The New Millennium
and Controlling Voices
Intellectual expression is always a conglomeration of the ideas and influences of individuals, societal organizations, and community ideologies, but digitization of text and Internet communication both intensify and make conspicuous the merger of many individuals' ideas and expressions. Understanding the effect of digitized text and Internet communication provides all the more reason for fighting for society's interests in securing public access to information, especially for educators in humanistic studies. First, to accept that intellectual expression is intangible negates application of the common law concept of property, which applies only to tangible entities; intangible intellectual products can be simultaneously controlled by more than one creator. Second, digitization can change the character of information so that its ideas and their expression are inseparable. Under these circumstances, when a court grants an individual creator exclusive right to intellectual products, it inhibits access to the ideas in intellectual work and defeats the purpose of the intellectual property statute in furthering the progress of learning in society.
Throughout the history of intellectual property argument, the proprietary focus has been on the expression of ideas and not on the ideas themselves, but the ideas have always been considered the collective property of humanity (Barlow). Digitized information illustrates metaphorically and actually the implausibility of exclusive ownership in intellectual products and casts doubt that authorship should produce ownership and, thus, exclusive control.