Few scientists complain that they do not own the knowledge they produce. Indeed, they are much more likely to complain when corporations or governments try to control dissemination of ideas. Most scientists receive a salary from a government, corporation or university. Their livelihoods do not depend on royalties from published work.
University scientists have the greatest freedom. The main reasons they do research are for the intrinsic satisfaction of investigation and discovery — a key motivation for many of the world’s great scientists — and for recognition by their peers. To turn scientific knowledge into intellectual property would dampen the enthusiasm of many scientists for their work. However, as governments reduce their funding of universities, scientists and university administrations increasingly turn to patents as a source of income.
The case of science shows that vigorous intellectual activity is quite possible without intellectual property, and in fact that it may be vigorous precisely because information is not owned.
Intellectual property is supported by many powerful groups: the most powerful governments and the largest corporations. The mass media seem fully behind intellectual property, partly because media monopolies would be undercut if information were more freely copied and partly because the most influential journalists depend on syndication rights for their stories.
Perhaps just as important is the support for intellectual property from many small intellectual producers, including academics and freelance writers. Although the monetary returns to these intellectuals are seldom significant, they have been persuaded that they both need and deserve their small royalties. This is similar to the way that small owners of goods and land, such as homeowners, strongly defend the system of private property, whose main beneficiaries are the very wealthy who own vast enterprises based on many other people’s labour. Intellectuals are enormous consumers as well as producers of intellectual work. A majority would probably be better off financially without intellectual property, since they wouldn’t have to pay as much for other people’s work.