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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/5098/thoughts-on-intellectual-property-scarcity-labor-ownership-metaphors-and-lockean-homesteading/

Thoughts on Intellectual Property, Scarcity, Labor-ownership, Metaphors, and Lockean Homesteading

May 26, 2006 by

The following edited comments are excerpted from a recent email discussion with Walter Block and one of his correspondents, a Philosophy Professor (designated [PhilProf] below):

Walter, [PhilProf] — Thanks for your email. Only time for a few comments now.

[PhilProf]: “I find it difficult to accept the following possibility, namely, that when, say, I publish a hardcover book with [Publisher], it would be just for someone else to reproduce the contents in a paper version and sell it at a very cheap rate, thereby undercutting my hardcover sales and destroying my paperback sales.”

[PhilProf], I fully understand this intuition and emotion, but I’m not sure how it’s an argument. I would rather put the burden the other way around: the default position is that each person is entitled to do as he wishes with his own property–by which I mean his body and other homesteaded scarce resources he owns–so long as he does not violate the physical integrity — invade — others’ property.

BTW I think perhaps it may have been better had I used the economists’ term “rivalrous” to characterize what I call “scarce” resources. By “scarcity” I do not just mean the relative plentifulness of similar types of goods; I mean a particular quality of a particular resource itself, whether it is the only one of its kind or whether there are millions of others. My Timex watch is scarce–rivalrous–simply because you and I cannot both control it/possess it at the same time–even if there are 100,000 other identical ones out there.


[PhilProf]: “1. Kinsella doesn’t mean “scarcity” but finiteness, where distribution is a zero-sum state of affairs. Scarcity is I take it a relative notion. Even if land is not scarce, as among the early colonists, it was finite and property ownership was still crucial.”

Every particular plot of land is scarce (rivalrous), even if there is pleny more to go around. The point is that 2 people could both want to use it at the same time, whcih would give rise to the possibility of conflict. Property rules allocate the right to control the resource to one person, so that it can be used without conflict.

[PhilProf]: “So, when we come to putative intellectual property, we should think of its legitimacy in terms of finiteness and not scarcity.”

IMO, this argument falls away when you realize the type of scarcity we mean is rivalrousness, which ideas clearly are not.

[PhilProf]: “Finite what, you ask? Well, if someone else gets the money for selling a knockoff of my book, then I do not get that money.”

Sure; you could use a similar argument against free competition. If you are the first barber shop in town then someone else comes along and puts up another, you now don’t get some of the money you would have gotten from customers who now go to your competitor. so what.

[PhilProf]: “2. I grant you that there is a fine line between discovery of ideas (like discovering a literary pattern in a play) and creation. But no one doubts that my book on Plato, say, is my creation,”

Maybe; but as I tried to point out in my piece, creation is neither necessary nor sufficient for ownership.

[PhilProf]: “One flaw in Kinsella’a reasoning is a common one, namely, that where there is no absolutely clear division there is no difference.”

Well; my argument does not rest on this. It is merely an additional nail in the coffin. Even if you could rigorously, objectively distinguish between discovery and invention, still, both are merely ideas, or recipes, or knowledge ,or information–and in either case, not the ontological type of thing that can be property. “Running” exists but it cannot be owned. Lots of “things” exist–or are they merely our way of organizing our percepts into concepts we can understand? I don’t know and don’t think it matters–but not all “things” are “ownable things”. This is one problem with saying that you own something if you create it: it avoids the first step of asking whether the thing is an ownable thing; in fact, it presupposes that all things whatsoever are in principle ownable–memories, facts, things-that-happen, time, love, emotions, feelings, tendencies, smells, centuries, poems, letters, fonts, shades, giddiness, etc etc. etc ad infinitum. Funny however, all the advocates who want to “expand” the concept of property beyond the realm of the physical or tangible–scarce (rivalrous) resources–always want to enforce–en*force*–those rights wiht real, physical, force. If these ghostly, nontangible things are “real”, “as real as” well, real things, then why not use some kind of ghostly, nontangible “force” to enforce them? Why sully your hands by dipping into the “real” world of force to enforce these proliferating imaginary rights? In short, you reveal that you really know that the only “real” things–re rights–are those that connect to and are part of the real, physical, world of scarce resources, whenver you advocate using real force against real objects, as the way to enforce rights in these imaginary, conceptual “things”. It’s having your cake and eating it too. Or is it, rather, having your cake while you deny that only substantial things can be eaten.

Stephan

***

[PhilProf]: “As an author of lots of philosophy books, I know perfectly well the difference between “imaginary conceptual things” and a book (not the physical book, but the composition).”

But I mean to refer to a “book” as “imaginary”–to distinguish it from a tangible item.

My point is that unless you come up with some criteria for distinguishing ownable from non-ownable things, then any type of “thing” you can think of–basically, any concept–becomes property. Which shrinks more and more the domain of property in real things.

My criteria is the very thing that gives rise to the need for property rules in the first place: scarcity. Others apparently have no criteria, but seem to assume that so long as you think of some “thing” and can come up with a concept and name for it, voila, it’s ownable–and who should the owner be but, of course, the “creator”. What could be more natural? Except that this way of looking at it just presupposes that any”thing” is ownable.

[PhilProf]: “I’d say that the distinction between the creative product and random sequences is pretty clear to everyone, and even more significant than the difference bertween tangible and intangible property.”

Well, I still do not agree that there is a clearcut difference between creation (innovation) and discovery, but even if there is, and if there is a distinction between “things” you “create” and other “things,” still, you need to show why “creating” the thing makes it a type of thing that is ownable! Otherwise you are still begging the question.

That is, the first question is NOT, “Who owns this Thing?” Rahter, you only reach that question IF the thing is ownable in the first place. so the first question is: is this the type of Thing that is ownable? Does it fall in the class of Ownable Things? Or not? If it does, THEN we ask,–WHO owns it. Now, for all Ownable Things I am aware of, the owner is simply the first possessor or his descendant in title. If we say that poems, patterns, etc, are now ownable, then I suppose you could argue the creator has the best claim to own it. But in my view, we never reach this question.

I mean if you ask, “Who owns discus-throwing,” I might have to say, well, all Greeks. But I would say, I reject the premise of the question: no one owns discuss-throwing, because it’s not an Ownable Thing.

[PhilProf]: “On your view, the following is just fine. I sweat over my book for two years, and I contract with Oxford to publish it, to copy edit it, to promote it, etc. Someone (say a guy whose day job is bootlegging CDs) buys the first copy, runs off to reproduce it exactly and, since he has little overhead and doesn’t have to pay royalties sells it for 1/4 the price that Oxford sets. My university bookstore is happy to buy the bootleg version because they think that by doubling the wholesale price (rather than the usual 30% markup), they can sell more copies and make more money than otherwise. What part of this story is just?”

I never said that was “fine”; and who knows what institutions would arise to thwart this, much like software publsihers now have a variety of ways to capture rents from sale of software in a piracy-laden world.

I would again simply ask you: for you to stop the “Unjustness” you allude to, you would have to use state force against some third party who never contracted with you or your buyer. Why is that “just”? Prima facie, it’s aggression.

[PhilProf]: “By the way, I didn’t mention patents on drugs because the consideration here is also obviously utilitarian. ”

Right. This is all old hat. We are not all utilitarians.

[PhilProf]: “Just to put this in some perspective, by the way, my last royalty check from [Publisher] was, I think for [dollar sum].”

Congrats–I also make money from some books, but try to be principled enough not to let that make me utter words i do not believe.

[PhilProf]: “I hope very much that we can continue this discussion. We can pick it up when you have time. I’m just sitting here producing another piece of intellectual property.”

Yes–and without monetary pay. Imagine that.

***

[PhilProf]:

I was thinking this morning about where our problem is exactly. It seems to me that you want to insist that property is exclusively the raw material that is possessed or inhabited. It remains property when it is worked out into something else only because of this. The “form” itself adds nothing to the “matter” insofar as property is concerned. This is certainly a bit paradoxical on a Lockean approach to property, since it is the mixing of one’s labor that makes the raw material, the land, one’s own.

Ok, so let’s say we reject the Lockean approach. But then how do I possess the land? I can only literally stand on one tiny bit of land. To possess it is to homestead it, do something productive with it. If that is the case, why can we not analogize to artistic production? The only difference is that in the case of artistic production, we did not already own the raw materials. A third case would be, say, finding a piece of gold in the wild. I don’t have to do anything with it to own it. How does the gold differ from the land? Well. I guess I would say that they differ in that there is no way to say what land I own unless I work it, whereas there is a very clear way to say that I own this piece of gold.

So, gold we can just own and do nothng with; land we have to work somehow. If property is made in these two different ways, I don’t see why artistic products don’t constitute a third sort of property, since it isn’t just possession that does it in the case of land.

My reply:

Okay, briefly (I have addressed this in smatters here and there)–

I not only reject the Lockean proviso, I also reject the notion that “creation” is the way we come to own things. I think creation is neither necessary (if I homestead land I don’t create it; if I chip a statue into a chunk of marble that I already own, I own the statue that results not because I created it, but because I already owned the underlying marble) nor sufficient (if I chip a statue out of your marble, without your permission, I don’t own it).

Moreover, I reject the confused, over-metaphorical idea that you own your labor and “therefore” you own things you mix your labor with. Again, as with creation, I think ownership-of-labor is neither necessary (I own land I homestead because I am *first*, and have the best claim to it, not because I own my labor) nor sufficient (even if we did own our labor it does not show that we own things we mix it with–maybe we lose ownership of the labor by mixing it with things, much like you lose ownership of spit when you spit in the ocean).

I don’t start out by asking what we should insist what property is. Rather, as a civilized person who has voluntarily decided to accept the civilized way of doing things and related civilized norms–that cooperation is good, that violent interaction is not preferred, ceteris paribus, etc.–as does anyone would discuss such matters with me, as you are doing now–I simply ask, when there is a possibility of conflict over a given thing (which is necessarily, therefore, a “scarce” things, otherwise conflict over it would not be possible), which of the claimants for the thing should be able to control it; that is, I simply ask, when there is a dispute over a rivalrous thing, which contestant has the *better claim* to it. Obviously, someone with a more objective link to the property and someone whose connection or claim to it is such that recognizing their ownership is the way that would be seen universally (by those searching for justice and fairness–i.e., by those who choose to be civilized–i.e. by those who choose to discourse peacefully about such things) to be the best way to permit that resource, and others, to be used in a conflict-free (civilized) way; and obviously, ceteris paribus, the *earlier user* of the thing has a better claim than latecomers. If prior users didn’t have better claims than latecomers, there could be no property, no ownership; there would only be the (uncivilized) rule of the jungle, bare possession, and tooth and nail conflict over resource, which contradicts the presupposition of civilized discoursants that a conflict-free system of interaction is preferred. By the way, the significance of the prior-later user distinction is explained very well by Hans-Hermann Hoppe in his “argumentation ethics”; see www.HansHoppe.com; see also my discussion of Hoppe’s views on mere verbal decrees and the prior-later distinction in Defending Argumentation Ethics.

Now none of this requires me to say that the form of property “adds nothing” to it. J. Neil Schulman, in his logorights piece, argues that the identity of a created intellectual thing is primarily determined by its pattern (logos) not its material substrate, and “therefore” the creator owns it. To me, this is just sleight of hand. It begs the question by presupposing that all types of things in general are ownable. It opens the door to ontological chaos, since there can be an unending proliferation of types of things that can be owned–and each of these things, if they are non-scarce resources, chokes back the domain of objective property rules that apply to the actual, real, tangible, scarce resources that really need such rules since real, violent, physical conflict over them is really possible.

It is similar to the phenomenon of artificial positive welfare and other rights enforced by the state diluting and infringing upon and invading natural, real, negative rights. Liberals think you can just add more positive rights to the roster without realizing–or minding–that this necessarily reduces the space of negative rights. Likewise, those who advocate any rights whatsoever in any non-scarce thing (like a novel-pattern, or method-of-doing-something) necessarily advocate reducing the space of rights that pertain to and protect the conflict-free use of scarce things. This is why I point out, for example, that assigning IP rights is a way of stealing property: if A owns a car and all of a sudden B gets exclusive right of a way-to-tune-car-engines because he thought of it first, then B becomes a partial co-owner of the car with A, since A’s right to control over it is shared with B (in a particular way). The transfer of rights in the car from A to B is commonly called wealth redistribution, or, by principled libertarians who do not mince words, outright theft, or socialism. This is but one example of how recognizing rights in IP reduces rights in real things.

As for your question of how much land you homestead: I do not see that the problem is different if you look at it my way as opposed to the standard Lockean way. In both cases, there needs to be a decision made as to “how much” land you “mixed your labor with” (Locke) or “possessed” (in my case). In fact I would say that “mixing your labor” is a way of determining how much land you did use or possess–but it simply does not require one to say that you “own” your labor. It is confused to say this. You don’t own your labor any more than you own your memories or love or emotions or knowledge or actions.

I simply do not see that this kind of reasoning can be applied to “artistic creations,” for all the reasons specified above. As for a piece of gold you find it in the wild, if you appropriate it, then you have an objectively better claim to it than any possible contestant.

(Other related resources and posts:

)

{ 98 comments }

Person May 26, 2006 at 12:18 pm

Stephan, I’d advise that if you want to hide the identity of PhilProf, you remove what appears to be his first name in your comment at the end. I don’t know if it was intentional for you to do that, since that’s obviously not enough information to easily find him with.

I wanted to take issue with your comment here:

I never said that was “fine”; and who knows what institutions would arise to thwart [bootlegging in absence of IP laws], much like software publsihers now have a variety of ways to capture rents from sale of software in a piracy-laden world.

I know that you (in your non-utilitaritan philosophy) really couldn’t care less if the repeal of IP laws would result in no for profit software ever being written and marketed. However, your statement here is misleading at best. The ways that software publishers capture rents even despite piracy are all due to the over-arching enforcement of IP laws, so the existence of profits-despite-piracy does not help you establish the possibility or viability of marketing software in an IP-less world. For example, large corporations visibly use the software, so their violation would be detected easily. Individuals who buy the software for non-commercial purchases weight the risk of being caught, which leads many of them to buy rather than pirate. There would be no such incentive without IP.

If you were referring to how they could make money teaching classes on how to use their software, keep in mind this is trival compared to licensing fees, and profits from teaching the software are not rents since others can do it almost equally well.

quasibill May 26, 2006 at 12:49 pm

Person,

“The ways that software publishers capture rents even despite piracy are all due to the over-arching enforcement of IP laws”

is not true in every instance. Some of the ways that they capture “rents” (I dislike using the term in this context because I have a negative connotation from “rent-seeking”) involve non-IP related enforcement mechanisms. Copy protection, agreements with hardware producers for DRM, “spiking” pirate servers with defective copies, and offering after market support are all methods that increase the value of obtaining a copy from directly from the producer, without resorting to aggression against third parties.

My problem with Kinsella’s argument resolves more around “I own land I homestead because I am *first*, and have the best claim to it, not because I own my labor”. I’m not sure where the line is drawn in this paradigm. If Kinsella were the *first* to walk on the moon, what has he homesteaded? The whole moon? The pebbles he walked on? At what point can one know that he has abandoned any claim on a given pebble there?

I’m not convinced that we can so cavalierly dispose of self-ownership in creating ownership in non-self objects.

Person May 26, 2006 at 1:19 pm

quasibill:

Person,

“The ways that software publishers capture rents even despite piracy are all due to the over-arching enforcement of IP laws”

is not true in every instance. Some of the ways that they capture “rents” (I dislike using the term in this context because I have a negative connotation from “rent-seeking”) involve non-IP related enforcement mechanisms. Copy protection, agreements with hardware producers for DRM, “spiking” pirate servers with defective copies, and

These tactics are *also* affected by the over-arching IP enforcement. Describing how to circumvent copy-protection and DRM are illegal or semi-legal, which significantly increases the effectiveness of copy-protection. Were it legal to explain how to circumvent them on the website without any fear of legal repercussions, those methods of securing the rents would be extremely ineffective. Ditto for spiking. Again, it’s IP law that *drives* people to these underground P2P trading methods. If there were no IP laws, you could openly distribute and provide more reliability that it’s the real thing.

Now, I agree that “rent” as a negative connotation, but it’s necessary here to distinguish “returns to providing a specific service” and “returns to producing an intellectual work”, the latter of which I reference as a “rent”. If it is profitable to support a software package, *but not create it to begin with*, “we have a problem”. With that in mind, I reply to your statement:

offering after market support are all methods that increase the value of obtaining a copy from directly from the producer, without resorting to aggression against third parties.

by saying that this just means people can profitably help you out with some software, but not write it.

In the spirit of your ultimate sentence, I would say that I’m not convinced we can so cavalierly dispose of the concerns about the production of intellectual works shriveling up if there were no IP laws, even if that is rank “utilitarianism”.

Curt Howland May 26, 2006 at 1:32 pm

Person, have you never heard of Free and Open Source software? Linux? BSD? Maybe RedHat?

There is a great deal of non-proprietary software being produced and distributed right now, with the only copyright “enforcement” being that it cannot be redistributed under any license other than what it had when it was acquired.

Your assertion that the only software being produced is proprietary, produced by massive profit (sorry, rent) seeing corporations, that the elimination of coercive so-called “IP” law would eliminate software production, is a bald faced lie.

Companies all over the world are making billions reselling and supporting software which is otherwise available at no cost. There is not one application on my computer that I am using right now that I paid for, yet I own everything on the machine perfectly legally. Would you like a copy?

If you are interested in actually learning the subject about which you are speaking with such assumed authority, I recommend you at least read “The Cathedral And The Bazaar” by Eric S. Raymond. It also happens to be available at no cost online, something you clearly believe to be impossible. But then you’ve never heard of http://www.oreilly.com/ O’Reilly Media, who profit by publish books which, like many Mises.org titles, are available for no cost online. Funny, Mises.org articles have often pointed out that when the text is freely available sales (and therefore profits) of rather expensive book versions increase.

Until then, could you please not speak on a subject about which you are so obviously ignorant?

quasibill May 26, 2006 at 1:32 pm

“These tactics are *also* affected by the over-arching IP enforcement.”

Other than *slightly* increasing their effectiveness, no.

” Were it legal to explain how to circumvent them on the website without any fear of legal repercussions, those methods of securing the rents would be extremely ineffective”

No, it takes time to learn how to circumvent, and effort. And, it takes time and effort to actually do it, in most cases (requiring programming skill, hardware skill, etc.). Meanwhile the content providers are working on a new scheme for next month’s content. So, far from be ineffective, it will remain effective, and in fact create a new market (as it already has) in copy-protection providers.

“If there were no IP laws, you could openly distribute and provide more reliability that it’s the real thing.”

No, again. Even if these pirate sites were “above ground”, you could still spike them, and still create “spiked sites”. You will always be more assured of getting error free, fully functional, virus and trojan horse free, software from a respected producer than from a pirate site, even in the absence of IP. IP laws do not change this dynamic one iota.

“by saying that this just means people can profitably help you out with some software, but not write it”

No. It means that people will pay for your expertise on the software you write, and therefore agree to pay for it, knowing that’s the only way they’ll get your expertise in using/troubleshooting/learning it.

“I would say that I’m not convinced we can so cavalierly dispose of the concerns about the production of intellectual works shriveling up if there were no IP laws”

Similarly, one could say one is not convinced we can so cavalierly dispose of tax-funded welfare programs…

The burden of proof is always on the statist who is trying to justify the use of physical aggression. If you can prove that no intellectual work would get done in the absence of IP, you can convince me. But knowing history, I know you can’t…

Person May 26, 2006 at 2:11 pm

Oh, great, another one of these. This’ll be fun. ‘cept I don’t intend to move on this time.

Curt_Howland: Person, have you never heard of Free and Open Source software? Linux? BSD? Maybe RedHat? There is a great deal of non-proprietary software …

I know. I have heard of those, and I have no clue why you would think otherwise.

Your assertion that the only software being produced is proprietary, produced by massive profit (sorry, rent) seeing corporations, that the elimination of coercive so-called “IP” law would eliminate software production, is a bald faced lie.

*sigh* I made no such assertion, nor would I, as it would be false. Please re-read my posts on this. I never said anything like those statements, and your statement reflects poorly on both your civility and your ability to read. My concern is with the fact that it would be impossible to profit from writing software except perhaps that which is targeted to a very specific application. FOSS can accomplish a lot, but I have doubts that it could accomplish everything. Linux, for example, is nowhere near as user-friendly as Windows for someone unwilling to learn the guts. Now, I await your apology.

But then you’ve never heard of http://www.oreilly.com/ O’Reilly Media, who profit by publish books which, like many Mises.org titles, are available for no cost online.

I’m not familiar with their business model, but I assume they assert IP in the physical copies of these books, making profit this way. If their only revenue is from people who don’t need to pay them to get that identical good, they are more of a charity than a for-profit company, and prove nothing in terms of my above concern.

Funny, Mises.org articles have often pointed out that when the text is freely available sales (and therefore profits) of rather expensive book versions increase.

Not funny. They are able to make these sales, and sell them so expensively, because they (or someone with whom they have a deal) holds IP in that physical copy. In the absence of IP, someone could just offer a cheaper, identical such book. Insofar as people would still buy at the Mises site, they would be doing so as charity, and such purchases would not constitute a model of a for-profit publisher.

quasibill, who has also lost his temper:

No, it takes time to learn how to circumvent, and effort. And, it takes time and effort to actually do it, in most cases (requiring programming skill, hardware skill, etc.).

The reason it takes such time and effort is because people can’t openly collaborate and cooperate in breaking the copy-protection, distributing cracks, etc.

Even if these pirate sites were “above ground”, you could still spike them, and still create “spiked sites”.

You’d screw up their DNS??? People would get this software at reliable sites. And who says they even have to go to a website? Go to a brick-and-mortar bookstore and get your bootleg copy with no legal repercussions whatsoever. Good luck spiking that! “No, suspicious character, I will not sell your copies of Photoshop, I will just sell the real version that I personally cracked.”

No. It means that people will pay for your expertise on the software you write, and therefore agree to pay for it, knowing that’s the only way they’ll get your expertise in using/troubleshooting/learning it.

Or reading the help file, which obviates most of the market for such a service. Or are people not supposed to write help files now?

Similarly, one could say one is not convinced we can so cavalierly dispose of tax-funded welfare programs…

And one would likewise deserve a well-thought-out response to such a concern.

The burden of proof is always on the statist who is trying to justify the use of physical aggression.

The debate over property theory *precedes* the debate over what constitutes aggression.

If you can prove that no intellectual work would get done in the absence of IP, you can convince me. But knowing history, I know you can’t…

That’s not my complaint. Of course *some* intellectual works would be produced without IP laws. Just as some lumber would still be produced if lumber profits were taxed 100%. A world in which I have to make my own lumber or convince someone to give it to me for free would still suck. Now do you see my concern, or will you just blow up at me again for asking these things?

Curt Howland May 26, 2006 at 2:25 pm

Person, “and I have no clue why you would think otherwise.”

Then I will quote you since you obviously cannot read your own postings: “If it is profitable to support a software package, *but not create it to begin with*, “we have a problem”.

The demonstrable fact that software is being produced in vast quantity without direct remuneration shows that you are wrong.

Person May 26, 2006 at 2:34 pm

Curt_Howland: In precisely which dictionary does “we have a problem” mean the same thing as “it would not be produced” or “it isn’t currently being produced”? Recall that you alleged,

“Your assertion that the only software being produced is proprietary, …, that the elimination of coercive so-called ‘IP’ law would eliminate software production, is a bald faced lie.”

You claimed that I said something, which I did not really say. It’s black and white. I want an apology. Actually, you want to give an apology because you are aware that is necessary to re-establish your honesty and good faith.

Stephan Kinsella May 26, 2006 at 2:38 pm

Before replying to any of the comments above, let me append some further email discussion I’ve had with the original discussants.

Walter Block: “Before you get to the question of how do you technically get to own x as property (e.g., do you homestead it?) you first have to ask Stephan’s question: is it the sort of thing that can BE property in the first place? I think you are putting the cart before the horse: addressing the second question, and ignoring the first one.”

To which [PhilProf] replied:

In a straightforard sense, if I have produced it, it is my property or I own it. I think Stephan’s notion of property is too narrow. I believe I do own my own thoughts in the precise sense that I control them. If self-ownership is possible (and I think it is the core of the libertarian position to hold this (that is, without it, why don’t we respect animal rights of ownership?), then the control I exercise over myself is ownership. Hence, I own what follows from me being a self-owner.

My response:

you say my concept of property is too narrow. Presumably this is because it is restricted to scarce resources. But my answer would be that I don’t start from there. I simply notice there is a conflict–and when there is, it’s always over some conflictable (i.e., rivalrous; scarce) thing; and then I do what libertarians do, and favor the assignment of an owner, and the one i happen to favor is the one with the best claim; which I realize is the one with the earlier (earliest) possession.

This results in the simple rule: for a given scarce resource, the owner is the one who had it first (or his descendent in title). That just does not leave room for new things that are ownable, since it would erode this rule. In effect, my rule says that as between A and B, who are contesting a given scarce resource, the one with a better claim to it (and thus who should own it) is the one who, as between them, had earlier possession, i.e., is not the latecomer. I fail to see how anyone can coherently argue that a latecomer has better title than someone who had it first.

Now, you are also in favor of a narrow concept of property. We are talking, after all, about who is the owner of a given scarce resource. You just have a different rule than me as to what makes for a better claim. This is all that it means to say that IP is property: it is to say that there is a rule other than first-possession for determining who owns a given scarce resource. Your rule would be (I imagine) something like this: “as between A and B, who are contesting a given scarce resource, the one with a better claim to it (and thus who should own it) is the one who *first thought of a way to use some other property*.

In other words, my view is finder’s keepers–the common sense view that if you appropriate an unowned thing before someone else, they may not take it from you, because it is no longer unowned. You view, by contrast, is that if A homesteads an unowned thing and is its first user and therefore comes to own it, A’s title to the thing gets (partially) transferred to B later on, if B *thinks of a new way to use* scarce resoures. But the claim of B is a mere verbal one; just like the claim of the state, the socialist, the thug, the egalitarian–they all have various “reasons” they give for justifying why it’s okay to steal A’s property and transfer it to some latecomer.

I highly recommend, on this, Hoppe’s discussion of the problem with mere verbal decrees as being insufficient for ownership. The significance of the prior-later user distinction is explained very well by Hans-Hermann Hoppe in his “argumentation ethics”; see http://www.HansHoppe.com; see also my discussion of Hoppe’s views on mere verbal decrees and the prior-later distinction in Defending Argumentation Ethics.

I try to be precise and careful with these terms, especially because imprecision and overused metaphors lead to sloppy conclusions. Ownership, in my view, is merely the right to control. It is different than mere possession. Clearly it applies only to things that need a right to control–that must be scarce things, since you don’t need a right to control something that cannot be taken away. But of course, one’s body is a scarce resource–as Hoppe notes, you might want to use it to do something, someone else might want to have sex with it. Who gets to decide? Prima facie, I do. That is to say, I have the right to control my body; in that sense I am a self-owner, of course. But we do not deny bodies are scarce resources; they are, as Hoppe says, the prototypical scarce resource. But this does not apply to recipes of knowledge.

Curt Howland May 26, 2006 at 2:43 pm

Please forgive the double post, 20-20 hindsight and all that.

Person, since what you said was so obviously false, I had a choice. Either you didn’t know about F/OSS software, of you were making deliberately false statements. I chose the former.

It’s also clear you have never tried F/OSS software, since you believe it to be non-user-friendly. Frankly, if Windows is so user friendly, why does any installation with more than 3 or 4 Windows PCs require maintenance staff to keep them running? The illusion of Windows user-friendlyness only exists in people who have not used anything else. If F/OSS cannot provide functionality, how are we having this discussion since I’m not using anything proprietary?

Over and over again, in subject after subject, your global statements are shown to be either your subjective opinion or simply false. That is why you can say something like, “Oh, great, another one of these.” If you keep getting the same result from different people, consider that the difficulty may very well be how you are presenting your “facts”.

Stephan Kinsella May 26, 2006 at 2:47 pm

Person:

Stephan, I’d advise that if you want to hide the identity of PhilProf, you remove what appears to be his first name in your comment at the end. I don’t know if it was intentional for you to do that, since that’s obviously not enough information to easily find him with.

He gave me permission to quote him but I was not sure if I had permission to give his name so left it out (though he has not objected). But that was inadvertent and I have fixed it.

I wanted to take issue with your comment here:

I never said that was “fine”; and who knows what institutions would arise to thwart [bootlegging in absence of IP laws], much like software publsihers now have a variety of ways to capture rents from sale of software in a piracy-laden world.

I know that you (in your non-utilitaritan philosophy) really couldn’t care less if the repeal of IP laws would result in no for profit software ever being written and marketed.

I never said this; I only have maintained that it is not justified to use force against someone who uses their own property according to a pattern or information just because of the pedigree of that pattern or information.

However, your statement here is misleading at best. The ways that software publishers capture rents even despite piracy are all due to the over-arching enforcement of IP laws, so the existence of profits-despite-piracy does not help you establish the possibility or viability of marketing software in an IP-less world.

This is not relevant here, but I don’t agree; after all, books and scientific research has been done through the centuries without a monopoly available. You could argue there might be more innovation if there are monopolies but I fail to see how you can argue there would be none.

And you are posting here for free, after all.

quasibill:

My problem with Kinsella’s argument resolves more around “I own land I homestead because I am *first*, and have the best claim to it, not because I own my labor”. I’m not sure where the line is drawn in this paradigm. If Kinsella were the *first* to walk on the moon, what has he homesteaded? The whole moon? The pebbles he walked on? At what point can one know that he has abandoned any claim on a given pebble there?

This “problem” is present in *any* theory of property rights, yours included. So why single mine out?

quasibill:

The burden of proof is always on the statist who is trying to justify the use of physical aggression. If you can prove that no intellectual work would get done in the absence of IP, you can convince me. But knowing history, I know you can’t…

So you would become a statist in favor of physical aggression, if you could be persuaded that “no intellectual work would get done in the absence of IP”? Really?

BTW, presumably there would be no IP around in the initial state, right? So if IP were needed for there to be *any* intellectual work, this could never be shown, since that would be intellectual work. OTOH, if anyone ever “shows IP is needed to produce intellectual work” then isn’t this argument self-contradictory, if it’s done in a system with no IP laws?

Stephan Kinsella May 26, 2006 at 2:57 pm

Further back and forth with my email correspondent:

[PhilProf]: “If you unqualifiedly reject the Lockean proviso, how exactly do you determine how much land you possess beyond the piece of land you are standing on now?”

I don’t see that the problem is any less difficult if you add the Lockean proviso. Still, a determination needs to be made.

[PhilProf]: “I think the difference between discovery and invention is pretty clear. Neptune was discovered and the integrted circuit was invented….. He invented it even though he used the laws of physics (which were discovered not invented).”

Is it a discovery, or an invention, that the use of wider aisles in supermarkets might lead to more consumer patronage?

[PhilProf]: “I don’t see why writing a book or inventing the integrated circuit (aren’t these the guys you work for as a patent lawyer?) is much different from planting a field on virgin land nd THEREBY claiming ownership.”

Because giving you ownership of these “things” gives you partial ownership of property already owned by others.

***

PhilProf’s reply:

That wider aisles entices more customers was of course a discovery.

Ah, then we better change US patent law, since business methods are now patentable.

I don’t buy the partial ownership argument. If I write a story I don’t acquire partial ownership of any words that any one else uses. I just own that creation which is now a paradigm that can be replicated.

Whether you buy it or not, whether you re-word it to say that you just favor ownership of “creations,” there can be no doubt that what this *means* is that you are now giving partial right of control to an innovator/creator, over the scarce resources owned by others. For example if I patent a method for peeling corn, I can veto your use of your own corn in that way. I am a co-owner of your body and corn.

The best claim to an artistic product is surely had by the creator. Who could have a better claim to the song Let it Be than the Beatles?

Surely you can see this is question-begging; as it just skips over the issue of whether songs are property. It presupposes that they are, then asks, who has the best claim to own it? I have admitted that, IF songs are property, then “of course” the one who created it has the best natural claim or link to it (ceteris paribus).

No one is barred from playing it as no one is barred from reading my books. They are just barred from profiting from them because they are the property of the owners.

This is not correct. A patent holder has the right to stop you from using the invention, not just to keep you from selling it. Similar with copyright. Are you really aware of how bad is the thing you are defending?

Person May 26, 2006 at 3:14 pm

Stephan_Kinsella: I said: I know that you (in your non-utilitaritan philosophy) really couldn’t care less if the repeal of IP laws would result in no for profit software ever being written and marketed.

To which you replied:

I never said this;

I don’t know what the referent of “this” is here, but I never claimed you said anything there. (Like Curt_Howland above falsely attributed words to me.) You then said:

I only have maintained that it is not justified to use force against someone who uses their own property according to a pattern or information just because of the pedigree of that pattern or information.

Yeah. I know. I was just giving a lead-in to my next statement by acknowledging your non-utilitarianism so you wouldn’t need to remind me of it when responding to me regarding a utilitarian concern. I’m actually capable of thinking that far ahead, believe it or not! I then said:

However, your statement here is misleading at best. The ways that software publishers capture rents even despite piracy are all due to the over-arching enforcement of IP laws, so the existence of profits-despite-piracy does not help you establish the possibility or viability of marketing software in an IP-less world.

to which you replied:

This is not relevant here,

It’s not relevant to the discussion of property theory in the email discussion you’re quoting. This, I know. That’s why I prefaced my statement with acknowledgement of non-utilitarian philosophies. It helps when you read an entire post before responding, or at least read statements in context before telling me something I already know.

but I don’t agree; after all, books and scientific research has been done through the centuries without a monopoly available. You could argue there might be more innovation if there are monopolies but I fail to see how you can argue there would be none.

That’s a very good point, Stephan. I think that forms a large part of why I NEVER ARGUED THAT THE ABSENCE OF IP LAWS MEANS NO PRODUCTION OF INTELLECTUAL WORKS or innovation or research. Seriously, guys, where are you all getting this idea that I claimed that the absence of IP leads to no productions of intellectual works at all. Are the editors adding things to my posts that I just can’t see?

By the way, how do you indent posts like you do when you quote people?

Curt_Howland:

Person, since what you said was so obviously false,

I have said precisely NOTHING that is false, and you have continued to avoid apologizing for attributing statements to me that I simply did not say. Unless your next post begins with “Person, I’m sorry for failing to properly read your posts and then attributing statements to you that you didn’t say” (and then avoid contradicting this in this statement in the future), I will ignore it.

Either you didn’t know about F/OSS software, of you were making deliberately false statements. I chose the former. It’s also clear you have never tried F/OSS software, since you believe it to be non-user-friendly.

Another false attribution! I NEVER said all FOSS, or FOSS in general is non-user-friendly. I said *Linux* is non-userfriendly, and further qualified that by constraining it to people who don’t want to learn the guts of the system. Can you go one post without saying something that isn’t true?

Frankly, if Windows is so user friendly, why does any installation with more than 3 or 4 Windows PCs require maintenance staff to keep them running?

I was unaware the home lay user installed to 3 PC’s. I was unaware the home lay user installed to *one* PC. Microsoft (or their distributors) actually goes through the effort of installing it for you and letting you know such an option exists! That’s a lot more user friendly than “well, er, if you go to this out-of-the-way shop, let me get you the directions, okay, just tell him I sent you and he’ll get you a PC with Linux installed”, or ever worse, expecting them to buy a bare PC and installing it themselves!

Remember — apology comes first next time.

Curt Howland May 26, 2006 at 3:32 pm

Person, you are not the one reading your posts. Other people are. That so many people attribute your choice of words to mean things you later declare you did not mean, I suggest again that this is most easily attributed to your choice of words rather than everyone else reading them wrong.

“Linux”, literally the kernel, is no more nor less easy to use than the Windows kernel. If you are going to install just the literal “Linux” kernel and declare it’s not a usable system, then there is no way not to agree with you. In fact, such a system will not even boot up. That is specifically why I accepted your use of the word “Linux” to mean a Linux based distribution, something which is done in common use by many millions of other people as well.

I am left to wonder, if I had pointed out that a naked kernel without anything else (literal “Linux” which you now say was your meaning) was an absurdity, would you have turned around and declared that you were not using it to mean just the kernel at all? That I had again mistaken your use of words to mean something you did not say?

“we would have a problem.” This is a false statement. “We” don’t have any problem at all, right here, right now, not using any proprietary software. So unless you can show how I am using your exact words wrong, you’re still making a fallacious statement which underminds your entire argument in favor of the present insane IP law structure.

I’m also pleased to point to an article about the efforts in Europe to prevent any patenting of software, http://www.linuxtoday.com/developer/2006052502226NWSWLL

Paul Edwards May 26, 2006 at 3:50 pm

Quasibill,

I don’t think Kinsella intends to dispense with self-ownership in denying that we own our labor. The key in determining ownership of scarce resources hinges on who has the first and most obvious objective connection to it. First use or first appropriation provides the clearest objective connection to a resource possible. It does not depend on us owning our labor, and in fact the idea of ownership in our labor contributes nothing but adds confusion to the topic.

In the moon example you cite, it is not clear to me how the Lockean approach of mixing one’s (owned) labor with the moon would help answer the question better. At the root of the question is first use. It is just as Kinsella states: adding labor to a resource is just a way to objectively identify first use. But it is not because you own your labor, but because you were first to use the resource that creates that objective link between the first user and the resource.

Stephan Kinsella May 26, 2006 at 4:03 pm

Paul:

I don’t think Kinsella intends to dispense with self-ownership in denying that we own our labor. The key in determining ownership of scarce resources hinges on who has the first and most obvious objective connection to it. First use or first appropriation provides the clearest objective connection to a resource possible. It does not depend on us owning our labor, and in fact the idea of ownership in our labor contributes nothing but adds confusion to the topic.

Exactamente!

Actually it’s similar to Rothbard’s point that there is really no right to free speech: to the extent you have it, it’s just an implication of, redundant with, property rights. It’s not some independent right. If you own land you can do what you want on it, including speak or not speak. Likewise, if you have the right to control your body you can homestead things with it, and do things (labor) with it, and make agreements conditional upon that labor that transfer title to or from you based on your or others’ engaging in given actions (“labor”).

Curt Howland May 26, 2006 at 4:10 pm

Person, all you need to do is “view source” for this page, and you can see the HTML tags used. Unless, of course, your Internet Explorer doesn’t support “view source”.

The tag that Kilsella is using is “blockquote” and “/blockquote”. Thanks for asking, it inspired me to go look it up myself. It seems too much typing, though, I’ll stick with “i” and “/i”.

quasibill May 26, 2006 at 4:36 pm

“quasibill, who has also lost his temper:”

Funny, I hadn’t noticed that. But if it makes you feel superior, fine.

“The reason it takes such time and effort is because people can’t openly collaborate and cooperate in breaking the copy-protection, distributing cracks, etc.”

Proving beyond all doubt you have no idea what you’re talking about. These people DO openly collaborate. They have private lists and message boards. And even with these, it is HARD work to crack copy protection. I’ve seen some of the cracks they come up with, and even in the absence of IP I wouldn’t try them – they take quite a bit of technical know how just to implement, even when you’re walked through it step-by-step.

“Or reading the help file, which obviates most of the market for such a service. Or are people not supposed to write help files now?”

Wow. So I guess the computer consulting business is entirely made up – a figment of my imagination. And corporate IT departments – not necessary. All people need to do is read the help file, and they can solve any problem!

“he debate over property theory *precedes* the debate over what constitutes aggression”

Well, but I can without doubt say that your IP laws agress against me and my property. You are still stuck at trying to justify that you have property in the first place. Again, in such a situation, the burden of proof rests with the undenied aggressor.

As for blowing up – again, if it makes you feel better to claim victim status, go ahead. I’ll continue to address the lack of substance in your argument, without getting into your personal emotional state.

Person May 26, 2006 at 4:52 pm

Curt_Howland: What are we forgetting?


me:”The reason it takes such time and effort is because people can’t openly collaborate and cooperate in breaking the copy-protection, distributing cracks, etc.”

you:Proving beyond all doubt you have no idea what you’re talking about. These people DO openly collaborate. They have private lists and message boards.

Er… go back and read that one more time. I bolded some parts that may be of interest. Even if correct, you are missing the forest for the trees. Okay, let’s say it’s 100% impossible to break the copy protection unless you helped put it in. So … someone who helped put it in can get some free cash on the side by selling the break.

me:”Or reading the help file, which obviates most of the market for such a service. Or are people not supposed to write help files now?”

you:Wow. So I guess the computer consulting business is entirely made up – a figment of my imagination. And corporate IT departments – not necessary. All people need to do is read the help file, and they can solve any problem!

Wow, that was a surprise — a statement was falsely attributed to me. I really, really didn’t expect that to happen. At all.

Look at my statement again. Help files obviate *most* of the market for the services of *helping people to learn* a particular set of software. Which is eminently true — if we had no help files, there were be a lot more helping service to provide (or no software market). Again, my point was that most of the returns from this are for providing a specific service to a customer — doing the actual labor of the IT department, not a return to writing software (intellectual work production). As for consulting, again, that’s mostly services targeted to a specific user that generally can’t be directly ported to other purposes, or is, again, not a return to writing the software itself.

me:”the debate over property theory *precedes* the debate over what constitutes aggression”

you:Well, but I can without doubt say that your IP laws agress against me and my property. You are still stuck at trying to justify that you have property in the first place. Again, in such a situation, the burden of proof rests with the undenied aggressor.

This is getting tiresome. *Aggression* presupposes a concept of “property”. So you can’t be sure that “my IP laws” “agress against your property” without establishing what is your property. And to do that, you need to establish what kinds of things are valid property and what are not — precisely what is under discussion to begin with. You’re begging the question. (If it’s not clear, recall that I could say that your claims to “your” property claims, like my IP claims, require aggression against me to enforce, which would likewise regress to the question of what property theory is valid.)

quasibill May 26, 2006 at 4:52 pm

“This “problem” is present in *any* theory of property rights, yours included. So why single mine out”

Okay, but by starting with self-ownership, it seems to me you have a least a starting point in determining the answer to the question. The amount of property you are entitled to is the amount that you can mix your labor (or savings)with, when you are talking about first appropriation. Just being first, to me, provides absolutely no guidepost on this question. I agree it’s murky on the edges no matter what, but just being *first* seems to turn the question into an essentially unanswerable one.

“So you would become a statist in favor of physical aggression, if you could be persuaded that “no intellectual work would get done in the absence of IP”? Really?”

No, but for the sake of discussion (in the hopes of having a rational one with someone I’m beginning to doubt is open to one) I was willing to concede the possibility of accepting the utilitarian argument for it, despite my background ethical opposition to it.

quasibill May 26, 2006 at 4:59 pm

Maybe I’m missing something obvious, but

“But it is not because you own your labor, but because you were first to *use* the resource that creates that objective link between the first user and the resource.” (obviously emphasis added).

seems like you are implicitly valuing the labor of using the resource. Further, see my previous reply as to how the labor concept provides a guidepost for resolving the question. Granted, it doesn’t always answer it unarguably, but it does provide a certain amount of bright-line area that is absent when you are just starting with “first” – to me, everything become arbitrary under that scenario.

Stephan Kinsella May 26, 2006 at 5:02 pm

quasibill:

by starting with self-ownership, it seems to me you have a least a starting point in determining the answer to the question. The amount of property you are entitled to is the amount that you can mix your labor (or savings)with, when you are talking about first appropriation. Just being first, to me, provides absolutely no guidepost on this question. I agree it’s murky on the edges no matter what, but just being *first* seems to turn the question into an essentially unanswerable one.

But we have pointed out that labor-mixing is an indication-of-possession/use/appropriation. So to the extent that labor-mixing is determinate, so is homesteading based on appropriation.

The labor theory is just confusing. If you say owenrship requires mixing of labor that you own, then you “start with” body-ownership, do you say that you first owned your labor, and “therefore” own your body now, b/c you mix your labor with it? If not, why does the labor theory fail in the case of the body? Hoppe points out the body is the prototypical scarce resource. Not an exception.

Of course being first is a guidepost. After all the question only arises after a given resource is identified as such, since there are 2 or more people who all claim it or want it. So then we only have to ask: with respect to *this* resoure, which of *these contestants* has the more objective link. Not that hard.

quasibill May 26, 2006 at 5:14 pm

“So … someone who helped put it in can get some free cash on the side by selling the break.”

I would hope you signed a non-disclosure with him in the first place, and you could then prosecute him for breaking it. That’s assuming that he has an incentive to undercut his own business. And if you believe that that would be the case, I’m not sure that there’s much chance of there being a rational discussion between us.

“Help files obviate *most* of the market for the services of *helping people to learn* a particular set of software.”

The highlighted word is simply your unsubstantiated opinion. Again, there is a massive market for these services, even with IP laws. And you completely ignored (there’s a shock!) the point about IT departments. You can wish away this market all you want, but in the real world, it exists. And in the absence of IP laws, it would grow exponentially, as there would be less incentive to “bundle” this service into the sale of the initial license, which is often the case under the IP regime.

“So you can’t be sure that “my IP laws” “agress against your property” without establishing what is your property”

So you’re saying that if I create the same subroutine that is subject to your IP right, you’re not aggressing against my right to use my computer as I see fit? That is a valid debatable point in your discussion?

“your claims to “your” property claims, like my IP claims, require aggression against me to enforce”

Patently false, unless you’re using an abnormal definition for “aggression”. I need not aggress at all to defend my claim to my computer. I can exercise self-defense, and enjoy ownership of my computer, without ever aggressing against you. On the other hand, IP rights are pre-emptive aggressions against everyone’s property rights to use their physical property in the manner they see fit.

David C May 26, 2006 at 7:35 pm

I’m thinking that it might be better to look at it from some other angles:

Theft of property is not defined by what one gains, but by what one looses. When something is coppied, the author does not loose their original copy, but a government imposed monopoly on distribution – well, that is not a right.

Also, looking at in terms of the market – the limiting factor in supply and demand is not content, but rather it’s creation. Translation: an IP market centers arround information controll, a non IP market centers arround information related services (this is especially important, since society is entering the information age). Now which seems obviously better for the cause of liberty.

If a company used the government to create artifical limits in the supply and demand of food to jack up profits at the expense of people starving in 3rd world countries – most people would see that is evil. So why is it any different when a company does it with information.

Explain how you are being violated, if space alians intercepted a video broadcast you created and distributed it to trillions.

Looking at in terms of history, just as the commoditisation of the labor force led to the ugly death of the plantation system, it sure appears that the commoditisation of information is leading to the ugly death of the copyright industry. Also, those plantation masters who thought that the entire purpose and meaning of the industrial revolution was to leverage inventions like the cotton-gin to expand their plantations for unlimited growth and profit were dead wrong. And those who today believe that the entire purpose and meaning of the information age is to use the internet to leverage their copyright controlls all over the world?

Also, if IP is truely more free market, then how come all the growth space is happening in the areas like Linux, and like in areas that do not restrict content?

IMHO, the truth is that IP is not a right, and can not survive the information age even if it was. I think people should seriously consider that.

David C May 26, 2006 at 7:39 pm

I forgot one other point. If everyone had $100 worth of content, and they had to give up $100 of content to get every one elses $100 in content that means their net loss would be $100 worth of value and their net gain would be $100 * 5 billion worth of value. That’s why physical property rules don’t apply to IP rules, and why the infotmation age and especially the internet is going to force the death of copyrights one way or the other.

Curt Howland May 26, 2006 at 8:37 pm

Person, “Curt_Howland: What are we forgetting?”

I’m not forgetting anything. You forgot to check your attribution. Quasibill made the statements you were replying to, not I.

I notice that you continue to make absolute statements easily proven false, such as “Or are people not supposed to write help files now?”

If you were to investigate what IBM has been doing, you would notice that not only are they making billions on “consulting” and other custom work, using freely available tools, they have also been contributing “help files” and what have come to be called “How-Tos” to F/OSS projects.

So freedom is not either/or. Intellectual liberty, collaboration and sharing, do not depend upon black and white rationalizations. People adapt their actions and expectations as quickly to non-proprietary environments as proprietary ones. The success and vitality of the non-proprietary field simply reinforces the hypothesis that voluntary interaction works better than coercion.

xteve May 26, 2006 at 9:13 pm

Thank you so much for posting this, Stephan. This was a very interesting discussion.

Person May 26, 2006 at 11:30 pm

Curt_Howland: you were going to apologize, remember? Because you alleged I said things I clearly didn’t and that I didn’t know things I clearly did, remember? And this is because you wanted to reassure readers that you are posting in good faith, remember? Or did you forget?

quasibill:

I would hope you signed a non-disclosure with him in the first place, and you could then prosecute him for breaking it. That’s assuming that he has an incentive to undercut his own business. And if you believe that that would be the case, I’m not sure that there’s much chance of there being a rational discussion between us.

Of course he would have incentive to sell the secret! It’s simple math: unless they want to have only one person add the copy protection and pay him the full capitalized market value of the software, he would make more money by selling the secret on the black market, especially if they can’t trace it to him, which they probably can’t. So what, are they going to require every copy protection programmer to carry insurance or net worth equal to the capitalized market value of the software? A lowly programmer has far, far more to gain from selling this secret than he ever would lose from undercutting his business.

I also noticed that this time you didn’t bother to continue defending your “IP laws don’t force hackers to work in secret” argument. I guess talking about the “open” collaboration on “private” message boards was too much for even you to defend, eh?

The highlighted word is simply your unsubstantiated opinion.

No, I substantiated it above. If there were no help files, there would be a bigger market for support or smaller market for software. Remember? A help file’s success can be measured by the support it obviates.

Again, there is a massive market for these services, even with IP laws. And you completely ignored (there’s a shock!) the point about IT departments. You can wish away this market all you want, but in the real world, it exists.

Again, no, I didn’t ignore it, like Curt_Howland, you have to resort to lying. Read my post again: I said that insofar as you can make money as an IT worker, selling support services, this is a return to the service labor, not a return to writing the software. So where’s the money in writing software? Note to people who will misinterpret this last statement like three of you, including a $410/hour attorney misread one of my earlier statements: I did not just say there that “nobody will write software unless they’re paid.” Read it one more time.

And in the absence of IP laws, it would grow exponentially, as there would be less incentive to “bundle” this service into the sale of the initial license, which is often the case under the IP regime.

Which was *my* point, I recall. People supporting the software would poach away all the money that could be made from writing the software, so you have more support for less software. To clarify, people would still write software, just not in the same quantities (or, most likely, quality) as when they can make money from that specific stage. Note to people who will misinterpret the last two statements like three of you, including a $410/hour attorney misread one of my earlier statements: I did not just say there that “nobody will write software unless they’re paid.” Read it one more time.

So you’re saying that if I create the same subroutine that is subject to your IP right, you’re not aggressing against my right to use my computer as I see fit? That is a valid debatable point in your discussion?

How many times to I have to explain this to you? What constitutes agression depends on the property theory. If you are the just owner of a TV, you are not aggressing against me if you stop me from taking it. If on the other hand, I am the just owner of the TV and you are in possession of it, I am not aggressing against you by coming and seizing it. Get it? See where this is going? *If* I have some kind of just “property right” in that routine, it is *not* aggression for me to stop you from using it. AND BEFORE YOU CUT MY RESPONSE OFF THERE TO MAKE SOME KIND OF IRRELEVANT RESPONSE, PLEASE READ THE NEXT STATEMENT. I know that you disagree with the statement before the caps; I’m just trying to show you (for about the fourth time) that you must first resolve the property theory debate before you can argue that such-and-such is aggression. Please, please tell me you understand this time.

David C: That’s a great, but heavily loaded perspective. Let me give you another one:

“When squatters use some landowner’s land, the owner does not lose anything of value, because he doesn’t have a use for it at that time. For the landowner to assert a “right” in something that doesn’t cost him anything, that is a government imposed monpoly on land — well, that is not a right.

Also, looking in terms of human needs — there is plenty of food, plenty of excess food production capacity, limited only by landlords hoarding food off the market. Translation: landloards rely on land control, a non-capitalistic economy centers around satisfying human needs rather than profit. Now which seems obviously better in terms of liberating people?
If a landlord used the government to artificially restrict access to his land in order to jack up what he can charge for food at the expense of people who really need it — most people would see that is evil. So why is it any different when people assert property rights in other means of production?”

Did I make my point?

averros May 27, 2006 at 4:46 am

IP discussion again… sigh.

I explained few times already how the current regime of “intellectual property” leads to tens (if not hundreds) of deaths anually in the US alone. Worldwide, the death toll from “IP” is millions yearly.

Anyone claiming that someone’s “right” to extract profits from some trivialty he thought of before others (or bothered to stake out before others) trumps the lives of people dying because of lack of appropriate medical care and drugs has to have his head examined.

averros May 27, 2006 at 4:48 am

tens (if not hundreds) thousands

Peter May 27, 2006 at 6:47 am

I guess talking about the “open” collaboration on “private” message boards was too much for even you to defend, eh?

What’s the problem? This is an “open” discussion, isn’t it? This is a “private” message board, isn’t it?

M E Hoffer May 27, 2006 at 7:34 am

Everybody wrapped up in “IP” and noone mentioning how it is anyone, “IP” developer or not, gets paid–with FRNs. Y’all, some Frauds are, sadly enough, worse than others. Why not train this tremendous Horsepower on the bigger problems?

Remind yourself of the following axiom, lent to us by Rothschild: “Give me control of a Nation’s Money, and I care not who makes its Laws.”

Person May 27, 2006 at 10:13 am

averros:

I explained few times already how the current regime of “intellectual property” leads to tens (if not hundreds) of deaths anually in the US alone. Worldwide, the death toll from “IP” is millions yearly.

Okay, and in which scholarly journal did you establish such a rigorous case? Is this referring to patented medicines held off the market? Did you account for a lot of these medicines just not existing altogether, for anyone at this point if there were no IP? Give me a link to the ironclad justification you’ve made for this claim.

I understand that a lot of patents are stupid even by the USPTO’s lenient standards, but that alone doesn’t call into question patents as such. There’s a big difference between patenting “putting things in one button” and “investing 20 years in a life-saving medicine”.

What’s the problem? This is an “open” discussion, isn’t it? This is a “private” message board, isn’t it?

Private in the sense of “non-governmental”. Assuming you’re not trying to be ridiculous, in the sense of the above discussion, private meant “shielded from the general public”. The above hacker message boards are private in that sense, while this one is not. Anyone can post to the mises.org blog without anyone’s by-your-leave, at least until they break some rules. Anyone can read it and easily detect if we’re discussing how to break copy-protection schemes.

David C May 27, 2006 at 11:08 am

Person: “When squatters use some landowner’s land, the owner does not lose anything of value, because he doesn’t have a use for it at that time. For the landowner to assert a “right” in something that doesn’t cost him anything, that is a government imposed monpoly on land — well, that is not a right.

Well the truth is that I owned land out in the country once, and occasionally somebody would drive thru it, or walk over it, and I didn’t percieve that I was violated. But the point is that property rights are not imposed by government, the physically limited nature of property is what causes it to exist as a right even if no government existed at all. Yes there are physical limits on information services too, but not on information itself.

Person: Also, looking in terms of human needs — there is plenty of food, plenty of excess food production capacity, limited only by landlords hoarding food off the market. Translation: landloards rely on land control, a non-capitalistic economy centers around satisfying human needs rather than profit. Now which seems obviously better in terms of liberating people?

My understanding of liberty means the optimisation of free will, not the liberty in the sense of worry free about room and board, etc…
Assuming the land owner got his property justly by free choices and that coercion is used in taking the property, then it would not liberate the people because whatever force that was able to pounce the land owner is ten times capable of pouncing the little guy. A rich and resourcefull person who lives in a society that denies free will typically has options, a poor person who lives in such a society typically doesn’t.

Person: If a landlord used the government to artificially restrict access to his land in order to jack up what he can charge for food at the expense of people who really need it — most people would see that is evil. So why is it any different when people assert property rights in other means of production?”

Because respect of property leads to powerfull incentives to compete and produce, but coercion of incentive does not necissairly lead to respect of property. Property rights derive from respect of free choice and it’s physically limited nature. That’s why growing wheat on property is a right, but controlling who grows wheat isn’t. That’s why you have a right to offer information realted services, but not impose information realted controls (via govt). “if you draw a cup of water from the sea, it’s your’s – if you pour it back, it’s ours.”, the same is with information you have a right to control it if you keep it to yourself, but no such right once it’s out there. Property rights are a just way of dealing with the fact that not everybody can use something at the same time, incentive of production is just a nice side effect of that not an ends in itself.

Also, if a production company can become 10% more efficient by creating a piece of software then that means that it’s going to get created, and someone is going to get paid to create it even if everyone on the planet can copy it. The fact that competitors can copy makes companies more determined to get to the front of the pack to reap the margin before their competitors, not less determined. Perhaps it means that software will be developed incramentally, instead of putting down cash to develop one big chunk, perhaps that means companies will collaberate on standards and development rather then purchase competing alternatives. But that’s sort of the point, IP distorts the market.

Paul Edwards May 27, 2006 at 12:34 pm

M.E.,

“Why not train this tremendous Horsepower on the bigger problems?”

For starters, I would argue that IP is a very big problem. It is just that we are more prone to be ignorant of its negative impact on people’s property and the economy because few libertarians have been in a position to point them out, until lately. I believe it is as significant as the issue of state regulation in general.

Furthermore, the issue of IP brings us to very fundamental libertarian discussions of ethics, the nature of property itself, its roots, and how it arises from the basic goal of conflict avoidance.

But also, even if it were not as important an issue as say fractional reserve counterfeiting, it should still be discussed rigorously here. This is because it isn’t going to be discussed rigorously anywhere else! In fact, any topic pertaining to ethics or economics where two libertarians disagree really must be debated full force.

This has the added benefit that we don’t get bored beating the same dead horse every day.

Curt Howland May 27, 2006 at 3:30 pm

Person, “To clarify, people would still write software, just not in the same quantities (or, most likely, quality) as when they can make money from that specific stage.”

It is statements like this which lead me to conclude that you do not know that Free and OpenSource software exists.

Since software is being produced in vast quantity and great quality, without direct remuneration, your assumptions are demonstrably false. Since you have repeatedly stated these assumptions as if they were facts, either you continue to be unaware of F/OSS or you are making deliberately false statements.

Which is kind of funny, because I’ve said all this before and all you said was that you do indeed know what F/OSS is. That only leaves me with one conclusion.

Curt Howland May 27, 2006 at 3:41 pm

David C., when I was working in Tokyo, I was doing network stuff for stock brokers/traders. The datacenters of some major international brokerage houses were deploying Linux systems in large numbers.

What they were not doing was talking about it, because they considered it a “strategic advantage”.

It was also very sad for me to see hundreds of SPARC pizza-box computers sitting around, taking up raised-floor space in Tokyo at I-can’t-imagine-what-yen-per-square-foot-cost simply because they couldn’t recycle them without burning the disk drives. Literally! In order to make the customer data unrecoverable. It was cheaper to just let them sit there than to even try.

As has been said many times, many ways, the free market tends toward efficiency. Nothing is guaranteed.

Person May 27, 2006 at 4:04 pm

David_C: Yes, I understand all that. And I even happen to agree with most of it. My reply to you, however, was another argument, with key portions switched out. The point was that you could make the exact same arguments against all property. Your argument just regresses to the debate over what constitutes valid property, regarding which you have advanced no arguments, and assertion about what would lead to better results.

Curt_Howland:

You honestly think GIMP is a better graphics tool than Photoshop? I can’t believe you aren’t aware of the numerous studios that prefer Photoshop over GIMP. You aren’t aware that none of them have been so overwhelmed by GIMP’s abilities that they switched. To claim so must be blatant ignorance or lying on your part. I’ll let you pick which.

M E Hoffer May 27, 2006 at 4:40 pm

P.E.,

I certainly do not deny your point(s). I was merely trying to give rise to the idea, as Averros did, above, that, for some reason, things tend to (frequently) devolve into IP “Hee-Haws” with little studious hewing to the basics of Logic.P.E.,

I certainly do not deny your point(s). I was merely trying to give rise to the idea, as Averros did, above, that, for some reason, things tend to (frequently) devolve into IP “Hee-Haws” with little studious hewing to the basics of Logic.< usually the fault of a single perpetrator forever changing his: “points, definitions, premises”…ad nauseum.

And, was suggesting a, potential, better use of the T&E by pointing to the Fraud that warps, all of our minds, including, our conception of IP.

M E Hoffer May 27, 2006 at 4:43 pm

P.E.,

I certainly do not deny your point(s). I was merely trying to give rise to the idea, as Averros did, above, that, for some reason, things tend to (frequently) devolve into IP “Hee-Haws” with little studious hewing to the basics of Logic.P.E.,

I certainly do not deny your point(s). I was merely trying to give rise to the idea, as Averros did, above, that, for some reason, things tend to (frequently) devolve into IP “Hee-Haws” with little studious hewing to the basics of Logic.< usually the fault of a single perpetrator forever changing his: “points, definitions, premises”…ad nauseum.

And, was suggesting a, potential, better use of the T&E by pointing to the Fraud that warps, all of our minds, including, our conception of IP.

Sorry, for the 2X post, I’ll blame the software(no doubt promulgated under layers of IP)

Curt Howland May 27, 2006 at 4:45 pm

Person, “You honestly think GIMP is a better graphics tool than Photoshop?”

Goodness me, now I get to say “I never said that”. In fact, no where did I mention either Gimp or Photoshop. This is a straw-man fallacy of yours, you’re welcome to burn it all day long.

However, since you bring it up, the Gimp is in fact a far better tool for me than Photoshop. You see, I don’t own Photoshop. I do own a copy of the Gimp.

Person May 27, 2006 at 5:14 pm

Curt_Howland: I thought your earlier position was that it’s okay to falsely attribute statements to people, even if they never said them and don’t agree with them, and then proceed to “torch” such “strawmen” and then proceed to call them extremely ignorant or dishonest on that basis.

Are you saying that’s no longer your position?

Curt Howland May 27, 2006 at 8:03 pm

Person, “Are you saying that’s no longer your position?”

Having never had that position in the first place, this is just another of your straw-men.

For example, when did you stop beating your wife?

M E Hoffer May 27, 2006 at 8:25 pm

CH,

Teaching pigs to sing may be chalked up as: Exercise. But, it’s ultimately unproductive.

Just a reminder!~

Person May 27, 2006 at 8:39 pm

Curt_Howland: Above, you quite clearly attributed statements to me that I did not ever make and would not make, as I would not believe them, as they are not true. You asserted that I lacked knowledge I did not in fact lack. You have steadfastly refused to apologize for making this false attributions and claims and/or failing to properly read my posts. You quite clearly believed that these practices are acceptable, and even treating you in the exact same manner has failed to persuade you of the significance of these actions.

Precisely why should I take anything you say in the future seriously, when you are so unwilling even to read what I post?

Note to administrators: M_E_Hoffer’s calling me a pig quite clearly does not constitute an intelligent, civil comment and should be deleted accordingly.

Curt Howland May 27, 2006 at 8:59 pm

Person, “Precisely why should I take anything you say in the future seriously, when you are so unwilling even to read what I post?”

I will repeat myself: Not only I, but the other people who have responded to your messages have all read exactly the same “false” meanings into your statements. You have said that specifically quoted text does not mean what I had read it to mean. You have then gone on to restate your position, which again you declared later to have been not be what you intended because to me, and to others here, you were just saying the same thing over again.

The problem with declaring that you indeed understand what I am trying to show you by citing the F/OSS contributions, is that the existence of those contributions directly and specifically refutes what you assert as the inevitable results of repealing the absurd “IP” regulatory environment to which we find ourselves subjected.

Good software in vast quantities and variety is being written right now, and has been written for decades, that is not the result of direct remuneration. You have declared that that cannot happen, that the repeal of absurd IP restrictions will result in less variety and lower quality than what is produced “for profit”.

Do you wish to now say you didn’t mean that too?

Person May 27, 2006 at 9:06 pm

Curt_Howland:

I will repeat myself: Not only I, but the other people who have responded to your messages have all read exactly the same “false” meanings into your statements.

Ah, so now, falsely attributing statements to people that flatly contradict the plain meaning of what they said is okay, as long as other people are just as careless? None of you have yet been able to cite a single statement of mine that supports your attributions.

Good software in vast quantities and variety is being written right now, and has been written for decades, that is not the result of direct remuneration. You have declared that that cannot happen,

And you continue with your ignorance. I never said any of this. Please read each of my posts on this issue one more time. And I’m still waiting for an apology. “but other people have my reading ability!” is not an apology.

David C May 28, 2006 at 12:32 am

Person said …. Yes, I understand all that. And I even happen to agree with most of it. My reply to you, however, was another argument, with key portions switched out. The point was that you could make the exact same arguments against all property.

Point taken about all property, but I was willing to make them anyhow where I wouldn’t with physical property because I knew they would hold under scrutny.

person said (cont) …. regarding which you have advanced no arguments, and assertion about what would lead to better results.

I think that’s the meat of the issue there, but it’s also like a loaded question. How do we know that kids will get better results without public schools? How do we know that the elderly will get better results without social security? How can we get better results without prohibition? How will the southern economy get better results without the slave plantation system? I don’t know what will lead to better results in a copyright free world. That’s something that societies learn over time, but with copyrights in place – society and people haven’t had an opportunity to learn those answers. Possibly many won’t get better results, but IMHO if people are wise they’ll figure out a way to make results because the fundamentals of rights and property are not on the side of a copyright world.

Curt Howland May 28, 2006 at 9:47 am

Person, “I never said any of this.”

And yet, here it is:

“If it is profitable to support a software package, *but not create it to begin with*, “we have a problem”.”

That’s from your post of May 26, 2006 01:19 PM.

Do you wish to deny you wrote that? Do you wish to say it means something other than the plain meaning of the words?

The fact is that a great variety of high quality software is produced right now without direct remuneration. If all you _really_ meant to say was that people would have to adapt to a change in the IP law, then I agree with you. But that is NOT a “problem”.

David C May 28, 2006 at 2:10 pm

Curt Howland, I wanted to offer an idea. Have them take the hard drives out of the sparc boxes, and maybe the ram, and store those instead of the Sparc stations. That should take up considerably much less room and free up a lot of valuable real-estate.

Of course I could declare that idea a “property right” and demand a royality on it. I could delcare that I have the right to control you’re behavior now reguarding that action. I could declare that now we need a poilce apparatus, to regularly inspect datacenters to ensure compliance. I could demand punishments harsher than rape for any violaters, after all it’s hard to enforce so now we need strong punishments to set an example. I could demand that the length of my royality control be extended to infinity because it’s a property and I have no incentive. I could make demands like “you’re violating me, because that’s my property” and ones like “no body will come up with valuable ideas unless I’m allowed to coerce royailty from you” or “the money I’m making from this shows that it’s pratical and just”. I could demand hardware manufactures have checking systems for every hard drive removed.

I wish I could say, nobody would ever consider doing that.

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