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Intellectual property

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alimentarius Posted: Mon, Nov 9 2009 8:54 AM

I understand that libertarians have different viewpoints regarding IP. What do you say to people who argue that IP protects people's opportunity to make money on their intellectual work?

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alimentarius:
What do you say to people who argue that IP protects people's opportunity to make money on their intellectual work?

There is a practically infinite variety of opportunities one could protect.  Protecting any arbitrary set of them will destroy some other set of opportunities.  Libertarianism isn't about opportunity as such.  It is about political justice.  And to me it is manifestly unjust for one to lay hands on another for singing a song or copying a book.

"the obligation to justice is founded entirely on the interests of society, which require mutual abstinence from property" -David Hume
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jtucker replied on Mon, Nov 9 2009 9:05 AM

There is a vast vast literature on this, most of which has emerged in the last year. I suggest that you first look at Kinsella's Against Intellectual Property (online in literature)

A quick response to the above is that entrepreneurial freedom is what protects protects people's opportunity. IP only extends the profitability period by granting a state privilege to one producer and coercing everyone else to prevent imitation of profitable activities, i.e. IP wrecks the market mechanism.

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Saan replied on Mon, Nov 9 2009 9:43 AM

You've already been over this ali.  What gives?

 Criminals, there ought to be a law.

Criminals there ought to be a whole lot more.   Bon Scott.

 

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AJ replied on Mon, Nov 9 2009 11:10 PM

alimentarius:
What do you say to people who argue that IP protects people's opportunity to make money on their intellectual work?

Why should the opportunity to make money on any work be protected?

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Sage replied on Tue, Nov 10 2009 1:04 AM

alimentarius:
What do you say to people who argue that IP protects people's opportunity to make money on their intellectual work?

See this section of Long's article on IP. Basically, he says some of the ends of IP are legitimate, but should be achieved through voluntary rather than coercive methods.

AnalyticalAnarchism.net - The Positive Political Economy of Anarchism

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AJ:
Why should the opportunity to make money on any work be protected?

Some people will say, to respect the hard work it has taken to come up with a new book, CD etc.

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alimentarius:

AJ:
Why should the opportunity to make money on any work be protected?

Some people will say, to respect the hard work it has taken to come up with a new book, CD etc.

So if build the ugliest car evarrr and it performs horribly, and no one wants to buy it, then the government guarantee that I have a profit?

To paraphrase Marc Faber: We're all doomed, but that doesn't mean that we can't make money in the process.
Rabbi Lapin: "Let's make bricks!"
Stephan Kinsella: "Say you and I both want to make a German chocolate cake."

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No, but some IP supporters will say that the government should guarantee that only you should have the opportunity to profit from it.

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alimentarius:
No, but some IP supporters will say that the government should guarantee that only you should have the opportunity to profit from it.

So monopolies are justified?

'Men do not change, they unmask themselves' - Germaine de Stael

 

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Property monopolies are justified. The question is if the concept of intellectual property is justified.

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alimentarius:
Property monopolies are justified. The question is if the concept of intellectual property is justified.

You mean private property. I would ask you how can you own a series of music notes in a certain progression, such is what constructs a song, such is intellectual property, how can one own the C chord at a specific time and place?

'Men do not change, they unmask themselves' - Germaine de Stael

 

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Some will say that it's not a matter of owning a chord, but complex ideas that it has taken a long time to work out.


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AJ replied on Tue, Nov 10 2009 9:48 AM

alimentarius:

AJ:
Why should the opportunity to make money on any work be protected?

Some people will say, to respect the hard work it has taken to come up with a new book, CD etc.

So those people would say, if it takes hard work to create some intellectual work, and there is a market for that work, then there should be a profit opportunity for the creator? That would be a circular argument, because there is only a market for a work if IP is protected. Without IP protection, the vast part of the market disappears, because the scarcity mostly disappears.

Say a man has worked hard to develop his trademark high-five style. Why shouldn't he be able to patent it so that no one can take it from him. Doesn't his hard work and social genius entitle him to protection from copycats so that he will be one-of-a-kind?

Of course not. The only reason there is IP is because it used to be possible to record and not to easily copy. But now that it's very very easy to copy, it's the same situation as the high-fiver: we wouldn't think of allowing people to trademark gestures because they're too easily copied. Just because certain firms have built a whole business model around artificial protection of IP doesn't mean IP needs to continue.

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Should sensittive information be protected  by law?

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The problem with many libertarians in the area of intellectual property is their flawed views into property.  Now, all of us believe in property, but the flaw comes in our view as to how we obtain property.  Many beleive in the idea that John Locke promolgated, that is that we mix our labor into a certain piece of materials, and those materials become our property, since we own our bodies we should mix part of our bodies with it and make something our own.  This is a very flawed assessment.  Production is neither necessary nor sufficient for the ownership of property.  Rather, what we see when a person homesteads a claim on property is that a person has a better claim on the property than those who are latecomers.  If you grab an apple off of an unclaimed apple tree, you did not produce the apple, nor did you really and truely  mix our labor in the creation of the apple, yet you have a property claim on the apple. Also, did you produce your own body?  If we were to hold that production is necessary and sufficient for the creation of property, then we have a dilema, since I am  for certain that all libertarians beleive that each person has a property right in his own person.  So, we acknowledge that production is not necessary for the acquisition and ownership of property.

Now, if somebody else comes for the apple that you claimed as your own, does he or she have a right to the apple?  No.  You claimed the apple by retrieving it FIRST and have a better claim on the apple due to the primacy of the claim.  If he takes the apple and mixes his labor with the apple and makes a pie, does that mean that he owns the pie?  Not at all.  You still have a good claim to the apple, and the pie is yours. An even more subtle example, and this is one that Stephan Kinsella uses to illustrate this point.  You own the products of your own body.  By that axiom, you own your own spit.  If you were to spit into the ocean, you are mixing your spit with the ocean.  You still don't own the ocean.  You have lost your spit to the ocean, but you don't hold any property claim to the ocean based SOLELY on the mixing of your spit with the ocean. Or the atmosphere.  If I exhale into the air, assuming that the building is not sealed from the outside air, I own my exhalations, but I don't own all of the atmosphere after my exhalation.  I cannot go to another person who is inhaling and give him a cease and desist order, and I am certain that all libertarians acknowledge this point. So production is not sufficient.

So we are left with two ways of acquiring property, that is the appropriation of resources for personal use: homesteading and by contract.  I can increase wealth by production, but that is NOT a way of acquiring property.  If I acquire by contract wheat seed and then plant the seed, I did not gain control of the resulting wheat crop by production, but rather by acquiring the seed.  The production that I undertook increased the value of the seed and resulted in the seed being converted into something more useful to the rest of society.  Production and ownership here are coincidental, but they are not causally linked.  Let's say I am asked to plant seeds owned by X.  I undertake the act of production, but I still don't own the wheat.  When it is harvested, the wheat still belongs to X.  What I did was increase the value of my person, to the point that I increased my wealth by the amount that was contracted for the conditional lease of my person.  In other words, even if I mix my labor into a certain good, if somebody has a prior claim on the materials, then I can never own it without a contractual arrangement.

Where this falls into the libertarian theory on the issue of intellectual property is this.  On material resources that are claimable (that is, any resource that is scarce by nature), we have a right to do whatever we wish with those resources, so long as it does not interfere with the rights of another person to do whatever he wishes to do with his own resources that he has a legitimate claim on.  For instance, if my choice use of a pesticide spills over onto my neighbor's flowers and damages the flowers, then I am infringing upon the rights of the owner of the flower garden.  But if I take my own paper and ink and copy a book owned by X, then I am not depriving X of the right to enjoy his property, but I have produced something that is of greater value than the raw paper and ink.  "Intellectual Property" is not something that is exclusionary, it is not an economic resource.  It is something that, like air, everybody can partake in without depriving somebody else of the right to use whatever air that he or she would need to use. My use of a pattern to improve something does not deprive you of the use of such pattern.  If we were to recognize a property right to the first person to "homestead" a certain pattern, then could we not give rights to those who "homestead" the air, the right to exclude people from breathing and using the air?   It is a slippery slope, but logically we could have a single person homestead the air under that kind of philosophy.

I think that IP is necessarily a violation of the right to property, since with IP laws, what the government does is allow one person to prohibit another person from doing with his own property whatever he or she wishes to do short of interfering with another's claim on scarce resources.

 

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Such as? Trade secrets and secret negotiations would fall under contracts. As in, IBM would have Microsoft sign a non-disclosure agreement when they negotiate a deal. Coca-Cola would have its chemists sign a "you can't talk about your work at Coca-Cola" agreement.

To paraphrase Marc Faber: We're all doomed, but that doesn't mean that we can't make money in the process.
Rabbi Lapin: "Let's make bricks!"
Stephan Kinsella: "Say you and I both want to make a German chocolate cake."

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Great first post austrianfan77.  Welcome to the community!

"When you're young you worry about people stealing your ideas, when you're old you worry that they won't." - David Friedman
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AJ replied on Tue, Nov 10 2009 2:00 PM

austrianfan77 adds something useful, so I'd like to re-work what I wrote about to encompass it:

We have and advocate a system of private property because being able to claim and own property is useful and leads to prosperity (among other reasons). For that, though, it is only necessary to make sure no one deprives anyone else of property.

In the case of physical property, depriving someone of property can generally only mean one of two things in practice: stealing the property, or damaging/destroying the property. So for many centuries theft and property damage have been punishable offenses.

However, since all property was physical, stealing property automatically meant depriving someone of property. By calling music, books, etc. intellectual property, IP advocates took advantage of humans' built-in semantic biases - just like Orwellian names like the Patriot Act. By talking about stolen property there is the natural tendency to see this as wrong, because it is wrong in the case of physical property (and stolen is a loaded term with implications of depriving someone of something).

But the reasons why it is wrong for physical property do not carry over to IP, because no one is being deprived of their property. Nothing is being stolen, merely copied. But by continuing to use words like "steal" and "property" IP advocates maintain control over the powerful but subtle semantic aspect.

Even though no one is being deprived of anything, there is a subtle connotation that someone's property is being stolen, hence they are being deprived of that property. Instead they are being "deprived" of profits that they could have had with State-granted monopoly privilege, so it dovetails nicely with their case.

Nevertheless, intellectual property is not property.

---

Another way to attack it: Imagine if physical objects could be replicated out of thin air by some kind of Star Trek replication technology. Files could be downloaded containing all the data needed to replicate anything: award-winning apple pies, Gucci bags, Coca-Cola, even upgraded replicator units.

Naturally, most companies that now provide unique physical objects would go out of business. They would surely lobby to protect their physical "IP," but what would we say to them? You are no longer needed. Your business model no longer works. That is not our problem.

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AJ:
Nevertheless, intellectual property is not property.

This is the end position that many Austrians have. Which if true then any contract about information should be considered invalid. Information is simply an intellectual creation. Can you own information? Can you buy or sell information? If the seller isn't the owner of the information how can he sell it and why do people buy it if it is free?

Austrians love to insinuate that the market absent the government would have information free without restrictions for everybody and no one could ever buy or sell information because it would always be free. The market and the human species treats information like property whether you like it or not. The continual examples of a branch of study claiming to be based on the axiom of human action that in fact continues to ignore human action when testing their theories is quite amusing.

I will clue you in...the Austrians asserting something is true doesn't make it so. Observe what happens absent government intervention and you have a very good idea of what the nature of the market and the human species is. Theories that contradict that will never succeed. There are lots of examples without any government intervention where people buy and sell information and restrict its use through contract.

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Max, right on schedule.... *Yawn*

Maxliberty:
Austrians love to insinuate that the market absent the government would have information free without restrictions for everybody and no one could ever buy or sell information because it would always be free.

Strawman.

Maxliberty:
Can you buy or sell information?

No.  You can't.  You can sell the act of sharing (labour) or materials with information (goods).  But without communication (which is the thing being sold) information can't be transferred.

Maxliberty:
The market and the human species treats information like property whether you like it or not.

Non sequitur.  The human species [sic] treated the world as flat, and the stars in the night sky as gods.  That didn't make it so.

Maxliberty:
I will clue you in...the Austrians asserting something is true doesn't make it so.

Non sequitur.  According to you, only the human species can assert things, not Austrians.

Maxliberty:
Theories that contradict that will never succeed.

Indeed, which is why the statist IP regime is going down.

"When you're young you worry about people stealing your ideas, when you're old you worry that they won't." - David Friedman
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Spideynw replied on Tue, Nov 10 2009 4:01 PM

Maxliberty, for once, I actually partially agree with you.  However, for clarification, ideas can only be owned until they become public.  Once they become public, everyone has free access to them.  For example, one can own air.  A person can bottle some of it up.  But once it is released, it is not owned anymore.  However, ideas are different in that once they have been released, no one can bottle it back up.

At most, I think only 5% of the adult population would need to stop cooperating to have real change.

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Spideynw:

Maxliberty, for once, I actually partially agree with you.  However, for clarification, ideas can only be owned until they become public.  Once they become public, everyone has free access to them.  For example, one can own air.  A person can bottle some of it up.  But once it is released, it is not owned anymore.  However, ideas are different in that once they have been released, no one can bottle it back up.

That analogy doesn't make any sense. You can't encapsulate an idea the same way you can encapsulate air. Ideas can presented as writing on paper, but you can't encapsulate them in writing.

To paraphrase Marc Faber: We're all doomed, but that doesn't mean that we can't make money in the process.
Rabbi Lapin: "Let's make bricks!"
Stephan Kinsella: "Say you and I both want to make a German chocolate cake."

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liberty student:
Maxliberty:
Can you buy or sell information?

No.  You can't.  You can sell the act of sharing (labour) or materials with information (goods).  But without communication (which is the thing being sold) information can't be transferred.

This.

To paraphrase Marc Faber: We're all doomed, but that doesn't mean that we can't make money in the process.
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Stephan Kinsella: "Say you and I both want to make a German chocolate cake."

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Austrianfan77?

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Tyler Johnson

"When you're young you worry about people stealing your ideas, when you're old you worry that they won't." - David Friedman
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Bostwick replied on Tue, Nov 10 2009 5:11 PM

Maxliberty:
The market and the human species treats information like property whether you like it or not.

No, the State forces the market to treat (some) information as though it was property. Come back when you learn the distinction.

Peace

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What is more, the state treats some information as it were the state's (financial information, business records, Internet records, medical records, etc). 

To paraphrase Marc Faber: We're all doomed, but that doesn't mean that we can't make money in the process.
Rabbi Lapin: "Let's make bricks!"
Stephan Kinsella: "Say you and I both want to make a German chocolate cake."

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AJ:
Nothing is being stolen, merely copied.

That is true also when I hack your computer and copy your files. Should hacking be legal?

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It's true when you copy the files, but it is not true when you hack into the computer. Hacking the computer mean illegally manipulating the computer, which itself is tangible and private property. However, the implication is that the hacker cannot copy the files without first illegally manipulating the computer.

To paraphrase Marc Faber: We're all doomed, but that doesn't mean that we can't make money in the process.
Rabbi Lapin: "Let's make bricks!"
Stephan Kinsella: "Say you and I both want to make a German chocolate cake."

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I didn't know that you necessarily manipulate by hacking, but anyway, would hacking be legitimate if it didn't involve manipulating, i.e., if I could enter your computer and copy your files, without leaving any traces?

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Spideynw replied on Tue, Nov 10 2009 6:04 PM

Daniel:

Spideynw:

Maxliberty, for once, I actually partially agree with you.  However, for clarification, ideas can only be owned until they become public.  Once they become public, everyone has free access to them.  For example, one can own air.  A person can bottle some of it up.  But once it is released, it is not owned anymore.  However, ideas are different in that once they have been released, no one can bottle it back up.

That analogy doesn't make any sense. You can't encapsulate an idea the same way you can encapsulate air. Ideas can presented as writing on paper, but you can't encapsulate them in writing.

The idea is encapsulated in the head of the person that has the idea. I think we are just talking semantics.  If I know about a recipe for food, that no one else knows about, would you agree that you could pay me to divulge the recipe to you?  It seems to me, an idea is what is being traded for the money.

At most, I think only 5% of the adult population would need to stop cooperating to have real change.

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There is no other way to do so. It's like asking, "can you break and enter into a house without breaking into the house?"

To paraphrase Marc Faber: We're all doomed, but that doesn't mean that we can't make money in the process.
Rabbi Lapin: "Let's make bricks!"
Stephan Kinsella: "Say you and I both want to make a German chocolate cake."

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Spideynw replied on Tue, Nov 10 2009 6:25 PM

alimentarius:

I didn't know that you necessarily manipulate by hacking, but anyway, would hacking be legitimate if it didn't involve manipulating, i.e., if I could enter your computer and copy your files, without leaving any traces?

Accessing my computer without my permission, is accessing my computer without my permission.  Is it OK for you to walk into my house without my permission and grab some gold statue, just because I did not lock the door?

At most, I think only 5% of the adult population would need to stop cooperating to have real change.

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Giant_Joe replied on Tue, Nov 10 2009 6:29 PM

alimentarius:

I didn't know that you necessarily manipulate by hacking, but anyway, would hacking be legitimate if it didn't involve manipulating, i.e., if I could enter your computer and copy your files, without leaving any traces?

I've done a lot of study with computers and I continue doing so. I have to say that with a computer, that is currently a physical impossibility. In order to read any information from it, it must be physically manipulated in some way or at some level. From what I understand, the two can't be separated.

But for the sake of argument, we'll stick with the idea that information can be taken without anything being manipulated.

I'd like to know how the situation with the computer would be different from this one:

Lincoln programs a drone to go into someone's house, read a book, remember the info, and leave without a trace. It reports back to Lincoln what it had found. It can read the book, enter, and leave the property without changing any of the property.

I believe it would be trespassing. Sure, Lincoln himself didn't cross the property line. But his property did. We can argue that electrons as they occur in nature are not property because they are abundant. But the electricity for the signals is his shaping of the electrons, and so he owns that bit of electricity as it passes into the computer and causes some information to be retrieved into his possession.

And to even further confuse the issue, the electrons don't even go all the way from his computer to the other person's computer! Instead, electrical signals propagate through wires kind of like a wave. So the wave is something of his creation. If he were to cause an earthquake on his property, the energy would send out waves to the neighbors property, altering their property.

Pretty interesting topic, though. I need to think more on this.

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Spideynw:

Daniel:

Spideynw:

Maxliberty, for once, I actually partially agree with you.  However, for clarification, ideas can only be owned until they become public.  Once they become public, everyone has free access to them.  For example, one can own air.  A person can bottle some of it up.  But once it is released, it is not owned anymore.  However, ideas are different in that once they have been released, no one can bottle it back up.

That analogy doesn't make any sense. You can't encapsulate an idea the same way you can encapsulate air. Ideas can presented as writing on paper, but you can't encapsulate them in writing.

The idea is encapsulated in the head of the person that has the idea. I think we are just talking semantics.  If I know about a recipe for food, that no one else knows about, would you agree that you could pay me to divulge the recipe to you?  It seems to me, an idea is what is being traded for the money.

But you're not actually trading away the brain cells that contain your idea, nor the abstraction. You're trading away an audible expression of it. That is, your performing labor, not selling and abstract good.

To paraphrase Marc Faber: We're all doomed, but that doesn't mean that we can't make money in the process.
Rabbi Lapin: "Let's make bricks!"
Stephan Kinsella: "Say you and I both want to make a German chocolate cake."

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Spideynw:
Is it OK for you to walk into my house without my permission and grab some gold statue, just because I did not lock the door?

No, but your gold statue is real, while information is abstract. Information cannot be stolen.

As for the Lincoln example, a person entering my house is physically on my property without my permission.

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Giant_Joe replied on Tue, Nov 10 2009 6:39 PM

The thing is, what's the difference between a robot entering and an electrical signal entering?

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alimentarius:

I didn't know that you necessarily manipulate by hacking, but anyway, would hacking be legitimate if it didn't involve manipulating, i.e., if I could enter your computer and copy your files, without leaving any traces?

C'mon Ali, you can ask better questions than this.

"When you're young you worry about people stealing your ideas, when you're old you worry that they won't." - David Friedman
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Giant_Joe:

The thing is, what's the difference between a robot entering and an electrical signal entering?

Giant_Joe:

The thing is, what's the difference between a robot entering and an electrical signal entering?

If a person can't own electrons, then a person cannot own the electrons that compose his body. That means that someone could build an electron remover machine and remove the electrons from your body, and render you... (that's where my physics education ends).

To paraphrase Marc Faber: We're all doomed, but that doesn't mean that we can't make money in the process.
Rabbi Lapin: "Let's make bricks!"
Stephan Kinsella: "Say you and I both want to make a German chocolate cake."

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