Ideas - can they be "stolen"?

I was thinking, can ideas themselves be “stolen”? I am not talking about how ideas are interpreted, I am saving that for a later discussion, just ideas in general.

I do not see from any logical standpoint how people can “steal” ideas, but instead believe ideas can only be copied. Wouldn’t an idea by definition (I do see semantics"as a good part of philosophy because you can sometimes get a better understanding of things by looking up definitions of words that are relevant to a certain discussion) have to no longer be accessible or usable to another person?

The way I see it, you can in some way deprive another of a certain interpretation of an idea (under certain methods), but the idea itself will always be in his/her mind (unless you give him/her brain damage in the right area, but that is a different story alltogether :stuck_out_tongue: ).

I do firmly believe that ideas can also be shared, like the idea that the person wants to wear one thing (two girls in my biology class yesterday wore the same thing by coincidence, and were fighting over who “stole” the outfit), or wanting to eat a particular item at any given time of the day - a though that is shared by possibly millions at the same time.

Any contributions, agreements, disagreements?

try turning in a plagiarized paper…

or publishing plagiarized work…


I think your response deals more with the way you “present” ideas. A paper can borrow ideas from another peice of work without plagiarizing it.

I would say you can “steal” ideas only if you claim them to be completely on your own. For example, both of those girls may have just thought of the outfit on their own or seen it in a fashion magazine–however if one of the girls saw the other girl’s outfit, bought it, and then claimed she did not “copy” or “borrow” from the other girl then that could be viewed as “stealing” an idea.

Some philosopher once said there is no such thing as an idea unique to one individual–if you thought of it, then somebody else somewhere had thought of it as well. Btw, Watson and Crick were not the only ones who first cracked the DNA code–at the time they were doing it, some scientists in Europe were, too. Don’t know the whole story, though.

I am against plagiarism, and yet I speak honorably of those who stand on the shoulders of giants.

We are talking about ‘‘idea’s’’ here. LOL.

Can they be stolen? I wouldn’t quite say stolen because the idea was never yours/his to begin with. If i am speaking to somebody, he will use my idea(s) at some stage whether he writes it down on paper or whether he just talks about it with somebody else. My idea(s) will always be ‘‘stolen’’ just as yours will be everytime you write on this forum. You cannot avoid giving other people idea’s to use your idea’s. This thread has given me a new idea already :wink: Thankyou to the thread author :stuck_out_tongue:

Wouldn’t one event that takes place in the act of stealing though make the person loose the thing that was stolen, speaking from the traditional definition anyways? Even if you claim them as your own, somebody on the other side of the planet, or even as close as the next town could be doing the same thing, without even meeting you anywhere in the past. There is no way any of you could have heard the idea from eachother. Coincidence? I 'm not really too sure.

I think ideas are shared, it is the interpretations that we can try to apply protection (copyrights and patents for example,) but the origional ideas are those that shouldn’t be protected, since we build off of them all the time when “creating” ideas.

I think this idea of “idea stealing” has come with the recent growth in belief of “Intellectulal Property,” which has been made more noticed with the massive coverage of the RIAA aqnd MPAA anti-piracy fights, in which they mistakenly (or purposely state to mislead?) state the crime as theft, when the crime they are really being prosecuted for is copyright infringement, which was decided close to 21 years ago to be different from the crime of theft.

I will first state that papers or other plagiarized works are ( in my opinion, of course :wink: ) constructs of interpretations of ideas, and not really the origional idea themselves for the most part. I will however, bite on this too only because I am bored only waking up half an hour ago.

Plagiarism is a shakey ground. I do not think it is right to copy somebody’s work and claim it as your own, but I still think it a stretch to say you are “stealing” it.

I guess this can all boil down to a personal definition of “theft” and a definition of “copying,” which I think makes all the difference.

copyright laws are there for a reason…


The trouble is that most ideas have probably already been thought of by someone else already. I’m sure someone thought of how a “motor car” could be potenialy designed/built well before Henry Ford’s birth.

Ideas are only own by an individual so long as he does not share them with any one else. As soon we share an idea with some else, we no longer have any right to call the idea ours. :wink:

Yeah, but copyrights can’t apply to ideas nessecarily, I believe to interpretations of ideas - music, books, even software they apply.

Copyrights do serve a purpose, but I do feel they need massive reform, they have been extended too long, and I fear can be used at the state they are at now to stifle, instead of promote innovation and creativity.

To paraphrase Stanley Kubrick: “Everything has been done before, the trick is in doing it better”

the idea wasn’t ours to begin with.

Exactly theres nothing new under the sun

Ideas cannot be stolen except in our imagination. This all relates to identity, which is probably the most destructive thing in human history.

We have an idea about self, other people adopt and make their own. “be yourself”. We believe in this idea which then creates other ideas, like ownership, responsibility, guilt.

The reason why so many people say knowledge should be free is because it doesn’t belong to anyone. A power structure can impose its will on others, dictating that bits of information belong to whoever, but there is never any rule that says this is the case. It is something that is enforced on us, and corrupts our natural way of functioning.

Now in the economy, which is a game of rules, we enter into a relative system, whereby comparison to others gives us a relative value, like rich and poor, valuable and cheap. None of these labels are real, but shockingly, most everyone believes in them. I can see how people feel they own this or that, considering how the law is built around concepts like ownership. Of course, this law is biased to those in power, and they are mostly created to protect their abuse of other human beings as a resource.

Even your identity, who you think you are, does not belong to you. Where do end and where do you begin? We come up with ideas of self, based on our misleading labels and popular knowledge, and only in our imagination, do we have a right to claim the thigns we do. And its not like they even accurately reflect what we are. People hate their bodies, faces, families, jobs, belongings, social status. Our sense of self is nothing more than wishful thinking, that ultimately causes nothing but pain. Girls are afraid to pass gas. All men think they must be buff and insensitive with each other. Children are viscious towards each other in almost every way imaginable. Elderly people feel worthless or meaningless due to the identity the build around their form. Teenagers use each other for a sense of self, dnying their own honest feelings and beliefs in order to belong to a group (be someone else’s sense of self).

We either own everything, or nothing at all. Same coin, depending on how you look at it. The only thing that makes this free stuff yours and not mine, or vice versa, is imposing force.

It’s not the idea that’s stolen, it’s the credit for coming up with it that is.

Who gets credit? Identity? If idenitity is contrived, built upon circumstance, then how can it get credit for anything? Isn’t that saying circumstance gets credit? Is that saying that we owe it to chance then?

Tell me what anyone does to be born as who they are in the environment they’re in, facing the challenges that happen to come their way, with whatever traits are in their genes?

Again, the problem is idenitity. Idenitity makes a stand, draws a circle around what it “believes” is itself, and then says it owns what’s within that circle. All that means is they declar that what circumstance constitute their idenitity is owned by them. This is why a lover says he owns his other half, like “she’s mine!”. All that really means is she is what I derive my current sense of self on or around, and therefore am dependent on it and must act as if it is in fact my own object.

Idenitity doesn’t own anything, even itself. Identity is dependent on circumstance. It has no control over anything. If it think it is does then that is a product of circumstance.

By taking credit we mean we are the source. But are we the source? Do we calculate everything in the brain? Isn’t almost everything in the brain controlled by forces beyond our expressino? We think what flows through us, what we express, is our own. We are nothing. What we are is a channel. The source expresses itself through us. Our channel, and its identity are empty lifeless structures, which do not own or take credit for anything.

It is only in the economy, with its rules of ownership and compensation that we need laws to protect credit or copyright or whatever. We take it as true that we can and do own, and that what is expressed through us is completely our doing, when in reality we must accept the talents we are born with, out of our control.

This is why so many groups distrubute knowledge for free. The ideas you create have bearing on what is/reality, which is not owned by anyone. You are a part of that reality and what comes from you does not belong to your relative sense of self, but to the whole/reality. Which is to say that you yourself and the ideas coming out of you, are not yours and you cannot take credit for it, but every single person is equally entitled to you and what comes out of you. You are not hear for you. You, or what you think is you, are here for everyone else. Or, one could say that you belong to yourself as much as you belong to everything else, and everything else belongs to itself as much as it does you.

Idenitity is the critical factor here. Crack this egg in your realization, and it (the obstruction) will dissappear and allow everything to fall into its place. Crack identity, and all label/judgements which had positive/negative values relative to your identity disappear. What you loathed before is now find. What you thought was sacred is now just fine. All labels/judgements generated now follow suit to what is left when you remove identity, and that, is reality. You leave behind relative, self centered, self serving truth, to absolute, eternal truth.

That’s a good quote…it makes me think about if someone in the future would be the next Neitzsche…to write the kind of ideas he spoke of, only expound on them better, which to me doesn’t seem feasible, for he already expounded all that needed to be expounded upon!

Yet, who could be the next Stanley Kubrick or Akira Kurosawa?

Which band will be the next Beatles or Metallica?

Who will be the next Mozart or Bach?

Questions like these make us want to live forever to find out! That is the basis for eternal life, to know what will happen next!!

read some derrida…


I also think that quote is good, but IMO nothing summarizes my stance on this topic better than what H. Rentzsch said in 1866:

Everyone steals an idea from somebody. So we had someone invent something, right? But then many years later we have factories creating more and more of these inventions that were once a part of somebody’s dream. We wouldn’t be here without ideas, nor would we be here without the theft of ideas. So, yes, ideas can be stolen. The two girls fighting in your biology class over wearing the same shirt didn’t steal anybody’s idea, they just happened to wear what idea someone else had stolen a long long time ago. Ideas are obviously stolen all the time, just look around you…