Intellectual Property: “Common as Air” or Private and Pirated?

December 18th, 2012

This week on Business Matters, we explore the concept of intellectual property.  Who owns ideas, creative works, technological innovations, and medical breakthroughs?  How can we ensure that those who’ve invested time, energy, and money receive their due dividends?  What length of time is fair and appropriate for copyrights, patents, and the like to extend?  And when is creativity actually stifled by such protections?

First, we hear how modern piracy mimics adventure on the high seas.  The question is still how to divide the spoils.  Does treasure discovered belong to the sovereign who offered protection, to the investors who provided the funding, or to those risking life energy for the discovery?  And when pirates act, are they actually doing so without sanction, or might countries be offering tacit support?  Internet piracy is not so different, with countries and companies aligning both to protect property and to commandeer it.

Next, we talk about protection.  How does a company keep its ideas and products from being stolen?  What are governments, banks, and other companies doing to create a hard line of protection, and what are they doing that abets piracy?

Then, we talk about fairness.  While no one argues against artists, scientists, and innovators receiving their share of what comes through them, we also need to acknowledge that it is not by one’s own effort alone that discoveries are made.  How can acknowledgment of the “cultural commons,” and the relinquishment of extended individual ownership, serve to stimulate even more innovation?

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Rodolphe Durand, Ph.D.

Rodolphe DurandRodolphe Durand is professor at HEC Paris where he chairs the Strategy department, and is in charge of the MBA and PhD specialization in strategy.  His primary research interests concern the analysis of firm performance from a dynamic perspective using philosophical and sociological approaches. Rodolphe has received international awards for his work and has been published in countless journals.  In 2009, he launched the Society and Organizations Research Center. He has written several books, including the one discussed on our show, The Pirate Organization: Lessons from the Fringe of Capitalism. To find out more about Rodolphe, visit him here.

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Dan Peak

Dan PeakDan Peak is CEO of Veri-Site, a new company that helps protect web commerce from intellectual property theft, cybercrime, counterfeiting and human exploitation.  Formerly CEO of World Check, a London-based provider of financial crime and corruption prevention information for businesses, Dan has vast experience in the modern world of risk management.  You may contact Dan at

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Lewis Hyde, Ph.D.

Lewis HydeDr. Hyde has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Lannan Foundation, and the Guggenheim Foundation. In 1991 he was made a MacArthur Fellow. His poetry and essays have appeared in numerous journals, including the Kenyon Review, the American Poetry Review, the Paris Review, and the Nation.  For six years he taught writing at Harvard University where, in his last year, he was director of the creative writing faculty. He has taught at Kenyon College since 1989 where he is currently the Richard L. Thomas Professor of Creative Writing.  His books include The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World; Trickster Makes This World: Mischief, Myth, and Art; and Common as Air: Revolution, Art, and Ownership.  You can find out more about Lewis and his latest projects here.

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