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SOPA and intellectual property

The recent debates about the US Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, has reignited interest in the subject of intellectual property. As regulars here know, people who defend free markets take very different views of IP, often clashing sharply about what the purpose of property rights as such is. So to help form my views about this, I recently ordered and received this book, Justifying Intellectual Property, by Robert P Merges. From a fast skim-read, it bases its arguments around the ideas of three thinkers: Kant, Locke and Rawls. A strange mix in some ways, I think. There is a huge bibliography, and the book notes – without rudeness or dismissal – those writers who dispute the case for IP, such as Stephan Kinsella and Tom G Palmer.

Definitely an interesting read, I think. Naturally, it is under copyright.

Update: this is an interesting observation from a man, D Halling, who is a fierce proponent of IP and yet regards the SOPA and related legislation as “power politics at its worst”. So if the IP crowd hate these bills, why bother?

Another update: here is a very rigorous explanation by Stan Liebowitz of the issues as to why IP exists, and does so very much from an economics point of view, rather than say, arguing that IP is about “free speech”.

10 comments to SOPA and intellectual property

  • RRS

    An interesting thing about Intellectual Property, as the term is used in the current contexts, is that the Property aspect depends for its value (certainly for its commercial value) on its utility to others than its “owners.

    Those “Properties” which are useful to the owners for their production of something of commercial utility, such as the Coca Cola formula, or some recipe, or perhaps some methodology, differ from IT software, a novel or learned text.

    We have reached a point where not all “discoveries” can be deemed “Property.”

  • Alisa

    depends for its value (certainly for its commercial value) on its utility to others than its “owners.

    Value is subjective by definition, RRS, and so the above point is by no means exclusive to intellectual property. Furthermore, the term ‘property’ itself only has a meaning in the context of someone other than the possessor ascribing value to the item (physical or otherwise) in question.

  • Alisa

    …and so, yes, in fact all discoveries (“discoveries”?) can still be deemed ‘property’ – finders keepers and all that.

  • Unreasonable law breeds contempt; reasonable law at least stands a chance of compliance. As current (USA) law and legislative behavior goes, nothing after the first Mickey Mouse talkie is ever going to come out of copyright, and that’s unreasonable.

    Back when copyright had shorter terms, I suspect people were more likely to accept it. Even our constitution includes ‘reasonable period’ in its authorizations of patent and copyright.

  • Vichy

    I hate moralizing bullshit. Legal recourse over ideas is indefinable and arbitrary. Any property system not based on tort and physical property is bullshit nonsense. All these Randroids with their moralizing shit about ‘creators’ piss me off.

  • Lystander Forker

    And given your well reasoned arguments I am sure many people here are deeply concerned that you are “pissed off”

  • I didn’t know what my opinion was until the recent Samsung/Google-Apple wranglings, at which point my ideas crystalised.
    The idea one party’s intellectual property rights trump another party’s physical property rights i find absurd… by which I mean that it should not be possible for Apple to dictate what Samsung do with materials they legitimately own (or vice versa in the case of the “notification bar”).
    Whether this translates to music and movies or books I’m not so sure, although i suspect that it does.

  • Smitten!
    very rare for me …

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Vichy (dubious name unless used for the French mineral water), your comment is little more than abuse. Is it “moralising” to defend IP and argue that without some way of establishing incentives for creation, that fewer things can be created?

    Although some IP opponents address these issues seriously and intelligently (Palmer, Sandefur, Kinsella, others), your kind of abusive dismissal of those who think IP is worth protecting only confirms my suspicions that some anti-IP people just want the fruits of other people’s creativity for nothing, and lack the honesty to say so.

  • 'Nuke' Gray

    And, as a minarchist, I can refute what little remains of Vichy’s argument. I think that small (local or county) governments should own whatever property is not private, and can therefore license anything that uses public properties, including the airwaves. Anyone who would be given an Intellectual Property License would have the right to advertise over local public airwaves- those without would not. Also, the IP holder would be the one from whom public entities (libraries, etc.) bought products. There you have IP justified using property rights.