Craig sez, "This post looks at an overlooked essay by Lewis Hyde, author of the cult-classic The Gift. 'Frames from the Framers: How America's Revolutionaries Imagined Intellectual Property' is fascinating–not only for its content, which ranges from John Adams to MP3s, but also for its [ed: tragic] reception: only 7 Google hits in the last year (and this for an essay published online under a CC license)."
Since 1983, when The Gift came out, Hyde has stayed busy, writing a second book, Trickster Makes This World, and various longer essays, the most recent of which is "Frames from the Framers: How America's Revolutionaries Imagined Intellectual Property." Starting with George Lakoff's idea that conservatives "frame" issues better than liberals, Hyde explains how "the entertainment industry has also been very good at framing its issues." The entertainment industry asserts that downloading an MP3 is the same thing as shoplifting shoes, and anyone who disagrees has to do so in and through their terms.
coverIn the rest of his essay, Hyde tries to describe an alternative: "the democracy frame" imagined by Jefferson, Madison, and Adams. Hyde begins at the beginning, tracing the previous "frames" for art and creativity–they're gifts from the gods, a God, a muse, and on down the line. But Hyde really gets going in the early modern period, when people started talking about intellectual property through "land" metaphors like the "commonwealth," the "estate," and "monopoly." Eventually, Hyde works in ideas like civic republicanism vs. commercial republicanism, feudal titles vs. allodial titles, and legal privileges vs. natural rights. It all ties in to the creative commons–it really does–and you should read the whole thing.