Previous: Addicted to the Internet
Next: North Korean Chicken, Stagecoach Travel, and other Thoughts from before Carnegie Hall



View count:336,141
Last sync:2024-05-06 11:00


Citation formatting is not guaranteed to be accurate.
MLA Full: "On the Ownership of Ideas." YouTube, uploaded by vlogbrothers, 11 January 2013,
MLA Inline: (vlogbrothers, 2013)
APA Full: vlogbrothers. (2013, January 11). On the Ownership of Ideas [Video]. YouTube.
APA Inline: (vlogbrothers, 2013)
Chicago Full: vlogbrothers, "On the Ownership of Ideas.", January 11, 2013, YouTube, 03:57,
In which Hank discusses how our conception of ownership of ideas has changed throughout history, how it's a little bit broken right now, and how it might be fixing itself on its own.

Live Streaming Events All Over the World

Charity Rehearsal Events in New York
Hank: Good morning, John!

In 2008, I made a video called "The Anagramming Guide to the Presidential Elections," in which I anagrammed the names of presidential candidates and came up with funny things and, like a week later, The Daily Show anagrammed the names of presidential candidates and I was like [incoherent noises]. And mostly I was just excited that The Daily Show thought I was worth stealing from, but then, you being you, because you're a writer and you have lots of writer friends, were able to determine that, in fact, The Daily Show had written that segment before I wrote mine.

People have ideas concurrently. All the time. And a certain number of people who have those ideas will actually execute those ideas, leading to a debate over who thought of it first. Really unproductive! And uninteresting!

And then I get tweets or Tumblr messages from people who are like, "Ah, Target stole your 'giraffe love' thing!" and no, they didn't. A designer had the same idea that I did -- that giraffes could make hearts with their necks -- and more power to 'em. I'm all for artists making a living.

Moving back into the past even further, here in 2007, John, your friend, Katie Else, put 'DFTBA' on the end of her to-do list. We stole that from her, we popularized it through this video blog, and now DFTBA is a thing that I'm proud of and I identify with. And lots of people make DFTBA stuff. Some of those people are just crafty, create-y people on Etsy, and some of them are big, global corporations. Are those people stealing from us? Are they stealing from Katie? Are they stealing from no one? Personally I like it when it's stuff that I like, like this sewn greeting card by socutebycrysta Etsy. And then I don't like it when it's stuff that I don't really like, like this shirt from Delia's that also in addition to saying 'Don't Forget To Be Awesome' says 'Keep Calm and Party On', like one meme wasn't enough.

But there's a difference between having a sense of ownership over something like I do over DFTBA and actually owning it. I personally don't want to cave into that desire for control. I've been able to create a really cool project based on the work of another creator, that creator being Jane Austen, who I do not put myself on the same level with to be clear. And Walt Disney, interestingly, did the same thing with Alice in Wonderland and The Little Mermaid and Cinderella. Those were all stories before Disney came along and made them into movies. But now Disney has turned and is the primary force behind extending the copyright length forEVER.

The good news is, the internet is making all this obsolete, fewer and fewer co-operations are enforcing copyright in the way that they used to. There's just too much derivative work going on. I remember when Wizard Rock was first happening and like the publishing companies behind Harry Potter were like, 'No you can't make derivative works based on Harry Potter, you can't make Harry Potter songs; and yeah you can.

Why would you stop people from being enthusiastic about your creations? [incoherent noises] Now when somebody posts a lip sync video of One Direction, [lip synching], the video doesn't get taken down; YouTube's algorithms identify it as a One Direction song, advertisements pop up on it and Sony Music International gets the money from those advertisements.

This is not law! In fact, it's not really legal; but the lip sync person gets to keep having their video online and One Direction gets to make money and everybody's happy so the law doesn't really come into it. Its kind of just corporations deciding what's okay and what isn't, which is worrisome.

Almost all of creations before you know the 1700, were collaborative creations, because a song could be written by dozens of different people over hundreds of years and then the internet is again full of things like that.

Creations that are about making people happy, or making them laugh, or making them think, or getting a reaction; not about increasing personal wealth or controlling creative vision. Ideas being free might not be good for the pocket books of individuals scattered round the world, but it is better for society and culture as a whole. And that's what makes love beautiful-ul-ul.

John, I'll see you on Monday.

I actually will be seeing John on Monday that wasn't a screw up, and I may be seeing you as well because we're having pre-Carnigie rehearsal shows in New York, tickets are $10 all proceeds go to charity, link in the description.