pichel’s blog

activities related to Fellowship, FSFE and Free Software…

Intellectual Property as a Rainbow

Alaskan rainbow from WikipediaOn the 14th of November 2010, the french association “Libre Accès (fr)” (Free Access) organised a meeting to talk about the LOPPSI project (fr) and ACTA. Richard Stallman was present and made an assertion about ‘Intellectual Property”, which one could translate this way :

In some cases of propaganda, a word is used in place of another, and this is quite simple to put the things right. For instance, they will talk about “piracy”, and I will say “sharing”. But in the case of that empty concept of “Intellectual Property” I cannot simply use another wording, the problem resides in the fact that it’s a totally forged concept, which has no substance. Wording it differently would only lead in recognizing it as relevant, which is not.

Hearing this, the old french genetician Albert Jacquard had a wonderful metaphor to describe the situation. I want to share it with you. For those of you that can understand french, here’s the original video (fr) (beware it’s a fl*sh thing !).

The metaphor of Albert Jacquard is to compare the “Intellectual Property” to a rainbow. The rainbow is not something by itself, it’s not an object of the world, but is a (beautiful) light construction that some observers may see from time to time in particuliar situations (for a physical background, one may begin by visiting the Wikipedia page).

What is special with the rainbow is that it doesn’t really exists outside the presence of an observer, even though the observer’s perceptions are totally real. But you cannot say there’s a rainbow at a particular place, the only thing you’re entitled to say is that you’ve seen a rainbow from this place at a particular time. In this respect you wouldn’t imagine pretending this rainbow could ever be “yours” and then go on the market place trying to sell it !

Going further on te track, ideas do not exist without a human thinking, and furthermore do not appear alone : what you’ve learned before, who you met and talked with will contribute to your idea. In this respect, having an idea is similar to beeing at the right place at the right moment to see the rainbow. Trying to get the on the market place is only trying to sell chimeras.

This metaphor could maybe help us in some times when advocating Free Software and sharing.

One Response to “Intellectual Property as a Rainbow”

  1. hugo Says:

    Hey Michel,
    you were there?! I didn’t see you!

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