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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/7997/libertarian-creationism/

Libertarian Creationism

April 4, 2008 by

I’ve noted many times that one fallacious line of reasoning in support of intellectual property is the idea that creation is an independent source of rights. I have begun to refer to this as “libertarian creationism.” I critique this notion, inherent in a recent paper by libertarian philosopher Tibor Machan, in the comments of this Objectivist blog.

{ 6 comments }

Michael A. Clem April 6, 2008 at 7:56 pm

An interesting thread to read, actually. The Randroids are easy to identify: they can quote Rand all day long, but never seem to actually try to apply her ideas to the discussion. But even the non-Randroids seem stuck in a certain perspective. I want to know what that “Steve” guy is smoking in those cigarettes of his, because it’s got to be more than just tobacco.
You seem to be arguing against just one particular point in favor of IP, but the idea of copyright kept coming up. So how about it? Would we be better off scrapping patents for a copyright system instead? And could such a system be developed by the market without government monopoly or power?

ktibuk April 7, 2008 at 7:32 am

The problem with Stephans argument is, he presupposes that ownership of every single thing, be it tangible or intangible or intellectual, has to be the subject of a big dispute if it is going to be called property.

This comes from the idea that “property was invented by man to get along with each other”.

This is not true.

Yes, stupid little things like simple patterns can be owned because they were created by whichever individual created them.

But they don’t have to be the center of a dispute, for many reasons.

They can be given away or other people may create them just by themselves without even any contact with each other.

But this doesn’t mean every piece of intellectual property has to be given away for free or anyone can create anything. Every humans is unique and every IP that reflects that uniqueness can be created by only that person.

Robinson Cruesoe owns the fishing pole he creates. He doesn’t need some other person disputing his ownership for him to own what he creates. He de facto owns it. And the fishing pole exists, you cant just wish it away just because there is no dispute over it.

Also he may create a poem. And he owns it. And if there is no contact there is no copying. And if some distant individual creates the same exact poem by himself he may own it too.

Disputes can not be the defining characteristic of property it can only be a sub category of property.

In some instances the creators wouldn’t want their creations to be copied. Since the IP in question is not nature given, and since everyone would know this to be the case, anyone that comes across it doesn’t have a right to freely use it. So just dont do it, just go and make your own.

Stop trying to justify parasitism. Interspecie parasitsm is not sustainable.

More April 10, 2008 at 3:30 pm

@ktibuk:

You make one fallacious assumption which leads to faulty arguments: You think that ideas can be owned, whether or not they are made public and regardless of the non-existence of contracts of the former owner with potential receivers of that idea.

Just think of Robinson Crusoe singing a “self written” song on “his” little island. What if there were others there on the island hearing this song? Do they own their heard version of the song? Yes, they picked it up, because RC gave it away voluntarily.

Just think about the smell of a new dish that gets into the nose of some bystanders. Are they really obliged in your opinion to pay the creator of the dish, if they decide to make a dish inspired by the smell?

Something may only be owned, as long as it is not given away voluntarily. Same goes for money or every other material possession, if it is thrown away.

Tucker told it right away:

“If a man scatters money in the street, he does not thereby formally relinquish title to it…but those who pick it up are thereafter considered the rightful owners… Similarly a man who reproduces his writings by thousands and spreads them everywhere voluntarily abandons his right of privacy and those who read them … no more put themselves by the act under any obligation in regard to the author than those who pick up scattered money put themselves under obligations to the scatterer.”

So no matter if you give away just a simple line of text or a full series of adventure novels, as long as you don’t get an agreement with other people (a contract with them), you have no right to attack potential finders and force them to pay you.

You may be the owner of the “original” idea (better said: of the one instance of the idea, that came to your mind), but you are by no way owner of all instances of the idea, that are represented in the minds of other people… that would be an aggression against the principle of self-ownership and further down the road an attack on the principle of ownership.

More April 10, 2008 at 3:30 pm

@ktibuk:

You make one fallacious assumption which leads to faulty arguments: You think that ideas can be owned, whether or not they are made public and regardless of the non-existence of contracts of the former owner with potential receivers of that idea.

Just think of Robinson Crusoe singing a “self written” song on “his” little island. What if there were others there on the island hearing this song? Do they own their heard version of the song? Yes, they picked it up, because RC gave it away voluntarily.

Just think about the smell of a new dish that gets into the nose of some bystanders. Are they really obliged in your opinion to pay the creator of the dish, if they decide to make a dish inspired by the smell?

Something may only be owned, as long as it is not given away voluntarily. Same goes for money or every other material possession, if it is thrown away.

Tucker told it right away:

“If a man scatters money in the street, he does not thereby formally relinquish title to it…but those who pick it up are thereafter considered the rightful owners… Similarly a man who reproduces his writings by thousands and spreads them everywhere voluntarily abandons his right of privacy and those who read them … no more put themselves by the act under any obligation in regard to the author than those who pick up scattered money put themselves under obligations to the scatterer.”

So no matter if you give away just a simple line of text or a full series of adventure novels, as long as you don’t get an agreement with other people (a contract with them), you have no right to attack potential finders and force them to pay you.

You may be the owner of the “original” idea (better said: of the one instance of the idea, that came to your mind), but you are by no way owner of all instances of the idea, that are represented in the minds of other people… that would be an aggression against the principle of self-ownership and further down the road an attack on the principle of ownership.

Reuven August 12, 2010 at 2:00 pm

It seems to me that you are all ignoring one simple fact. Authorship. If you combine or rearange aspects of reality in a unique way then you therefore “own” your work. If you observe someone else doing this but then claim the product as your own it is called stealing. In the IP realm the proper concpet is called plaigarism.

This whole discussion simply boiles downto an attempt to justify theft and plaigarism by blanking out cause and effect. simple as that. end of discussion.

Dean West September 11, 2010 at 2:05 am

More silly arguments against IP. It points out a third way that someone can own something (Creation), but says it’s not valid, as it’s not “necessary” or “sufficient”. Forgetting that the two other ways that the article writer accepts aren’t either.

Homesteading is not “necessary” if you have a contractual arrangement. And a contractual arrangement is not “necessary” if you homesteaded. So that creation is not “necessary”, does not invalidate it as a means to property ownership.

Homesteading is not “sufficient” to own property, not when one thinks about it. An overarching societal “contractual arrangement” that has the unspoken but assumed belief that homesteading is valid is needful. A settler can stake out and homestead a farm, but if the society surrounding him is that of 15th century Native America, it is doubtful that he will remain secure in title.

Contractual arrangements are also not “sufficient” to own property. I can contract with my brother to own your property, what of it? Was it either of our’s to contract? And do we live in a statist society with courts or a free market society with arbitration agencies? Or a tribalistic society of illiterate hunter/gatherers who don’t know or care about contractual arrangements?

From this we see that while there are three different means of owning property, none of them are – of themselves – sufficient or necessary for property as such to exist as a concept.

“Creation” as a third means of owning property is as valid as the first two kinds. And relies on the same things. Who had it first? If one does not own the body that he had first, who could? If one does not own the land one made use of first, who could? And if one does not own the idea of your mind, who could?

Of course the creation of a book using another pen and paper of another may give them some claim. Surely no more than the cost of the pen and paper and profit, but so be it. And if you are commissioned to write a book or invent something, then that is between you and your patron. It changes not this, though: That if one creates a new entity, using one’s own property, and are contractually beholden to none, then that creation belongs to them.

If they’ve not a right to it, they having created it and observed this new entity first, who could? Nor in their insistence on being paid for a copy of their literary achievement are they laying claim to your property by forbidding you to use your own pen and paper to copy them.

Consider the obvious – before the bestselling author wrote his latest blockbuster novel, you had absolutely no means of using your own pen and paper to copy that non-existent book. Now an author has wrote such a book. How has your right to use your property changed? You couldn’t use your pen and paper for a bestseller before, and since the author who could wants a fee, you still can’t do it now. There’s been no change in your “right” to use your pen and paper. You may use it just as much as you always could, but you still can’t use it in ways that others can.

Except in one small way – if you like, you can offer the author a payment, and he can show you a brand new way to use your pen and paper, to make a book, a song or an invention. If one is so concerned about not being limited in how they can use their pen and paper, then one would think they would encourage authors to feel safe that they will not be robbed for creating new ways to do so.

One does not encourage food production by waiting until a farmer comes up with a new hybrid of corn, and then cry, “Give me some seeds of that, else you are depriving me of my freedom to use my soil to grow as I please!” Spare me. You have the right to offer payment for the new seed, you’ve no right to whine, “I want to do as you do, but without the work, and without offering payment!”

Likewise, if you want a new way to use your pen and paper, offer money to those who know how to come up with new ways. But don’t tell them that they are infringing on your freedom to use your pen and paper – they aren’t. No matter how many novels the author writes, no matter how many descriptions the inventor comes up with, your ability to use your pen and paper will not change. You may use it as much as you ever could – and not one bit more.

If you want that one bit more, then break out your wallet. You don’t give your labor away, don’t expect the author to, no matter how many thieves/copiers claim that he should.

And as for that old, “Well, he printed up 500,000 copies and sent them all over the world, so if I see it, it’s mine! It’s just like he through money in the street!”, spare me. Neverminding how tawdry that is, equating ones “right” to copy another’s work with scrabbling in the street for change, it fails logically.

Under that argument of “You didn’t keep track of it and get a contract from everyone on Earth, so it’s mine!”, I could just as easily lay claim to your house the next time you leave for work. After all, do you have a fence all around your house (most don’t), or a sign clearly stating your intention to return? Or do you just – as an author does – assume the obvious, that no one would be silly enough to think that because you didn’t get a contract from six billion people does not mean you were intending to give away your property the first time it was out of your sight?

And by the way, if you disagree with me, contact me with your credit card information. Don’t deny me this, I have the right (according to the anti-IPers) to use my pen and paper as I please, and if you withhold your credit card number, you are unjustly laying claim to my pen and paper, and preventing me from using it as I will. And, you’ve given that number out to a lot of vendors, so clearly you’ve renounced title to it, unless you can show me contracts signed by all those vendors saying they won’t distribute it.

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