A term I use (but doubt I actually coined) regularly is nownership, a portmanteauÂ of noÂ and ownership. Â My basic definition is a product or service that one believes they own control of without truly having control of it.
What is ownership, as defined in a truly free and competitive market? Â It isn’t something that is defined by legal status but by the ability of someone to take control of a good or ability and use it freely for their own selfish purposes. Â If I own a wrench and I am able to use it freely, Â own that wrench. Â One way I can nownÂ that wrench (versus ownÂ it) would be if I rented it from another individual or group — they retain the right to take it back, or create boundaries for my use of it. Â Another defining trait of ownership is the ability to give away the good or service to another person or group freely.
When it comes to content, be it digital or physical, there are undefined boundaries of use, meaning they’re not owned by a party who has possession of it. Â If I download a photograph from the Internet, I am limited by copyright laws in my use of the image. Â If I rip a bunch of digital bits off of a CD into MP3 format, I am limited by copyright laws in how I can utilize the digital bits that I have created; I can’t give them to others legally, I can’t manipulate the digital bits into new ones legally, etc.
The main difference between true ownership and nownership is all legal in nature: government has created a monopoly for one individual or group that is artificial in nature. Â By violating this granted monopoly power, a non-granted individual faces civil and criminal penalties for performing actions or even thoughts that take away no use or ability from another individual. Â Just because I happen to copy and distribute digital bits using my own time, energy, mind and tools to another doesn’t take away the original digital bits creator’s ability to use their digital bits for themselves. Â It’s a curious restriction because it absolutely degenerates down to thought control and body rights: you are not free to manipulate your mind and your hands to do something, just because someone else discovered that thought and body motion first.
I’m not a video game enthusiast at all, but there is recent news that EA (Electronics Arts, a video game producer and distributor) has decided to manipulate the law to create a monopoly power over other individuals’ rights to access the law for themselves:Â EA’s New User Agreement Bans Lawsuits. Â At the simplest level, EA has decreed in their own terms of service that anyone using their services can not sue EA in a court of law. Â This is mind control and body control at its worst: nownership of your own body and brain.
From a purely free and competitive market perspective, one should see that the only trespass granted from EA to a user is the license to access EA’s servers for a fee. Â There is no power by the capital provider (the user paying the fee) to set their own license back to EA to how that capital (money) can be used, or how the information given to EA can be distributed, etc. Â Of course, any individual is free to not utilize EA’s servers for entertainment purposes, but the law here is frustratingly one-sided. Â A man’s right and freedom to create new thoughts and manipulate those thoughts into new information or physical products is hampered: the law fails the individual.