Copyright is a set of exclusive rights regulating the use of a particular expression of an idea or information. At its most general, it is literally "the right to copy" an original creation. In most cases, these rights are of limited duration.
- I was in the pub last night, and a guy asked me for a light for his cigarette. I suddenly realised that there was a demand here and money to be made, and so I agreed to light his cigarette for 10 pence, but I didn't actually give him a light, I sold him a license to burn his cigarette. My fire-license restricted him from giving the light to anybody else, after all, that fire was my property. He was drunk, and dismissing me as a loony, but accepted my fire (and by implication the licence which governed its use) anyway. Of course in a matter of minutes I noticed a friend of his asking him for a light and to my outrage he gave his cigarette to his friend and pirated my fire! I was furious, I started to make my way over to that side of the bar but to my added horror his friend then started to light other people's cigarettes left, right, and centre! Before long that whole side of the bar was enjoying MY fire without paying me anything. Enraged I went from person to person grabbing their cigarettes from their hands, throwing them to the ground, and stamping on them. Strangely the door staff exhibited no respect for my property rights as they threw me out the door.
- If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of everyone, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density at any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation. Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property.
- If creativity is the field, copyright is the fence
- John Oswald