Intellectual Property and the Unreasonable Man

George Bernard Shaw is famous for having said "The reasonable man adapts himself to the conditions that surround him… The unreasonable man adapts surrounding conditions to himself… All progress depends on the unreasonable man." Perhaps one such example is the now long famous rise and fall of Shane Fanning, founder of Napster, who whilst still in his teens, pretty much destroyed or transformed the music industry, depending on your point of view. 

Is this an example of, as David Albert Newman suggests of "pirating intellectual property … for the good of society … (if) this is a correction to dysfunctional markets"? This comment comes from a very interesting Harvard Business Review Online Forum entitled Who Owns Intellectual Property?, which nicely summarises the multiplicity of opinions about IP these days.

In creating new models of collaborative innovation, we are understandable continually hitting up against the IP issues and trying to figure out how to share risk and reward. I believe these issues are very closely related to the often ignored concept of trusted relationships between collaborators. I’m still not exactly sure of how things need to change, but I have no doubt that they must. Are current IP arrangements are a relic of 20th Century business and will they be increasingly subverted/irrelevant? Have a look at the HBS forum and see what you think.


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