Wendell Berry on Intellectual Property

In an era where “intellectual property” (an oxymoron if I ever heard one) is a large issue due to the unprecedented ease with which information can be shared online, I found the following quote from Wendell Berry to be fantastic in contrasting an economy of ownership with an economy of gift:

I do have an interest in this book, which is for sale. (If you have bought it, dear reader, I thank you. If you have borrowed it, I honor your frugality. If you have stolen it, may it add to your confusion.) Most of the sale price pays the publisher for paper, ink, and other materials, for editorial advice, copyediting, design, advertising (I hope), and marketing. I get between 10 and 15 percent (depending on sales) for arranging the words on the pages.

As I understand it, I am being paid only for my work in arranging the words; my property is that arrangement. The thoughts in this book, on the contrary, are not mine. They came freely to me, and I give them freely away. I have no “intellectual property,” and I think that all claimants to such property are thieves.

Wendell Berry, Sex, Economy, Freedom & Community (New York: Pantheon Books, 1992), xviii.

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