Intellectual Property

Once I worked in a cemetery. We were the purveyors of graveside begonias and pachysandra. We weeded, planted, watered, and manicured the very personal area around the headstones (the boss called them monuments) for an infamous florist in Rochester, New York.

The boss was an 80 year old pain in the ass who always wore a gardening hat and chewed on cigars. Norm. Great guy. Ornery though.

It was a demanding job. The labor was physical, the equipment was heavy. My muscles ached at the end of the day, but I loved it. It was gratifying. The progress was so obvious; the results so evident, so bountiful.

Today, I work with my brain. I create content from ideas – sometimes that means I’m a writer, sometimes that looks like reporting, and other times it’s editing. The result is significantly less tangible with brain work. There might be a piece of paper with my name on it when I’m all done. They might print the word editor next to my name. Yippee. They call it intellectual property.

Any time I create something, I’m building a library of intellectual property. This is not a particularly lucrative endeavor, but you can make the money work if you hustle…

Intellectual property – words, really – are not flowers. Words are not rooted into earth that someone owns or visits. If I did a terrific job tending to gardens in the cemetery, someone could notice. Even if Norm, our irritable leader, said I did a horrible job, anyone who cared could just look at my blooming plot of land and recognize my work, regardless of Norm’s near constant critiques. (Seriously great guy – no disrespect.)

Unlike flowers, words have no home. The word editor carries no proof, no demonstration of contribution. There’s no real way to show it off.

Or, say for example that someone picked my begonias. Say someone thought I grew beautiful begonias so they waited until they were fully formed and blossoming and then they pulled them out to replant them in front of their tombstone. And then say they sold advertising using my stolen begonias but keeping all the – wait. Don’t go there.

A burgled begonia is a flagrant wrongdoing. Everyone knows that.

Unfortunately, intellectual property theft has no visual aid. You can’t see it. There is no shredded dirt where my stolen flowers once were.

But here’s the thing: if you take my flowers and decide not to pay me because:

  • you don’t have to,
  • or because you didn’t make the kind of money you thought you would,
  • or because I signed a deal based on profits but your business operates in the red
  • (seriously – why would you make a deal based on profits when you know you’ve never ever made any real profits in the history of your leadership)
  • or when you set me up to blindside me and steal my flowers because you’re an abusive and deceitful boss (Not like Norm. Norm paid me for my labor. Norm never tried to sell me on a crazy profit sharing plan that would ultimately produce no money for me.)

If you take my flowers and choose not to pay me for them – you are not Norm. You are not Norm at all.

Posted by

Mel Kozakiewicz a professor, editor, writer, and mother of two.

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