Have you ever heard someone saying "Intellectual Property is a dumb term, please do not use it" in the parliament? Well it happened in the German Bundestag: Prof. Dr. Thomas Hoeren said it during the internet enquote this week. Afterwards one of the other experts, Prof. Rainer Kuhlen supported him and added that collecting societies abuse this term "so they can get goods with licensing agreements and circumvent copyright law". (I already wrote about that in German blog entry.)

I could now argue why I also dislike the term "Intellectual Property" (IP), and why the Free Software Foundation Europe encourages people use better terms. The good thing is, others already did that job. In 2003 Georg Greve wrote in his article "Fighting intellectual poverty - (Who owns and controls the information societies?)":


The issue that many governmental delegations would prefer to not deal with at all are so-called "intellectual property rights" (IPR), a term primarily covering Patents, Copyright, Trademarks, but also business models, geographic locators and other things that people wish to denominate as such.

All of these are very different and usually unrelated areas of law with very different effects on economy, politics and society. Mixing them is not only counterproductive for qualified scientific dispute, the term also puts forward the notion of thoughts being property. What it could mean to possess a thought remains unclear to the sceptical mind.

However, all these do have one thing in common.

It is both their function and their purpose to establish limited monopolies on intellectual creativity. For the remainder of the document, "Intellectual Property Rights" (IPRs) will therefore be referred to by what they are and do as "Limited Intellectual Monopolies" (LIMs).

A bit later in 2004, Richard Stallman also wrote about that topic, in his article "Did You Say 'Intellectual Property'? It's a Seductive Mirage":

It has become fashionable to toss copyright, patents, and trademarks—three separate and different entities involving three separate and different sets of laws—plus a dozen other laws into one pot and call it “intellectual property”. The distorting and confusing term did not become common by accident. Companies that gain from the confusion promoted it. The clearest way out of the confusion is to reject the term entirely.

Richard's alternative suggestions are:

"IMPs, for Imposed Monopoly Privileges, and GOLEMs, for Government-Originated Legally Enforced Monopolies. Some speak of “exclusive rights regimes”, but referring to restrictions as “rights” is doublethink too."

We also have a petition "Towards a 'World Intellectual Wealth Organisation', which you can still sign if you agree with its message.

But the most important thing: Use appropriate terms. When you mean copyright, say copyright. When mean patents, say patents. When you want to talk about trademark, say trademarks. Do not limit your thinking by using a bad term like "Intellectual Property"! If you want a term to put those three together talk about there the neutral term "Limited Intellectual Monopolies" (LIMs), if you are a friend of funny acronyms just call them GOLEMs. There are way better than the bad term "intellectual property".

LIMs exist to support society, we are working to keep it that way. Support us in our work dealing with GOLEMs: join the Fellowship of ~~the ring~~ FSFE.