Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Mind how you go

I usually avoid mimetic blogging, but this one seems right for today. Neil Gaiman, who has something of the darkest night about him anyway, warns writers to beware of death:Oddly enough, I’ve been writing about intellectual property only this very morning. (Amongst other topics; at half midnight I was still busily scribbling my way through education, thanks to the haste of the old folks.)

The Patent Office explains the different kinds of intellectual property – chiefly content, design, the technical aspects and distinguishing features – and says these can be owned, controlled and protected just like any kind of physical property.

“A-ha!” says my skim-reading teenager self. “But we all know that property is theft!” And I’m aware that various folk have sizeable concerns about IP and the way it’s protected.

The older, more mercenary and interest-declaring me can see a definite difference between abstract whimsies and chunks of land. The arbitrary allocation of territory based on various bits of bullying in the past might well be interpreted as social thievery. But if something I think up starts spilling out cash, it’s only fair I’ve a share in the profits.

It’s the same argument, I guess, about the huge sums a few footballers get paid. There’s a lot of money in football, what with lucrative telly deals. I’d rather it went to the people actually kicking the ball than to the chaps who draw up the contracts.

It’s important, too, that it’s only a few of the footballers who make thousands from every appearance. Very few hacks make a living from the things they dream up, too. And royalties are a way of justifying their – my – investment.

(I’m also acutely aware that most of what I’ve published belongs in some part to other people. This is because what are charitably called “shared universes” (and less charitably, “merchandise franchises”) have so far been the only ones not entirely to reject me. Bastards. I’m going to be a star.)

There’s a flimsy, meritocratic belief that if only we create something with the right vim, then to us will be due all the glory. Write a critical mass of the stuff over long enough, and you’ll start seeing a meaningful return. Even if it’s not in your lifetime, your kids (or friends or cats or cows) can still benefit from your efforts.

Which is probably obvious to everyone anyway, but only just crystallised for me. I am not very bright… but I shall be sorting out a will. If I should meet with an accident in the next couple of weeks, it’s because the Dr (or the cat) wants to own the rude play with girls kissing.

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