In the recent Slashdot article regarding the upcoming Monsoon lawsuit involving the GPL, I was confronted because of some hypothetical questions regarding the GPL. I'm fairly agreeable with the general concept of copyright as well as the general concept of patents, although in a somewhat confusing stance I have not been sure that there is such a thing as intellectual property, common law and sentiments notwithstanding.
Where I stand is that while ideas in and of themselves aren't really of intrinsic value, the two things that do have value are the people that come up with ideas and what can be done with those ideas. Perhaps the latter is too fine a distinction, but the blueprints to a machine aren't very useful unless you actually build the machine. So, what I think needs to be protected are attribution rights, not the product itself: that is, when a person is the one who came up with the idea, that person should be rewarded as one with the ability to come up with ideas. However, I don't think that means that person should be rewarded for implementing those ideas unless that person actually does implement those ideas.
However, that's sort of background information for the main idea I have here. The interesting issue with "intellectual property" versus real property is that intellectual property is both the thing people are after *and* the instructions to create an exact duplicate of that thing. Take software for example: you want the software to perform some task, but just the aspect of having that software means that you can create an infinite number of 'copies' of that software. Contrast that again to a blueprint: if I have a blueprint, what I want is the thing the blueprint represents. The implementation of the blueprint is what has real value. Well, I take that back - the blueprint does have some value, but it's not nearly the same as the thing that is created. Notably because one can fairly easily create a blueprint from an object.
Hrm. Now that I think about it, maybe a better way is to think about things in terms of wealth rather than value: a blueprint has value, but little wealth; it is only instructional. The thing created by following a blueprint has much more wealth, and so likely also has significant value.
Things like music are a bit more esoteric, as the thing "created" by music instructions is transient: it is a sound wave. However, in the realm of computers, what I want is the sound file, and the sound file is an instruction to create another identical sound file. Software is even more obvious: the source code (or even binaries) are the "tool" but also explicit instructions on how to create a duplicate tool - it's kind of a quine thing. Unlike a drawing for a hammer, which cannot be used effectively as a hammer - it can only be used to make new drawings or make hammers - software is both the instruction and the tool, which is a unique situation - especially since the effort to create instructions is so low.
So...that's an observation about the nature of "intellectual property" but I don't yet know what all the implications of that may be. More on that later...