Like many libertarians, I initially assumed intellectual property (IP) was a legitimate type of property right. But I had misgivings from the start: there was just something too utilitarian and results oriented in Rand’s purportedly principled case for IP, and something too artificial about the state’s copyright and patent statutory classifications. I started practicing patent law around 1992, and the more I learned about IP, the more my doubts grew.
I finally realized that IP is incompatible with genuine property rights. (This echoed the sloughing off of my initial Randian minarchism in favor of Rothbardian anarchism, when I realized the state is aggression incarnate and cannot be justified. See my article, “What It Means To Be an Anarcho-Capitalist.”)
And so, in 1995 I started publishing articles pointing out problems with IP, finally culminating in my lengthy 2001 Journal of Libertarian Studies article “Against Intellectual Property,” which was republished as a monograph last year by the Mises Institute. A summary of the argument in this paper was set forth in my article “In Defense of Napster and Against the Second Homesteading Rule”, and various of these pieces have been translated into other languages.
In recent years there has been a good deal of more useful writing on IP and, as my previous Napster article is somewhat dated now, the time is ripe to concisely restate the basic libertarian case against IP and provide links to some of the key anti-IP publications. FULL ARTICLE