So I like capitalism as much as the next guy, and of course the whole concept of ownership, but I’m not super sure of how it transcribes to immaterial things. So this is me trying to lay out the various aspects of the question, to guide thinking and discussions about it.
So here is the fruits of my hard work:
I thought of it and I drew it so it belongs to me and I can make money out of it I guess. So here is my question:
Does this belong to me?
Do I now own the color red?
Someone took the original work and modified it. Who does it belong to?
Do I also own this?
How about this:
Do I now own the color red? How about transparency, blur, and other effects? Do I now own the color white that my drawing tends towards?
How about if I add a stroke?
And one more, and one more, and remove one here, and one more, and one more, until it becomes this:
Does it still belong to me?
Now I have a problem. There is a kid in an elementary school in Netherlands. I’ve never seen him or talked to him but he drew the exact same thing:
So what belongs to whom now? I guess if he copied me the answer is simpler, but what if he randomly happened to come to the same production than I did, without any kind of concentration or connection?
Also what exactly belongs to me? If I had drawn this onto a piece of paper, I could say it’s the paper. But this is a virtual image, a .png. It’s encoded in my machine. So do I own the binary code? Do I still own it if I save it as .jpg, even though the content is completely different? Do I own it in any encoding?
What about this new encoding I just made up, where the encoding for that image happens to be the exact text of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Who owns that then?
What if the encoding I’m using produces code that happens to encode a completely different image belonging to someone else in another encoding. Who owns that?
By the way, there are normal numbers (Pi may be one of them) which contain every possible succession of digits in their writing, including the encoding for my picture. Does that mean that I now own a piece of them all? Do I own a piece of Pi ?
Also, now that you have seen that picture, I regret to inform you that it made its way to your brain through visual signals processed. It’s encoded in your memories by neuronal pathways. So does it mean I own a piece of your brain? Do I own the memory of it? Are you outlawed because your brain contains as a memory a copy of a copyrighted material?
A friend of mine once read all the terms of services for Warner Bros movies, he was looking into their legal streaming services options. He told me that according to them, you were not really allowed to remember the movie, let alone discuss it. Makes you think, doesn’t it?