Protecting Intellectual Property

by Nilanjan Banerjee | 11/21/03 6:00am

To the Editor:

Our society is founded upon the rule of law, and Kabir Sehgal's Nov. 14 editorial, titled "Record Company Idiocy," appears to miss that point. Intellectual property law exists, fundamentally, to protect innovation. In a world where intellectual property is not protected, researchers would be loath to invest their time and resources into projects which could easily be stolen by the first set of thugs to come along. Though we may take their inventions for granted, Samuel Morse and Isaac Singer were both beneficiaries of our intellectual property laws, and may very well have abandoned their efforts without legal reassurance that their work would not go unrewarded.

In our modern world, these same laws are what prevent the record companies from -- as Mr. Sehgal crudely puts it --"screwing" their artists. Ironically, they are also what protect Shawn Fanning's very innovative idea from being purloined by rivals. Just as someone who steals Mr. Fanning's intellectual property can be rightly considered a thief, and a burglar taking Thomas Edison's prototype lightbulb to sell or use for themself would also be considered a thief, "consumers" who misuse Mr. Fanning's invention to deprive artists (who invest their time into their work) and record companies (who risk their capital in their ventures) should also be considered thieves.

As a society, we chose to prosecute Winona Ryder for shoplifting, even though Saks Fifth Avenue could also be argued to be a "monster company" with no need for more money. We should pursue and prosecute violators of intellectual property with the same vigor.