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let as many people as possible copy your invention



Under copyright law, what matters is not that you copied someone else's work. What matters is what you copied, and how much you copied. Intellectual-property doctrine isn't a straightforward application of the ethical principle "Thou shalt not steal." At its core is the notion that there are certain situations where you can steal. The protections of copyright, for instance, are time-limited; once something passes into the public domain, anyone can copy it without restriction. Or suppose that you invented a cure for breast cancer in your basement lab. Any patent you received would protect your intellectual property for twenty years, but after that anyone could take your invention. You get an initial monopoly on your creation because we want to provide economic incentives for people to invent things like cancer drugs. But everyone gets to steal your breast-cancer cure—after a decent interval—because it is also in society's interest to let as many people as possible copy your invention; only then can others learn from it, and build on it, and come up with better and cheaper alternatives. This balance between the protecting and the limiting of intellectual property is, in fact, enshrined in the Constitution: "Congress shall have the power to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited"—note that specification, limited—"Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries."


Trecho de texto do Malcom Gladwell sobre plágio, copyright e criação derivada, do site dele, originalmente na New Yorker. (Outra achada pelo Lombardi, mapeador de ótimas matérias gringas.)

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