Copyright vs Patent and Toastmasters discussion

I was looking around the internet and I found an old (very old) and closed discussion of whether the Toastmasters manuals should be made available in .pdf format. At the time, they were not, and Pathways was not yet even thought of.  The discussion, which I seem to have misplaced among my bookmarks, took place a number of years back on someone’s blog.

People were concerned…or shall I say, a few people were…about “misuse” of the manuals. I want to address the bit about “misuse” of written materials and why I think it’s not even relevant.

Let me state that written material, such as literature, is copyrighted. Gadgets, such as your TV or your plumbing, is patented. This is clearly differentiated and there’s a reason for this.

Patented products can indeed be misused. Some can. Some, if misused, can present a safety issue. You don’t want your three-month old to play with a plastic bag that’s part of a patented device, or part of the wrapper of it, that can possibly block his airway and then, cause a serious disaster. Plastic bags are not even relevant to copyrighted material.Books aren’t gadgets.

Huckleberry Finn was likely once copyrighted but is past its copyright and is now in the public domain. It is not patented and a patent on it is not relevant. Can the book be “misused”? I don’t see it that way.

It can be interpreted any way a person wants to. This is actually a risk that a writer takes. As a writer myself, I’m well aware that after I write something, I am taking a risk, even as I write these words, that someone out there will mis-read what I am writing. This happens frequently. Although it is my responsibility, if I want to prevent this, to be clear  while I am writing, it’s not completely in my hands what happens after I send my writing out into the world. After I send it out, I cannot control the actions of other people. This incredible acceptance is also part of my responsibility as a writer, the knowledge of not knowing.

The manuals are very very good, well written, very well planned, but certainly, no one can control the actions of those who read them, and why should we? Why should anyone control the actions of another? There’s no such thing as use or “misuse” of good literature even if it’s a terrific and classic how-to manual.

If I had written the Toastmasters manual, and I found out a junior high school teacher found it useful to use in her classroom, then wow, I’d be tickled pink. I’d be delighted that this teacher had used my book to open the minds of kids, young people who otherwise would be too young to join the Toastmasters program. In fact, introducing them to the program at an early age might inspire them to join when they got older. I don’t see this as misuse at all.

How about you?

2 thoughts on “Copyright vs Patent and Toastmasters discussion”

    1. Oooh, thank you! This isn’t the same snob one I ran across in a search that required you have a huge monetary income to be a member.

Feedback and comments welcome!