Libertarians and Intellectual Property

Intellectual Property Zone
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The only thing more inconsistent than a libertarian who supports Intellectual Property (IP) is a libertarian that doesn’t but continues to support Private Property (PP).

Renunciation of IP is actually a very trendy thing to do by fledging right-libertarians. I would venture to suggest that it might be the very first dip many take in libertarian waters.

Some will do it on a purely practical grounds, such as the devolution of the Free Software concept that is Open Source, by taking out all the ethical base in order to make it more “business friendly”. Others, on the other hand will renounce it on ideological reasons, namely by claiming that the concept of IP is nothing more than a state sponsored monopoly and thus illegitimate. I’ve actually been stumbling on this type of reasoning quite a bit lately and something about sounded inconsistent.

And the other day it struck me as I was arguing with an Agorist, who was at that point defending private property. The argument he had made in another passing comment against IP was the same as above (IP is state-sanctioned monopoly blah-de-blah) so as  I was pressuring him to explain how PP would remain in a stateless society where the workers would be capable of seizing the factories without fearing state reprecursions he gave me a most underwhelming answer: “Any sensible free market court would rule against workers who tried to violently seize the factory they worked in.”

But why would any such “sensible court” side with PP? Because it is self-evident? But obviously it is not, for the workers attempting the seizure of the means of production. don’t see it. Because it is a Natural Law? Don’t make me laugh.

But lets for a moment consider that indeed the courts side with the Capital instead of labour. The question then arises of why such a “sensible free market court” would not in a similar way side with IP as well? Any possible argument one can make in defence of PP can most likely or with slight modifications be made in defence of IP as well.

The thing is, that here the anti-statists1 are blinded to the fact that PP claims are state-sanctioned in exactly the same was as IP. They assume that in a post-state world, the federation of courts (or what have-you in Agorist Libertopia) will protect private property in exactly the same way as before but for some reason refrain from doing so in regards to intellectual property.

And since their dismissal of IP is not based on an ethical argument but rather on the infantile “It’s not legitimate because the state does it”, in a stateless future where IP is still supported by the courts and enforced by those private insurance/security forces, they can only stay silent.

Of course there are the few libertarians who do dismiss IP on purely utilitarian grounds. But then they go on to support PP on ideological reasons, which is a clear sign of ideological bankrypcy. This is because from a utilitarian perspective, the abolition of PP is superior (for reasons I shan’t go through here).

And because of this, such libertarians will forever remain inconsistent, for to avoid that, they would have to look at both types of property on ideological grounds and therefore support both or to look at them from utilitarian grounds and thus reject both.

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  1. No, they aren’t Anarchists. That’s much more than simple anti-statism []

116 thoughts on “Libertarians and Intellectual Property

  1. You said that the arguments against IP are the same as those against PP, but you didn't give any examples

    Not exactly, what I did say was:

    Any possible argument one can make in defence of PP can most likely or with slight modifications be made in defence of IP as well.

    So tell me a defence of PP and we'll see if it fits or not.

  2. My argument is that you can't own ideas because they are immaterial, and more than one person can have the same idea without there being a scarcity issue. Neither of these points apply to PP, which is material, and a single material object cannot be in different places at the same time.

    This is not an argument against IP however. This is a just a fact.

    The fact that IP has an extremely negative effect, and in the third-world a very deadly effect, on society is merely confirmation that my position is just.

    I say the same thing about PP. Moreso in fact

      1. It may be an argument against the naming convention but it's not against any of the component parts of it. Copyrights, Trademarks and Patents.

          1. They don't. But you're not arguing that Copyright, Patents and Trademarks are bad, you're simply arguing that they shouldn't be called "Private Property"

          2. I know you are. I'm just saying that your original argument is moot against those as wether you can own ideas is irrelevant to the concept of copyright which is there to (theoretically) promote creativity.

            The correct argument against Copyrights and Patents for example is that they do not, in fact, promote creativity but rather stifle it.

          3. Who cares what rationale they put forward to defend copyright? They are of no relevance and answering them only forces us on the defensive as they can come up with new rationales every time we take down one. We should not get mired in utilitarian bickering when the moral facts are clearly in display. Copyrights and patents are an attempt to claim property on ideas, and it is immoral to claim property on ideas because ideas cannot be property, and trying to enforce such claims attacks our very freedom of thought.

            Also, it's an intellectual monopoly used to enforce the dominance of the rich and powerful, etc.

          4. We should not get mired in utilitarian bickering when the moral facts are clearly in display.

            Since my morality is based on utilitarianism, I would disagree 😉

          5. Utilitarianism is not even possible in theory, as it's impossible to make inter-subjective comparisons of values, which is what utilitarian calculation is based on, so I don't know why anyone would want to be a utilitarian.

          6. as it's impossible to make inter-subjective comparisons of values

            Can you clarify that? What is an inter-subjective comparison of values?

            People are utilitarians because it's the only thing that makes sense and is not based on non-existent intrinsic values.

          7. "Can you clarify that? What is an inter-subjective comparison of values?"

            To say that something is good from the utilitarian standpoint, you gotta be able to balance the good it does to people and the bad it does to people. But that means you gotta compare the values of people inter-subjectively (i.e. person-to-person), which is not actually possible. So there can't be any utilitarian calculation.

            "People are utilitarians because it's the only thing that makes sense"

            No, it doesn't make sense and I have always found moral bean-counting to be morally repulsive even on the face of it. In fact, it's that precise tendancy to bean-count morality that led me away from Objectivism and more right-wing ideologies.

            "and is not based on non-existent intrinsic values."

            LOL! Are you seriously claiming here that you have no innate values? Really?

            I've always found the widespread communist belief in blank slate theory to be absurd. It's unscientific and it takes about five seconds of introspection to refute it.

          8. No, it doesn't…

            "No it doesn't" isn't an argument, especially since you are arguing against the wrong type of utilitarianism.

          9. OL! Are you seriously claiming here that you have no innate values? Really?

            Yes. yes I do.

            And this has nothing to do with Tabula Rasa

          10. Btw, sorry If you're having trouble seeing my replies after a page reload. I'm having the same issue and opened a support request.

            Until then you can try to reply by email perhaps?

          11. No I meant you can reply to the comments through email. When you get an Intense Debate notification, you can reply to it and it will be posted on the thread. Check the instructions in the automated emails you receive.

          12. and it is immoral to claim property on ideas because ideas cannot be property, and trying to enforce such claims attacks our very freedom of thought.

            This is a very weak argument. The first part does not follow, the premise if flawed (ideas apparently can be made into property, if only everyone accepted that rule), and the last one can be easily countered (eg. You can think freely as long as you don't "steal" ideas)

          13. "The first part does not follow"

            You don't understand why it's immoral to claim things as property when they're not your property? I would think this would be a pretty standard communist argument.

            "the premise if flawed (ideas apparently can be made into property, if only everyone accepted that rule)"

            Uh… no. You can believe that you've made an idea into property, but it's a false belief, in the same way that believing you can own yourself or others is a false belief.

            "and the last one can be easily countered (eg. You can think freely as long as you don't "steal" ideas)"

            How is that freedom? That's like saying that we're free in America because we have the right to protest. Yea, but protesting doesn't do shit.

          14. You don't understand why it's immoral to claim things as property when they're not your property? I would think this would be a pretty standard communist argument.

            That's just begging the question.

            In any case, I'm just doing the devil's advocate here to show you why this argument won't hold.

            For me, claiming something as property by itself is not immoral. It's the concept of Property that it immoral. And it is immoral because it is counter-utilitarian.

          15. Uh… no. You can believe that you've made an idea into property, but it's a false belief, in the same way that believing you can own yourself or others is a false belief.

            All concepts of property (IP, PP and even possesion) are valid only due to common agreement, ie. a belief of many people. Such a belief can only be true or false from a utilitarian perspective.

          16. How is that freedom? That's like saying that we're free in America because we have the right to protest. Yea, but protesting doesn't do shit.

            This analogy won't convince most non-anarchist though as for them, protesting is probably done wrong or noit enough.

  3. If you mean private property as distinct from possession, then I don't have any. I guess the main argument (well, the only argument) that a capitalist would give you is the old "what if I leave my house for a couple hours and someone claims it for himself? No one would ever have a secure domicile, etc."

    1. That's again an argument for possesion, not PP. And yes, I do make this (very important imho) distinction.

          1. That, in a possession-based system, if they left their house for a couple hours and some random guys came and took over the house, that they would simply lose their house, and therefore that any possession is inherently insecure.

          2. That is simply misunderstanding of how a possesion system works. You still have claim to something in a possesion system, but that claim is not arbitrary (ie "I was here first") but based on a fact such as "I live here" or "I am using this workshop currently".

  4. To say that something is good from the utilitarian standpoint, you gotta be able to balance the good it does to people and the bad it does to people.

    No you don't. I believe you are familiar with the work of Alonzo Fyfe AKA the Atheist Ethicist? If so I shouldn't have to explain how this is not required.

  5. What in the hell is going on? It sent me emails saying you made new posts, I clicked to look at them, and they're not there. I scrolled down and clicked on "jump to," but that didn't work either. I think your comments script is screwing me up here.

    As for your recent posts:

    "OL! Are you seriously claiming here that you have no innate values? Really?
    Yes. yes I do.
    And this has nothing to do with Tabula Rasa"

    How can it not have anything to do with it? The only alternatives are that we do or we don't, unless you can tell me another alternative.

    ""No it doesn't" isn't an argument, especially since you are arguing against the wrong type of utilitarianism. "

    How am I arguing against "the wrong type of utilitarianism"? Utilitarianism is about the utility of an action in the aggregate of a society. That's what the word means.

    1. What in the hell is going on? It sent me emails saying you made new posts, I clicked to look at them, and they're not there. I scrolled down and clicked on "jump to," but that didn't work either. I think your comments script is screwing me up here.

      yeah, something is not working right. I've contacted the devs

    2. How can it not have anything to do with it? The only alternatives are that we do or we don't, unless you can tell me another alternative.

      We do not have any innate morality. Our morality starts from our evolved psychology and then is futher molded by experience and knowledge. But evolved psychology is just a guideline we can ignore and our experience is unique and different for everyone.

      So we're neither a Tabula Rasa nor do we have innate values.

  6. How am I arguing against "the wrong type of utilitarianism"? Utilitarianism is about the utility of an action in the aggregate of a society. That's what the word means.

    Seriously, there are many types of Utilitarianism. Check the forms here.
    You seem to be arguing against Act Utilitarianism

        1. Urgh, not that again. I've debated Alonzo before and it was a waste of time. Suffice it to say that I don't actually consider it a type of utilitarianism because it doesn't rely on aggregates to evaluate actions.

          1. Then you're only defining Utilitarianism as if to automatically fail.

            In any case, the name itself is irrrelevant.

          2. Well, at least it's a new version of utilitarianism that is pretty dang different from what we call utilitarianism. Either way, if this DU is your position, then can you tell us how you'd reject copyright on moral grounds?

          3. I didn't say that creativity does not have a moral basis. But don't you think we're getting a tad off topic here?

          4. You've been trying to do that, but no. It's off topic because we're following an unrelated subject to the original topic.

  7. That's fine. The branching is to make following the discussion by outsiders easier (multiquoting comments suck).
    Be warned however that rarely the email replies might fail. If you don't get a reply soon, check that your comment was posted.

  8. The original comment in these threads is regarding the difference between intellectual and private property but I think the discussion went off the rails a bit after the early posts. The most interesting thing about the debate above is that it was entirely regarding intellectual property, which you both agree should not exist. The real question is whether one can be against intellectual property while being for private property. In my opinion, Francois is correct – there is a distinct difference between the two for simple reason that there is no scarcity of ideas while there is a scarcity of actual property. On these grounds, the argument can be made foe one and not the other.

    When dealing with actual property, there is a limit to its life and its usefulness, thus creating the necessity for an economy that will determine who will derive the benefits from the property. This is not the case for intellectual property, so the arguments for the protection of private property do not have to apply at all to intellectual property. Whether or not private property is the best answer to determining who gets to derive the benefit from the property is an open question but the fact that this scarcity exists creates the opportunity to defend PP while rejecting IP.

    On a related point, a stateless society would not necessarily have to uphold private property but they would still be faced with the issue of who gets to derive benefit from a given resource. Private property isn't necessarily a just method but it is most likely simpler and more effective than devising a way for the masses to justly share access to resources. Particularly in a stateless society, it seems likely that simplicity and understandability would be important determinants for any free-market court, so PP may be the best answer, even if it is unjust.

    1. When dealing with actual property, there is a limit to its life and its usefulness, thus creating the necessity for an economy that will determine who will derive the benefits from the property.

      That is not strictly true for all kinds of PP. Land for example does not have a limit in time and its usefulness varies. But in any case you are trying to argue for private property from a utilitarian perspective, which is well and good, even though I would probably disagree with your arguments. But most proponents of capitalism do not do that. They argue from an ideological perspecive, starting from concepts such as man-qua-man and the lockeo-provisio. What I'm saying is that such ideological arguments can very well apply in the same way to IP as well.

      To argue ideologically for PP but not for IP is the inconsistency.

      1. You may have sensed by now that I am not well-versed in the fundamental philosophical concepts that you often delve into. I have to assume that you are correct regarding the ideological argument but I am indeed taking a practical utilitarian perspective.

        My view is that if people are given absolute freedom, then there are inevitable conflicts over who gets to derive the benefits from a piece of property. Land may not have a limit on its life but its uses are mutually exclusive: it cannot simultaneously be used as a factory, a shelter, a road and a farm. There has to be some method of determining its use and the people or group of people who are allowed to benefit from it. Intellectual property has no such conflict.

        1. If you want to argue that PP is better from a utilitarian perspective than the alternatives, then that is well and good, but a bit off topic. This is not what I am trying to show here.

          I will have to create a new post for this and state possibly some arguments against it.

          However, should I expect that if you are shown that PP is indeed worse than communal use through a utilitarian perspective, you will denounce capitalism? Such a fear (or being wrong) is actually the reason why proponents of capitalism use ideological rather than utilitarian arguments.

          1. I apologize. In the original post, I overlooked the fact that your argument was specifically separating the ideological from the utilitarian perspectives.

            I am a capitalist but I freely acknowledge that the current system is far from perfect. It is my contention that the way to reach the best system is to consider all of the alternatives and find the best middle ground. I do denounce pure (anarchist) capitalism but I also denounce pure (anarchist) socialism. I think both of them are extremely effective at meeting certain needs of society and not as good at others. Cultivating a middle-ground where the best in people is exemplified and the worst in people is suppressed is what I consider to be the ideal goal. Admittedly, this would be as difficult a target as either end of the anarchist spectrum.

          2. Why do you necessarily have to reach the middle ground? Isn't it possible that one of the "extreme" alternatives is actually the best one?

            Cultivating a middle-ground where the best in people is exemplified and the worst in people is suppressed is what I consider to be the ideal goal. Admittedly, this would be as difficult a target as either end of the anarchist spectrum.

            This is actually not difficult at all for libertarian socialism.

    2. rivate property isn't necessarily a just method but it is most likely simpler and more effective than devising a way for the masses to justly share access to resources.

      That is more than likely wrong. The Masses managed to share resources for thousands of years before farming and by extention PP became the norm. If anything, the concept of PP had to be forcefully applied to the masses who were quite capable of living without it for centuries.

    3. there is a distinct difference between the two for simple reason that there is no scarcity of ideas while there is a scarcity of actual property. On these grounds, the argument can be made foe one and not the other.

      While there is a scarcity of resources ultimately, the most important similarity between those two is that an artificial scarcity is created through legal constructions that people must to follow. Access to land and the means of production by default is much less scarce without the few cordoning off land and factory, in the same way that access to ideas is much less scarce without the few claiming rights over them.

      1. You are correct that legal constructions create scarcity but that does not equate the arguments. In the case of private property, legal constructions also solve the underlying problem of conflict between multiple users of a resource. This problem does not need to be solved in the case of intellectual property, so the constructs are clearly more egregious. That is the fundamental difference I am referring to. If you were to remove all the legal constructs, you still have a fundamental problem of conflicts in PP but not in IP.

        1. legal constructions also solve the underlying problem of conflict between multiple users of a resource.

          This is false. The conflict is not solved, only subdued on threat of force. It is solved only in the sense that there is no violent battle over resources. But this does not mean that this problem cannot be solved in any other way, more specifically through communal use. Such an experiment has been made succesfully (far more succesfully than PP) multiple times.

          So no, if you were to remove all the legal concepts, you do not necessarily have this conflict. To state this as a fact is to ignore historical evidence to the contrary

          1. So the problem can be solved another way although the problem doesn't necessarily exist?

            And what is the historical evidence?

          2. The problem of distribution can be solved another way. The conflict doesn't necessarily exist.

            And what is the historical evidence?

            Check the Spanish Revolution for example.

    4. There IS a scarcety of ideas, otherwise copying wouldn't be necessary. There IS a limit to life and usefulness of IP too as knowledge gets outdated all the time. Therefore an economy for IP, not only for PP, is required.

  9. "a single material object cannot be in different places at the same time"
    I think it's a very good idea to argue from the differing nature of different sorts of good, rather than an abstract idea of ownable-thing, but doesn't it produce numerous splits beside those between even intellectual and material, and public goods (roads, health, etc.) and private ones.

    For instance, a great number of material goods are only very weakly rivalrous – tools, books, eletronics, clothing, vehicles, are all goods which, while yes two people can't use them at the same time, as you say, two people can use them at different times, and they're unlikely to be in really constant use. This distinguishes them from things which are truly rivalrous, like food, cosmetics, drugs, medicines, etc.

    Other goods are rivalrous to an extent varying with how much of them people have. For example, if I have a single house, then it being my house does in practice stop it being anyone else's house. But if I have four houses, then at any one time three of them will be available for others to use without inconveniencing me (if they clean up after themselves).

    So if the thing that differentiates IP and PP is that in one case possession is rivalrous, while in the other it’s not, it seems like only a relatively few goods should be truly privately owned, namely consumed things like food, while goods which are only weakly rivalrous should be communally owned but subject to rules regarding precedence of use, making them easy to find, upkeep, etc. – for which libraries are an obvious practical model.

    Then there's non-rivalrous goods, of course, which is a whole nother kettle of worms.

    Upshot is, the 'private property' is left looking rather unimpressive.

    1. Thanks for visiting my own little corner of the internets Anderson (that's your first name I guess?) and arguing in my absence 🙂

      Just a tip, you can reply directly to others via the "Post reply" button under each thread. When you do that, people get an email notification about your reply which keeps the conversation going 😉

    1. Yeah the format here seems a bit confusing, I lose track of what's going on

      Really? I thought that the threading made it pretty simple :-/

      And believe me, once you've seen how a long discussion without threading and constant blockquotes look, you never want to go back.

    2. Yeah the format here seems a bit confusing, I lose track of what's going on

      Really? I thought that the threading made it pretty simple :-/

      And believe me, once you've seen how a long discussion without threading and constant blockquotes look, you never want to go back.

  10. For the thousands of years before farming, there were fewer people, more resources and less use of resources per person. This is a very different environment than we have today. The creation of farming fundamentally changed the way people lived and interacted with each other. Once people could farm, they suddenly were less mobile and had greater reliance on the local resources. As there are more people acting more stationary and being more reliant on the resources in a given area, conflict arose and this conflict was settled through PP.

    I specifically did not argue that this was the most just solution. I am arguing that in a stateless society, simpler rules are more easily created and followed and PP is simpler than devising a method for dividing usage rights for property among all of the people who desire to use it.

    1. The creation of farming fundamentally changed the way people lived and interacted with each other. Once people could farm, they suddenly were less mobile and had greater reliance on the local resources. As there are more people acting more stationary and being more reliant on the resources in a given area, conflict arose and this conflict was settled through PP.

      Even after the creation of farming, people were quite capable of working on a communal basis (commonly owned land). The reasons that PP arose are not because of such a conflict. It is because a few people almost always forcefully applied their will to everyone else. This has hitherto been the history of the domination of PP.

    2. For the thousands of years before farming, there were fewer people, more resources and less use of resources per person. This is a very different environment than we have today.

      We also have an insanely grander production than back then. In fact, we have so much more production of resources that this "conflict" that PP is supposed to solve would be severely diminished today where those resources to be applied based on need.

      1. Then the question is whether we would we have had that production without PP. I would argue it would have been lower and that conflict is inevitable anyway. I am sure you would argue that it would be the same or higher but this is not an area where we are likely to find common ground.

        1. Then let me surprise you by saying that we wouldn't have had this production without PP and Capitalism 😉

          Of course I will also argue that while PP and Capitalism was necessary to get us up to this point, nowadays, it's holding us back.

          1. I'd disagree, actually. I think the relevant feature of capitalism is not that it has private property but that it's rationalising. The centuries of private property before the rise of capitalism and science developed only very very slowly and inefficiently, compared to the explosive growth introduced when tradition-bound, superstitious, societies whose elites accumulated wealth only to squander it on feasts, wars, and monuments, were replaced by habits of innovation, criticism and experimentation.

            Capitalism was necessary in that respect – but I'm not at all convinced that a rational, innovative, experimental communism couldn't have produced the same revolutionary changes as it replaced a superstitious, tradition-bound communism.

          2. To be more accurate, the word to replace "necessary" would be "unavoidable".

            It's not that a rational communism wouldn't have been able to get better results, it's that history has shown us that rational communism wasn't able to survive in the hypercompetitive nation-state environment that Capitalism/Imperialism prospered in.

            So Capitalism has been (obviously) the path humanity had to tread to reach this era. It's not worth arguing over "what ifs" at this point as we can never prove anything either way. Now it's up to us to prove that it's not needed anymore.

  11. I specifically did not argue that this was the most just solution. I am arguing that in a stateless society, simpler rules are more easily created and followed and PP is simpler than devising a method for dividing usage rights for property among all of the people who desire to use it.

    That sounds very untrue. If anything, the legal system created organically out of PP shows that the rules are not as easy as they sound. OTOH, possesion-based onwership is the simplest of all. You own what you use.

  12. PP is the result of an individuals labour, time and money. IP is the result of an individuals labour, time and money. Therefore both have economic value to the individual.

    If you steal PP you harm the owner economically. He looses his previously invested labour, time and money. If you copy IP you do exactly the same, as the IP now has lower value than was originally put into it.

    Therefore, if PP damages are financially compensated for, IP damages should be financially compensated for too.

    But, if PP damages are financially compensated for then EVERY value change in the economic system should be compensated for. Simply claim PP damages only, and disregard other damages, does not make sense.

    1. PP is the result of an individuals labour, time and money. IP is the result of an individuals labour, time and money. Therefore both have economic value to the individual.

      Actually no. Theoretically PP is that result but practically PP is the result of state aggression or based on such. IP is similarly based on previous ideas which were not under IP laws (unpatented or under public domain). What IP does is take free ideas, combine them and then exclude everyone else from the result.

      1. Sure, but that is exactly what PP entails too. If one takes free materials (i.e. the wood from the trees on a homesteaded domain) to build a house, the owner can exclude everyone else from the result too.

    2. If you steal PP you harm the owner economically. He looses his previously invested labour, time and money. If you copy IP you do exactly the same, as the IP now has lower value than was originally put into it.

      Most owners of PP do not have previously invested labour, time and money (for example, those who inherited it). Is it OK to appropriate it then? You'll undoubtedly answer in the negative but your argument allows for it.

      In any case, you see to defend both PP and IP, in which casse you're consistent. Wrong, but at least consistently so, and thus my post is not so much directed at you.

      1. Thanks dbO, I agree with you that PP and IP should be treated the same. As you said: “To argue ideologically for PP but not for IP is the inconsistency.”

    3. Therefore, if PP damages are financially compensated for, IP damages should be financially compensated for too.

      That doesn't follow. PP is financially compensated because its distribution is zero-sum, that is, you have to lose it for me to gain it. The same does not apply in IP where its value is not reduced no matter how many people possess it, on the contrary actually, its (subjective) value can be said to actually increase (i.e. it's not zero-sum)

  13. Beside the value argument (previous post), there is the ownership argument:

    If an individual or a company develops a new product idea they rearrange existing knowledge into something new, just as a new product is being developed by rearranging existing materials into a new shape. As this new arrangement is unique and the product of their labour, time and money, and nobody else’s, they are the unique source where the idea originated. Therefore, they own this new idea, just as they would have owned a new and unique material product they produced.

    To libertarians an owner has the ultimate say in what happens to his or hers property. Therefore, just as you cannot use a material property without the owners permission, you also cannot use an intellectual property without the owners permission. It is irrelevant if unauthorized use harms the owner or not. It is for the owner to decide and does not depend on the opinion of others.

    1. If an individual or a company develops a new product idea they rearrange existing knowledge into something new, just as a new product is being developed by rearranging existing materials into a new shape. As this new arrangement is unique and the product of their labour, time and money, and nobody else’s, they are the unique source where the idea originated. Therefore, they own this new idea, just as they would have owned a new and unique material product they produced.

      Again, this does not follow. Just because one took a common and invested their labour in it, does not make the result a property. I could easily argue from the opposite position, in that since that developer built on existing free ideas, the end result can only be freely owned.

      Thus your argument from ownership does not hold.

      1. It does. See my reply above on the construction of a house from freely available materials.

        1. No, because your whole premise in unargued for. In that case again you're taking common property (woods and land) and turning it into PP illegitimately. I could easily claim that your newly built house is common property but you simply have possesion rights to it.

    2. To libertarians an owner has the ultimate say in what happens to his or hers property. Therefore, just as you cannot use a material property without the owners permission, you also cannot use an intellectual property without the owners permission.

      Seeing as I'm opposed to the right-"libertarian" concept of ownership, this is not a very convincing argument, but at least it shows as before you're consistent in defending both PP and IP on ideological reasons.

  14. Finally, there is the scarcity (rivalry) argument:

    PP is protected by libertarians because it is a scarce and therefore valuable resource. If it was easy and without cost to produce PP there would be no need to protect it since anything lost could be easily replaced.

    As PP is scarce and valuable, if others want to use a particular piece of PP they do not own they either have to buy or to steal it. To buy it means they have to invest a similar amount of labour, time and money as the original owner invested. To steal it means they get it for less than the original owner invested.

    IP, however, is a scarce and valuable resource too. Otherwise copying wouldn’t be necessary and everyone interested could either produce the IP themselves, or buy it at a low price. As with PP, if you buy IP you have to invest a similar amount of labour, time and money as the original owner invested. If you steal IP you get it for less than the original owner invested. The latter is the case if you copy IP without paying the original owner.

    1. PP is protected by libertarians because it is a scarce and therefore valuable resource. If it was easy and without cost to produce PP there would be no need to protect it since anything lost could be easily replaced.

      Actually PP is protected by the state because the onwers of PP mostly own the state and thus use it to protect their interests. Expecially because PP is scarce, it shouldn't be privately owned, that is, it's scarcity made even more accute by the few monopolizing more than they use. As such the argument from scarcity does not lead to the result you want it to.

    2. As PP is scarce and valuable, if others want to use a particular piece of PP they do not own they either have to buy or to steal it. To buy it means they have to invest a similar amount of labour, time and money as the original owner invested. To steal it means they get it for less than the original owner invested.

      So seeing as the current distribution of PP is not based on investment of labour I guess that this means, by your own arguments, that appropriation is warranted?

      But even if we accept for a moment that the current distribution of PP is just, your argument still faces a fatal flaw. Currently many people do indeed dispose of their "investments in labour, time or money" for less than a value than they put in it. There are many examples of such a result within PP exchanges but the most striking of all is of course the exploitation of labour where the worker gets back less value than they created with their labour (the rest is kept by the Capitalist as profit). That would of course mean that workers are continually "stolen from" by their employers, an act which you've already labeled as wrong.

      To be consistent thus, you need to now accept that the Capitalist system of production is flawed.

      1. No you're confusing corporatism with capitalism. In a free market there is free competition. Workers can never be exploited in a free market. If they don't like the working conditions with one employer workers simply go to the next. Only under corporatism cartels are possible. In a free market any cartel would dissolve immediately once an independant supplier enters the market, as this supplier can undercut the high cartel price easily and gain a large market share. The overpriced cartel firms would then need to lower their price too or they cease to exist.

        1. You are basing your argument on assumptions. First of all you are assuming that in a free market there is free competition which is false as capitalist oligarchies would be created, as is what happened in the freer markets of the 19th century, where under much much less state intervention, trusts and later on corporations were created.

          In a free market, any independent supplier would find it extremely hard to enter the market due to the barriers to entry erected by the oligarchy, for example by them outbuying raw materials in amount or being able to undercut this supplier's price in one area until they go under and then raise prices again. Empirical evidence supports this btw.

          Oh, and workers have historically been MORE exploited in freer market capitalisms, especially those which suppressed labour organizations such as unions, which your theory says that should make things even better. The problem is that workers can never go to the next employer as there is always unemployment, which is incidentally why the threat of the sack is so powerful.

    3. As with PP, if you buy IP you have to invest a similar amount of labour, time and money as the original owner invested. If you steal IP you get it for less than the original owner invested. The latter is the case if you copy IP without paying the original owner.

      Not only does the original premise does not hold, since inequality can and does lead to the seller of a commodity very often selling it for less than the amount of labour invested, but with IP, due to the infinite nature, it would mean that to be consistent with your argument, once the creator makes up their investment in labour, time and money, the rest of the goods should be then provided for free, otherwise they accumulate more than their investment and thus the exchange is unfair.

      1. An exchange can never be unfair if the buyer is willing to pay more than the supplier invested.

        1. You want to have your pie and eat it too. Either argue that the price-system supports the enforced state-granted monopoly of IP or the other way around. You're now saying that because the state-granted monopoly forces people to "be willing to buy culture", then that is OK, but you're assuming the premise that the state-granted monopoly is warranted, which is what we were arguing in the first place.

  15. IP, however, is a scarce and valuable resource too. Otherwise copying wouldn’t be necessary and everyone interested could either produce the IP themselves, or buy it at a low price.

    This is not how scarcity is defined and you're trying to perform a tricky equivocation here. IP is not scarce because, barring government granted monopolies, the cost to produce is zero or very close to zero to be considered practically so. Scarcity is not defined by the fact that someone somewhere needs to produce it, but by the cost of replication.

  16. This cannot be true as people actually pay for protected software. If IP is protected or kept secret by its owner the value to others may be considerably more than when it is distributed freely.

    1. This is circular reasoning. You're basically saying that "people pay for IP because it's scarce and it's scarce because people will pay for it".

      Even if you have a secret idea, it's value would be only the first sale you can make, after which it's distribution would be out of your hands and cost would naturally drop to zero.

      PS: You don't have to post twice, there's some problem with the comment system. If a comment you saw posted somehow disappears just wait and I'll make it appear again when I go online. The devs are aware of this

  17. No, scarcity of PP is not determined by its price but by its availability. The price follows the availability. Same goes for IP.

    1. Pse let me explain why I think IP is just as scarce as PP. If I built a computer the only way you can have a similar one is when I let you copy mine. If I don't want you to copy mine you can never have this type of computer unless you design one yourself. Obviously we cannot use a single computer at the same time. Now if I built a software programme the only way you can have a similar programme is when you get hold of a copy of mine. As with PP we can never use the same software at the same time. It may seem we can, but the processor would need to allocate runtime to each of us and switch tasks rapidly when using the same programme. So copying of IP is essential if more than one person wants to use it. As I own my SW copy, just as I own my computer, I can decide what I do with it. If I don't want it to be copied it cannot. If it is without my permission this equals theft.

      1. That certainly applies for the first time you want to sell it. But it does not apply for subsequent times. Particularly, the fact that you created the SW and are the only one in possession of it gives you the right to sell it for as high as you want but does not give you the right to dictate to those you sell it to, how to copy it. The later just doesn't follow.

    2. And since the availability of IP, barring state action, is infinite, what does that make the scarcity hmmm?

  18. dbO thank you for your comments. It's entirely offtopic, but perhaps you are interested in this animation Jonathan Jarvis made blaming capitalism, unfairly I might say as he does not mention the Community Reinvestment Act and confuses corporatism with capitalism too, for the credit crisis: http://crisisofcredit.com/ Enjoy !

    1. I've already seen it. I consider it a nice social democrat explanation of the crisis but without looking at the underlying causes of it (he's mainly looking at the superficial trigger of it).

      Of course Capitalism is to blame for this crisis, as it's to blame for all other crises of the Business Cycle as this is a structural failing inherent in the capitalist mode of production. Namely a crisis of overproduction.

  19. You're making a utilitarian argument against IP; it's immaterial, there's no scarcity, etc. But what makes something someone's property? Is it the scarcity? If someone owns a gallon of lakewater, and they live next to a lake, can someone else take that gallon of lakewater from them, since it isn't scarce?

    Or is the lake water theirs because they took it from the lake through their own labor, and it is wrong to steal the products of anothers' labor? It would seem to apply even more to intellectual property — while lakewater has a physical component which is the product of no one's labor, plus the human effort required to contain and keep it, and that part of labor is enough to make it belong to someone, isn't it all the more true for IP, which is more or less purely a result of human labor?

    On the issue of two people independently developing the same idea, there's an interesting article on logorights, which makes the argument that only insofar as a person's development is unique does it justify being property; if someone can develop something identical completely independently, then neither is unique and neither are property. Look at apple's patent on multitouch, for an example of something which is really not unique and therefore not property. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the writing of J. K. Rowling is exclusively a product of her labor and something could definitely not be replicated to be identical; therefore, the books she has written are, indeed, property.

    Article:
    http://www.pulpless.com/bp21samp/logorite.html

    Also, discussion is welcome and even desired — just send me an email to the address attached to this post. 🙂

    1. I disagree that the writing of J.K. Rowling is a product of her individual labour alone. Like all artists, she heavily borrowed from the culture that already existed (from wizards, to universities, to fantasy) and build a modified work of something unique. While she deserves credit for that, she does not deserve a property title.

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