The Question of Intellectual Property

Does The Alchemical Journey belong to me? This is a question I have been asking myself over the past few days. Is it “mine”? Do I own it? And if I do own it, what does that mean? Does that make it exclusively my property, and what happens as it starts developing its own identity out there in the big wide world of possibilities. Gerard and I are currently involved in a fascinating discussion about intellectual property and its implications, and looking at the idea of “creative commons” as a potentially more progressive model for the thorny and complex issue of IP rights. The Creative Commons movement enables authors, scientists, artists, and educators to mark their creative work with the freedoms they want it to carry. It allows a person to change their copyright terms from “All Rights Reserved” to “Some Rights Reserved.” See – it leaves me with these questions: How do I honour my own creative input and ensure that I am properly remunerated for that? Do I give it away in trust, or carefully license it and how do I guard against my work being used by others without proper license and perhaps in ways which I deem inappropriate?

Protecting What You Have
I did a fantastic training recently called “Leadership Presence”, which took skills from the acting profession and applied them to leadership. It was full of superb material, beautifully facilitated and I got a huge amount from the experience. However, I almost pulled out of the training beforehand because I was so appalled by what I saw as the organisation’s fear and control around their intellectual property. This came to a head when a friend of mine was told she would not be allowed to participate in the workshop because she was promoting herself as a corporate coach and trainer. The organisation were afraid that if she participated, then she might steal the material and use it in her own work. I was really quite shocked by this and lost a lot of respect for the organisation. I’m glad I did the workshop, because the material was brilliant, but what about this issue of intellectual property? It began an enquiry for me in relation to my own programme.

I have created The Alchemical Journey – it’s an original project, but it naturally draws on a huge number of variables that aren’t exclusively original to me. Yet my formulation of the material and the way I’ve put it together makes it pretty unique in both the field of astrology and in the field of self-development. And, yes, it is something I naturally think of as my intellectual property. Yet, here I am in putting ideas forward, running courses, seeking collaborations with other trainers and facilitators, making my intellectual property extremely vulnerable! I run the obvious and very real “risk” of it being changed, re-interpreted, mis-interpreted, used and potentially abused in other contexts, even without my knowledge.

The Alchemical Formula
What should I do about this? One response might have been for me to keep the ideas to myself (bit late for that, now!) until I had broken down each element of it, copyrighted each element, patented it, trademarked it. Then that would need to be policed and a lot of time and energy put into making sure others weren’t pinching what I had developed. To stand any chance of preserving it in a recognisable form, I would need to standardise the course with very clear set practices and delivery requirements and I would need to formularise it, so that the IP of each component can be readily recognised and legally identified. This seems shrewd and I’m sure that if I was being strictly business-like about it all, I’d probably attempt to do something like that. I haven’t though. Why not?

I’ve thought a lot about this issue and wondered at how I might protect myself. After all, I have developed this and put a huge amount of time, energy, money and resources into it. I don’t just want someone to pick up my years of research and then churn something out that isn’t in line with the ethos or intention of what I’ve created. So there is a need for balance here. I recognise that I need to hold the integrity of the programme. But what would I lose, and what would The Alchemical Journey lose if I were to turn it into a more easily identifiable formulaic process. Well, I figure there would be a loss of spontaneity, a loss of creativity, a loss of participation. Basically, I would destroy it as a living, transforming, evolving entity. I have been part of the process of giving birth to The Alchemical Journey, and it now lives and breathes in the world. I can’t control each step of its growth – any more than I could or would want to control the growth and development of a child. But I can gently guide and support it; respond to its own transformational journey and let myself be guided, supported and responded to by the journey. I want to stay in relationship with it, keep my love for it alive, allow it to evolve in a way that is going to make the most difference in the world, in a way that is going to enable learning, healing, community, love.

In my more philosophical and altruistic moments, I question whether it was really me who created it at all – wasn’t I simply the vehicle through which it manifested – my particular dimensions of body, mind and spirit just happened to be a fit for it to be born through me! So, wouldn’t it be more accurate for me to consider my relationship to it more as a carer or guardian?

Perhaps, by calling The Alchemical Journey “mine” in any kind of exclusive sense I run the risk of robbing it of its own autonomous life force. Yet, just like a parent, if I didn’t nurture it, water it, protect it through its early development, it would die of neglect and be exposed to unnecessary dangers before it is strong enough to cope. So I guess what I’m doing by carefully delineating the distinctions of each phase of the journey, and being specific about the way I’m using language, images and stories in particular contexts, I am helping to support its integrity, firming up materials and resources, becoming clear about a pattern of delivery of the programme.

So, more and more, I am seeing myself as the guardian of The Alchemical Journey, rather than its owner. And the beauty is, that, as its guardian, I can have so much more access to gratitude and appreciation, because I am so much more sensitively awake to the relationship I have with it. I can respond to its needs, it can respond to mine; it can surprise me in ways that it couldn’t if I was busily controlling every aspect of it. Running this programme becomes a joyful privilege that I can never take for granted.

The Consolidation Phase
With regard to The Alchemical Journey, we can see that each stage of the journey has its own theme and dynamic. We are currently experiencing the second stage. This stage is about recognising what we have and consolidating our resources. It is actually about saying “this is mine”, and experiencing it as such. My sunflower has been doing that in the last couple of weeks – claiming the soil for its own, becoming more established in its pot, after that initial burst of life when it broke the shackles of its seed pod and pushed its way through the soil. This is only a phase of the journey though – the energy will change and become something else soon – what was clearly experienced as “mine” in Taurus will become less clear as we enter the mutable sign of Gemini, and the realm of Mercury, the language trickster, in a couple of weeks time. For when we start thinking and speaking about what we have and engaging in dialogue, our experience of what we have will change. I find my awareness of this immensely helpful in this whole question of IP, and what to do about it. It reminds me that there is a need to consolidate and strengthen my resources before talking about them too openly and sharing them with everyone I meet.

The enquiry continues…

John x

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