Intellectual property rights are designed to encourage and reward the creative process. They also help prevent misuse of copyrighted, trademarked, and patented information. (WIPO, 2007) The need for colleges and universities to protect these property rights is twofold: First, protecting the rights of those who came before us helps to assure that our own work will be protect later and second, protecting the rights of those who came before us encourages us to do our own work and be more creative.
There is virtually no career path available that does not hold the potential for a person to think differently that their predecessors and take some action that will revolutionize their industry. A nurse may find a new method to calm a child before surgery, a surgeon might discover a procedure that accelerates healing after a specific operation and a writer may pen the best play since Shakespeare. Whatever the accomplishment, innovators need to know that their work will be protected. Otherwise, there is a significant fear in sharing the information.
If anyone can steal your work without so much as a by-your-leave, people will be less willing to share their revolutionary ideas. If there is no sharing of information, then there is no knowledge base to build on. Without a knowledge base to build on, society stagnates and dies. There is a pride in ownership that comes from creating something and knowing that other people will identify it as yours and there is a financially motivating factor as well. If your work can be randomly stolen, then there can be a direct financial impact related to that theft.
If bodies of higher education do not take action to protect such theft, who will? And who will teach people the need for that protection, if not the universities? Academia is charged with holding the body of knowledge of the society, so if they do not protect it from misuse and potential corruption via theft, then knowledge can be corrupted. Strangely, one of the reasons it is important to teach people to cite sources si so that they can learn to do so accurately. If people are allowed to just “remember” what they heard, they might skip a word or paraphrase forease of understanding and completely corrupt the base idea.
Universities must prevent this from happening to the ideas of the past in an effort to promote the ideas of the future. Perhaps more importantly than the ethical concept of not stealing someone else’s work is the knowledge that if people are allowed to use another person’s intellectual property without being required to use it properly, they will. With a world of information available at their fingertips, unless someone is ascertaining that students are working on their own, it is much easier to steal someone’s work than to do your own.
Why write a story when you can steal some obscure one from Britain or Switzerland? Being able to use other people’s work with impunity stops people from making the effort to create their own work. If people are not encouraged, and in some cases forced, to be creative, they won’t be. Therefore, the reason that a university or college must have a well-developed policy regarding intellectual property is so that students recognize the accomplishments of the past and are encouraged toward the creations of the future.
When students are given the freedom to draw inspiration from and build on the learning of the past, but not rest on it, they work forward, adding to the body of knowledge and understanding that is. What better calling could a university have than to be the place where people start the process of making more knowledge?
Works Cited World Intellectual Property Organization, < http://www. wipo. int/about-ip/en/iprm/index. html. , November 17, 2007.