Salon 38 IP

Who owns culture? Language, history, and cultural heritage may be the victims of erasure or foreign appropriation, or may be used as rationale for invasion and war. Some claim that cultural evolution has always been the product of someone else’s work. Pablo Picasso is credited with quipping that “Good artists borrow. Great artists steal.” How does this sound in the age of IP, and further, repatriation, reparations, and restitution?When it comes to intellectual property, we know the adage: we should protect it to compel investment in R&D and spur innovation. We also know, however, that it can have the opposite effect, entrenching the power of few companies and limiting progress.

Some questions we pose in this salon include: What does it mean to protect intangible property? Can culture be property? Whose? How has the definition of property transformed, especially in relation to technology? What is acquisition? What is appropriation? Can a country still own another? How does the meaning change when an object, piece of land, or idea are offered instead of taken? What is the difference between creative exchange and creative theft? What are the limits of cultural preservation, and when does it become cultural oppression? Is all property worth protecting? When does an individual inventor, company, or group’s right to that protection infringe upon the public good?

This salon took place on April 11, 2022

The live stream omits the following credit from James Boyle’s contribution: All art taken from: Theft! A History of Music by James Boyle, Jennifer Jenkins, and Keith Aoki,


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