Copyrights are the limited exclusive right to an idea granted to the enlightened being(s) who made the discovery. In the Constitution, copyrights are specifically related to authors of literary works (including artists such as musicians, vocalists, and broadcasters) and creators of innovative architectural design. There are many ethical, moral, and social implications of the existence of copyright. Ethically, copyrights help to ensure the benevolence of an idea, in the form of profit and credibility, is received by the rightful owner. In addition, copyrights hold accountable citizens who abuse the work of another for their own prosperity. Morally, a legal process for copyrighting information protects less powerful individuals with groundbreaking ideas from the exploitation of their innovative work by more powerful citizens and/or corporations. I believe powerful individuals in society, such as legislators, have a moral responsibility to guarantee security for individuals who develop profitable ideas. Socially, I believe copyrights have a slightly more complicated impact. In Thomas Jefferson’s message to Isaac McPherson, he expresses concern that categorizing ideas as property could stifle the benefits of natural spreading of ideas. On the other hand, copyrights naturally provide an incentive for inventors to invest time in the pursuit of new ideas which leads to the existence of more ideas worth spreading. I can understand Jefferson’s concern for the classification of ideas as property, but I see greater value in the incentives that can be derived from the existence of copyright. I can also suppress my similar concerns by reminding myself that copyrights provide a limited exclusive right to one’s ideas.
With respect to software, the battle between proprietary and open source licenses should be discussed. All software starts as ideas that are implemented by developers. The question is – should the original developer have exclusive rights to the idea which has now become a software product? I believe that proprietary licenses should be granted to a developer who wishes to claim his or her software. I think proprietary software licenses are beneficial in many cases. After my sophomore year of college, I worked at Cerner Corporation in the Healthcare IT industry. If Cerner’s software was not protected by proprietary licenses, then Cerner would certainly not be worth 18.32B and it’s biggest competitor, Epic Systems, would not be nearly as successful either. My experience leads me to believe proprietary licenses are certainly beneficial in certain instances, especially industries similar to healthcare IT. One could argue that proprietary healthcare IT products may be missing out on some of the bleeding edge innovation that can be derived from the open source community and this is a valid point. However, I would ask of that same person, do you really want bleeding edge software running on healthcare technologies that are often relied upon in mission critical, life or death scenarios? I certainly do not. The reliability of software that evolves relatively slowly in large corporations can exceed the benefits of rapidly evolving open source projects in many instances.
In contrast, I also believe open source licenses can be extremely beneficial in many cases. For instance, Blender is an open source 3D creation suite. The beauty of Blender is that individual artists and small teams which don’t possess the capital to invest in proprietary rendering software can use Blender to produce amazing works of art. Not only can artists utilize Blender’s existing features, they are able to modify the source code to create additional features that can then be added to future versions and the benefits will propagate even further. In addition, society in general can benefit from the impact of open source projects. There are many open source web development frameworks, such as Chartist.js, that are used by designers to create beautiful web UIs that consumers enjoy on a daily basis.
With regards to government use of open source projects, I think my general perspective applies – that is, it depends. For example, if I were military personnel I would not want to be relying on open source technology in the heat of battle. On the other hand, I may want to support and encourage the open source community working on innovative cybersecurity, encryption, and drone projects. Successful open source projects in these areas also have potentially negative implications because the enemy always has access to the source code as well. I am not well versed in government policy or adequately informed to comment on such matters, so I can only hope that sometime in the future governments can benefit from the innovative spirit of the open source community and the open source community can benefit from the support of governments.