Intellectual Property is Fraud (Part 3)
“Ideas are viral, they couple with other ideas, change shape, and migrate into unfamiliar territories. The intellectual property regime restricts the promiscuity of ideas and traps them in artificial enclosures, extracting exclusive benefits from their ownership and control. Intellectual property is fraud – a legal privilege to falsely represent oneself as the sole “owner” of an idea, expression or technique and to charge a tax to all who want to perceive, express or apply this “property” in their own production. It is not plagiarism that dispossesses an “owner” of the use of an idea; it is intellectual property, backed by the invasive violence of the state, that dispossesses everyone else from using their common culture. The basis for this dispossession is the legal fiction of the author as a sovereign individual who creates original works out of the wellspring of his imagination and thus has a natural and exclusive right to ownership. Foucault unmasked authorship as a functional principle that impedes the free circulation, the free manipulation, the free composition, decomposition, and recomposition of knowledge. The author-function represents a form of despotism over the proliferation of ideas. The effects of this despotism, and of the system of intellectual property that it shelters and preserves, is that it robs us of our cultural memory, censors our words, and chains our imagination to the law.
And yet artists continue to be flattered by their association with this myth of the creative genius, turning a blind eye to how it is used to justify their exploitation and expand the privilege of the property owning elite. Copyright pits author against author in a war of competition for originality – its effects are not only economic, it also naturalizes a certain process of knowledge production, delegitimates the notion of a common culture, and cripples social relations. Artists are not encouraged to share their thoughts, expressions and works or to contribute to a common pool of creativity. Instead, they jealously guard their “property” from others, who they view as potential competitors, spies and thieves lying in wait to snatch and defile their original ideas. This is a vision of the art world created in capitalism’s own image, whose ultimate aim is to make it possible for corporations to appropriate the alienated products of its intellectual workers.”
- Anna Nimus