The purpose of legal intellectual property protections, simply put, is to help make it a good decision to create something. The specific phrasing in the United States Constitution is
To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;
but that’s just a longer way of saying the same thing.
Why does “securing … exclusive Right[s]” to the creators of things that are patented, copyrighted, or trademarked help make it a good decision for them to create stuff? Because it averts competition from copiers, thus making the creator a monopolist in what s/he has created, allowing her to at least somewhat value-price her creation.
I.e., the core point of intellectual property rights is to prevent copying-based competition. By way of contrast, any other kind of intellectual property “right” should be viewed with great suspicion.
Examples of my views include:
- In a recent comment I pooh-poohed an expansive interpretation of the GPL, even as I supported the GPL in core cases.
- I believe that most kinds of software patents are or should be invalid, but I’m willing to make an exception for innovative user experiences.
- I believe in copyright, even though I agree with consensus that in many cases copyright-holders’ business models will evolve away from the licensing of intellectual property. For example, I’m mightily annoyed when somebody claims my words as their own. But I give mine away for free. I just want to get the reputational benefit of what I write, and also to aggregate comments on my original blog posts rather than having them go to some other site.