Research Handbook on Intellectual Property and Creative Industries
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Research Handbook on Intellectual Property and Creative Industries

Edited by Abbe E.L. Brown and Charlotte Waelde

The creative industries are becoming of increasing importance from economic, cultural, and social perspectives. This Handbook explores the relationship, whether positive or negative, between creative industries and intellectual property (IP) rights.
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Chapter 28: Creative economy: industry versus language?

John Hartley


Creativity, innovation and knowledge are outcomes of group-based acts of sociality, relying on systems that no one owns or controls, on the model of language, which itself cannot be copyrighted. This chapter argues that using language rather than property as the basis for understanding copying and innovation offers new insights into creativity. Language and translation make a better model than information and transmission, shifting analysis from individuals, works and property to groups, uses and networks, or ‘knowledge clubs’. In the context of digital reproduction and social networks, we need to reconceptualise the definition of the creative economy, expanding it beyond individual property based on talent (authorship). If everyone is an author and publisher, then it is not the ownership of an idea that gives it value but its use, not the individual but the system. It is the coordination of ‘flow’ and utility that needs regulation, not the protection of rents.

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