Access to Knowledge

The Net as a knowledge engine

Look up this entry’s title in your favorite search engine and chances are that there is at least a web site that contains an article arguing in the same vein.

The global capitalistic system wants every piece of intellectual property well accounted for, from a robot building robots to a compiled computer code allowing a user to edit text embedded in an image file. I cannot imagine how the current system manages millions of trademarks, copyrights, patents and the like. It is the complex system that has begotten lots of lawsuits that not protect the plaintiffs’ business interests but also bring more cash into their coffers. Patent lawyers bring more money into their purse, too.

I thought that a brainchild that remains hidden in one’s notebook, digital or otherwise, is most likely to be ‘robbed’ by another person, who immediately publishes it on the net, for reasons of fame, nobility in purpose, or whatever. There’s nothing that the ‘original’ creator or author can do to lay claim to such idea. Not unless legal issues come into play.

I therefore argue that the one who publishes first gets the credit. We have this Filipino saying: “Daig ng maagap ang masipag” (The person who rises early finishes first or gets more than the industrious one.)

Of course, with the early publishing comes the responsibility of committing no or minimal factual, logic or even assumption lapses in such exposition of idea. Or s/he will draw flak from concerned netizens. And it might usher in his/her descent to disgrace.

More often than not, I tend to consult the net on concepts that I’m sure incubated from my mind but leave me wondering whether such concepts incubated from other persons’ minds either. At least, such information will help me think how to present the idea in a non-plagiaristic manner.

The Net has become an engine through which historical, empirical and new-frontier knowledge can be searched. If you will, the Net can also be considered as a virtual repository of knowledge creations, including the more technico-legal intellectual property claims. If, after a flash of discovery or as a result of burning the midnight oil, one comes up with an idea, be it revolutionary or fantastic, s/he should find out first whether such idea already has earlier proponents. Consider it a standard practice of research, the digital equivalent to a visit in library.

And to bring this scheme of knowledge creation into proper perspective, I propose that alternative ways of sharing and protecting knowledge on the Net (yes, both can be done at the same time) should be explored. Ever heard of the Creative Commons and sourceforge.net? Go explore.

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