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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/6665/claremontista-defenders-of-infinite-copyright/

Claremontista defenders of infinite copyright

May 22, 2007 by

I know some people think the Galambosian described and ridiculed in Jerome Tuccille’s It Usually Begins with Ayn Rand [recounted here; see also discussion here, here, and here] is fictional; likewise incredible are the more extreme advocates of intellectual property (discussed here), among them Spooner, Galambos, Ayn Rand, and Neil Schulman. As I noted in my longer IP article, most IP advocates favor finite terms for patent and copyright, but this reveals an arbitrariness and a tension in their advocacy of this as a property right. To avoid this arbitrariness the IP advocate ought to be in favor of perpetual (infinite) copyright and patent terms. Most don’t, however, for practical reasons.

Enter Claremontista Mark Helprin, who argues for infinite copyright terms in A Great Idea Lives Forever. Shouldn’t Its Copyright?. So Claremontistas are not only terrible on Lincoln, they’re bad on intellectual property too. (See this wiki criticism of Helprin’s nutty idea.)

This was called to my attention by a correspondent who wrote:

If you thought that Huffington blog entry on restricting home-schooling was bad [note: this post one of the most evil, utterly monstrous pieces of filth I have ever read; it's why I utterly despise the left. --SK], wait ’til you get a load of [Helprin's piece]: He wants to extend copyright to . . . well, infinity and beyond!

Helprin, incidentally, is a senior fellow at the Claremont Institute, a super-hawk think tank… and occasional Mises Institute nemesis.

{ 56 comments }

JIMB May 24, 2007 at 4:30 pm

Jesse – Many legal documents have language expressely forbidding distribution of the information to be discussed or in the contract itself: that *is* a copyright. Spiderman 3 would not be distributed to theaters which are known to allow the unathorized duplication or distribution of the movie, because it was sold *under that agreement*.

It’s a private enterprise and they’ve the expressed right to sell their movies, books, etc. on the terms they see fit.

JIMB May 24, 2007 at 4:53 pm

Jordan – Never said this: Your argument that ideas are (or can be) property because they command (or can command) a positive price is fallacious.” But in fact I think that it does present an interesting spin on the conversation…

After all, if we assume it’s a willing trade, *something* is transferred, and if it is not “property” (i.e. controlled by the seller to some degree), what is it that the buyer is getting? So you’d be asserting a counterfactual: the buyer is buying something non-scarce (a psychological impossibility) which the seller does not own / control (a transactional impossibility).

But anyway: I said ideas are scarce because they command a positive price, contrary to the claims of non-scarcity. That’s an observable fact – and you can see it for ideas (those from CEOs, consultants, etc) which do not qualify for IP protection.

And “The purpose of property is conflict avoidance, thus only things which can come into conflict can qualify as property–in other words, rivalrous objects. Ideas do not meet this criterion, so they must be rejected as property.”

This is nonsense and doing exactly what you claim is done by me: “… you need a sound definition of property which applies equally to ideas and physical objects, without assuming anything you’re proving.”

Clearly you’ve started with a brand new definition of “scarcity” (contrary to psychological axiomatic truths) to come to the conclusion that ideas are not owned, which is completely divorced from human action and factual behavior. Read the post in reply to Stephan (May 23, 2007 10:56 PM).

BTW, enforcement of *some* IP is unjustified, but not *all*.

rtr May 24, 2007 at 5:50 pm

JIMB: “The right to view Spiderman 3 was sold, not the right to duplicate it. Surely you can figure this out on your own. That is no different than renting a house – you’ve haven’t got full ownership rights.

Apparently you believe renters should be “owners”.”

You can’t sell the right to duplicate something when the person already a priori owns the right to duplicate. You can kick renters out of a home. You can’t kick a person’s mind out of an idea. It’d be as silly as trying to sell someone the right to read, the right to look. They already have that rightful capacity by having minds, eyes, and ears.

Ideas cannot be “rented” because ideas are impossible to rent. A person cannot arbitrarily be forced to not think what they automatically think or choose to think. If you share an idea, you COPY an idea. You don’t stop inhabiting that idea while only some “renter” inhabits that idea. The idea is DUPLICATED. Thus, it’s praxelogically impossible to “rent” an idea.

I could type “A” once. I could type “A” twice: “A” “A”.

You could type “B” once. I could type “B” twice: “B” “B”. All ideas can be duplicated ad infinitum.

And there’s absolutely nothing you can do to prevent that except to engage in violence.

Apparently you believe you can own another’s mind and actions.

JIMB May 25, 2007 at 6:01 pm

rtr – The point – which you are determined to miss – is that a transaction can confer some ownership rights without conferring all ownership rights. Confidentiality agreements are the same as “copyrights” and they already exist on the market.

Really, a definition needs to start with human action if it is going to be called “economics”. That’s why the redefining of scarcity is such nonsense, as well as the other theories.

And the refusal to distinguish between what is and isn’t in the public domain of ideas is a real problem in this board as well. As if any pro-IP person “is trying to copyright the letter A”. I’ve gotta let you have the last word. It can’t be fun if it’s just stupid.

rtr May 26, 2007 at 5:39 am

An “agreement” is not property either. An “agreement” is also “scarce” in the manner you use the term “scarce”. By definition “agreements” have positive subjective value, a “price”, by definition of action and by definition of trade. At every moment in time there are less agreements than there otherwise could be. Nobody exclusively owns the idea or the action of trade. Likewise nobody own the active use of any idea whatsoever.

Are you disagreeing that an idea known by more than one person is not in the “public domain”? Are you disagreeing that the letter “A” is an idea, an idea inhabitable by all who simultaneously think and use it? The letter “A” is not even universally known or universally simultaneously used. If the letter “A” were universally simultaneously used that would be the only idea ever expressed. But each use of the letter “A” does not in the slightest diminish the idea of the letter “A”. You have failed to even acknowledge this plain simple truth. Do you deny this? The letter “A” is no less an “idea” than “Spiderman 3″. You fail to comprehend that what logically applies to “Spiderman 3″ must also apply to all ideas whatsoever on the basis of them being ideas.

Just because something is in the public domain does not mean it is not scarce either. Oceans are scarce. Non-onwed traveled roads and paths are in the public domain. Public gathering marketplaces are in the public domain. There is not an atmosphere of air beyond where the atmosphere end and does not extend to. Thus scarcity or positive price does not qualify something as property, let alone qualify it as scarce.

It’s no surprise that you want to run away now after all of your points have been just absolutely crushed. It’s quite understandable that your ego has that not so fresh feeling. But you lack the decency, intellectual honesty, and courtesy to have acknowledged (what more than 30 examples?) the points others (not just me) have made regarding your claims. Like a child you close your eyes and pretend what you don’t see isn’t there. See ya later coward.

scott June 10, 2007 at 8:06 pm

JIMB states….”Any trade is done in the hopes of obtaining a scarce item, or you have no psychological reason for doing it. You are giving something up to gain something else, remember. That’s what “a positive price” means …”

i guess this relates to people paying for knowledge, ideas unknown to me in other words.

which would be like paying tutition or something???

does paying for ‘ideas’ mean they are scarce or is it ones time that is really whats scarce and paying for information (ideas) can allow you to aquire it faster?

i mean, if i pay for information it means that my own ‘mental scarcity’ (lack of knowledge, skill, ideas etc.) will take a ‘long time’ to figure out how to say…genetically modify a banana.

but i could pay a nearby botanist for ‘banana genetics modification informartion’ and do it (modify bananas) in a much shorter time (hopefully).

so am i paying for scarce time, scarce information or both?

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