Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Stealing Thoughts

Plagiarism (h/t Leiter Reports) is all the go these days.  The practice of taking someone else's work or ideas and passing them off as one's own (new Oxford Dictionary definition) is rife; but is it wrong?  Citing sources doesn't really get round the nub of what upsets some about drawing on the intellectual resources and property of others.  Whether there is accession to prestige or accession to wealth, and usually there is both resulting from unchallenged plagiarism,  we still have an  emotional response of offence unassuaged by  fuller citation or by payment.

Insofar as there are  patents to cover intellectual property of great commercial value, plagiarism would seem to be more about prestige and the conferring of statuses.  The world and his wife are writing dissertations these days -  a post-graduate degree is de rigueur  for academia, higher bureaucratic posts, access to research funds, and the accolades of networking  institutes.  Is the felt emotion jealousy? Or possessiveness?  Why should we care if our ideas are lifted wholesale and appositely reproduced?


Egoista said...

But we do care very much if someone steals a thought, just as we care if someone steals money from us. Why should we allow others to take possession of our things? We do not have to be generous.

Caronte said...

Thoughts are secret. Secret thoughts cannot be stolen. Once they are "published" they can be stolen, i.e. infringing either a copyright or, in any case, a "moral" copyright i.e. the right to be recognised as author.

Intellectual property is undoubtedly over-protected (paradoxically by the World Trade Organisation, that ought to promote the free circulation of ideas as well as goods and services instead). Some infringement of that would be beneficial.

But there is no conceivable justification for the infringement of moral "copyright".