Monday, September 10, 2012

What we see and what we don't

Chris Sprigman & Kal Raustiala's The Knockoff Economy is getting a lot of well-deserved attention.  Here's one discussion from Time whose intro I found a bit puzzling.  Both the headline and the body begin, "From the day kids pick up their first No. 2 pencils, they’re taught that copying is wrong."  But of course that's completely backwards.  From the day kids pick up their pencils in a situation where there is a teacher, they are taught to copy: first tracing the shapes of letters and numbers, then copying them on the dotted lines below the exemplars.  But because of modern concepts of IP, this practice--learning by copying, which is to say learning as it's always been done--is completely invisible even as it's completely foundational.  There are kinds and contexts of copying of which teachers disapprove, and rightly so.  But if you get the starting rule backwards, it's not surprising that you then struggle to explain why copying in fashion is a good thing.

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