logo

Against Monopoly

defending the right to innovate

The Music Police

Monopoly corrupts. Absolute monopoly corrupts absolutely.





Copyright Notice: We don't think much of copyright, so you can do what you want with the content on this blog. Of course we are hungry for publicity, so we would be pleased if you avoided plagiarism and gave us credit for what we have written. We encourage you not to impose copyright restrictions on your "derivative" works, but we won't try to stop you. For the legally or statist minded, you can consider yourself subject to a Creative Commons Attribution License.


back

Not Sued For Copyright Infringment - Arrested

A rather disturbing development -

A man accused of posting nine previously unreleased songs by the rock band Guns N' Roses on a website where they could be accessed by the public was arrested at his home early today on suspicion of violating federal copyright laws, authorities said.

Kevin Cogill, 27, is accused of posting the songs, which were being prepared for commercial release, on the Internet blog Antiquiet in June, according to an arrest affidavit. The site received so much traffic after the songs were posted that it crashed, the affidavit states.

More info here.

The ephemeral line between civil and criminal penalties in copyright is yet another bothersome abuse of the intersection between business interests and state power. Why are some accused of copyright violations merely sued by businesses while others are arrested by the state? What truly distinguishes one case from the other, and how do authorities make such a determination? On the surface, it seems that the only difference is how much political clout a particular business has with authorities.

I am of the belief that IP violations should never be considered as a criminal offense unless there are other criminal activities associated with the use of the IP itself (i.e., selling 'pirated' goods or fake knock-offs of trademarked products to help fund terrorist groups, organized crime, etc.).


Comments

The federal government(in the case, FBI) and the rent-seekers(I presume that they asked the FBI to act) blantly engaged in criminal actions. Mainly, the arrest of an innocent man engaged in the act of sharing musics.

They should be held accountable for their crime!

Kiba:

He was not an innocent man sharing music. He took unreleased songs that were not his to take (I call that stealing, which seems to me to be a criminal offense; in fact, since the value of the theft is potentially worth millions, I would say the theft is a felony), and gave the songs to the world.

Question: How is this man's crimes any different than someone who goes into a Kroger and steals $500 in meat and then give it away on a street corner to hungry people?

Sharing stolen music is not the act of an innocent person.

I agree with Lonnie, if someone stole songs then that is theft plain and simple.

There's a big difference between 'IP theft and handling' and infringing a reproduction monopoly over published works. There should be no such monopoly in the latter case, but just because people on both sides of the argument conflate monopoly with IP, that doesn't sanction IP theft.

It doesn't do those against the unethical monopoly of copyright any credit for cheering on IP thieves.

Crosbie:

I am also wondering how this individual got the information in the first place. Did he hack someone's computer? Illegal. Did he steal recordings? Illegal. Was he involved in the recording process and have a signed confidentiality agreement? Illegal. I am unable to see how anyone can justify breaking laws that prevent these sorts of things as a part of being against the protections for intellectual property.

Lonnie

Lonnie, we can't use the law as a basis for ethics. It's the other way around.

Hacking someone's computer and stealing recordings is a violation of someone's natural right to privacy. That makes it wrong. It should be illegal.

As for 'confidentiality agreements', human beings cannot alienate themselves from their freedom of speech therefore such agreements are invalid. Making such agreements could be an illegal misrepresentation (fraud), but breaking them cannot be illegal. Only corporations can make such agreements (having no inalienable rights).

The protection of intellectual monopolies are invalid because they prohibit the right of society to share and distributing. Therefore, when the state act to enforce these monopolies, it is also committing a crime against society.

To break into somebody's computer is another matter and be rightfully be considered a crime. Stealing is also a crime.

However, sharing is NOT a crime.

Kiba, if a burglar breaks into your house, makes a copy of your laptop's disk drive and gives that copy to me, then for me to 'share' (let alone receive) that copy (knowing it had been obtained through theft) would be unethical and should be illegal. Thus there are certain cases when 'sharing' should be considered a crime.

It is wrong for IP thieves to 'share' the IP they have stolen.

It is wrong for receivers of stolen IP to 'share' it.

Conversely, if you have produced or purchased IP, then you can share it to your heart's content, since it is your property. It is the grants of monopoly that prohibit this that are unethical, not the securing of people's natural exclusive rights.

If the thief did share it with the world, it would be impossible to take it back. The musics are now available to society to share unless you want to sue every downloaders that happen to get their hand on the goods.

The damage is done. Now the thief will get punished, preferably eventually paying back all of the damages that he has done.

Whether speculative damages should be included in the calculation of damage is another question...

Crosbie:

The use of the word ethics was yours, not mine. However, if you wish to talk ethics, how is it legal for someone to share a copy of my book, which took me six months to write, the proceeds of which will feed my family and make my house payment? From what I can see, the posters on this site generally seem to think such thievery is morally acceptable because it is "sharing." So, if I rob a bank, that is wrong, but if I share the money with others, that is okay. Interesting ethical viewpoint.

You also have an interesting viewpoint regarding "confidentiality agreements." I have subjected myself to such agreements for most of my life, first as a member of the military, then as an employee of the government, then a defense contractor, and in other positions requiring confidentiality of various types. Have I been alienated from "freedom of speech"? I do not think so. I am free to say whatever I wish about anything except those things that might cause harm to my country or my employers. True free speech is the ability to yell "fire" in a crowded theater. True free speech is to call someone a name. There is no such thing as absolute free speech, and there never will be nor can there be. The question is not whether free speech is a "right," because it is not. The question is to what extent are restrictions on free speech permissible.

Incidentally, I would never hire you because apparently you are unable to keep secrets.

Kiba:

You state that "sharing is not a crime." You also state that intellectual properties are wrong because "they prohibit the right of society to share and distributing [sic]."

Okay, let us say that trademarks, an intellectual property, were abolished. Six companies make Coca Cola, but they have six different flavors. Worse, since the companies can call themselves whatever they want, you will never know which version you liked, since the bottles and company names are all identical. How do you know which version is the one you really like and want?

Another example. Let us say that you bought a Toyota. What happens you find out that your "Toyota" was not produced by the company you thought had very high quality, but instead was made by some completely unaffiliated company? Only when you went to "Toyota" for warranty reasons would you know. Too bad there is no "intellectual properties" so you could tell one from another.

The only time society has a "right" to any property is in a communist or socialist state. I live in a capitalist democracy that fortunately defines property rights, otherwise someone would have the "right" to share my house, my food, my money, and apparently anything else I own (would that include my body?). I am glad I do not live in your world because it would be a sorry place.

Incidentally, even communist states such as China are recognizing the value of intellectual property and the enforcement of intellectual property. If intellectual property is so bad, then why are more and more countries protecting intellectual property?

Lonnie E. Holder: You have continued to confuse copying with stealing.

Stealing is the act of depriving someone of property. Illegal copying is the act of unauthorized reproduction.

The more correct analogy is: It is wrong to rob a bank. But it isn't wrong to produce a copy of a car you saw, no matter how much business that your competitor lose.

Crosbie -

Leaving aside the issue of the proper use of the term "theft" for the moment, if someone acquires a business trade secret without authorization and posts it publicly, do I take it that you advocate criminal charges by the state against that person (as opposed to merely allowing a civil cause of action by the business)?

If so - Fair enough. Just wanted to clarify the issues and your own views which I disagree with.

If not - how do you distinguish this case exactly?

Kiba:

Copying vs. stealing. No confusion. I consider copying of someone's property stealing. Period. That is my opinion.

Copying a car: I disagree with you. If I design a car and you copy it, you stole my design. I will sue you and I will see if criminal charges can be brought against you. You have no right to my designs. I fail to understand a viewpoint that permits someone to steal mydesign, device or mechanism. Why is my idea yours to take without any compensation to me? I guarantee you that if you do it once and it is not illegal for you to do so, the next time I will have a gun and I will be waiting for you. Or, failing that, I will stop creating because there is no benefit to me. I will be forced to work at McDonald's, which won't exist either because there are no trademarks. Incidentally, this very situation has happened to inventors in the past, and rather than sharing, they withdrew from society. I only wish we could have had the benefit of their genius and creativity. Who know where we could have been today?

If you must say that copying is wrong, please say copying it is wrong. If you continue to say that stealing is wrong when you mean that copying is wrong, than you have attributed a malice where it does not exists.

That's a willful lie.

On copying a car:

If people knew clearly that my copy of the car is a clone, than it isn't an issue. If people buy it even though that they knew it is a clone than you will have no justification there, even if you eventually lose your tie and your home. (It isn't clear how I would have a remarkable advantage by mere copying. People would just buy from the original maker instead.)

You have no right to make a living, only to try to make a living. The consumers have no moral obligation to compensate you for your work.

Lonnie -

3 points that I need to comment on.

1. Your comment that "you will have a gun waiting" for those who copy creative works is one of the more unhinged comments to appear on this site.

2. Even if a car design was "yours" - how do respond to the argument that most aspects of your design will necessarily borrow heavily from those who came before you? After all, you didn't invent the wheel or tire. What if the people who came up with those ideas felt that you were "stealing" from them?

3. You can't equate trademarks with copyright or patents. Copying a recipe for a Big Mac is far different than lying to people by saying you are part of the McDonald's corporation. The latter has nothing to due with monopoly abuse.

4. When you claim "Incidentally, this very situation has happened to inventors in the past, and rather than sharing, they withdrew from society."

I'm not familiar with this incident. Can you give me some specifics? What inventors are you talking about? Are you sure you aren't conflating the fantasy world of Ayn Rand's 'Atlas Shrugged' with reality? If you are, we need to bring you back to the latter.

Re: my previous comment. Make that '4' points....
Justin:

(1) Re gun: My point is that without the laws that protect people and their property rights, we will revert to the way we once did things, which was by rule of force. I do not advocate this position, I merely point out that it will be considered an acceptable alternative by those who equate copying with stealing. Would you like an example of when this has happened? I can provide many, though you would eventually get bored.

(2) Re borrowing: Of necessity, all ideas borrow from the ideas that came before. There is nothing wrong with being inspired by an idea. The Harry Potter books have inspired others, but the transition from inspiration to copying is when you write a book about a Harry Potter who is attending a school named Hogwarts and has friends named Hermione and Ron. Admittedly, the distinction between borrowing and copying can sometimes be blurry, but that has also been the basis for lawsuits (a much more gentile way of dealing with such matters as opposed to guns). Incidentally, depending on facts and circumstances, lawsuits regarding copying of protected designs has gone both ways, and such suits are typically between companies rather than a company and an individual or between individuals.

(3) Equate Trademarks with Copyrights or Patents: I must admit that you lost me on this one. You can copy the recipe for a Big Mac if you are a McDonald's competitor. I am unaware of any protection for the recipe. However, you can not call it a Big Mac; that would be lying to people.

(4) Re inventors withdrawing from the world: The example that comes formost to my mind is Nicola Tesla. There have been copious books written on how he was screwed and basically withdrew from the world. More's the pity for us. There have been others, but his extreme genius makes him the poster child for what can happen when someone gets a raw deal.

Kiba:

In my opinion, and as a matter of law in virtually every country on earth, copying of intellectual property = stealing = wrong. Is that sufficiently plain for you?

Malice? More like ignorance. If you take property you believe is unclaimed by anyone, and you later discover the property belonged to someone else, then you claimed the property in ignorance, not malice. If you have a friend tell you that he has a pdf version of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and he tells you that you can have a copy and you take it, then you have broken the law. Incidentally, you have broken the law in most nations of the world, even those that neglect to enforce such laws. Since you are a frequent contributor to this blog, and you know that, regardless of your beliefs, that stealing of intellectual property is against the laws of the vast majority of countries in the world, and you copy a protected work to avoid paying a royalty to the author, then you do so maliciously, in my opinion.

Re copying: The problem comes when people do not know the car is a clone. This situation happens all the time (not necessarily with cars, but with other devices), and often leads to problems with the original manufacturer and with the customer.

Re living: lol...At last we actually agree on something. Just as a person has no right to steal someone's property, real or intellectual, no one has a right to make a living. Society does its best to give everyone an opportunity to make a living because it is in society's best interests that all members of society are productive, but making a living is not a right.

Re compensation: I am unsure of how you mean this. If I make a product, say Coca Cola, and I am in the business of selling that product, and you wish to have a unit of that product, then you have the following choices:

(1) Purchase it from me. (2) Have someone purchase it from me on your behalf. (3) Hope that someone purchases it from me and gives it to you as a gift. (4) Hope that you can convince me to give it to you. (5) Steal if from me, causing me harm.

Four of these options are morally (and socially) acceptable, one is not.

A consumer only has a moral obligation to compensate someone for their work when the consumer desires that the property the consumer desires is being transferred from the owner to the consumer.

Nikola Tesla was screwed BECAUSE OF the patent system, you moron!
"Re living: lol...At last we actually agree on something. Just as a person has no right to steal someone's property, real or intellectual, no one has a right to make a living. Society does its best to give everyone an opportunity to make a living because it is in society's best interests that all members of society are productive, but making a living is not a right."

Then why do you believe that certain particular jobs and industries should have the legal right not to have competition?

"You have the following choices:

(1) Purchase it from me. (2) Have someone purchase it from me on your behalf. (3) Hope that someone purchases it from me and gives it to you as a gift. (4) Hope that you can convince me to give it to you. (5) Steal if from me, causing me harm.

...

A consumer only has a moral obligation to compensate someone for their work when the consumer desires that the property the consumer desires is being transferred from the owner to the consumer."

There is a sixth choice: (6) Make my own, identical product without involving you, and use that.

Since nothing of yours is being transferred to me (as I'll be using my own raw materials to construct my copy of the product) then BY YOUR OWN ADMISSION I do not have a moral obligation to compensate you for anything.

None of Your Business:

How interesting. Tesla was screwed by the patent system. You need to enlighten me about that. All this time I thought he was screwed by someone who used the patent system in a way that was illegal, just like people have been using laws and the courts for centuries for nefarious purposes.

Laws are just like anything else. In general, they are neutral. It is only when someone uses the law for good or bad that they attain a value. Tesla was screwed because someone manipulated the patent system for their own purposes, not by the system itself. Incidentally, it does not good to say we should get rid of the patent system, because Tesla would have still been screwed by the overwhelming power of those who screwed him, it is just that it would have been superior marketing resources and money that screwed Tesla instead of the law. The result would have been the same.

Nobody Nowhere:

Your Statement: Then why do you believe that certain particular jobs and industries should have the legal right not to have competition?

Can you point me to an example, because even with all these posts I have yet to see an actual example of such. Actually, I would love to have two or three examples, but I will take one.

None of Your Business:

Your Statement:

There is a sixth choice: (6) Make my own, identical product without involving you, and use that.

Since nothing of yours is being transferred to me (as I'll be using my own raw materials to construct my copy of the product) then BY YOUR OWN ADMISSION I do not have a moral obligation to compensate you for anything.

******************

Okay, I will bite. Give me an example of when you might do this.

Justin, on the matter of 'business trade secrets'...

Human beings have secrets, personal data, intellectual works, and being within their private domain, have a natural, exclusive right to them - whether for business, pleasure, or anything else.

Corporations are not human beings and can have no natural rights. They may be entitled to possess buildings and material property, and thus, interior to this, may be conferred an equivalent secured space to the private domain of an individual - without conflicting with the rights of human staff, directors, shareholders, or the public. However, law governing corporations may just as well stipulate complete transparency to the public. Either way, such transparency could still not violate the rights of the corporation's human constituency to their own privacy - that the corporation could effectively still benefit from, e.g. human directors voluntarily maintaining confidentiality of shared secrets.

Human beings cannot alienate themelves from their liberty (freedom of speech), and thus always remain free to reveal the secrets they have been made privy to, i.e. they can need no further authorisation to communicate (or publish) a secret, if there was authorisation to be made privy to the secret.

Thus, if an employee in the normal course of their employment is given access to commercial secrets (made privy to them), then they'd commit no crime should they communicate or publish them (though they may well expect dismissal).

On the other hand, if a private detective enters a factory warehouse without authorisation in order to copy the programmed recipe on a caramelised drink mixing machine, and communicates it to their client or publishes it, then (if corporations are permitted a degree of trade secrecy) this would be a crime.

Crosbie:

You should explain that your comment is an opinion. In point of fact, virtually every country on planet earth recognizes that confidentiality agreements are volutary limitations on the freedom of speech freely agreed to by those signing them. If those individuals refuse to sign, they will most likely not get the job. Furthermore, should someone violate this voluntary limitation on their freedom of speech, they have agreed before hand that they may be personally prosecuted by their employer.

None of Your Business:

I noticed that when facts and logic are inadequate that name calling always works. I know name-calling always swayed me when I was in elementary school. Now I prefer reasoned discourse.

Crosbie: If my right to my liberty is inalienable, then how can any contract be enforceable? Whatever it is that I agree to do, I must still be able to not do it, or I partially give up ownership of myself.

Not that I believe coercion-backed agreements are necessarily the best way to go about things. How about I deposit a sum of money with a reputable arbitrator that only gives it back to me if I do what I promised (and otherwise gives it to you)?

Kid, give me an example of a contract that alienates you from your right to liberty (or any other natural right), that you'd nevertheless like to enter into.

For example, you may agree to exchange labour in return for money, but labour cannot be forced from you. If you accept the money, you must have already provided the labour, subsequently provide it, or return the money, but no ethical law can punish you for failing to provide the labour or force you to provide it - since you cannot have surrendered your liberty (and thus entered into slavery).

Similarly, you may agree to exchange your silence in return for money, but silence cannot be forced upon you, even if you've accepted payment.

There is a difference between alienating yourself from your right, and choosing not to exercise your right. You may choose to remain with the same employer for life, but no law can force you to, nor can you surrender your right to terminate your employment.

This is what is meant by inalienable - even if the persuasion was extremely attractive, you couldn't actually surrender or suspend such rights - even if you found compensation offered in what must be an invalid contract quite agreeable.

Crosbie:

Do you always have an inalienable right to the freedom of speech?

Crosbie:

Do you know what a non-performance clause in a contract is and why they exist?

Lonnie, yup, natural rights are with us always - and inalienable no matter what contractual clauses lawyers may dream up.
Crosbie: So, your inalienable right to the freedom of speech would permit you to yell "fire" in a crowded theater or to hurl racially oriented ephithets in a confrontation between white supremicists and minorities.
Lonnie, natural rights constrain absolute freedom, and civilised peoples institute governments to protect everyone's natural rights equally.

Liberty is the freedom that remains to the individual as long as everyone's rights remain protected, i.e. their rights to liberty, truth, privacy, and life.

Thus one may speak freely so long as one does not as a consequence impair the truth, violate another's privacy, nor endanger someone's life.

Without the government's protection of people's rights then yes, there would be no constraint on a person's speech, but then without such rights we could not recognise a right to free speech.

Crosbie:

So, to cut through your rhetoric, the "inalienable right to free speech" is actually a "mostly inalienable right to free speech," it is not absolute. Thank you for clarifying.

The comment just above is mine, not Crosbie's. Sorry about that.

- Lonnie

It not a case of 'mostly'. Natural rights are inalienable. That a right is defined and bounded by others does not constitute alienation - even partially.
Crosbie:

"Natural rights are inalienable" and yet have any limitation appears to me to be mutually exclusive. Either a natural right exists and has no limitation (breathing seems like a natural or inalienable right (as long as air is available and excluding the artificial limitations of murder, war and execution), and any restriction on breathing leads to death), or the right is not natural because there are societally imposed limitations.

Our society requires that people respect the rights of others, which requires that free speech be limited in situations that might cause harm to others, including causing stampedes and riots.

Now, in a truly enlightened and intelligent society, such artificial limitations would not be required because a reasonable person would not yell "fire" in a crowded theater and those in the theater would use their head and recognize that there is no need for panic. However, we do not live in such a society (the vast amounts of trash and illegal behavior in traffic are further evidence that people need constraints on their behavior to be good members of society), so in a society that contains unenlightened or imperfect members, freedom of speech cannot be absolute or truly inalienable.

Indeed, freedom of speech as an inalienable right is a construction that is relatively new in the history of mankind and has only been considered to be "inalienable, with limitations," in modern times, and can only be an inalienable right when a society permits it to be so. Another way to phrase this is that the freedom of speech is supposedly "inalienable, with limitations," because our society has permitted it to be so.

As we have seen in other societies, the freedom of speech tends to be more restricted with time rather than less. Libel, inciting to riot, and other similar behaviors have all been prohibitions on our "inalienable rights," which are then not inalienable.

When all men have the same standards and a level of enlightment that permits harmonious behavior with each other, then "inalienable" will have real meaning. In the meantime, governments, criminals and people who think their rights are greater than those of their neighbors will continue to defy the theory of "inalienable rights."

"Inalienable rights" is a great theory and a worthy goal to which we should all aspire. I doubt I will see the same in my lifetime.

Inalienable as applied to a right means you can't be parted from it, it doesn't mean that the right is boundless or without limit.

Rights are limits by definition. One right is delimited by another.

Your inalienable right to life delimits everyone else's inalienable right to liberty. This is not a contradiction in terms. Both rights remain 100% inalienable.

Crosbie:

One such limit would be property rights.

My property rights in my computer give me the right to arrange the bits on the hard drive into any pattern I choose. That would seem to limit your "right" to demand that I pay before I can arrange them into a reproduction of a song you wrote, then.

So much for the copyright and patent monopolies, then!

Nobody: Interesting thought regarding the bits and bytes on your computer. I guess my thought is that you can arrange bits on your computer any way you please as long as you are not plagiarizing someone else's creative product.
The only way for me to plagiarize someone else's creative product would be for me to distribute a copy and put it forth as being my own original work.

That involves wiggling electrons in network cables, not merely arranging bits on my own computer, and it involves doing more than just copying something.

Lonnie E. Holder, why do you believe ideal objects are a subject of property rights and how would that be possible? Eg. on what grounds do you call a design "yours"? If your answer involves "because I created it", be warned that creating always involves copying, you can never create without copying, you're not God.

Also, what do you make of expiring patents and copyrights?

Samuel:

I am not sure what an "ideal object" is. However, I do know what a property right is.

Property is a fiction that fundamentally did not exist as a concept until near the end of the Medieval period. Essentially, land was held by a "might is right" position until governments began to formalize ownership of property, recognizing that just because someone had more men and bigger weapons did not make their taking of property right. To correct this situation, governments began tracking the ownership of property in governmental registers and defined property ownership in those registers.

As the modern concept of property was developed, it was broadly defined to cover intellectual works in terms of copyrights.

Patents became property by a different route. Millenia ago, societies recognized that inventing was a rare and valuable talent, and awarded inventors with a limited right to their invention in the hope that other inventors would be incentivized to invent, thus advancing society. However, as ancient civilization collapsed, patents collapsed with them, arising once again during the Rennaisance. As with previous societies that chose to use patents, there was recognition that inventions are finite goods (because there are relatively few inventions that exist - which, even with all the people on earth, remains true), and it was generally believed that by rewarding invention, more people would be motivated to invent and to share their inventions with the rest of society.

The problem with any "right" is to define how that right is categorized. Modern society recognized that a "right to exclude," which describes patents, had parallels to physical property. In fact, since patents were a detailed description of an invention, it is quite parallel to a legal description of physical property, which is the only evidence in modern society of property ownership.

So, patents became property because they have all the attributes of property under the modern property system. Of course, property could not be owned if anarchists had their way because there would be no government, and whoever had the greatest might would take the physical property of others and would hold it until someone stronger took it from them, but that is another issue.

Patents were deemed a benefit by the framers of our Constitution and have been supported for more than 200 years by the American public, as well as nearly 200 nations of the world. Should any one industrialized nation forsake patents, all the other industrialized nations that kept patents would benefit by being able to freely copy the inventions of the nation without patents, which has been shown in study after study to reduce investment in R&D and capital equipment (non-industrialized nations are another matter).

As for creating involving "copying," that is a lovely strawman viewpoint that is virtually irrelevant to anything. Take, for example, a plasma television. The plasma television is a conglomeration of hundreds of inventions, extending back more than 100 years. Yet, the heart of the plasma television, while building on decades of invention, was unique and new and undreamed of by those who came before. In many cases, those who came before were unable to come up with the invention. Those other inventions that came before achieved their reward at the time, and the patents on those inventions have, of course, expired and are available to be a part of a new invention, in this case a plasma television.

I have been reading the "Diesel Odyssey of Clessie Cummins," and the description of how he invented the Jake brake, or engine compression brake, is extremely fascinating. He worked on the invention for more than 20 years, believing there had to be a way to mount a compression brake on the engine. One day he was hit with a flash of inspiration (that is in the book - even though there are many who believe the "flash" of inspiration never happens; I guess they think the inventors that claim the flash are liars), and after two decades of thinking about how such a brake might be possible, he had a solution.

The Jake brake was non-obvious and revolutionized the trucking industry, particularly for trucks that had to drive through mountains. It only took 70 years of so after the invention of the diesel for this brake to be developed. This brake used valves, metal and other things that were previously invented, but they were applied in a completely new and unique way to provide an wonderful new device that was a benefit to society. Clessie was rewarded for years of personal expense and experimentation by a patent, enabling him to be repaid for those years of effort and the money he spent on equipment and prototypes, and encouraging others to develop similar inventions.

As for your final question, I am unsure how to answer. Patents and copyrights need to expire. The goal of the patent system was to provide a "limited" right to exclude. Thus, all patents should eventually become available to the public to use freely and without fear. Patents currently have an effective life between about 12 years and 18 years, depending on art field (patents expire 20 years from date of filing in the United States, but it can take many years to examine a patent so by the time the patent issues its life can be greatly reduced - pharmaceutical patents generally have the shortest effective life of any patents, between about 12 years and 14 years).

Copyrights are another matter. As with patents, the life of copyright should be sufficient to incentivize creation, but short enough to avoiding placing an undue burden on society. I do not know what the length of a copyright should be, but I do think that 70 or 80 years or more is extremely excessive. Considering that cost of creation of a copyrighted work is significantly less than the cost of creation of a patented invention, 20 years would seem more appropriate, or even less. Since movies are in the theaters for weeks, and DVD releases occur within months, it seems that either the movie will pay for itself in a few years, or it will not, so why does copyright extend for decades?

I would be happy to discuss these issues with you more, if you are interested.

Except that study after study has disproved the theory that patents promote invention. The costs of "IP rights" are much higher, and the benefits much lower, than most assume.

As for (genuine) property rights, they've been around in some form or another, on and off, for ten thousand years, not just a few hundred.

None of Your Beeswax:

I have seen several studies that show that patents promote invention. The best of these were two studies, one American and one Chinese, comparing the number of new plants developed before and after new plants were protected by monopoly. In both cases, the number of new plants developed after protection was up by more than an order of magnitude in each case.

I have also seen other studies, also cited on this blog, showing that patents promote economic development and investment in R&D. I would be happy to provide those cites, again, if you like.

As for "genuine" property rights, the only property rights that existed prior to the Renaissance were "might makes right." Often, the King held all property rights and assigned portions of the realm to members of nobility. The average person could not "own" property and the king could take property back at any time. Originally, the king had this right by "divine authority." Great "natural" right.

Of course, "genuine" property was most commonly held by whoever had the most force, as has ben proven for ten thousand years, up until a few hundred years ago - but even then "might makes right" still held for a long time, as Native Americans, Australian Aborigines, and the natives of South America can tell you. However, please feel free to provide facts to support your position.

Thank you for your explanation even though I disagree on many key points. Also, if according to you the state (government) guarantees property rights, then the "might makes right" principle still applies, because the government governs by might and "protects" the property rights of its citizens. However I believe in a different kind of property that is natural and not dependent on the "might" of the state or anything else. Btw you might find some interesting insights into some other old ideas of property in the Pentateuch :)
Samuel:

In an ideal world, might would not be needed to protect property rights. However, as people have proven over and over and (I could go on for a very long time on the overs) again, in the absence of government people will always go after the property of others. Indeed, even in the presence of government is happens, which is why so many people go to court.

If you wish a current, huge, blatant example, watch how many people go after Michael Jackson's property. His property has already been taken, illegally, since he has passed away, and now the fight moves into the courts.

Now I'm confused. "...in the absence of government people will always go after the property of others." - what do you mean by "property in the absence of government"?
Samuel:

You stated that you "...believe in a different kind of property that is natural and not dependent on the "might" of the state or anything else." My observation is that in the absence of government that your "different kind of property that is natural" is still subject to the greed of others, and only in an ideal world where people respect the "natural" rights of others is such a property viable. However, we do not live in nor is it likely that we will ever live in this ideal world, which means that property, "natural" or unnatural, will always be subject to takeover.

OK, that's true, just as well it is true that there will always be murder attempts. However that does not give the state the right to manipulate what "human life" means and arbitrarily decide which persons are worthy of "the protection from murder" and which not. The same applies to property. Even though property (independent of state) will always be subject to takeover by violence, this does not give the state the right to change the definition of property, nor assign property rights arbitrarily.
Samuel:

Then we are fortunate that the state has not assigned property rights arbitrarily. Remember that ultimately the authority of the state lies with the people. When the people decide that property needs redefined, that will happen.

That may be true, but is it moral? Try to look into history for what atrocities happened with the consent of "the people". I don't believe natural rights are subject to redefinition, be it even by a 99.9% vote of all affected.
Samuel:

If you believe having property rights is moral, then it is appropriate to give inventions protection under patents. Patents have been shown by multiple researchers to increase invention in protected areas, which ultimately provides more knowledge and choice to all. Once the patents expire, anyone is free to use the invented technology, which would seem to lead to a greater good.

If you wish to argue that patents are amoral, please present it. However, I do not have any religious beliefs in "natural rights." "Natural rights" are as much a construct of man as patents are. According to some, they compete with patents. However, some Libertarians seem to think that patents are consistent with "natural rights," whatever they may be.

Basically, the only natural rights that any creature has is to eat or be eaten. All else is construct.

"If you believe..." - I don't see how that follows. "Patents have been shown..." - my experience is just the opposite. "Natural rights" - the natural rights I believe in follow naturally from the non-aggression principle, which I take to be one of the key principles of morality. Patents however need violent aggression to exist, therefore they are immoral. It's possible that "morality" for you means something completely different and maybe you don't deem attacking an innocent individual as immoral - that would explain our disagreement.
Samuel:

I do not see how it follows that patents need "violent aggression" to exist. In fact, patents should not need to exist. Society should recognize the value of inventorship, and accord inventors a period of exclusive right to their inventions so that they and others will thus be further encouraged to create more inventions. However, people wish to take control of inventions from their inventors (violent aggression), which would force inventors to function in roles that detract from their inventor capabilities, which thus hurts society. However, society is after the short term gain rather than long term gain, so people take control through violent aggression in any way they can. It is only through the peaceful alternative of patents and respect for patented inventions that prevents violent aggression.

I do deem attacking an innocent individual immoral, and it happens to inventors all the time.

Patents and copyrights need violent aggression because for them to exist, you have to violate others' already existing property. Stephan's post "On J. Neil Schulman's Logorights" from 07/02/2009 explains it very well.

I don't see how not giving inventors an exclusive right to ideas cause them violence. If someone's feelings are "hurt" because they didn't get from the community what they asked for (eg. a free lunch) or when they're "hurt" by their competitor lowering prices and thus "causing" them make less money do you call that violent aggression? If a US citizen invents a better way of brewing coffee and doesn't share it with anyone and a year later an Australian independently invents the same way without the knowledge of that US citizen and shares it with anyone without cost, did he commit violent aggression towards the US citizen? I don't see how. By what principle should an author gain property rights to an idea?

Patents and copyrights need violent aggression because for them to exist, you have to violate others' already existing property. Stephan's post "On J. Neil Schulman's Logorights" from 07/02/2009 explains it very well.

If the property existed before the patents, then the patents should not have been issued. Patents can only exist on inventions that did not exist at the time they were filed. Copyright is even more restricted, being limited to a specific expression or implementation, and that had to exist at the time of the copyright. If someone else already had the property, then the copyright should not exist. Fundamentally, there should be no "already existing property" at the time the patent issued or copyright was created, or they should not have been issued or created.

I don't see how not giving inventors an exclusive right to ideas cause them violence.

And I do not see how they cause "violence." We are not children in a sand box. We are adults. In an ideal world, we have respect for the property of others, even "intellectual" property, which is silly because it is only property once it is set on a physical medium of some type (even if that physical medium is a computer). To describe a patent as an instrument of violence is like saying a hammer is an instrument of violence. The hammer is a valuable tool that has many benefits, as does a patent. However, a fool can use a hammer (or patent) as a weapon, or worse, a bigger fool can take the hammer (patent) that never belonged to him.

If someone's feelings are "hurt" because they didn't get from the community what they asked for (eg. a free lunch)

I am unsure what patents have to do with a "free lunch." As Milton Friedman said, there ain't no such thing as a free lunch. You have exactly hit the reason I think inventions have value and should require payment by others that use them. In general, inventions represent significant investment by an inventor. If we wish to stifle invention, then we should take inventions as "free lunch." If we wish to encourage invention, then we should allow the inventor to be rewarded sufficiently that other inventors are encouraged to both invest in their inventions and share them with the world.

or when they're "hurt" by their competitor lowering prices and thus "causing" them make less money do you call that violent aggression?

When competitor A has one invention and competitor B has another invention, and competitor B wins in the market place (Beta vs. VHS, for example), I call that competition. Is competitor A "hurt"? Well, economically I suppose that is true. However, competitor A had their invention, Beta, and competitor B had their invention, VHS, and consumers decided that the VHS invention was more valuable than the Beta invention. Congratulations to both inventors, but congratulations even more to consumers who without patents might never had the choice between Beta and VHS because there was no need to invent past Beta.

If a US citizen invents a better way of brewing coffee and doesn't share it with anyone and a year later an Australian independently invents the same way without the knowledge of that US citizen and shares it with anyone without cost, did he commit violent aggression towards the US citizen?

Of course the Australian did not commit "violent aggression" toward the US citizen. How fortunate that "independent invention" is a relatively rare thing, at least as far as I have seen. Copying happens a lot more than people want to admit, but there are no statistics or even logic that shows it does or does not happen. In some cases of "independent invention," it turns out that copying did happen, but the copier was never going to admit that.

I don't see how. By what principle should an author gain property rights to an idea?

Authors never gain property rights to an idea. I challenge you to prove that they do. There has been an on-going discussion on Techdirt regarding James Bond. Someone said that James Bond is an "idea." True. James Bond is merely a name (or an idea). You are free to use James Bond as a character in a story you write, or a movie you make. What if you make "James Bond" suave? This combination is still an idea, and non-infringing of the James Bond spy novels. What if you you have a spy named James Bond who is suave and dresses in tailor-made suits? You are moving past idea into implementation. What if you have James Bond, a suave spy, who visits exotic locations, works for a man named M, has a lab researcher named Q, and fights a character named Blofeldt? Oh, please. This is clearly an implementation, not an idea. It has already been done, and changing minor things about the story does not make it original, you are merely plagiarizing what someone else has already done. If your story is that good, it will stand on its own. Why do you need to piggy back off someone else's success?


Submit Comment

Blog Post

Name:

Email (optional):

Your Humanity:

Prove you are human by retyping the anti-spam code.
For example if the code is unodosthreefour,
type 1234 in the textbox below.

Anti-spam Code
TwoUnoZeroEight:


Post



   

Most Recent Comments

The right to rub smooth using a hardened steel tool with ridges Finally got around to looking at the comments, sorry for delay... Replying to Stephan: I'm sorry

Let's See: Pallas, Pan, Patents, Persephone, Perses, Poseidon, Prometheus... Seems like a kinda bizarre proposal to me. We just need to abolish the patent system, not replace

The right to rub smooth using a hardened steel tool with ridges I'm a bit confused by this--even if "hired to invent" went away, that would just change the default

Do we need a law? @ Alexander Baker: So basically, if I copy parts of 'Titus Andronicus' to a webpage without

Do we need a law? The issue is whether the crime is punished not who punishes it. If somebody robs our house we do

Do we need a law? 1. Plagiarism most certainly is illegal, it is called "copyright infringement". One very famous

Yet another proof of the inutility of copyright. The 9/11 Commission report cost $15,000,000 to produce, not counting the salaries of the authors.

WKRP In Cincinnati - Requiem For A Masterpiece P.S. The link to Amazon's WKRP product page:

WKRP In Cincinnati - Requiem For A Masterpiece Hopefully some very good news. Shout! Factory is releasing the entire series of WKRP in Cincinnati,

What's copywritable? Go fish in court. @ Anonymous: You misunderstood my intent. I was actually trying to point out a huge but basic

Rights Violations Aren't the Only Bads I hear that nonsense from pro-IP people all the

Intellectual Property Fosters Corporate Concentration Yeah, I see the discouragement of working on a patented device all the time. Great examples

Music without copyright Hundreds of businessmen are looking for premium quality article distribution services that can be

Les patent trolls ne sont pas toujours des officines

Les patent trolls ne sont pas toujours des officines

Patent Lawyers Who Don't Toe the Line Should Be Punished! Moreover "the single most destructive force to innovation is patents". We'd like to unite with you

Bonfire of the Missalettes!

Does the decline in total factor productivity explain the drop in innovation? So, if our patent system was "broken," TFP of durable goods should have dropped. Conversely, since

Does the decline in total factor productivity explain the drop in innovation? I wondered about TFP, because I had heard that TFP was increasing. Apparently, it depends on who

Music without copyright I do agree with all the ideas you have presented in your post. They are very convincing and will