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]

Don’t conflate conflate with conflagrate!

This comment, from “James R”, made me laugh, in fact it made me LOL:

We need to avoid conflagrating copyright with patents.

If enough people say that confragrating conflagrating and conflating mean the same thing, then they do. But, I hope that isn’t what gets decided.

This comment was attached to a piece by Tom Burroughes about intellectual property, about which Tom will be speaking, at an event organised by Libertarian Home this evening, in Southwark. I hope to be there myself.

LATER: Oh dear. Another correction is required. The piece I linked to is not by tonight’s speaker Tom Burroughes, but by Libertarian Home’s Simon Gibbs. Apologies to both persons.

44 comments to Don’t conflate conflate with conflagrate!

  • And now you’ve added ‘confragrate’ to the mix, just to conflounder us still more ;-)

  • Yes, there is one of those laws which goes that whenever you take the piss out of someone else’s grammar or spelling, then in the very act of doing this you make a similar mistake yourself.

    You, however, made your mistake on purpose.

  • veryretired

    I’m conflused…

  • I think “confragrate” means to combine odors or aromas. :-)

  • Laird

    Judging from the IP discussions we’ve had around here, I think some people would say that the error in that sentence is merely that we should be conflagrating copyrights and patents!

  • And conflagrating cornflakes?

  • In the linked article, Simon Gibbs writes:

    Physical goods are, in this sense, scarce, and we have property to ensure peaceful control of these things, but in the realm of ideas, there is no such scarcity. Also, IP represents an attack on freedom. If I own a computer, and a supplier of software bans me from using it in certain ways lest I violate IP, then I am being told how to use my own physical property. In short, IP limits freedom.

    As for there being no scarcity of ideas, that only applies to the bad ones.

    Continuing, the whole paragraph does not make sense to me (though I cannot determine whether the lack of sense is that of Simon Gibbs or of those whom he writes about). As claimed, there is no physical presence (of the sort under discussion) in intellectual property; thus there can be no instruction constraining the use of owned physical property as originally acquired (ie without any acquired IP). However, the value in physical property such as a computer, CD player, car or kettle is not in its physical possession, but in its utility (potential or actual use). Without the intellectual property that makes it useful, its value is its scrap value. At the time of purchase, there is IP in the computer, CD player, car or kettle that is defined and is part of the contract at time of purchase; this is in the arrangement of its more base physical components. If additional IP is purchased (say a computer software package or a CD) the additional utility is also defined in the embodied IP of that additional purchase, and is generally known at the time of purchase. Only if the contract terms are hidden or obscure, should there be any dissatisfaction on the part of the purchaser.

    This does, of course raise the question of whether property ownership can be, or should be, limited only to physical property. In law, as we currently have it in the UK, the USA and most other countries, there is an adequately defined set of classes of intellectual property; also an adequately defined set of classes of physical stuff that cannot be labelled as property subject to ownership (eg the air we breathe).

    Subsequently, in the comments of the linked article, Paul Marks (I assume of the Samizdata parish) writes:

    Copyrights and patents last for a government set number of years. If IP is correct why the limit on the number of years? And why a different number of years in different countries (and please no world government “an international treaty will sort this out”)? It all seems rather arbitrary.

    As Paul surely knows, patents at least are a trade between inventor and government. Inventor discloses the ‘full’ extent of the invention to the world (so others know how to ‘make’ copies) in return for a time-limited monopoly on sale and use in the geographical region governed by the government granting the patent.

    Trade is good, in general. This sort of trade has stood the test of time (over 400 years in the UK) of also being good. If it were not good, we would not still do it. That there are some problems with the details of IP process and law, does not invalidate the overall concept.

    Copyright has a somewhat different set of issues. However it is there primarily to protect the means of earning income from work, of original artists (in the broadest sense) and also, in many cases, to protect the purchasing public from forgery or other false claims. Copyright is often embodied, for the purpose of trade, in physical property – eg a painting, book or CD-ROM – though, for the purposes of copyright, the overall law on the issue is made more complicated. Design rights are yet a further complication, though again with the intent of facilitating certain sorts of trade that nearly all people find desirable; they strike me as in-between patents and copyright.

    Copyright differs from patents in not being a trade between a single inventor and a single government (which might or might not be agreed by the parties), but being a generalised trade law within world-wide society, and between a multiplicity of individuals and corporations. This is, I posit, separate for reasons of practicality an expedience, and also somewhat different in detailed purpose. All that is required is for the ‘artist’ to claim ownership and date-stamp the ‘artistic creation’. It is also the case that copyright is (or perhaps that should read ‘was’ – and IMHO the change is not totally good) for the personal benefit of the ‘artist’ and his/her immediate dependants.

    In all of the cases of patents, copyright and design rights, I do not dispute that the passage of time (including the advance of technology and of business practices, and changing societal fashion) has raised problems. These are particularly problems for or with those who trade in intellectual property.

    But attack on the concept of clothing is not really a useful way to help dressing without frayed edges.

    Though I agree with Brian that we should differentiate conflagration and conflation, I think we should conflate patents and copyright, concerning the overall continuing desirability of IP. But we should not conflate the detailed problems that we have with each of them at this current time.

    Something could be gained, I think, in a better declaration of the differences between patents (primarily utility), copyright (primarily artistic merit) and design rights (very mixed). We would also gain from some finer distinction on the extent of inventive or artistic merit being linked to the granted duration of monopoly.

    Paul Marks has later in his comment to the linked article:

    … what actually matters is productivity …

    Though he was talking primarily about manufacturing, I think this can be extended to intellectual labours. I agree with him very strongly.

    Most readers here live in a first world economy. If one stops trade in intellectual property, eg by defining it at something that should not be allowed to exist, that will not lead the future anywhere good for the first world.

    [Oh, and I declare a personal interest.]

    Best regards

  • “However, the value in physical property such as a computer, CD player, car or kettle is not in its physical possession, but in its utility (potential or actual use).”

    That sounds dangerously like it’s heading in the direction of the value theory of property, which will always lead to bad conclusions.

    “If it were not good, we would not still do it.”

    The idea that, if the state does something for long enough, it must be good, is an idea I don’t feel has much merit.

    “It is also the case that copyright is (or perhaps that should read ‘was’ – and IMHO the change is not totally good) for the personal benefit of the ‘artist’ and his/her immediate dependants.”

    Absolutely not. Copyright is for the benefit of the general public. Any benefit enjoyed by the artist is purely a means to an end, which should be as limited as possible.

  • Alisa

    SG: ‘If I own
    a computer, and a supplier of software
    bans me from using
    it in certain ways
    lest I violate IP,
    then I am being told
    how to use my own physical property.’

    Yours truly: If I own
    an axe and an owner of a house
    bans me from using
    it in certain ways
    lest I violate property laws by breaking into his hose,
    then I am being told
    how to use my own physical property.

  • Alisa

    …’house’…

  • Tedd

    Alisa conflagrated hose with house.

  • I have not understood Paul Lockett’s term value theory of property, and the usual searches have not helped, except perhaps to ask does he mean John Locke’s “labour theory of value” and “labour theory of property”? If Locke’s theories, I don’t think Paul understood what I wrote. Any clarification from Paul, or thoughts of others on this would be gratefully received here.

    Paul Lockett also writes:

    The idea that, if the state does something for long enough, it must be good, is an idea I don’t feel has much merit.

    On this, I think it is rather that inventors, artists, their customers, and governments have all done it for a long period, and worldwide. That does, I think, give it greater legitimacy than just a single or small number of governments doing it for a while (though I have not forgotten about slavery). Likewise we have the benefits (perhaps) of the rule of law; also various issues on health (eg public sewers and clean mains water) and safety (eg the highway codes of different countries). Though doubtless some of these are overdone in some places from time to time, those that are not overdone do have legitimacy, as demonstrated primarily by happy continuance of the practice. So I continue to disagree with Paul on this.

    And Paul Lockett writes:

    Absolutely not. Copyright is for the benefit of the general public. Any benefit enjoyed by the artist is purely a means to an end, which should be as limited as possible.

    I agree entirely, and thank Paul for his for his suggested clarification of my view.

    The labour of each and every worker in an economy (inventor, artist or otherwise) is only for the benefit of the economy (including the reduction in welfarism and other charitable support for the work-shy, feckless, ‘insufficiently skilled’ and, perhaps in play here, ‘deskilled’). The reward for all labour should be as limited as possible – and set by the market. If there were less market for inventors and artists, as in a world lacking intellectual property rights, doubtless there would be less inventors and artists – cos they would be too busy scraping a living at something else (maybe even as state-licensed gas engineers, airline pilots and lorry drivers). Clearly patents and copyright etc are a form of guilding, but so is welfarism and the rest – we need to have all the guilds in the best balance we can manage – for surely we will never have all the guilds done away with.

    As for the available utility of inventions without the motivation of inventors to invent, and the occasional lightening of our spirits without the motivation of artists to their art …

    Well, there is always communism: from each according to … And communism might perhaps be called mono-guildism – but one is not zero. Paul and I am, I’m quite sure, both actively against communism; is there a third way?

    Best regards

  • Alisa

    Of course there is a third way: that where, whatever ism it is one nominally subscribes to, stands in contradiction to something one really, really wants – and so one twists said ism (otherwise known as set of values and principles) totally out of shape.

  • In fact the bulk of that article was adapted from Tom’s summary of his speech, (gosh, without attribution!!) so your later muddle is somewhat justified!

    @Alisa, a better translation:

    ‘If I own
    a house, and a supplier of axes
    bans me from using
    it in certain ways
    lest I violate property rights by breaking into his office,
    then I am being told
    how to use an axe in my own home.’

  • Alisa

    See my comment just above yours, Simon.

  • Laird

    “The labour of each and every worker in an economy (inventor, artist or otherwise) is only for the benefit of the economy (including the reduction in welfarism and other charitable support for the work-shy, feckless, ‘insufficiently skilled’ and, perhaps in play here, ‘deskilled’). The reward for all labour should be as limited as possible – and set by the market.” – Nigel

    Utter nonsense. My labor is purely and entirely for my own benefit; if “the economy” (which is really a concept void of content; an “economy” is merely the total output of the individuals involved) should incidentally reap some benefit from it that’s entirely an unintended side effect. Yes, the price of labor should be set by the market, but only because it’s the intersection of competing individual interests (my interest in getting the most pay I can, and my employer’s interest in paying as little as he can get away with). But that has absolutely nothing with the reward for labor being “as limited as possible”, another nonsensical comment.

    The problem with Simon’s computer analogy is that while he owns the computer he doesn’t own the software; he merely owns a license to use the software. And that license specifies the terms of permitted use. If he doesn’t like those terms he’s free to use some other software. But in either case he should stop whining about it; he knew the rules.

  • Laird writes ‘Utter nonsense.’ [I hope that is suitably ambiguous.]

    My response above was somewhat pandering to Paul Lockett’s third argument, and to his words; however, Paul did make a very valid point.

    Laird and I agree, I think, on the main thrust of the argument; he just does not like my words (and/or their arrangement).

    For a little more clarity, Laird does not labour just for himself. He actually labours for the mutually beneficial trade between himself and his employer (or customer): so that makes at least twice as many as ‘himself’. And his does this, IMHO, primarily because he is a decent fellow; also because he wants his customer to come back tomorrow for more. If his words actually and self-admittedly, without ambiguity, mean that he is entirely and only selfishly motived, and will shaft his employer/customer to the full extent that he can get away with, so be it.

    But I continue to be more optimistic. For Laird. And, beyond the utility of invention and the monetary value of art sold, for the concept of the sheer delight of being able (and permitted by economic circumstances) to do something that is valued highly by both others and oneself.

    Best regards

  • Laird

    Nigel, please don’t put words in my mouth. I work for my own benefit. I don’t work for the “mutually beneficial trade” with my employer and/or customers, any more than those persons employ me for such a reason. We exchange my services for their cash because in their estimation those services are worth more than keeping the money in their pockets. The “mutually beneficial” part is a necessary condition to the arrangement, but not the reason for it. And “shafting” my employer/customer is not in my interest.

    But you are correct that I am a decent fellow.

  • Nigel,

    the labour theory of property is the concept used by many defenders of intellectual monopolies, which claims that property rights should be assigned according to the value each individual can be determined to have added to the item. The natural conclusion is that property rights over material goods cease to exist in any meaningful form, which for many may be the intention.

    Though doubtless some of these are overdone in some places from time to time, those that are not overdone do have legitimacy, as demonstrated primarily by happy continuance of the practice. So I continue to disagree with Paul on this.

    The idea that the continuance is happy is at odds with the available evidence, with widespread crackdowns by states against a general public which treats with contempt laws which are viewed as archaic.

  • Paul Lockett writes:

    Nigel, the labour theory of property is …

    So he did mean “the labour theory of property” and not the “value theory of property”.

    Where Paul challenged me on that, I was stating that the value of an item – including or not including IP, singular or multiple – to a (prospective) purchaser should be based in the future value (utility etc) seen by the (prospective) purchaser.

    I did not state that a (prospective) purchaser should base his/her value judgement on how much it cost the vendor to make/acquire the item, nor how that vendor pays his/her suppliers (of physical and/or intellectual component parts of the item), whether that be in absolute or relative terms.

    These latter items may well be of interest to a vendor, and and especially to a prudent vendor in drawing up his/her business plan and profit forecast. However, they should be of no interest (or significantly less interest) to a prospective purchaser. [Aside. In so far as they are of interest to a purchaser, that would be on supplier assessment: ie whether the supplier’s business is sufficiently sound that they are likely to stay in business to meet the purchaser’s continuing business needs from that supplier. In such circumstances, additional arrangements to reduce purchaser’s exposure can include second sourcing, and escrow of critical, even unique, IP.]

    That Paul knows others (unspecified) who disagree with me on this is, I suppose, of some interest. But that he disagrees with them (ie disagrees with those who think differently from me) should not (alone) lead him to think that I am wrong.

    Then Paul writes on a new issue:

    The idea that the continuance is happy is at odds with the available evidence, with widespread crackdowns by states against a general public which treats with contempt laws which are viewed as archaic.

    OK, I’ll use his word archaic, in place of my “overdone”, though perhaps over-zealous, even draconian, would be better than both. I think I was writing that these sorts of things can be archaic, but where they are not archaic, they are not archaic. Paul strikes me as writing, where they are viewed as archaic, they are archaic. I agree, in so far as ‘viewed’ is the view of a material majority, and there is no material over-generalisation.

    That is, the detail matters: it should not be conflated between parts, as argument on a wider issue.

    Best regards

  • Johnathan Pearce

    IP laws are hardly “archaic” even though some of their origins are very old. What people need to establish is that IP is, in general, a good or bad thing. Saying they are “archaic” does not really advance the matter one way or the other.

  • Nigel:

    So he did mean “the labour theory of property” and not the “value theory of property”.

    No. My apologies, but that was a typo which should have read “value theory of property.”

    Where Paul challenged me on that, I was stating that the value of an item – including or not including IP, singular or multiple – to a (prospective) purchaser should be based in the future value (utility etc) seen by the (prospective) purchaser.

    That didn’t come across in your initial statement. What you have presented there is a tautology, which could have been re-written as “the value of an item should be the value of that item.” Your initial statement was more along the lines of “the property rights over an item should be assigned based on who has been judged to have added value to the item.”

    OK, I’ll use his word archaic, in place of my “overdone”, though perhaps over-zealous, even draconian, would be better than both.

    The difference is that your terms rest on an assumption that the underlying concept is fine and it is just the execution which is questionable. I, on the other hand, am also questioning the underlying concept.

  • Jonathan:

    IP laws are hardly “archaic”

    In your opinion.

    What people need to establish is that IP is, in general, a good or bad thing.

    I’m afraid that will never happen, because people operate from different principles.

    To a libertarian, they are inherently bad, as they are incompatible with liberty.

    To somebody operating from a utilitarian basis, the can probably be viewed as good, in the right form, if they create incentives for desirable behaviours.

  • 'Nuke' Gray

    As a minarchist, I can resolve this issue to my satisfaction. We need a clear distinction between private and public property. IP laws would only affect PUBLIC properties, like roads and parks and public buildings. Thus, when I take out a patent on, say, a Self-hooking Button, then only I could advertise on or through public lands, and public authorities would only buy from me, or people licensed by me. If you, on your private property, wanted to make an exact copy of my button, you wouldn’t be able to publicly advertise such, and would need to rely on word of mouth.
    I think this would resolve the issues.
    So if Alisa wishes to reprogram her ax, if she stays at home, she would not get into trouble with the law.

  • Alisa

    To a libertarian, they are inherently bad, as they are incompatible with liberty.

    Your liberty does not extend to my property.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    To a libertarian, they are inherently bad, as they are incompatible with liberty.

    That is your opinion, but given that many libertarians whom I respect (Spooner, Nozick, Rand, Machan, Rothbard (he defended copyright, but opposed patents)) I would be careful about making that statement without qualification. Property is a key issue for libertarians and not just on narrow, utilitarian grounds, but for its expression of the ability to own the things needed to survive and flourish, which is part of what freedom is about.

    My view is that some forms of IP (like trademarks, even copyright) could still flourish in a contractarian, libertarian order. With patents, I think they can only survive with some sort of state apparatus.

    One issue that arises is whether IP, particularly if a new invention/creative work is added to the world that was not there before, can really be thought of as a monopoly unless the IP is extended to something that is already in the public domain. One of the most objectionable things about IP is when it is extended to stuff that was made and used without any IP for years (such as software in the US prior to 1981).

    Anyway, we have been around this block many times before.

  • Alisa:

    Your liberty does not extend to my property.

    Your property doesn’t extend to my liberty. Or at least that seemed to be the principle that won out with regard to slavery.

  • Alisa

    So we should have no problems with each other then, Paul:-)

  • Johnathan Pearce:

    That is your opinion, but given that many libertarians whom I respect (Spooner, Nozick, Rand, Machan, Rothbard (he defended copyright, but opposed patents)) I would be careful about making that statement without qualification.

    Describing Rand as a libertarian is questionable to say the least, given her open contempt for libertarianism.

    That aside, what I say goes beyond opinion, it is a natural consequence of applying definitions rigorously and consistently. Here’s the qualification:

    I take “libertarian” to mean “someone who believes in the primacy of liberty.”

    I take “liberty” to be as defined by Jefferson (rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others) and Spencer (each has freedom to do all that he wills provided that he infringes not the equal freedom of any other). In simple terms, I can do what I want, so long as, in doing so, I don’t stop you doing likewise.

    That is why I say support for monopoly rights over non-rivalrous intangibles is incompatible with being a libertarian. Using a non-rivalrous intangible does not stop you doing likewise, so if we have liberty, we should both be free to do so.

    Of course, others may operate according to different definitions of “libertarian” and “liberty” which enable them to reach different conclusions, but, if they do, I’d be interested to know what they are.

  • Laird

    The problem I have with Paul Lockett’s position is that is essence it attempts to make a categorical distinction between that which is produced via the application of muscle (tangible goods) and that which is produced via the application of mind (intangible goods).* Thus, if I labor for days and produce a chair, he recognizes it as mine and mine alone, whereas if I labor for years and produce a symphony, he feels free to appropriate it for his own use because it is “nonrivalrous”. I reject that argument absolutely.

    The whole concept of “rivaly” is a gigantic red herring, a distraction thrown up to provide a fig leaf of respectability for what is actually a morality of theft. What matters is not the specific nature (rivalrous or nonrivalrous, tangible or intangible) of the property itself, but rather the nature of its production. If it is produced by the efforts of a person it remains his property until he sells or gives it away. And if he chooses to sell a partial interest in it (as with a non-exclusive and/or conditional license), that is his right. It is for that reason that we as a society recognize the concept of intellectual property. Society protects (indeed in large measure exists to protect) all species of property from predation. And if we choose to limit the lifespan of IP protection it is merely a political decision to withhold that protection after some period of time. That is essentially a utilitarian decision (and a subject for another time), but it is not a denigration of the good’s status as “property”.

    * Leaving aside the obvious complicating factor that many goods combine both.

  • Laird:

    The problem I have with Paul Lockett’s position is that is essence it attempts to make a categorical distinction between that which is produced via the application of muscle (tangible goods) and that which is produced via the application of mind (intangible goods).

    In that case, you don’t have a problem at all, because my position doesn’t make that distinction at all. The distinction is between rivalrous and non-rivalrous items. The tangibility is besides the point.

    Thus, if I labor for days and produce a chair, he recognizes it as mine and mine alone.

    Whereas you would, presumably, view it as the rightful property of the descendants of the first person who made a chair.

    What matters is not the specific nature (rivalrous or nonrivalrous, tangible or intangible) of the property itself, but rather the nature of its production.

    Maybe according to whatever set of principles you value. I was referring to what matters to a libertarian and to a libertarian, rivalry is key.

    It is for that reason that we as a society recognize the concept of intellectual property.

    I think that comment confuses society with the state.

    And if we choose to limit the lifespan of IP protection it is merely a political decision to withhold that protection after some period of time. That is essentially a utilitarian decision (and a subject for another time), but it is not a denigration of the good’s status as “property”.

    The granting of intellectual monopolies is in itself a utilitarian decision. The idea that they inherently exist, with an unlimited time-span and the state’s only involvement is to limit them, is counter-factual.

  • Laird

    Paul, you never responded to my point that the moral claim to ownership of one’s intellectual product is at least equal to the claim to one’s physical product. In fact, I would go farther and assert that if the defining characteristic of the human species is the ability to think, it is more important that the end product of that mental faculty be respected as legitimate ownership than the mere manipulation of tangible goods. Animals build nests, and even tools; they don’t write novels. Thus if physical goods are morally entitled to societal protection, a fortiori intellectual ones are, too.

    I also take issue with your assertion that the concept of rivalry is “key” to libertarians. Johnathan already addressed that, and your reply was to denigrate Ayn Rand. I consider myself a libertarian, and I reject your argument. I could simply say quod erat demonstrandum and call it a day, but I suspect that you will merely claim that I am not a “true” libertarian. So I’ll just say that there are very few issues which are truly fundamental to libertarianism (perhaps the nonagression principle is the only one), and “rivalry” is clearly not one of them. There is a range of opinion on this within the libertarian ranks. Please note that I am not saying that your position isn’t a libertarian one, merely that it is not the only one, and possibly not even the dominant one.

  • Normally, I discipline myself not to go past the fourth comment on any single posting. However, noticing the continuance of a particular theme of argument, I’d like to hazard that, if Paul Lockett ever wrote a dictionary, his definition of libertarian would be a person who writes their own dictionary.

    Best regards

  • Nigel Sedgwick:

    I’d like to hazard that, if Paul Lockett ever wrote a dictionary, his definition of libertarian would be a person who writes their own dictionary.

    Given that I am the only person who has shown a willingness to say exactly what definitions I’m working to, that is a cowardly response.

  • Laird:

    Paul, you never responded to my point that the moral claim to ownership of one’s intellectual product is at least equal to the claim to one’s physical product.

    I don’t think it is a valid distinction. I can think of no product which doesn’t involve the use of both mind and body.

    Johnathan already addressed that, and your reply was to denigrate Ayn Rand.

    I did nothing of the sort. I simply pointed out that Rand expressed comtempt for libertarianism. If you believe it is an insult to Rand to ascribe to her, views which she expressed, the denigration would seem to be being conducted by you.

    I’ll just say that there are very few issues which are truly fundamental to libertarianism (perhaps the nonagression principle is the only one), and “rivalry” is clearly not one of them.

    It clearly is, for reasons already given. Your comment appears to be an attempt to counter a reasoned argument with a stream of bare assertion. I have presented an argument based on clear and I believe, commonly accepted, definitions. If you believe they are wrong, then say where and give your counter argument. If you believe the defintions of “libertarian” and “liberty” I am using are wrong, tell me what you believe they should be.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Your property doesn’t extend to my liberty. Or at least that seemed to be the principle that won out with regard to slavery.

    That’s a neat riposte, until you realise that those who argue that their freedom is infringed by not being able to copy someone’s novel, say, does rather show contempt for the desire of a novelist to sell his/her work for a bit of money, and that that book would not have existed to be copied without the effort of writing it in the first place.

    For me, where the clash between IP and liberty really comes in is in the case, for instance, of the “independent invention” problem that tends to come up a lot in patent disputes. If I invent something, and someone else does the same thing and we don’t know of each other’s invention, it is plainly an infringement of liberty to say that if the first inventor files a patent five minutes before the second, that the latter should be banned from so acting. The way to resolve this, in my view, is for independent inventions, if so proved, to be covered by a patent. Boldrin and Levine, in their book attacking IP, make that point very effectively, I think.

  • Alisa

    The best way to deal with all IP issues, in my view, is exclusively through contract law. The issue of IP as it pertains to content sharing is currently being so covered, at least implicitly: when one buys a CD or a book, one implicitly agrees to the restrictions which are placed by the content’s owner on the ways the buyer may use the content (how these contracts should or even can be enforced is a separate question*). Because of their different nature, patent issues are currently dealt with differently (in my opinion incorrectly, as JP points out, but that is also a separate question).

    *Under no circumstances the liberties of uninvolved** individuals or organizations should be infringed in order to enforce other parties’ contracts. If, due to physical limitations inherent in the content in question, enough content owners find their contracts to be unenforceable, they will be forced to look for other ways to protect their property (most likely to be found in new technologies).

    **Someone who knowingly acquires stolen content is not an ‘uninvolved’ party.

  • Alisa

    Oh, and I couldn’t care less about the correct definition of libertarianism, but it’s probably just me.

  • Alisa:

    The best way to deal with all IP issues, in my view, is exclusively through contract law.

    On that, I completely agree.

  • Laird

    Paul, I will concede that I overstated the case when I accused you of merely denigrating Ayn Rand. But you did simply ignore all the others Johnathan listed (Spooner, Nozick, Machan and Rothbard). Are they also unworthly of the appellation “libertarian”? Or was it just easier to diss Rand? I repeat: there are many people I consider to be libertarians who accept the concept of intellectual property. Its rejection by you (and others) by no means makes that rejection an element of libertarianism; it’s just your personal quirk.

    And, more substantively, your purported “definitions” are sadly lacking. “Libertarian” means “someone who believes in the primacy of liberty”? A tautology. “Liberty” is “unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others” and the “freedom to do all that [one] wills provided that he infringes not the equal freedom of any other”? Superficial; it essentially assumes the answer, because it doesn’t define “rights”. What are “the equal rights of others”? I have the right to steal your property as long as you also have the right to steal mine? This gets us nowhere.

    Your “definition” is merely a tissue of circular logic attempting to rationalize your a priori decision that intellectual property is not truly “property”. You believe that because my novel can be read by more than one person simultaneously that gives you the right to appropriate it for your own use, regardless of the time and effort that went in to creating it. Yours is the morality of theft. I reject it outright, both personally and as somehow being a tenet of “true” libertarianism.

  • Laird:

    But you did simply ignore all the others Johnathan listed (Spooner, Nozick, Machan and Rothbard). Are they also unworthly of the appellation “libertarian”?

    Possibly; I haven’t read what they have to say on the issue in enough detail that I’d want to come down on one side of the fence or the other. From my reading of Rothbard, I’d say his position seemed to be a result of errors in reasoning as much as anything else.

    Or was it just easier to diss Rand?

    Give it a rest. There was no “diss;” I simply pointed out that Rand made it very clear that she did not self-identify as a libertarian. If you don’t like that, your problem is with her, not me.

    I repeat: there are many people I consider to be libertarians who accept the concept of intellectual property. Its rejection by you (and others) by no means makes that rejection an element of libertarianism; it’s just your personal quirk.

    Wrong way around. Your opinions are a personal quirk. What I’ve put forward has substance, as it is based on clear definitions and reason, none of which have been shown to be faulty.

    And, more substantively, your purported “definitions” are sadly lacking.

    I can’t take credit for Jefferson and Spencer’s definitions, much as I might like to.

    “Libertarian” means “someone who believes in the primacy of liberty”? A tautology.

    I’m glad you view it that way. It isn’t quite a tautology and you might surprised at the number of people who sell identify as libertarian, give primacy to other concepts, such as maximal property rights.

    “Liberty” is “unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others” and the “freedom to do all that [one] wills provided that he infringes not the equal freedom of any other”? Superficial; it essentially assumes the answer, because it doesn’t define “rights”. What are “the equal rights of others”?

    It’s not complicated. It’s the right to do what I am doing. Liberty gives me the right to do something only if, in doing so, I’m not preventing you doing the same thing.

    I have the right to steal your property as long as you also have the right to steal mine?

    No, because with tangible property, we can’t both simultaneously use it.

    Your “definition”…

    Again, not my definition, but those of Jefferson and Spencer.

    …is merely a tissue of circular logic attempting to rationalize your a priori decision that intellectual property is not truly “property”.

    That is what we call ad hominem. It isn’t true, but in any case, my reason for advancing an argument has no bearing on its validity.

    Yours is the morality of theft. I reject it outright, both personally and as somehow being a tenet of “true” libertarianism.

    The personal aspect is up to you. Your rejection of the meaning of the word libertarian is worthless, as it is based on nothing. You’ve had ample opportunity to offer something of substance and say what the definition of liberty is to you and why it has more validity than the commonly accepted one I’ve put forward, but you continually chosen not to. Is it because you have nothing of substance to offer, or is it because that you don’t want to give say what definitions you are working to, because it would mean you can’t change the meaning of words to what suits you at any given moment.

  • Alisa

    No, because with tangible property, we can’t both simultaneously use it.

    So does this mean that you wouldn’t mind me moving into your house? I promise your presence there will not bother me the bit least.

  • Alisa, the feeling would not be mutual!

  • Alisa

    I was afraid so:-)