Jonathan Zittrain

PLEASE NOTE
Darwin Magazine is long dead. If you click through you will be taken to the Internet Archive site to find an archived copy.

We hew to laws against stealing because there is already cultural consensus that stealing is wrong, rooted in the fact that the thief deprives the good citizen of the stolen property. To copy an idea does no such thing; wrote Jefferson, “he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me.” It does indeed deprive the original author of the ability to monopolize the idea and perhaps extract money from it. That can serve as a reason to create and enforce such a monopoly, but it’s not nearly as grounded in our ethical senses as is robbing a bank or vandalizing a house.

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