‘Am I allowed to create this link?’


DC Comics

From Sign and Sight:

The question of pro or contra the net or “intellectual property” is not being decided according to political parties but social criteria. It is important to understand that the lines drawn in the internet debate cut across all political orientations. There are internet opponents among old-school eco-leftists, liberals, and conservatives alike.

Whoever earns good money through the newspaper business will understandably defend their livelihood. In an editorial for the Süddeutsche Zeitung the left-leaning Heribert Prantl complains about the “lack of understanding for the fact that intellectual property is real property, which has its own value and must be protected”. Clemens Wergin, who considers himself a liberal but nevertheless feels the need to define for himself the proper meaning of freedom, takes a similar stance in die Welt: A “false understanding of freedom on the internet would throw us back into the cultural Dark Ages.” This also goes for institutions respected by conservatives, such as the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, which is generally quite pleased that the internet does not have to be taken as seriously as originally feared: “The internet did not bring about a deliberative democracy. The desire for new forms of social participation and representation remain unfulfilled. Neither do blogs represent socially effective discursive forums, nor are political decisions made via ‘liquid democracy,'” writes Stefan Schulz in the arts section. So the situation is only as half as bad as originally expected, and the usual suspects remain at the helm?

At any rate, they are repeating the idea of “intellectual property” like a catechism. It is true that this term is legally conceived as analogous to material property. However, such representatives of a supposedly free press should not fail to explain how skewed, distorting – and even dangerous – this analogy truly is.

Can products of the intellect truly be considered property?

Ownership entails having the power of disposal over something, and therefore also the right to destroy it. I can destroy a chair that I own by chopping it up and throwing it in the fire.

But not even the creator of a work may exert this kind of violence or assert such a right, at least not once a work has been published. Once a work has been presented to the world, the world owns it. Thomas Mann cannot go to the National Library and demand that “The Magic Mountain” be handed over so he can rework the ending. In contrast to what Prantl claims, not even the creator has “real ownership” of his or her work. A work is a transfer of ownership: this kiss for the whole world.

“A kiss for the whole world”, Thierry Chervel, Sign and Sight