‘INTELLECTUAL property rights’ – three words that summarise one of humanity’s informational blind-spots and one of our most significant moral quandaries.
Recently, John Green (author of The Fault in our Stars, and co-owner of the Vlogbrothers on Youtube) discovered that a quote that was attributed to one of his books, Paper Towns, actually belonged to a 13-year-old fan. The quote: “I’m in love with cities I’ve never been to and people I’ve never met” was on a poster sold by the Vlogbrothers’ merchandise store, and since discovering the error, Mr Green has retroactively paid royalties to the fan that created the quote.
This story had a happy ending, but it highlights how we usually fail to check our sources and credit other people for their work. Intellectual property rights are especially important today, where every two days, we create as much information as we did from the dawn of mankind until 2003. That’s right – every two days.
Intellectual property rights allow us to fairly credit people for their work, even when their work is not tangible, or not physically accessible. Even though legislation on intellectual property has a long way to go, organisations such as the World Intellectual Property Organisation are making a genuine effort to improve IP rights.
Until then, you can double-check the source of that inspirational quote your mum sent you!