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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/11035/if-you-believe-in-ip-how-do-you-teach-others/

If You Believe in IP, How Do You Teach Others?

November 16, 2009 by

The MIT model is the model of the ancient world and every university environment ever since, and it is the only way to deal with a digital society in which every thought becomes globalized upon utterance. FULL ARTICLE by Jeffrey Tucker

{ 67 comments }

T. Ralph Kays November 19, 2009 at 12:07 am

JAlanKatz

A very good post, well thought out and well spoken.

Way back in the 70′s I received a 4 year scholarship and headed off to college full of hope and excitement for the intellectual adventure I had been told awaited me. I was a math major, with a serious interest in physics. I was enrolled in the honors classes at this college. One year later I gave the scholarship back and got a job, primarily because there was nothing intellectual about college. I did not however end my education, I studied alone, took community college courses when I could find impassioned teachers, attended seminars, and worked and talked with everyone I could find who could express cogent ideas and arguments. I started from a “hard science” position, but that is not where I ended up.
I have home schooled my three daughters and they are math wizards, but due to my educational experiences I have geared their education towards the liberal arts. The liberal arts are far more important to humans than the “hard sciences”, I would go so far as to suggest that if humanity had to lose one or the other, we would do better to hang on to the liberal arts. As ridiculous as that sounds I believe that the environment created by the current state of knowledge known as liberal arts would result in the rapid rediscovery of what we know as the “hard sciences” in a remarkably short time. If we lost all knowledge known as liberal arts I think we would be damned to repeating most of human history before we realised that freedom is the greatest creation of the human mind. Of course, if we started over at the beginning with our current technological knowledge I doubt we would survive long enough to consider the question of freedom.

P.M.Lawrence November 19, 2009 at 3:06 am

“In the 19th century, for example, British authors would sell their manuscripts to American publishers, who could not copyright the work (there was no such thing as international copyright in those days). It turned out that the authors made more money through this means of payment than through royalties in their own country.”

That’s rubbish. While some few authors might possibly have gained more that way, it just isn’t true in general; U.S. publishers simply reprinted the books from ordinary copies. For instance, Dickens got nothing from his readers in the USA, so he resorted to making lecture tours to claw back something from public awareness of him – and to alert his U.S. readers that their purchases weren’t helping him. This U.S. neglect of authors happened as late as Tolkien.

T. Ralph Kays November 19, 2009 at 3:14 am

P.M.Lawrence

Could that possibly be because they lived in a country that established unjust intellectual property rights and they were unprepared to deal with a free market? Maybe they had gotten used to extracting monopoly profits from the backing they got from oppressive government and felt it wasn’t fair that they couldn’t count on those unjustly derived profits from across the sea?

Peter Surda November 19, 2009 at 3:50 am

@Troy Camplin
> IP is a lack of a contract?
Yes. That is their definition. Copyright only applies to people and areas that are not covered by a specific contract.

> It seems that those against IP are opposed to those
> kinds of contracts.
What kinds of contracts? That contradicts itself. Although, if I don’t take your sentence literally, you probably meant that some IP opponents also oppose contracts that limit what you can do with immaterial goods. Yes, you are correct, some do but I certainly don’t agree with that approach. Also, judging from some Stephans previous articles and speeches, I would say he doesn’t oppose them per se, he just thinks that contracts that have ridiculously restrictive conditions bear too high enforcement costs to be pratical.

Cheers,
Peter

TokyoTom November 19, 2009 at 7:57 am

Jeffrey, thanks for this interesting post, which hopefully contribute to a wider discussion of problems with IP.

- “You can make “no other use” of what you learn? Really? That sort of smashes the whole point of education, doesn’t it?”

But isn`t this really a strawman? Where do Harvard or Tex prohibit “all other use”, as opposed to commercial use, or publishing notes?

It seems to me that the professors` chief intention is to make sure that students actually attend class, and to make sure that notes are so widely spread that people don`t bother buying profs` articles and books. Of course note sharing is widespread anyway, and such practices can`t be monitored, much less restrictions enforced – save in glaring cases like an internet/intranet site.

While I`ve read Rand, I hadn`t actually followed how the idea of IP affected her own life.

My own view has come around to the idea that state-created IP is abusive and has been hijacked by rent-seeking. Firms and individuals that want to maintain information as property should do so without state grants, other than the use of courts in providing remedies for theft.

But that the idea of IP itself as “property” does not seem absurd to me in the least; the prevalence of the idea is an example of the way that communities adopt and internalize rules and apply them rather reflexively (and feel them morally) and is a testament to the capacity of humans to minimize tragedy of the commons situations (as Yandle and Ostrom have noted). The problem is simply that IP has slipped its moorings and become abusive to the point that we need to start working (via legislation, no?) to lessen the evident parasitism and abuse.

scott t November 19, 2009 at 8:03 am

“Dickens got nothing from his readers in the USA, so he resorted to making lecture tours to claw back something from public awareness of him – and to alert his U.S. readers that their purchases weren’t helping him. This U.S. neglect of authors happened as late as Tolkien….”

i am not sure about thsese issues. i will look to rmemoirs to confirm.
but with all the neglect that took place….it seems that both were very prolific writers

Stephan Kinsella November 19, 2009 at 9:36 am

TokyoTizzom:

- “You can make “no other use” of what you learn? Really? That sort of smashes the whole point of education, doesn’t it?”

But isn`t this really a strawman? Where do Harvard or Tex prohibit “all other use”, as opposed to commercial use, or publishing notes?

The proposed UT contract says:

My lectures are protected by state common law and federal copyright law. They are my own original expression and I record them at the same time that I deliver them in order to secure protection. Whereas you are authorized to take notes in class thereby creating a derivative work from my lecture, the authorization extends only to making one set of notes for your own personal use and no other use. You are not authorized to record my lectures, to provide your notes to anyone else or to make any commercial use of them without express prior permission from me.

Did you not read this? The idea is the professor claims copyright in his lecture, including derivative rights. However, he is granting limited permission to the student to use the derivative rights ONLY for “your own personal use and no other use”. How much clearer can this be?

Of course note sharing is widespread anyway, and such practices can`t be monitored, much less restrictions enforced – save in glaring cases like an internet/intranet site.

So… IP law is okay … because we can evade it? Because it can’t be perfectly enforced?

My own view has come around to the idea that state-created IP is abusive and has been hijacked by rent-seeking. Firms and individuals that want to maintain information as property should do so without state grants, other than the use of courts in providing remedies for theft.

These comments have an odd air to them–state created IP is “abusive”? It’s been “hijacked”? Libertarians talk about just and unjust, rights and rights violations. And IP was not hijacked by the state any more than taxing power or regulation of wage and working hour or outlawing cocaine was hijacked by the state. It’s not as if these things would occur in a free market.

But that the idea of IP itself as “property” does not seem absurd to me in the least; the prevalence of the idea is an example of the way that communities adopt and internalize rules and apply them rather reflexively (and feel them morally) and is a testament to the capacity of humans to minimize tragedy of the commons situations (as Yandle and Ostrom have noted). The problem is simply that IP has slipped its moorings and become abusive to the point that we need to start working (via legislation, no?) to lessen the evident parasitism and abuse.

Yes, let’s just work with the state to decree more unjust fake “laws” …. that’ll work.

scott t November 19, 2009 at 3:04 pm

“…..you’re presumably already paid…..You’re essentially suggesting that anything of value that later comes from your teaching is a fruit of your labor, and thus you should be compensated. Why stop there?”

i dont completely understand the professors-league claiming copyright over lectures (if its true at all, i dont know).

it would seem to me that if notes were to be used for commercial use…a student would only need to dress them up and apply the notes (common knowlege? or cutting edge technology?) from a lecture) to their own knowledge and presto…its built upon thought.

which is why the contract service seems to be the best route. if you contract to do something (or not do something) it doesnt propertize any idea or endeavor…it just creates service agreements or action agreements.

i guess the market would adjust to the third-party issue with price premiums. or real goods producers with stables of idea generators in r&d, production improvements, etc.

TokyoTom November 20, 2009 at 1:36 am

Stephan, the proposed UT contract specifically references state common law and federal copyright law, and expressly PROHIBITS NOTHING, and certainly does not purport to be a waiver of “fair use” rights granted under federal copyright law.

Rather, it is a statement of what uses the professor purports to authorize, which authorization can`t have the effect of narrowing statutory rights. On what is authorized the last two sentences are slightly contradictory, but the final sentence calls for “express prior permission” only for recording, providing notes to others or making “any commercial use”.

So spare me your “How much clearer can this be?” Jeffrey has – no doubt unknowingly – offered a strawman about this being a prohibition of “all uses”; why you trouble deliberately to avoid nuance is beyond me.

“So… IP law is okay … because we can evade it? Because it can’t be perfectly enforced?”

Strawman? Did I say anything about this proposed “contract” – much less IP law, which to my understanding isn`t varied by what ever UT or Harvard do – being “okay”?

“And IP was not hijacked by the state any more than taxing power or regulation of wage and working hour or outlawing cocaine was hijacked by the state. It’s not as if these things would occur in a free market.”

I`m not sure why you want to drum up disagreements; is it because I agree with you as a practical matter, rather than delving into principle? If we change anything here, it will not be so much as a result of principle as getting others, as a practical matter, to agree that IP has gotten out of hand.

In any event, I was referring to abuse by rent-seekers, not by the state.

Further, while I don`t see how we can possibly conclude that communities cannot, without use of a state, derive the equivalent of taxes, wage regulations or outlawing cocaine, how is this even relevant to a discussion of the legitimacy of IP?

Care to clarify the following?
me: “The problem is simply that IP has slipped its moorings and become abusive to the point that we need to start working (via legislation, no?) to lessen the evident parasitism and abuse.”

You: “Yes, let’s just work with the state to decree more unjust fake “laws” …. that’ll work.”

I`m not following you – what is YOUR proposed course of action for rolling back IP? Are you expecting everyone to simply ignore the state and IP laws? Seriously, I`m missing something.

Tizzy Tom

james b. longacre September 9, 2010 at 3:17 pm

“So… IP law is okay … because we can evade it? Because it can’t be perfectly enforced?”

maybe that is the case. if a law is created to undo a wrong as in attempt to recover something taken…with ‘idea-l things’ there is nothing taken but only created.

P.M.Lawrence November 21, 2009 at 5:06 am

T. Ralph Kays asked, possibly sarcastically, “Could that possibly be because they lived in a country that established unjust intellectual property rights and they were unprepared to deal with a free market? Maybe they had gotten used to extracting monopoly profits from the backing they got from oppressive government and felt it wasn’t fair that they couldn’t count on those unjustly derived profits from across the sea?”

No. Dickens did not get his main writing revenue at the time because of copyright – that only delivered residuals, later – but from contracts with his publishers etc. That would have been quite enough for him to get U.S. revenues, if only tariff barriers hadn’t kept their copies out of the USA. It was the U.S. revenues that went to U.S. publishers that were not free market and were unjustly derived from monopolies!

T. Ralph Kays November 21, 2009 at 5:38 am

So you admit that it was not the lack of copyright that kept him from earning money, it was the existence of tariffs that deprived him. Funny, libertarians don’t believe in tariffs any more than IP laws.

P.M.Lawrence November 21, 2009 at 8:08 am

No, you haven’t thought it through. In the presence of tariffs, effective copyrights would have worked to give Dickens back revenue that the tariffs took away from him. Copyrights were – for him – a distortion with an offsetting effect against another distortion, working like what they call Pigovian subsidies but actually a Coasian solution to the problem. Causally speaking, the immediate (proximate) cause of his loss of revenue was the loss of property rights provided by copyright – whatever the ultimate cause may have been.

This should be an object lesson in just why it is often a bad idea simply to get rid of distortions. Some of them work against each other, and getting rid of them in the wrong sequence can actually increase overall harm by leaving the rest more correlated. In fact, rent seekers can even agitate to get rid of their preferred distortions first, precisely because what is left favours them more. Recent rounds of privatising actually seem to have worked this way, replacing direct state involvement with corporate crony capitalism rather than a true free market.

T. Ralph Kays November 21, 2009 at 12:15 pm

I thought it through, but you didn’t, you are saying that because there was one distortion (tariffs) that another distortion (IP laws) should have been introduced, in the U.S. The example you used clearly shows that it was only the presence of tariffs that kept him from earning money in the U.S. You have reversed the proximate and ultimate causes just to bolster your argument. The U.S. did not take away his property rights in copyright, he never had any such rights in the U.S. The tariffs alone prevented him from earning money in the U.S. You have already admitted that copyright was not necessary for him to earn money in the U.S., just open access to American markets.

EshipProf November 27, 2009 at 9:10 pm

The goal of the university is to spread knowledge… The aim of an individual student is to gain knowledge that is used in every possible way for a lifetime — and to pass the ideas on to others.

To claim that “THE goal” of “THE university” is to spread knowledge, however, is a ridiculous overgeneralization. Perhaps this is one goal of some universities, but even the Oath of Hippocrates sets limits on the spread of knowledge via teaching (the oath-taker promises to teach the art to the children of other doctors but to none other.)

I’m sure there could be universities who have, as there sole goal, to spread knowledge — but I don’t know of any. I’m sure that there could be students who have, as their sole goal, to gain knowledge to be used in every possible way for their entire lifetime and to pass it on — but I don’t know any.

I see nothing wrong with placing restrictions — legal, ethical, or otherwise — on the dissemination of information. Having taught thousands of business-school students and having seen every possible form of IP appropriation — it still gives me heartburn when I read a consulting study purporting to originate an idea, with the author of the study implicitly or explicitly implying that is his/her own original work, complete with graphics that I showed in class. I’m not looking for royalties — just attribution, a proverbial tip of the intellectual hat, and an endorsement of my OWN expertise in that area.

Is that too much to ask for any teacher?

Jazz September 9, 2010 at 1:35 pm

Harvard professors can go and eat a dick!

cluelessinky March 15, 2011 at 9:59 am

Perhaps the universities need to step in an act as agents for the students. The tuition could be considered a license fee to use the materials as the student sees fit. If the professor doesn’t like the arrangement he can feel free to seek other options, or colleges. If a professor accepts tenure he surrenders all IP rights, this should resolve many of the problems cited.

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