This seems to be a recurring problem, both on this site and elsewhere, and including my own questions. Lots of specific-detail-type problems that may seem like that's all they are on their own, but their proliferation and aggregate theme suggest to me a fundamental misunderstanding.
For example, my question of How far does a Creative Commons Non-Commercial restriction reach? assumes monolithic ownership of a derivative work, with no distinction of ownership between parts, even if some of those parts are unchanged from the original. This leads to a general theme of, "How much do I have to change it to make it mine, and thus disregard a license that I received it under?"
According to that monolithic understanding, a restrictive license for the original ends up controlling something that I own. That is, someone else controls something that I own, and that smacks of a moral problem. So my underlying, technically-unstated concern in the above-linked question is whether the law really says something immoral.
(morality can be a pretty powerful driver, even if the legal and penal systems aren't supposed to care about it, not to mention the more religious persuasions having a field day with that conflict, real or not)
But a different understanding - one that allows granular ownership instead - doesn't have that problem. In that case, I only own the parts of my thingy that I actually invented. The parts that I left unchanged, no matter how small, still belong to the original owner(s) and not to me, and so the original license still applies to those parts.
According to this granular understanding, someone else is no longer controlling something that I own, but something that they own, because I only own the parts that I actually made and not the whole thing.
That makes all the difference in the world! It completely changes the mindset from "How can I avoid these immoral people, and perhaps 'do my part' in some cases to rid our society of them?" to "How can I not hurt someone who is practically just like me?"
In other words, it makes me want to follow the law, when I understand the reasoning behind it. The law itself, alone, doesn't do that.
Am I on the right track with the above description? Is that the right way to think about intellectual property and everything that the law says about it?
Are there still problems with that understanding that I missed?
Don't be afraid to go into the weeds on this one. The more detail, the better, so long as it's still easy to follow. I'm essentially trying to use an educational site to do what wasn't done in an outdated school curriculum.
(it can't avoid being outdated if the administrators don't understand the near-instant transition from relative impotence to empowerment that the internet has caused, and so a whole new class of technically-old legalese has suddenly become important to the common people...and doesn't seem to match the culture that grew independently and organically from that sudden empowerment)