto profitable IP.) If we don’t find some way to resolve it, I suspect we may never have proper IP reform that works for the “little guy.”