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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/11520/yeager-and-other-letters-re-liberty-article-libertarianism-and-intellectual-property/

Yeager and Other Letters Re Liberty article “Libertarianism and Intellectual Property”

January 23, 2010 by

My article “Intellectual Property and Libertarianism” was published in the December, 2009 issue of Liberty; the March 2010 issue features the following exchange in the “Letters” section.

Philosophizing IP

Thanks to Stephan Kinsella for questioning the justice of intellectual property (“Intellectual Property and Libertarianism,” December 2009). Like many libertarians, he posits property rights as the foundation of libertarian political theory, and suggests that because it is a derivative concept, we stop calling the nonaggression principle an “axiom.” So far so good. But Anthony de Jasay suggests that the concept of “property” itself should in turn be considered derivative, from the still more fundamental principle of liberty of contract. De Jasay also defines “rights” and “liberties” more carefully and usefully than most libertarians, who use these loaded words all too loosely — Kinsella included. (See de Jasay’s “Choice, Contract, Consent,” or “Before Resorting to Politics,” reprinted in “Against Politics.”)

Kinsella’s attempt to show that no well-formulated property rights can apply to pure information seems dubious. Yes, information can escape physical confines and reproduce in ways that physical objects can’t, but so what? Perhaps the real question is not whether IP should be classified ontologically with other forms of “property,” but whether voluntary agreements can be reached (without the help of legislatures) that would make revelation, or publication, or mishandling of information a tort. Clearly some can; what of contracts to protect trade secrets, and other nondisclosure agreements?

Never mind that the concept of “self-ownership” has philosophical problems that Kinsella does need to take more seriously. I’ve been suspicious of “property rights reductionism” ever since I noticed that it led Rothbard to believe in his own IP rights as an author of copyrighted writings, even as he disparaged the IP rights of professional inventors. At least Kinsella avoids this inconsistency (if that’s what it is).

Kinsella is right to seek the philosophical foundations of the IP question; let’s hope he keeps digging.

Lew Randall
Freeland, WA

What Would Edison Do?

It was a pleasure reading Stephan Kinsella’s piece “Intellectual Property and Libertarianism.” I’m in agreement with its content as regards the nature and source of property rights. What I find impossible to accept is the view that there is no good utilitarian argument in support of legislated patent and copyright law. Would Thomas Edison and his financial backers have invested so much time, effort, and money just for the pleasure of exercising intellectual creativity? I certainly wouldn’t, and I suspect I’m not alone. Having said this, in a free society, would it be a legitimate government function to establish rights where none “naturally” exist, even if the consequence of such legislation would foster an improvement in the quality of human existence? By establishing such rights, or should I say “privileges,” wouldn’t the freedom of action of others be curtailed? Formulated this way I opt for principle over utility, as the slippery slope comes to mind.

Howard Shafran
Shelter Island, NY

The Property of the Mind

Before finally getting around to the topic of his article on intellectual property, Stephan Kinsella trumpets the proposition that each person “owns” his own body; he “inhabits” it; he is its “occupant” — and Kinsella uses those very words. He dismisses as “silly wordplay” the objection that each person just is himself or his body. But who is perpetrating wordplay? Who is tainting sound political philosophy with dubious metaphysics?

Kinsella echoes the old mind-body dichotomy, the notion of the self as “the ghost in the machine” (Gilbert Ryle’s derogatory description of Descartes’ dualism). On the contrary, each person’s mind and consciousness are functions, remarkable functions, of his body and specifically his brain. Does Kinsella really mean that the self is distinct from the body? Does the one survive dissolution of the other? (Does the self exist even before its body is born?) Does Kinsella believe in ghosts or angels? What evidence, beyond very dubious evidence, can he cite? If Kinsella does not really mean what he says, he should use more exact words.

The self-ownership slogan finds some resonance in libertarian circles. But libertarians should go beyond displaying their authenticity to each other; they should try to persuade nonlibertarians. They should avoid irrelevant metaphysics. They should put their best foot forward, not their worst. I do not mean that they should dilute their libertarianism; rather, they should present it attractively.

Perhaps Kinsella could find some (feeble) excuse for his metaphysics, but he would still be putting a worst foot forward.

Leland Yeager
Auburn, AL

Copy Shop

Stephan Kinsella’s argument against IP is seriously flawed. For instance, he states that copyright is “received automatically, whether you want it or not, and is hard to get rid of.” Copyright, that is, the right to make copies of your work, is inherent in the creation of the work. It is not “received” by law. You can waive your copyright easily by simply making copies and distributing them without the required copyright notice. Copyright law recognizes, defines, and controls to some extent your rights to control the copying and dissemination of your work.

He also states that “We libertarians already realize that . . . the right to a reputation protected by defamation law” is illegitimate. This libertarian does not realize such illegitimacy. The libertarian principle is that no person has the right to initiate aggression against another. Spreading lies or untruths to destroy the reputation of another person is clearly within the definition of aggression.

Kinsella makes a number of references to “homesteaders,” mainly, I believe, to emphasize the difference between property that you can hold in your hand, i.e., the soil from your farmland, and the more ephemeral IP which is snatched out of thin air and dissipates in the wind, i.e., the sound of a melody. However, this comparison overlooks the intellectual content of real estate (property) improvement. A farmer who homesteads a parcel of land must decide what crop will be successful on that land. A pineapple ranch in North Dakota will not succeed. Once the crop is chosen, the farmer must implement a plan for the planting and harvesting of the crop. In the case of, say, music, running a melody over in your head or tinkering on a piano is just the beginning of the creative process. It must be transcribed and carefully inspected to make sure that each note is properly chosen and placed. Then you can make your copies, register the copyright and begin selling copies of your work. With a little luck, someone may make a successful recording.

Patents are similar. You come up with the idea, develop it into a saleable product, manufacture copies and sell them. When a buyer buys a copy of your work, either invention or literary work, what does he buy? Under the law, he buys that one copy of your invention. Defining what is embodied in that one copy can get messy because the human mind is messy, but the buyer does not buy anything other than that one copy. He cannot make copies and distribute them.

So what can you do with your copy of the work or invention? You can write a critique of the song or story, quoting reasonably from the work itself to illustrate your points of argument. You can read the story or sing the song to your friends for their enjoyment. You can take your copy of an invention and modify it to suit your needs. You can strip it of unnecessary decoration that does not make it work better. You can take it apart to see how it works, or to repair it or to improve the design so much that you feel justified in applying for a patent on your improvement. You can sell it to someone else. You cannot, however, begin manufacturing the item and selling it. That is true whether the item is a widget, a book, a sheet of music, or a recording.

David Kirkpatrick
Klamath Falls, OR

Body of Work

Although Stephan Kinsella’s article on intellectual property moves smoothly enough from premises to conclusions, those conclusions are (to me at least) so counterintuitive that the argument acts as a reductio ad absurdum, undercutting his premises rather than proving his conclusions.

Let us say that a given work exists only in the memory of the author’s computer. At this time the work could not be more obviously the author’s; in a keystroke he can change it in any way, or abolish it forever. Overnight a hacker invades the machine, copies the work, and reproduces it. This is theft, is it not? If so, then the author retains ownership of the work even after it has left his hard drive. Why, then, would his ownership suddenly be reduced to naught at the instant that he sends it off to a prospective publisher? Reportedly, a British firm offered to publish “Lolita” if Nabokov would consent to the removal of four sentences. Nabokov refused, and the book was not released in Britain until a year later, by a different publisher. Surely this was right.

Kinsella takes it as axiomatic that one’s property rights begins with one’s own body. I think that many authors would consider their ownership of their works as more intimate, and more obvious, than their ownership of their bodies.

Jamie McEwan
Lakeville, CT

Kinsella responds: Mr. Randall asks whether trade secret and nondisclosure agreements could be used to construct a form of IP. I do not believe they can, because such agreements cannot bind third parties. Only by assuming that knowledge is a form of property can you bind third parties, but this assumes there is IP. I address this in further detail in the “Contract vs. Reserved Rights” section of “Against Intellectual Property,” available at StephanKinsella.com. As for philosophical problems with the notion of “self-ownership” — self-ownership just means that you have the right to decide who touches or uses your body, not some other person. What could be more libertarian, or less controversial or problematic?

Mr. Shafran is no doubt right that Edison or other patentees may have benefitted from the patent monopolies granted to them by the state. But the utilitarian case requires a benefit to the economy as a whole, not merely to particular beneficiaries of wealth redistribution. Studies almost universally conclude that there is no such gain — that patents actually restrict innovation. See the post at tinyurl.com/pat-innov for more information on these studies.

Professor Yeager misunderstands my comments. I am, like him, nonreligious. Viewing the mind as distinct from (though not unrelated to or independent of) the brain, and the self as distinct from the body, does not imply a soul or ghosts or angels. It does not imply that there can be a self without the body, or a mind without the brain. It merely implies a distinction. One may think of the mind as an epiphenomenon of the brain, but it is not the brain itself. Likewise I can run and remember with my body but running and remembering are not the same as my body. The “silly wordplay” I referred to is the use of the trite observation that we “are” our bodies (in some real sense) to object to the idea of self-ownership. But atheism is not contrary to self-ownership. Self-ownership is the libertarian idea that you have the say-so over who uses your body — that others need your permission. Self-ownership is the rejection of slavery and aggression. It is perfectly compatible with the idea that there is no soul; that you die when your body dies. In any event, Yeager’s atheism does not prove there are intellectual property rights, or that we are not self-owners.

Mr. Kirkpatrick upbraids me for stating that copyright is received automatically. He asserts that copyright may be waived “by simply making copies and distributing them without the required copyright notice.” Wrong. Copyright notice is not required at all, nor is copyright registration. See Sections 102 and 401 of the Copyright Act, or the “Copyright Basics” brochure at copyright.gov. Copyright notice has not been needed since 1989, when the law was amended per the Berne Convention.

As for reputation rights, Murray Rothbard explained in “The Ethics of Liberty” why there can be no reputation rights: your reputation is merely what third parties believe about you. You do not own their brains or what they think about you; they are entitled to change their minds about you. Kirkpatrick writes, “If I grow a potato in my back yard, it is my potato. If I write a song in my kitchen, it is my song. They are both my property.” By such reasoning one could argue that you own your wife, your parents, and your country (note the possessive pronoun!); if you discover that the earth is round then “it is my discovery” and you could own that fact. The mistake here is in failing to realize that not every “thing” that one can conceptually identify is an ownable type of thing. Scarce resources are capable of being owned because of the possibility of conflict over use of such things. Other things, such as “songs,” information, and patterns are not ownable things at all. In acting, humans select scarce means to achieve desired ends. Their choice of ends, and means, is guided by information. To successfully act, the scarce resources employed as means need to be owned, because by their nature as scarce resources only one person may use them; but the actor need not “own” the information that guides his choice of means, since he can use this information even if thousands of other people also use this information to guide their own actions.

Mr. McEwan is correct that the hacker is a thief, since he is using the author’s property (his computer) without his permission. But this does not mean that the information he gains access to is property. If the author revealed some private fact — say, that he had a glass eye — and the hacker discovered this and revealed it to the world, the author would have no right to demand that everyone forget this fact or not act on it. Likewise if the information was a novel, musical composition, recipe for a nice soup, or schematic for an improved mousetrap.

{ 52 comments }

Floyd Looney January 23, 2010 at 5:40 pm

I don’t agree. I think intellectual property should be a basic protected right. If I cannot profit from my invention then where is my incentive to invent or improve a product?

I do not think a person or company should be able to copyright or own some of the crazy things I have heard lawsuits being over. I don’t think someone should own an idea “over the air television” if they cannot make it.

I will never change my opinion on that.

By the way I have copied all those books you guys sell and will make them available for free to everyone. Just kidding.

newspn January 23, 2010 at 5:44 pm

they’re already free, what else are you offering?

Slim934 January 23, 2010 at 6:23 pm

Mr Floyd seems to be making a leap in logic. Where does it follow that if there were no IP there would be no method to profit from the creation of a new thing?

What about being first to market? What about being paid by commission for something? What about continuing service agreements (they must buy the product from you, or else they will not be able to get future service for product support/troubleshooting)?

If it were the case that the only incentives for producing something were from IP, then what about classical composers who actually considered it a compliment to have their works selectively “stolen” by other composers?

newspn January 23, 2010 at 7:17 pm

civilization only began with the statute of anne. before 1709 that man roamed the earth as a savage.

Stranger January 23, 2010 at 7:28 pm

Given that Kinsella is so predictable, I have compiled as many of the fallacies of intellectual communism as I could think of.

Fallacies used in the above blog by Kinsella include #1, #4, #5, #10.

Shay January 23, 2010 at 7:49 pm

Floyd Looney wrote, “If I cannot profit from my invention then where is my incentive to invent or improve a product?”

You assume that others are under an obligation to provide the conditions that give you incentive. What if even the current patent laws didn’t provide you incentive; would that be justification for even more draconian laws?

Curt Howland January 23, 2010 at 8:07 pm

Just let me make sure I have this argument correct.

Government is fundamentally inefficient. Even a service as prone to efficiencies of scale and the post office cannot function as a government program without taxpayer subsidies and legislated monopolies.

In every field the free market promotes wealth, provides the win-win interactions of mutually beneficial trade, provides the greatest benefit to the greatest number of people while benefiting from peace while “war is the health of the state”.

In every field, government regulation stagnates innovation and raises costs, rationalized with “benefits” that, if they don’t come about, government agents have no liability for their lack.

Yet we are to believe that without these specific statutes, these particular regulations, all creativity in the human race would cease?

That somehow, against all experience in every other field of human endeavor other than death and destruction, Intellectual Property is the one thing government does better than the market.

I need more assurance than that.

Mark Hubbard January 23, 2010 at 9:16 pm

Mr Kinsella I think you owe the readers of this blog a detailed header post on how you think an anarchist society can operate:

a) Without the gang with the biggest gun taking over by force.

b) Assuming a massive amount of good luck and you survive the gangs for a couple of years, how do you plan to provide a framework for a capitalist economy without the concept of property rights. Because an attack on IP is an attack on property rights per se, and is the advocacy of the enslavement of the individual to the tyranny of the many.

Objectivism is very different to anarchism.

Objectivism unreservedly sanctions IP.

Without IP there can be no liberty of the individual.

For an alternative view to that of Mises.org, readers can read this thread:

http://www.solopassion.com/node/7285

Most particularly the three links I give here on the Mises ‘An Objectivist Recants on IP’ thread:

http://blog.mises.org/archives/011162.asp#c656112

Shay January 23, 2010 at 10:20 pm

A society operates by keeping conflict at a minimum, without putting unncessary restrictions on members. Conflict over limited physical resources is resolved via property rights, whatever they might be (capitalism, socialism, etc.). There is no conflict over things like the idea of burning a wick surrounded by wax, because there is no shortage of “burning a wick surrounded by wax” (this sentence itself contains two copies of the idea), so no need to solve the “problem” of anyone being able to make a candle with his own property.

Perhaps some members of a society would like a way to fund creation of new ideas, like an improved candle that runs on electricity. If only the creator would benefit, then he has little grounds for forcing a funding scheme on everyone else. If everyone would benefit, then the creator has no need to use force, because everyone would already be cooperating on funding creation.

If the creator invested funds to create this electric light bulb, produced them, and someone else started producing them as well for a lower price and everyone bought from the latter producer, that would simply be evidence that everyone wasn’t actually interested in such a funding scheme, or perhaps lacked the discipline for it. If it were a discipline problem, everyone might call for IP-like laws, to literally protect them from themselves.

newson January 23, 2010 at 10:39 pm

objectivists enjoy the concept of the monopoly gang, occupying the entire territory; others like a choice in gangs, with the chance of not having to belong to any gang at all.

Mark Hubbard January 23, 2010 at 10:48 pm

The predominance of the use of force in society, newson, and violence, is the logical consequence of the floating abstract that is anarchism. Rand’s words on that are most certainly the truth, as I reiterated here:

http://blog.mises.org/archives/011509.asp#c655785

There is no liberty to be found in anarchism. And the anarchists sanction of file sharing is disgusting.

Inquisitor January 24, 2010 at 12:34 am

Mr Kinsella I think you owe the readers of this blog a detailed header post on how you think an anarchist society can operate:

“a) Without the gang with the biggest gun taking over by force.”

Give For a New Liberty or the Market for Liberty or THe Myth of National Defence or Anarchism and the Law &c. &c. a read? These books have been around for ages, why does Kinsella owe it to you to educate you?

“b) Assuming a massive amount of good luck and you survive the gangs for a couple of years, how do you plan to provide a framework for a capitalist economy without the concept of property rights. Because an attack on IP is an attack on property rights per se, and is the advocacy of the enslavement of the individual to the tyranny of the many.”
No, it isn’t. It is an attack on ‘rights’ based on imagined scarcity (of ideas) vs scarcity-based allocative rights (property rights… proper.)

“Objectivism is very different to anarchism.”

Right, it’s inconsistent. Anarchism isn’t.

Mark Hubbard January 24, 2010 at 1:59 am

“Objectivism is very different to anarchism.”

Right, it’s inconsistent. Anarchism isn’t.

How do you think you can have a free society without objective law?

“If a society provided no organized protection against force, it would compel every citizen to go about armed, to turn his home into a fortress, to shoot any strangers approaching his door—or to join a protective gang of citizens who would fight other gangs, formed for the same purpose, and thus bring about the degeneration of that society into the chaos of gang-rule, i.e., rule by brute force, into perpetual tribal warfare of prehistorical savages.

The use of physical force—even its retaliatory use—cannot be left at the discretion of individual citizens. Peaceful coexistence is impossible if a man has to live under the constant threat of force to be unleashed against him by any of his neighbors at any moment. Whether his neighbors’ intentions are good or bad, whether their judgment is rational or irrational, whether they are motivated by a sense of justice or by ignorance or by prejudice or by malice—the use of force against one man cannot be left to the arbitrary decision of another.

The Virtue of Selfishness “The Nature of Government,” The Virtue of Selfishness

Anarchy is the violence and chaos of tribalism.

Give For a New Liberty or the Market for Liberty or THe Myth of National Defence or Anarchism and the Law &c. &c. a read?

I’m thinking of spending $4 million on the development of a new widget that will revolutionise lives: why am I going to do this if I can’t secure the IP, and profit from its manufacture?

And no, after spending that money, I don’t plan to risk it all on some type of slick marketing campaign: that is unacceptable, I will not develop the widget.

See my post on the debunking of Bala’s ‘An Objectivist Recants on IP’:

http://www.solopassion.com/node/7285#comment-83773

Cosmin January 24, 2010 at 4:14 am

Mark Hubbard, you are simply wrong.
Anarchy doesn’t simply mean lack of government.
Anarchy means the rejection of the principles of government. In a society of individuals who have been principled, vigilant and coordinated enough to rid themselves of government, no replacement, such as a gang, or mafia, can prosper.
An anarchist society would provide an organized protection against force. This falsification of your base assertion invalidates your whole argument.

Guard January 24, 2010 at 6:01 am

I have very little incentive to produce more than I need, since a good portion of the excess I might produce would be taken from me. I feel this deep in my being, it is not a matter of theory or logic and I act upon this feeling by curtailing my productive potential.
I get exactly the same feeling when I think about writing a book from the writing of which I will get no advantage except a warm fuzzy feeling of accomplishment.
Laying aside all the logical arguments for a moment, the feeling that I don’t want to do something for nothing has an objective effect on my actions. I feel exactly the same in either case.

Beefcake the Mighty January 24, 2010 at 7:16 am

Leland Yeagers response is typical: shock and amazement that anyone could adopt a non-utilitarian viewpoint, and a willingness to interpret rights-bases viewpoints in the most uncharitable light.

Stephan Kinsella January 24, 2010 at 10:37 am

Beefcake: I was a bit bemused by Yeager. I’m an atheist like him. He right away saw Christian demons at work in my article. Utterly bizarre and inexplicable.

Hubbard:

“How do you think you can have a free society without objective law?”

Society does need law, and can and would have it absent the state. To assume otherwise is pure ignorance. The real question is: what makes you think a monopolist would produce objective (just) law? Do you expect cats to bark? Ahem.

Stranger January 24, 2010 at 11:18 am

“Society does need law, and can and would have it absent the state. To assume otherwise is pure ignorance. The real question is: what makes you think a monopolist would produce objective (just) law? Do you expect cats to bark? Ahem.”

Fallacy 5.

Curt Howland January 24, 2010 at 11:53 am

Mark Hubbard raises an interesting question:

“How do you think you can have a free society without objective law?”

This is very interesting, because all laws are subjective.

Killing someone isn’t murder in circumstance A, while it is murder is circumstance B, and if by some chance circumstance C comes up that is not codified in “objective law”, someone has to make a subjective decision as to whether or not it’s murder.

And that’s just the one “crime” that has always been a crime throughout human history.

An-archy has nothing to do with a lack of rules. It deals only with a lack of rulers. If I may suggest something in total conflict to Mr. Hubbard’s assertion, it is only in an environment where there are no rulers to make arbitrary and subjective rulings about what other people may or may not do that there is any opportunity to be objective at all.

Mark Hubbard January 24, 2010 at 1:00 pm

Kinsella, what’s your definition of monopoly?

Property rights means monopoly!

I want nothing other than the complete monopoly over how and who uses my car, my house, the book I write, my property!

There is no liberty to be had without this.

The best post on this thread is Guard’s. Read it. That is precisely how it would work in a world without IP. I am a businessman: am I going to produce, or advise anyone to put capital into R & D and produce any product, without a monopoly of the IP so they can profit from it – you would have to be brain dead to do so. Your gang is only about ensuring the ‘efforts’ and ‘actions’ of the individual are pissed up against the wall of the ruthless collective.

Again, my retort to Bala:

http://www.solopassion.com/node/7285#comment-83773

Stranger January 24, 2010 at 1:18 pm

Mr. Hubbard, communists have always made the argument that property was monopoly. They demand the right to do anything they want with anything without limit. This is the definition of freedom of the anarchist-communist in particular.

Curt Howland January 24, 2010 at 1:18 pm

Mr Hubbard, you do have 100% control over your book.

You are the one who chooses when to sell it, or if to sell it, and for how much. It is completely your choice.

Please then don’t tell me what I may or may not do with MY book.

Once you sell it, it’s not yours any more. You’ve sold it.

Peter Surda January 24, 2010 at 1:31 pm

Dear Mark,

“monopoly” means that entry into market is prevented by force. The statement “Property rights means monopoly” is imprecise. With rival goods, the “monopoly” exists regardless or the legal system, the legal system merely decides “who gets it”. With non-rival goods, this monopoly does not occur naturally, and must be brought into existence by the legal system.

Tim January 24, 2010 at 1:38 pm

I confess, I’m horribly ignorant on this subject. The IP/anti-IP debate is a little too complicated for me to understand both sides of it.

However I can’t help but feel that if KInsella’s suggestions to improve patent system were put in place (ie, get the gov out of it) it would actually improve intellectual property protection rather than diminish it.

What Kinsella is chiefly arguing against as it appears to me, is the current patent system. Taken to the extreme, the IP notion is absurd. People are being arrested, fined and imprisoned for the sole crime of downloading a song that was freely available to them. Nations are imposing their IP agendas on other nations. Private entities are using the patent law to stifle innovation and impede technological progress (a fact that I’ve faced personally). I don’t see how this amounts to justice, when the criteria of what is a crime or not is defined by government bureaucrats, who unfortunately have a poor conception of a slippery slope.

But at the same time I fail to see how the IP concept would be completely rejected even in a truly free society. Why? Because naturally, individuals and companies would want to protect their intellectual property. But without the state’s enforcing arm, they would seek other methods to do so. Instead of going to the courts and seeking to indict the other guy on grounds of some patent law, they might either find a way to work together for profits, or seek to improve their copy-protection methods. There are just so many ways that the patent chaos envisioned by pro-IP supporters could be avoided by simple entrepreneurial principles.

It seems that the pro-IP argument could be summed up as follows: if a free market on IP was established then everyone would start copying and stealing each other’s intellectual works. Collective ownership of the products of everyone’s mind will amount to nothing but intellectual communism. Therefore we cannot trust the free market in this case, and we need the government to regulate and restrict and make sure everyone is treated to a fair share of their intellectual contribution. But who again defines what is a “fair share” to the worth of someone’s intellectual product?

Mark Hubbard January 24, 2010 at 2:45 pm

You are the one who chooses when to sell it, or if to sell it, and for how much. It is completely your choice.

Under your looters’ system I have only one shot to sell the book. After than it’s simply looted by the growing army of file-sharers.

No incentive to write a book there, is there.

Tim, you’ve got it utterly backwards. The anti-IP lobby are the socialists.

iawai January 24, 2010 at 4:22 pm

Reportedly, a British firm offered to publish “Lolita” if Nabokov would consent to the removal of four sentences. Nabokov refused, and the book was not released in Britain until a year later, by a different publisher. Surely this was right.
- Mr. McEwan

It would also have been “right” for a competing British firm to offer to publish with those lines included.

It would also have been “right” for a publisher with a legitimate copy of the work to republish it without those four lines without the author’s consent: It would be quickly dismissed by consumers as an adulterated and censored copy, and the publisher would be harmed in the market.

If you think IP deserves protection: protect it with your own resources. Don’t steal from me through taxes and forced use of monopoly courts to impose your view on me with my own resources. State involvement in IP is theft, whether or not the copying of works or restricting the copying would be considered such. If there is an objective answer, a monopolistic central planner can never be certain that his subjective rule is the right one. The only way to gauge the “correctness” of any set of laws is to allow voluntary adoption of those laws amongst individuals, and to allow the peaceful resolution of disputes to take place in free courts, rather than an unjustly supported, arbitrary and capricious, monopoly court.

The world of actors may indeed decide that some sort of IP is correct, but right now it is not a consumer choice but a oligarchic, self-enriching, freedom limiting system that discourages production by creating an anti-commons of patent ownership and creativity by rewarding mediocre works that are published to make a buck rather than cultivate an artistic sentiment.

Stephan Kinsella January 24, 2010 at 4:26 pm

Hubbard: “Kinsella, what’s your definition of monopoly?”
See: Are Patents “Monopolies”?.

“No incentive to write a book there, is there.”

is that what your system is based on–setting up “incentives”? Sounds awfully utilitarian to me. Rand is rolling in her grave.

Mark Hubbard January 24, 2010 at 4:51 pm

Sounds awfully utilitarian to me

You have to be kidding. The looters system you recommend is the one based on utilitarianism: where the single creator is forced to have ‘the products of his mind’ shared amongst the many for the ‘greater good’.

Look at the arguments of your adherents in here: ‘no-IP will be good for it forces constant innovation’ – given creators can only profit for about one day from sale of the first few units until the copiers run off with it – one of the posters even slammed me because I had the cheek to want to still be making money out of one of my widgets/books/et al twenty years after I brought it to market – selfish me – I should have had to invent a widget a year for the good of society. No IP would force me to do that. Your position is bound on slavery of the individual.

So whose argument is utilitarian here?

Rand is rolling in her grave.

Well at least she could afford one. If she was writing and theorising after you get your way, she could have kissed goodbye to book sales for a start.

Mark Hubbard January 24, 2010 at 5:06 pm

I said.

Well at least she could afford one. If she was writing and theorising after you get your way, she could have kissed goodbye to book sales for a start.

And of course you will be familiar from these threads with the Iooters argument on this. How silly of a someone writing books thinking they should make their money from selling books, they’re not being innovative enough … Perhaps Rand could give readings while pole dancing or something?

Mark Hubbard January 24, 2010 at 5:24 pm

Oh, and I’ve noticed the way that you managed to create ‘incentive’ out of context from what I said: my statement was quite evidently not toward your meaning at all.

Are all anarchists such slippery fish, Mr Kinsella.

Leo January 24, 2010 at 6:44 pm

I’am new to this forum, and to the discussion of IP law. I have question, in current IP law, an patentable Idea is my property, so why I’am forced to give away my property after some numbers of years. If there is an utilitarian reason behind that, cannot the same principles be applied to all property rights? If this question is too naive for the forum, I will apreciaty links where I can found the answer.

Shay January 24, 2010 at 6:50 pm

Are others also tired of the personal attacks some posters put in every message? I don’t see them as having any place in a discussion like this.

Moving on, Tim wrote, “But at the same time I fail to see how the IP concept would be completely rejected even in a truly free society. Why? Because naturally, individuals and companies would want to protect their intellectual property.”

The critical question: are these things even property? Misapplying a concept can certainly yield benefits to some parties, so it’s not merely a question of whether some people benefit from calling ideas property.

“It seems that the pro-IP argument could be summed up as follows: if a free market on IP was established then everyone would start copying and stealing each other’s intellectual works. Collective ownership of the products of everyone’s mind will amount to nothing but intellectual communism.”

Communism deals with scarce goods, like apples and blankets. But a non-scarce good, like the idea of a candle, can be had by everyone without having to share (you can use your idea of a candle in any way, without affecting how I can use my idea of a candle). No theft is necessary; everyone can have their own “idea of a candle”.

“Therefore we cannot trust the free market in this case, and we need the government to regulate and restrict and make sure everyone is treated to a fair share of their intellectual contribution. But who again defines what is a “fair share” to the worth of someone’s intellectual product?”

It’s odd that your description of IP sounds exactly like communism, having to bring in the concept of “fair share” for one’s work and calculation of how much something is worth. I realize you’re simply summarizing what you see as the pro-IP position.

Curt Howland January 24, 2010 at 7:00 pm

Mr Hubbard,

You are more than welcome to not write your book, if you can imagine no other way to make money from it than to be granted a monopoly by government to be enforced at taxpayer expense.

In fact, if your imagination is so sparse, your book would very likely suck anyway.

Mark Hubbard January 24, 2010 at 7:21 pm

You are more than welcome to not write your book, if you can imagine no other way to make money from it than to be granted a monopoly by government to be enforced at taxpayer expense. In fact, if your imagination is so sparse, your book would very likely suck anyway.

As I said, the best the IP Socialists can come with is this. You’ve just shot to bits the framework for a capitalist economy – ownership of property, including IP.

And yes, I believe in the need fo a minarchy, a small state that exists only to, in the classical liberal sense, protect the rights of the individual, and ensure non-initiation of force via objective law, however, I have no problem with IP dealt with in the private sector, and for those fearing big brother, for self policing. If I put a novel online it’s up to me to find and bring to court those copying it: one thing about the Internet is it’s easy to find the file sharing sites. But first my IP has to be recognised, and that I own it.

Otherwise the looters take us back to feudal England in the Big Step Backwards.

RWW January 24, 2010 at 7:23 pm

This Hubbard fellow is making me miss Silas Barta. Though his arguments weren’t convincing (actually, some of them came close, in my opinion, before ultimately failing), at least he had arguments to put forth.

On the plus side, maybe we can devise some kind of game based on how often Mr. Hubbard parrots Randist language.

Mark Hubbard January 24, 2010 at 7:39 pm

You just spent your time saying nothing RWW – why so many anonymous people in here?

I had just said:

And yes, I believe in the need fo a minarchy, a small state that exists only to, in the classical liberal sense, protect the rights of the individual, and ensure non-initiation of force via objective law, however, I have no problem with IP dealt with in the private sector, and for those fearing big brother, for self policing. If I put a novel online it’s up to me to find and bring to court those copying it: one thing about the Internet is it’s easy to find the file sharing sites. But first my IP has to be recognised, and that I own it.

What’s your opinion on that?

Stranger January 24, 2010 at 8:19 pm

Mr. Shay wrote: “Communism deals with scarce goods, like apples and blankets. But a non-scarce good, like the idea of a candle, can be had by everyone without having to share (you can use your idea of a candle in any way, without affecting how I can use my idea of a candle). No theft is necessary; everyone can have their own “idea of a candle”.”

That is fallacy 2.

Stranger January 24, 2010 at 8:20 pm

Mr. Leo wrote: “‘am new to this forum, and to the discussion of IP law. I have question, in current IP law, an patentable Idea is my property, so why I’am forced to give away my property after some numbers of years. If there is an utilitarian reason behind that, cannot the same principles be applied to all property rights? If this question is too naive for the forum, I will apreciaty links where I can found the answer.”

That is fallacy 5.

Mark Hubbard January 24, 2010 at 8:31 pm

In addition to stranger, I have also debunked the straw man argument of scarcity here (from another angle, chronology) that the anti-IP lobby falsely use.

Just start at the ‘Right Bala’ heading one third of the way down:

http://www.solopassion.com/node/7285#comment-83773

Russ January 24, 2010 at 8:32 pm

RWW wrote:

“On the plus side, maybe we can devise some kind of game based on how often Mr. Hubbard parrots Randist language.”

I vote for a drinking game. Every time he sounds like Ayn Rand & Nathaniel Branden’s bastard love child, we take a good stiff drink. It would certainly make his posts more… palatable.

RWW January 24, 2010 at 9:14 pm

What’s your opinion on that?< \I>

There’s nothing of substance there to form an opinion about. As usual, you’ve simply stated your views with no argument to back them up. You’ve given no one the slightest reason to agree with you.

RWW January 24, 2010 at 9:21 pm

Ahahahaha! Did anyone else read the most recent link Mark posted? It’s pretty amusing. The part starting with “Imagine if they’d had proper government…” actually made me laugh a little too loud, at this hour.

Mark Hubbard January 24, 2010 at 9:24 pm

There’s nothing of substance there to form an opinion about.

Above I have given a link to a thread where I debunk the looters argument of scarcity as denying IP. Given the paramountcy of scarcity (or not) to the argument against IP, I might have thought that was plenty of grist to squeeze through the mill.

I have said that even with those who don’t believe a minarchy and objective law is necessary to freedom, I would have no argument with IP dealt with in the private sector, not by the state, and from that self policing.

Plenty of substance, just no wherewithal or stomach for a debate it would seem.

RWW January 24, 2010 at 9:31 pm

Oh and Mark, if you’re going to parrot, at least get your terminology right. For example, when you say “the floating abstract that is anarchism” and “your ‘scarcity’ argument – the floating abstract,” well, I wouldn’t want your Randist friends to make fun of you.

The term they use (ad nauseum, like all their second-hand ideas (heh)) is “floating abstraction.”

RWW January 24, 2010 at 9:42 pm

Above I have given a link to a thread where I debunk the looters argument of scarcity as denying IP.

You mean the link in which you talk about cavemen setting up a wheel industry and R&D, if only that had IP protection? To be honest, I can barely type the thought out without succumbing to fits of giggles. (The only thing that makes it less funny is the deadly consequences of your brutish philosophy…)

But, to give you credit, I think that little hypothetical snippet does qualify as a weird sort of argument.

I have said that… I would have no argument with IP dealt with in the private sector…

Plenty of substance…

Are you being serious? Let me spell it out for you: Merely stating your opinion is not an argument. It is not substance. What part of that is difficult to understand?

PS: “The looters argument”! You’re a parody of a parody.

Mark Hubbard January 24, 2010 at 9:49 pm

Chronology. The IP is in the process that replicates the thought and the manufacture – the products of mans mind – and that comes before the product, either tangible or cyber.

Because the IP is a-priori, the scarcity argument is irrelevant.

Yes?

RWW January 24, 2010 at 10:00 pm

Same thing, over and over. You say something blatantly obvious — for example, that ideas come before physical products, or that we would have nothing without the majesty of the human mind (or whatever rhetorical flourish you’d like) — and then hand-wave your way to the conclusion you like, without any actual explanation.

Please, do fill in the details. Until then, the answer to your question is “No.”

Silas Barta January 24, 2010 at 10:19 pm

@RWW: This Hubbard fellow is making me miss Silas Barta.

Aww, thanks! That means a lot to me.

Just so you guys know: Even when I’m not posting, I still lurk these threads looking for the most intellectually honest people — on both sides of the issue — so I can put together an informal dialogue that will help resolve the debate and avoid the repetition that comes with each IP discussion.

Mark Hubbard January 24, 2010 at 10:28 pm

I have given the details, though the more I think about it the simpler it is.

One thing no one can deny, is someone had the idea (in my example, the wheel), first. And therein lay the IP. Chronology. The inception of your no-scarcity argument comes after this, but the IP is already created in the process/manufacture.

And I would end by saying, regarding the above, of course, because man has the ability of unique, original thought, and we are debating property, the products of mans mind.

What do you have against the ‘majesty’ of mans mind that you feel it necessary to poke fun at. Was that channeling the hive mind for a moment there?

(Oh, for someone above, I haven’t the time to flick back through: yes, abstract verse abstraction, but I’m sure you’re familiar with the typo.)

newson January 24, 2010 at 11:41 pm

“You just spent your time saying nothing RWW – why so many anonymous people in here?

howard roark’s dynamiting of cortland homes receives warm understanding from objectivists… one can’t be too careful, these days.

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