Proposed Trope: Copyright or Copywrong

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"Oh wait, just kidding. We haven't [shut down], since the site in question is fully legal. Unlike certain other countries, such as the one you're in, we have sane copyright laws here. But we also have polar bears roaming the streets and attacking people :-(. "

-anakata, one admin of

This response [1] from one of EA's cease and desist letters highlights one of the issues with the evolution of the modern capitalist system - the management of Intellectual Property Rights. This illuminates the difficult challenge to society in balancing the value of Mental Work to the right to Property.


Appearances in Class Readings

  • Wealth of Nations One issue that Smith does not address in his thesis is how the capitalist system can effectively market products from intellectual property.
  • Frankenstein Frankenstein himself realizes the importance of intellectual work, and devotes the greater part of his life to the procurement of this knowledge. However, he chooses not to bestow this knowledge upon anyone, thus ensuring that his "intellectual property" dies with him. This seclusion of knowledge shows how private control can limit the usefulness of intellectual property to society.
  • The Machine Stops Here, the antonym to the modern copyright system is shown. In the society depicted by The Machine Stops there are no copyrights, and intellectual property is freely shared amongst all people.

Appearances in Other Media

The conflicts of Intellectual property, and how it should be regulated, are apparent in many sources. Below are several recent outcroppings.

In Film

All Across the Internet

In the Music Industry

Comparisons to Other Intersections and Tropes

Chiefly, this trope intersects amongst two preexisting tropes , Mental Labor and Property.

It also contrasts with their counterparts, Physical Labor and Commons.

Trope Justification


One of the defining characteristics of the late 20th and early 21st centuries has been the shift towards the development and advancement of "intellectual goods". These serve a myriad of roles ranging from operating systems to social networking sites, to name a few. This result of the digital age, and its chief development the internet, have brought new meaning to mental work and its value to society. One of the most consequential results of the internet is its ability to transmit large amounts of data[2], instantaneously and freely. This contrasts greatly to the traditional, mine-build-ship-purchase method of traditional intellectual goods such as music and movies. In this regime, when one person downloads a song - they do not consume the resources used to create it, that is to put it on the host server, as they would with a CD. It does not cost Itunes, but a very tiny (millionths of a penny) sum to supply the bandwidth for a single song download compared to the several dollars required to press a CD and ship it out to a store. As technology advances these issues will become more and more prominent. Already there have been trends towards the digitization of previous material goods, one notable category being E books, when coupled with the advancement of wireless technology and other methods of data transfer, it is difficult to imagine just how much of today's staple goods will be transformed into intellectual items.

In Class Discussion

The concept of Intellectual Property can be linked to nearly all class readings as listed above. This coupled with its prevalent appearance in many of the tropes implies this should be incorporated into their ranks. Furthermore this notion of work is useful in examining


With all of these points considered, the question of raised - If the collection of bits on some server has no intrinsic material value,how can society define its worth and more importantly enforce this worth? How can we affix a price to a thought? How much should we restrict the sharing of Intellectual content for the protection of the author or the advancement of the human race?

Connection to Spring 2011 Class

The Copyright debate ignites debate regarding who should decide how intellectual property should be used. The idea of challenging the ways something can be used connects to several works that were covered in the Spring 2011 version of English 1102.

In William Gibson's "The Winter Market" the reader encounters the quote "The street finds its own uses for things". This was the point of a large class discussion. It is also applicable here with copyright. In class we discussed "who" has the right to define the real uses for things and this is a lot of the debate when it comes to those who disobey copyright law.

In "Hackers" by Stephen Levy, the act of Hacking was questioned by our class. Who is to decide what a product is to be used for? The Hackers in this telling manipulated computers to further the evolution of technology. The debate of whether or not their actions were ethical relates the most directly to copyright debates because of technology being pushed to the point of allowing piracy with relative ease.

In the "Girl who was Plugged in" by James Tiptree, Jr the characters live in a universe where direct advertisement has been banned. The world is controlled largely by big business. This is the theoretical dystopia of the principles of copyright taken too far.

In He, She and It we also see this idea of information and the control of it. Shira's mother was an information pirate that essentially stated that information wants to, and should be, free of restrictions. This is also seen in their Net, where a large amount of information is available with a moments work. The freedom is seen as a double edged sword in the novel. Tikva seems to support it self by providing specialty work for multinationals. On the other hand, it is alluded that Shira's mother is able to help free towns, such as Tika, by releasing controlled information owned by the multinationals.


  1. Anakata
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