Jon Michael Galindo

~ writing, programming, art ~

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19 September 2015

The Apes of Manhattan

Can you own an idea?

Many copyright proponents are persuaded that you can. I strongly disagree. I see copyright law as a business model, not a fundamental principal of information.

"The Apes of Manhattan" propels copyright law into a future where brain-computer interfaces have made the uploading and downloading of memories commonplace.

In this scenario, the simple act of watching a movie enables a person to share a perfect copy of that movie with any friend. Essentially, the human brain itself has become a video-recording device.

How could copyright law possibly apply in this scenario? Frighteningly, I had it take the route that software has taken. A person's thoughts are no longer their own, but must be licensed from the copyright holder.

Rather than simply watching a movie, a person must rent a license for the movie's memory; when that license expires, the memory of the movie is erased from his or her brain.

This story applies the concept only to products, but software patents extend to algorithms and behaviors, not merely code-specific implementations. Might not this future copyright law demand that people pay for copyrighted or patented skills, such as the operation of machinery or medical knowledge produced by some pharmaceutical company?

To make matters worse, this particular story recounts an instance of copyright law abuse. A young inventor's idea is stolen by a large firm, which then employs copyright statutes to wipe from the inventor's mind any knowledge of his own invention.

This is certainly as close to a horror story as I have ever written, but it proves my point.

The idea of copyright is not inherent to human thought; it is a business strategy. As the cost of copying data falls exponentially, the lengths to which the law must go to enforce copyright approach tyranny. Copyright law is a business model, and the information age is killing it. If a new model cannot replace it, artists will no longer be able to profit from their creations.

Obviously, artists will not cease to exist, but what will replace the copyright business model? Or, will we indeed one day be renting our very thoughts?

© Jon Michael Galindo 2015