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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 }

Stephan Kinsella November 16, 2009 at 9:42 am

Incredibly insightful and important article.

Lagrange November 16, 2009 at 9:57 am

When I attend Harvard they agree to provide certain services in return for my agreement to refrain from doing certain things, the example you’ve cited being one of them.

They don’t presume to own ideas any more than they presume to own my liver when I agree not to turn up to class trashed.

But anything to take a pot shot at the mainstream, Objectivists too while you’re at it.

Enjoy Every Sandwich November 16, 2009 at 10:36 am

I’ve never enrolled at a university, so perhaps I don’t understand what they’re trying to accomplish. But I wonder: how much of what is taught at university truly original? I’m especially skeptical about courses in basic subjects.

Wouldn’t the professor have to at least demonstrate that his material is original, and that he’s not just reading the notes from those who taught him?

Ohhh Henry November 16, 2009 at 10:44 am

Possibly the difference between the MIT and Harvard models is that the former’s curriculum is grounded in the real world of physical, objective reality and therefore their teaching services are and will remain valuable and sought-after. The latter is America’s most overpriced institution for the propagation of artsy-fartsy, legalistic and governmentopian ideas and is in danger, unless drastic action is taken, of being swept into the dustbin of history.

MIT staff know that even if every single word and picture of their curriculum is published freely, their services will still be desired. Harvardians are afraid that when push comes to shove, ANYBODY can and will write, publish and read statist drivel in front of a room full of overgrown adolescents on extended leave from the laws of economics. They will therefore use every possible means to create and maintain a monopoly on the propagation of said drivel. It isn’t their intellectual value which is motivating them, but their LACK of value.

Ohhh Henry November 16, 2009 at 10:47 am

Possibly the difference between the MIT and Harvard models is that the former’s curriculum is grounded in the real world of physical, objective reality and therefore their teaching services are and will remain valuable and sought-after. The latter is America’s most overpriced institution for the propagation of artsy-fartsy, legalistic and governmentopian ideas and is in danger, unless drastic action is taken, of being swept into the dustbin of history.

MIT staff know that even if every single word and picture of their curriculum is published freely, their services will still be desired. Harvardians are afraid that when push comes to shove, ANYBODY can and will write, publish and read statist drivel in front of a room full of overgrown adolescents on extended leave from the laws of economics. They will therefore use every possible means to create and maintain a monopoly on the propagation of said drivel. It isn’t their intellectual value which is motivating them, but their LACK of value.

That engineering guy November 16, 2009 at 11:12 am

“When I attend Harvard they agree to provide certain services in return for my agreement to refrain from doing certain things, the example you’ve cited being one of them.”

One should have some standards in life. If those “profs” want to make some money in addition to their presumably considerable teaching fees, there is a time-honored way of doing it – it’s called a textbook.

Lagrange November 16, 2009 at 11:38 am

“One should have some standards in life. If those “profs” want to make some money in addition to their presumably considerable teaching fees, there is a time-honored way of doing it – it’s called a textbook.

In which case we’d get “look at these overpriced textbooks we’re getting, only copyright can acheive that”.

And everybody would shake their heads.

No, what people have an issue with is a mainstream university and this is their way to take a pot shot at the guys over at Harvard – by complaining about Harvard’s right to contract.

Bill November 16, 2009 at 11:39 am

If I went to Harvard I would simply call my professor every single time I wanted to discuss something from his/her class and every time I wanted to write about it in an e-mail or instant message. After the professor received ten calls each day from each of his twenty students, I’m pretty sure the whole IP clause would disappear from their contracts. If they want to keep giving express permission every time their ideas will be discussed outside of class after that, they deserve it!

Silas Barta November 16, 2009 at 11:51 am

If you believe in property rights, how do you give gifts?

That was easy…

Mashuri November 16, 2009 at 11:57 am

So, Lagrange and Silas, do you believe Rand was being robbed by Libertarians? Do you believe she had a right to seek compensation from people with whom she had no contracts?

Troy Camplin, Ph.D. November 16, 2009 at 12:11 pm

Some valid points, but absurd extremes makes for, in the end, a bad argument. For those of us who teach writing and, therefore, documentation, we see that there are things understood to be “common knowledge.” All facts are common knowledge. But if you take credit for someone else’s ideas, you are guilty of plagiarism. In fact, the anti-IP position raises for me the issue of plagiarism. If we do not recognize some sort of IP, there is no such thing as plagiarism. In fact, there can be no such thing as intellectual dishonesty if we refuse to recognize that an idea originated with someone and that we should credit that person for having developed that idea. I think that in the case of Rand’s rigidness, the rules we use make sense: the first to publish is the one who gets the credit. This happens in science, where the first to publish the ideas or the results of experiments are the ones who get the credit, no matter who “finished” first. This is why Darwin published his theory when he did — he was afraid someone else was going to beat him to publishing the idea. I suppose one could argue that once something is written down that it is now “physical property” and not just an “idea” anymore, but the fact is that we still really only have an idea, albeit one we can prove to have been published at a particular time. For books, most authors acknowledge their debt to those who they converse with, conversations which led to the ideas in the book. That seems a fair acknowledgment. The lecture stuff IS silly, and should be called such. But, again, that is really an extreme that, in its extremity, proves nothing.

John Shepard November 16, 2009 at 12:22 pm

Is this article protected by copyright?

Andras November 16, 2009 at 12:26 pm

Nobody should claim that the criticized IP laws assign ownerships for ever.
What IP laws are about is to “own” new ideas in the introductory phase, during the transition from the unique, from the state of never thought before, to the infinite, when everyone can comprehend it and its scarcity has been lost. In an optimal case, this timeframe coincides with the orderly spread of the idea to give enough financial incentive to the inventor and make the process calculable.
That is completely different question what is the optimal timeframe.
It shows how large the confusion is when patents are enforced for approximately two decades but copyrights for multiple life times. Although the latter time frame give great ammunition to anti-IP proponents, their zero time frames are as ridiculous as well.

Steve R. November 16, 2009 at 12:38 pm

Good article by Tucker. One aspect of the whole so-called “intellectual property” discussion, that I think is being overlooked is the concept of “sale”. That is when you sell a product, you transfer ownership of that product to the purchaser. It seems, that the sellers of goods now claim that products are no longer “sold” but are simply leased/licensed to the person acquiring the product. In the case of Universities – knowledge. Not only that, but that the original owner can exert post “sale” control over the product. Meaning that you can’t do certain things such as modifying an Xbox or even disabling your access, such as the Amazon Kindle.

I am glad that Tucker also mentioned Ayn Rand. To be blunt, Ayn Rands “Objectivism” is now ruining capitalism. Essentially, “Anything that I do to maximize my well being, despite the damage it may cause to society is permissible”. The near collapse of our financial institutions is anecdotal evidence of “Objectivism” running amok. There is no obligation to act in a moral or ethical manner.

I also believe that the trend towards eliminating the concept of “sale”, could be linked to Ayn Rand’s concepts of “Objectivism”, but I haven’t figured that one out yet.

Silas Barta November 16, 2009 at 1:04 pm

@Steve_R.: One aspect … that I think is being overlooked is the concept of “sale”. That is when you sell a product, you transfer ownership of that product to the purchaser.

*bzzt* You can sell temporary usage rights too, like when you rent an apartment. There’s no requirement that you transfer ALL of the rights to the physical object forever just by letting someone use it for a price. This idea, that usage rights must be all or nothing, underlies many of the illogical jumps in the anti-IP case.

@Mashuri: So, Lagrange and Silas, do you believe Rand was being robbed by Libertarians? Do you believe she had a right to seek compensation from people with whom she had no contracts?

No and sometimes. (On the latter, if she got hit by a bus, she had a right to seek compensation from the driver despite the lack of a contract. There’s nothing absurd about the idea of having rights to the property of those you didn’t make a contract with.)

Next?

Flattus Maximus November 16, 2009 at 1:16 pm

I hereby nominate Silas Barta for Shithead of the Year.

Bala November 16, 2009 at 2:06 pm

Silas Barta,

” If you believe in property rights, how do you give gifts?

That was easy… ”

Yeah!! It’s always very easy to be downright stupid.

When I give a gift, I transfer ownership without asking for or expecting monetary compensation in return. There is no sense in talking about “ownership” if you haven’t recognised the concept of “property”. So, to give a gift, prior acceptance of the concept “property” is NECESSARY.

Stephan Kinsella November 16, 2009 at 2:33 pm

Troy Camplin, who apparently has a PhD, opines, “All facts are common knowledge. But if you take credit for someone else’s ideas, you are guilty of plagiarism. In fact, the anti-IP position raises for me the issue of plagiarism. If we do not recognize some sort of IP, there is no such thing as plagiarism.”

This is false. It implies that IP is just about honesty, about telling the truth. Wrong. If all you had to do, to avoid copyright and patent liability was admit or name or “give credit” to some other author or inventor, copyright and patent would be worthless.

I address a similar charge in this paper, “Reply to Van Dun: Non-Aggression and Title Transfer,” and explain in some detail why it is flawed (see the section “TRADEMARK AND CONTRACT,” at pp. 59-63 in particular).

Plagiarism is not a crime to be “guilty” of.

There is no reason to think that using another professor’s lectures is deceptive or dishonest in the slightest. It’s called “learning”.

Philip Dimon November 16, 2009 at 2:48 pm

I am all for “down with IP”

My questions: Is Rand guilty of Hypocrisy with regards to,

” Paterson taking her ideas in the writing of God of the Machine. Paterson responded that Rand’s contribution to the ideas in this book was minimal.”

I haven’t read “God of the Machine” but for anybody who has, are Rands influences more or less influential to Paterson then the apparent influences which Garet Garrett may or may not have had on Rand?

Ike Hall November 16, 2009 at 3:34 pm

John Shepard asks, “Is this article protected by copyright?”

It is protected by Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. See below. Jeff Tucker told me once that it was far easier than granting written permission every time someone wanted to reprint an article, and Lew Rockwell said, go for it.

Steve R. November 16, 2009 at 3:45 pm

@Silas Barta: You are correct that a seller can lease/license temporary rights. You, however, write that “This idea, that usage rights must be all or nothing, underlies many of the illogical jumps in the anti-IP case.” It is those who are pro-IP who are making this assertion that they retain all property rights until the end-of-time(+1 day). The ridiculously absurd EULAs that deprive the purchaser of all rights to a product are being written by the companies trying to establish control of the products that they ostensibly “sold”.

Jack November 16, 2009 at 4:22 pm

Camplin: “But if you take credit for someone else’s ideas, you are guilty of plagiarism.”

So you can’t use what you learn in university lectures without it being plagiarism, unless you disclose?

Plagiarism isn’t a crime.

Stephan Kinsella November 16, 2009 at 4:41 pm
Shay November 16, 2009 at 5:52 pm

John Shepard, virtually every human expression is automatically copyrighted the moment it comes into form. So, absent a license granting reproduction rights, this article, your post, my post, etc. are protected by copyright, whether their authors want it or not. Even if their authors decide not to enforce their copyrights, those wanting to reproduce without getting permission must assume that the authors will enforce their copyrights, thus leading to a permission-based society. Someone made a post illustrating its unworkable nature in the instance where you call your professor each time you need to repeat something you heard in a lecture.

Nelson November 16, 2009 at 6:13 pm

Even this article against copyright is copyrighted (albeit under a very lenient and reasonable copyright agreement):

You are free:
* to Share — to copy, distribute and transmit the work
* to Remix — to adapt the work

Under the following conditions:

* Attribution — You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work).

Lysander November 16, 2009 at 8:41 pm

In “Patents and Copyrights”, Ayn Rand wrote:
“a discovery cannot be patented, only an invention… He can copyright the book in which he presents his discovery and he can demand that his authorship of the discovery be acknowledged, that no other man appropriate or plagiarize the credit for it — but he cannot copyright theoretical knowledge.”

No one can claim ownership of ideas which can be expressed in a few words. But it is courteous to acknowledge your source of any new or unusual idea, if you got it from someone else. Academic papers scrupulously acknowledge their sources. No one should pass off another’s work as his own. And that is the only constraint on the free traffic of ideas.

It is only when ideas are strung together into a lecture or book, or developed in sufficient depth to qualify as an “invention”, that the question of intellectual property arises. If you want to copy a book or invention, then it is not enough merely to acknowledge your source: you should get permission from the author or inventor.

The Mises Institute is a better source for economics texts than most universities. It is generous with the material which it gives away, but it also has a store where it sells copyrighted books, videos, etc, and even (dare I mention it) lecture notes. No doubt the revenue from the sale of this material helps to defray the cost of scanning, editing and printing, and also to provide a royalty to the author.

In Human Action, Mises wrote:
“it is obvious that handing down knowledge to the rising generation and familiarizing the acting individuals with the amount of knowledge they need for the realization of their plans require textbooks, manuals, handbooks, and other nonfiction works. It is unlikely that people would undertake the laborious task of writing such publications if everyone were free to reproduce them.

This is still more manifest in the field of technological invention and discovery. The extensive experimentation necessary for such achievements is often very expensive. It is very probable that technological progress would be seriously retarded if, for the inventor and for those who defray the expenses incurred by his experimentation, the results obtained were nothing but external economies.”

We may admire MIT for making its lecture-notes available freely, but we should also respect the rights of other academics who jealously guard copyright over their lecture-notes.

In the same way, we admire the generosity of a landholder who allows us to explore or play on his land, but we should also respect the landholder who jealously guards his land and is hostile to trespassers.

It is easy to be generous with other people’s intellectual property. From a position of salaried employment, or independent wealth, it is easy to deny the need for IP. Like a modern day Marie Antoinette, the intellectual communist orders the struggling writer or inventor to live off handouts instead of royalties. Jeffrey Tucker suggests that they be content with “first-run rights to a book or movie”, conveniently overlooking the fact that in a digital society they could be leaked in seconds and so destroy all profits.

Humans are copycats. It is their defining characteristic. Every age boasts only a tiny minority of great inventors, artists, poet and writers. Yet their role is vital. Without them, the rest of us have nothing to copy. Let’s not starve them of funds. It is far better that they survive off royalties than off salaried servitude.

Bala November 16, 2009 at 9:10 pm

Lagrange,

” Let’s not starve them of funds. It is far better that they survive off royalties than off salaried servitude. ”

Sounds noble and glorious, but how does one man’s having thought up something become sufficient justification to violate the Liberty of another?

Incidentally, no one but you is talking of “starving” innovators of funds. That innovators would get starved of funds if they did not have patents or copyrights over their ideas is YOUR unsubstantiated conclusion/unjustified premise. Others out here are saying that this is completely incorrect.

Your mistake is to take the fact that it is impossible to protect an idea once it is released as a justification for IP. Frankly, the impossibility of protecting an idea that has been released only means that inventors should be careful about how they release their ideas. It means inventors who want to earn from their ideas should work a little more to ensure that they earn as much as they desire.

For instance, you can’t shout out your radical and highly profitable investment plan on the floor of the stock exchange and then expect that others should not do the same because you have a patent on it. What you should do is to keep your idea to yourself and invest as you think fit. Alternatively, you could publish a newsletter and give your idea out for a fee. The onus is on the recepients to protect the contents of your newsletter because disseminating what they paid you for hurts their own investments.

Thus, the difficulties inherent in gaining by producing ideas is not a sufficient justification for IP.

Bala November 16, 2009 at 9:12 pm

Oops!!! The last post should have been addressed to Lysander….

Jim Fedako November 16, 2009 at 10:18 pm

Just for fun, I’m going to start editing Wikipedia entries in order to claim a stake in Wiki IP. Just for fun, of course.

And, before you know it, I’ll be able to shut down that site, as well as just about every market process, by tying up the associated IP in the courts for years to come.

“Ohhh. Professor. So I see you are using differential calculus in your classroom. Hmmm. Well, I’ve mixed my insight with that field of mathemetics by editing its entry on Wikipedia. And, by doing so, I now have a claim to the IP rights of differential calculus. I insist that you cease using such math until the courts can untangle my contribution from all others.”

Lights out.

newson November 16, 2009 at 10:57 pm

“salaried servitude” lysander

note the internal contradiction.

Shay November 17, 2009 at 12:39 am

“We may admire MIT for making its lecture-notes available freely, but we should also respect the rights of other academics who jealously guard copyright over their lecture-notes.”

Being able to restrict someone from forming his own property into whatever he pleases is not a right. The best word that comes to mind is perversion.

“In the same way, we admire the generosity of a landholder who allows us to explore or play on his land, but we should also respect the landholder who jealously guards his land and is hostile to trespassers.”

Can you not see the difference between the two?

To illustrate: I’ve recently found that there’s a parallel Earth where people make use of our intellectual property without paying us anything in return. No, actually, I’ve found that there are millions of Earth-like planets where they steal all our hard work without paying us anything. I bet you and others are now furious about all these losses you’ve been experiencing without even knowing about it. It’s amazing they haven’t driven everyone on the planet into poverty, considering how much they’ve ripped us off over the centuries.

Mushindo November 17, 2009 at 1:13 am

At the core of the IP debate is simply this: Once an idea, (any idea) is in somebody’s head ( anybody’s head), how is it possible to make him ‘unlearn’ it, short of the violence of compelled surgical neuro-intervention in the spirit of Orwell?

And having established that it is impossible to legitimately make someone ‘unlearn’ an idea that is already in his head, how is it possible to justify prohibiting him from using that idea in pursuit of his ordinary human goals, whatever they may be?

Gil November 17, 2009 at 1:37 am

How is I.P. a more threatening idea than that of a Libertopian society where everything is the private property of someone potentially making a trespasser of everyone against everyone else or paying someone to inhale air for that matter?

newson November 17, 2009 at 2:01 am

to gil:
yes, pollution doesn’t exist now.
and yes, you can loiter all hours in the public park without risking arrest for vagrancy.

more strawmen?

Bala November 17, 2009 at 2:13 am

Gil,

” How is I.P. a more threatening idea than that of a Libertopian society where everything is the private property of someone potentially making a trespasser of everyone against everyone else ”

We’ve gone through this before – The answer is to your “everyone is almost always a trespasser” problem is called easements. Rational people will prevent themselves from becoming a stuck in such a situation by securing easements on their own property. When a lot of people act in such a rational manner, you get a network of interconnected easements called a road network.

ktibuk November 17, 2009 at 3:07 am

So the moral of the article is,

Professors and students can not make contracts regarding an alienable service like knowledge and must be forced to perform the service according to the terms of people who think they have a right to other peoples products.

Or in other more famous words, some should produce according to their ability, and others should consume according to their need.

meidlinger November 17, 2009 at 3:30 am
Peter Surda November 17, 2009 at 5:57 am

@andras:
There is only one situation where IP makes your revenues more predictable: when it doesn’t apply to your inputs. E.g. if you are a patent troll. As long as you actually sell some products or services, IP not only affects your revenue but also your costs. The more broad IP is, the less predictable the financial outcome of producers and the more you have to spend on lawyers.

@ktibuk:
You miss the more obvious point of the article. If a university professor is trying to prevent his/her students from using what they learn, that invalidates the purpose of studying and makes students less likely to choose his/her classes. Whether IP is recognised or not, what they’re doing is a dumb strategy, they are destroying their own market.

@silas
You have not replied to my rebuttal of your “EM is like IP” arguments.

Unlike andras’ and ktibuk’s, your arguments, even in this case, are correct when considered alone. I give you plus marks on the ability to make your arguments consistent and spot inconsistencies in your opponents’ arguments. However, you do not follow them till the end, so they do not actually prove what you allege they prove.

Like here: your objections are correct, but it doesn’t make the Hardvard professors’ strategy any less dumb.

Cheers,
Peter

Peter Surda November 17, 2009 at 6:12 am

@Troy Camplin, Ph.D.

Stephan already answered, but I’ll try another one.

> But if you take credit for someone else’s ideas, you
> are guilty of plagiarism.
Yes. However, there is no “anti-plagiarism” law. Nor is it tolerated if one plagiates public domain works. It is unlikely that without copyright, suddenly plagiarism will be tolerated more than now.

Besides, in some cases copyright violators do not claim that the idea are theirs, so you can’t accuse them of plagiarism.

I don’t know IP opponents that do not recognise ideas and works can have originators. If you claim you originate something that you actually copied, that’s simply a lie regardless of IP laws. Now, as Stephan correctly pointed out, a lie is not necessarily illegal. Just like nowadays, there is nothing illegal about plagiarising public domain works. But depending on the context, it might be a violation of contract (fraud). Especially in academia, the copyright status doesn’t matter as much as correct attribution.

Cheers,
Peter

ktibuk November 17, 2009 at 7:26 am

“@ktibuk:
You miss the more obvious point of the article. If a university professor is trying to prevent his/her students from using what they learn, that invalidates the purpose of studying and makes students less likely to choose his/her classes. Whether IP is recognised or not, what they’re doing is a dumb strategy, they are destroying their own market.”

University professors are not trying to prevent their students from using whatever they learn. That is a blatant and disingenuous attempt at a straw man. They are merely trying to prevent reproduction of their lectures.

Also whether this practice is dumb or not is not the issue. If it is “dumb” then they would go out of business. They don’t need your permission to act clever or dumb. They have every right to get into contract with their willing students.

But I understand that objection coming from an IP socialist. It is the reaction of a parasite who thinks he is entitled to someone elses product.

Geoffrey Allan Plauche November 17, 2009 at 9:50 am

With the UofT contract, what happens if a student refuses to sign? Is the professor empowered to kick the student out of his class?

Peter Surda November 17, 2009 at 11:46 am

@ktibuk:
> They are merely trying to prevent reproduction of
> their lectures.
Had you read TFA you would immediately see that this is incorrect. The main point is that they are trying to prevent derivative works. In all your ramblings about the natural intellectual property, you have not in the least addressed derivative works. Does derivative work also naturaly infringe the original work? If yes, how do you naturally demarcate it? If I pose a question, is a reply also a derivative work? Or to go even further, if I become exposed in any way to someone elses works, is there anything that I subsequently produce NOT a derivative work thereof?

> But I understand that objection coming from an IP
> socialist.
You have not explained what IP socialist means, whish brings me to the conclusion that this is just a knee-jerk reaction. I on the other hand have posted some thoughts about this and formulated two possible definitions.

Cheers,
Peter

Troy Camplin November 17, 2009 at 11:47 am

My comments were in response to the particulars of this article. Many of the objections to what I have said here do not address those particulars, but raise issues outside the topic of this article. Those being separate issues, I won’t talk about them.

Now, you may not go to jail for plagiarism, but here are a few things that can happen to you if you are caught plagiarizing:

if you are a student, you can fail the paper, fail the class, or even be kicked out of the college or university

if you are a professional scholar or professor, and you are caught plagiarizing, you can be fired

This shows that plagiarism remains in the realm of common law, for the most part — but common law is as valid as is legislation. More so, in many cases.

The point is that there is a principle involved. The principle of plagiarism in the academic setting is the same as violation of IP. I spent the time and energy and mental work on developing my idea, so why shouldn’t I be able to harvest the fruits of my labor?

Again, the issue of the professors and their lectures is a case of pure absurdity that proves nothing more than that people are capable of being absurd. Except on the rarest of occasions, when I lecture I don’t say anything “original”. My job is to teach students what is common knowledge within the field in which I teach. That is what they are supposed to learn. Thus, one cannot plagiarize or steal something that is known to be common knowledge, whether that information is found in a book or in a lecture. One can attack such practices on this level without having to throw out all protections of people’s intellectual work.

Peter Surda November 17, 2009 at 11:54 am

@ktibuk:
Just one more thing I forgot. As I previously explained, if we assume that “behind” an original and a copy, there is an immaterial property, you need to establish rules that determine whether those two immaterial properties are identical. However there is no natural connection between those two (the connection requires interpretation which requires people and is subjective). Therefore there is no natural IP.

You need to address this issue.

Cheers,
Peter

Peter Surda November 17, 2009 at 12:04 pm

@Troy Camplin:
> The principle of plagiarism in the academic setting
> is the same as violation of IP.
While they both can be evaluated based on social norms, that’s where the similarity ends.

Plagiarism is based on contracts and IP is based on the absence of contracts. That explains why you can get fired for plagiarism regardless of IP laws. If you plagiarise, it’s not the original author (who you don’t have a contract with) that fires you but the university (who you do have a contract with). As you can clearly see, they affect completely different parties.

Cheers,
Peter

Dan Glovak November 18, 2009 at 7:36 am

“What if the idea that one should be independent and creative itself actually came from someone else? One must constantly acknowledge one’s debts.” — Jeffrey A. Tucker

This is the beauty of truth: like wisdom itself, its value is beyond price and the more freely it is distributed and honored the richer everyone becomes. Thank you Jeffrey Tucker!

Jacob Steelman November 18, 2009 at 1:54 pm

It is helpful to bring to light this issue on IP rights. I am sure Rand was so adamant of IP because it was all she had of value particularly since she wrote no new books after Atlas Shrugged.

In the world of investments and business development in which I work it is common for individuals or intermediaries to bring an idea for a project to the attention of an investor. They frequently want to protect that idea from being used without them receiving compensation. While ideas certainly are important, in the world of business they have no value unless then can be turned into a good or service demanded by the market through the employment of the factors of production – land,labor and capital. Without employment of the factors of production an idea is just that an idea providing no value to consumers and hence having no value to investors and financiers.

Shay November 18, 2009 at 2:41 pm

Troy Camplin wrote, “The point is that there is a principle involved. The principle of plagiarism in the academic setting is the same as violation of IP. I spent the time and energy and mental work on developing my idea, so why shouldn’t I be able to harvest the fruits of my labor?”

IP allows the “owner” to demand the harvests of other people’s labor, if it involves use of ideas/expressions first shared by the author.

Nobody is suggesting that work spent on lecture writing or semester planning be done without compensation; if you’re a professor, 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? The plumber who fixes a sink faucet benefits everyone who uses that faucet afterwards, so shouldn’t he get payment from each of those people, even years after he made his repair?

JAlanKatz November 18, 2009 at 6:04 pm

I have to take issue with the characterization some have given of liberal arts. Engineering and sciences are fundamentals of human knowledge, of course – but is it really fair to claim that the accumulated philosophy of the ages is nothing but “artsy fartsy” nonsense? I think not. I think you’d have difficulty explaining how to go about doing science if men do not engage in philosophy, and certainly you’ll have trouble explaining ethics, or making a cogent case as to why people shouldn’t murder each other. For a discussion of that topic, see Nock’s “The Disadvantages of Being Educated and Other Essays.”

Now, on the actual topic. I would say the contracting professors have opened an interesting can of worms. Considering the dreadful state of higher education, all the professor does is lecture off of notes, copying them onto the board, and having the students copy them into their books, while he reads the slides. He wrote the lecture notes and slides, presumably after looking through the textbook. So once he decides his contract makes sense, how long before the textbook writer gets into the act, labelling the lecture notes a derivative work?

In the end, these professors simply do not believe that education has any value. They believe that reading lecture notes is just as good as going to class (which is true, in their classes) and that therefore, if the lecture notes are widely available, they will end up out of work. Since they have tenure, that means they expect the university to go bankrupt. If the universities continue to basically announce to the world that what they offer is of no value, they are correct. I have watched universities insist that what they offer is better than what can be gotten online, and I’ve asked them to explain. I can get my union card from Phoenix, and while I’m doing that, I can also watch the lectures from MIT and Berkeley. Just what I do need the university for? For teaching, faculty contact, and so on, they answer – while they busily create online classes and tell professors to create blogs where students must post comments as part of their grade, or outsource homework checking to a computer program. I do not believe, by the way, that a student demonstrates the same skill set by answering a multiple choice question (which his friend gave him the answer to) online as by actually working it out.

Ok, the teaching and professor contact – while professors display their lack of interest in talking to students, and while teaching is largely limited to reading slides? It is no exaggeration to say that almost no teaching goes on in the modern university. If you’re unclear on what I mean, I urge you to come visit my classroom for an example of actual teaching. I do not stand in front of the room working out problems on a board, while students sleep, nor do I present facts and information that they can get in a book. Teaching is the creation of a discovery process, a careful guiding of a student through the process of coming to certain conclusions – not for the sake of the conclusions, but for the sake of learning to think. It is a skill much lacking in today’s world.

Troy Camplin November 18, 2009 at 10:27 pm

Shay, you might want to read what I said in my entire comments. Especially that part regarding the lectures.

IP is a lack of a contract? It seems that those against IP are opposed to those kinds of contracts.

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