First of all this entire post was inspired by an article at ArsTechnica called "Benjamin Franklin, the First IP Pirate". I really recommend reading this article, it was fascinating.
Being a student of history and a Tech geek, I have always been fascinated by Benjamin Franklin. Franklin was truly an inspiring individual and it was for more than just being a randy old bugger. He was the pre-eminent inventor of his time and one of the great thinkers of all time. What I didn't know was that he was such a supporter of what we would call "Open Source" today.
Current copyright laws are so messed up and protectionist it would be laughable were it not true. Knowledge is the key to humanity's future and Franklin apparently knew this even back then. The idea of Intellectual Property just doesn't work over extended periods. Or to clarify, Intellectual Property as it is today inhibits free thought and creativity by restricting access to information. It exists simply to create wealth for those that control it and those that control it in many cases aren't even the ones that created it. In reading the article I almost get the impression that Franklin may have viewed Intellectual Property as being "Regal", which is something the founding fathers would have found very distasteful at the time. The idea of bestowing inheritable IP rights in perpetuity does not benefit society in anyway.
I've long felt that "we" as a society need to do more to benefit mankind, to help each other to be better people. That's what drew me to Linux and Open Source projects in the first place. The idea that these people were giving back for the benefit of everyone is something truly special in today's world. It sounds like Benjamin Franklin would have fit in very well in the Open Source communities of today.
So, I've said enough.
I'm getting down from my soap box.
Go to Ars Technica and read this article and if you like what you see look into the book by Lewis Hyde called Common as Air: Revolution, Art, and Ownership. It sounds like it should be a fascinating read.