Quote of the Day - Riches do not delight us so much with their possession, as torment us with their loss.
We've set up an entire statutory and regulatory scheme for various types of intellectual property such as patents, trademarks and copyrights. You can protect your inventions, your designs and slogans and even your ideas. Perhaps within these three levels of protection you can protect your personal information technology property, but unless you register it, no go. There's no such thing as a common law copyright - it was eliminated back in 1834, just in case you were wondering.
What do I mean by "Personal Information Technology Property?"
Think about scope of the electronic things you create: personal websites, Facebook, My Space, videos on You Tube, Flickr photographs, text messaging, avatars on Second Life, Linden dollars, characters on World of Warcraft and a myriad of other online games, electronic money and other video game possessions, e-mail, blog entries, commentary, and a host of other new technological property that hasn't even been invented yet. Sure, you can register each of these things with either the US Patent & Trademark Office or the US Copyright Office, but have you?
I suspect not.
Once you post videos, films, songs, audio, photographs and words online without registration, you lose just about any type of protection you could have secured for these items. About the only type of online protection exists for these things is the voluntary Creative Commons licenses created by Stanford Professor Lawrence Lessig, but in order to enforce those licenses, you still have to put notice of them online, register your copyright with the US Copyright Office and go to court.
But the Creative Commons licenses apply to what most of us would consider "works" - videos, photos, words, audio and other recognizably protected creations. Even Creative Commons, however, hasn't stretched into the world of Technology Property of avatars, electronic items such as e-money, video game possessions, text messaging and email.
Even so, do you want to protect these things? Are they really that valuable?
If you have any doubt, then just look at the thousands of hours people devote to amassing possessions in online video games, creating avatars and sending emails, just to name a few "valuables."
It's about time we started thinking about these "possessions" and "creations" and developed a way to protect them. After all, what happens to them when you die? Can you transfer them to someone else? Can you sell them?
People have and people are, all without guidance. It's just a matter of time before someone gets upset and sues.
Oh, you say that's already happened? Of course it has. As just one example in the extreme, there's the lawsuit over the guy who allegedly stole the "sex code" in Second Life, created a strikingly similar version and now underselling its original creator. Even Creative Commons recommends you don't apply that license to code - the nonprofit recommends instead that you register it directly with the US Copyright Office.
All of these questions create the need for accountants, lawyers and legislators to figure out how to handle this new Personal Information Technology Property, Web 2.0 and the yet-to-be-created technology just around the corner. So here's MIPTC's proposal, open to improvement and suggestions:
1. PITP includes all forms of personal information technology created by an individual on a computer, mobile telephone, camera or other technological device, including, but not limited to words, photographs, video, audio, text, characters (avatars), electronic possessions (money or similar representations or valuables obtained in online games), e-mail, text messages or combinations of the above in formats such as websites. PITP includes similar personal information technology not yet invented or created.
2. PITP is the property of the creator, and does not transfer ownership by virtue of its online presence. If you are the recipient of Technology Property sent to you by its creator, then you have the rights to view and retransmit it. If you are the viewer of Technology Property, then you have a license to view it. In both cases, your rights may be restricted by its creator, but in any event, you may not profit from the creator's PITP without permission or further license from the creator.
3. PITP may be patented, trademarked or copyrighted, but registration is not required to constitute PITP.
4. PITP constitutes a personal property asset, and as such may be insured, licensed, restricted, sold, transferred and otherwise willed to others or disposed of in the same manner as other personal property under state law.
5. PITP does not lose its characterization as personal property through its creator's failure to use it after creation.
6. PITP remains the personal property of its creator despite the creator's or others posting it online in any format. The creator or recipients may agree to give up the creator's ownership rights via notice in an End User License Agreement or other similar online notice. A posting by a Viewer does not operate to extinguish a creator's ownership.
7. The loss of PITP may be compensated by: (a) restoring the property to its creator; (b) and removing it from its unauthorized online location; (c) attributing the PITP to the creator on the online location; or, (d) recompense of the creator's actual loss. No future losses or prospective loss of profits may be recovered. [Author's note: to obtain future losses and expected profits, register the property with the USPTO or USCO].
So there they are. Please add your own, suggest changes and comment away. The concept could use improvement.