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The Libertarian Case Against Intellectual Property: A Concise Guide

The Case Against IP: A Concise Guide,” by Stephan Kinsella, Mises Daily (Sept. 4, 2009).

“The time is ripe to concisely restate the basic libertarian case against IP and provide links to some of the key anti-IP publications.
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[Mises cross-blog; Against Monopoly cross-blog]

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  • John Donohue September 7, 2009, 1:11 am

    Being A, I have no say in what B does with a bunch of paper and a pencil. He can draw up some stick figures and sell them on the street corner. He is the owner of that content.

    However, having written a great novel, I decided to offer the ideas, thoughts, expressions, language of this novel to others and I created a physical object, a book, and sold this physical object to anyone with the price of admission with the express intention of delivering the content for personal enjoyment. But the sale in book form is conditional. I state the conditions of inside cover of the book. I do not convey permission to you to copy the content and claim you wrote it and go print your own book and give it away or sell it. You can also not do the same even if you mention my name on it. I did not convey that right to you. If you do not agree to these conditions, do not purchase the book. If you purchase the book and go against my wishes, you are a criminal. You did not seek nor respect my volitional consent.

    The only way Stephan Kinsella can claim that there is no such stipulation, or that having bought a physical copy of the book he now ‘owns’ the property of the content of the book, is by doing violence to the homesteader’s will. You are TAKING the novel from me, not securing my consent. You have no claim to my property.

    Well, I guess there is another, awful, claim. This would be that the invention of the novel, the intellectual content, is collectively owned by all comers — or that it is unowned by anyone, including by the soul of the novelist. This is a sickening assault on the mind.

    A hypothetical will illustrate. One night in camp, Denys persuades Karen to tell him a beautiful romantic story of two lovers. Her imagination is so rich she spins on for three hours, interrupted by wine and maybe lovemaking. Next day he goes off from her, as was his wont. In an evil moment, he writes down the story scene by scene. He knows Karen so well he captures her every nuance. In Mombassa he speaks to his agent about the manuscript. Together they print it up without crediting Karen Blixen (or Isaak Dinesen) and offer it to the world. It brings Denys more riches than all his other endeavors in life.

    What rights does Karen have? If you say she has none, since it was Denys’ capital that bought his paper and ink and therefore Karen has no rights to “his” property, I am advising her to send a war party of Maasai after Denys and then over to your house to speak with you.

    Mr. Kinsella don’t tell me there is no such thing as intellectual property, or that rectification of theft of that content against the will of the creator is not a proper function of government.

    • Stephan Kinsella September 7, 2009, 1:18 am

      John Donohue:

      However, having written a great novel, I decided to offer the ideas, thoughts, expressions, language of this novel to others and I created a physical object, a book, and sold this physical object to anyone with the price of admission with the express intention of delivering the content for personal enjoyment. But the sale in book form is conditional. I state the conditions of inside cover of the book. I do not convey permission to you to copy the content and claim you wrote it and go print your own book and give it away or sell it. You can also not do the same even if you mention my name on it. I did not convey that right to you. If you do not agree to these conditions, do not purchase the book. If you purchase the book and go against my wishes, you are a criminal. You did not seek nor respect my volitional consent.

      Yes. This contract cannot bind third parties. I’ve already dispatched this flawed argument.

      The only way Stephan Kinsella can claim that there is no such stipulation, or that having bought a physical copy of the book he now ‘owns’ the property of the content of the book, is by doing violence to the homesteader’s will. You are TAKING the novel from me, not securing my consent. You have no claim to my property.

      For me to imprint a pattern on my property does not require that I have anyone’s consent. I don’t need to claim I “own” the pattern to do it. You need to show that I have breached an agreement with you. As an example, there are many people alive today who have never seen Star Wars but who know the basic plot and characters etc. from being alive. If one of them were to write, “The Further Adventures of Han Solo,” they could be stopped by George Lucas, even though they never signed an agreement with him.

      Mr. Kinsella don’t tell me there is no such thing as intellectual property,

      Too late!

      or that rectification of theft of that content

      Question-begging. To call something theft of course implies there is intellectual “property.”

      against the will of the creator is not a proper function of government.

      The only proper function of government is suicide.

    • JJJ June 13, 2010, 8:59 am

      However, having written a great novel, I decided to offer the ideas, thoughts, expressions, language of this novel to others and I created a physical object, a book, and sold this physical object to anyone with the price of admission with the express intention of delivering the content for personal enjoyment. But the sale in book form is conditional. I state the conditions of inside cover of the book. I do not convey permission to you to copy the content and claim you wrote it and go print your own book and give it away or sell it. You can also not do the same even if you mention my name on it. I did not convey that right to you.

      Your argument is flawed. You cannot make rules on property that does not belong to you (the book). You do not own the book therefore it is not yours and it is not yours to make rules protecting it. There is no way to prove that a thought is your property.

  • John Donohue September 7, 2009, 2:35 am

    I made no flawed argument. You ignore what you can’t refute many times in your response.

    You final statement stands as your own suicide. Disgusting.

  • Z May 23, 2010, 4:25 am

    A contract is a meeting of the minds to negotiate the terms of a mutually beneficial exchange. A license requires no meeting of the minds. It is a grant of privileges by the property owner. You can either follow the rules governing its use and benefit from it or put it down and walk away. You did not expend the time and energy to create the work, you do not get to determine how it is released. Just because digital technology makes it easier to steal does not excuse the theft.
    Your ludicrous argument against intellectual property is a shiv in the gut of Lysander Spooner, an advocation of theft and complete and utter poppycock.

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