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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/15240/intellectual-poverty/

Intellectual Poverty

January 6, 2011 by

Opponents of the state monopoly privilege grants that the state and supporters propagandistically call “intellectual property” use a variety of alternative terms, in attempt to better describe these “rights” without implying they are valid, as the word “property” seeks to do.

Boldrin and Levine, in Against Intellectual Monopoly, use the term “intellectual monopoly.” The benefit of this term is that it calls attention to the fact that IP rights are not property but monopoly grants by the state (see Are Patents “Monopolies”? and Intellectual Properganda). I sometimes still call it IP, simple for communicative efficiency and out of semantic inertia, but of late I tend to just say “patent and copyright,” to isolate the two main state legislated rights schemes that fall under the IP umbrella. In the past I have proposed the term “pattern privileges” (see Renaming Intellectual Property) and sometimes call IP advocates “intellectual properteers.”

The term intellectual poverty occurred to me the other day. It has several advantages: it is disparaging and pejorative; it rhymes with intellectual property; and it implies both intellectual impoverishment (which results from the censorship and restriction on ideas, which are the results of patent and copyright law) and material impoverishment caused by all state invasions of genuine property rights.

So, to summarize, here are the suggestions to date, including variations, and some suggested by others:

{ 98 comments }

loki January 6, 2011 at 9:40 am

‘intellectual poverty’ is brilliant!

patents are so easy to demonstrate as broken, what is the need for them when the production of a novel item using a new technique can simply use lead time to gain significant market advantage, sufficient to establish reputation and garner that first round of profits that constitutes the main real profit in any entrepreneurial activity.

copyright and trademark are a little more complex. i think the only defensible position to hold on them has to do with the right of originators to declare authenticity and chain of contract for reproduction. as copying has become so easy to do now with computers, increasingly purely digital forms of a material are being released without restrictions on noncommercial use and it is being found that such releases actually increase the sales of products fabricated using the digital source material of the highest fidelity original work. this in itself implies that the right to copy is empty in real market terms and that only the mark of authenticity of legitimate grantees (signifying voluntary negotiation of terms with the artist originators) of the right or reproduction is valued truly (the example i could suggest would be the Nine Inch Nails recent releases where a broad variety of increasingly ‘authentic’ value-adds creates a series of pricing tiers and the ones with hand made stuff and all the way up to the original digital source files used for the product and the right to remix and use commercially were the most valuable, and these clever people, most especially mr Reznor, were richly rewarded in their efforts in a very short time).

anyway, i’m going to copy your excellent turn of phrase and i hope it goes viral.

A Liberal in Lakeview January 6, 2011 at 10:34 am

“Intellectual poverty” will also come to connote the mental impoverishment of those who find it irksome to write with capital letters. Maybe one day the mentally impoverished will try to outdo each other by abandoning punctuation, too, perhaps to appear hip and cool to savage younglings.

Then one day it will be the turn of inflection, which among those who speak English is already like a red-headed stepchild with bad skin. Pretty soon, one won’t be able to write about intellectual monopoly and properteering with any precision or clarity whatever. Humans, well, most of them anyway, will be savages and beasts once more. but at least the savages will think that they’re cool when they send and receive their text messages with nothing but lowercase and digits used 2 stand 4 words

I am reminded of words by Trent Reznor:


God money i’ll do anything for you.
God money just tell me what you want me to.
.
.
.
Head like a hole.
Black as your soul.
I’d rather die than give you control.
Bow down before the one you serve.
You’re going to get what you deserve.
Bow down before the one you serve.
You’re going to get what you deserve….<b?

In fact, Mr. Reznor sang that about twenty years ago, and he's still just 45 years old. Granted, my segue is imperfect, for he was commenting about a problem described also with the phrase, auri sacra fames. That’s from Weerjil’s Eyenid, 3,57, claims Wikipedia.

Seneca, claims Wikipedia, commented, “quod non mortalia pectora coges auri sacra fames. “What don’t you force mortal hearts [to do], accursed hunger for gold?!”

As I said, it’s Wikipedia. Maybe there’s a better way to translate “coges”. I hope Mr. Reznor can be persuaded to substitute “wealth” for “money”. Maybe he can be converted to liberalism, too, if he’s not already a liberal.

More lyrics: http://www.lyricsfreak.com/n/nine+inch+nails/#share

Bow down before the one you serve! You’re going to get what you deserve. Head like a hole!…”

A Liberal in Lakeview January 6, 2011 at 10:44 am

ugg, edit window troubles

Joel January 6, 2011 at 10:13 am

The first thing I thought of when I read “intellectual poverty” were not the consequences of such a scheme, but of a poverty of intelligence. As in those who advocate IP have an intellectual deficit.

Stephan Kinsella January 6, 2011 at 10:52 am

True: this is yet another benefit of this term. Those who advocate IP have a poverty of intelligence.

Peter January 6, 2011 at 7:10 pm

I don’t think that’s true, in general — only the ones who keep advocating it years after reading your book, etc.. It’s not completely obvious to most, and it takes a while to sink in.

Silas Barta January 7, 2011 at 10:30 am

Many IP proponents are familiar with Stephan_Kinsella’s “arguments” in Against Intellectual Property and yet (somehow!) remain unconvinced. Are they all stupid and impermeable to solid argument?

Virtually everyone who regards AIP as convincing already agreed with the conclusion. What should I infer from that?

BuckeyeChuck January 7, 2011 at 4:08 pm

That you illegitimately speak for people you do not know. I, for one, was solidly in favor of intellectual property until being persuaded by arguments. Furthermore, in order for your statement to be correct, you must assume that the majority of people encoutering these arguments already had an opinion on IP, and in my opinion, that gives them far too much credit. Most people with whom I discuss this topic have never considered the issue of IP at all, let alone formed a defensible opinion.

J Cortez January 6, 2011 at 10:39 am

I like the following terms:

- imaginary property
- idea monopoly
- intellectual poverty

Edgaras January 6, 2011 at 5:17 pm

Imaginary Property – I started using it since last month or two.

Crystal January 6, 2011 at 11:54 am

Why are trademarks left off the IP hit list? See
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/12/07/komen-foundation-charities-cure_n_793176.html
Why shouldn’t the government protect the right of people to name an organization whatever they like?

Stephan Kinsella January 6, 2011 at 1:14 pm

I have attacked trademarks elsewhere (google my name and the trademark horror files). But one aspect of trademarks is okay–the rest is not.

In any case–the state should not protect the right ot the people to do X; the state is a dangerous, criminal entity. No offense, Silas.

Silas Barta January 6, 2011 at 6:15 pm

I don’t like when cops beat suspects to death.

No offense, Stephan_Kinsella.

Silas Barta January 6, 2011 at 12:06 pm

Cool! Then I’ll start talking about “private poverty” in criticisms of the existing government-granted, violence-backed physical property rights whenever I want to pick a bad aspect of the current system and blame it on capitalism, all with the exact same smug self-assuredness you exhibit!

Turnabout is fair play.

nate-m January 6, 2011 at 4:30 pm

As long as I don’t see people using ‘IP communists’ then that would make me happy.

Talking to these people is like going down the rabbit hole.

https://www.cs.indiana.edu/metastuff/wonder/ch7.html

Silas Barta January 6, 2011 at 5:33 pm

Yes, because it was the IP *proponents* here who started with the project of finding biased terms for IP as a way to favorably reframe the debate.. Not.

DixieFlatline January 7, 2011 at 1:26 am

Silas, are you as incredibly small in real life as you appear to be online?

Gary Chartier January 7, 2011 at 8:26 pm

WTF? The term “intellectual property” was itself a product of “the project of finding biased terms for IP”; ditto for “piracy.”

Peter Surda January 7, 2011 at 7:54 am

Well, if someone uses “IP communists”, we could retort with IP confusists.

Silas Barta January 7, 2011 at 10:28 am

If your concept of “intelligent exchange of arguments” regards “thinking up better propaganda terms” as relevant, you made a mistake somewhere.

Peter Surda January 7, 2011 at 11:45 am

No Silas, my idea of an intelligent exchange of arguments is when my opponent answers questions. But since you are, for whatever reasons, unwilling to do that, that does not mean I can’t have fun at your expense.

iawai January 6, 2011 at 6:21 pm

Cool! There is nothing worse than the scoundrel that must turn to the protection of the violent state to defend their claims of “rights” – be they physical or intellectual.

True Property is that which can be controlled by the owner – no one here would contend that a government is needed to defend property claims, merely that it has usurped this role and discourages others from voluntarily engaging in it.

You are turning nothing about, but merely agreeing with us.

Silas Barta January 6, 2011 at 7:02 pm

So IP is a valid form of property so long as non-state legal systems enforce it? Cool, go chat with Stephan_Kinsella about that now.

Peter January 6, 2011 at 7:42 pm

You’re missing one word: make it “non-state legal systems can enforce it” (i.e., that it’s compatible with libertarian law, not that they simply violently enforce it, of course; else you could define literally anything as “valid” that way). If it’s enforceable under libertarian legal principles, then of course it’s valid, yes. But ISTR “Stephan_Kinsella” has challenged_you many_times to come_up with some_description of what_you mean here,_and you never_actually bother to_respond.

Silas Barta January 6, 2011 at 11:42 pm

Why? The challenge is for him at that point, since he would need to show how they’re *different*. If we agree that libertarian legal principles constrain what kinds of laws and enforcement there can be, then anything that he says is appropriate to use against physical property crimes can be used against IP crimes. Stephan_Kinsella’s position is thus in a pickle, not mine.

nate-m January 7, 2011 at 9:05 am

Why? The challenge is for him at that point, since he would need to show how they’re *different*.

I thought this has been done to death.

Private Property:
* Based on physical reality and natural laws. It’s a fundamental component of human existence and is something that grew naturally out of the primordial soup.
* Used to delegate ownership of scarce resources.
* Deals with actual physical objects.

Patents:
* Monopoly grants to individuals based on a application you submit to the government along with a significant amount of money.
* Gives people the ability to use government enforcement to sue people for the use of their own private property.
* The only scare physical resource is the paper that documents the government granted monopoly.
* Tries to awkwardly and ineffectively delegate ownership of metaphysical concepts and abstract ideas that are insubstantial and have no physical manifestation, restraints, or any other property that remotely resembles the issues that ‘private property ownership’ deals with. That is there is no scarcity, boundaries, or physical reality to anything that patents try to ‘protect’.
* Completely arbitrarily applied to human reality based on expediency and precedent. Example: Most scientific research is unpatentable, for example, but some is. Math is unpatentable, but applied math (ie: software) is.

Silas Barta January 7, 2011 at 10:13 am

@nate-m: Those have also been refuted to death. For example, if private property only exists to handle conflicts over use, then why do you support a private property owner’s right to exclude people who attempt non-conflicting uses of his resources, when such a conflict is completely artificial and exists only because of the whim of one person? (Think “vagrant wants to sleep in cornfiedl” — no conflict with the farmer, why does the farmer have the right to expell the vagrant? Because he “wants” it that way? Great! I “want” there to be no copies of “Silas: A Memoir” other than what I authorize. So what?)

Likewise, if the possibility of two people instantiating the same pattern means there can be no exclusivity in that pattern, then why do people claim exclusivity over radio frequencies? After all, everyone and his dog can blast EM waves at 100 kHz. Any claims of “interference” are purely an artifact of arbitrary human *interpretation* of the waves (i.e. nothing objective), and granting weight to rights in this area gives you no remaining ground on which to object to someone claiming ownership in similar patterns, like a novel. Stephan_Kinsella knows this and ignores this: even he doesn’t know what to think about the deeply coupled issue of EM waves.

Finally, if IP only makes claims over metaphysical resources, then why are people able to consistently recognize when e.g. a copyright has been infringed? The thing is IP does claim ownership rights in scarce resources — it’s just that IP opponents *assume* that only certain resolutions of the conflict problem are valid (specifically, only those that give someone 100% usage rights in physical objects), thereby ruling out IP from the get-go, using circular logic.

So, basically, the only refutation that’s given (and I have some pretty explicit examples from Stephan_Kinsella) is “I’ve assumed away that distinction as irrelevant, in such a way as helps my side”. Sorry, but that’s not how good arguments work.

Try to keep up with the history of the exchanges on this.

Peter Surda January 7, 2011 at 11:28 am

Silas,

Those have also been refuted to death.

To a certain extent, I agree that some of the arguments presented by nate-m are incorrect or at least misleading. But your lack of any effort whatsoever to counter the actual arguments does not make your persuasive.

why do you support a private property owner’s right to exclude people who attempt non-conflicting uses of his resources

And why have you not stopped beating your wife? It’s false on so many levels that it’s not even funny anymore. First of all, private property must contain a threshold for integrity violations. So, it must allow for certain level of alterations of other people’s property. Furthermore, if I’m not intending to alter the integrity of my property at a specific moment, it does not mean that other people altering the integrity of my property at that moment are non-conflicting. Your confusion is caused by word use being metaphorical. If I, for example, decide not to sell any of my apples today because I think the price will rise in the future, that does not mean that other eating my apples today is not in conflict with my property. It makes some future uses unavailable. If they eat them today, I can’t sell them tomorrow or even eat them myself. Scarcity = mutual exclusivity.

if the possibility of two people instantiating the same pattern means there can be no exclusivity in that pattern, then why do people claim exclusivity over radio frequencies

For the zillionth time, you are mistaking a physical phenomenon for an interpretation of that phenomenon. A second sender makes some uses of the receiver unavailable, by causing a the receiver to vibrate differently than it would in the absence of the second sender. That is the scarcity you observe (as opposed, the mistakenly derived “scarcity” of “patterns”). Merely because current laws do not match the boundaries of physical goods in this case has no influence on the economic rules.

But even if you were right about EM, you would still be wrong in calling this ownership of patterns, because according to your elaborations (difficult do decipher as they may be), IP also requires causality (i.e. you allow for independent discovery). So it’s not an ownership of patterns, but ownership of a mix of patterns and causality. If two people independently of each other discover the similar enough new type of mousetrap, you would claim that they both have rights in the result (I’ll leave the exact details open since you do not explain them). Whereas if two people not knowing about each other independently start sending EM signals on the same frequency (for example, one of them makes a frequency search while the other one has his transmitter temporarilly turned off, incorrectly concluding the frequency is not used), you would presumably still object if they are in a close proximity. So your whole analogy lacks a common factor.

Finally, if IP only makes claims over metaphysical resources, then why are people able to consistently recognize when e.g. a copyright has been infringed?

This is again confused on a multiple levels. First of all, IP does make claim over physical resources. That’s the core of the problem, because IP proponents almost always also support physical property, thereby contradicting themselves. However, IP proponents interpret physical resources as metaphysical resources, claiming that attributes of physical goods, rather than the physical goods themselves, are the decisive factor for the property boundaries. And, of course, since attributes are measurable, if you pick any arbitrary attribute and any arbitrary value, it is usually possible to determine if a specific phenomenon is a match. This proves my argument (that IP is a claim over physical property) rather than yours. If it was not a claim over physical property, then it would not be detectable. The argument of IP infringements’ detectability has nothing to do with either property or rights. If I build a high resolution satellite and use it to observe you and am able to distinguish between you eating an apple and you not eating an apple, it does not mean that by eating an apple you are infringing any property or that I own the apple you are eating or that I own the concept of eating an apple. There is no logical reason to make that conclusion.

The thing is IP does claim ownership rights in scarce resources

Yes. It claims ownership of physical resources belonging to other people, but uses mumbo jumbo to shroud that in mysticism, metaphors, weird utilitarianism and vague moral standards.

it’s just that IP opponents *assume* that only certain resolutions of the conflict problem are valid (specifically, only those that give someone 100% usage rights in physical objects), thereby ruling out IP from the get-go, using circular logic.

I had a similar problem with this argument, but then it occurred to me that I did not understand it correctly. Possibly Stephan (and before him Mises) did not explain it very well. Maybe they thought it’s too obvious. The point is that there cannot be any other conflict than that in scarce (= physical) goods. If you could have your cake and eat it too, there would be no conflict. Indeed, without scarce goods the concepts of use, conflict, economy and human action make no sense. But if physical goods are already covered by property rights, then the only thing other rules (such as IP) can do is take away some of those rights and give them to others.

Rather then IP opponents being circular, IP proponents contradict themselves by not willing to abandon physical property in order to have IP.

Of course, they are also often cowards, not wanting to participate in a debate and instead mumbling mantras.

Stephan Kinsella January 7, 2011 at 11:47 am

Peter Surda:

it’s just that IP opponents *assume* that only certain resolutions of the conflict problem are valid (specifically, only those that give someone 100% usage rights in physical objects), thereby ruling out IP from the get-go, using circular logic.

I had a similar problem with this argument, but then it occurred to me that I did not understand it correctly. Possibly Stephan (and before him Mises) did not explain it very well. Maybe they thought it’s too obvious. The point is that there cannot be any other conflict than that in scarce (= physical) goods. If you could have your cake and eat it too, there would be no conflict. Indeed, without scarce goods the concepts of use, conflict, economy and human action make no sense. But if physical goods are already covered by property rights, then the only thing other rules (such as IP) can do is take away some of those rights and give them to others.

Rather then IP opponents being circular, IP proponents contradict themselves by not willing to abandon physical property in order to have IP.

Yes. I think the key thing to realize is that property rights are not limited. People are used to saying that property rights are always limited–you don’t have the right to use your gun to shoot me; so all rights are limited; so rights are incomplete; so how do you know it gives you the right to use it to implement a pattern?The problem is that we do not live by permission. You have the right to do anything that does not aggress against others’ property. And the other problem is that this reasoning above is confused: property rights can’t limit property rights! Property rights of course assume the validity of property rights. Property rights limit action, not property. IP and Aggression as Limits on Property Rights: How They Differ And one’s actin is limited because of the presupposed validity of property rights in scarce things; and this conception is based on the idea that property is property in scarce resources, and that trespass thereof is some kind of unintended use of, or invasion of the borders of, or change in the physical integrity of, that resource.

This is why Silas cannot just say that IP doesn’t take your property rights way–he wants to say that you never had the full rights to the resource, so preventing you from using it such-and-such-way doesn’t take anyting you had before someone else came up with this pattern. This is confused, almost fascistic reasoning.

Silas Barta January 7, 2011 at 12:13 pm

@Stephan_Kinsella: except that that wouldn’t be my argument at all in this case, as I’ve explained numerous times.

Your problem is that you claim that the *only* kind of ownership that can exist (that is applicable to any physical good) is full ownership rights to all uses. I don’t need to dispute this by reference to arguments like “but you already except that you can’t use those rights to infringe other people’s rights”. I can simply look at how you (and Locke!) ALREADY agree that homesteading a physical resource need not give you all usage rights in that resource.

For example, say I “own” a transmitter by your definition. Why doesn’t that ownership automatically include the right to make waves at 100 kHz? After all, that doesn’t stop anyone else from making waves at 100 kHz. Hell, everyone in the world could broadcast at 100 kHz, all at the same time. (Just like everyone could instantiate Harry Potter texts, all at the same time.) But … but somehow you don’t seem to think that that comes as part of the ownership package.

Since you don’t even adhere to the position that the only kind of property rights include 100% usage rights, you can hardly criticize others for not adhering too it.

Oh sorry, did I lose your attention there?

Beefcake the Mighty January 7, 2011 at 12:29 pm

Fantastic post as usual by Peter Surda.

Beefcake the Mighty January 7, 2011 at 12:29 pm

Oh, and Silas: go fuck yourself.

Peter Surda January 7, 2011 at 4:34 pm

Thank you Beefcake.

Peter Surda January 9, 2011 at 6:19 am

Your problem is that you claim that the *only* kind of ownership that can exist (that is applicable to any physical good) is full ownership rights to all uses.

And your problem is in the claim that there is more than one types of ownership, but do not explain how to distinguish between them. Your theory (notwithstanding other flaws) requires two types of homesteading, without explaining how to differentiate between them. Indeed, they are empirically indistinguishable. All action is an alteration of physical matter. There is no separate type of action that “creates patterns”.

Why doesn’t that ownership automatically include the right to make waves at 100 kHz?

It does. You just can’t transmit them far enough to reach other people’s receivers. Without the transmission reaching receivers, it is undetectable, so you can’t claim it’s illegal. Just like you can shoot your gun in general, but if it reaches someone else’s body, you’re in trouble.

Since you don’t even adhere to the position that the only kind of property rights include 100% usage rights…

The word “usage” is metaphorical. It denotes causal relationship (sometimes it’s even possible without any causality) and causality extends to infinity. So it is impossible to have 100% “usage rights”. The problem with IP is that the only way for it to manifest itself is in physical objects. It is a re-interpretation of physical objects, using their attributes rather than the objects themselves, as a boundary.

Silas Barta January 10, 2011 at 2:24 pm

IP infringement is remotely detectable too, Peter_Surda, by “receivers.”

Peter Surda January 10, 2011 at 3:33 pm

Silas,

IP infringement is remotely detectable too, Peter_Surda, by “receivers.”

Of course it is. But that proves my arguments, rather than yours. The detection of IP infringement is based on measuring and interpreting attributes of physical matter that belongs to a third party. IP expropriates physical property.

In addition, you fail to specify what attributes to measure and how to interpret them. Without that, any measurement could be interpreted as a violation. IP is just a sophisticated legalised version of “dibs”.

Last but not least, there is a semantic difference between the two (or three, physical+EM versus IP) situations. It explains why I’m pushing for receiver ownership rather than EM wave ownership. If a violations of physical property or EM are observed at a receiver, it is the receiver itself that is the violated property. With IP, it is the not the receiver that is the violated property, but some attribute of the “transmitter” that represents the violated property. Detection of copyright infringement on the web and on P2P networks, for example, works exactly as I describe: the detector (e.g. a lawyer’s computer) requests data from the “infringer”, which sends some packets back. The lawyers do not claim that their computers are being violated (indeed, they need to initiate the transfer, so the process is consensual), but that they don’t like it. It’s like requesting someone to shoot you, and after they shoot you, claim that the vibrations of the bullet (= pattern) while it was flying violated your rights.

Gil January 6, 2011 at 9:22 pm

So people are free to privately shut down other people for infringing on their I.P.?

Silas Barta January 6, 2011 at 11:46 pm

Are they free to shut down those who infringe on their IP in radio frequencies?

Edgaras January 7, 2011 at 11:25 am

there is nothing “IP” about radio frequencies, stop equivocating, sir.

Silas Barta January 7, 2011 at 11:46 am

Except for the whole, “They’re a right to instantiate a specific pattern set” thingamawhatchamacallit.

Peter Surda January 7, 2011 at 12:06 pm

So, you do not support the defence of independent discovery?

nate-m January 9, 2011 at 7:20 am

Except for the whole, “They’re a right to instantiate a specific pattern set” thingamawhatchamacallit.

Your examples of radio frequencies as a analog to IP is deeply flawed. But if you want to be accurate you’ll have to also say that if radio frequencies were IP then that would also give you the right to control people’s activities on their receivers.

After all your ‘specific pattern set’ is duplicated in every metal object that the radio frequencies reflect against. So therefore if those ‘specific pattern set’ is owned by you then that means every receiver that is capable of retransmitting or recording your ‘specific pattern set’ in a high fidelity manner will also be controllable by you and the content recorded on those devices will be owned by you.

That is because those devices are receiving your ‘specific pattern set’ then that means that you can control what their owners can and cannot do with them.

Because, you know, that is actually how copyright works with transmitted data.

Peter Surda January 9, 2011 at 10:25 am

Nice catch nate-m.

Also, if you send a signal on frequency X, and the same signal speeded up by some constant, say 1.1, on frequency X/1.1, the resulting pattern is the same but there is no EM interference. On the other hand, when you play a song at 1.1 speed, it is still considered IP infringement, although it is evidently a different pattern. It is only “the same pattern” if you arbitrarily shift the interpretation of what IP actually is depending on the situation. Because that’s what IP is: it is a vague concept without a coherent definition.

Silas Barta January 10, 2011 at 2:31 pm

Your examples of radio frequencies as a analog to IP is deeply flawed. But if you want to be accurate you’ll have to also say that if radio frequencies were IP then that would also give you the right to control people’s activities on their receivers.

Not really: IP is instantiation rights, not reception rights, even as the latter may require the former.

@nate-m and Peter_Surda: The relevant pattern is the frequency band, not the set of waveforms that are a time-wise dilation of a specific transmission. It’s still a pattern right, and the people who defend EM spectrum rights are still claming the right to stop others from instantiating a specific pattern — it’s just defined a slightly different way, with a different justification for why it’s “teh evilzorz”. (With IP it’s, “but the author *created* that intellctual work”; with EM rights it’s, “wah! I want to be able to hear Billy-Bob’s transmissions at 107 kHz, not the static from when Sally-Sue also trasmits!”)

Peter Surda January 10, 2011 at 3:45 pm

Silas,

Not really: IP is instantiation rights, not reception rights, even as the latter may require the former.

Yes. Which is exactly my point. IP is the right to transmit. EM and physical property is the right to receive. You can’t have them both. Wanting to have a contradiction does not make it go away.

The relevant pattern is the frequency band, not the set of waveforms that are a time-wise dilation of a specific transmission. It’s still a pattern right, and the people who defend EM spectrum rights are still claming the right to stop others from instantiating a specific pattern — it’s just defined a slightly different way, with a different justification for why it’s “teh evilzorz”. (With IP it’s, “but the author *created* that intellctual work”; with EM rights it’s, “wah! I want to be able to hear Billy-Bob’s transmissions at 107 kHz, not the static from when Sally-Sue also trasmits!”)

I refuted this analogy long time ago, but you as usually are not listening. First there is the dichotomy between ownership of transmitters and receivers. Ownership of transmitters’s ability to transmit would expropriate the receivers, but since receivers are covered by physical property rights, you end up with a contradiction. Second, many IP proponents, including, as far as I understand, you, agree that independent discovery (two “creations” of “the same” that are not connected by a causal relationship) is not an IP violation. However, there is no equivalent phenomenon with EM. The receiver detects interference regardless of causal relationship between the transmissions involved. Last but not least, regardless of whether there are rights in EM or IP, any energy or matter that you expend, has the potential to cause damage (unwanted change) to someone’s physical property. EM causes generally a smaller scale change. Why should this magically mean that other rules of evaluation apply? You don’t explain that. You mentioned ionisation, which is like Kerem mentioning natural reflection. In other words, you have no argument and just randomly pick words with the hope of tricking your opponents.

Artisan January 6, 2011 at 12:43 pm

I tend to think “intellectual control” reveals best where the problem might be…

Walt D. January 6, 2011 at 12:45 pm

You are too late Stephan! The US Department of Education’s mission statement is to:
“Increase intellectual poverty in the US” – (it has been an overwhelming success!). You can expect a cease and desist order for using their intellectual property!

Mike D. January 6, 2011 at 4:25 pm

SM has already posted about this;
“Investing in Intellectual Poverty”. by S.M.Oliva
http://blog.mises.org/14437/investing-in-intellectual-poverty/
I assume the SEC regulates Investing in Intellectual Poverty? :-)

Jon January 6, 2011 at 11:39 pm

If I purchase a piece of land, the state ‘grants’ me (more or less) a monopoly over that land, right? How is that fundamentally different from what is described in this article in relation to intellectual property? Now, if the protection provided by the rule of law breaks down, then we have a different situation. In relation to physical property, it seems to me that ownership descends to that which can be asserted at the point of a gun. In relation to intellectual property, it is either worthless, or maintained purely by secrecy, in which event, it is also worthless. Comments?

DixieFlatline January 7, 2011 at 1:30 am

There is no protection, and there is no rule of law in a monopoly legal jurisdiction.

The problem with your equivocation, is that intellectual poverty is not property, so making it a monopoly (which isn’t what happens when the state recognizes a title, as all property in the US belongs to the state and the [sic] “owners” are merely tenants) is the only thing these two examples have in common.

Jon January 8, 2011 at 5:27 am

Huh?

Dave Narby January 8, 2011 at 6:57 pm

Exactly.

james b. longacre January 7, 2011 at 2:50 am

worthless comment. but dont let that stop you.

Silas Barta January 6, 2011 at 11:49 pm

If I purchase a piece of land, the state ‘grants’ me (more or less) a monopoly over that land, right? How is that fundamentally different from what is described in this article in relation to intellectual property?

Exactly. Finally someone *other* than me is pointing out the slight-of-hand here.

In relation to intellectual property, it is either worthless, or maintained purely by secrecy, in which event, it is also worthless.

No, there’s also community norms and whatever enforcement mechanisms exist there. But if you’re talking about the breakdown of even this? Then both IP and physical property are equally hosed.

Artisan January 7, 2011 at 3:27 am

But it depends how you view the State action doesn’t it? Why does the State (or the collective of people empowered in the tribe) “grant” a monopoly ? and why is the State still able to “seize” that “granted” property under some circumstances? Because the elite of rulers are of “divine” descent ? or because they should be “just with all men equally?”. It’s a choice.

Libertarians (only repeating earlier de La Boetie’s concern) ask themselves why tyranny exists at all? What part of a State’s action is legitimate at all?

We are looking for reasons WHY and to what extend it is worth protecting the control of an individual over some acquired resources, or why it would be worth protecting some personal control over a set of expressed idea.

In the first case, control spells very differently as in the second.

Silas Barta January 7, 2011 at 10:26 am

But it depends how you view the State action doesn’t it? Why does the State (or the collective of people empowered in the tribe) “grant” a monopoly ?

If people would still be able to produce the good in the absence of the entity claiming the monopoly, then the claimant has no basis for the monopoly. This is what should determine the validity of a monopoly claim, whether it be a monopoly on sugar, or a monopoly on a specific crate of sugar. Indeed, there’s no objective, consistent way to speak of a monopoly and justifications for one unless you are able to smoothly handle ownership of specific objects as a special case of monopoly, with all the attendant implications.

Peter Surda January 7, 2011 at 11:40 am

There is an objective and consistent way of speaking of a monopoly. Monopoly is when mutually inexclusive options are grouped under a label (say, “X”) and some of those are made illegal. Those who can still legally exercise these options are then holders of the monopoly on X. I demonstrated this on the concept of “blowpple”. This definition is consistent with the Austrian tradition.

Of course, this has nothing to do with property rights. But to get it you would need to abandon the assumption that immaterial goods have an identity.

Silas Barta January 7, 2011 at 12:04 pm

Monopoly is when mutually inexclusive options are grouped under a label (say, “X”) and some of those are made illegal …

This is getting tiring. Your definition still makes your ownership of a crate of sugar a “monopoly” (as it should — but you want to claim that it doesn’t because there’s some relevant distinction). Basically, per your definition, Peter_Surda holds a monopoly on all subsets of sugar from that particular sugar crate, as well as all crates that enclose that sugar. This is because it would be illegal for anyone (other than monopolist Peter_Surda) to offer some subset of that crate’s sugar for sale.

We should distinguish between good and bad monopolies, and what aspect of a particular monopoly makes it bad, not try to reason with such a vague class.

Peter Surda January 7, 2011 at 12:32 pm

This is getting tiring.

Indeed.

Your definition still makes your ownership of a crate of sugar a “monopoly” (as it should — but you want to claim that it doesn’t because there’s some relevant distinction).

So, if you eat the sugar from my crate, that does not prevent me from eating it too? You know, because that is what mutually inexclusive options mean.

Basically, per your definition, Peter_Surda holds a monopoly on all subsets of sugar from that particular sugar crate, as well as all crates that enclose that sugar.

The uses of the subsets of the crate of sugar are not mutually inexclusive with each other. So your whole argument makes no sense.

This is because it would be illegal for anyone (other than monopolist Peter_Surda) to offer some subset of that crate’s sugar for sale.

Since sale of that subset would make it impossible for me to sell some other subsets, and also the superset, these options are not mutually inexclusive.

Even when we ignore the sale and eating and abstract even more, the sugar cannot be simultaneously inside the crate and outside of it. These options are mutually exclusive.

For IP, on the other hand, the creation of an unauthorised copy has no mutually exclusive options for the original. You can still sell it, you can still eat it, and it can still be located at your premises while the copy is located at the premises of the pirate.

So what exactly is your argument? You want to persuade me that a copy and an original are a subset of the superset, which is owned by someone? Even if you choose to interpret it that way, that has no effect on the presence or absence of mutual exclusivity. Furthermore, it does not explain why by creating the original (subset), one homesteads the superset. It also does not explain what happens during independent discovery.

Silas Barta January 7, 2011 at 12:43 pm

So, if you eat the sugar from my crate, that does not prevent me from eating it too?

Not the other units of sugar, no.

Peter Surda January 7, 2011 at 1:00 pm

Yet again you purposefully misinterpret the argument. This time it’s a false reverse implication. Monopoly = absence of mutually exclusive options. Presence of mutually inexclusive options != not monopoly.

Peter Surda January 7, 2011 at 1:14 pm

Looks like I was too hasty. Let me correct the broken math:
Absence of mutually exclusive options => monopoly
Presence of mutually inexclusive options !=> monopoly

Silas Barta January 10, 2011 at 2:32 pm

Get your story straight, eliminate the triple negatives, and something will remain that I can respond to.

Beefcake the Mighty January 10, 2011 at 2:42 pm

Why don’t you do humanity a favor and stick your dick in an electrical socket?

Stephan Kinsella January 7, 2011 at 8:29 am

A scarce resource like land: first, the state is not needed for there to be property in it. And aggression need not be committed to use it: if you are the first and it’s unowned, then you are not trespassing against anyone else’s property by using and appropriating it.

Likewise, to use an idea does not mean you trespass against others; it only means it guides your own use of your own resources.

But to have or use IP means you assert control over others’ property. That is aggression, and to do it systematically requires a state.

This not really that hard. I find it hard to believe at this point that you are not being intentionally dishonest, Silas.

Silas Barta January 7, 2011 at 10:21 am

@Stephan_Kinsella:

A scarce resource like land: first, the state is not needed for there to be property in it.

Because … You Say So?

And aggression need not be committed to use it. … Likewise, to use an idea does not mean you trespass against others; it only means it guides your own use of your own resources.

Sure, if you assume a definition of aggression that makes it true, which is what your argument amoutns to.

But to have or use IP means you assert control over others’ property.

Yep, if you use a definition of property that assumes away the debate.

That is aggression, and to do it systematically requires a state.

To systematically *stop* common-law recognition of IP also requires a state. Likewise, you’d need a state to flush out the persistant, widespread human intution that the creator of particular ideas, without whom they would not exist, deserves certain exclusivities in such ideas, since without that creator we wouldn’t have the idea to fight over in the first place.

This not really that hard. I find it hard to believe at this point that you are not being intentionally dishonest, Silas.

Ditto.

Peter Surda January 7, 2011 at 11:30 am

Yep, if you use a definition of property that assumes away the debate.

Oh, so you do want to abolish physical property? Why didn’t you say so earlier, that would have saved me a lot of effort.

james b. longacre January 7, 2011 at 1:07 pm

ii have read many on the blog bemoan the changing of the definition of inflation. now a pirate is someoene who has a copy of something??

what was a pirate (ocean going copiers?) and what is a pirate now?

Peter Surda January 7, 2011 at 4:14 pm

There is a book, Piracy: The Intellectual Property Wars from Gutenberg to Gates by Adrian Johns. I have not finished reading it yet, but it is a history of IP from the perspective of the violations of it (i.e. “piracy”). Apparently, the word pirate was actually used to refer to unauthorised copying (or plagiarism) already at the beginning of the 17th century.

Stephan Kinsella January 7, 2011 at 7:47 pm

Peter, is it worth reading? Is it pro-IP, anti-IP, or what?

Peter Surda January 9, 2011 at 4:55 am

Stephan,

I only read like 2 chapters so far so I don’t know if my impression is representative of the whole book. It is about history, not economics or ethics. The author does not seem to take a stance for or against.

Silas Barta January 10, 2011 at 2:35 pm

Too bad though, Stephan_Kinsella only decides whether he likes a work based on it’s decision on pro/anti-IP, not any other merit.

Peter Surda January 10, 2011 at 3:46 pm

Look who’s talking.

Peter Surda April 22, 2011 at 5:12 am

Stephan,

if you’re getting the reply, I just finished the book. It is about history and social effects of piracy and presents various historical milestones in chronological order. The author seems to dab a bit into economics but only as background (he refers to Arnold Plant and Hayek, for example, but also some belonging to completely different schools). He seems to conclude that the exact definition of IP has shifted over the times, indeed that it must change, to reflect the technological development and social factors (as an example, he says that in the past it was possible to copyright machines and patent books). He thinks that we’re on the verge of a big shift in IP and lists several possible ways it may go, including abolishment (which he argues is more likely than it might seem and it does not look like he’s bothered by it). He does not seem to take an stance regarding ethics himself, on the contrary he often juxtaposes the moral outrage of monopoly holders versus the pirates. One of the quotes I found funny was by a certain Robert Ford, who owned a radio without paying a license to BBC and upon arrest in 1924 proclaimed that he is “the first individual in history … to be imprisoned as a result of the use of one of his five senses in his own home”.

It’s quite an interesting book. As a sidenote, I bought the electronic version but could not get it to work with anything else than a crappy Windows program (Adobe drm). Since I don’t use Windows very often, I got an unencrypted PDF through bittorrent and converted it to mobi so that I can read it on my phone and then subsequently on a Kindle which I bought last week.

Stephan Kinsella April 22, 2011 at 6:37 am

Peter, thanks. Sounds interesting.

Peter Surda January 7, 2011 at 8:50 am

I already explained to you already that monopoly involves mutually inexclusive options. Whether you have government or no government, capitalism or socialism, someone will end up consuming physical goods and cause alternative consumptions impossible. There is no logical reason to call any of such situations “monopoly”.

But why am I even answering. It is long clear that you are not interested in engaging in a debate. You prefer your mumbo jumbo mysticism. You’re an IP coward.

Stephan Kinsella January 7, 2011 at 10:08 am

I can understand Silas being confused over issues like: anarchy v. minarchy; legislation as a way of “making” “law”; Austrian dualism; the EM spectrum issue; etc.

But for him to repeatedly equate scarce resources to non-scarce resources, in an attempt to make his ridiculous gadfly point that criticisms of IP can be analogized to criticisms of private property, seems blatantly dishonest to me. He has to contort reality to make his little analogies.

Silas Barta January 7, 2011 at 10:15 am

EM spectrum issue; etc.

_You_ still don’t know what to think about EM spectrum rights … and yet *I’m* the one that’s confused?

Pot, kettle.

Stephan Kinsella January 7, 2011 at 10:27 am

yes, I’ve written on this — my view is that EM spectrum is scarce and may be homesteaded. But it is not my area of emphasis of specialty–I am also not writing a lot about FRB, history, anarchist systems–so what?

This is all a smokescreen by you to distract from your dishonesty and evasion. Silas, the bottom line is that to assign IP rights you have to undercut rights in scarce resources. This is unlibertarian. Period, the end.

Silas Barta January 7, 2011 at 10:34 am

You’ve also said you’re “not sure” about it. Which is it? Why is it so hard to decide? Why do you have to be an expert? Why did you think I was unaware of that wishy-washy, uninformed attempt to render an opinion on the issue? (“arguably scarce” is not the same thing as “I have a rational reason to believe they are scarce, ya know)

What is your response to my refutations of the claim that there is some unique scarcity in EM that’s not present in IP? Nothing? Haven’t thought about it? Not important?

Nevermind, I already know you don’t have an answer to any of that, you needn’t waste your time — you’ve got fanboys to pander to, after all.

Peter Surda January 7, 2011 at 11:52 am

Silas,

You’ve also said you’re “not sure” about it. Which is it?

If I may answer on behalf of Stephan, he does not seem to care whether EM is ownable or not, rather if that follows from the premises he is making. He’s just not sure about the “stuff” between the premises and EM ownership, so his support for EM ownership is weak.

You, on the other hand, are using the validity of “IP” (without even defining properly what it actually is) as a premise, and then work backwards, generating tons of nonsense, hoping to arrive to the concept of property as such. That’s not a scientific approach. That’s just ridiculous.

Anthony January 7, 2011 at 2:14 pm

Silas,

If you can show that EM spectrum is equivalent to IP then you will only have destroyed the argument for ownership in EM spectrum… you will not be any closer to supporting IP.

If IP and EM are the same then neither one can be owned.

Silas Barta January 7, 2011 at 10:23 am

Yes, I know you’ve dumped a huge tangle of bizarre justifications no one understands, even Stephan_Kinsella. (He just checks for whether your conclusion agrees with him, which is the entire basis he uses for evaluating the merit of an argument.) Still don’t see why I should care about any of it.

Peter Surda January 7, 2011 at 10:37 am

You are just trying to twist it so that you can portray your unwillingness to argue as a deficiency of your opponents.

Silas Barta January 7, 2011 at 10:46 am

Not really. I’ve welcomed others to untangle your argument and phrase it in terms that are relevant and understandable, but no one’s ever taken up that offer. (People volunteer to rephrase my arguments on this topic all the friggin’ time.) Any idea why that might be?

Peter Surda January 7, 2011 at 11:53 am

So, which part of my argument don’t you comprehend?

Anthony January 7, 2011 at 2:17 pm

Liar, Silas.

I have rephrased Peter for you several times… though his arguments are all reasonably clear to me so I suspect that if you made a genuine attempt to understand them you would not need help.

Peter Surda January 7, 2011 at 4:28 pm

Thank you very much. I sometimes wonder if I express myself clearly but obviously it is possible to understand me.

Silas Barta January 7, 2011 at 9:35 pm

Link?

Nate-m January 7, 2011 at 1:25 pm

> Finally, if IP only makes claims over metaphysical resources, then why are people able to consistently recognize when e.g. a copyright has been infringed? The thing is IP does claim ownership rights in scarce resources — it’s just that IP opponents *assume* that only certain resolutions of the conflict problem are valid (specifically, only those that give someone 100% usage rights in physical objects), thereby ruling out IP from the get-go, using circular logic.

Your attempting, either intentional or not, to confuse the issue by bringing up copyrights when I was talking about patents.

This is a lawyers trick to muddle the issue and make it impossible to actually discuss the subject. This is why the term ‘Intellectual property’ was created in the first place. When people bring up valid points why patents or copyrights need to be eliminated or restricted in some manner then the lawyer-type will just inject a disccusion about a entirely different set of laws and confuse the issue.

So when I was talking about patents you bring up points about copyright and then pretend that refutes or has anything to do with what I said.

Which it does not.

It’s a trick. Probably not intentional, but most people are very confused about the diferences between different laws. This is intentional by the people that crafted the term ‘IP’ and defend the laws, of course. It makes a person defending the laws seem more authoritative since it’s appears to bewilder the adversary when in fact it makes discussion of the laws impossible.

Think of the term ‘IP’ as a sort of emergency eject button. Get backed into the corner about patents? Well then just start talking about copyrights. It’s a non sequitur.

Patents and copyrights both are violations of private property and personal liberty. They depend on central state to enforce them through threats of violence.

That is were the similarities end. That’s all they really have in common.

It’s about as useful to talk about copyrights as it is to talke about capital murder when talking about patents. All these different feilds of law are all unrelated.

Here is a simple example:

Copyrights restrict a very specific activity: Copying. Are you allowed to copy or not? It’s a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ question. Sometimes finding the answer to yes or no is difficult, but it’s still fundamentally a restriction on a specific activity.

Patents on the other hand have nothing to do with copying. Intentionally copying when you know your violating patents can triple the damages under USA law, but certainly whether or not you copied anything has nothing to do with whether or not your violating a patent.

See how confusing ‘IP’ can be? In one set of laws copying is a core component. In another copying is irrelevent.

But if you can confuse the audiance into thinking that patents are about protecting ideas from being ‘stolen’ and violating copyrights by copying is ‘theft’ then it all of a sounds like something kinda resembling private property rights.

Stephan Kinsella January 7, 2011 at 1:55 pm

“Copyrights restrict a very specific activity: Copying. Are you allowed to copy or not? It’s a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ question. Sometimes finding the answer to yes or no is difficult, but it’s still fundamentally a restriction on a specific activity.”

Copyright does not only protect the right to reproduce (copy) but, significantly, the right to make derivative works, which is much broader and much more problematic.

“Patents on the other hand have nothing to do with copying. Intentionally copying when you know your violating patents can triple the damages under USA law, but certainly whether or not you copied anything has nothing to do with whether or not your violating a patent.”"

Enhanced damages can arise from wilful infringement, not from copying. Even if you don’t copy, but you independently invent some technology, start making it, then learn of some else’s patent, and continue to sell your product, then you can still be liable for treble damages.

The whole system is an abomination. It’s pathetic that so-called libertarians support this outrage.

Peter Surda January 7, 2011 at 4:26 pm

The distinction between copy and derivative is already subjective. Merely because characters are a well understood and widely used standard, why should a specific sequence of them be more relevant for what is copy than other criteria? Why can’t I claim ownership over things based on how they make me feel?

Artisan January 10, 2011 at 4:52 am

There is another great difference between individual ideas and material (externalized) property. The later can be exclusively associated to one individual in society, because there’s no risk that the resource temporarily dissolves into nothingness, or unexpectedly multiplies exponentially like a virus.

If an author could control that sort of spiritual phenomenon it would be great, but the truth is that many great artists lost their magic touch with the public some day, and many others became famous long after dying.

One cannot assume the creator “controls” that spreading. So it’s not quite normal, that society only acknowledges the positive aspects of that presumed control, – in the form of mere traceability – while always disregarding the potential vanity – the actual valuation – of those ideas, I’m afraid.

Peter Surda January 11, 2011 at 6:28 am

Parody of Silas:

Circular reasoning:

We know from books (e.g. Bible, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings) that magic exists. I won’t explain what it is, but I can imagine it, therefore it is. Opponents of magic claim that magic cannot be used to determine rights, because rights follow from physical world. But that is circular reasoning. The existence of physical world does not invalidate the existence of magic, nor does it mean that rights that follow from the physical world are absolute.

Calculation argument:

Without property rights in magic, there cannot be prices of magic and markets for magic and it is therefore impossible to rationally decide how much magic to produce. I know that magic cannot exist without any physical goods and physical labour (which do have a price), but I’ll just pretend it’s not like that.

EM spectrum:

My imagination of IP differs from the misuse of IP that might happen in the current system. I won’t explain how exactly, but it’s irrelevant. Misuse can happen under any system, but that does not invalidate it. If my opponents, however, explain that current system of “EM rights” is not the only way to solve the problem of scarcity of EM transmission bandwith, and explain how it is possible to assign rights to EM transmissions without any legal concept of patterns, frequency, or signal interference, I will ignore it because hypocrisy prevents me from formulating a consistent argument. The flaws in EM laws do invalidate opposition to IP, la la la I’m not listening.

Utilitarianism:

If my opponents use utilitarian reasons to object IP, I will complain because I reject utilitarianism. If however I use utilitarian justifications for IP, that’s ok, because I only do it when people are not paying attention.

Moral arguments:

It is completely irrelevant what IP actually is. Opposing it is immoral, so you guys suck.

I win, muahahahaha (maniacal laugh).

Beefcake the Mighty January 11, 2011 at 7:08 am

Actually this is not parody at all, it’s a spot-on rendition of Silas’ “arguments.”

Edgaras January 11, 2011 at 7:49 am

agree.

Stephan Kinsella January 11, 2011 at 8:45 am

Haha, this is brilliant.

Beefcake the Mighty January 12, 2011 at 7:11 pm

Silas writes:

“The thing is IP does claim ownership rights in scarce resources — it’s just that IP opponents *assume* that only certain resolutions of the conflict problem are valid (specifically, only those that give someone 100% usage rights in physical objects), thereby ruling out IP from the get-go, using circular logic.”

How many times has it been explained to you that Kinsella et al.’s theory of property rights does NOT entail 100% usage rights? 500? 1000? Confusion, no matter how abject (and you thoroughly are that) is one thing, dishonesty is another. Why are you such a lying sack of shit, Silas?

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