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Published:February 18th, 2009 13:33 EST
Media Piracy Debate: What's Mine Is Yours

Media Piracy Debate: What's Mine Is Yours

By Sean Stubblefield

Considerations of decency, courtesy and honor aside, if you don`t want to be photographed naked in your home, don`t leave your blinds or curtains open while you are naked in your home. If you`re putting it out there to be seen, then don`t complain if someone sees it.

Scientists, philosophers and artists are esteemed not because they possess information, but because that information has been contributed-- by them or others-- to mankind`s pool of knowledge... to the general community. The value of their creations to humanity comes not merely from the act of their creating, but from that creation being disseminated into and throughout society. What benefit would something be to others if none of it ever reached anyone? But Prometheus has already delivered the fire, and it can`t be undone. So when I see warnings and denunciations against media piracy, I see not only a non-issue, but a practical impossibility.

The concept of intellectual property " is just that: a concept; illusory, arbitrary and therefore a misnomer.

It doesn`t exist, can`t. How can anything in the public domain be regarded as personal, private or individual property?

Does the wheel, in form or function, belong to any particular person or group of people? No.

I`m all for being adequately compensated for our work, and credit where credit is due.

But once something enters that realm of public domain, it innately and automatically belongs " to anyone and everyone. It belongs to The People.

Such ideas are beyond individual ownership, exempt, and ultimately belong to the whole of mankind. The only sense of ownership it can possibly have is collective.

And so that no erroneous assumptions are drawn from this, let me clarify that I am certainly not advocating an ignoble self-sacrificing altruism, with no concern for the interests of the individual creator. I am definitely not promoting that we should create only for the sake of others, nor that a creation`s only value is in its service to others.

I firmly believe that, first and foremost, our primary motivation should be creating for ourselves, because we are motivated to create.


When something is put forth for public knowledge, recognition and consumption, when it is made known or available to the public, the originator loses " forfeits and surrenders, in a way, as an inherent consequence of its being made public-- any sole rights and claims beyond the knowledge and statement of I made this ". And even then, still not necessarily sole ownership of the idea, because other people might think of it, too.

Whether the creator intends this or not, whether he or she wants or realizes this or not, this deprivation or sacrifice is the nature and price of going public with an idea.

Something is vulnerable to critique and manipulation " conceptually and/or physically-- by the public when it is projected into the public consciousness, and presented for public access. It is accessible to anyone able to gain access to it. Ownership of an original creation exists only as we recognize or acknowledge that it does exist, and are willing to respect an authenticity of creatorship.

We may concede and concur that Leonardo Da Vinci conceived and painted The Last Supper, and that the concept of it originated with " belongs to-- him, but the actual painting itself cannot be said to belong strictly to Da Vinci outside of his possession, unless we somehow grant that it does. Possession by concession. We can admit that the painting is his work, originating with and created by him, but not necessarily his possession, if not actually IN his possession, directly or indirectly. 

The notion of piracy is a fallacy, because nothing is being stolen. You can`t steal something that belongs to no one, anyone and everyone; you can`t steal something you already own, and have rights to. Because anyone can own it, anyone can own it.

I can get something from anyone wanting to make it available to me, for sale or for free, if I want. And there`s nothing wrong with that, despite what the authorities " insist you believe. Conversely, by extension, if I have a DVD or CD or book, I can give, lend or sell it or any part of it to whomever I choose.

This thing has become mine ", by virtue of possession--- whether I bought it, was given it as a gift, found or stole it. Except in the case of legal provisions or some agreed upon criteria for terms of ownership-- or usership, a thing given to me, as a gift or as a purchase, is mine to do with as I want. Do you really want me telling you what shirt you can and should have, assuming there is no imminent danger? Then what right would you have to tell me what to do with mine, so long as I`m not inappropriately infringing anyone`s liberties? Exactly none.

Someone who is not me designed and manufactured that shirt. But when that shirt is bought and paid for, literally or figuratively, into my possession, it ceases to be anyone else`s concern.

The creator, manufacturer or provider has no say, at least logically, ethically and philosophically, about what I can or can`t do with it.

Composers of music and producers of movies have no more claim on a song or movie they made than they do on the idea of music and movies, or on the kinds of instruments and machines they used to perform and record it. Such things are too ubiquitous, too intangible to constrain. The initial idea of a particular movie or song, the creation of the movie or song, is the property of the creator, but not the manifestation or implementation of that idea if made public.

I can share my property with anyone I want, in any means and manner available to me.

When something attains public access, it becomes the property of the public. What I can`t rightly do with it is claim it as my own original, unique creation, and cannot assume or accept credit for it. I cannot rightly tamper with the original source material without permission from the creator.

However, I can and may alter or borrow aspects of it " make something new from it, using it as the model, foundation or inspiration to design, devise or develop a new form or idea, and claim that new creation as my own. So long as the new thing actually is substantially distinct and significantly different from the original source material. Once I submit something to the world, I simultaneously also give up ownership of it, since ownership has been transferred by its simple offering. Only the origination, only the principal creation of something truly belongs to its creator, yet only in concept, in origination. Afterwards, the idea of a thing is public domain.

The creator needs to understand and accept this as an inevitable and unavoidable fact, feature and function of making a thing publicly available. If the creator desires to retain strict ownership controls, then the creator should keep it private " out of the awareness and out of the hands of the public.