We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Time to set off some more blue touchpaper

I suppose that if someone asked me what is the subject that libertarians get into the most debates about with each other, I would probably say foreign policy (ie, should or would a libertarian polity even have a “policy” at all?); but then I might say that in second or third place would be intellectual property rights. It never fails to get the fur flying, metaphorically anyway. Here is an example of a fierce opponent of IP who is also an equally robust defender of property rights in everything else, at the Ludwig von Mises Institute, Stephen Kinsella.

My SQOTD a few days ago created a comment thread where IP came up. Now, I am not going to reprise the arguments for or against IP – here is a great essay by Tim Sandefur on the subject and here is another defending IP – but ask a slightly different type of question from readers, which is: what happens if state-created IP rights no longer existed? Could or would such things ever exist under any kind of Common Law system? How would new, potentially immensely useful ideas, come into being if folk could immediately copy them?

It is not good enough, I think, for a person to respond: “well, if writing books/making music/etc no longer pays, then take up bricklaying or perform live, or teach kids for a fee, or whatever.” I do not find such answers entirely satisfactory. In the age of the Information Economy, when so many people create value not by hard physical labour but increasingly, by manipulating ideas and concepts, it seems glib, to say the least, to shrug one’s shoulders about this.

So here are some ideas I have about what would happen. Remember, this post is not about my defending or attacking IP, but posing the question of what happens in a non-IP world, and whether we like the results:

More prize competitions to stimulate inventions, such as the Ansari X-Prize. Consistent libertarian opponents of IP should, of course, want the prize-winning funds to come from private donors and businesses, not the state. I happen to think that such prizes are a great way to foster innovation anyway.

Drugs: we might see a fall in the number of drugs being brought to market, if copying could be done. Bringing drugs to market is notoriously expensive; of course, libertarian anti-IPers might retort that a lot of the cost is caused by regulatory agencies such as the FDA in the US and their international counterparts, and they have a point; even so, reputable drug firms do not want to kill their patients, so trials and tests can take many years, even in a purely laissez faire environment. So we might have fewer drugs being sold and developed from what would otherwise be the case. We cannot measure this shortfall, but it seems a fairly reasonable guess that such inventions might decline. IP opponents need to address this, or at least state that this is a cost that “we” (whoever “we” are) are willing to pay. (This is a bit like the argument that getting rid of limited liability companies could harm, rather than help, economic growth but that the price is worth paying if we remove other problems allegedly connected to LL).

Contracts. Some firms, fearing that staff might defect and take blueprints of ideas to competitors, might insist on non-disclosure rules on staff in the event that they leave. This might actually lead to pretty draconian contracts being enforced in certain sectors, such as drugs and software, though not always easy to enforce in practice. Again, this would depend on the circumstances of individual firms, the sectors they are in, barriers to entry, etc. But some firms might be able to draw up such contracts particularly if the supply of labour for such jobs exceeded present supply.

Secrecy and concealment. Some firms, such as makers of radical new inventions, would go to far greater lengths to build them in such a way that the design was concealed, making it harder for people to get hold of the object, break it apart and reverse engineer it. It may still happen anyway, but firms might go to all kinds of ploys to try and make their stuff harder to copy, not always in ways we would like. Such efforts are a cost; again, is this a cost that outweighs the alleged negatives of IP?

And as a matter of practical reality, we might see some individuals get so enraged at having their ideas copied that this could get quite nasty. If a composer of a piece of music sees his score copied by someone who cannot even be bothered to acknowledge the source, and who performs it live and earns a fortune, then the composer might find out ways of seriously ruining the career of the performer, such as by libelling that person, blackmailing them, even physical violence. Do not forget that libel laws, for instance, are in part a way that the legal system tried to prevent folk killing each other in duels over affairs of honour. No-one likes the plagiarist, and opponents of IP need to accept that such conflicts might arise. I am not saying that the example of the irate composer would be justified in what he might do, but we are talking about likely outcomes, whether we approve of them or not.

One other consequence of a world without IP is that it makes enforcement of property rights in non-rivalrous stuff – such as land, movable goods – even more important in economic life than it is now. Property is inseparable from wealth creation, since if we cannot have the security of knowing that we can build up a store of wealth, then we cannot plan ahead and deal with our fellows in peaceful, voluntary ways. Good fences and good neighbours, and Englishmen in their castles, etc, etc.

Anyway, comment away. Play nice in the sand-box.

157 comments to Time to set off some more blue touchpaper

  • Peter

    “but posing the question of what happens in a non-IP world, and whether we like the results”

    My worry is that if people start from desirable results then work back are we not accepting the utilitarian argument. For me those good intentions are usually lining the path to hell.

    Only this summer I read rothbard’s Ethics of liberty and so I’m probably still a bit high from the results, so I think I must always start from an ethical position (here I am strongly attracted to rothbard’s position in that rights are derived from from property rights) and so we have to live with the results.

    Lost opportunities or innovations will be the price we pay for the freedoms property rights give us. This observation isn’t meant to inform how we practically move from one state. Of affairs to the other.

  • If you are saying that there is such a thing as intellectual Property, then why shouldn’t it follow the same rules as other property. You used a sample of my song in your remix, it was 10% of the song therefore you owe me 15% of the profit for example. Or in the case of a generic drug, you’ve taken 90% of the market with your cheap drug therefore you have to pay for 90% of the development costs. Figures off the top of my head, but the idea is there. If you can really prove that you were copied, rather than someone else coming up with the same idea as you independently then it should work. Your argument doesn’t take into account two people thinking of the same idea without knowing of the other. The prize goes to the first one to patent it rather than letting them slug it out in the marketplace.

    I already have in my contract that any ideas I have or research I do whilst employed by the firm is property of the firm I work for.

  • Peter T

    Thanks for the links. I shall inspect them when not at work (on my lunch break now). Having a sister that is a recording artist (we will see how this goes; the music industry is suffering double digit year on year drops in revenue) and a girlfriend that loves all this ‘free’ music on the internet (another debate to look forward to at Christmas, besides everybody cracking down on my ‘right wing’ views), I have been motivated to think about this issue quite a bit.

    While I do not know very much about law, I understand that common law is basically based on jury decisions and precedents (from earlier jury decisions). Juries are, in a sense, mini-democracies in that they are expected to produce the verdict of ‘the people’. They can be expected to perform better than normal democracy (and that also means statute) in that the decisions are taken on a case by case basis, albeit based on precedent, and so are less prone to creating unintended consequences. Jury members are also ‘drafted’ and have no constituency to curry favour with, so are likely to be more disinterested than politicians. By contrast statute is sweeping and may apply but be inappropriate to many cases. Of course criminal courts can to some extent take into account the particulars of the case when making their verdict. As an aside, I think that a jury style system may actually be a good way of running the government. This turned into a digression but I have written it now so I’ll keep it in. The point is that common law is more likely to take time to get round to a solution than is statute. This does not mean that it won’t ultimately be as effective (or more so). But it will take time.

    There is a question of identifying the violator. I don’t really think it stands to say that the consumer of the ‘freed IP’ is causing the harm. While the harm may be great in aggregate, the marginal harm from each consumer of the IP is very small. There are all kinds of benefits that we enjoy but do not pay for. I don’t think going down the route of punishing the user is good for liberty.

    A better option is for the enablers of freed IP to pay the creators. I cannot imagine that it is very hard for the broadband providers to identify the top sites for freed IP (i.e. pirated material), monitor usage, charge the customers accordingly, and pay the owners of the material. Damn internet neutrality. It’s a daft concept. The availability of all the freed IP out there increases greatly the value of the internet to the users and so their willingness to pay for broadband. The broadband providers clearly benefit from freed IP. It seems to me infinitely preferable that the industry self regulates itself in this way, pushed on by common law, than for statute and government surveillance to perform the same function.

    More and more of the value added in the economy is in the form of IP. Music and movies may just be the first sectors to be affected. This raises interesting questions of what the future world economy may look like. Will all motivation to create disappear and with it economic growth? I suspect we’ll manage. In the future we may all primarily be hobbyists, with a part time job to fund our lavish lifestyles. I agree that using prizes to spur motivation is an attractive option. If the government feels it must do something then this would be a better option than it trying to innovate itself.

    It is also possible that IP usage and ownership will be more tightly defined in all kinds of contracts. It could be between employee and employer, or between broadband users and providers. As the number of connection points in the economy where the terms of IP usage are tightly defined grows, the potential to raise revenue for the IP creators should increase.

    I think the current generation of musicians are very unlucky in that they are working in the period where law, common or statute, has not caught up with technological developments (although it is not only IP violation that is ruining them; barriers to entry have collapsed (and this is now happening in movies as well – i.e. the new movie “Monsters”), and there is a lot of additional competition from non-music entertainment such as computer games). I suspect that in ten years time the situation will have improved in some way.

    It is not enough to say that those in the affected industries should just learn to live with it, or make their living off of ancillary services. On the other hand we do not want to restrict freedom more than necessary. There are all kinds of occupations and sources of employment that technological development has made redundant. If we were to take a time machine to the future and tell the inhabitants there that they had to put in place structures to restrict the availability of IP only to those that paid for it, and on top of this, that this would enhance freedom, we may well be regarded as nuts.

    As I said on another post (on ‘rights’) I think the only question we really need to ask is to what extent coercion is necessary in society. The goal should be to minimise net coercion at an aggregate level, subject to some side constraints on the level and kind of coercion that may be applied in any particular circumstance. In the current case I do not think that statute is required. Yes, those who enjoy other’s IP without paying for it are immoral. No, they should not be punished. In due course a solution to the current dilemma will be found.

    The libertarian case, at least as I understand it, is not based on the concept of property rights. Rather, property rights are an outcome of an absence of coercion (e.g. the government taking your land under imminent domain) and convention (i.e. possession).

  • Rob

    I don’t think it is a forgone conclusion that a lack of IP reduces innovation. In fact most objective evidence I’ve seen (mostly through Kinsella) suggests the opposite, with the market increasing the speed of obsolescence through innovation from competitors.

    Also when talking about a decrease in economic growth as a result of no IP rights I think we assume a lot. Just because someone had an idea about how to make something doesn’t make them the best person to make it. Simply in terms of the efficient allcoation of capital/resources it makes no sense to grant a monopoly of production to one producer who is then excused the pressure of efficiency and innovation that competition brings – this will hold back the division of labour/efficiency and therfore growth. There are also lots of Govt. related reasons that it costs too much money to bring a drug to market – I do think that plenty of terminally ill patients would volunteer to test drugs too, although at present that would be illegal.

    On the topic of competitions I think Architects are a good example of how this works in practice. Often there is a competition to design a building and the winner is only given a small financial prize – the real prize is the status of designing a famous building. I don’t know of any architects patenting their buildings. What would happen if someone pattented the concept of a two up two down house? The way freelancing is going on the web, people are going to be paid more and more for their talent rather than for each individual item. Prodcucers will pay talent to use their creativity and then make what the talent has produced.

    IP is clearly a utilitarian rather than a libertarian principle – and, I think, that is best demonstrated by the fact that the rights are time limited.

    Overall I think the utilitarian principles are negligible at best but like Peter think the principle of freedom more important than pecuniary advantage.

  • It is a utilitarian principle in the sense of being ends-motivated, but then so are all rights, ultimately. The justification for IP is sound; it recognises that ideas are capital costs with negligible production costs, so it attempts to ensure remuneration for capital investment in ideas and created works. It is trivially cheap to reproduce a novel, especially in the digital realm, but expensive in capital costs to write one. So IP tries to ensure that profits made from that capital cost go to the investor.

    Without IP, there is no economic incentive to make the capital investment. It is hard to see a practical advantage to that.

  • Rob

    As an aside I remember reading about a printer that could print out 3D objects (can’t remember where I saw this).

    The inference was that in time your printer would be able to print out a mobile phone or ipad type object. I suppose one day it might be able to print out a better 3D printer too!

    These kinds of innovations will being IP into sharp focus and will exponentially increase freelance creative opportunities. Also if everyone can make almost anything with their own property – how on earth would you police IP breaches?

    Apologies in advance for futuristic day dreaming.

  • ManikMonkee

    I have no evidence myself but strongly suspect that pharmaceutical research and development is far from a free market of independent companies struggling to research and develop new drugs. If it’s like any of the research areas I’ve been exposed to (notably aerospace) it probably involves huge amounts of corporatism in the form of research grants etc.
    If it were true that tax payers funded significant amounts of the research it seems illogical that they are then asked to pay higher monopoly prices based on the assumption of a non-existent free market.

  • Robbo

    Of course, we were in a non-IP world until quite recently, and it seems to me we are heading back that way.
    Pre-IP composers made their living from a combination of patronage, performance, concert promotion, publishing and teaching. Older works were an indirect source of income, marketing devices really. I’m not sure this is a bad world, for example, I wonder if Sibelius would have produced more masterpieces if he had not had pension plus royalties to live off.

    A whole raft of waste and rent-seeking has grown up around IP, which very much inhibits small players and prevents them from becoming big players.

    The usual line is that innovators won’t innovate in the absence of IP rights. I don’t buy this, I think innovators innovate because that’s what they do (cf Genrich Altschuller).

    If you want to take a balanced view, you have to weigh increased ease of innovation in the non-IP world against lower profits to the innovator (and investors / employers). My expectation would be that we would see a great deal of innovation, much of it quickly superseded, and fewer massive windfalls. Also, thousands of patent lawyers would have to find useful work. Overall I see the aggregate consumer surplus increasing, which from a utilitarian pov is good.

  • Brad

    First, I was once a rabid defender of IP, viewing mental labor as worthy of Forceful protection as physical labor over the material world. I since have changed in that mankind’s satisfaction is based in as much abundance as possible, and using Force to support IP merely creates a false scarcity. Physical scarcity is bad enough, we don’t need to create artificial scarcity of man’s ingenuity and mental activity.

    Those who follow Mises believe that the creative spark of mankind does not need State Force behind it to exist, and in fact on a net basis, there is a loss (that each use of Force results in an economic misallocation) and therefore the answer is that we would have just as a robust a culture and economy, if not more so.

    So the choice seems to be between a world of Force and fear, that at best would be just as good as a world of free will, and it is possible, if not likely, that the latter will be superior. It has been only through technological growth that man has been freed from the burden of excess humanity that needs to be controlled and enslaved. The State always serves its own ends, and its desire to control human ingenuity, whatever flowery pretense it uses, isn’t in our (the consummer’s) best interest.

    To my mind most arguments working backward that without State Force we would not have X is tantamount to saying it’s a good thing God gave us ears or else our glasses would fall off. While there could be a perceived loss on the one hand, there is an oversight of what could or would be in its place if the environment were different. In short, one only need imagine a world without Forceful boundaries to protect intangibles as being superior.

    State Force, if it is to exist, should be used defensively. Defense of physical property from clear and present danger is fairly easy to see. Protecting IP is blurry at best, and it’s “defense” ends up being more offensive than otherwise, justified typically for utilitarian (if not fascistic) reasons, and just like all poorly hinged State functions, is unequally applied. The root of tyranny is unequal protection under the law and right now IP is a mess of abuse controlled by rent seekers versus a defense of brilliant minds.

    I can see both sides – that without IP those who devise a better mouse trap will be ground under Amalgamated Mousetrap International, Inc -but the opposite is also true, in that AMI, Inc. can take possession one way or another even WITH IP and because OF IP, and that the inventor might get marginally compensated for his efforts. But it is the CONSUMMER that should control, and IP, again, simply creates false scarcity. Scarcity ultimately is a bane to the consummer class, and nothing should stand in the way of abundance. Technology within a free market creates the most abundance with the lest necessary Force.

    I suppose each cited example (drugs, concealment, etc) was meant to be dealt with individually as far as a useful response. But it really can’t. All specific examples tend to meld together due to the complexity of human action. For example, the extra time of concealment equals the amount of time spent by firms protecting their IP to the satisfaction of the Power Brokers who would be called upon to use Force upon impingers. By and large, the State (at least in the US) only will step in if the “wronged” party has displayed efforts to actively protect their IP (i.e. show that it wasn’t intended to slide into the public domain). I have worked for companies that had copious IP assets, and the efforts put forth to establish a positive effort of protection is not minimal and are serpentine to put it mildly. That is another attack one can make in my mind – the more Bureacracy it takes to make an asset and asset the less likely it is to be worthy of protection at least from the consummer’s point of view.

    In a nutshell, a pure free market is a consummer driven mechanism, not a producer driven mechanism. To assume that the consummer is too ignorant to know what is good for them, and that State protection of IP is necessary, behind the scenes, for their own good falls into exactly the same category of any State interference that does not protect life and (physical) property. Physical property is defended because it cannot be duplicated. Mental “property” can be replicated off into infinity, creating abundance.

  • William H Stoddard

    If we are going to talk about eliminating state-created property rights, why stop at IP? It’s quite evident that property in land is also state-created. In fact, the state has been keeping records of who owned what land, and settling disputes over it, pretty much as long as there have been states; copyright and patents have only been important state functions for a small fraction of that time. Should we talk about how we would resolve such disputes without the state being involved, or about how the economy would function if no one had secure exclusionary rights over any land?

  • Robbo

    “It’s quite evident that property in land is also state-created.”

    Err, no. there have been property rights before and outside states. Sometimes states accept and formalise those customary rights, sometimes they usurp them.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Robbo, exactly right. And that is essentially one of the few benefits of a government: clarifying property rights where previously there was no such clarity. De Soto’s book, The Mystery of Capital, is great reading on this sort of point.

    Of course, a certain type of legal positivist likes to claim that as all laws are man-made, and property rights are enforced by governments, property rights to land or whatever else are just “pieces of paper”: which presumably means that they can be taken away, as well. How conveeeeenient.

  • William H Stoddard

    Jonathan: What is a “right” that is not “clarified”? If it’s not clear to everyone that I own something, and that there is a method for verifying that I own in—if ownership is vague and ill-defined and subject to conflicting interpretations—then saying I have a “right” of any kind is at best a moralistic expression of hope; what I actually have is a conflict that there is no way to resolve. Even a fairly bad state can have some beneficial effects if it sets up procedures to spare ordinary people such conflicts in the daily business of life. This is exactly what De Soto is talking about.

  • The only sort of (geographic) property rights you have outside a formalised coercive system are “rights” declared by winners of wars. You claim some land, if somebody else decides they want it, you fight and the winner gets it. That’s all there is, I’m afraid.

    A “right” only comes into existence when a community subdivides land according to some hegemonic ruleset. Such rules are indeed “man made”.

    As I said in another post, you can turn over every stone on earth and you won’t find any natural rights nestling under any one of them. Rights are just universalised rules within societies, that is all. You can only claim property rights existent outside of “states” by using narrow westernised definitions of state and governance, A tribal society for instance may not have institutions like a parliament and western style courts, but it has the key element of governance; hegemonic rulesets and collective coercion. Anywhere you can find something recongisable as a property right, you will find the threat of mob violence underwriting it.

  • Dale Amon

    Land offices in the pre-State western territories of the US were private registries.

    The collapse in IP is an artifact of the changes going on about us with ubiquitous communications and computing.

    Every bit of the software I am using right now was generated IP-free (General Public License, BSD License, Creative Commons License, Perl Artistic License).

    The Rep-Rap replicator project is coming along nicely and is gradually moving the boundaries of ‘things’ across the line ‘software’. Your knives, forks and other small useful objects may soon be downloaded from an Open Source Designers site and printed on demand.

    Artists are already moving with the times. The value in art is the performance and the artist. Would you pay more to see Paul McCartney singing his songs or your local bar band doing them? Would you buy a signed CD or just download the music or both? Are you more likely to invite someone to attend a concert of your favorite band or invite them home alone to watch it on 3D? Do you prefer being a hermit or do you like the chaos of crowds and shared experience?

    Advanced science is mostly done in research institutes; with vast computing resources much of the theoretical work can now happen in virtual institutes. Support can (and in the case of open source does) come from profit making corporations as well as other donors.

    Experimental science still requires expensive equipment, but that can happen in universities and institutes paid for by industry consortiums and charities. A lot of it does already. Astronomy has long been this way… why do you thing the Keck Telescope is called the Keck Telescope? Or in SETI, why the Allen Array?

    I suspect in this brave new world of massive networking of ever increasing density and computing power, we will do just fine in following out lines of inquiry that are profitable or that are just plain interesting to enough folk.

  • The value in art is the performance and the artist.

    Really? The value in a Shakespeare play isn’t in the finely crafted poetry and the plot, and the experience of the story? It’s in Shakespeare himself? What are novelists supposed to do? Sit in an auditorium typing?

    This is nonsense. The value, or lack thereof, of art is in the art. People become “fans” of artists because what the artist produces- the art itself- has value. People are fans of Shakespeare only in the sense of what Shakespeare created. If he’d been a bricklayer, nobody would be a Shakespeare fan.

    Think of a rocket ship designer. His value is in the designs of the rocket ships; whether they are good rocket ship designs. Not in the designer. To suggest the value resides in the designer himself sounds ludicrous, because it is. But by your reasoning, he should give away his designs for free, and have people pay to watch him work, or sell signed copies of the blueprints, or something.

    This is classic “I don’t want to pay, somebody else should pay” internet cybercommie thinking. The brave new world where everything is “free” meaning subsidised by somebody else. It’s the people who demand that everything be advertising supported, and run adblock in their Firefoxes.

    Do I want to watch Paul McCartney live? No. I want to listen to the Beatles at the height of their powers, when they were recording as young men. How do I do that when there is no incentive for anyone to record anything, because there is “no value” in the recordings?

    The value is in the art itself. It’s barmy to claim otherwise. The question is how to ensure that those who receive the value pay for the value, in a world full of thieves.

  • what happens if state-created IP rights no longer existed?

    We would have more liberty and for me, that should be all that matters. However, for the sake of debate…

    So we might have fewer drugs being sold and developed from what would otherwise be the case. We cannot measure this shortfall, but it seems a fairly reasonable guess that such inventions might decline.

    I think we can fairly safely say that whatever drugs there are, they will be cheaper. The consequence in terms of production is a more complex one. You might have a reduction in completely new compounds, but an increase in improvements to existing compounds by people with an increased freedom to tinker. In any case, given the amount of money donated to, for example, cancer research charities, there are clearly other revenue streams available to fund research.

    Contracts. Some firms, fearing that staff might defect and take blueprints of ideas to competitors, might insist on non-disclosure rules on staff in the event that they leave.

    That happens anyway.

    Secrecy and concealment. Some firms, such as makers of radical new inventions, would go to far greater lengths to build them in such a way that the design was concealed … Such efforts are a cost; again, is this a cost that outweighs the alleged negatives of IP?

    A utilitarian might say otherwise, but for me as a libertarian, the cost is far outweighed by the cost of the “IP”, which is my liberty. As an aside, this is another example to consider when you’re looking for ways that people could make money from ideas – obfuscation of the idea.

    And as a matter of practical reality, we might see some individuals get so enraged at having their ideas copied that this could get quite nasty.

    Then they should face whatever consequences are typically faced by violent criminals.

    No-one likes the plagiarist, and opponents of IP need to accept that such conflicts might arise.

    The plagiarist is a common straw man offered up when people talk about copyright. Plagiarism is fraud and is a completely separate issue.

  • Current

    Do we have to use the word “Libertarian” and “Utilitarian” in opposition to each other?

    I’m a Utilitarian and I also agree with a lot of what is said around here. I would have described myself as a “Libertarian” until all the other Libertarians became natural-law advocates as they seem to have done recently.

  • Ian B:

    Do I want to watch Paul McCartney live? No. I want to listen to the Beatles at the height of their powers, when they were recording as young men.

    I want lots of things too, but I don’t expect the state to provide them for me.

    How do I do that when there is no incentive for anyone to record anything, because there is “no value” in the recordings?

    Maybe those records would have been made in order to promote live performance. Or maybe, in the absence of the state giving handouts, the people who wanted those recordings would have actually paid for them to be made.

    The question is how to ensure that those who receive the value pay for the value, in a world full of thieves.

    It might be for you as a utilitarian, seeking state intervention to deliver what you personally value. For me as a libertarian, I want liberty and then, if I want a good or service, it’s up to me to go out and find some way of obtaining it in a free market.

    Once again, it is ironic that in making the statement, you effectively, by your own definition, steal the English Language and render yourself a thief.

  • Paul, the State doesn’t provide IP. It provides the legal framework, as with all other rights, as already discussed ad nauseam. It is entirely conceivable under an anarchist system for the private sector to do the same thing (if an AnCap system is metastable, which I doubt, but that is another issue).

    The State isn’t “providing” the created works. It is just standing gurantor of the rights system. Same as all other rights.

  • Ian B:

    It is entirely conceivable under an anarchist system for the private sector to do the same thing

    Only if the private sector were able to establish coercive monopolies, but if they were, that would render the society completely illiberal.

  • Anarcho capitalism is predicated on the private sector’s ability to develop coercive agencies to enforce the law. It would be completely illiberal, which is why I oppose that system. But that’s not the point. The point is that IP is one of a number of property rights provided by whatever legalistic system a community develops, which is usual “State” but could theoretically at least be “Private Sector”.

    They would for instance similarly enforce what Georgists call “land monopolies”.

  • Sunfish

    You might have a reduction in completely new compounds, but an increase in improvements to existing compounds by people with an increased freedom to tinker. In any case, given the amount of money donated to, for example, cancer research charities, there are clearly other revenue streams available to fund research.

    ..which pale in comparison to what Pfizer can afford because they can turn a profit on what they’ve already sold. What, say, Komen or the Avon Foundation bring in compared to the cost of developing and testing compared to what Chiron or Bayer has to spend, is pocket change.

    Or do you think Bayer would have developed DTIC just to celebrate their “increased freedom to tinker?”

    I’m just curious as to your thought process, because up until now, your entire grasp of property rights has consisted of “I want what I want and telling me I can’t lay my mitts on other people’s stuff infringes my liberty.”

    I’d hate to think that you’re just trying to rationalize that, again, in yet another thread.

  • Ian F4

    I honestly don’t see the point in IP, you can check out the open source software concept to see it isn’t needed for innovation. Without IP, people will merely shift their capital from ownership of ideas to servicing those ideas, and, of course, the innovator will be first to market and enjoy the “originator” badge.

    IP just creates monopolies on ideas, and a ridiculous secondary market in them, and benefits corporations far more than individuals.

  • Software is a dangerous example. A large driver of the “free” software movement is a curious anti-corporatist ideology; hence the development of Firefox “just to beat evil Microsoft”. Without that anti-corporatist hysteria- a fascination of the middle class nerdy intellectuals who tend to cluster in computing there would be little economic rationale for it.

    In other cases, it is more “community software” in that the writers are people who will use it, so they are doing a kind of “build a barn” effect. Which is why there’s a top quality operating system available, but all they can offer for graphics is the Gimp, which doesn’t approach commercial Photoshop in quality. Not least because very few of the people with the skills to write it are also people with a deep knowledge of creative requirements. Because they’re software type dudes.

    It is curious that if this model is a good one for the economy, why we don’t switch to it in non-digital domains. Shopworkers and doctors and fishermen could volunteer their time, and get paid via… well, I dunno, something or other, paypal tip jars or advertising maybe. It doesn’t sound very sustainable in the rest of the economy. Why does it magically work for digital stuff?

  • Tedd

    A “right” only comes into existence when a community subdivides land according to some hegemonic ruleset. Such rules are indeed “man made”.

    Perhaps the question of which comes first (rights or rules) is a chicken-and-egg paradox, but I don’t think so. The hegemonic rule set has to be based on something, and that something is the right. The hegemonic rule set could just as easily be something arbitrary and capricious as something just. To make it just you first need the right.

    It’s a fair, utilitarian argument that rights are pointless without rules to back them up. But it’s equally true that the rule set is meaningless (i.e., unjust) if it’s not based on on rights. (Or liberties, which I think is a better term).

  • Sunfish:

    I’m just curious as to your thought process, because up until now, your entire grasp of property rights has consisted of “I want what I want and telling me I can’t lay my mitts on other people’s stuff infringes my liberty.”

    I’d hate to think that you’re just trying to rationalize that, again, in yet another thread.

    What a pathetic comment.

  • Ian B:

    The point is that IP is one of a number of property rights provided by whatever legalistic system a community develops

    So is slavery. Saying that somebody somewhere has made something subject to a property right doesn’t really tell you very much.

    It is curious that if this model is a good one for the economy, why we don’t switch to it in non-digital domains. Shopworkers and doctors and fishermen could volunteer their time, and get paid via… well, I dunno, something or other, paypal tip jars or advertising maybe. It doesn’t sound very sustainable in the rest of the economy. Why does it magically work for digital stuff?

    The reason is that you’ve confused two completely separate concepts – the right to ownership of non-rivalrous intangibles and the freedom to seek payment for work.

  • So is slavery. Saying that somebody somewhere has made something subject to a property right doesn’t really tell you very much.

    Indeed it doesn’t. As I keep saying, these things are arbitrary. All property rights are arbitrary. But we know that communist systems without personal property rights neither work well nor seem to achieve either utility or liberty (if these things are different in this context). And having said that, we are left with the mystery of why communist intellictual property would work when it does not work for other property.

    We know the problem; under a communist system (to avoid the perjorative nature of Marxism, think Winstanley’s Christian communism or that tried by the Pilgrim Fathers) there is no incentive to produce, and general disgruntlement. Unless one can show that these emotions wouldn’t afflict communised IP creators, we must presume that they would. They boil down to “I am not rewarded commensurately with the qauntity I produce” and “people are getting stuff I produced for free, and not mutually contributing”. These are fundamental problems with communalised systems.

    What frees us from “the disgruntlement of the producer” once you’ve abolished IP? Please don’t shrug and say, “that’s their problem”, because it becomes everybody’s problem: disgruntled producers do not produce.

  • we are left with the mystery of why communist intellictual property would work when it does not work for other property.

    You really don’t help your argument by using these silly pejorative terms. I suppose at some point someone will describe me as an air communist because I don’t believe the air should be the property of somebody who is then able to charge me to breathe.

    In any case it depends what you mean by “work”. You seem to think that the purpose of property rights is purely to act as an incentive to production and should be pursued up to and beyond the point that it destroys liberty. As a libertarian, I disagree. I see property rights as as a reasonable system of dispute resolution with regards to rivalrous resources, which is why with that set of resources it “works,” but with non-rivalrous items, it doesn’t.

    We know the problem; under a communist system there is no incentive to produce, and general disgruntlement.

    Maybe, but we aren’t discussing a communist system, we’re discussing a free market system, so your comment is irrelevant.

    They boil down to “I am not rewarded commensurately with the qauntity I produce” and “people are getting stuff I produced for free, and not mutually contributing”. These are fundamental problems with communalised systems.

    What frees us from “the disgruntlement of the producer” once you’ve abolished IP?

    Well, according to you, they wouldn’t produce, so nobody else would be able to get anything for free from them. Sorry Ian, you can’t have it both ways.

  • “Communist” is a perfectly reasonable term; as I made pains to point out, it is historically applied to Winstanley, or the Pilgrims. It is characterised by an absence of individual property. It just means, “in common”.

    Please answer the question. Why will it work for IP when it does not work for anything else?

    As to your last sentence, that is the point. Once there is no incentive to produce, nobody produces and nobody gets anything. I don’t know whether having no choice due to lack of anything to choose is more or less liberty in your philosophy. But it is why the Pilgrims switched, famously, from a Christian Communist to a Christian Propertarian system.

  • “Communist” is a perfectly reasonable term

    When applied correctly. You haven’t applied it correctly. You’ve used it as a pejorative term, just as when somebody use the terms Nazi and Fascist as a vague insult.

    Please answer the question. Why will it work for IP when it does not work for anything else?

    I did answer the question, but it appears you didn’t read it. I’ll copy and paste my answer:

    it depends what you mean by “work”. You seem to think that the purpose of property rights is purely to act as an incentive to production and should be pursued up to and beyond the point that it destroys liberty. As a libertarian, I disagree. I see property rights as as a reasonable system of dispute resolution with regards to rivalrous resources, which is why with that set of resources it “works,” but with non-rivalrous items, it doesn’t.

    Once there is no incentive to produce, nobody produces and nobody gets anything.

    The one thing you’ve failed to show is that without state granted monopolies, there can be no incentive to produce, so even with your brute utilitarian approach, there’s a significant gap in what you’re claiming. I happen to believe that free markets do deliver incentives.

    I don’t know whether having no choice due to lack of anything to choose is more or less liberty in your philosophy.

    It’s neither, it’s just a straw man.

  • Paul, you have not answered the question, and quoting yourself as an authority doesn’t make that so.

    How does a producer receive value from consumers when they are required to give their produce away for free, since they have no property rights?

    This is the very core of the “producer end” problem of communism. One day you’re going to have to answer it.

    You cannot have a free market in unowned goods.

  • Ian:

    Paul, you have not answered the question

    A direct response in plain English is an answer in my book. Your issue appears to be that I don’t accept the premises of your brute utilitarian approach to property rights and therefore do not view “work” the same way as you.

    How does a producer receive value from consumers when they are required to give their produce away for free, since they have no property rights?

    That is one of the most bizarre comments I have read in a long time. The idea that somebody would be required to give their produce away free is absurd. Nobody is required to produce and if they do, they are free to keep the product to themselves and only supply it on terms to their liking. I suppose you think that, because hairdressers have no property rights in haircuts, they are all forced to work for free.

    This is the very core of the “producer end” problem of communism. One day you’re going to have to answer it.

    Already have.

    You cannot have a free market in unowned goods.

    You can’t, but nobody has suggested a situation in which goods would be unowned, so that comment is irrelevant here.

  • Tedd

    Without that anti-corporatist hysteria- a fascination of the middle class nerdy intellectuals who tend to cluster in computing there would be little economic rationale for it.

    That doesn’t square with my (near-twenty-year) experience in the high-tech sector. The most ardent supporters of open source I know are also the most ardent supporters of free markets, and are only anti-corporate to the extent that they’re anti-cronyist. If anything, the nerds I know are less anti-corporate than almost any professional or trade category I can think of.

    Not only that, but IBM, that former bête noire of the early anti-corporate movement, has now built their business plan largely around open source. Maybe you know more about the economic rationale of it than they do, but you’ll forgive me if I require some convincing on that point.

  • Nobody is required to produce and if they do, they are free to keep the product to themselves and only supply it on terms to their liking.

    They can’t do that Paul. You’ve abolished their ownership. They cannot “supply” something they do not own any more than a man can fence off part of the Common and sell it.

    You can’t, but nobody has suggested a situation in which goods would be unowned, so that comment is irrelevant here.

    That is precisely the situation you are advocating Paul!

  • Ian:

    They can’t do that Paul. You’ve abolished their ownership. They cannot “supply” something they do not own any more than a man can fence off part of the Common and sell it.

    Did you not understand my hairdresser example? From the last few comments you’ve made, it seems you just haven’t been reading the counter-examples I’ve been putting forward.

    Of course they can supply something – their labour, or the tangible goods which have had their labour applied to them.

    That is precisely the situation you are advocating Paul!

    Wrong, for reasons that should be obvious.

  • How does a movie maker sell his “labour” or his “tangible goods” Paul? His output is the movie, which is trivial to reproduce. How does a novelist sell her “labour” or her “tangible goods” Paul? Her output is just words, which are trivial to reproduce.

    We are discussing the abolition of their property rights in the type of property they currently sell. You seem to be admitting without explicitly stating it that you are happy to see the end of movies and novels in your search for a strange kind of “liberty”. Is that your position Paul?

  • Lee

    Paul, I have been following this discussion and am currently finding myself more in agreement with Ian B. But perhaps you could help to clarify your position with reference to a specific example.

    For example, lets say I spend £1,000,000 producing a movie. I’m hoping to recoup my investment and hopefully make a profit. I decide to sell the DVDs of my movie for £10 each. You purchase the DVD for £10, make thousands of copies and sell them for £2 each.

    Now, in order to recoup my initial investment, I can not afford to sell for any less than £10 per DVD. However, the only costs you incur are the cost of the blank DVDs. I cannot hope to compete with you within a ‘free’, non-IP market.

    Therefore, what is my incentive to invest my £1,000,000 to produce that movie, if someone else can simply duplicate my work and sell it on at a cheaper price?

    I am genuinely interested in how such a situation could be resolved fairly and equitably.

  • How does a movie maker sell his “labour” or his “tangible goods” Paul? His output is the movie, which is trivial to reproduce. How does a novelist sell her “labour” or her “tangible goods” Paul? Her output is just words, which are trivial to reproduce.

    They would do what any prospective seller in a free market would do, they would experiment with different business models in an attempt to find one that works for them.

    I don’t share your belief that optimum business models have to be centrally determined by the state, so it isn’t for me to second guess what those business models might be. I suspect contingency markets would be one approach attempted, as would simply taking whatever profit there is in being first to market.

    You seem to be admitting without explicitly stating it that you are happy to see the end of movies and novels in your search for a strange kind of “liberty”. Is that your position Paul?

    Of course not, it’s just another of your straw men. In an attempt to justify ongoing rent-seeking, you are completely dismissing the ability of the free market to deliver the goods and services that people want.

    If people want something, then in a free market it will be delivered and if they don’t, it won’t.

  • Lee, the simple answer is, I don’t care. Your potential market is your concern.

    There are lots of people out there, wanting to do all kinds of things to make money. If you can find a way to do something you want and make money, good for you. If not, then I’m not going to lose any sleep over it, any more than any of the other businesses out there and I’m certainly not going to act as a repository for business advice for everybody with an idea they want to monetise.

    One potential approach I mentioned was a contingency market. I’m sure there are countless others, but it’s not something I’m going to worry about too much.

  • Paul, the State does not “determine… the optimum business model” in IP any more than in any other property. It merely provides a rights framework, as in any other property. Market participants are free to use whatever business model they like- rental, sale, patronage, third party support, merchandise support, contingency markets (which have no appreciable track record of success).

    Your approach will reduce the business models available. Your allegation that IP is State control of the market is simply wrong. It is simply State provision of the rights framework, as with other property. If you abolished land property, sale and rental would become impossible. That does not mean that the State “determines the business model” in land.

  • Ian:

    Paul, the State does not “determine… the optimum business model” in IP any more than in any other property.

    Yet when I suggest a different property rights framework, you expect me to specify which business models producers should use. It’s ridiculous.

    Your allegation that IP is State control of the market is simply wrong.

    Yet another straw man.

  • Lee

    Paul,

    Why can someone own the product of their physical labour, but not of their intellectual labour? What is the fundamental difference?

    Whilst I understand the point you were making in your response, I think you tacitly conceded that there is very little likelihood of making profit from ‘intangible’ goods such as movies or novels. Such things would wither and disappear, not through a lack of demand, but a lack of capital investment. They simply wouldn’t be economically viable – in the same way a farm wouldn’t be if someone could simply walk up and take your produce whenever they desired… which is why we have land-property laws.

    I’m having difficulty distinguishing between the two?

  • Frederick Davies

    First, it is not true that IP is necessary (or even good) for innovation: “Against intellectual monopoly” by Michele Boldrin and David Levine give many examples of industries where vigorous innovation existed during periods of lacking (or badly policed) IP regimes. Remember, the software industry was born BEFORE software patents were enforceable.
    Second, IP is too general a concept: if you separate it into Patents (inventions) and Copyright (music, art, books), you can see that while patents have an obvious use if implemented in a restricted manner, copyright is just the granting of monopolies to people who would likely develop the same works for smaller incentives. Mozart and other famous composers lived hand-to-mouth for decades without that stopping them; the fear that Mariah Carey would stop singing if not treated like royalty is probably overstated.
    Third, even in the case of patents, first-mover advantage is more than enough to compensate for most research expenditure.
    Fourth, people often forget that companies pay their research staff to develop technologies they can turn into products they can sell, not just for the sake of having the knowledge. Moving the competition from trying to be the first discoverer, to trying to be the cheapest producer isn’t going to change the fact that you need to build something you can sell. If obtaining monopolies (patents and copyright) do not drive innovation, competition will instead.

  • Pechorin

    Lee beat me to making a point. “As a libertarian” I see property rights not as a means for dispute resolution but as an extension and expression of an individual’s self-ownership and free will. The fact that IP is “non-rivalrous” (in the physical sense only) and “intangible” is (pardon the pun) immaterial. IP would still be covered by the Lockean means of property creation– it is the valuable fruit of one’s labor.

    In the topic of the consequences of a non-IP world:

    DNA sequences are non-rivalrous. Would anyone here not perceive a violation of (self-)ownership if a stranger walked up, scanned you, then exploited your unique DNA pattern? Perhaps by selling your superior form of antibodies; or more fantastically, imagine yourself a professional sports player, and then a rival team decides to make numerous copies of you and adds them to its lineup? (my support of IP in one’s own genetic code is inspired by Moore v. Regents of the University of California)

    (yay for my first post after years of enjoyable lurking)

  • Johnathan Pearce

    I think I can see a consistent pattern: IanB asks Paul Lockett as to how in hell are folk expected to earn a living without IP, and PL shrugs his shoulders, and mentions something about “contingency”, or whatever, and then says, “I don’t care”, or when asked a direct question, snorts that “my point stands” or something or other. It is almost on the verge of trolling.

    It is no wonder that some pro-IP folk go nuts at this point. That is why I said in my actual post that the demise of IP might not lead to the sort of happy free-for-all that opponents of IP imagine, but some pretty unpleasant situations as people try and scramble for a living. Of course it may well be true that a lot of good stuff still gets done, and Frederick Davies and Dale Amon have suggested on this board about how that might happen. But still, I think opponents of IP all too often come across as saying something like “Nice piece of work you have produced, mate, pity if someone were to come along and take it…..”

  • Robbo

    One undesirable efect of copyright is that there is a great deal of very good written material which is out of print but in copyright, in effect locked away from all but the most enthusiastic seeker. In no-copyright world, all this long tail would be readily available.

    Another tenable position from a utilitarian point of view would be ten-year only copyright. In deciding whether to invest time an effort into a project, you know it is vey unlikely to be bringing in anything after 20 or 30 years, and even so the net present value of earnings so far out is very small, so your decision will be based on a c 10 years timeframe. But the ‘long tail’ would be freed.

  • Jonathan, you miss the fundamental point that Ian is approaching the situation from a utilitarian perspective, whereas I am approaching if from a libertarian, perspective, so his questions may be of relevance to his position, but they have no bearing on mine, just as, if I was presenting an argument against slavery, I wouldn’t view it as necessary to spell out a way that slave holders would be able to maintain their revenue stream.

  • Robbo

    “Why can someone own the product of their physical labour, but not of their intellectual labour? What is the fundamental difference?”

    With regard to Copyright, I believe there is nothing wrong with selling your book, cd etc with a restrictive contract that means the purchaser can’t resell or sell a copy. Trouble is for mass-market items, many purchasers won’t abide by that contract, and enforcement by criminal sanctions, penalties dispoportionate to the loss caused etc are widely regarded as unacceptable. So although you can have ownership, you can enforce that ownership less than 100 %, and you will supplement your income other ways – perform, teach, promote, patronage etc – actually most musicians and writers today have day jobs.

    When it comes to patents, you generally can’t exploit an invention fully without revealing it to other people. Sometimes this is controllable by NDA, often not. To me that is just a fact of life, not a problem to be resolved by legislation.

    What patent legislation has done is to inhibit invention:
    – You cannot ‘stand on the shoulders of giants’ without paying their fee
    – You can make your own discovery and be prevented from exploiting it because it is covered by someone else’s prior patent
    – You can turn your innovation into a product, see a rival ignore the patent and challenge you “If you take me to court you will be bled dry before I am”.
    – You can be hit by a pure troll “It doesn’t matter if my claim is valid, it will be cheaper and quicker to give me money to drop the case than to win it in court”

    In the no-patent world an inventor will have to partner with a fulfillment person / organisation ith the skills to turn invention into product. There will be window before the competition catches on and catches up. During that window there is the chance to make high profits and build reputation.

    Bottom line, if you take a utilitarian perspective, the goal should be the aggregate consumer surplus. Current copyright advantages the producer against the consumer, depressing the consumer surplus. In the ‘producers strike’ dystopia there will be no production, no consumption and no consumer surplus. Personally I think with no-copyright there will be more production generally, but fewer huge windfalls and less return to producers generally, therefore a higher consumer surplus.

  • Rob

    I think, as JP alluded to in the initial post, IP is just another legal construct (like limited liability) to protect corporate/business interests. As has been stated it is a recent invention and had not been considered a natural right.

    Novels have now been written online to generate sales, depite the content being free to all. Clever bloggers are able to monetise their sites so while their content is free and would surpass to total work involved in a novel, they create an income.

    BTW Ian B, I don’t know if you watch much Shakespeare but the value is definately in the performance. However, if an actor was to put a certain twist on a character should other actors be prevented from copying and profiting from his ideas or intellectual property?

    There is no right to an income for what you produce. It is up to the individual or the market to decide whether they want to buy your product and at what price. The monopolies created by IP distort the market to such an extent that all songs are now apparently worth the same amount (see itunes). If you write a good novel people will buy a copy. If you offer your first novel free and it becomes a viral hit then you can pre-sell your next one before release to your fans.

    In fact abolishing IP is putting the value in the creator rather than in the object. This is a good thing for the creator but bad for big organised sellers who have little creativity.

    Captialism dismantles business/industrial systems that seem to be the natural order of things through its constant evolution and tecnological advances. IP will be destroyed in the next 20 years whether you like it or not.

  • Rob

    I think, as JP alluded to in the initial post, IP is just another legal construct (like limited liability) to protect corporate/business interests. As has been stated it is a recent invention and had not been considered a natural right.

    Novels have now been written online to generate sales, depite the content being free to all. Clever bloggers are able to monetise their sites so while their content is free and would surpass to total work involved in a novel, they create an income.

    BTW Ian B, I don’t know if you watch much Shakespeare but the value is definately in the performance. However, if an actor was to put a certain twist on a character should other actors be prevented from copying and profiting from his ideas or intellectual property?

    There is no right to an income for what you produce. It is up to the individual or the market to decide whether they want to buy your product and at what price. The monopolies created by IP distort the market to such an extent that all songs are now apparently worth the same amount (see itunes). If you write a good novel people will buy a copy. If you offer your first novel free and it becomes a viral hit then you can pre-sell your next one before release to your fans.

    In fact abolishing IP is putting the value in the creator rather than in the object. This is a good thing for the creator but bad for big organised sellers who have little creativity.

    Captialism dismantles business/industrial systems that seem to be the natural order of things through its constant evolution and tecnological advances. IP will be destroyed in the next 20 years whether you like it or not.

  • Rob

    Robbo’s point about building reputation is a good one.

    If you look at the smart phone and tablet market now there is blatant reverse engineering going on and then re-doing the same things slightly differently to avoid the patent issues. So in this regard these markets are effectively working without IP.

    Interestingly, the lack of IP protection in these markets is actually driving innovation faster. The reason “apple” are so effective is because they are ahead in terms of technology and have built a reputation for great products. In fact the existing IP protection is one of the factors slowing innovation as companies look for ways around it, while still creating a product that people want to buy.

    Don’t know what happened with the double post – can someone delete one?

  • Frederick Davies

    Dear Mr Pearce,

    I think I can see a consistent pattern: IanB asks Paul Lockett as to how in hell are folk expected to earn a living without IP, and PL shrugs his shoulders, and mentions something about “contingency”, or whatever, and then says, “I don’t care”, or when asked a direct question, snorts that “my point stands” or something or other. It is almost on the verge of trolling. It is no wonder that some pro-IP folk go nuts at this point.

    That is because most pro-IP folk, like all libertarians, are a bunch of rationalists. You believe that finding a rational answer to your questions makes it likely that the World will see it that way. Conversely (but illogically), you believe that if there is no rational argument against your ideas, then they must be true; hence you “go nuts” when people keep opposing you and ignore your (rationalistic) arguments. In this you are like the Socialists; and you are as wrong as they are.

    That is why I said in my actual post that the demise of IP might not lead to the sort of happy free-for-all that opponents of IP imagine, but some pretty unpleasant situations as people try and scramble for a living. Of course it may well be true that a lot of good stuff still gets done, and Frederick Davies and Dale Amon have suggested on this board about how that might happen. But still, I think opponents of IP all too often come across as saying something like “Nice piece of work you have produced, mate, pity if someone were to come along and take it…..”

    The fact is that whether IP is necessary or even good for innovation, and whether “pretty unpleasant situations” will develop or not, is an EMPIRICAL question, NOT a rational one. I gave the example of the book “Against intellectual monopoly” in my first post because it is a book in which the authors have done the legwork, and looked for (and found!) examples of industries in multiple times and places where the lack of IP did not hinder progress, and others where the existence of IP did actually stop it. Whether you can find a rationalisation for these facts (and I could come up with a few!) is IRRELEVANT to the fact that they happened. For empiricists, facts trump reason; they cannot be argued with, and finding a rational explanation for them is secondary to their (the facts’) existence. If rationalists have a deep-seated psychological need for reasons to explain them, that is their problem; their “go[ing] nuts” is not changing anything.
    By the way, you can read the book yourself (for free): HTML(Link) PDF(Link) (just in case it crosses you mind: I am in no way connected to the authors or the editors). If reading a 260-page book is too much of a commitment for you, then you can listen to an EconTalk podcast(Link) with one of the authors.

    Sorry if I have been too blunt, but it is about time people realised that just because you have no reason for it, does not mean it does not work.

    FD

  • Lee:

    Why can someone own the product of their physical labour, but not of their intellectual labour? What is the fundamental difference?

    I don’t even view it being a valid distinction. All labour involves a degree of thought and a degree of action. The distinction is not the type of labour, but rivalry.

    Whilst I understand the point you were making in your response, I think you tacitly conceded that there is very little likelihood of making profit from ‘intangible’ goods such as movies or novels.

    Not at all. I said it wasn’t for me to say what the successful business models would be, but I don’t think it would be realistic to expect a free market to completely fail to deliver production if potential buyers want that production.

    They simply wouldn’t be economically viable – in the same way a farm wouldn’t be if someone could simply walk up and take your produce whenever they desired… which is why we have land-property laws.
    I’m having difficulty distinguishing between the two?

    The difference is that what the farmer produces is rivalrous.

  • ManikMonkee

    “what is my incentive to invest my £1,000,000 to produce that movie, if someone else can simply duplicate my work and sell it on at a cheaper price?

    I am genuinely interested in how such a situation could be resolved fairly and equitably”

    been reading a bit about this

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Participatory_cinema

    might be the future if P2P kills Hollywood

  • Paul, a question if I may: as IP situation stands right now, do you find it morally acceptable to illegally download music/movies/software?

  • Forgot to note: I use ‘illegally’ in a totally matter-of-fact manner, with no moral value attached.

  • Alisa, I view it in much the same way I would view actively listening to a busker without giving them any money. It could be classed as discourteous in some respects, but I don’t view it as enough to justify the use of threats and violence.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    That is because most pro-IP folk, like all libertarians, are a bunch of rationalists.

    Are you saying that anti-IP folk, and non-libertarians, are a “bunch of irrationalists?”, Mr Davies? What a damning admission! Surely, what happens is that people look at the facts of reality – such as that people usually need incentives to produce things such as inventions – and figure out the associated steps. To do that, they need to use reason and logic. Simply stating the importance of looking at empirical evidence is not much good if you lack the logical principles to then deal with that evidence, or sift the useful stuff from the dross. This is not a parlour game, nor has it anything to do with some sort of psychological need on my part (no need, in fact, to impertinently speculate on what my or other folks’ motives are, if you don’t mind).

    Actually, there are – as I would concede happily – rational arguments on both sides of the IP issue, which is why I framed my original post not as an argument for or against, but asked what sort of things come up if IP is done away with. Nothing very doctrinally severe about that.

    However, I was also making the point that anti-IPers need to be more constructive in their suggested alternatives, for the reason that it is mistaken, IMHO, to imagine that a world sans IP is somehow a nice, jolly free for all with no real downsides, rows or legal shenanigans.

    I don’t mind your blunt tone, but if you are going to accuse me of being a rationalist, then it does rather beg the question of what other folk are, does it not? Without theory, the facts are blind, as Popper puts it.

  • JP:

    I was also making the point that anti-IPers need to be more constructive in their suggested alternatives

    I really don’t see that need. If my position is that certain state actions are illiberal and thus I object to them because I’m a libertarian, why should I feel the need to offer any more justification? Even if a did decide to go further, why, as a supporter of free markets, should I go further than saying it is for market participants to decide through their revealed preferences?

  • Rob

    Dogshit yoghurts!

    There is some confusion here about the right to sell your labour. There is no right to earn money from your labour, whether it is manual or intellectual.

    If you want to spend your labour making dogshit yoghurts you don’t have a right to earn a living from that.

    Similarly if you write a novel that anyone can copy and read for themselves free of charge (equally stupid) don’t expect to earn any money for it. Creative artists are already pre-selling, working to order, performing and teaching on the net.

    The pro IPers can’t see past current business models and also seem to have very little faith human nature to find a way to montise anything. Film is easy and most marketing companies have come to terms with these changes and already operate marketing strategies to limit their impact.

    I think in a Rothbardian sense the monopoly on film IP creates huge false profits (dependent on IP) and you could say this leads to over/Mal-investment, which is not good for economic growth.

    So it might not pay to invest £150 million in one film but the expected returns would even out and there are less people who would “walk past the busker” than you think. This has been proved by internet marketers and businesses many times over.

    Yes, it might be hard to earn JK rowling type money writing a book in the future but if you could only earn £100,000 a year from a book, would that really put you off writing one?

  • Johnathan Pearce

    I really don’t see that need. If my position is that certain state actions are illiberal and thus I object to them because I’m a libertarian, why should I feel the need to offer any more justification? Even if a did decide to go further, why, as a supporter of free markets, should I go further than saying it is for market participants to decide through their revealed preferences?

    Well, Paul, I think you are being a bit too dismissive here. Surely, one measure of any economic system – like the free market or its more statist alternatives – is how good it is in fostering a climate that is good for creativity. (In a way, this surely links to the idea of how liberal it is). As a result, I think if someone says that state-backed IP rights are unwarranted, as you do (and you may be quite right), that still leaves the issue of what happens instead.

    One problem that libertarianism sometimes has – and I am talking in the most general terms here – is that “we” can sometimes come across as negative; we are great at saying that this or that piece of state intervention is terrible, but often forget to spell out the positive alternatives.

    For instance, I may not totally share IanB’s defence of IP; I can see that there is logic and reason on your side (I think Tim Sandefur’s essay is superb, well recommended), but I also think that IanB, and many others like him, deserve a fleshed out description of some sort of alternative, rather than be told that they’ll just have to “do something else”.

    Take the point I made about limited liability companies. Some mutualist libertarians, like Kevin Carson, think limited liability is wrong and should be scrapped; but clearly, LL provides certain benefits to an economy, since without LL, some kinds of large businesses might never get off the ground. So it behoves critics to explain how things work differently if statutory LL is abolished. Etc.

    Like I said, it may not be up to libertarians to provide a blueprint, but at least it pays to sketch out some different ways of doing things.

  • Johnathan, Paul repeatedly mischaracterises my position as entirely “utilitarian”, which is a bit weird considering his definition of “liberty” is synonymous with utilitarian felicity. But whatever. This isn’t my sole argument (“what will artists do?”) although it is a major part of what I’ve been arguing.

    The point he refuses to address is this: he and the other free-for-allists keep talking about “other business models” and “free market solutions”. And I want them to address the point I have made several times-

    How can you have a free market in unowned goods?

    Paul claimed that he is not demanding unowned goods, when he clearly is; the output of the artists (movies, novels, etc) are denied property status in his philosophy. They are unowned. Nobody can claim them. Paul can say that the physical transmissive medium of the novel (paper, ink) or of the movie (a small plastic disc) can be owned no doubt but that is not the property we are discussing. We are discussing the movie or the novel itself- the “intellectual property”. This is by definition unowned in Paul’s philosophy and thus there cannot by definition be a market in it. I would like this point addressed.

    It’s also worth noting that Paul seems to think he owns his own writing.

    Unless specified otherwise, any text in one of my blog postings for which I hold the copyright is available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike Licence, which, in simple terms, allows the re-use of the text, so long as the original source is made clear (by quoting my name and the url of the original work), it is made clear if any amendment or editing has been carried out and the text is not used in a defamatory way, such as using it out of context to distort the meaning. Any work based on the original work must also be made available under the same licence. By “url of the original work” I mean the url of the individual posting, not of the whole blog.

    and also

    While I believe that copyright should never allow right holders to prevent use if it is not commercial, defamatory or unattributed

    Where do these qualifiers of commercialisation, defamation and attribution come from? While we may sidle defamation off to a separate issue of libel, I’m intrigued to know from which of Paul’s deontological bases “nothing commercial” and “right to a credit” descend.

    While I’m having a poke, I also may add that Paul is a Georgist. Curiously this philosophy declares that land property is illibertarian because, er, land is rivalrous. So I don’t know what he’s doing with this “IP should not exist because it’s non-rivalrous” thing. Where is the consistency, Paul?

  • Frederick Davies

    Dear Mr Pearce,

    Are you saying that anti-IP folk, and non-libertarians, are a “bunch of irrationalists?”, Mr Davies? What a damning admission!

    I am quite sure a few of them are “irrationalists,” even irrational, but others are just empiricists like me ;-)

    Surely, what happens is that people look at the facts of reality – such as that people usually need incentives to produce things such as inventions – and figure out the associated steps…

    I don’t mind your blunt tone, but if you are going to accuse me of being a rationalist, then it does rather beg the question of what other folk are, does it not? Without theory, the facts are blind, as Popper puts it.

    I believe Hayek called what you are doing “scientism” (where is one’s copy of “The fatal conceit” when you need it!?): you are trying to use the methods of Science on a subject (society, people’s incentives) which is not amenable to them.
    For example, I like reading military history; it is not even remotely related to my job, I have no personal interest in military service, no relative of mine is a professional soldier or a military historian, my degrees are both not related to History or the Military, and I get no monetary benefit from it whatsoever (on the contrary, the amount of money I spend on books each year would scare even me if I decided to tally it up); yet I like to read military history. If I were a rationalist, I would rationalise that maybe my history teacher in high school was very good, and that got me interested; maybe I read too many military technology books when I was a teenager (you know, those full of cool-looking planes and missiles), so when I ran out of those, I moved onto the next related field; or maybe my brain is just wired that way. I do not know, and sincerely, I do not care: I just like it. There are no incentives or rational explanations for it; it just is.
    Any attempt to try to explain something as complex and non-scientific as people’s incentives, with the intention of using reason or logic on it, is the fatal conceit Hayek warned us about. Your attempt to make others explain to you on (rationalist) terms YOU can accept, how the World would work without IP is no different from central planers asking “if the State does not plan the economy, how will it be planned? Who will do it?” The answer to both is: it does not need to be.

    One problem that libertarianism sometimes has – and I am talking in the most general terms here – is that “we” can sometimes come across as negative; we are great at saying that this or that piece of state intervention is terrible, but often forget to spell out the positive alternatives.

    A worse problem is that when you concede the choice of battlefield to the enemy, you have half-conceded your defeat. Forcing libertarians to accept that something has to be put in place of their central planning, the statists already win a great victory. The right tactic is to refuse to come down the hill; if they want a battle, let them attack uphill.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    IanB, fair enough. A most interesting set of paragraphs from Mr Lockett. Hmmm.

  • JP:

    Surely, one measure of any economic system – like the free market or its more statist alternatives – is how good it is in fostering a climate that is good for creativity.

    It is one measure and certainly one that would be useful for choosing between systems which are equal with regard to liberty, but as a libertarian, it would never be sufficient to lead me to prefer a system which restricts my liberty to one the doesn’t.

  • Ian B:

    Paul repeatedly mischaracterises my position as entirely “utilitarian”

    No, it’s accurate.

    which is a bit weird considering his definition of “liberty” is synonymous with utilitarian felicity.

    According to a justification you offered which we have already established was completely inaccurate.

    This is by definition unowned in Paul’s philosophy and thus there cannot by definition be a market in it. I would like this point addressed.

    I already have. I gave the example of hairdressers operating in a market where they sell something without it being an owned product. Instead of addressing that point, you just just keep on repeating the same question as if I haven’t responded, which is just trolling.

    It’s also worth noting that Paul seems to think he owns his own writing.

    If by “own” you mean I think I hold the copyright in my writing, then I do, because, well, I do! That’s a simple statement of fact with the law as it stands. If you think that pointing out that I understand the law is way to score points, you really are getting desperate.

    Where do these qualifiers of commercialisation, defamation and attribution come from?

    With regard to commercialisation, it is pragmatism on my part. In an entirely libertarian society, there would be no monopoly over commercial use, but we live in a world where there are those, such as yourself, who do not want to live in a libertarian society, so given that some degree of compromise with non-libertarians may be necessary, that is one area where I would find compromise tolerable.

    The reason that attribution should automatically remove the barrier is that attribution is a defence against plagiarism.

    I also may add that Paul is a Georgist.

    Here comes a straw man…

    Curiously this philosophy declares that land property is illibertarian…

    That’s news to me. I wasn’t aware that Georgism was exclusively libertarian, or that it insisted that nobody should have the right to hold land privately and it should be entirely an open access commons.

    because, er, land is rivalrous.

    As are material goods in general, so that obviously isn’t the basis.

    So I don’t know what he’s doing with this “IP should not exist because it’s non-rivalrous” thing.

    So now you’re back on the subject having spent some time pounding a straw man.

    Where is the consistency, Paul?

    It’s perfectly clear if you read what’s posted.

  • I gave the example of hairdressers operating in a market where they sell something without it being an owned product.

    Paul, it would help if you’d stop and think for a moment. Hairdressers sell a service, not IP. They are contractors, like a builder working on your house or an accountant you have hired to do your accounts. They aren’t selling an unowned product, they are selling their skills which they own and which they apply to somebody else’s owned property (their hair, their house, their accounts).

    Now please answer the question. How can you have a market in movies when nobody owns the movies?

    Or are you going to come out with it and admit that under your communisation of IP, there will be no market? In which case, are you going to stop talking about “free market solutions” because you have abolished the marketplace?

  • Also,

    what is the actual difference between somebody copying your work and giving it away, and somebody copying your work and profitting (“commercial”) from it, to you? Why do you allow one and not the other? Your “explanation” of “compromise with non-libertarians” (lol, this from a man supporting communisation of land) does not even make any sense. What requirement is there upon you to “compromise”?

    You can just let anyone use your work, as you demand should be the case. What’s stopping you? Hatred of commerce? I can’t see any other reason. It can’t be a sense of ownership, since you’ve spent several threads now demanding an end to ownership of created works. It’s just the standard jealous communist loathing of profits, isn’t it Paul?

  • Hairdressers sell a service, not IP.

    Exactly! They don’t need “haircutright” to establish a market.

    They are contractors, like a builder working on your house or an accountant you have hired to do your accounts. They aren’t selling an unowned product, they are selling their skills which they own and which they apply to somebody else’s owned property (their hair, their house, their accounts).

    Or somebody developing a computer system within a business.

    Now please answer the question. How can you have a market in movies when nobody owns the movies?

    The same way you have a market in any service – by agreeing the terms in advance.

    Or the same way you have a market in any good – by ensuring that your product meets the needs of the market better.

  • So in other words Paul, you are admitting that there will be no market in, created works. The writer will have to sell their skills doing something else; writing ad copy, giving blow jobs, composing panegyrics for rich patrons as of old.

    Thanks for that, you’re in favour of the end of created works. What they sell now- novels, movies, comics, songs, will disappear in your utopia. The artists must find another job. Now we’re getting somewhere.

  • clarification-

    “will disappear as sources of income in your utopia.”

    That is, people might still create these things, if they don’t mind not getting any income from the (considerable) investment in creating them, which is not a recogisable “market” in any normal sense. The market has vanished in your philosophy, and the creators go do something else they can earn money from.

  • Ian B:

    what is the actual difference between somebody copying your work and giving it away, and somebody copying your work and profitting (“commercial”) from it, to you?

    There isn’t one to me. But given that many pro-monopolists such as yourself focus on a right to any revenue arising, it would seem to be the most obvious area in which compromise might be possible.

    What requirement is there upon you to “compromise”?

    There isn’t one. I could just dig my heels in and refuse to accept anything other than total reform, but I’m realistic enough to accept that a completely libertarian society isn’t imminent and if perfection isn’t on the cards, I’d rather have some improvement.

    You can just let anyone use your work, as you demand should be the case. What’s stopping you? Hatred of commerce? I can’t see any other reason. It can’t be a sense of ownership, since you’ve spent several threads now demanding an end to ownership of created works. It’s just the standard jealous communist loathing of profits, isn’t it Paul?

    This is delightful!

    You posted a passage from my blog in order to try to prove a point, but obviously didn’t read it. Go back and have a look at the comment regarding the Creative Commons licence. You’ll see that it isn’t a non-commercial licence. It permits the re-use of the work for commercial purposes!

  • Yes, I certainly goofed there Paul, hands up to that.

    Now, are you going to be clear and honest about what you’re advocating, for once?

  • Also, can we drop the “monopoly” thing, please. I am not pro-monopoly, as is clear from what I’ve written. A monopoly is when the State says, “only the Brewers Guild may make and sell beer”. It is not a monopoly when the State’s rights framework supports a particular brewer’s ownership of the beer he has produced in a free market.

  • The writer will have to sell their skills doing something else; writing ad copy…

    So writers won’t be able to write for a living, so they might have to write for a living, selling something that they can’t sell because there’s no market in it.

  • Now, are you going to be clear and honest about what you’re advocating, for once?

    I’ve been extremely clear about what I’m advocating all along.

    Also, can we drop the “monopoly” thing, please. I am not pro-monopoly, as is clear from what I’ve written. A monopoly is when the State says, “only the Brewers Guild may make and sell beer”. It is not a monopoly when the State’s rights framework supports a particular brewer’s ownership of the beer he has produced in a free market.

    In essence, what you are advocating is the former. Applying your approach consistently implies that the first person who produced beer should have total control over the beer market and should be able to demand payment from anybody who wishes to produce beer.

  • So writers won’t be able to write for a living, so they might have to write for a living, selling something that they can’t sell because there’s no market in it.

    So writers of novels won’t be able to write novels for a living, so they will have to not write novels for a living, instead selling something that they can sell because their property rights have been abolished destroying the market in it.

    Fixed.

    Your mistake here is treating “writing” as fungible.

  • Your mistake here is treating “writing” as fungible.

    Whether or not it is fungible doesn’t alter the fact that the end product is of the same nature.

    If you claim that, by not having a system of property rights in non-rivalrous intangibles, you ensure there is no market for them and by ensuring there is no market for them, you will create a situation where there is no production of them, it’s at odds with a suggestion that production of one type will continue.

  • Whether or not it is fungible doesn’t alter the fact that the end product is of the same nature.

    “Of the same nature”? Depends how broadly you define “nature”. Ballet dancing and lap dancing are more closely “of the same nature” than writing novels and writing ad copy, but that doesn’t mean they’re equivalent.

    If you claim that, by not having a system of property rights in non-rivalrous intangibles, you ensure there is no market for them and by ensuring there is no market for them, you will create a situation where there is no production of them, it’s at odds with a suggestion that production of one type will continue.

    What? I’ve tried my best to parse that sentence but I have no idea what it is supposed to mean. Who made this “suggestion that production of one type will continue”? You? Me? Which “type of production”? Your desperation to speak in terms which avoid committing you seems to have led you to a level of generalisation which is devoid of meaning.

  • So anyway, to summarise, so far as I can tell we are agreed that, in the event that you get your way-

    Copyright is abolished.
    Novels disappear.
    Novelists have to go off and do another job (which may be “writing” in the broad sense, or may not be)
    People who formerly read novels have no novels to read.
    But “liberty” (as defined by Paul Lockett) has increased.

    Is that a fair summary?

  • Goto Dengo

    What about recipes? Given their relevance to humanity, why is culture any different from cooking, in terms of IP?

  • Who made this “suggestion that production of one type will continue”?

    Have you already forgotten saying that writers could go and write ad copy? These attempts to waffle your way out of addressing a response are tedious.

    So anyway, to summarise, so far as I can tell we are agreed that, in the event that you get your way-

    Copyright is abolished.

    Yes

    Novels disappear.

    No

    Novelists have to go off and do another job (which may be “writing” in the broad sense, or may not be)

    I’d guess some will and some won’t.

    People who formerly read novels have no novels to read.

    No

    But “liberty” (as defined by Paul Lockett) has increased.

    Yes

  • Goto Dengo

    Novels disappear

    Why? What historical precedent is there that shows that lower barriers to the sharing of culture leads to less culture?

  • Who made this “suggestion that production of one type will continue”?

    Have you already forgotten saying that writers could go and write ad copy? These attempts to waffle your way out of addressing a response are tedious.

    Paul, the point of writers “going to write ad copy” is that they are no longer novelists. Since the type of production we are discussing is production of novels then the assertion that “production of one type will continue” is simply not true. It is production of something completely different; they could go off to be barmaids or fishermen. Your “of the same nature” justification is utterly false; the “nature” we are discussing is “creative writing sold on its own merit to readers”, not “anything written down”. For heaven’s sake.

    In the absence of the marketplace, the value of the good (novels) is nul (not zero, since there is no price, not a zero price). Novels have a significant capital cost. A good with capital costs but nul market value is an economic nonsense; it is not an industry, it is not a market. You cannot claim on any rational economic grounds that production of a valueless good will continue. When labour becomes valueless, that job ceases to exist. When goods become valueless, those goods cease to be produced.

    And yet you claim that novels will continue to be produced, and you “guess” that only “some” novelists will stop novelling. On what grounds? Where’s the magic money supply to pay the novelists? A stipend from the LVT?

    This makes Keynes look rational.

    Well, to be fair, there is one kind of creative writing that will continue and no doubt fill the gap. I’m not sure how many grammatically incontinent novellas by 17 year olds about a voluptuous barbarian woman enslaved and learning to love domination by her warrior master we’re all going to want to read though.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    As IanB has noted before in previous arguments on stuff such as LVT, the critics of property rights often do so in utilitarian terms, however spurious, such as justifying compulsory purchase of private land in a sort of “greatest happiness of the greatest number” kind of way. I remember calling it “brute utilitarianism”, which I think fits the situation rather well.

    Of course, we cannot expect to be consistent through time and across all subjects. Even so, if the violence-backed power of the state can be used to chuck my granny from her home so a condo can be built and generate lots of fat tax revenues, it seems a mite odd that folk who are comfortable with that tend to turn around and attack the right of a novelist to stop folk reprinting his work without paying him a penny.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    I forgot to respond to Frederick Davies, but just in case he thought he got away with this piece of nonsense:

    I believe Hayek called what you are doing “scientism” (where is one’s copy of “The fatal conceit” when you need it!?): you are trying to use the methods of Science on a subject (society, people’s incentives) which is not amenable to them.

    Wrong. I am attempting to use logic and reason – based on evidence as I see it – to tease out what I think are the consequences of, in this example, getting rid of state-protected IP and moving to something else. My post was speculative; it asked “What happens if?”. What has this got to do with some sort of dogmatism? You are just projecting.

    “For example, I like reading military history; it is not even remotely related to my job, I have no personal interest in military service, no relative of mine is a professional soldier or a military historian, my degrees are both not related to History or the Military, and I get no monetary benefit from it whatsoever (on the contrary, the amount of money I spend on books each year would scare even me if I decided to tally it up); yet I like to read military history. If I were a rationalist, I would rationalise that maybe my history teacher in high school was very good, and that got me interested; maybe I read too many military technology books when I was a teenager (you know, those full of cool-looking planes and missiles), so when I ran out of those, I moved onto the next related field; or maybe my brain is just wired that way. I do not know, and sincerely, I do not care: I just like it. There are no incentives or rational explanations for it; it just is.”

    And your point is?

    Any attempt to try to explain something as complex and non-scientific as people’s incentives, with the intention of using reason or logic on it, is the fatal conceit Hayek warned us about. Your attempt to make others explain to you on (rationalist) terms YOU can accept, how the World would work without IP is no different from central planers asking “if the State does not plan the economy, how will it be planned? Who will do it?” The answer to both is: it does not need to be.

    Where did I say that incentives were “scientific”? But for what it is worth, look around you and look at what happens when there are no incentives, or disincentives, to behave in certain ways, such as high marginal tax rates on the low paid, for example? There is now a whole body of work looking at things such as tax rates and their impact on business formation, etc. Stating that intellectual property rights might provide an incentive to create is hardly a piece of “scientism”; it is more like an observation derived from practical experience. It is no different from the observation that stable property rights are essential for peaceful social order, and wealth creation. There is a big literature on the subject.

  • Frederick Davies

    Dear Mr Pearce,

    Wrong. I am attempting to use logic and reason – based on evidence as I see it – to tease out what I think are the consequences of, in this example, getting rid of state-protected IP and moving to something else. My post was speculative; it asked “What happens if?”. What has this got to do with some sort of dogmatism? You are just projecting.

    I believe your Popper quote (“Without theory, the facts are blind, as Popper puts it”) refers to the way Science (hard science, if you will) works (you need to have a theory or model to compare your experimental results with), but you are applying this to a non-scientific (soft science) discipline, Economics. This is scientism.
    You are also trying to use thought-experiments (your “What happens if?”) the same way Einstein used his Gedankenexperiment while developing his Theory of Relativity; this is also scientism.

    And your point is?

    My point is that if even I cannot rationally explain my own likes and dislikes, what hope do you (or any other central planner) have of rationally doing so, and hence predict how any set of incentives will work on me or anyone else? Maybe you think yourself capable of rationally and objectively analysing your own behaviour, and hence you think everyone is the same; who is projecting now?

    Where did I say that incentives were “scientific”?

    You were applying scientific modes of thought and operation to incentives; you were implicitly assuming they were scientific.

    …it is more like an observation derived from practical experience…

    You were more than just stating observations from practical exprience; you were asking people to rationally analyse incentives, create a model of how those incentives might work, and come up with alternatives (“what happens if?”); and complaining when others refused to move with you into the realms of scientism (remember your “go nuts” quote?).
    Using Arnold King’s new metaphor(Link), you need to stop being a curator and be more a park ranger… or at least be more tolerant of us who do not want to be curators ;-)

    FD

  • Rob

    Ian B just got spanked.

    If novels are demanded, there will be novels – the business model is easily monetised – it is already happening! But who cares about observable reality hey?

    You still cling to business models that are in the past. Are you in Business?

    Surely a “hairstyle” could be considered IP?

    A recipe is a great example PL.

    Why the threat of violence to someone who copies someone else in novels but not in hairstyles?

  • Goto Dengo

    A novel is a format. The product is a story. And there are many, many, many ways to monetize stories and story telling, most of which none of us have any idea of yet.

    Also, saying that amateur writers will only produce pulp fiction is frankly elitist. Sounds like the beggars at the BFI.

  • If novels are demanded, there will be novels

    This is a fallacy. The fact that one person wants something (demand in this context just means “want” rather than the economic sense) does not mean it will be produced. The market can only supply what it is economic to supply, and even then only a subset (since there are an almost limited set of wants). I can “demand” a sports car for £100 as much as I like, but it won’t happen.

    You still cling to business models that are in the past.

    The business model I’m “clinging” to here is called commerce. Now I understand that the majority of the anti-IP crowd are leftists who hate commerce and don’t understand it, but those claiming to be libertarians ought to know better.

    As I said on some other thread, the key element of commerce is a mutually beneficial transaction. You need a two way flow; he who creates is paid by he who receives, in general (before money, you had barter which is more transparently mutual, but the money economy as we know is just barter moderated by currency).

    You guys want to smash that mutualism, and have goods flow from producers without anything returning to them from consumers. That isn’t commerce. So yes, like other libertarians in general I’m “old fashioned” because I believe commerce is how markets work. If you are opposed to markets, fair enough, but you need to be clear that that is what you’re abolishing- the market itself.

    Now it is also true of libertarianism that nobody should be obligated to trade. You are free to give things away, or cross subsidise them, or whatever. But it is simply an observable fact that the majority basis of the marketplace is trade, because trade is mutually beneficial and a stable means of interacting. My local church makes money from collections, raffles and fetes, but it would be very naive to suggest that the eonomy in general could adapt such a model. Likewise the fact that some people will do some work for the love of it and give away their produce does not support the contention that you can build an entire economy based on that.

    And there are many, many, many ways to monetize stories and story telling, most of which none of us have any idea of yet.

    The repeated assertions one encounters of this type are revealing. “People will think of something” is vague. As a counterexample; I’m not convinced by anarcho-capitalism, but if I ask an AnCap “how will it work?” they will invariably offer me lots of detailed explanation, whole articles and books full of it. The fact that anti-propertarians lapse into things like “that’s not my problem” ©Paul Lockett or “something wonderful will happen, not sure what” indicates the lack of substance in the assertions made.

    You really have no idea how a propertyless economy can work. All you have is a selfish desire that others should produce, and you should receive their produce, but you don’t like paying for it, so you hope some system will develop where other people pay for it and you get it for free. You’re certainly at liberty to want that, just as I want my free sports car. It’s not economically rational though, and a strange thing indeed for libertarians to demand.

    The economic system of trade has thousands of years of track record. distances. It’s a pretty rational system to “cling” to.

  • As to the recipes question, the answer is that recipes are pretty vague things. It would be hard to show no prior art, or that your apple pie is unique rather than a minor variation on somebody else’s apple pie. Nonetheless, if somebody lifted the recipes wholesale from a Delia Smith book and republished them, I’d guess there would be a court case in the offing.

  • Goto Dengo

    recipes are pretty vague things

    And popular culture in general isn’t? How many teen wizard/vampire books/comics/movies/etc are there? No cultural expression exists in a vacuum. Would you agree it’s enough to change Delia Smiths cherry pie recipe by substituting red cherries with black cherries to call it mine?

    All I’m saying here is that the concept of IP and copyright is applied unevenly and oddly. In the world of physical things, the distinction is clearer – nick my paperback and I’ll call you a thief – but ideas and concepts and stories are a lot more like recipes. You can this a problem (if you’re an IP lawyer or patent troll) or a basis for human progress.

    And while I defend property rights (no, really), I am not clear about how you go about enforcing this in a digital world without the state’s wholesale deep packet inspection and crypto keys to all our communications, as a previous commenter suggested. But I digress.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    I guess one alternative that I could have mentioned in my original post was the model of patronage. In Early Modern Europe and during the 18th and 19th Centuries, a lot of artists, for example, would have had a few set patrons; in Renaissance Italy, the patrons were usually churches and aristos (such as the Medicis). Composers such as Haydn and Mozart toiled away for minor and major royalty. It was not really until the 19th Century and the Industrial Revolution kicked in big time that the modern kind of IP, and the consequent business model, changed.

    So if we get rid of conventional IP, one outcome might be that a lot of megarich folk, like the Gateses, Buffetts and the oil barons of the Mideast, are going to be able to afford to run whole “stables” of artists, paid a salary with a performance kicker.

    If you look at how much money the ultra rich are forking out on the Picassos and other shit these days, I would expect to see some form of business models develop to absorb the rising demand. Artists will be on retainers, or have set lines of work, or whatever.

    So for all I share IanB’s emphasis on the importance of property, I don’t think he’d be as f**ked as he fears.

  • Well, novels and movies and songs and art are pretty specific, which is why copyright is a useful property right. Theft can be easily identified.

    As to enforcement, I think what we have now is adequate and the new intensifications motivated by corporate lobbying are unnecessary and will, as you say, lead to all manner of unacceptable snooping. Broadly speaking, so long as you have property rights, you can keep a lid on things. Primarily, because it is impossible for anyone to legally set up a business based on distributing copies; anything like The Pirate Bay will get shut down.

    Personal copying (I send you a copy of a movie by email) is a very minor crime and generally I would argue that though it is a crime it is such a trivial one that it is not worth the courts to enforce; if we use the An-Cap model this would be a good example where market law would not find it economic to enforce. You can’t stop all copying, and it’s wrong to try. It is pragmatically sufficient to use the law against organised copyright theft to, as I said, keep a lid on the situation.

    The new regimes coming in are extremely over the top, they use extra-judicial punishments, they’re a disaster for liberty. But I also don’t think that the anit-IP crowd have helped matters at all with rhetoric about a “right to pirate”. It is one of those many situations in which some group say, “you can’t stop us, whatcha gonna do?” and the State says, “oh yes we can, here’s what we’re gonna do…” driven not least by the foolish slogan that “the net routes around censorship”. No it doesn’t, any more than anything else routes around the law.

  • Johnathan, this isn’t something I’ve had a chance to address, but it is important to me; forcing people back into the patronage model is repellent. Somebody way up the thread mentioned approvingly how Mozart et al lived “hand to mouth” but that’s okay because they still wrote stuff. The life for most classical composers in the pre-modern commerce era was one of dragging themselves around minor princelings begging for a room with a clavinet in it. It is a classic example of why the modern era with free markets in created works is so much superior.

    The anti-IPers constnatly assert that IP restricts availability. They say this despite the past century having more art for the masses than at any time in human history, precisely because it could be sold in the free market.

    We can take away those property rights and return to a state where a few lucky composers can persuade some corporate princeling to hire them, if they’re lucky. But on those evil utilitarian grounds, that would be a disaster for the rest of us. I doubt the 20th century would have been half as much fun without blues, jazz, rock’n’roll etc. All popular music, reliant on property rights. It wouldn’t have been so much fun without comics either, even if a few artists could have made a living painting dreary portraits of captains of industry in return for a crust. Without copyright, there’d have been no Superman.

  • Robbo

    People who formerly read novels have no novels to read.

    – Question, did Samizdat authors get royalties in the USSR ?
    – Oh, and novel readers will have plenty to read if they can get to the out-of-print in-copyright works they are currently denied

    the point of writers “going to write ad copy” is that they are no longer novelists

    – In fact most writers have always had day jobs. Advertising copy writer, journalist, academic are all examples

    You really have no idea how a propertyless economy can work.

    – We have loads of historical evidence how an IP-less society can work. dawn of time up to 1710 or 1886 (you choose)

    A further (? final) point. A work has to have some marketplace value to be worth copying. How does it emerge from the noise and get that value ?

    Before it can be a mass market zero-price item, it will be a specialist, plus value item.

    IMO Copyright is justified and could be transferred from statute to contract. Unfortunately with mass-market publications, the mass audience often won’t abide by the contract so that like it or not we are entering a no-copyright world. People who currently live off royalties will have to find another way to make a living. This type of dislocation happens all he time – ask the lorimers. There is no general obligation to prevent it, rather the reverse.

  • - Question, did Samizdat authors get royalties in the USSR ?

    Irrelevant, they were political advertisers, not seeking a living from their writing. They weren’t in the market.

    - Oh, and novel readers will have plenty to read if they can get to the out-of-print in-copyright works they are currently denied the point of writers “going to write ad copy” is that they are no longer novelists

    That’s certainly true. What we’re interested in though is current/new writing. We can’t all keep reading Jane Eyre. Well, we can, but that’s not the issue.

    - In fact most writers have always had day jobs. Advertising copy writer, journalist, academic are all examples.

    Many people have multiple income sources. What we’re interested in is whether or not a novel can be an income source under IP communism. If not, our ad copy writer/journalist/academic can no longer also be a novelist, unless he does it for love. That’s not a market. Libertarians generally recognise the need for markets. Except in creative works apparently, when magic takes its place.

    - We have loads of historical evidence how an IP-less society can work. dawn of time up to 1710 or 1886 (you choose)

    We certainly have loads of examples of propertyless communism. The USSR, North Korea and Cambodia spring to mind.

    A further (? final) point. A work has to have some marketplace value to be worth copying. How does it emerge from the noise and get that value ? Before it can be a mass market zero-price item, it will be a specialist, plus value item.

    As I said above, without property rights value becomes nul. It cannot be assigned. It is classic Von Mises price signal destruction. Your last sentence appears to be more “something or other will happen” type argument.

    IMO Copyright is justified and could be transferred from statute to contract. Unfortunately with mass-market publications, the mass audience often won’t abide by the contract so that like it or not we are entering a no-copyright world.

    This appears to be “people will commit burglary anyway so you may as well legalise it” pseudo-pragmatism.

    People who currently live off royalties will have to find another way to make a living.

    As I said, they will indeed be forced to do that. You destroy property rights, you destroy markets, you destroy earning potential. You could similarly argue that if we communise food production for the common good farmers would go find something else to do. That is true. You’re then stuck with a rather major problem of how food is going to be produced. All anti-IPers seem to be blinkered by a determination to consider only the demand end of the market and ignore supply.

    This type of dislocation happens all he time – ask the lorimers.

    I genuinely have no idea who or what this refers to.

    There is no general obligation to prevent it, rather the reverse.

    This is the problem. “Your side” are treating property rights as artificial. Nobody is claiming that people who want to write novels have right to a living from it and that the State should subsidise them in some way. If the demand for novels vanishes, then indeed novelists have no choice but to get another job.

    The argument here is whether the State should deliberately destroy the market in novels by abolishing property rights, in the same way as other communists (e.g. Georgists) want to abolish the land market by abolishing land property rights. Indeed you can use your argument to assert that the entire market in all goods and services is artifically propped up by artificial property rights, so they should all be abolished. You can do that, fine, but then you’re left with communism which is neither desirable nor practical.

    Take your pick.

  • Robbo

    Angonnaminitt

    “Your side” are treating property rights as artificial.

    My view is that copyright is not artifical as patent is, because copyright can arise from contract rather than statute. However IMO copyright is not sustainable in a mass market given the mass’s reluctance to comply and the IMO unacceptability of the heavy-handed measures IMO necessary to enforce compliance. Good or bad, copyright is not going to last.

    The OP asked what a non-IP world would look like. We are already seeing some of the shape of that world emerging from the fog. It is different but not IMO a general disaster. [I think we disagree on that].

    Lorimer

    Sorry about that. It is the trade of horses bridle-making. There used to a lot more of them than there are now. I guess they mostly found other ways to make a living, and would-be lorimers sadly had to give up on their dreams.

    The argument here is whether the State should deliberately destroy the market in novels

    I don’t think the state should destroy property rights, I think the people are destroying copyright and I can’t see it being possible to stop it happening. Equally I think the extension of copyright from 14 years to life + 50 and now life + 70 years is the result of blatant rent-seeking and quite indefensible.

  • JP:

    As IanB has noted before in previous arguments on stuff such as LVT, the critics of property rights often do so in utilitarian terms

    Excellent point. They often do and as you’ve quite rightly observed, it is exactly what Ian is attempting to do here. He wants to restrict individual property rights in material goods because he believes it is will lead to greater utility.

    And he calls others communists!

  • Paul, utilitarianism isn’t communism. Abolition of property rights, OTOH, is communism.

    As I’ve repeatedly stated, the basis of my assertion is that of mutual trade, not a utilitarian argument e.g. in the sense of “novels are a public good”. If nobody wants novels, that’s no business of the State, and it’s not the job of the State to create a novel market.

    The situation we are in instead is one in which

    (a) people want novels and

    (b) people want to supply novels

    and so we[1] provide a property rights system to ensure that trade may occur as with all other property rights. There is no utilitarian argument- as in a felicitous calculus- involved.

    Robbo used the example of the end of the horse bridle industry. This finely illustrates the distinction. It ended because nobody wanted the market to deliver horse bridles. The only way to keep lorimers in business would have been some kind of public subsidy. There was no demand.

    In this situation we have a market demand which a property rights framework is required for as for all market demands. It is the exact opposite situation.

    You, on the other hand, seek to create unlimited supply by abolishing property rights- which is the standard communist mindset (“if bread is free, everyone can have as much bread as they want!”) which inevitably leads to the euthanasia of the suppliers. This is why communist regimes end up forcing people to make a certain quota of bread via central committees and violence, because it is the only way to get bread produced.

    You don’t like creative property. You don’t like land property. Is my personal property safe under your regime, or are you going abolish that too for your “greater liberty”, Paul?


    [1] “We” being the state under statism but, as discussed previously, if Anarcho Capitalism does work, then creative property would arise by the same mechanisms and be enforced by the same mechanisms as other property rights in an AnCap society.

  • Ian, I think much of what you’re posting now has been been so effectively and repeatedly demolished that I’ll respond just to those parts which aren’t completely repetitive

    The fact that anti-propertarians…

    You are the one who wants to chip away at property rights in material goods, so describing those who don’t want to do that as anti-propertarians is just going to make you look even more silly.

    …lapse into things like “that’s not my problem”

    In a world where commerce is a mutual beneficial transaction, which is what you claim to want, then it isn’t my problem, unless I am either the produor even of any interest to mecer or consumer in a given transaction.

    You guys want to smash that mutualism, and have goods flow from producers without anything returning to them from consumers.

    But, according to you, we also want to create a situation which means there will be no production, so, not for the first time, you’re claiming two completely contradictory things.

    The repeated assertions one encounters of this type are revealing. “People will think of something” is vague. As a counterexample; I’m not convinced by anarcho-capitalism, but if I ask an AnCap “how will it work?” they will invariably offer me lots of detailed explanation, whole articles and books full of it.

    Maybe they will, because of your tedious insistence on one person attempting to second guess what would result from the revealed preferences of massive numbers of people operating in a free market. I think it’s a situation brilliant summed up by John Hasnas in his discussion of his proposals for a free market system of law:

    What would a free market in legal services be like?

    I am always tempted to give the honest and accurate response to this challenge, which is that to ask the question is to miss the point. … It is possible to describe what a free market in shoes would be like because we have one. But such a description is merely an observation of the current state of a functioning market, not a projection of how human beings would organize themselves to supply a currently non-marketed good. To demand that an advocate of free market law (or Socrates of Monosizea, for that matter) describe in advance how markets would supply legal services (or shoes) is to issue an impossible challenge.

  • You are the one who wants to chip away at property rights in material goods,

    I await with bated breath your justification for this bizarre assertion. Whose property rights do I want to chip away at, Paul? Please change the habit of a lifetime and be specific and explanatory, for once.

    You guys want to smash that mutualism, and have goods flow from producers without anything returning to them from consumers.

    But, according to you, we also want to create a situation which means there will be no production, so, not for the first time, you’re claiming two completely contradictory things.

    This is getting tedious. I know you’re desperately leaning on it as a “I WINZ!” type smackdown, but you can only do so by ignoring everything I have written about how communist systems, by attempting to infinitise supply, lead to an absence of supply. It is well understood in standard economic texts. I suggest you read one. The contradiction is in the anti-market economic ideology, not in my description of it.

    Also, nice attempt to get around having no answers. The simple truth is, you know it won’t work, so you can’t supply an answer. That’s a bit of a big fail, there.

  • Ian:

    In this situation we have a market demand which a property rights framework is required for as for all market demands. It is the exact opposite situation.

    But, you’ve already implied that a market for advertising copy could exist without a property rights framework, so, once again what you’re posting is contradictory.

    You don’t like creative property.

    I don’t like property rights being created in non-rivalrous goods. Painting are creative and I don’t mind property in them being recognised. Likewise with sculptures

    You don’t like land property.

    Not the current system, that’s true.

    Is my personal property safe under your regime, or are you going abolish that too for your “greater liberty”, Paul?

    Your personal property would be much safer under my regime than yours. Nobody would be able to claim rights over your property because you’ve done something with it that somebody else has done with their property.

  • Paul, the market in ad copy is not the market we are discussing. We’ve been over this. Ad nauseam.

    So let’s try again. Let’s consider a court scribe and a signwriter. They are both “writers” in the broadest sense, but they are not in the same market sector. Their skills are not the same, and what they sell is not the same. Even though you can call both of them people who earn a living by “writing”.

    Or, let us try a translator and a town crier. They are both “speakers”. They both earn a living by “speaking”. But their skills are not the same, and what they sell is not the same. Even though you can call both of them people who earn a living by “speaking”.

    Is this clear now, or shall we go around the mulberry bush a few more times?

  • Ian:

    I await with bated breath your justification for this bizarre assertion. Whose property rights do I want to chip away at, Paul? Please change the habit of a lifetime and be specific and explanatory, for once.

    With pleasure!

    You want to allow somebody to claim rights over my property because of what they’ve done with theirs. If they put a certain pattern or sequence of words on a piece of paper, then, if I do the same, they have a claim over my paper. With my approach, doing such a thing would still keep my full property rights over the paper intact.

    As you’ve been been talking about Georgism destroying property rights, lets look at one argument used to justify Land Value Tax. It’s not one I especially agree with, but it is quite common; it says that the general public funds the state, the state creates infrastructure, infrastructure increases land values, therefore it is reasonable for the state to recoup the increased land values from land holders for the benefit of the public, who funded the infrastructure. The arugment is that the public deserves to be paid for the value it creates. Disagreeing with that may lead to a supporter of that argument asking you something like:

    The philosophical question remains; B gains value from A’s production, but you are saying it is immoral for A to desire compensation from B. How do you justify that?

    Which was, of course, the same question you posed in an attempt to justify so-called IP. The two arguments stand or fall together.

  • Paul Marks

    Regardless of whether patents and copyrights are right or wrong – I do not see how they can be enforced in a world (for example) with modern China in it.

    “Well we enforce our agreements with the Chinese government” would NOT be a sensible reply.

    Like it or not – we in the West can not depend for our incomes on patents and copyrights, they (right or wrong) are not going to hold.

  • Dishman

    Paul Lockett, I think you fail to comprehend the negotiation.

    I have an idea. It is mine, and mine alone, for I alone know it. Precious. I hold absolute monopoly on it. My Precious.

    I think it’s a really pretty idea. It might even save your life, not that that is of great import to me, but it might matter to you.

    I am willing to release my absolute monopoly on it in exchange for patent protection for a limited time.

    I figure someone else will come up with it eventually. By my read, another 15-20 years should do it.

    The best compensation I could secure in your system isn’t even enough to be worth giving up the pleasure of laughing at you.

  • Rob

    The last pin left for Paul to knock down is the description of what a market without IP would be like.

    The point is that PL doesn’t have to imagine a market because they already exist.

    Technology market: Competitors in this market are simply changing designs just enough to avoid a court battle. They are almost certainly breaching IP laws but only enough to make any court case too difficult to stick, too expensive or so long-winded that technology will have moved on before its conclusion.

    The competitors are improving on each others ideas and developments as they compete.

    So do we have stagnation, and zero production? No, we have innovation and an exhillarating race to the top. The speed of progress is breathtaking. All IP is doing is slowing this race down and slowing progress.

    In purely intellectual (not physical) property we have writers using blogs and content based websites to generate income from adverts (much like magazines) or from referals or the writer’s own products like ebooks, ecourses, signed novels, enovels etc. Despite anyone being able to copy what anyone else has written on the web, despite ebooks being easily copied people still tend to buy from the original source. The best, most consistent writers make the most money so the market is working well.

    People really value the interaction that is now possible with their creative heros and are willing to pay for it. It will not matter whether you are a film maker or painter, you will have the chance to reach an audience and see if you are any good.

    So there is no disaster. You novel apocalypse will not occur. All that will happen is that Hollywood will market more cleverly to make cinema more of an event or occasion. They will create a sense of anticipation and pre-sell before going to market. Who knows they might even introduce 3D and other such innovations to encourage more people to a “performance” rather than to watch in their lounge.

    Ian B, your whole argument seems to be based on the wrongheaded and unobservant claim that these markets will fail without IP despite all the real world evidence to the contrary.

    Capitalism will evolve, it always has, and without IP it will do it faster.

  • Interesting discussion. I’m agnostic at present (see below), but here are a few more spanners.

    Our whole civilisation – well, any – is built on intellectual discoveries. The overwhelming majority of those we use and take for granted were never patented or copyrighted, because there weren’t such options back then. I can’t help wondering what if Vincenzo Galilei had patented equal temperament and his heirs had held on jealously to the property thereof. Bach would have written the ill-tempered clavicle, and Tchaikovsky or Debussy would have been simple impossibilities.

    Imagine mathematical theorems patented (Pythagoras, say). Maybe Petrarch would have put in a bid for the sonnet form unto all posterity. I dunno. Strikes me we were all damn lucky no one thought of the idea back then.

    I don’t have any argument about IP per se, as a concept. My thoughts and ideas are mine. But when I “publish” them, am I not freely putting them into the public domain? I have every right to demand payment for doing this, if I wish, but once it’s done, it’s done: they are now public, and anyone can use them. I’m willing to be disabused of this notion, and once or twice I almost have been, reading this thread, but I’m still doubtful. I think most novelists would be happy to write without expecting Rowling-type rewards: people write because it’s in them to. No poet in existence makes a living from poetry, but the stuff keeps coming. And good poems are a lot harder to get right than novels. What’s more worth discussing, it seems to me, is stuff like drug patents – where the REAL money is.

    Once, way back, I wrote a post on a dejanews group containing the word “Californication”, which I invented on the spur of the moment. Later I was amused and a bit miffed to read that some half-arse American rock band was suing a TV series for using “their” word. FFS! There may be a case for protecting the results of hard intellectual graft but there has to be a limit imposed by common sense or I can’t even be lovin’ this thread without a McInjunction in the offing.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Endivio R:

    “I think most novelists would be happy to write without expecting Rowling-type rewards: people write because it’s in them to. No poet in existence makes a living from poetry, but the stuff keeps coming. And good poems are a lot harder to get right than novels. What’s more worth discussing, it seems to me, is stuff like drug patents – where the REAL money is.”

    It is certainly true that most novelists don’t do it to earn huge amounts of money, and most hardly cover their costs. With the trend towards self-publishing (made easier thanks to the internet), this is less of a problem than it was. I know of at least one person who self-published a historical novel after failing to win over one of the big publishers; the novel sold, and the publishers got interested and signed him up to write more. This is often how it has to work.

    But surely, if the abolition of conventional IP means that full-time writers have to do something else to earn a basic living, then this reduces specialisation in an economy. The ability of a person to focus 100 per cent on doing one thing (like novel writing) is attenuated; the division of labour is reduced. I am not saying that means IP is worth defending for that reason, but if we believe that the division of labour has been a great thing for humankind, then anything that might weaken it is not a good idea.

    And the fact that a person can earn a living selling such things rather than only do it as a hobby is surely a plus for liberty?

    Rob writes: “Despite anyone being able to copy what anyone else has written on the web, despite ebooks being easily copied people still tend to buy from the original source”.

    Yes, that is right up to a point. For instance, first editions are highly prized by collectors, for example, because people treat books as valuable physical objects. We might find that artwork on the covers of books and so on will actually thrive as writers attempt to make their own works more enticing the first time around. And from that will come a reputation and people will want to buy the origionals for the kudos of owning such things, etc.

    Of course, first editions tend to fetch a lot decades after the creator has died. Mind you, if I write a best-seller, am put into a fridge and later revived a few centuries later, I can live off the proceeds.

  • Maybe it’s because I’ve spent a considerable part of my life in creative work (I started off as a theatre technician), but I find this “they’d do it for love anyway” argument really annoying. Back in my theatre days it used to get deployed a lot, especially when people were trying to justify crap wages. I remember one (good natured) discussion with a manager, back in the 80s (I have a good memory for trivial events, bad for important stuff) where she said, “well let’s be honest, this isn’t the best way to earn money, we’re in this business because we love it” and I said, “sure, we all try to do work we like, but if you didn’t pay me I wouldn’t be here, and I really want to earn as much money as I can.”

    There are undoubtedtly lots of people who do theatre things for no money at all. There are many amateur dramatics groups for instance. But it is ludicrous to move from there to “so they don’t need paying, they’d do it anyway” about an entire market sector. There are millions of people who do gardening not just for free, but at a great cost to themselves. Should we therefore repudiate the need to pay gardeners who work for others? Where do we end with this? Do we only pay people who hate their jobs?

    As I’ve said several times, payment for services rendered is the basis of the market economy. People do things for many other reasons too in life (e.g. the aforementioned amdrams and amateur gardeners) and people do lots of things for favours and for free. But if you want a thriving economy, surely as libertarians if we agree with nothing else we agree that you must have a market.

    Market transactions have a vital effect; they bind customers and producers together. They force producers to try to create products that others want, or else they won’t make money. That evil “profit motive” is what drives the economy. Would Rowling, who at the time was poor, have written Potter without a profit motive in mind? Maybe. But I doubt it. By binding her to customers via the market, she has to try to write stuff other people want rather than what she might want to write. I am very aware of this in my comics; I’m always thinking “what do my readers want to see?” and discard ideas that I might want to do but I don’t think they want to read. Because if I don’t do stuff they like, they won’t pay me for it.

    So sure, without payment I’d probably still draw a bit. But I wouldn’t draw anywhere near as much (not least because most of my time would be spent earning money doing something else) and I would draw what I want to draw, not what they want. (I saw a good example of this recently on an email list; one of the guys is a pro who does fanart in his spare time. Somebody said, “can you draw X please?” and he said, “no, I’m doing this for fun so you get what I fancy drawing”, effectively.)

    People keep treating art, writing, etc as fungible. There’d be “some” writing and “some” art and “some” movies. But what we’re surely interested in is, art and writing and movies that people want to look at and read and watch. And for that you need a customer/producer relationship, hence a market.

    The classic example of this is Hollywood vs. state funded movies. People deride Hollywood as “populist”. Of course it is. It’s profit driven. Hollywood producers have to try and figure out what will sell, based on what people want to see. Which is why Hollywood makes popular blockbusters, and European state funded filmmakers, freed from the evil profit motive, make crap that they want to make, and then moan about them being ignored by a public whose tastes need reeducating.

    Markets are good.

  • Rob, having just typed one long screed, I’ll be brief.

    The big error you’re making in your examples is that they are all operating in an IP system as it stands, and are heavily if not directly supported by it. The primary way is that the IP system may not be stopping informal copying, but it stops mass commercial copying and discourages most people from pirating (most piracy is done by a relatively small demographic). The current law benefits everyone whether they like it or not, because it acts to prevent anyone setting up a business overtly based on stealing others’ work and profiting from it. As one example, a “free” webcomic supported by advertisements requires readers to visit the owner’s website, since nobody else is allowed to just copy it and put it on their own website (they could “undercut” the owner with less intrusive advertising, since their overheads are lower due to the absence of capital production costs).

    You are pretending that abolishing property rights would work based on the experience of a property rights regime. Fundamental error.

  • Ian B:

    Paul, the market in ad copy is not the market we are discussing. We’ve been over this. Ad nauseam.

    Yes we have, but you keep trying to waffle your way out by raising irrelevant points. Yes, we all know that someone writing a novel and somebody writing ad copy are not generally producing directly interchangeable products.

    Now, back to a relevant issue. Both make a living arranging words. In a society without copyright, they would have not have the same ability to exert control over that arrangement of words. Without that ability, you believe there could be no market for what they produce. Without that market, you believe there would be no production.

    Yet, for some unspecified reason, you make an exception for ad copy, which you believe could still be produced.

    It’s inconsistent nonsense.

  • Paul, are you now being deliberately vexatious? I do not believe that anyone reading this discussion could consider your above argument to be being made honestly.

  • Ian, as I’m sure you are aware, it was a perfectly sound point I put forward. If the only response you’ve got is irrelevant trolling, I’ll view the point as tacitly accepted.

  • Well, then you would be in error again Paul, to believe the point “tacitly accepted”. You are simply being vexatious, so far as I can tell.

    We agree that there is a market for ad copy under either regime. We are discussing whether there is a market for novels. Which of these points are you making?

    a) Novelists could write ads instead. Therefore “arrangements of words” could continue.

    This is true, but since they are different products, irrelevant. People who want novels do not want ad copy. The Lord Of The Rings and “Go to work on an egg” do not satisfy the same customer desire.

    b) Novelists could write ads instead. Therefore “arrangers of words” can still have employment.

    This is also true, but since they are different jobs, irrelevant. We are not trying to save the careers of “arrangers of words”. We are discussing whether novels, for which there is a market demand, will exist under your regime.

    c) Novels could be produced under the same arrangement as ad copy.

    Ads are provided free to induce purchase of other products. Is there a demand from manufacturers for novels to give away for free? There does not seem to be any such demand currently (I’ll presume it must have occurred somewhere occasionally, but rarely). Is a novel a good advertising giveaway? Will novels induce purchases of manufacturers’ products? If you are asserting this point, you need to provide some supporting evidence.

    Or is it another point you are trying via your clumsy argumentation to assert?

    What is the incentive in your regime for potential novelists to write the novels that readers desire? How does the financial incentivisation flow around the system?

  • Dishman

    The shorter form of Paul Lockett:

    Intellectual Property is theft.

    No matter how he tries to dress it up, and conceal what he means, that’s what it comes down to.

    He can duck and dodge and deny all he wants.

    He is still a collectivist.

  • Ian B:

    We agree that there is a market for ad copy under either regime. We are discussing whether there is a market for novels. Which of these points are you making?

    I’ve told you what the point is. I’ll repeat it:

    Both make a living arranging words. In a society without copyright, they would have not have the same ability to exert control over that arrangement of words. Without that ability, you believe there could be no market for what they produce. Without that market, you believe there would be no production.

    Yet, for some unspecified reason, you make an exception for ad copy, which you believe could still be produced.

    If you feel the need for me to copy and paste it for you again, let me know.

  • Okay Paul, that’s proof. You’re not discussing or debating, you’re vexing. I clearly requested clarification, and you refused to provide it.

    As such, I feel this conversation is in practical terms over and, since it was you who withdrew co-operation, I’m afraid you lose.

    Dishman is, of course, entirely correct in his succinct summation.

  • Dishman:

    The shorter form of Paul Lockett: Intellectual Property is theft.

    Actually, it’s “intellectual property is illiberal.” If, to you, restricting somebody’s liberty is the same as theft, then you’re thinking along the right line, even if you are using the word inaccurately, as is common with those who argue for state granted monopolies over ideas.

    He is still a collectivist.

    Unfortunately, this is where your inaccurate use of words descends into gibberish. In what sense do think there is collectivism in my approach? If it’s because I believe that there are some areas in which property rights shouldn’t be recognised, then anybody who believes in the freedom to breathe air without paying somebody designated as the owner of the air, is a collectivist, which covers almost everybody.

    In most contexts, collectivism implies control of a resource by a collective. Clearly, that is not what I am arguing for. I don’t want the freedom to use an idea to be subject to some group decision, I want it to be a freedom automatically possessed by each individual.

    Hence, when you use the word collectivist, I think what you actually mean is individualist.

  • Okay Paul, that’s proof. You’re not discussing or debating, you’re vexing.

    When somebody offers a particular piece of reasoning to support their position, somebody, who holds the opposing point of view, offering proof of the invalidity of that reasoning, is about as valid as debate gets.

    Your trolling seems to show a pattern. When I disagree with you by talking in terms of general principles, you dismiss it as being vague and unspecific. When I disagree with you by directly and specifically addressing the arguments you put forward, you dismiss it as being vexatious.

    I clearly requested clarification, and you refused to provide it.

    You requested explanation of the point I was making. I gave it. Then I repeated it. At which point, you decided to accept it.

    As such, I feel this conversation is in practical terms over and, since it was you who withdrew co-operation, I’m afraid you lose.

    If debate is to be considered to have a winner and a loser, I would expect it to be determined by the strength of argument, not the extent to which the parties “co-operate” by ignoring flaws in the each other’s arguments.

    Dishman is, of course, entirely correct in his succinct summation.

    He isn’t. He is wrong, for reasons I’ve explained, although given the similar failings in your approaches, it doesn’t surprise me that you feel that way.

  • You’ve had enough chances Paul. Game over.

  • Dishman

    In most contexts, collectivism implies control of a resource by a collective.

    It also refers to ownership.

    You believe that ideas should be owned collectively, to the apparent exclusion of individuals.

    That is still collectivism.

    Patents are a negotiation in advance. Specific terms have been set forth where by I can reach an agreement with everyone to sell my idea.

    In this particular case, there is no other way I could receive sufficient compensation to be worth the effort, and no one else who has been able to conceive it. This is the only way the negotation can be conducted.

  • Dishman:

    It also refers to ownership.

    You believe that ideas should be owned collectively, to the apparent exclusion of individuals.

    That is still collectivism.

    I’ve already explained very clearly why that is nonsense.

    I believe that ideas should not be owned collectively, but should be unowned. That is not collectivism, unless, as per my previous comment, you are operating according to some bizarre definition of collectivism which makes everybody who believes the air should be unowned a collectivist.

  • Dishman

    I believe that ideas should not be owned collectively, but should be unowned.

    Then we are at an impass. I would not do business with you. The form of business contract I prefer offends you.

    I have an idea. Right now, I have an exclusive monopoly on the idea.

    I assert without evidence that you know the need for my idea, and indeed would find it beneficial to you. You are demonstrably incapable of conceiving it yourself, as evidenced by the fact that you have not.

    I wish to trade my idea for compensation. I believe there is only one way I can do so, namely a patent.

    If that form of contract offends you, it’s really not my problem. You have given me no reason to give a damn about your opinion.

    The only question is whether or not we can negotiate a contract.

    You have said that you do not respect that which I hold dear, so, no, we can’t.

    Fortunately for you, there are sufficient others with whom I can reach a contract in the form of a patent.

    Know that if it were you and I, I would rather watch you die (or die myself) than do business with you.

  • Dishman

    I tried making another comment, but the spam filter has caught it.

    Patents are a contract, with publicly available terms.

    One of those terms is the limited duration monopoly.

    Another essential term is disclosure, sufficient that someone skilled in the art can duplicate it. At a certain stage of the patent application process, that information is actually publicly disclosed.

    You can actually search the USPTO website, and read every single patent since 1970. There is a huge volume of knowledge there, available for your reading. Much of it is actually, as you desire, explicitly within the public domain, with sufficient clarity that it can be replicated by someone skilled in the art.

    My take is that you are opposed to such contracts.

    As someone who has spent considerable effort (roughly 10,000 hours of my own time) in preparation for entering such a contract, I find your efforts to be bad faith.

  • Dishman:

    Patents are a contract

    No they aren’t.

    A contract is an agreement to which the parties actively consent. Patents bind everybody, whether or not they agree with the terms being proposed.

    Now, if you’ve got the kind of collectivist mindset which leads you to believe that the state can exercise consent on my behalf without my active involvement, I can see how you might come to believe that a patent is a contract, but I’d say it’s a complete distortion of the word.

  • IanB:

    Sorry, I didn’t mean to be annoying. Let me try another tack.

    As already stated, for me IP is a given in the trivial sense that we can all claim ownership of non-published material we have dreamed up: it’s a corollary of self-ownership. It also strikes me that when you share (make public, “publish”) an idea/arrangement of words/etc, what happens next, or arguably should happen, is unlikely to satisfy anyone with a penchant for dogma and ideological purity. On the one hand, in a society that reveres IP in the widest possible sense (which is not ours), we will have endless litigation over mindbendingly trivial and/or dubious assertions of authorship of just about anything that can be conceived as having an author, from portmanteau words to cherry-pie colour schemes. We will also have Big Brother checking out our hard drives from time to time. In a society where claims to IP are aggressively dismissed and trampled on, we might have only crap novels or films, and no new drugs. Neither situation strikes me as ideal. However, your own dictum “markets are good” offers a possible solution. Let the market decide. If the pendulum swings too far either way, reaction will set in. If IP legislation and consequent rewards are too biased in favour of the creator, with looneytunes copyright assertions and such, the market responds, not as it used to by sending a warning signal in the form of a lowering of demand, but by rerouting demand to cheap, “illegal” or Chinese copies of whatever (as e.g. here in Ecuador with drugs), with much the same effect. If the pendulum swings too far the other way, so that creators no longer have an incentive to produce stuff people want, because whatever they come up with gets instantly pirated, then those same people who no longer have their novels, movies or new painkillers get royally pissed off, and demand change (in the law, in society) to benefit would-be intellectual producers. In other words, I’m positing (mostly for the hell of it) a meta-market of social and legal arrangements that might seek its own equilibrium to the mutual benefit of consumers and producers. I think you can see this happening in terms of the fluctuations in status accorded to e.g. writers and artists. Status isn’t money, but for those of us without either it doesn’t seem such a bad deal. It even seems to translate into a halfway decent sex life for some people. Not that I’m envious or anything.

  • Dishman

    Paul Lockett,

    Your incremental approach to technology would not unlock what I have found. It takes two leaps. I have the peculiar combination of traits which allowed me to make both leaps accurately.

    I get the impression that you are unwilling to do business with me.

    I have no interest in doing business with you. There is simply no way under your paradigm that I could receive anywhere near adequate compensation, let alone a fraction of what this is worth. If I could somehow make it available to everyone in the world except you, I would.

    There is, however, a prearranged compromise, which I will avail myself of, and thus you will also enjoy the benefits of my labors. This is the only way the deal can be done. I regret that as much as you do.

    And so, though I despise you for your greivous insults and aggressive rejection of the value of my work, we shall do business, and in doing so, both of us will profit.

    Endivio R,
    The only only disagreement I have with your comment is that the technically correct term is “Mickey Mouse Copyright Laws”.

  • Dishman, in a world without the state granted monopolies we are discussing, you would have two options.

    1. Actively negotiate the release of the idea with those who you believe it would be useful to.

    2. As you have suggested, refuse to release it at all because there isn’t a patent system provided for you, in which case, you would get no return at all and somebody else would have the idea and negotiate a brief time later.

    Personally, I’m fine with either of those approaches.

  • Dishman

    Paul,

    Have you ever tried selling an invention as an individual inventor? Do you have any actual experience with what you’re talking about? It’s trickier than you think, even with NDAs and patents.

    Non-disclosure agreements are just not strong enough and easy enough (and realistically can’t be made so) to allow your approach to work. Three can keep a secret if two are dead. Once you have enough parties involved that it’s impossible to prove who leaked, it will leak.

    Particularly regarding this my idea, your approach is a long way from practical.

    In this particular case, item 1 is not viable. There are simply too many interested parties. Too many who would have to know. Real humans are not honest enough to make that work. You do understand that humans are not honest, right?

    Item 2 will take at least 10 years, and maybe 20 or more as people chew through the long way. I went the hard way, which appears to require some particular brain-damage and other trauma to navigate. (Thank you, J. Longworth, I couldn’t have done it without you).

    What does work for me (and maximizes my gain) is licensing it to anyone, to let them compete for applications and on production cost, so long as they pay me my pennies. It’s really not all that different from what you propose.

    For me, the key difference is that instead of trying to work out one transaction with a high cost, small return, and huge risk, I can make lots of easy transactions with modest return and low risk.

    For vendors, it’s a much lower risk transaction.

    For consumers, and you, it probably brings this thing to market substantially faster (years) than your way.

  • Dishman:

    In this particular case, item 1 is not viable.

    Of course it’s viable. What you mean is it doesn’t give you everything you want, which is an entirely different thing.

    Item 2 will take at least 10 years, and maybe 20 or more as people chew through the long way.

    I very much doubt it.

    It’s really not all that different from what you propose.

    It is fundamentally different. I propose an approach built on contract and free agreement. You propose an approach built on state granted monopolies.

  • Dishman

    Of course it’s viable. What you mean is it doesn’t give you everything you want, which is an entirely different thing.

    No, what I mean is that I would likely get less than the cost of securing such contracts. A business plan with an average negative return is not viable.

    I very much doubt it.

    Of course. This entire thread has been filled with the limits of your ability to conceive. Why should my idea (which is very much outside your understanding) be any different?

    I ask again if you have any experience with the process (inventions, marketing such, patents other than software) I describe? Or are you giving advice from ignorance?

  • Dishman:

    Of course. This entire thread has been filled with the limits of your ability to conceive. Why should my idea (which is very much outside your understanding) be any different?

    Given that you haven’t told us what your idea is, I have to work off what experience I have of you, which is your trolling on here.

    You would have us believe that you are such a unique and towering intellect that it is almost inconceivable that anybody else, out of the billions of people on the planet, could have the same idea as you within a decade. Such a situation is almost unheard of and your output certainly doesn’t give the impression that your incredibly high opinion of yourself is anywhere close to reality.

  • Dishman

    Paul,

    I repeat the question.

    Do you have any experience yourself with how the process works now? Or are you simply working off of how you think things ought to be?

    Such a situation is almost unheard of and your output certainly doesn’t give the impression that your incredibly high opinion of yourself is anywhere close to reality.

    Can you give any reason for me to think you are any closer to reality?

  • Kim du Toit

    I’m going to apply the Occam principle, because it’s a simple situation (except among librarians). If IP is defined as “property”, then there’s no reason it shouldn’t be protected by the same kind of law as any other property.

    People who think otherwise are either Benthamite utilitarians or freeloaders.

  • Kim, I’m afraid you’ve simplified to the point of absurdity.

    By the reasoning you offered, as slaves were defined as property, anybody who argued for the abolition of slavery must have been either a Benthamite utilitarian or a freeloader.

    By the same principle, if a government decided to create a legally enforceable right not be offended and called it “emotional property,” anybody arguing against it would be either a Benthamite utilitarian or a freeloader.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Paul Marks made an interesting point about China: namely, that regardless of whether I think IP is bunk or not, a country such as China does not give a flying expleted deleted for IP; there is also the practical issue of how economical it is enforce IP even if people agree that IP is justified.

    I can see some of the argument here: there is no point having rules with no chance of getting enforced; indeed, all it does is bring such laws into contempt, which is not a good thing in itself.

    I still think that a world without state-enforced “monopolies” such as copyright or patents, there will still be efforts by people to try and capture economic value from ideas and acts of artistic/other creativity. The benefits from having people able to earn a living in this way seem too great to chuck it away.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    At 10:30 on Nov 30, Lockett made a remark that is surely wrong.

    “nobody has suggested a situation in which goods would be unowned, so that comment is irrelevant here”.

    I thought the idea of absolishing such state “monopolies” as IP was so that “goods” (like a novel, piece of music or design of a motor car) would no longer be attached to an owner in the form of a holder of a copyright or patent, but turned into a sort of common resource which can be used by whoever wants to do so.

    Although as we have seen from a quote dug up by IanB above, even folk who pray before the altar of “open source” often get sniffy if their stuff is copied without attribution.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    And a third comment from me, responding to the equally vexatious Mr Davies:

    “You are also trying to use thought-experiments (your “What happens if?”) the same way Einstein used his Gedankenexperiment while developing his Theory of Relativity; this is also scientism.”

    No it is not; a thought experiment in the case of something such as IP is simply what it is: my asking, what happens if state-mandated IP is abolished. Given that IP has now been around for well over a hundred years in the industrialised nations of the world, perhaps those who argue for its abolition might want to suggest what happens. Shouting “scientism” is just silly.

    My point is that if even I cannot rationally explain my own likes and dislikes, what hope do you (or any other central planner) have of rationally doing so, and hence predict how any set of incentives will work on me or anyone else? Maybe you think yourself capable of rationally and objectively analysing your own behaviour, and hence you think everyone is the same; who is projecting now?

    I am not asking you to explain your own likes and dislikes; I am pointing out that incentives matter; if a person wants to write a novel and earn money from it, IP has a bearing on the issue.

    “You were applying scientific modes of thought and operation to incentives; you were implicitly assuming they were scientific.”

    No I was not, stop lying please. I was pointing to the fact that there is a fair amount of evidence that incentives matter in human behaviour. You can deny that all you like and scream “scientist”, but I will regard you as a fool.

    “You were more than just stating observations from practical exprience; you were asking people to rationally analyse incentives, create a model of how those incentives might work, and come up with alternatives (“what happens if?”); and complaining when others refused to move with you into the realms of scientism (remember your “go nuts” quote?).
    Using Arnold King’s new metaphor(Link), you need to stop being a curator and be more a park ranger… or at least be more tolerant of us who do not want to be curators ;-)”

    Wrong again. I was not trying to create a system of incentives from the ground up; I was arguing in my original post that certain things might arise if we get rid of IP, and speculated on what they might be. I could be wrong about these scenarios.

    Speculating about something is not the same as the error of “scientism” as you call it. I am all for allowing legal and other systems to evolve. There is nothing in my article to say I said otherwise.

    If you are going to misrepresent my words, there is no point in dealing with this further.

  • JP:

    At 10:30 on Nov 30, Lockett made a remark that is surely wrong.

    “nobody has suggested a situation in which goods would be unowned, so that comment is irrelevant here”.

    I thought the idea of absolishing such state “monopolies” as IP was so that “goods” (like a novel, piece of music or design of a motor car) would no longer be attached to an owner in the form of a holder of a copyright or patent, but turned into a sort of common resource which can be used by whoever wants to do so.

    Yes, the concept is that ideas wouldn’t be subject to state granted monopolies. But to say that goods would be unowned is clearly nonsense. There is no suggestion that property rights in rivalrous physical objects (which are what are commonly called goods) would be unowned. In fact, without those state granted monopolies, property rights in rivalrous tangibles would be strengthened.

    Although as we have seen from a quote dug up by IanB above, even folk who pray before the altar of “open source” often get sniffy if their stuff is copied without attribution.

    What a shame. You’ve actually offered relatively considered comment on this topic, then, this late in the thread, you’ve chosen to descend to offering the same kind of silly little comments as Ian.

  • Dishman

    Paul Lockett still has not answered my question as to whether or not he has any experience with the entire process of invention.

    It seems to me that he lives in a world where “doing” is the hard part, and he minimizes the difficulty of knowing what to do and how to do it. It appears to me that he may believe this out of ignorance.

    I have an extreme example of that, having spent roughly 10,000 hours working on something that I could explain to a child in minutes.

    Labor is easy, common, and cheap. Creativity and insight are rare. He would deny the value of the creativity and insight of others, and claim it for his own.

    … as if the world somehow owes it to him.

    … as if he somehow has a right to the fruits of someone else’s labor.

    Commie.

  • Dishman, I’ve not replied because you are a troll and therefore it would be a waste of my time. At least with others who have descended to trolling, they have at some point offered something of value which made them worth interacting with. You, on the other hand, have offered nothing but insults, inaccurate nonsense and an imaginary invention. The fact you chose to end with the word Commie, as if it stood alone as a cutting insult, demonstrates perfectly your lack of intellectual horsepower.

  • Dishman

    Paul,

    I have challenged your credibility. You have nothing with which to respond, save calling me a troll and attempting to insult my intelligence. I would be more concerned if I was the first one you called a troll in this thread. While I freely admit that I am brain damaged and retarded, I don’t think that works out quite as well for you as you would like to believe.

    Other than your statements, I have offered no evidence. I will do so at the time and in the manner of my choosing.

    Have patience. You will learn the full extent of my insult in time. Meanwhile, you might find it valuable to privately reconsider the vulnerability of the position you have staked out.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Yes, the concept is that ideas wouldn’t be subject to state granted monopolies. But to say that goods would be unowned is clearly nonsense. There is no suggestion that property rights in rivalrous physical objects (which are what are commonly called goods) would be unowned. In fact, without those state granted monopolies, property rights in rivalrous tangibles would be strengthened.

    We appear to be arguing past each other, Paul. A novel, for example, is clearly a physical object, but the words on it are not; indeed, if a novel can be reprinted by anyone, then the original publisher of the novel has lost his exclusive right over any ability to publish the words in book form and sell em. That’s kind of the point of this whole thread, surely.

    “What a shame. You’ve actually offered relatively considered comment on this topic, then, this late in the thread, you’ve chosen to descend to offering the same kind of silly little comments as Ian”.

    I made the point about attribution because it is a fact that even opponents of conventional IP must, surely, get annoyed if what they consider to be their work gets ripped off. That suggests that even devotees of the open-source model have a sense of property in their work and get irritated when that is damaged. I was not being snide.

    And thanks for that piece of condescension about my “relatively considered” comment. It is that sort of barb that explains why several commenters here have lost their rag. Learn some manners.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    For those interested, here is an interesting essay by Roderick Long(Link), who opposes IP.

  • Kim du Toit

    “By the same principle, if a government decided to create a legally enforceable right not be offended and called it “emotional property,” anybody arguing against it would be either a Benthamite utilitarian or a freeloader.”

    Mr. Lockett, feel free to look up the definition of “straw man argument”.

    By the reasoning you offered, as slaves were defined as property, anybody who argued for the abolition of slavery must have been either a Benthamite utilitarian or a freeloader.

    Yes, and over half a million people died to prove that people are not property, which was a flawed assumption to begin with.

    Feel free to bring up the issue of child chimney sweeps, witch-burning, or the sale of indulgences in your next attempts to debate the point.

    Let me try to make it as simple as possible (the Occam Principle again).

    If I make a table, you can’t just take it (without my consent, or without offering me compensation) and use it for your own purposes. That’s called theft.

    If I make a table of a unique and special design, you can’t just take the design (without my consent, or without offering me compensation) and use it for your own purposes. That’s called theft.

    There is absolutely no difference between the above two scenarios, all lofty metaphysical musings on intellectual vs. physical properties notwithstanding. To argue that there is, is simply an attempt to justify theft.

  • Kim:

    Let me try to make it as simple as possible (the Occam Principle again).

    If you applied that principle correctly, you would see that my position satisfies the principle far better than yours.

    The principle says that one should make as few assumptions as possible, but you’ve made one massive assumption without supporting it in any way. You’ve effectively assumed that that anything which is property now is justifiable as property.

    You’ve accepted that, even though slaves were treated as property in the past, it was right to cease to recognise that property right, yet you flatly refuse to consider the possibility that there are similar property rights in existence today.

    Your position is built on no foundation, which is why it continually ends up sounding nonsensical. Unless you offer some explanation of why you class one thing as valid property and another not, the argument you are offering has no value.

  • I made the point about attribution because it is a fact that even opponents of conventional IP must, surely, get annoyed if what they consider to be their work gets ripped off.

    I don’t like to offer an argument based on the assumption that a particular group of people are a homogenous mass who all have the same motivations and opinions. I suspect some will and some won’t. Some will, in the same way a busker may get annoyed if people listen to him/her without throwing some coins into their hat. Some won’t care. Some will sit in the middle and be comfortable so long as any reuse isn’t plagiaristic.

    That suggests that even devotees of the open-source model have a sense of property in their work and get irritated when that is damaged.

    Again, this suggests that all devotees of the open-source model have the same motivations, which is demonstrably not the case; the open source and free software movements use the same tools, but have different underlying ideologies. What neither of them has is a total opposition to so-called IP.

    And thanks for that piece of condescension about my “relatively considered” comment. It is that sort of barb that explains why several commenters here have lost their rag. Learn some manners.

    Given that my reply was in a similar tone to the one you frequently direct towards me, I don’t think this is an area in which either one of us can try to take the high ground.

  • Dishman

    Jonathan

    I read as much of the linked essay as I could stomach.

    Roderick Long uses a hypothetical in which his need somehow creates a right to the results of someone else’s abilities.

    I’ve heard that logic before. “From each according to ability, to each according to need.”

    ’nuff said.

  • Dishman

    I suspect what’s going on here is an artifact of viewing Information Space (of which politics and economics are a subset) as some kind of Euclidean vector space.

    The implication of such a space would be that you could go further and further down a vector without bending back and ending up on the opposite side.

    In this case, I suspect that some people are trying so hard to be pure in their libertarianism that they don’t even recognize when they’re using Marx to justify their positions.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Given that my reply was in a similar tone to the one you frequently direct towards me, I don’t think this is an area in which either one of us can try to take the high ground.

    I am not aware that I have been routinely snide towards you, Paul, but if I have, then I do of course apologise. But this is a two-way street.

    Anyway, let’s consider this:

    “I don’t like to offer an argument based on the assumption that a particular group of people are a homogenous mass who all have the same motivations and opinions. I suspect some will and some won’t. Some will, in the same way a busker may get annoyed if people listen to him/her without throwing some coins into their hat. Some won’t care. Some will sit in the middle and be comfortable so long as any reuse isn’t plagiaristic.”

    Well maybe. But consider what happens if say, you were to invent something. You get a bit of success from it. Your invention is clearly copied by someone else, who not only does not bother to acknowledge you as the source, but he copies it and sell it to great effect. You earn nothing. Your achievement is overlooked, ignored. Your contribution is buried.

    I guess you could be indifferent, and adopt a sort of Zen-like indifference. I can imagine how this might be the case. But this is not always so simple. You might be quite pissed off; maybe not so annoyed as to take any form of action, but annoyed enough. That is understandable. To imagine otherwise is not really credible. Most human beings want their acts of creativity to be acknowledged, if not always in hard cash or high praise.

    One thing that might happen without state-created IP in our age is that people who copy the idea of others without attribution or any payment would themselves be blacklisted, shunned, and refused access to ideas in certain circles. I dunno how it works in software, but I can see how, for example, some people who are known to be republishers of others’ work might be shunned if they take the piss. And as technology develops, creators of new ideas could embed their own signatures into things, such as musical recordings. It is often glibly stated that copying gets much easier in the age of the internet, but it new ways of “watermarking” ideas might also develop. Copyists might have to beware.

    As I said in my original post, it is fanciful for opponents of state-mandated IP to imagine that there will not be attempts to still try and protect some kind of control over works of creation. The next few decades might not be the free-for-all that opponents of state-mandated IP imagine. It promises to be fascinating time.

  • JP:

    Well maybe. But consider what happens if say, you were to invent something. You get a bit of success from it. Your invention is clearly copied by someone else, who not only does not bother to acknowledge you as the source, but he copies it and sell it to great effect. You earn nothing. Your achievement is overlooked, ignored. Your contribution is buried.

    Let’s say, for example, my idea was the self-service supermarket – undeniably a great leap forward. If I have the right to veto any use of that idea, it would effectively destroy free trade. If I have a right to demand attribution in every self-service supermarket, it would be incredibly onerous.

    Full attribution in all circumstances might be desirable, but it isn’t really practical.

    I guess you could be indifferent, and adopt a sort of Zen-like indifference. I can imagine how this might be the case. But this is not always so simple. You might be quite pissed off; maybe not so annoyed as to take any form of action, but annoyed enough. That is understandable. To imagine otherwise is not really credible. Most human beings want their acts of creativity to be acknowledged, if not always in hard cash or high praise.

    As human beings, we all want lots of things, but it doesn’t necessarily justify the use of violence. You might be quite pissed off if you spot a gap in the market, open a shop, build up custom and then find somebody opening a competing shop next door.

    As I said in my original post, it is fanciful for opponents of state-mandated IP to imagine that there will not be attempts to still try and protect some kind of control over works of creation.

    Of course there will be attempts to exert control, whether it be contractual means, or technological means. So long as it doesn’t involve the use of coercion to achieve it, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

  • Dishman

    Let’s say, for example, my idea was the self-service supermarket – undeniably a great leap forward. If I have the right to veto any use of that idea, it would effectively destroy free trade.

    I don’t think that idea is patentable. The devices themselves are covered by several patents. Some of those patents may be circumventable. The patents have expired on may of the key aspects.

    All the supermarkets near my house have the devices.

    Hardware vendors have an interest in selling their product as widely as possible. Further, vendors playing favorites is generally (and with good cause) regarded as an unsound business practice.

    If the same company tried to do both supermarkets and registers, one or both aspects would likely suffer. Supermarket chains tend to be too small to finance a good R&D effort.

    Basically, it doesn’t work the way you seem to think.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Let’s say, for example, my idea was the self-service supermarket – undeniably a great leap forward. If I have the right to veto any use of that idea, it would effectively destroy free trade. If I have a right to demand attribution in every self-service supermarket, it would be incredibly onerous.

    I am not that a business model like this could ever be easily patentable, anyway. So it would, as you say, be nuts to try to do so. It would be as crazy as trying to take out a patent on making a cup of tea for my boss.

    With a specific creation like a book or musical score, by contrast, it is much clearer that the work is not something that can be boiled down to a general principle or model of behaviour, like a business method.

    In cases of specific artistic creations, it might be possible, even without state enforced copyright, for people to perhaps make some sort of arrangement to respect the ability of the creators of such artworks to at least have some chance to make money from them for a period of time. And if others copy such works and publish them without paying anything to the creator, then such folk might find themselves on a sort of shit-list.

    I’d be interested to know how this works in the open-source software community. Do folk who copy the work of others and give no recognition of that get blacklisted? I would not be at all surprised if such forms of self-regulation in certain fields go on.