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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/9486/whats-wrong-with-theft/

What’s Wrong with Theft?

February 22, 2009 by

As I noted in Copypats, many non-specialists and proponents of IP erroneously believe that copying is an element of patent infringement–they conceive of the typical patent infringer as some bad guy who knocked off, or “stole,” the patentee-inventor’s idea. They are usually unaware that proving copying is neither necessary nor sufficient to prove patent infringement. It’s not necessary because even an independent inventor can be guilty of patent infringement. It’s not sufficient because the patent may be invalid, or the copier may make changes to “design around” the patented invention (which is encouraged by patent policy–that’s one reason the patent is published).

But it is common to charge the patent infringer, especially the idea copier, with theft–he stole the idea, it is said. But if we think about standard cases of theft that we all agree are criticizeable, what is it about them that we object to? Is it that the thief now has a bicycle? Or is it that the owner now doesn’t have his bicycle?

Of course it is the latter. If you have a bike, or car, or log cabin, or corn crop, and I could gaze at it from afar, blink my eyes, and conjur up a similar bike, car, cabin, or crop for myself, I do not steal your things. But if I take your bike or car from you, or oust you from home and farm, you no longer have the things you formerly possessed and owned. That is the damage done to you by theft. This corresponds nicely to the very nature and function of property rights: the need for them arises when people need to use scarce resources as means to act in the world, and appropriate unowned ones. The scarce nature of these things is such that use by one person excludes that by another; the goods are rivalrous. (More on this in How We Come to Own Ourselves; Defending Argumentation Ethics; Owning Thoughts and Labor.)

But copying or emulating someone else’s idea is not “taking” it from them; it is not theft. The originator of a given pattern still has his idea, and is free to use it in guiding his action and using or transforming his own property. This is why all arguments in favor of IP (and reputation rights) ultimately end up falling prey to the notion that there are property rights in the value of property, rather than in its physical integrity. But this view is fallacious, as shown by Hoppe and others.

{ 83 comments }

ktibuk February 24, 2009 at 12:41 am

@ Cosmin and @ Drake

“I’m assuming that you mean ideal objects do not exist (as apposed to thoughts). Thanks for pointing this out, as it has been the elephant in the room that everyone has been ignoring.”

Well he is in fact talking about ideal objects and it is not an elephant but irrelevant.

The key issue of property is homesteading and the link it establishes between the individual and the property.

If Cosmin replaced “idea” with “harry potter novel” in his post, he would see how absurd his position is, and he might begin to think the differences between copying something and originating it.

And Drake I will respond to your post but I am short of time right now. Although I think I partly responded to you as well with my response to Stephan.

ktibuk February 24, 2009 at 7:07 am

@Drake

“I am taking the position that first use establishes the right to use. I am not taking the position that first use establishes a “bundle” of rights in addition to use (e.g. subjective value, market value, exclusion, etc.), however, you are welcome to point out how these extra rights can be derived from a natural law foundation.”

I am taking the position that ownership implies absolute ethical control (say) and it is unconditional. First use establishes a link between the resource and the individual and this link can only be broken by the individual owner himself.

This absolute control is derived from the nature of man, not nature of the resources he homesteads. As I said before, individuals voluntarily exchanging homesteaded resources is the only way that fits human nature.

Even if there were no external natural resources (tangible or intangible) but mans labor, this would still be true.

Interspecies parasitism, which means some are feeding off of others, is unnatural for man. Because of categorical imperative if some men are feeding off of others, then those that are parasites can not be categorized as man. Which would be again unnatural because becoming a parasite for man is choice.

“Whether or not exclusion is REQUIRED to secure the right to use depends on the NATURE of the resource being used. The right to USE a non-scarce resource may be homesteaded, but others may not be EXCLUDED from using it if their use does not interfere with the use – ACTUAL or POTENTIAL – of the homesteader.”

Why is that exactly? Without the homesteading, there would be no property. Nothing that the excluded can use, unless he himself homesteads it then there is no problem. You are telling me I created something, without my homesteading it there wouldn’t be anything but I can not execute my ownership to exclude others from using it.

“Not true. I asked if you needed me to provide you with examples of how the latecomer’s presence on the boat would limit the first-comer’s use of the boat. With a little imagination you could have come up with a few examples on your own, but I suppose I’ll have to do your thinking for you…

Possible Uses of a Boat – And How the Arrival of a Latecomer Would Interfere with Them:

1. Laying down in the boat to sleep: the latecomer might be in the way.

2. Using part of the boat to store fish: the latecomer might take up the area needed to store the fish.

3. Rowing the boat to the nearest island: the latecomer would add weight to the boat, making rowing more difficult and slowing the boat down (let’s assume there is only one oar).

Clearly, the presence of the latecomer limits the first-comer’s ability to use the boat. This is due, in part, to the fact that the space on any boat is finite, regardless of its size.”

There are many instances where your scenarios wouldn’t apply but still the homesteader, the owner could exclude. Like the boat being big enough to all of your possible uses and leave space for the other guy. And you could take turns rowing the boat. Unless you convert the term “use” to “whatever whim and excuse”, it also applies to IP:

But the more important point is, after one homesteads a resource does he have to convince others that he is in fact using (what ever that implies) the resource to keep his ownership? According to your property theory he seems to. Since what he gains is not ownership but a “right to use” this means he has that right only as long has he uses the resource and the property is no actually his per se but loaned to him.

“Control and exclusion are NOT the same thing. For example, you can have total control over your front lawn, but excluding others from looking at it, thinking about it, talking about it, taking pictures of it, etc. requires more than control over soil and grass: it requires control over other people.”

No, it requires the control over other people regarding your property. Which is what ownership implies. If I own a car I can control your actions regarding that car. If I own a theatrical play I can control other peoples actions regarding that play.

If others don’t want me to control their actions regarding my property, they are welcomed not to interact with it and leave me alone.

“The form of things may be changed, but there is no way to increase or decrease the total amount of matter and energy in the universe. In other words, what you are referring to as “destruction” I would categorize as USE (which obviously includes physical manipulation). For example, if you bulldoze your house, you have clearly changed its form but have not caused the original materials to cease to exist.”

We all know that you can not create or destroy matter and energy, but that is totally irrelevant.

I may not destroy all the matter and energy that went in the house but I can cause the house to cease to exist. Which is my right because the house is mine. If I only had a “right to use” when it came to the house, I don’t think destroying the house can count as using. Bulldozing the house may be “using the raw materials” that went into the house but it is not “using the house”.

If house and the raw materials that went into the house mean the same thing to you then there can not be any homesteading in the universe because homesteading means changing the nature given resources (raw materials that went into the house) to something else (the house). If both instances are the same then there is no change thus no homesteading.

“Even if the owner of a billion apples has no intention of eating any of them, his RIGHT to eat them is secured by the exclusion of others.”

Exactly. This is the exact right I want for IP. Even if the owner doesn’t lose anything by sharing, he has the right to exclude others. And you should realize already that, claiming the right to copy because the owner doesn’t lose the original is the same thing as claiming the right to take something tangible from someone because he would not actually use it.

Stephan Kinsella February 24, 2009 at 7:11 am

ktibuk:

@Stephan,

“If I take $1000 of Gates’s money, he does not have it.”

But Stephan that is it. Gates could never own that extra 1000 according to your theory. Remember in this instance there is Gates and there is you and regarding that 60 billion there is no scarcity.

Ktibuk, are you disingenuous, or just stupid? I have over and over and permeating my writings made it crystal clear what I mean by scarcity and what is my test for ownership: scarcity is the property of any particular resource that it it rivalrous–that use by one person excludes that by another: that if two people try to use it then there is conflict. And the owner of such a resource is the initial appropriator or his recipient. The $1k in question is scarce, and Gates is the owner. End or story. Your cryptic, mystical claim that “as regards the 60 billion” “there is” “no scarcity” is utter and and complete foolishness and confusion. You have no earthly idea what you are talking about.

So how dare Gates claim ownership and deny you that 1000 dollars? If he does, that means he is the aggressor. Right?

No. You are deluded. Gates is the owner.

Also since he cant consume all the money, we can say he is not in control of all his wealth.

You want to put into my mouth a hodgepodge of ideas you’ve heard a variety of welfare-statists urge, to then knock them down, but they are not my ideas. First, I would never say he’s not in control of his wealth, nor that he couldn’t consume all of it. Nor do I think this is even relevant–I’m not a Georgist or mutualist for God’s sake. The only question is: who has a prior claim to that particular resource? It is Gates. End of story. Your thrashing here in search of coherence is pitiful to watch.

If “use” or “absolute ability to control” is prerequisites of property for Bill, to own things he can’t consume and use should be a no no, for you and Proudhon’s theory.

Yes–as I thought, you are now importing mutualist ideas to me. I don’t need to answer for this. If you think the Lockean idea that we identify ownership of scarce resources in accordance with the resource’s first user is Proudhonian, you are even more confused than I thought.

“The *reason* he objects to my taking it, is *because* he no longer has it.”

Who says? Maybe he would have given it to you if you asked?

Sophistry. We are presupposing an act of theft, which implies a taking of an owner’s property without consent. The question is, what about an act of theft is objectionable to the owner? Why would he NOT consent? Because if the second guy gets the thing, then the owner no longer has it or its serviceableness. This is in the nature of scarce resources; and in the nature of property.

“My argument does not depend on the evaluation of whether Gates’s complaint is “good enough”.”

In every conceivable scenario where there is aggression against one legitimate property, there is an evaluation whether the complaint is “good enough”. But you wouldn’t know that would you? And you call yourself a lawyer?

ktibuk, like Person/Silas, and others like Galambos and some hyperRandroids, you’ve shown you’ve an obsessed monomaniac in the grips of an idée fixe, leading you to crankish and bizarre insults that are meant to distract people from noticing your ever frantic thrashings, of your incoherence spinning out of control.

Every aggression is necessarily against another individual. If an act against a physical good is considered aggression (therefore an issue of ethics) it is done so because another individual is connected to that good, by ownership.

If the good in question (1000 dollars) is nature given first comer homesteads it but if it is someones already, any interaction with it,without the consent of the owner is an act against the owner, thus aggression.

Yes, and this is Gates, per assumption. Coherence FAIL.

“Now, if Gates has a nice Bentley in his driveway, and I see it from afar with a telescope and invent a “matte-printing machine” that lets me conjure up a duplicate Bentley in my driveway, using my raw materials, then I have not taken Gates’s car. I have not stolen it. At most, you can say I’ve copied his car, or his car pattern. But since he still has his car–and his car-patter–obviously, I’ve “taken” or “stolen” nothing from him.”

Again, the Bentley is “his” car and for you to interact with it against his wishes is aggression.

Ah, and now we start to get to the gravamen of the IP socialists’ confusion: so now, ownership of the car does not mean the owner has the right to control who uses it–it means he has the right to control who “interacts with” it–notice how our demented IP socialist sneaks this term in there, slyly replacing use with interacts with? This is because he knows that sticking with the Lockean/libertarian private property concept of use doesn’t get him anywhere–my learning things about his property is not a use of it. This is easy to see–if I take his car then he can no longer use it himself. But if I see him driving his car around and remember the design and notice certain things about how it operates, he can still drive it around–my learning about it, observing it, is not a “use” of it.

But it is an interaction with it, I suppose, whatever this loosey goosey liberal arts term means. In fact, due to gravitational effects alone, every person “interacts” at all times with every other physical object. I suppose by merely existing I am now violating the ktibukian property rights of owners by “interacting” gravitationally with their objects. The desperate creativity you are resorting to to prop up your increasingly rickety demented edifice is a wonder to behold.

Stephan Kinsella February 24, 2009 at 7:18 am

Brad: “The major flaw in this arguement is you ignore the concept of value. When you
counterfeit a product you may not steal a persons thing, but you do steal its
value. ”

Thank you for nicely illustrating my contention that “all arguments in favor of IP (and reputation rights) ultimately end up falling prey to the notion that there are property rights in the value of property, rather than in its physical integrity. But this view is fallacious, as shown by Hoppe and others”.

Apparently you didn’t even read my post closely, and didn’t follow this link–but others can. Thanks, again, for being a useful illustration.

newson February 24, 2009 at 9:06 am

to timothy foster:
you must have missed this debate earlier, when boldrin and levine’s book was discussed. (http://blog.mises.org/archives/009380.asp)

Drake February 24, 2009 at 9:39 am

@ktibuk

So, you’re a Randian… Why didn’t you say so before? ;)

“Again, the Bentley is ‘his’ car and for you to interact with it against his wishes is aggression.”

Looking at a car through a telescope is NOT interacting with it; it is interacting with the light that bounced off it.

“Well he is in fact talking about ideal objects and it is not an elephant but irrelevant.”

Actually, the question of whether ideal objects exist or not is highly relevant. If they do not exist, the discussion ends right there. That is, of course, unless you want to claim that it is possible to homestead something that does not exist…

“Interspecies parasitism, which means some are feeding off of others, is unnatural for man.”

Correct me if I’m wrong, but you appear to be implying that A may not ethically benefit from any of B’s actions without B’s permission, because to do so would be “parasitism” which is “unnatural”. Please let me know if that is your actual position.

“You are telling me I created something, without my homesteading it there wouldn’t be anything but I can not execute my ownership to exclude others from using it.”

Only nature-given resources can be homesteaded (matter, energy, space). Ideal objects DO NOT EXIST. They cannot be created, destroyed, OR homesteaded.

“the owner could exclude. Like the boat being big enough to all of your possible uses and leave space for the other guy.”

Just as stealing a penny is a total rejection of the owner’s right to use their penny, huddling in an out of the way nook on a big boat is a complete rejection of the owner’s right to use their nook.

“after one homesteads a resource does he have to convince others that he is in fact using (what ever that implies) the resource to keep his ownership?”

No. The “Right to Use” means the RIGHT to use. Check the dictionary.

In my last post to you, I said:

Control and exclusion are NOT the same thing. For example, you can have total control over your front lawn, but excluding others from looking at it, thinking about it, talking about it, taking pictures of it, etc. requires more than control over soil and grass: it requires control over other people.

“[IP] requires the control over other people regarding your property.”

Are you saying that you have the right to use force against someone to prevent them from looking at or thinking about your property?

“If house and the raw materials that went into the house mean the same thing to you then there can not be any homesteading in the universe because homesteading means changing the nature given resources (raw materials that went into the house) to something else (the house). If both instances are the same then there is no change thus no homesteading.”

What on earth are you claiming here? That materials remain unowned right up until the very moment that they are physically part of the house? That they are owned only as long as the house is standing? That anyone can ethically remove the materials from the construction site before they are physically attached to the house? That anyone can ethically take materials that become detached from the house? That all the materials that went into the house are “up for grabs” as soon as the house is bulldozed?

Please clarify your position, because it appears to be getting stranger by the minute.

“claiming the right to copy because the owner doesn’t lose the original is the same thing as claiming the right to take something tangible from someone because he would not actually use it.”

Stealing removes the very POSSIBILITY of use and, therefore, is a violation of the RIGHT to use. Copying does no such thing.

ktibuk February 24, 2009 at 10:34 am

Stephan,

In the very post you linked (http://blog.mises.org/archives/007614.asp) while answering Brad you admit you are not accepting the Lockean property rights theory.

You seem to be very confused.

You are clearly a Proudhonian, but a shy one. Just like Drake, you only talk about “right to use” not property rights, which gives the owner ultimate decision (not just right to use) over property.

The difference between Lockean/Rothbardian property theory and your Proudhonian property theory is the concept of ownership and what it implies.

Proudhonians like you put conditions on property rights, while Lockean/Rothbardians give ultimate decision making over property to the owner.

Right to exclude is a very important part of property rights, because without the homesteader there wouldn’t be any property thus the others would be naturally excluded.

If there weren’t an author called a Rowling there wouldn’t be a novel called Harry Potter, therefore everyone would be excluded from that novel.

If there is a novel called Harry Potter, it is because Rowling homesteaded it and she owns it. Because she owns it she has every right to exclude others from it.

hacksoncode February 24, 2009 at 10:42 am

This whole notion that people only have property rights in physical objects is entirely silly. I will go so far as to say that no one (who has given it any thought at all) actually believes this.

Money, in a modern society, is not a physical object. It’s an idea. That $1000 we keep talking about stealing from Mr. Gates? Probabilistically speaking, it never existed anywhere as a physical object. It’s only a reference to some value that Mr. Gates owns.

If I’m his banker and I move a number from his account to mine, all I’ve done is move an idea. Unfortunately for me, and proponents of this argument, Mr. Gates *does* indeed own that conceptual non-physical object, and is allowed to restrict others from appropriating it.

The argument has a foundation of sand. Who homesteaded this so-called money?

Stephan Kinsella February 24, 2009 at 10:59 am

ktibuk:

In the very post you linked (http://blog.mises.org/archives/007614.asp) while answering Brad you admit you are not accepting the Lockean property rights theory.

This is false. I simply deny that he needs to make the superfluous and confusing argument that we “own” labor. But I of course accept his basic idea of homesteading by appropriation of unowned property.

You are clearly a Proudhonian, but a shy one. Just like Drake, you only talk about “right to use” not property rights, which gives the owner ultimate decision (not just right to use) over property.

Property is the right to use, to control. See Property in the Law:

Browsing through an old law school text recently (by Professor A.N. Yiannopoulos of Tulane), I noticed with interest the following comments on nature of property rights:

Property may be defined as an exclusive right to control an economic good, corporeal or incorporeal; it is the name of a concept that refers to the rights and obligations, privileges and restrictions that govern the relations of man with respect to things of value. People everywhere and at all times desire the possession of things that are necessary for survival or valuable by cultural definition and which, as a result of the demand placed upon them, become scarce. Laws enforced by organized society control the competition for, and guarantee the enjoyment of, these desired things. What is guaranteed to be one’s own is property.”

This practical-legal definition dovetails nicely with libertarianism’s more political-philosophical theories of property and rights, e.g. those in Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s A Theory of Socialism and Capitalism (e.g., chapters 1 and 2, esp. pp. 5-6 & 8-18, discussing notions of scarcity, aggression, property, norms, and justification; and chapter 9, “The Ethical Justification of Capitalism and Why Socialism Is Morally Indefensible”, esp. pp. 130-145).

I’ve written on this in Defending Argumentation Ethics; and on the civil law versus the common law in Legislation and the Discovery of Law in a Free Society.

Proudhonians like you put conditions on property rights, while Lockean/Rothbardians give ultimate decision making over property to the owner.

Nonsense. You think that the right to own includes some mystical right to control all “interactions” with it. Nonsense. This is not what libertarianism or property rights is or was ever about.

Right to exclude is a very important part of property rights, because without the homesteader there wouldn’t be any property thus the others would be naturally excluded.

The right to control includes the right to exclude and also the right to permit or invite or sell or abandon. The right to exclude is just a consequence of having the right to control. The right to control is the primary right. It is what ownership is all about.

If there weren’t an author called a Rowling there wouldn’t be a novel called Harry Potter, therefore everyone would be excluded from that novel.

But-for causation has nothing to do with the right to control a scarce resource. You are terribly, terribly confused. Are you making this up as you go along?

hacksoncode:

Money, in a modern society, is not a physical object. It’s an idea.

Money … is an idea? I thought it was a medium of exchange.

No further replies to such amateur nonsense are needed.

ktibuk February 24, 2009 at 11:11 am

@ Drake

I use a Kantian concept, categorical imperative, and you call me a Randian :-) I am not a Randian, although I don’t reject Objectivism completely.

“Looking at a car through a telescope is NOT interacting with it; it is interacting with the light that bounced off it.”

The issue is not looking. It is copying. And copying is interaction. Without acces to the the car the act of copying can not take place.

Copying the shape of a Bentley and copying an aspect of a rock is not the same thing. One is a man made object with a legitimate owner, and the other is nature given.

If you are interacting with something man made and owned, this means you are interacting with another individual and the general rules apply.

“Correct me if I’m wrong, but you appear to be implying that A may not ethically benefit from any of B’s actions without B’s permission, because to do so would be “parasitism” which is “unnatural”. Please let me know if that is your actual position.”

It doesn’t have to be formal permission for every action but there has to be consent, so yes that is my position.

“Just as stealing a penny is a total rejection of the owner’s right to use their penny, huddling in an out of the way nook on a big boat is a complete rejection of the owner’s right to use their nook.”

Exactly. So the remaining state of the original is irrelevant after it has been copied. Copying something that belongs to someone else is complete rejection of the owners rights.

“No. The “Right to Use” means the RIGHT to use. Check the dictionary.”

What the hell does “use” mean? If it doesn’t mean the ultimate decision making over property, it must mean there is some condition attached to it. If there is a condition to be met, there has to be someone else that evaluates the condition and if it has been met or not.

Notice how you declare Harry Potter is not property. You are “the someone else” that evaluates and gives judgment. In natural rights theory of property rights there is no such thing. The owner has ultimate decision making rights regarding property and that is that.

“Are you saying that you have the right to use force against someone to prevent them from looking at or thinking about your property?”

Again, “looking” is not interaction. Interaction is necessarily an active act, not a passive one like “looking”. Copying is.

And I can prevent people from looking at my property. I have right to build high wall around my house, or keep a painting in vault and exclude you from looking. You don’t have a right to look at what I own even though you looking doesn’t effect physical integrity of the good in question.

Libertyforall February 24, 2009 at 11:15 am

“But Stephan that is it. Gates could never own that extra 1000 according to your theory. Remember in this instance there is Gates and there is you and regarding that 60 billion there is no scarcity. So how dare Gates claim ownership and deny you that 1000 dollars? If he does, that means he is the aggressor. Right?”

You do not understand the concept of scarcity.

Scarcity means, there is an object X (a 1000 dollar banknote) and about it there is the discussion who owns it, because it cannot be present at two locations at the same time.

Someone wants it in his house, another one wants it in another house. Who can have it in his house? This scarcity and the solution to it is the reason why there a thoughts about property (who has the right to decide where the banknote should be).

But you don’t have the right to decide where copies of this object should be just because you own the object.

Do you understand this?

Libertyforall February 24, 2009 at 11:16 am

@ktibuk

“But Stephan that is it. Gates could never own that extra 1000 according to your theory. Remember in this instance there is Gates and there is you and regarding that 60 billion there is no scarcity. So how dare Gates claim ownership and deny you that 1000 dollars? If he does, that means he is the aggressor. Right?”

You do not understand the concept of scarcity.

Scarcity means, there is an object X (a 1000 dollar banknote) and about it there is the discussion who owns it, because it cannot be present at two locations at the same time.

Someone wants it in his house, another one wants it in another house. Who can have it in his house? This scarcity and the solution to it is the reason why there a thoughts about property (who has the right to decide where the banknote should be).

But you don’t have the right to decide where copies of this object should be just because you own the object.

Do you understand this?

ktibuk February 24, 2009 at 11:18 am

Ktibuk

“If there weren’t an author called a Rowling there wouldn’t be a novel called Harry Potter, therefore everyone would be excluded from that novel.”

Stephan

“But-for causation has nothing to do with the right to control a scarce resource. You are terribly, terribly confused. Are you making this up as you go along?”

Prey tell me, what has, if “causation” doesn’t?

hacksoncode February 24, 2009 at 11:21 am

Money ceased to be *simply* a medium of exchange and become a form of (abstract) property itself a *long* time ago. About the time when it ceased to be solely a physical commodity.

The point of my argument, which you can choose to dismiss as amateur if you like, is that any absolute definition of property as only being physical objects is utterly absurd.

Humans value non-physical things. We treat them exactly like physical property all the time. The only reasonable question to ask is *which* non-physical things should be accorded status as property.

Absolutes are very rarely an accurate representation of the world. Now, just because I’m saying that some non-physical things are, and deserve to be, property, doesn’t mean that I think *all* non-physical things are property. It’s just nonsense to say that they can’t be.

Even physical property has never been considered absolute by any society in history, nor is that possible. Take easements, for example. I don’t think even the most obscene anarcho-capitalist libertarians (and I’m a minarchist libertarian) would agree that it would be ok for me to buy all the land around your house and erect a hundred-foot-tall barbed wire fence around it (all on “my” property, of course), in the middle of the night, trapping you within, and passively (without any direct aggression) condemning you to starve.

Libertyforall February 24, 2009 at 11:28 am

@hacksoncode

“If someone invents a new idea, by this argument he has the Right to Use that new idea by virtue of being the first to use it. Someone else using it *does* indeed diminish his right to use (or potentially use, or profit from) that idea. Exclusion of others using the idea is merely a means of securing his ability to use the idea.

It’s no less true than the “potential use” argument about physical property.”

You are wrong. That would be against the homesteading principle and the principle of property.

If someone owns an object for a long time and someone else “invents” a use for that object in your point of view the former would not be allowed to use his object in a certain kind of way because the latter “invented” this use.

That is pure nonsense and no way libertarian.

You are truly a socialist. Please live in North Korea!

“Money, in a modern society, is not a physical object. It’s an idea.”

Yeah a proof that you are truly either stupid or a socialist.
A banknote is a physical object.

Try to go into a shop and spend your idea. Maybe they gonna bash you up and put some brain in your head!

I hate those socialists.

@ktibuk
“The issue is not looking. It is copying. And copying is interaction. Without acces to the the car the act of copying can not take place.”

You are a liar. There is no access necessary if someone wants to copy the physical resemblance of an object. Looking itself is enough.
Someone looks on a painting and if he is skilled enough as an artist that would be enough for him to copy it.

So if someone else is presenting his objects to others he has no right over their representations in the heads of the viewers and what they make of this representations.

No, YOU don’t have any right about what others make of object representations.

If you insist on the possession of others minds you are either a totalitarian (a socialist) or just plain stupid.

What would it be?

Please don’t think of yourself as a libertarian. That would be a disgrace of all true libertarians. In your own “little world” you were not allowed to call yourself one.

Publisher2090 February 24, 2009 at 11:37 am

@Dr. Kinsella

“The right to control is the primary right. It is what ownership is all about.”

That is so true.

And this is what IP-socialists do not understand: They want to abolish this primary right by bringing in some kind of “the owner of an idea controls everything”-mambozambo.

@defender of “IP”:

Please answer the following question:

Person A sees a painting on an advertisement board.

Person A copies this painting on a canvas that he owns which he has in his house.

Is Person A in your opinion allowed to do that?

Why (not)?

If not: Why can someone else decide what Person A is allowed to do in his house with his property?

Please answer only to the above questions!

Stephan Kinsella February 24, 2009 at 11:42 am

ktibuk:

“Looking at a car through a telescope is NOT interacting with it; it is interacting with the light that bounced off it.”

The issue is not looking. It is copying. And copying is interaction. Without acces to the the car the act of copying can not take place.

Thanks so much, ktibuk–this makes my time spent on this worth it–I have flushed you out. Now all on the fence can see the end result of the IP mentality: it means that owners of physical things have the right to stop others from “interacting” with these things, and “accessing” these things, which apparnetly means. … observing them or learning about them.

Thanks, ktibuk, for being honest enough to admit this, to reveal the utter absurdity of your views. This will be very helpful to those on the fence about IP.

Copying the shape of a Bentley and copying an aspect of a rock is not the same thing. One is a man made object with a legitimate owner, and the other is nature given.

Yes… and this is not question-begging at all. Not a bit.

Again, “looking” is not interaction. Interaction is necessarily an active act, not a passive one like “looking”. Copying is.

So… if I LOOK at your Bentley, tha’ts okay–it’s not “interacting” with it, and it’s not “accessign” it. But if later on, in my garage, I make a car, according to the Bently-patterns in my memory… THEN I am “accessing” your car, and “interacting” with it. Even if your car is now destroyed–hm,, I must be “interacting” with its Platonic essence.

VERY intresting theory you are cobbling together on the fly here, ktibuk–keep going, this is a riot!

Brad February 24, 2009 at 11:43 am

Stephan I did not ignore his arguement, I attempted to refute it at the beginning.
He claims that proponents of IP are attempting to protect their value, not their
property. That property is a claim on a thing; not a value. I attempted to
refute that with a very simple example: a $100 dollar bill has two components,
the ink and paper and as a medium of exchange. Its value does NOT derive from its
tangible components, but from its intangible components. If the government
counterfeits and doubles the money supply each holder of a $100 dollar bill still
has 100 dollars. But they no longer have the same ‘thing’. His arguement is
fallascious. The entrepreneur does not set out to create a thing, he sets out
to create a thing of value. Deprive a person of their value, you deprive them
of their thing. They will cease to invest and produce.

I will give you a few recent examples. Home builders are currently complaining
that they are unable to build houses – because they cannot compete with excess
supply. Do you believe that? Any homebuilder today can build a house. What
they cannot create is a home of value. Without value the homebuider has no incentive
to create the thing. They are linked. Of course in this case the marketplace is
working. Supply greatly exceeds demand at current prices.

Another recent example (from the real world): Wall Street analysts expected Home
Depot and Lowes to benefit from the housing bust. Their reasoning which displayed
no knowledge of economics was that homeowners would invest in their houses rather
buy new ones. They ignored the concept of value. A homeowner has NO REASON to invest
in a home: the money put into the house will create no value. All investment is
NOT an attempt to create or maintain a thing, but to create and maintain a thing
OF VALUE. Destroy the value, you destroy the thing.

A car is another example. My car has crashed in value. If it breaks down I will have
no incentive to invest beyond a certain point.

Hobbes is attempting to say that ip is designed not to protect the thing, but to
protect the value. Exactly. Without that you cannot invest in the thing, invent
the thing, maintaing the thing, etc. That is the entire PURPOSE of the marketplace.
To assign relative values using a medium of exchange. Counterfeiting distorts the
pricing mechanism which creates investment and production.

The Soviet Union could create things. It could not create things of value.

Publisher2090 February 24, 2009 at 11:46 am

@ktibuk

“Notice how you declare Harry Potter is not property. You are “the someone else” that evaluates and gives judgment. In natural rights theory of property rights there is no such thing. The owner has ultimate decision making rights regarding property and that is that.”

The owner of a sheet of paper has also the ultimate decision making rights regarding his property.

If he decides to write a story in it, that he heard than he has the right to do so.

And if that story resembles that of Harry Potter or is the story of Harry Potter than he has every right to use HIS property to write that story down.

This is also your opinion. Else you would not state that the owner of a property has ULTIMATE DECISION MAKING RIGHTS!

“Again, “looking” is not interaction. Interaction is necessarily an active act, not a passive one like “looking”. Copying is.”

No. Looking is active. Every action is active.

By looking you make a copy of something in your brain.

By drawing you make a copy of something on a sheet of paper.

You are not the one to decide what should be allowed or what is active and what is passive.

That is socialist thinking of you!

“And I can prevent people from looking at my property. I have right to build high wall around my house, or keep a painting in vault and exclude you from looking.”

Yes, this right you have with your property.

If you do not show it, than nobody will see it and nobody could directly copy it.

Nobody here denies you the right to decide what should be done with your exemplar of a drawing!

“You don’t have a right to look at what I own even though you looking doesn’t effect physical integrity of the good in question.”

If you show it that someone else has the right to look at it because he has the right to his own body (self ownership).

Therefore he is ALWAYS allowed to use the information his body gives him (if there does not exist a contract).

And if the person who saw what you showed decides later on to write that down or draw a copy of it on a sheet of paper he owns or has the right to than he is allowed to do that because he is his self owner and can use the information he stored in his body.

So again: Why do YOU want to abolish the rights of property owners?

If you do not want for direct copies to exist than you have to store the original in a vault.

But if you show it or someone else does others are allowed to copy it. There is no right to own information and ideas.

It is just that simple.

Drake February 24, 2009 at 12:37 pm

@Kinsella

“I must be ‘interacting’ with its Platonic essence.”

LOL

Believers in IP (Imaginary Property) do depend on the existence of an otherworldly realm of platonic forms (ideal objects). Lacking any evidence for this mystical realm does not appear to trouble them, though.

ktibuk February 24, 2009 at 12:52 pm

Look Stephan,

We libertarians are necessarily individualists. We believe in the negative rights that no one has to pay for and all these rights stem from property rights.

There are simple mental constructs that we can use if you are having trouble comprehending.

All the legitimate rights of an individual, the right must manifest for an isolated individual, like Robinson Crusoe.

For example,

Can Crusoe have right to free speech? You betcha.

Can he have a right to health care? No, unless he administers health car.

Can Crusoe have the right to do whatever he wants with the fish net he made, including destroying it so that it ceases to be a fish net? Yes of course he can.

Can he have right to free education? No.

Can he have right to copy some other individual creation? Hell no.

Is this helping you Stephan?

Drake February 24, 2009 at 12:57 pm

@ktibuk

“copying is interaction. Without acces to the the car the act of copying can not take place.”

Without access to information ABOUT the car (encoded in the light that reflected off it) copying cannot take place. Interacting with the light that reflected off the car is not the same as interacting with the car itself. WHY DO I EVEN NEED TO POINT THIS OUT? lol

I said:

Correct me if I’m wrong, but you appear to be implying that A may not ethically benefit from any of B’s actions without B’s permission, because to do so would be “parasitism” which is “unnatural”. Please let me know if that is your actual position.

“It doesn’t have to be formal permission for every action but there has to be consent, so yes that is my position.”

If you paint a picture, do I need your permission to look at it? Is it aggression if I let the light that reflected off your painting enter my pupils? Must I close my eyes or be subject to violence?

I said:

Just as stealing a penny is a total rejection of the owner’s right to use their penny, huddling in an out of the way nook on a big boat is a complete rejection of the owner’s right to use their nook.

“Exactly. So the remaining state of the original is irrelevant after it has been copied.”

Are you seriously claiming that stealing a penny is the same as copying a penny?

“What the hell does ‘use’ mean?”

Thanks for highlighting my vagueness here. For the time being, I will define use as “physical manipulation or occupation”. An example of manipulation would be picking an apple off a tree. An example of occupation would be sleeping in a cave.

“Notice how you declare Harry Potter is not property.”

I don’t remember declaring that. Before I make any claims regarding “Harry Potter”, you will have to explain exactly what you mean by it. Are you referring to something that exists or something that does not?

I asked:

Are you saying that you have the right to use force against someone to prevent them from looking at or thinking about your property?

“Again, ‘looking’ is not interaction. Interaction is necessarily an active act, not a passive one like ‘looking’.”

What about thinking? Shall we call thinking “passive” in order to support your argument?

“Copying is [active].”

Here’s how the world actually works. Light reflects off your Bentley encoding information about some of its properties. The light then enters my eye. The information in the light is transferred to my brain where it is converted into a mental image. Afterword, the image is stored in my memory. Any succeeding interactions I have will be with MY memory, not YOUR Bentley. In fact, the ONLY thing that interacted with your Bentley was the light that originally bounced off it.

To recap: I DID NOT INTERACT WITH YOUR BENTLEY. If you have doubts about this, please check the definition of “interact”.

“You don’t have a right to look at what I own even though you looking doesn’t effect physical integrity of the good in question.”

If I can see your property without trespassing (in other words, if light reflects off your property and onto mine) I certainly DO have a right to look at it.

Stephan Kinsella February 24, 2009 at 1:15 pm

ktibuk:

Look Stephan, …

[lots of crankish, incoherent nonsense excised.]

Is this helping you Stephan?

No, it would help if you would post this on the other post, to help illustrate my point.

Michael A. Clem February 24, 2009 at 1:20 pm

If the government counterfeits and doubles the money supply each holder of a $100 dollar bill still has 100 dollars. But they no longer have the same ‘thing’.
Counterfeiting does not deprive other people of property, true, but fraud is still fraud–it’s a different type of rights violation, not a violation of IP.
Humans value non-physical things
All valuation by humans is abstract and non-physical, even the value humans put on physical things. Something having value to a human isn’t sufficient to make it property. That’s the whole point of the scarcity argument. Do you not value friendship, trust, or love?

Stephan Kinsella February 24, 2009 at 1:37 pm

You are getting more and mor moronic. Just b/c you identify some but-for cause of some thing or phenoneom does not establish ownership idiot. If it did then Bill Gates’ mom would own Microsoft. Jesus.

Cosmin February 24, 2009 at 1:39 pm

Exactly, Drake! That’s what they think and it’s why they are so confused. They’re hilarious actually. Let me extract some of their quotes here:

“Money, in a modern society, is not a physical object. It’s an idea.”
What he means: Whoever had the idea for a medium of exchange is being trespassed against every time we use anything other than direct barter in our transactions!!!

“You don’t have a right to look at what I own even though you looking doesn’t effect physical integrity of the good in question.”
What he means: Even though I could build a high wall around my house or keep my painting in a vault, I don’t need to do that since I can just force you to keep your eyes on the ground and I have the long arm of the law behind me on this.

“If there is a novel called Harry Potter, it is because Rowling homesteaded it and she owns it. Because she owns it she has every right to exclude others from it.”
No, kitbuk, if there is a novel called Harry Potter, it is because someone manifested Rowling’s idea using ink and paper. Her idea and the physical novels one can buy are two separate things. All others are excluded from her idea, even if they read the Harry Potter book. Her idea will die with her. It didn’t transfer to the book. There is no idea imbedded in objects.
Let’s say I get an idea and build a battery. Then, I lose it somewhere on my travels. Someone from a tribe that had no contact with civilization finds my battery. He doesn’t automatically acquire the idea of the battery. He may use it as a paperweight. Someone else from my neighbourhood finds his paperweight and because his experiences are more similar to mine, he develops, for himself, and idea about how that object can be used as a battery.

You see, since we don’t have a hive mind controlling us (as far as I can tell), all discoveries are in actuality independant discoveries. All our ideas are separate, even when they reference the same object in a roughly similar way.

hacksoncode February 24, 2009 at 10:36 pm

“”Money, in a modern society, is not a physical object. It’s an idea.”
What he means: Whoever had the idea for a medium of exchange is being trespassed against every time we use anything other than direct barter in our transactions!!!”

Way to attack a straw man. That’s not what I mean at all. What I mean is that money is a contractual agreement more often than it is a physical object in modern society. You can still own it.

Seriously: if I break into your bank’s computers and delete a number from your account and add it to mine, are you *seriously* going to say I haven’t taken your property? But it’s just a number!!! I may have committed trespass against the bank’s property (or maybe not… perhaps I attacked it electronically, since we’re not counting abstract property as property). Surely, since money is only a physical object, I have not stolen anything from you?

See how absurd that sounds?

But enough about abstract property. Let’s, instead, talk about contracts.

I think most people, libertarians included, would argue that in order to preserve the ability for people to freely contract, we must prohibit/punish tortious interference in contracts, no?

I.e. if I interfere with someone delivering a service to you that you have contracted for, I have harmed not only him, but you as well, and may have a liability towards either or both of you, depending on the circumstances. Typically, the liability would be to the party that took a loss due to the interference… particularly if the other party consented to it (e.g. as would happen if a contractor took a payment voluntarily from me in exchange for cheating you).

So let me ask you this: suppose that an artist created a sound recording, and only sold it to people on the condition that they will not allow it to be copied. Perhaps we should call this “licensing” rather than sale, but it’s just a contract either way.

If you come along and copy the buyer’s copy, with or without the consent of the buyer, have you committed tortious interference on the contract between the artist and the buyer? I don’t see how you can conclude anything but that you have.

Whether you would have a liability to the buyer or the artist would probably hinge on whether or not you had the buyer’s permission. Certainly the buyer will have failed in his contractual obligation to prevent copying, resulting in some kind of forfeit.

In fact, such a contract could (probably would) continue in perpetuity, rather than the recording reverting to the public domain after a time.

A copyright is merely a boilerplate version of that contract that applies to expressions of ideas by default. And, hey, as a bonus to society, it comes equipped with an expiration date.

Would we really be better off in a world where copyrights didn’t exist? In point of fact, they are a *limit* on an artist’s ability to perpetually control their idea. Perhaps you’d like to argue that copyrights *themselves* are therefore an interference in contracts. That would be an interesting twist.

Patents, I’ll grant, are a different sort of beast, and their merits may be argued either way. I find them to be a *practical* exception to natural property rights rather than a natural consequence of them, most of the time.

It’s really tedious and disadvantageous to progress to not offer this privilege to inventors, as they spend more time protecting the secrecy of their invention than they do inventing it. Trade Guilds were a really pernicious consequence of that prior to the founding of the US, which is one reason patents were enshrined in the US Constitution.

But I won’t insist on them.

Cosmin February 24, 2009 at 11:31 pm

hacksoncode said in reply to me:
“”"Money, in a modern society, is not a physical object. It’s an idea.”
What he means: Whoever had the idea for a medium of exchange is being trespassed against every time we use anything other than direct barter in our transactions!!!”

Way to attack a straw man. That’s not what I mean at all. What I mean is that money is a contractual agreement more often than it is a physical object in modern society. You can still own it.”

I didn’t attack a straw man. I attacked your statement. It’s not what you meant? Not my fault that you did a shoddy job in selecting the terms you used. Money, even when it’s just zeroes in a computer, is a physical object. Don’t equate it with an idea, especially after I point out that ideas are a figment of one’s own mind and can’t be extracted, shared, stolen or exchanged.
Also, electronic and abstract are not synonyms!

To adress your sound recording example, I say that your license should impose on the buyer the condition that he will not allow it to be seen or heard. The moment a third party, unbound by any contract, hears the recording, he forms an idea in his head and he has the freedom to act on it in any way he wants.

As for patents, Stephan Kinsella had a bunch of articles on how they actually stifle innovation and are impractical and even detrimental to their stated goal of increasing research.
My position is that the fact that they are not derived from natural property rights and need a state to create them and enforce them makes them loathsome.

hacksoncode February 25, 2009 at 11:25 pm

“Money, even when it’s just zeroes in a computer, is a physical object. Don’t equate it with an idea, especially after I point out that ideas are a figment of one’s own mind and can’t be extracted, shared, stolen or exchanged.”

Now you’re just getting metaphysical. If you think an idea is anything other than a bioelectrical configuration in your brain you’re kidding yourself.

An brain-embodied idea is no more, and no less, a physical object than an idea comprising a pattern of 1s and 0s in a computer. Be careful where you take that argument. You might not like the consequences.

Bill February 26, 2009 at 8:58 am

I have only just begun to look into and learn about the subject of IP, and while my ideas are not based on an assimilation of all available knowledge, I think that a middle ground may in fact exist. It seems the largest problem supporters have is with the issue of direct copying, and how it detracts from the value of an object and thus it’s owners. (I understand that the term “value of an object” is also something of great debate, but like I said, my view is far from complete.) While I do not agree that ideas are tangible objects subject to ownership and monopoly power, I can see how it is something of concern for those supporting it. I do agree that directly copying something is wrong, not because it should be illegal, but because it is morally wrong. It is improper, in my opinion, to essentially take someone’s work without their permission and benefit from it. Thus permission for exact replicas would not be something I would oppose. In the same vein however, protecting an object’s inner workings and such, so one could be the sole benefactor regardless of another person’s ability to enhance the object, is also morally wrong. So I see things like this, when an object is created, the way in which it was created and the way in which it works should be made public. If someone whishes to make an attempt at producing a superior object than they should be supported for it, if they find that they cannot, permission should be sought from the inventor for making a copy. Of course, this theory would only exist in a world where people were fair, ethical, and understanding and embracing of the idea that when technology advances; we as a people are better off because of it. I have only dealt with objects here, since I find trying to claim ownership for a particular way of doing something (such as a harvesting method or low-pollution method of production) to be uncalled for.

Cosmin February 26, 2009 at 2:32 pm

hacksoncode,
I wasn’t getting metaphysical.

Since you finally came to the conclusion that an idea is nothing other than bioelectrical configuration in one’s brain, explain to me how it can be stolen, copied or exchanged.
It’s on the same level as compassion, pride or love. They are just as much bioelctrical configurations in one’s brain. How can they be stolen?

Cosmin February 26, 2009 at 2:49 pm

hacksoncode,
Money in a computer is not an idea since computer’s don’t have ideas. Drop this erroneous and ridiculous allegory.
Brains have ideas as a function of the knowledge stored therein. Copy the configuration that refers to an idea into a brain that doesn’t have the same knowledge and experience and your “configuration” is worthless.

hacksoncode February 27, 2009 at 10:02 am

Fine, define ideas any way you want. Intellectual property law, and indeed the very *notion* of intellectual property explicitly excludes this very narrow concept of “ideas” anyway. Call them abstract concepts if you prefer, or even processes upon, and configurations of, matter.

You’re allowed to think anything you want.

It’s when you go to take the abstract concept comprising the idea and embody it into physical form that IP law takes effect.

And “money” (again, in a modern society) is *vastly* more often a contractual obligation that has no real physical embodiment than it is little pieces of metal and paper.

Hell, forget about money if you don’t like that particular example. A verbal contract that exists nowhere except in the minds of 2 parties is something that (assuming the contract allows it) can be bought, sold, and in all other ways treated exactly like property. Freedom to contract requires this.

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