defending the right to innovate
Monopoly corrupts. Absolute monopoly corrupts absolutely.
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A recent CNET video on "Intellectual property rights vs. journalism" shows a Stanford University's Innovation Journalism conference on June 7, with a panel discussion by various mainstreamers discussing the quesion "Is intellectual property protection a threat to journalism?" The lack of libertarian principle and sound economics has these commentators floundering as they discuss various cases where IP infringes free speech and freedom of the press. Lacking any principled approach they retreat to legal positivism, talking about how the Constitution protects both freedom of the press and speech as well as IP rights, so some "balance" must be made. Without Austrian economics and libertarian principle, even well-intentioned people, who sense that something is wrong, are helpless before the state's propaganda and onslaught of legal positivism.
I recently attended at the Fifth Annual Meeting of the Property and Freedom Society in Bodrum, Turkey (see my Bodrum Days and Nights: The Fifth Annual Meeting of the Property and Freedom Society: A Partial Report). I delivered a speech entitled "Ideas are Free: The Case Against Intellectual Property." The speech following mine was by one Terence Kealey, a biochemist at the University of Buckingham and author of Sex, Science and Profits and The Economic Laws of Scientific Research. Kealey is a fantastic speaker and his fascinating, riveting talk, "Science is a Private Good - Or: Why Government Science is Wasteful" (video; audio), perfectly complemented my anti-IP talk-in fact his book Sex, Science and Profits has a chapter calling for the abolition of patents. (The other PFS speeches (see the Program) are being uploaded and will be linked here.)
Earlier this month, I spoke at the Fifth Annual Meeting of the Property and Freedom Society in Bodrum, Turkey (see my Bodrum Days and Nights: The Fifth Annual Meeting of the Property and Freedom Society: A Partial Report). My topic was "Ideas are Free: The Case Against Intellectual Property," though a better title might be something like "Ideas Are Not Property: The Libertarian IP Mistake and the Structure of Human Action." It is now available in audio and video. The other speeches (see the Program) are being uploaded and will be linked here.
Dear Mr. Bourne,
I've been enjoying your commentary on various Twit network podcasts for a while now. On the recent MacBreak Weekly, I found your exchange with Merlin Mann about open source interesting. I detect a whiff of libertarianism in your remark about the force of the state being used to enforce taxes--which I appreciate, as I'm a libertarian myself. I'm also a patent attorney and have written extensively about why patent and copyright law are anti-free market and unlibertarian (my reasons may be found at The Case Against IP: A Concise Guide, available at http://www.stephankinsella.com/publications/#IP).
You are right, in a way, that the free market will come into play here--but the power of patent and copyright holders is not a free market power. It is an artificial and unjust monopoly given to them by the state, which they then use in the courts to get the force of the state (as with tax collection) to extort money from third parties. So, given this monopoly power, yes, the free market will temper somewhat how much they can extort from people, but still, it's unjust and greatly distorts the market. It also leads to hostility against the free market when people wrongly identify this state monopoly granting practice as part of the free market.
That said, I agree with you that there is no "religious" reason for a given individual or firm to use open source over non-open -- whatever works better and is the better deal for you, of course. And in fact the "open source" model is not without problems: it also relies on copyright, and has insidious aspects -- that's one reason I, as an anti-copyright type, prefer public domain or creative commons attribution only instead of the share-alike/GNU type model (which I explain in Copyright is very sticky!, Eben Moglen and Leftist Opposition to Intellectual Property, and Leftist Attacks on the Google Book Settlement).
Well, back in 1995, that is :) See his post Bye-Bye for IP, an excellent short critique of "intellectual property." As I noted in the comments, I think I tied him in coming to my senses about IP: I believe my first published piece against IP was in 1995 as well in the IOS Journal. There may have been something earlier; I'm not sure. I may have presented something a bit earlier at some Federalist Society meetings in Philadelphia; the next thing I can find that I published was in 1998 for the Pennsylvania Bar Association Intellectual Property Newsletter (later republished in a Federalist Society online forum).
The 1995 publication followed on the heels of my taking the patent bar exam in 1994. I had been thinking about IP for a long time, since 1987 or so at least, because Rand's defense of IP had always bugged me. I started thinking about it harder in 1992 or so, when I started practicing IP law.
As I noted previously, I was interviewed recently for a promising new documentary by lawyer-philosopher David Koepsell and filmmaker Taylor Roesch, "Who Owns You?" (Here's the first trailer, on Vimeo.) Here's an email I just received from Taylor:
Hello Family and Friends,
Here's the first trailer for a promising new documentary by lawyer-philosopher David Koepsell and filmmaker Taylor Roesch (I was interviewed for it as mentioned here). Vimeo;
Over the last 20 years, the United States Patent and Trademark Office has been issuing patents to universities and private companies on raw human genes. One company or university is given a legal monopoly over a molecule that is inside every human being and many other animals. This documentary explores the legal, ethical, and clinical ramifications of human gene patenting.
And, in the words of Groundhog Day's Ned Ryerson, "It's a doosy".
As noted previously (see Stop the ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement)), this treaty was being negotiated in secret and is an attempt to extend the reach of the west's horrible and draconian IP (patent and copyright) regimes to other countries. As I noted, the
ACTA is also similar to another arcane law, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which, under the guise of protecting "property rights," snuck in provisions that criminalize even the mere possession of technology that can be used to circumvent digital protection systems (see, e.g., my post TI Uses Copyright Law to Attack TI Calculator Enthusiasts). Likewise, under the guise or protecting property rights in inventions and artistic works (patent and copyright), it "seeks to provide legal authority for the surveillance of Internet file transfers and searches of personal property". As one group notes, "ACTA goes way, way beyond the TRIPS (the copyright/patent/trademark stuff in the World Trade Organization agreement), creating an entirely new realm of liability for people who provide services on the net". More invasion of personal liberty and property rights in the name of false, artificial property rights.
The draft text has now been released, under pressure from the European Parliament (see Declan McCullagh's post, ACTA treaty aims to deputize ISPs on copyrights; see aslo Michael Geist's analysis of the draft text). As I suspected, the text (available here) reveals, as McCullagh notes, that ACTA "seek[s] to export controversial chunks of U.S. copyright law to the rest of the world," such as the DMCA's "'anti-circumvention' section, which makes it illegal to bypass copy protection even to back up a Blu-Ray disc" (see, e.g., my post TI Uses Copyright Law to Attack TI Calculator Enthusiasts). This is a horrible US law that was snuck in the DMCA that may now become part of other countries' laws. It prohibits not only copyright infringement but also makes it illegal to sell devices that could be used to circumvent encryption of DRM'd information.
Now, the DMCA also contained a "safe harbor" for ISPs that probably would not pass now (since it gave ISPs an exemption for liability that turned out to be broader than initially realized when the DMCA was enacted in the 1990s). I was concerned that ACTA would contain the anti-circumvention provisions but not the ISP safe-harbor rules--but some version of this does, at least, seem to be contemplated in the ACTA text (see pp. 20-21).
In any case, this horrible treaty needs to be stopped.
A new documentary is out, Patent Absurdity: how software patents broke the system:
Patent Absurdity explores the case of software patents and the history of judicial activism that led to their rise, and the harm being done to software developers and the wider economy. The film is based on a series of interviews conducted during the Supreme Court's review of in re Bilski a case that could have profound implications for the patenting of software. The Court's decision is due soon...I discuss Bilski in Supreme Skepticism Toward Method Patents and The Arbitrariness of Patent Law, and Moglen and Stallman in Leftist Attacks on the Google Book Settlement and Eben Moglen and Leftist Opposition to Intellectual Property. The film is worth watching.
Most Recent Comments
Questions and Challenges For Defenders of the Current Copyright Regime It is one of the finest websites I have stumbled upon. It is not only well developed, but has good
at 06/19/2018 10:36 PM by Michael Jones
Killing people with patents I'm not really commenting the post, but rather asking if this blog is going to make a comeback
at 01/09/2018 03:46 AM by Anonymous
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
at 05/08/2015 08:35 AM by Dan Dobkin
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
at 04/10/2015 10:44 AM by Stephan Kinsella
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
at 04/10/2015 10:34 AM by Stephan Kinsella
Do we need a law? @ Alexander Baker: So basically, if I copy parts of 'Titus Andronicus' to a webpage without
at 01/08/2015 08:58 PM by Sheogorath
Do we need a law? The issue is whether the crime is punished not who punishes it. If somebody robs our house we do
at 11/17/2014 04:48 AM by David K. Levine
Do we need a law? 1. Plagiarism most certainly is illegal, it is called "copyright infringement". One very famous
at 10/29/2014 10:49 AM by Alexander Baker
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.
at 09/20/2014 03:19 PM by Alexander Baker
WKRP In Cincinnati - Requiem For A Masterpiece P.S. The link to Amazon's WKRP product page:
at 06/28/2014 10:03 AM by Doris
WKRP In Cincinnati - Requiem For A Masterpiece Hopefully some very good news. Shout! Factory is releasing the entire series of WKRP in Cincinnati,
at 06/28/2014 10:00 AM by Doris
What's copywritable? Go fish in court. @ Anonymous: You misunderstood my intent. I was actually trying to point out a huge but basic
at 05/05/2014 01:03 PM by Sheogorath
Rights Violations Aren't the Only Bads I hear that nonsense from pro-IP people all the
at 04/07/2014 04:47 AM by Dan McCracken
Intellectual Property Fosters Corporate Concentration Yeah, I see the discouragement of working on a patented device all the time. Great examples
at 01/13/2014 06:13 AM by Anonymous
Music without copyright Hundreds of businessmen are looking for premium quality article distribution services that can be
at 11/28/2013 05:03 PM by Stephanie Smith
at 11/28/2013 09:23 AM by Anonymous
at 11/28/2013 09:22 AM by Anonymous
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
at 11/24/2013 10:48 AM by SpaceCorp Technologies
at 11/20/2013 03:18 PM by Anonymous
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
at 11/02/2013 08:09 PM by Anonymous