The Carbon Cycle & the Notion of Intellectual Property

When I was a freshman in college, I was trying to major in creative writing. My professor in the “creative writing 2” course was a woman whose name I have long since forgotten, but little snippets she’d read us out of her fiction have stuck with me.

One was about a man who would stand on a freeway overpass in LA with a baton and “conduct” traffic. This was something that she really saw — everyday on her commute at the time — and she worked it into the narrative of the novel she was writing.

I’ve thought of that man often over the years, but today I found myself wondering how he would feel were he to read her novel and see himself there. Would he be angry that she hadn’t asked his permission to be a character? Would he be honored?

This got me thinking further: What if someone reading her novel had found the idea of conducting traffic so charming that the reader then took up the practice? What if a different author then wrote about that reader?

What if the original conductor himself had been inspired by a story he’d read that my professor didn’t know existed, but which she ended up referencing in her novel, which was then read by a third person who had read the original and thought my professor’s reference had been intentional?

Perhaps ideas in art cycle through the world much like atoms of carbon do.

The Carbon Cycle & the Notion of Intellectual Property