Jefferson on Software?

Two months ago, I was invited as a collaborator on a project to write a book about intellectual property. My task was to study such field from the perspective of software. It was the perfect excuse to get myself some time to completely read the brilliant essay from Lawrence Lessig Code 2.0.

In a particular chapter, Lessig quotes a very interesting thought from Thomas Jefferson that I would like to share on this blog:

If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me.


The impact of Free Software (as in freedom) is gigantic. Not until very recently I had consciously realized that almost every single application that goes to the web, has to have a part of its code open for the browser to render the recieved information. I simply was assuming that HTML, CSS or Javascript where interpreted languages, but not fully realizing the virtue of the decission Tim Berners-Lee made when he decided to release his hypertext technologies open and royalty free to the world.

Personal note: I’ve been quite busy lately working on exciting new technology. I apologize for the lack of updates the blog has been having, but I promise I will make it up later.


3 Responses

  1. You’re a true American Santi!

    I think free information may actually be more profitable than otherwise, particularly if you’re talking about the emergence of a society of ideas, a noocracy, where artifical and collective intelligence converges to innovate at an accelerating rate, and where economic value becomes a matter of novelty rather than scarcity.

  2. hehe, you’re right. The whole idea of tha internet whas to have interoperability between everything. Vint Cerf gave a conference in FCEN a few days ago about the internet and talked about this issues, I think you’ll enjoy it:

    @Patrik: Santiago is not an “american”, he’s from Argentina =P (unless you’re saying “american” as in “from the american continent” and not as in “from USA”, but that’s unlikeley)

  3. Patrick is a good friend of mine Kant. And I regard his expression of myself being a “true american” a nice compliment.

    True americans (in the sense of the United States of America, just like we say brazilians for the United States of Brazil) have fought throughout the centuries for great ideals. Jefferson, Kennedy and Richard Stallman are all true americans to me.

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