My views on Intellectual Property have undergone some pretty drastic changes recently. Just a few years ago I was downloading MP3s because I wanted to listen to music, and I had a vague idea that the laws that made the downloading illegal were somehow flawed.
At this date, my ideas have a bit more form, though I can't promise that they won't be changing in the future. I invite those with opinions on the subject to help me form mine.
There seems to be a lot of argument going on over copyrights (giving an author exclusive rights to their work), trademarks (giving someone exclusive rights to a name or distinguishing feature), and patents (giving someone exclusive rights to an invention or process) recently.
This is important to me in part because I deal in intellectual property fairly often. I'm a programmer by day, and a musician by night (and often a programmer by night, as well).
I get paid to take ideas (often thought up by me) and implement them as software. For entertainment, I often take ideas (thought up by someone who is a better composer than me) and implement them as tasty drum beats in a song.
It is also worth noting that I am of the opinion that if a law or government function is not biblically supportable (based on Biblical case laws), it does not need to exist.
My statements here are based in the idea (which, to the best of my knowledge, is biblically based) that the best type of market is a free market, of the laissez-faire variety. The biblical basis for this statement is subject for other posts and books (and I'm open to more reading material!).
A free market means a general lack of government regulation of products and services. This would include products and services based on "intellectual property," or ideas and information.
Intellectual property laws are a government giving exclusive rights on a concept or piece of data to an individual or business. The traditional argument in favor of these laws is that without them, inventors and creators would be afraid to create anything for fear that their works might be plagiarized.
I do not think that this would be the case in a world where the government did not fight for some sort of special rights for creators or inventors. However, more relevantly, I do not know of any biblical basis for these sorts of laws.
The closest thing to biblical support for IP laws that I have seen is people making a shaky connection from the eighth commandment (do not steal) to the concept of "stealing ideas."
So if intellectual property laws are not biblically supportable, what are they doing? They are doing the same thing that every other man-conceived law is doing: enforcing someone's idea of fairness on others.
We all benefit from the creative works of others - we enjoy useful technology and entertaining media every day. We appreciate the advances that have come at the price of hard work from talented individuals. Our blood boils when we hear of some smart man getting cheated out of the fruits of his labors by others who use his ideas.
Why do we feel this way? Because we believe that somebody is getting less than they deserve, and that makes us righteously indignant. We believe that inventors deserve, at the very least, a comfortable life and the ability to keep inventing if they wish to. And we're willing to write laws that infringe on the rights of others (the right to create what you can with what you own) to try to make it happen.
God is the decider of what man deserves. At most, man should concern itself with enforcing the civil law given to us by God. When it comes to enforcing fairness, we tend to muck it up.