Free Ideas!

I feel the same way about intellectual property
as Abraham Lincoln felt about human property:
it may be a time-honoured tradition
and some may consider it essential,
but that doesn't make it right.

- Jess H. Brewer

OK, OK, I am not denying that there are many cases in which granting exclusive rights to the exploitation of an idea is the only way to motivate investment of huge sums in order to bring new products to market. Sure, there are still cases where this logic makes sense.

If it takes enormous resources to produce the first prototype of some hi-tech device, but almost none to copy it, then it will probably never get built unless would-be investors have some assurance of recovering their capital before everyone else gets to take advantage of their development efforts.

If an artist works for years to produce something everyone will love to see or hear, that artist deserves a financial reward from the people who enjoy the results. (What the parasites who exploit said artist deserve is another matter.)

But there are innumerable fabulous new technologies, political innovations, philosophical or religious revelations etc. that require nothing more than the flash of inspiration and whatever human effort is needed to implement the idea. Perhaps the most familiar example at the end of the Twentieth Century is "open source software" - an undertaking of thousands of unpaid volunteers that have created many of the tools that make (for instance) this Web site possible. Those who believe that the paragons of innovation and development are motivated primarily by economic profit do not understand the pursuit of excellence at all.

But it doesn't matter if I am right about all that. It doesn't matter if you love money and capitalism more than life itself. There is still a reason why this Web site (and others like it) may play a crucial role in the advancement of knowledge, understanding and technology in the near future:

Ideas are cheap.

Numerous people have sworn to me that this is not so, but I know many, many people who come up with a "million-dollar idea" every few days and just forget about them, because they are already busy doing something else more interesting to them.

This is not to say that another person who invested the requisite time, money and energy in actually implementing one of these ideas would be assured of coming away millions of dollars richer in just a short time; I am not that naive. Even a great idea takes wise and imaginative implementation, a lot of hard work - and a whole lot of good luck - to turn a real profit.

But if my advisors are correct and there are people with implementation skills and resources who are actually looking for good ideas, and other people with good ideas but no time, money or inclination to do anything with them, why not put the two together?

Hence this Free Ideas Web site.

Whether you are someone with a great idea you would love to see implemented - by anyone! - or a venture capitalist looking for some gem of an idea to grab - for free! - this may be what you have been looking for.

Try out the Free Ideas Navigator.

PS: It's not just me. Check out the Free Software Foundation's GNU General Public License.
Jess H. Brewer
Last modified: 14 June 2000