Re[4]: Ethics of Creativity vs. Theft

Linda Driskill (driskila@RUF.RICE.EDU)
Tue, 6 Aug 1996 12:50:06 -0500

Mike Hamende represented the actions of companies, by his choice of
adjectives, as ethical: "Innovative companies want creative people who are
able to leverage the ideas of others into new products and services."
"Innovative" and "creative" and "new" here all have the appearance of
innocent and positive terms. But the sentence disguises unresolved
tensions. In what sense is a product "new" if its core idea belonged to
someone else or to some other company? Suppose another faculty member
slaps a post-it on my memo and forwards it to a dean: "I think we could
really make something of this with a few changes I've thought of. Do you
have a few minutes free this week to talk?" Is this "leveraging"? How
much change is necessary for something to be "new"? What are the
characteristics of an act that is "creative"? What does that faculty member
owe to me? What's the difference between an "innovative" company and an
"exploitative" industrial pirate? Are the Chinese companies that duplicate
CD-ROMs without paying copyright fees innovative? They're certainly
leveraging and profiting by the investment of US companies. Perhaps it is
the role of the Ivory Tower to bring the ethical issues of business and
communication practices to the attention of the "real world" (or parts of
it), not to imitate blindly.

Linda Driskill