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Reply to Cathy Young’s “Copyright and creative freedom”

Update: See also Confused Reason writer Cathy Young Anti-SOPA but still pro-copyright and Reason: Copyright Should Last Half A Century


Ms. Young writes:

“My argument: copyright law as it currently exists does the opposite of its original intent (as formulated in the U.S. Constitution, which allows Congress to legislate on copyright, and in the very first copyright statute enacted in 1790): to promote arts and letters and encourage learning, by giving authors an incentive to create new works by ensuring that they can fairly profit from their writings.”

Since copyright law is aggression, per Rothbard’s utility/welfare economics analysis, it causes overall harm, and relatively enriches copyright-creators at the expense of others. Any copyright law gives an incentive to create new works, at the expense of everyone else.

“Well, why is 14 + 14 any less arbitrary than 50?”

Because 28 is closer to zero than 50 is, and zero is the libertarian goal, since copyright is unjust.

“I’m also rather amused by Mr. Kinsella’s assumption that copyright is a completely cut-and-dried issue from a libertarian point of view.”

It’s not an assumption; it’s a conclusion of years of study of and reflection on this matter as a libertarian and IP attorney, and taking the time to set forth a careful case for it in writing.

“I’ve had other people tell me (in debates over fan fiction) that as a libertarian I should be more respectful of intellectual property rights because libertarians are pro-property.”

Libertarians are pro-property, but the issue is whether IP rights are legitimate property rights. In my experience, the vast majority of principled libertarians–and a growing number–do not think it is so. The only libertarians who believe in IP seem to be (a) utilitarians and other unprincipled types; and (b) principled types such as Galambos and Rand, but whose principles border on the insane. I take it Ms. Young is of type (a).

“I have a certain amount of sympathy for a writer who creates, say, the character of a devoted wife and mother only to see her transformed by someone else into a coke-sniffing adulteress. (Or vice versa!)”

This is not a libertarian concern; if Cracked magazine writes a parody of Lord of the Rings, or someone does a porn video with hobbits as characters, this does not literally “transform” some thing owned by Tolkien’s estate. It’s just another idea out there.

Ms. Young seems to be unaware that there is an intense, significant–and growing–principled libertarian opposition to artificial, state-created “rights” like copyright and patent.

{ 1 comment… add one }
  • Eric Haas June 30, 2009, 11:31 am

    Your link to your publications seems to be broken.

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