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Copyright (n.) An ancient form of property protection invented by medieval monks to prevent people from copying their hand-written books. In modern times, copyright is what you infringe when you use the Internet.

Of course even this text is copyrighted. The problems with copyright are subtle and relate mostly to the length of time we allow people to own the work they do, even long after it has been abandoned and should, like an unused field, have been returned to the collective domain. The main reason for long copyright is not to provide for starving artists, but to assure long-term rents for copyright-owning businesses. As in many areas of intellectual endeavour we must appreciate and properly value the collective intelligence, its need for access to material, its right to remix that material in unforeseen ways, and the immense value of its collective works as part of a technological society.

Copyright is, to put it bluntly, built on the myth of individual intelligence. This myth is approximately true but false enough to create real problems when it is overused to the exclusion of collective intelligence.

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