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Replacing Intellectual Property Rights by Idea Credit Rights

Excerpted from Heather Marsh:
Copyright and patent laws which are structured to ensure fame and profit for those that can afford the fees and are the quickest to file forms have created a society and a history filled with people celebrated for creations they did not originate and filled also with creative people who died in poverty and anonymity because they did not have the gift of self promotion. The user group has a key role to play in ensuring that credit is given where appropriate.

This may seem out of place in an argument against personality driven systems, but it is essential. While ideas need amplification from those with the power to do so, stealing credit for ideas creates resentment, discourages sharing and most of all, creates power where it should not exist. Unlike copying, which is not theft, taking credit deprives the rightful owner of it and is theft. The frustration felt by those who know they will never receive credit discourages sharing and open discussion and destroys the joy of creation. A true idea driven culture is one where it is not necessary to be an extrovert with millions of Twitter followers and public speaking skills to receive not just recognition of an idea but of the real idea originator.

Credit theft is a severe impediment to equality. In a world where media with global reach is controlled almost exclusively by western men, from owners to reporters to the 85% male Wikipedia editors, the result is women and others are photoshopped out of every important story. The news creates the fame which feeds the awards and recognition which perpetuates the cycle of exclusion. Where ideas translate into potential careers, credit theft is even more reprehensible. It is as common now as ever for a person with access to powerful forums to pick up an idea from a person unable to reach the public and use it to enhance their own reputation. This is frequently brushed off in groups fighting for societal change as ‘the hive’ owns the idea, everyone does the role they choose, and it just so happens that the role most suitable to those in power (western men) is interviews, public speaking, books, etc., while the silent and unrecognized work is more ‘suitable’ to the introverted or those without the power to take the stage. Any criticism or resentment is met with outrage that the originator cares more for their own fame than ‘the cause’. It is time to call an end to this practice which has existed far too long. There is no longer any pretend need for an extroverted man to present every idea, in these days of internet communication even a disabled, impoverished single mom does not need anyone else to say her words. The practice of making every public appearance by a woman an opportunity for sexual intimidation or sexual assault is an attempt to prolong idea theft and prevent women (and other marginalized groups) from ever holding power. It needs to stop.

Idea credit theft is even a problem in cases where the origin wishes to remain anonymous. It is very common for anonymity to be lost because the originator or their friends see an outside person claiming credit for an idea they know came from elsewhere. Just as free software and creative commons licenses allow anyone to use an idea but not claim ownership of it, there should be an attempt to protect ideas which are released for all from being claimed by one. If this seems silly, observe many cases where people are wrongly claiming credit for starting protests and even revolutions, promoting themselves to become the voice that is amplified when others are trying to find out goals and characteristics of the movement.

Idea credit theft is unfair to listeners who may wish clarification, or are interested in more ideas from the same source. False claims of origins usually result in ideas being improperly explained and the loss is to the user group. In a world where the user groups made every effort to find the original source of ideas, creative people would receive credit without being made to take a public stage or engage in public relations battles with extroverted people whose gifts are in marketing and self promotion.

While intellectual property rights need to be abolished as they are inhibiting progress and being used as a tool of inappropriate permanent economic control and intimidation, idea credit rights need far more recognition and need to start being applied to the originator, not the copyright or patent holders.

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