In “PRO-IP, Rights, and the Roots of Copyright Opposition” in the Randian “Capitalism” magazine, one “M. Zachary Johnson” cheers on the recent “PRO-IP” law, which as the always-perceptive Mike Masnick of Techdirt notes, “accept[s] the addition of a ‘Copyright Czar’ position to the White House” and “strengthened copyright laws, yet again, despite little evidence they needed any strengthening. This law is nothing more than a weak attempt to prop up some struggling businesses who made the mistake of clinging to an obsolete business model far too long. All it will actually serve to do is to limit more creative forms of expression and much more innovative business models from being allowed to thrive.”
But the Randians love this artificial law legislated by a corrupt and immoral criminal state. In creating “a copyright protection office in the executive branch of government” and providing “more extreme penalties for pirates,” the law creates “a proper authority for protecting intellectual property” and it also “makes a much-needed moral statement.” Incredible they believe this marauding, criminal state can create a “proper authority” or make “moral” pronouncements.Also note the same old error creeping in of thinking that creation is an independent source of property rights (for more, see Libertarian Creationism, Inventors … are like unto … GODS…., Rethinking IP Completely, and Objectivist Law Prof Mossoff on Copyright; or, the Misuse of Labor, Value, and Creation Metaphors).
Notes Johnson, “the creator of a piece of intellectual property owns the product of his work.” His argument? “If a baker bakes a loaf of bread, he therefore owns it.” And likewise, for “music, movies, software.” But note the mistake here Johson makes: “If a baker bakes a loaf of bread, he therefore owns it.” The “therefore” is the giveaway: he says this because he thinks of the creation of the loaf as the act that gives rise to ownership. Then this leads to the analogy with other created things, like music. But creation of the loaf is not the reason why the baker owns it. He owns the loaf because he owned the dough that he baked. He already owned the dough, before any act of “creation”–before he transformed it with his labor. If he owned the dough, then he owns whatever he transforms his property into; the act of creation is an act of transformation that does not generate any new property rights. So creation is not necessary for him to own the resulting baked bread. Likewise, if he used someone else’s dough–say, his employer’s–then he does not own the loaf, but the owner of the dough does. So creation is not sufficient for ownership.
The rest of the argument is confused as well. Johnson argues that there are property rights in creations, and glorifies the (utilitarian) Constitution that enshrines them–why, then, ought they last only for a finite time, instead of forever, like other types of property rights do? And take this argument:
The pirate deprives the creator not only of the relatively small amount of money to be paid for the product. He deprives the creator of his very means of living, his ability to control, trade and profit from the work of his mind. That is a crime legally, morally, and on the deepest philosophical level, metaphysically. It is a matter of the creator’s ability to maintain his own existence.
But this implies that property owners have a right not only in the physical integrity of their property but in the value of their property; they do not: value lies in the way others esteem your property. (See Rethinking IP Completely, and Objectivist Law Prof Mossoff on Copyright; or, the Misuse of Labor, Value, and Creation Metaphors for further comment on this.)
Finally, when he notes, “The PRO-IP Act … is a welcome law and a welcome message,” he accepts the idea that law can be or ought to be made by legislation. Of course, this is wrong, for several reasons–see my post Regret: The Glory of State Law for elaboration.