Throughout my academic career, the question of plagiarism has always been at the forefront of my mind. Many conversations have been had over the years about what constitutes an “original” idea, and what ideas are merely a result of some form of intellectual ‘mash-up’ of books read, stories heard and other intellectual conversations. It has been argued that there isn’t really any “new” ideas out there anymore, with the bombardment of media forms (etc) we are filled with external information from the get-go. When writing papers for my undergrad, a colleague and I used to discuss to what extent our paper was at all orignal (since the primary form of paper writing at that stage is synthesis writing …). Even now, my ideas are a combination of what I have read, what I have thought about and what I believe in (all influenced by some ‘external’ source or another at some point).
So, as an academic we learn the boundaries of (and ways to reference) original thought, quoted material, and speaking/writing generally about ideas that have been previously written about by multiple authors (even if their ideas are contradictory, as long as the ‘topic’ has been discussed).
All this to say – I don’t quite understand how patenting works. How can one person say they thought of something independently of everything else, and they, therefore, own it, and all of the profits that can possibly come from it? The general idea of a virtual world is of no exception. It is a vague concept – that can embody MANY types of online spaces – yet, after reading this article, I am amazed that this is even legal at all. I mean, I might have come to learn about identity through the works of many theorists, but I don’t think anyone can patent the general idea of “identity” and profit when anyone else uses the word…at least I hope not.