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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/9280/what-is-your-attitude-toward-ip/

What is Your Attitude Toward IP?

January 22, 2009 by

As I think more about “intellectual property” in the form of patents and copyrights, it seems that the implications for social theory are profound. The behavior targeted and slaughtered by IP is one that provides a fuel for all social and economic development: imitation or emulation.

(Before I go on, I want to emphatically point to my personal debt to Michele Boldrin and David Levine’s Against Intellectual Monopoly, from which everything in this article is derived. I have planned to live blog the book chapter by chapter but I keep getting off on tangents, and this post is one.)

In the German speaking world of art in the 18th and 19th century, imitation by composers was considered to be the greatest tribute. When Bach would write an elaboration of Buxtehude, it was seen as a wonderful gift to Buxtehude’s legacy and memory. When Mahler would turn a phrase by Brahms, or re-orchestrate a Beethoven symphony, it was the tribute of one master to another. So it is in literature and economics.

Imitation in economic affairs is essential for development, since nothing is ever perfect right out of the box, and society is constantly changing. You need that imitative dynamism in order for technology to keep up with changing market conditions. This is what IP shuts down in the name of rewarding creators. How can creators make a buck in a world of fluid imitation? The same way they always have: by having the best product at the right price to the market first. When other imitate them, they have to hustle again and innovate some more. This is how societies and economies grow.

Think of the fashion world, in which IP doesn’t apply. It is fast moving, innovative, and remarkably profitable. Designers have their ideas imitated nearly as soon as they are seen on the runway. This imitative behavior widely regarded as a ratification of a good idea. It is something that people are socialized to look for as an indication of marketability. It is the same with generic drugs, fonts, perfume and other sectors in which there is no IP. Sadly, in sectors in which IP do apply, the opposite attitude applies. Authors, artists, and inventors sit and brood about the need to keep their wares to themselves, and hunt out anyone who would dare “steal” their idea. In the successful cases, they can end up rewarding themselves but at the expense of social development.

In the far more prevalent unsuccessful cases, the obsession with being ripped off leads to brooding, resentment, and disgruntlement that the world has failed to provide them a living. A sector consisting of nothing but people like this–with an attitude encouraged in law–is stagnant. By way of illustration, compare the imitation-oriented jazz and rock sectors with the IP-obsessed area of serious classical music!

Other sectors like advertising fall somewhere in between. Several years ago, Apple ran a commercial for the iPod that looked incredibly similar to one produced by Lugz shoes. Now, one might laugh and appreciate this–surely it will benefit both companies–or one can regard it as theft. Instead of celebrating a success, Lugz regarded it as a rip off, which Apple denied. Words flew between the companies, along with threats of litigation, along with cease and desist orders. Full story here and here.

This is really just pathetic and completely unnecessary.

It really all comes down to the attitude one takes toward one’s influence on others. The absence of IP creates a broad mindedness that seeks to make a difference in the world and looks for imitators as a sign that it is working. The presence of IP subsidizes a kind of inwardness and bitterness that sees the whole world as populated by potential thieves to keep at bay.

You see the two ways of looking at the world in the way kids interact with each other. I’m speaking of pre-teens and the way they deal with their emergent societies. Let’s say one kid has developed a certain phrase or gesture that is new to the social group. Another kid picks up on it and employs it.

Now, there are two ways to respond to this imitation. The innovator child can see others doing and saying what he did and said and realize that he has made a difference in the world, put a dent in this little universe. He has become a force for changing the world as he knows it. He has made his mark, and the evidence is how others are doing the same thing. He feels a sense of pride and joy and works to coming up with other unique ways of dressing, speaking, or behaving that others similarly imitate.

Or the child can have another response. He can accuse his imitators of stealing his words, ripping off his gestures, pilfering his personality, and plundering his special way. He sees others who imitate as threats, forces that are reducing the value of his unique personality. He treats it as the equivalent of cheating on a test. It is taking what is his. It is the first stages of a very destruction IP-style mentality.

Parents: be alert to signs of this among kids. Explain to children that it is a good thing when others are influenced by you. It means that you have made a difference in the world. It is not something to complain about at all. It is something to celebrate. It means that you are an entrepreneur on the cutting edge, someone who does things that succeed in society. That also comes with responsibilities to do good things and improve the look and feel of the world around them.

Which attitude do you take toward emulation? Before you answer, consider that emulation is unavoidable. There is no such thing as absolute originality. Everything in a growing and health society is an elaboration on something else that already exists. This applies to technology, literature, music, art, language–everything. A world in which the ethics of IP applied would be backward and stagnant, headed nowhere but backward.

Children’s movies cut both ways. The movie called Ratatouille strikes me as the ultimate IP-supporting propaganda. A rat with a gift for taste and smell is rescued from the gutter and put in a position to cook food at a fine restaurant. All his great. He has imitators all over the place but he alone remains the best. But then he begins to seethe with resentment that he alone is not given credit and accolades. Oddly, some people fear that customers will not like the idea that a rat is cooking all the food! The movie ends with his being discovered and he feels great pride, and we are supposed to be happy about this. The restaurant is destroyed, but the audience is supposed to figure that it is worth it.

A much better case is Horton Hears a Who. Throughout it, we see competitive pressure between the various animals to see which one will have the dominant influence over others. The Kangaroo tries to prevent Horton from influencing people but he does anyway, and eventually everyone comes around. We see it too in the lovely operation of Whoville, a place where emulation is king, and it is a vibrant and lovely society in which everyone is happy.

As web editor of Mises.org, hardly a week goes by when I don’t see imitators of our successful web presence. It can be images, articles, design, feel, structure–everything. Some years back I had the view that this had to be stopped. Fortunately, no one here had time to bother with it. Thank goodness. The whole reason we exist is to influence the world. Evidence of that is glorious, and it keeps the fire under our staff to keep doing a better job and stay on the cutting edge.

{ 101 comments }

Andras January 22, 2009 at 11:10 pm

Andras: “Should I have rights to my trade secrets, inventions not public yet, irrelevant whether materialized or not? If yes, may I protect it with violent force?”

Mike:”This question is vague. It depends on the specifics of the circumstances, and the way in which you do so.”

Andras: What is vague about my questions?

Andras January 22, 2009 at 11:14 pm

@Joe B,
Don’t be an anti-IP apologist. When you buy a ticket for Spiderman 3 you want to see Spidermen 3 and not 4.

Mike January 22, 2009 at 11:24 pm

“Copyright is where I struggle a bit. My wife works in the film industry so I may be biased – although I tend to think that she would happily find another job if the current film industry collapsed and forced her out of work. ”

I hate to make a personal appeal like this, but I also work in the film industry (honest). Our business model would no doubt change without copyright, but you’d have to be nuts to think there wouldn’t still be a demand for artwork, or any medium.

newson January 22, 2009 at 11:26 pm

jeff, i think the schoolyard microcosm is a great way to examine the ip concept.
the cool guy stills cool by constantly staying ahead of the crowd, and is generally comfortable enough in his own skin to tolerate copying (or even to be amused by it).

Mike January 22, 2009 at 11:26 pm

“labour gives no entitlement to ownership, which is your contention. the rest of your argument seems based on this initial fallacy.”

To be fair, labor does establish ownership of *unowned* physical materials. Once natural resources are owned, however, labor has no effect on ownership.

Mike January 22, 2009 at 11:29 pm

“I think it would be a combination of donations and corporate sponsorship/product placement. ”

Don’t underestimate internet release models, either. Being the first to release is worth something.

Maty January 22, 2009 at 11:39 pm

Newson said:

“labour gives no entitlement to ownership, which is your contention.”

This has been continuously and blatantly misrepresented!

When you work you are entitled to the result of your effort. If you invest your time and energy to create something (leaving charity aside), you do so to benefit yourself (creating something that you need).

Enter trade…

Now you can trade the product of your effort for the product of the effort of someone else–or for a monetary medium

If you were hired as a contractor to paint a wall you would not own the wall or the paint, but what would have been the product of your work–the painted wall–which you agreed to trade for a monetary payment in advance.

If you would have painted the wall of your own house, you would have owned the result.

(can’t believe I have to state this…)

Michael Smith January 23, 2009 at 12:11 am

newson wrote:

to michael smith:
of course i don’t confuse ownership with value. look carefully at what you’ve claimed:

“Why does the physical creation of a man’s muscles belong to him…”

labour gives no entitlement to ownership, which is your contention. the rest of your argument seems based on this initial fallacy.

the artist must own the transformed substance to claim ownership.

This response is pure evasion on your part. And lamely done, at that.

I didn’t claim that mere labor conferred ownership — as anyone with normal reading skills can comprehend. I claimed that production, that creation of the value involved confers ownership.

And based on that principle, I posed a series of moral questions which you have — predictably –chosen to evade.

You state that “the artist must own the transformed substance to claim ownership”. That statement on your part is an indication that you didn’t read or comprehend what I wrote, because I made clear that the act of creating intellectual property does not use any property except what one already owns.

Your response is typical of the libertarians here. Come back when you can answer the questions I have posed. Come back when you can explain why the parasite and the creator are on the same moral plane with the same right to profit from the creator’s work. Come back when you can justify why any crank, looter or misfit has a right to profit from the work of Ayn Rand or any other creator.

Michael Smith January 23, 2009 at 12:19 am

newson wrote:

to michael smith:
of course i don’t confuse ownership with value. look carefully at what you’ve claimed:

“Why does the physical creation of a man’s muscles belong to him…”

labour gives no entitlement to ownership, which is your contention. the rest of your argument seems based on this initial fallacy.

the artist must own the transformed substance to claim ownership.

This response is pure evasion on your part. And lamely done, at that.

I didn’t claim that mere labor conferred ownership — as anyone with normal reading skills can comprehend. I claimed that production, that creation of the value involved confers ownership.

And based on that principle, I posed a series of moral questions which you have — predictably –chosen to evade.

You state that “the artist must own the transformed substance to claim ownership”. That statement on your part is an indication that you didn’t read or comprehend what I wrote, because I made clear that the act of creating intellectual property does not use any property except what one already owns.

Your response is typical of the libertarians here — it pretends that the issues I’ve raised don’t exist.

Come back when you can answer the questions I have posed. Come back when you can explain why the parasite and the creator are on the same moral plane with the same right to profit from the creator’s work. Come back when you can justify why any crank, looter or misfit has a right to profit from the work of Ayn Rand or any other creator.

Until you respond to these issues, your responses are nothing more than evasions or smokescreens for the purpose of hiding from the real issues. Come back when you are prepared to justify why the man who has created nothing is entitled to profit by appropriating the work of the man who has created something.

Joe B January 23, 2009 at 12:55 am

andras: “Don’t be an anti-IP apologist. When you buy a ticket for Spiderman 3 you want to see Spidermen 3 and not 4.”

I saw Spiderman 3 in the theater because it looked great on a big screen. I paid for this experience because I valued the results produced by the theater owner’s expenditure of scarce capital – which I could only get at the theater. I downloaded it on bittorrent so that I could watch it again whenever I want, and paid nothing for this.

If the theater owner could have downloaded a high-quality version of the film for free, I would have still paid to see it at the theater, although the ticket may have been cheaper. The scenario I’m describing is one where this would have been possible, and the point I’m making is that new business models would have to develop to cope with this.

I’m assuming that people can download these films for free (which many do today) and investigating what sort of model would continuously meet the demand for new content.

If I watch Spider-man 3 for free and enjoy it, afterwards I might trade $10 of present money for the future good of Spider-man 4. I no longer economize Spider-man 3, because it is no longer scarce. But since Spider-man 4 will take scarce resources to produce, as a future good it is scarce. I might even pay more to see it come to fruition sooner in accordance with my time preference.

If the production studio has borrowed money to produce Spider-man 3, I will take this into consideration when deciding whether I think they will be capable of producing Spider-man 4. This will affect my decision of how much I’m willing to pay for the future good, or whether I would rather pay a different studio to produce it. It doesn’t mean that I’m paying for Spider-man 3. If they borrowed money to create spider-man 3 expecting to make money once it was released (and no longer scarce), that’s a risk that they have assumed.

Mike,
I think you’ve misunderstood me – as I said, demand for content is continuously increasing. What is changing is the scarcity of the final product as a present good. Increasing supply means decreasing prices – and limitless supply sends the price to zero. As I have discussed here, the scarce future good is what has market value, so I think that new business models will need to find ways to exploit this rather than expending resources to force scarcity upon the present good.

lukas January 23, 2009 at 1:31 am

Michael Smith:

I think the problem is that you have multiple, conflicting concepts of ownership.

On the one hand, there’s physical ownership of material goods: a pretty well-defined idea in terms of how it comes about, what rights it entails, and how it ends.

On the other hand, you claim there is such a thing as intellectual ownership in ideas, a much fuzzier concept… Could you explain how exactly, in your view of things, intellectual property is created, what rights it confers on its proprietor, and how it ends/expires?

Anyway, since physical property rights are sufficient to establish a system of ethics without recourse to IP rights, those IP rights will necessarily be in conflict with other property rights. What should be done in those cases?

Maty January 23, 2009 at 1:45 am

Jim B said:

“If I watch Spider-man 3 for free and enjoy it, afterwards I might trade $10 of present money for the future good of Spider-man 4.”

So if you’ve watched a movie you enjoyed you’ll spend $10 buying a T-shirt to support the next, but not a copy of the movie?

Mike said:

“. Could you explain how exactly, in your view of things, intellectual property is created, what rights it confers on its proprietor, and how it ends/expires?”

Allow me to pick you up on this one (since my previous post on the subject was ignored) and quote from yet another post:

“…when one takes isolated ideas and groups them together in a certain way; in a particular order and fashion that is distinct and personal to him—he creates a new unit. All those ideas that have been previously isolated and continue to be so outside of his work, once formulated by the power of his mind, constitute a new whole.

…Just as the mason, whose workplace is physical, would own the house his hands have built—should not a writer, whose workspace is conceptual, own the structure his mind erected?”

Maty January 23, 2009 at 1:55 am

Jim B said:

“If I watch Spider-man 3 for free and enjoy it, afterwards I might trade $10 of present money for the future good of Spider-man 4.”

So if you’ve watched a movie you enjoyed you’ll spend $10 buying a T-shirt to support the next, but not a copy of the movie?

Mike said:

“. Could you explain how exactly, in your view of things, intellectual property is created, what rights it confers on its proprietor, and how it ends/expires?”

Allow me to pick you up on this one (since my previous post on the subject was ignored) and quote from yet another post:

“…when one takes isolated ideas and groups them together in a certain way; in a particular order and fashion that is distinct and personal to him—he creates a new unit. All those ideas that have been previously isolated and continue to be so outside of his work, once formulated by the power of his mind, constitute a new whole.

…Just as the mason, whose workplace is physical, would own the house his hands have built—should not a writer, whose workspace is conceptual, own the structure his mind erected?”

Maty January 23, 2009 at 1:58 am

Sorry for the double posting…bad connection.

Randall Goble January 23, 2009 at 2:46 am

I think a great example of the shortfalls of Intellectual Property is the music industry. Musicians are some of the most vicious advocates for IP, yet it’s no secret that the most marketable chart toppers usually all sound extremely similar, borrowing entire chord progressions, beat signatures and vocal stylings from one another, yet all the while going to great lengths to protect their “creations.” Meanwhile, the less marketable, unheard of genres and artists tend to be the most adventurous and unique, oftentimes conscerned little with copyrights and money, valuing more the recognition of their peers. Anyone who has ever had or still has a deep love of music, knows that the, pardon the expression, “underground” genres always have the artistic curve, leading the mainstream industry by roughly 5-10 years before being discovered and contracted, usually resulting in better sales (and poorer quality albums.) This isn’t a written in stone rule, but it’s been my observation over the years.

Of course, there’s nothing quite like being told you can’t bring your video camera into the show by a bouncer with an anarchy symbol tattooed on his neck.

Maty January 23, 2009 at 3:09 am

I have a question for everyone who denies the concept of IP.

Suppose someone has a formula written on a piece of paper. You claim that the physical paper is his property while the contents contained therein are not, and therefore maintain that you have the right to that content once it leaves his possession. Am I correct this far?

So let us say that someone has written such formula–say the code for a software, in a manuscript that he keeps in the drawer of his desk.

Suppose that you are extremely curious to learn the contents of this manuscript, but you also know that the author does not wish for the contents to be read, and made it explicitly clear by leaving a sign above the desk stating: ‘please do not open’.

The drawer is not locked… and you know it.

However, if, as you profess, you do respect Property Rights, the man’s word is stronger than any lock… The table is clearly his–he built it, or purchased it from the one who did, and thereby obtained its ownership–and so opening the drawer against his will to read the contents of that manuscript would be a violation of Property Rights, right?

You would not open the drawer.

Now, let us suppose that same individual was to build the software–with that same code embedded within–and agreed to license it to you under the express condition that you would not reverse-engineer it to learn his code.

You agreed to his condition.

Would you feel free to violate his will and condition now, because the code is not hidden behind the physical desk but the non-physical software?

If so, why? Because you can?

Why would you not open the unlocked drawer to glean the secret when there is nothing to stop you save his wish, but you would ‘open’ his ‘unlocked’ software?

However, if, as you say, you do respect ‘physical

Miklos Hollender January 23, 2009 at 3:18 am

Imitation by composers: yes, back then it was a matter of course that every great idea starts a tradition, a “school”. That only really talented people were really expected to innovate and there was nothing shameful in being a mediocre musician within a given tradition/school, just doing the job right. Perhaps IP is one of the reasons that now “everybody” feels they need to innovate instead of imitating, even if they are of mediocre talent, which means instead of producing something un-original but worthy many people produce a lot of things that are very original but are totally crap.

But I still have misgivings against IP. Perhaps in a perfectly free and perfectly functioning capital market… perhaps then it would be OK. But these days you can have a good idea, pour your life savings into a starting a small business. And without IP a big corporation would just say thanks, take the idea and produce it at half the cost because they have the economies of scale. And you get nothing. IP makes it possible for the little guy who has nothing to sell but his ideas to compete or to sell it.

Perhaps in a perfect capital market the little guy would get enough investment from others to be able to compete with the big corporations… but in the absence of that, it looks like a necessary protection.

Miklos Hollender January 23, 2009 at 3:20 am

Sorry, too early in the morning: what I really meant: I still have misgivings about NO IP, not about IP.

Maty January 23, 2009 at 3:22 am

Please disregard the last sentence in my previous post (dead tail… should have previewed.)

Randall Goble January 23, 2009 at 4:19 am

Also, to be clear, before being mutilated; My previous statement wasn’t an argument for why IP is right or wrong, it was simply a personal observation.

After I placed the previous comment, I went back and read the entire thread and realized how heated this discussion had become.

It seems to me that what everyone is arguing over is, at the end of the day, not about what is a basic human right, but what is to be protected and enforced by government.

For instance, I write songs. I’ve written 10 or so country/folk style songs and I’ve only performed three of them at an open mic, where everyone was drunk and wasn’t paying attention. I was a nervous wreck and botched every one of them and I’ve never gone back. BUT, my point is, if someone happened to be filming or recording my set, and decided that the songs were good but the performance was not, they may go and learn my songs, return the next week and blow everyone away. Maybe then they are discovered and become famous, touring and performing to millions of people. Well, first and foremost, I’d be upset. Very upset. But the fact of the matter is, if I had performed those songs well enough, they would have been remembered the next week by the regulars of the bar. Or if they weren’t, I could challenge the imposter by accusing him of stealing my idea. But truthfully, at the end of the day, the only way for me to redeam myself would be to perform the song better. The service I provide as an artist is only actualized in it’s execution. Having a great idea is one thing, delivering on that idea is another.

Just because the abolition of IP would change the marketplace, doesn’t mean it would destroy it. There are ways to prove being the first to create something, there could be an entire industry devoted to it. It would be in the form of businesses that time stamp ideas and works of art, fraudulent companies would be weeded out by the market place, and eventually artists and inventors would seek a kind of “accreditation” from the most publicly reputable companies. This would uphold and recognize genius, but not congest the improvement and circulation of ideas. Besides, if I invent something, no one on the planet should know it better than I, but if by glancing at my plans they notice a small but fatal error in my design, they should be able to improve upon it and profit from it, because by publishing my plans, I’ve opened them up to improvement.

The competition to protect one’s ideas would also spur industry. There is nothing wrong with protecting an idea, there’s nothing wrong with wanting recognition for a creation. But to appeal to the government for that protection is not necessary. Entrepenuers, inventors and artists would simply need to find ways to market and implement their ideas within the free-market, in the most efficient, qualitative, and affordable way possible, and other entrepenuers, inventors and artists would need to meet them half way with products and services aimed at doing just that.

Randall Goble January 23, 2009 at 4:38 am

The formula/code written on a piece of paper in a drawer is private property. To open the drawer and take it would be theft.

The written code once implemented would be a working program. The best thing you could do is either develope code that allows your program to be used and simultaneously protected from reverse engineering, or to not put your product on the market and keep it to yourself. If it is not possible to market your code without exposing it to reverse engineering or copying, then you may want to booby trap it with a virus that fries anyone’s computer who tries to crack the code. There’s an endless array or solutions to these problems without the government being the watchdog. Coercion, theft, dishonesty and plain meanness will never go away. It’s not about creating a utopia. It’s about allowing the market(free people) to come up with it’s(their) own solutions to these problems.

lukas January 23, 2009 at 6:52 am

Just as the mason, whose workplace is physical, would own the house his hands have built—should not a writer, whose workspace is conceptual, own the structure his mind erected?

But what does it mean for a writer to own the structure his mind erected?

Joe B January 23, 2009 at 6:55 am

Maty: “So if you’ve watched a movie you enjoyed you’ll spend $10 buying a T-shirt to support the next, but not a copy of the movie? ”

My point is that I have no economic incentive to pay for a copy of the released movie, since I was able to download it for free. I have signed no contract stating that I would pay any amount to view or copy that movie. It is not scarce, so it has no economic value.

I might send the producer $10 out of the kindness of my heart to say thanks, but on a larger scale this doesn’t get you a feasible business model. It requires the threat of violence to ensure that everyone who sees it kicks in their $10, and this is where I have a problem.

I think people confuse potential with value. John Galt’s motor had zero market value because nobody knew it existed. He chose to keep it a trade secret, and not to turn it into a consumer good. However, if Dagny Taggart’s attempt to reverse-engineer it had been successful and she brought it to market, she would have given it value (actually the bidders who purchased it would have given it value based on her supply and their demand).

In this situation, the only thing she has stolen from Galt is the potential to bring it to market first. She has not prevented him from doing this. He still has the idea and could start building and selling motors in competition if he desired.

If Galt had marketed the motor prior to Dagny offering it, then her competition would affect his potential for future profits by increasing supply in the market. It would not transfer any of his current physical wealth to her.

Galt could try to protect his trade secret by installing a self-destruct device with a proximity sensor on every unit sold, but this would likely reduce the demand for it, and thus the price. It also brings up the issue that he is destroying physical property that he no longer owns. Or, he could form an agreement (cartel) with Dagny offering her some incentive to refrain from selling them. These are free-market approaches.

He could also rely on the state to enforce his patent at taxpayers’ expense. This seems to be OK with the pro-IP crowd, or at least it’s the scenario to which Libertarian anti-IP’ers are primarily opposed. I can’t see how this scenario could be compliant with an objectivist morality.

I would say that if you can protect your IP, go for it. However, you must consider the cost involved. If you rely on IP rights for your business model, someone will eventually discover or circumvent your secret and enter your market, whether or not you think they have a right to do so.

And don’t let me hear you talking about a free market if my coerced taxes are paying for your protection.

Brian Macker January 23, 2009 at 7:00 am

I posted my attitude to property rights here long ago in a few of the innumerable anti-copyright articles by Steven.

I ground intellectual property rights in physical property rights. Current patent law does not do this and thus I do not think it is valid. Copyright law on the other hand is more compatible with my beliefs.

Grounding IP in physical property rights is perfectly compatible with an anarchist or free market system. It’s not compatible with socialism, obviously.

Here’s another comment I posted here on Mises with regard to copyright and how it’s tied to physical ownership. I defended it successfully against all the misconceptions of the anti-IP opponents.

So far none of the anti-copyright crowd have produced a valid argument against my position.

It’s pretty clear that many of those who are wedded to anti-IP are doing so precisely because they see it as an obstacle to the complete elimination of government. That is, they argue with a result in mind, instead of reasoning clearly.

Brian Macker January 23, 2009 at 7:33 am

Michael Smith,

I see your comments under “A Book that Changes Everything”. Why did you think they were deleted?

Perhaps you went to the story article, instead of the blog entry?

The story articles do not allow comments. You have to find them in the blog to comment. I think you got mixed up between the two.

lukas January 23, 2009 at 8:12 am

Brian,

I agree with you that IP rights are acceptable as long as they are grounded in and compatible with physical property rights. The current legal situation, however, goes far beyond that… obviously so with trademarks and patents, and less flagrantly but still with considerable impact in the case of copyrights.

Mike January 23, 2009 at 8:38 am

Brian,

You make some interesting points, but I think your argument falters on a few levels.

Say you are, in fact, copying an unauthorized version. You assert that this version, having been copied from an authorized version, is justly the physical property of the original creator. Even allowing for this, does this necessarily mean that the version that *you* created belongs to the original creator? You had no contract with him. You are, if anything, obligated to return the original to him, but I fail to see how this new, copied version also belongs to him. And, in fact, this is how most copying is done in the modern era. One party buys an authorized copy, uploads it as a bittorrent or some such thing, and it is copied dozens of times. Perhaps the original artist has some claim to the first copied version, due to contract violation, but I don’t see how he has the right to stop the flow of information that ensued after the fact.

Amy January 23, 2009 at 8:47 am

Just to throw in my two cents about how the entertainment industry would survive without current copyright law…

Anyone here heard of Joss Whedon and/or Dr. Horrible?

During the writer’s strike, Joss was trying to come up with a different business model that would bypass the producer studios, and thus Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog was born. It streamed for free on Hulu and was also available for hi-res download on iTunes. Later, a DVD was released with several special features, including quite a few ‘Easter Eggs’ that the die-hard fans could discover. Joss funded the whole thing on his own with two budgets: one to cover basic costs while the actors and crew donated their time, and another to pay the actors and crew what their time was worth. The second budget would only come into play once the movie covered its costs.

Now that it’s done and over with, Joss won’t talk specific numbers, but has said that from the iTunes sales alone (and again, this is something that was also streaming for free on Hulu), he was in the black.

Obviously Joss’s rabid fanbase contributed to the success of this project, but it proves a few important points: first, that people are still sometimes willing to pay for things they can legally and easily get for free, and second, that die-hard fans of an artist are often willing to pay extra for an experience (e.g. discovering easter eggs on a dvd) that you would have a hard time recreating for free.

The same applies to music… although music downloads are widespread, some people still pay for the iTunes or Amazon download instead. Sometimes it’s just easier to find a song on iTunes than to track it down on bit torrent. And no matter what, the artist always has their own performance to sell. In fact, many smaller, indie-type bands have gotten profitable because the free downloads exposed new people to their music, expanding their fanbase and driving up their ticket prices for concerts.

What the entertainment industry requires is a rethinking of the business model, which will most likely cut the producers ever further out of the process. There will always be a demand out there for entertainment, and people willing to pay for it in one form or another.

wearehere January 23, 2009 at 2:07 pm

The labor required to create IP is a scarce good, even if the resulting IP is not.

wearehere January 23, 2009 at 2:07 pm

The labor required to create IP is a scarce good, even if the resulting IP is not.I do think so

bob January 23, 2009 at 5:36 pm

I think attempting to attach tangible goods markets distort the true meaning of this debate. Sure, composers may find a market demand for their additional performance of their works. Also, coders who create some mass consumption software can find work commissioning them for custom modifications of it.

The point is that some people are better at the IP creation aspect, and that they do not value the IP for their own use as much as the market is willing to trade them for its licensed use. In other words, forcing IP producers to also be some other form of producer is simply inefficient and does not take division of labor into account. Maybe I can better serve the public by working on the next piece of mass-consumption software, leaving customizations for less experienced programmers. it seems that mass consumption software holds more total society-wide “value” than any single-client software.

Without IP law, there needs to be some alternative system that rewards IP laborers based on the total consumer value of their product. Without scarcity, be it natural or artificial, it is impossible to assign a market value to anything.

I am willing to abolish or reform current forms of IP, as their abuse is clear. I think that would be a better debate. Our current one seems like those defending an idealistic, unrealized, quasi-utopian system vs. an obviously flawed but somewhat practical system.

I have proposed an alternative -> non-restrictive entitlement rights. Essentially, this is keeping copyright but forcing copyright holders to grant licenses to any and all uses of the IP and forcing them to accept the same price to so as a share of their commercial revenue from doing so. Additionally, this price would diminish over time until reaching $0. This would prevent free rider effects from commercial distributors, while redefining “Fair Use” as ALL use. Anyone not seeking monetary revenue would be completely free to use an IP. No one would be excluded from the market…and competitive distributors or related services would have the same costs.

Martin OB January 23, 2009 at 8:41 pm

From a moral POV, I think even the name “intellectual property” should be avoided, since it’s no property at all, just a monopoly on a given activity (the activity of interchanging or even producing some patterns of information), so it should be called “intellectual monopoly” as a neutral term.

When the term “intellectual monopoly” is used instead of “intellectual property” it become clear why it is so odious. It’s not because it’s property of some inexhaustible resource. The real reason is that every monopoly on an activity is intrinsically invasive, incompatible with physical property and privacy. The division of physical property lets every person “mind their own business” while respecting other people’s right to do alike. So called “Intellectual property” makes this peaceful coexistence impossible; you never know whether your words, drawings, or your very thoughts are infringing on someone else’s “property”. That’s why so-called IP should be abolished even if its benefits were real.

But I don’t think they are. Let’s get into the more interesting issue of how arts and inventions would be promoted in an IP-free society.

First, let’s ignore the example of books and other physical incarnations and assume that all information is exchanged online.

Some artists’ lobbies claim there would be “no music/books at all” without IP, which is preposterous. Music, literature and other forms of art which can be cheaply produced by a single individual would go on even in the total absence of economic motivation. True artists simply can’t help to produce works of art, and they enjoy it, even if they have to do it in their spare time.

A different story is action/sci-fi movies, where numerous artists and non-artists must coordinate their efforts. While it’s also conceivable that all the people involved do it in their spare time for the fun of it, some form of funding seems highly desirable.

An obvious candidate is the “fund and release” strategy, also called “threshold pledge”. The artists gives some hints, maybe even samples, of the work he intends to produce (or has produced but keeps private) and he sets a price. Those interested in having the work released can make a money pledge. When the full price is reached, the work is released. If the artist decides not to release it, people get their money back. So this is not charity (pay and hope), it’s just a commercial transaction involving lots of buyers.

Another funding strategy is a generous prize policy. It has the advantage that the money is given after the relative merits of the work are seen .And who would pay for the prizes? Maybe it’s some manufacturing company looking for advertisement, Maybe it’s wealthy individuals who want to improve their image, maybe it’s art clubs supported by many enthusiasts, or maybe it’s someone who has something to gain from an increased public awareness of that kind of art; for instance, an association of art teachers. Or maybe the artists become art teachers and their works of art are their main form of advertisement.

This last possibility is also very interesting for academic research and as a subtitute for patents. So, technological advancement would flow from academia to industry, and university teachers would work hard to produce useful papers, to attract more students who pay for lessons. Students would pay for the lessons, either because they like to learn, or because they hope to become teachers themselves, or because they hope to be hired in some manufacturing company as the expert who decides which of the available technologies to implement and how. And so we come to the argument advanced in the book “Against Intellectual Monopoly”: manufacturing companies would pay handsomely to these experts, who would help them get to the market first and massively with new products. So, even if the physical process of spreading the idea is inexpensive (as in online publishing instead of printing press) the embodiment of patentable ideas in useful objects is an area where consumers would be wary of cheap imitators. What about software products, like office suits and photo-manipulation apps? they may start as internal software of a manufacturing (or service) company. Later on, as the company needs to cooperate with others, comunication protocols and file formats would naturally emerge. And those would be automatically open standards, which everyone seems to like even in these IP-loving days.

So why are we not seeing all this plethora of alternative funding schemes today? Why, because of the overwhelming competition of intellectual monopoly, which drains the market, attracting the best and the brightest with its promise of huge revenues, and leaving preciously few brilliant individuals to the open knowledge world. That’s why the very existence of “free software”/”open source” applications and operating systems is indeed remarkable, and its alleged shortcomings are not a sign of what to expect if intellectual monopoly were abolished.

Regards,

newson January 23, 2009 at 9:58 pm

a very well-reasoned comment, martin ob.

Sean T. McBeth January 24, 2009 at 2:21 pm

If labor does not confer any level of ownership then, pray tell, how does the system of wage labor work? Why do we compensate laborers?

Brian Macker January 24, 2009 at 4:43 pm

Lukas,

“The current legal situation, however, goes far beyond that…”

Correct. I disagree with current law.

“Even allowing for this, does this necessarily mean that the version that *you* created belongs to the original creator? “

The process is iterative. Say I own a prize cow and bull. Real expensive ones of a special breed. Say somebody else steals them both, mates them and makes copies this way. Of course he feeds them, cares for them in the meantime. Certainly he was responsible for initiating the copying in this example.

I think it is pretty clear that I own the calf.

Should he get caught then to fully compensate me I need the cow, the bull and the calf. Because if they hadn’t been stolen then I could have, if I valued it, made the copy myself.

Now, the thief did mix his labor with my property, but that doesn’t make it in any part his because it was mine to begin with and he had no such right. Nor was his action a mistake.

Plus he must compensate me for the effort of finding, catching, and prosecuting him. Plus pay me for the risk I ran that I would never get my goods back. Thus usually courts don’t bother weighing in the criminals contributions when returning lost goods and often add fines on top.

Now the same thing may have happened in a different way. He may of stole my cow and bull then sold them to someone else. That other person may then mate them, feed them and produce the calf. But it is still stolen goods. If this person is caught with my property then I should get my property back, the cow, the bull, the calf. However I should compensate him for the care and feeding.

Under this view the calf is mine, even if I do not have possession. The calf itself might then be mated with my bull to produce yet another calf. Heck an entire herd may be produced. But still that herd is mine, or at least partially mine, since it was produced with my stuff. Some portion of course being do to the mixing in of the other guys stuff.

So if the crime were discovered then what a judge should do is try to disentangle our contributions and try as best as possible to make both parties whole. We are in a sense forced co-owners of property because of a fraud caused by a thief.

Now I breed those animals to high quality over a lifetime or perhaps bought special animals that had been breed to high quality over hundreds of years. They represent a scarce and valuable good.

On the other hand the guy who copied them added little of value. Some straw, some water, some minimum wage labor, and a shed. When it comes time to disentangle the contributions I think it is clear that I should have the lions share of ownership.

Also to make me whole again it is clear that the genetic heritage of the animals should naturally be put back in my possession, and not the guy who benefited from a theft. I should get the herd and pay at most for the room and board of my animals to an innocent receiver of these stolen goods.

The same goes for copyrighted books. The paper used to make copies really isn’t that valuable. Even less valuable contribution is made by copying via a computer.

The copyright owner on a book really is a co-owner of the work. The buyer is really only renting the work with a right to proper disposal. I covered this in detail in one of the comments here on mises and don’t want to repeat myself again.

The contract about the book makes them co-owners with differing rights in the book. Just because some third party is not a party to the contract does NOT mean he can just steal the book and use it as he wants.

What about a lost book? Well if the book is clearly marked with a copyright notice then the finder can certainly locate the person who retains the ownership over the right to copy the book.

There are all sorts of other issues that arise that I can also justify. For example, what if the copyright owner dies without selling the copyright to anyone, and has no heirs. Well then we treat it like any abandoned property.

If you happen to find a book for which no one currently holds copyright then you should in fact be able to establish your own copyright for any physical copies of that book. Even if you are not the author.

For example, if you happened to find an original copy of say the bible that is older than any known copy then I see no reason why you could not establish a copyright contract which you use to sell copies of it.

Were someone else to find another original copy of it they could establish their own parallel copyright.

Again all based on physical property rights.

scott t January 24, 2009 at 7:56 pm

if the bullthief led the stolen bull down the road and the bulls**t on the road, would that be yours too?

would the thief also return that to you?

Brian Macker January 24, 2009 at 9:30 pm

“if the bullthief led the stolen bull down the road and the bulls**t on the road, would that be yours too?”

As a matter of fact, yes.

“Would the thief also return that to you?”

If he was caught and it was valuable to me then yes I would request compensation for it too.

lukas January 25, 2009 at 2:42 am

Brian,

I won’t repeat Stephan’s argument here, I’ll just refer you to it… in Against IP, pp. 47–55, he disputes the “bundle-of-rights” view of property that you seem to (do you?) espouse. Where do you disagree with him?

Brian Macker January 25, 2009 at 1:01 pm

Starting on page 49 Kinsella’s argument is invalid, and certainly doesn’t work against my theory of copying rights. I believe it is invalid against Rothbard’s argument also.

He proposes that the author A writes a book and makes two copies. He sells copy, BOOK 2, to a party, B1, wholly. He sells partial ownership in the second copy, BOOK 2, to party, B2, with a copying right contract.

In my view (and Rothbard’s) the contract is that A is co-owner of the book with B2, and is the only co-owner allowed to copy the book. B2 is allowed to use the book in any other way and is also allowed to destroy the book, and therefore dissolve the contract over that one physical piece of property. Since Kinsella is arguing against Rothbard, and to prevent his counter argument from being a straw man we must assume this definition even if Kinsella didn’t spell it out.

He then states: “The two books, BOOK1 and BOOK2, appear to third parties to be otherwise identical. Yet they are not: one is incomplete; the other somehow contains more mystical “rights-essence” within its covers.”

To which I respond (and Rothbard would also), “So what? This is true of any co-owned physical property”. The same can be said of a piece of land where mineral rights are owned by one party and other rights by another. There is no way by looking at it to tell who owns what. In fact, can’t look at any piece of property to tell who owns it without specific markings. There’s nothing mystical about it. There are no “essences” involved.

Not only that but he has made some other false assumptions here and the following text. 1) Abandonment. and 2) Indistinguishablility. The short replies to these are: 1) Just because I left my book on the park bench does not mean that I have abandoned ownership of it. 2) There may indeed be identifying marks in the book.

On assumption 1) Abandonment.

I used to be a bellhop and found a roll of a little over one hundred dollars on the floor in an elevator wrapped in a rubber band. I did not assume this was abandoned property because I took human nature into account. People lose things. When I got back to the desk I asked the other bellhops if they had lost anything. One guy with a pained look on his face said, “I lost my wad”. I said, “Describe it”, and he described it exactly. So I handed it over to him. He was quite surprised I did that because he thought most people were dishonest. I laughed and said, “Thanks for having such a high opinion of me”.

If I were to find a book on a park bench I would leave it there in the hopes that the owner would find it, or if I thought there were many dishonest people around, or it was going to rain, then I would take it and leave a note. I would not assume ownership until I had exhausted a reasonable amount of effort considering the value of the property. Likely I would just leave a cheap paperback.

Furthermore I might take other steps to establish ownership, such as dropping it off at a lost and found, or taking it to the police. Also, I would look on the outside edge of the book, and the first couple pages for anybodies name.

On assumption 2) Indistinguishablility he is also incorrect. There are many ways to establish the difference between the books.

a) By any reasonable means we already use to establish ownership of misplaced objects. Once we establish the owner then any relationship between that owner and the original author A is up to them. If we find BOOK2 and give it back to B2 then it’s clear that this was a book with co-ownership between A and B2.

b) It’s likely that book B2 will contain an explicit copyright notice. If the finder of the book sees this notice then he at least knows who one of the co-owners of the book is. He can return that book to A if he wants too, or he can homestead B2′s property rights in the book, which does not include the right to copy.

Thus most of Kinsella’s claims that the books were indistinguishable is moot in deciding if there can be co-ownership defined by a copying rights contract.
Let’s see if he can get further in his argument with even more assumptions.

Remember, he argues: “Suppose B1 and B2 leave these books on a park bench, where they are discovered by third party T.” and ” But think of the two books, BOOK1 and BOOK2. How could one tell the difference between them?”

He’s got a very narrow issue here, two identical books left on the same bench, and indistinguishable. Hardly a situation that is likely or something one would want to build ones rights theory on, but let’s address it.

Well there are all sorts of outs that could resolve the issue in Rothbard’s favor still. Both owners could come back. The owner of BOOK 1 could come back, etc.

The only situation that seems to cause problems is if the finder of the book T, was unable to find the owner, and the book had no copyright notice inside. But even then any reasonable actor would know that somebody wrote the book, and may have had such an agreement with the actual owner of the book. The book will likely have a title, and author, etc. What the person should then do is contact the author and see if this is the case. If this is a one-off contract with a particular individual B2 then the author could contact B2 and see if he frequented the park in question and lost the book. In which case, the owners are identified, and no homesteading is possible.

Note too, that the finder of property should not use that property. If I find a potentially abandoned car on my property then that does not give me the right to drive it. Likewise I have no right to read a discovered book up until I have discharged my duty to take reasonable care in finding the owner. So I don’t want any responses in this direction from my opponents. You’ll find the intellectual gate closed.

Let’s concede points Kinsella didn’t even make. Let’s assume against all odds that the books truly are indistinguishable, that the owners are impossible to find, that it is impossible to determine the author, or anyone he might have sold copying rights too. Well then it is perfectly acceptable for a the finder of the BOOK 2, Mr. T, to homestead full ownership of the book.

The only question that is left is what if BOOK 1 is found and author A is alive. Can T homestead BOOK 1, and make copies. Well theoretically yes he could have given that scenario. However there is an issue here of possible dispute between A and T, and what a court could reasonably determine. Mr. A could lie and say that he sold BOOK 1, with copyright with B, in which case the court would ask A to produce the contract. Or Mr. A could lie and say that he never sold the BOOK 1 at all.

What’s the court suppose to do in that case? Well if A is to be believed then he is the full owner. So he gets his book back and T cannot make copies, and if he already did then he did so without permission and must make A whole.

Courts and societies often settle on social conventions for the purpose of reducing transaction costs, preventing disputes, and the like. Often choosing what makes most sense based on the more common occurrences. The default assumption is often a matter of convention. The question in this case is what is the more reasonable default assumption A) That a book without a notice is copyrighted. or B) That a book without notice is not copyrighted. Sometimes it is quite unclear what the default social convention should be and yet we decide anyway.

Since people write things all the time and do so on their own paper, computers and the like it would be quite onerous to require them to print a copyright on each copy. Also items are stolen and misplaced with much more frequency than the extremely unlike scenario played out in Kinsella’s book. It seems much more reasonable to assume that for all works the author retains copying rights unless otherwise explicitly abandoned either in writing, or upon death by a lack of heirs. Books that are not covered by copying rights would have to explicitly state so within their pages, in a place determined by convention.

With that convention the author A would only need to establish his authorship of the book (or the current holder of the copying rights a contract with the author). So what of an ancient text dug up from some cave, like the Dead Sea Scrolls? Well, obviously the author is dead, and obviously there is no copyright holder who bought from the author. So the finder is free to homestead all rights to the text. He would need to advertise the discovery, and place his name on any copies.

Why should he put his name on his copies to establish his copyright? Because someone else may dig up a second copy, and homestead it, which would entail the right to make a hierarchy of additional copies. Heck, the second discoverer could then sell his copies without any copy right contract. This would in no way interfere with the first discoverers rights, although it would make them far less valuable.

Then, by accident all copies that the second discoverer had found or made may by accident be destroyed. In which case, the value of the first discoverers copying rights goes back up.

Also, from the point of view of the courts it may be harder for the first discoverer to prove that any third party copy was a violation, but it probably will not be impossible. The two discoveries may not be identical copies. If it is impossible to determine then it is tough luck on the second discoverer.

Likewise tough luck on you if someone steals your unpublished work and you can’t prove ownership. But that hardly proves that the underlying rights don’t exist. That’s an issue of the fact that courts are not all-knowing, not one of rights.

In summary, all the talk by Kinsella about magic, right’s tendrils, spooky, amorphous, invisible, mystical, spooky, are either nonsense which can be claimed of property rights or misunderstandings on his part.

Kinsella also quotes an argument by Palmer in which he asks, “Could one reserve the right, for example, to remember something?” This analogy is not a valid comparison. The parties to a contract must be able to execute on them. One can certainly live up to an agreement not to copy something. At this juncture it is impossible to live up to a promise to forget something. You can certainly promise not to disclose something, but how can we tell what’s going on in someone’s mind, and how can someone even control what they remember. Maybe in the future we will have technology that can erase specific memories and read minds. Until that point such contracts are impossible to meet the performance requirements of.

The short of it is that Kinsella has not made his case against Rothbard, or me, nor Palmer. They both have some failure of understanding of natural rights and the duties they entail.

newson January 25, 2009 at 10:51 pm

s t mcbeth says:
“If labor does not confer any level of ownership then, pray tell, how does the system of wage labor work? Why do we compensate laborers?”

employees fulfill contractual obligations using their bodies. ownership of labour is impossible, it’s an intangible. workers own their bodies, not the output of their bodies, which has been traded for a wage. if i refuse to work, i am of no value to any employer. with cessation of output, the work contract is broken, and my fully-owned arse is out the door.

don’t believe me, try it for yourself.

lukas January 26, 2009 at 3:16 pm

What’s the court suppose to do in that case? Well if A is to be believed then he is the full owner. So he gets his book back and T cannot make copies, and if he already did then he did so without permission and must make A whole.

(I’m going to make T female in the following. Makes it easier to write about this without having Ts and As all over the place.)

Why does T need permission to make copies? She has never entered into any contract with A that would bar her from doing this. Now you will say that the book was not T’s rightful property, and I’ll agree with you on that. But is ownership a precondition for copying? Unlike mating cattle to produce offspring, producing a copy of a book does not require actual physical control over the book: It only requires a certain state of mind.

Imagine the following: After having returned the book to A, T sits down at her desk, takes her pen, and reproduces it from memory. How do her pages become (co-)owned by A in this process? She has made him whole by giving back his book, so how can he have any claims on her?

Mike January 29, 2009 at 12:54 pm

“(I’m going to make T female in the following. Makes it easier to write about this without having Ts and As all over the place.)

Why does T need permission to make copies? She has never entered into any contract with A that would bar her from doing this. Now you will say that the book was not T’s rightful property, and I’ll agree with you on that. But is ownership a precondition for copying? Unlike mating cattle to produce offspring, producing a copy of a book does not require actual physical control over the book: It only requires a certain state of mind.

Imagine the following: After having returned the book to A, T sits down at her desk, takes her pen, and reproduces it from memory. How do her pages become (co-)owned by A in this process? She has made him whole by giving back his book, so how can he have any claims on her?”

I think Brian was assuming that “copying” is a way of physically making use of an item, but this does not necessarily need to be the case.

Suppose B, having contractually agreed to A’s copyright, nonetheless prints the contents of the book on an enormous billboard for all the world to see. T passes by the billboard, and transcribes it’s contents into her notebook. What can now be said of A’s copyright? Certainly, B has violated his contract with A, but A has no claim over the contents of T’s notebook. The mere fact that B’s billboard rightfully belongs to A has no claim on the transcription in T’s notebook.

jarle May 20, 2009 at 2:14 pm

I found the example considering the cow and bull being stolen quite amusing. I wish to amend it in the following manner:

1) Exit thief
2) Enter alien with replicator

The Alien, using his superior replicator-technology, creates two clones, one of the cow and one of the bull. He then goes on to breed a herd and starts to sell meat and milk.

Would the farmer have any grounds for bringing the Alien to court?

On a more serious note, IP should be maintained for the commercial industry. For the individuals, however, it should be abolished. In effect, any idea can be sold to a company, but noone can put restrictions on personal use.

Joe B November 7, 2010 at 5:18 am

So, the way I read this, is that no one can produce orginal thoughts, works or actions….hmmm
the other joe b

practice permit test January 28, 2011 at 10:35 pm

An fascinating discussion is value comment. I think that you must write more on this subject, it may not be a taboo topic but generally persons are not sufficient to speak on such topics. To the next. Cheers

Roe Ravid February 5, 2011 at 10:35 am

“Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination… Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent… Remember what Jean-Luc Godard said, ‘It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to.’”
~Jim Jarmusch

Gary February 5, 2011 at 8:40 pm

Scenario: A man by himself (let’s call him Bob) in his work shop develops a utilitarian product that will be a success in the marketplace. He patents it and decides to start a company to manufacture it on his own and in doing so mortgages his home, takes all his savings as well as borrowing every penny he can get his hands on in order to do so. Let’s say he raises $750,000. He begins to market it and all is going well.

Oops, his intellectual property is no longer protected because of changes in the intellectual property laws and a much larger company worth $300,000,000 snatches up his idea, has it made overseas, in larger quantities and therefore cheaper and also spends $10,000,000 a year for advertising.

Guess who is going out of business. Guess who is not going reap the reward of his labor and intellectual capacity. Guess who will lose the motivation and incentive to innovate again because the work of his mind is not protected. You guessed it, poor Bob.

Think about it…

J. Murray February 5, 2011 at 8:52 pm

It’s amazing. People think there is unlimited labor “overseas” that can instantly and immediately steal everything and immediately and instantly sell it for less. If that was the case, how come China doesn’t make 100% of the world’s products right now? They don’t give two flips about patents and copyrights over there, yet amazingly, they haven’t done exactly what you’re claiming will happen.

Gil February 5, 2011 at 10:25 pm

Give them time, they’re getting there. Most stuff you see has “Made in China” on it somewhere.

Gary February 5, 2011 at 8:56 pm

Originality is non-existent. Really? Tell that to Mandelbrot and to the inventor of the transistor,
tell that to Durac and Einstein and Tesla and other geniuses and creatives who throughout history have turned the world on with their brilliance.

Yes, you are right in this sense. In a world of mediocrity and dishonesty there are men with no character who choose to steal to compensate for their lack of originality and genius. And we should encourage that kind of behavior. I don’t think so.

Gary February 5, 2011 at 9:06 pm

China has not done it yet because we still enforce at least some of our intellectual property laws. Not near enough I might add. Take a look at the manufacturing jobs and companies that have either gone out of business or had to move their facilities to China to compete.

No one said anything about this: “It’s amazing, people think there is unlimited labor “overseas” that can instantly and immediately steal everything and immediately and instantly sell it for less.”

The point is that non-protection of original, patentable, copyrighted material by law reduces the incentive of those who create to do so. Especially those creatives that are independent and not bank rolled by large investors and companies.

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