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KOL149 | IP And Beyond With Stephan Kinsella – Non-Aggression Podcast


Kinsella on Liberty Podcast, Episode 149.

My recent appearance on the Non-Aggression Podcast with host Mike Cuneo, aka 412 Libertarian. We talked about IP, Georgism, Stefan Molyneux’s use of the DMCA to do a copyright takedown of a critic on youtube, whether Hitler is responsible for the holocaust, and the like.

From his show notes:

IP And Beyond With Stephan Kinsella – Non-Aggression Podcast


I had the pleasure of speaking at length with Stephan Kinsella, a patent attorney, libertarian author and scholar, and head of the Center For The Study of Innovative Freedom, or C4SIV.

Stephan also runs the site StephanKinsella.com

Causation and Aggression (free PDF file), the paper we spoke about in the later part of the podcast.

One of my favorite articles of all time, “What It Means To Be An Anarcho Capitalist.”

Kinsella is the author of the groundbreaking book “Against Intellectual Property”(freely available for download)

Here is the article that I alluded to when speaking about the marble statue example, as to why creation alone is not sufficient or necessary for ownership.

{ 18 comments… add one }
  • Mike Cuneo August 30, 2014, 12:55 pm

    I’m doing more reading on the whole “is Hitler responsible” topic, including the paper you referred me to. I’d love to debate and push back on some of your assertions once I get a deeper understanding. It’s very interesting, IMO, and actually quite crucial for libertarians to think about this issue. I will likely post something to my blog about where I stand on that issue. I’ve been thinking about it for a while and have been collecting my own thoughts, and now am starting to read what others have said, which frankly is a bit disappointing, because I haven’t found much debate on the issue.

  • Jan Masek August 31, 2014, 7:09 pm

    I was shocked to find out Molyneux uses DMCA to force people to take stuff down. Yes, he is better than people who believe in IP AND use IP laws to push people around but people aspiring to be leaders of the freedom movement and to be examples need to lead by example. It is highly immoral and morality does matter.

    Yes, the problem is the existence of the laws, not Molyneux. Yes, one particular person’s actions do not speak of the nature of IP which is still illegitimate.

    But Mises didn’t budge. Rothbard didn’t either. So the message of libertarianism is still powerfull but he lost credibility of delivering it.

    Well, I never really thought Molyneux had much original thought to offer anyway. But for some reason he has a lot of listeners (even though there are so much better thinkers than him). What a shame.

    • Mike Cuneo September 1, 2014, 3:07 pm

      I think Stephan is off base by saying “everyone who uses copyright implicitly does the same thing as Molyneux.”

      The reason that’s wrong is that you can easily use copyright defensively, whereas Molyneux is using DMCA aggressively, IMO.

      For example, Stephan copyrighted Against IP, and for good reason. If he didn’t, someone else could copy it, distribute it, and even censor it, by forcing others to obey their copyright. So Stephan did that defensively to allow the book to be distributed. Molyneux is not acting defensively here, IMO.

      • Stephan Kinsella September 1, 2014, 4:02 pm


        “I think Stephan is off base by saying “everyone who uses copyright implicitly does the same thing as Molyneux.”

        The reason that’s wrong is that you can easily use copyright defensively, whereas Molyneux is using DMCA aggressively, IMO.”

        I agree that using the DMCA affirmatively is not the same thing as merely having a copyright. What I was trying to point out was that copyright is granted automatically, and therefore, if you publish a book (say) and go ahead and mark it as copyrighted and choose not to apply a CC license to it, you are doing something *similar* to what Molyneux did. That is, you are using your state-granted copyright rights, to intimidate others. We cannot help being granted copyright since it is automatic, but when publishing a book I think one ought to try to repudiate it and make it clear that you will not enforce it. The failure to do this is not as bad as affirmatively using it, I agree–but it is similar. And my point is we don’t see people attacking other authors, thinkers, libertarians, for failing to put a CC-BY etc. notice on their published works. For example Tom Bell recently published a book that is mostly against IP and he uses a “founder’s copyright” which lets it become public domain in 14 or 28 years (it’s not clear), but he didn’t use CC-BY, but you don’t see a chorus of complaint against him. Instead you see complaints about the people who are most stringently opposed to IP, like Moly. It’s odd.

        “For example, Stephan copyrighted Against IP, and for good reason. If he didn’t, someone else could copy it, distribute it, and even censor it, by forcing others to obey their copyright.”

        Actually, this is not quite right. First, I didn’t copyright it. I was given a copyright automatically by the federal government. Second, the MIses Institute put the wrong copyright notice on it–saying it was their copyright. That is just false. It was not my decision, and it’s not correct. This kind of mistake happens all the time–because of copyright law. Third, I have in the meantime released my copyright to the work by means of a CC-BY and CC0 license on my site where I offer PDF, epub, and HTML versions of that work. Fourth, and finally, others cannot “copyright” my work, if I fail to put a notice on it. You have to be the author of an original work to qualify for federal copyright. You may be thinking more of patents or trademarks, which have something along the lines you are thinking of.

        “So Stephan did that defensively to allow the book to be distributed. Molyneux is not acting defensively here, IMO.”

        So, I would agree, Molyneux is not acting defensively. And while obtaining patents, or filing a federal trademark registration, may be done defensively, I don’t think this applies to copyright. Copyright is automatic. You have it whether you want it or not. You don’t need to register it or mark it copyright. And if you fail to do anything, you still have the copyright; and no one else can obtain a copyright in your work. (Maybe they could have a copyright in a derivative work of a public domain or CC-BY work but that is only in the derivative work, not in the original.) This is a common misconception about how IP/copyright law works.

        • Jan Masek September 1, 2014, 4:40 pm

          Now I look like a dope because no-one will believe I had written my previous post before I read Dr. Kinsella’s 🙂

        • Mike Cuneo September 3, 2014, 12:47 pm

          Yeah, I was mixed up about copyrights, and forgot they are automatically granted. That changes a lot of what I wrote, but I think you pointed out my errors, which were based on the false premise that copyrights could be used by others to block you from publishing your own work.

          Either way, the whole debate of “Kinsella copyrights his stuff, and practices patent law, so let’s discard his opinions and laugh him off as a hypocrite” is probably the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. As you say, you have no choice but to copyright your work, and as we discussed on the podcast, lol at people who don’t understand defensive IP versus offensive, the system we are currently stuck with, etc. I’m glad I got to speak with you to clarify those things and get them on the record. Lol statists, as always.

      • Jan Masek September 1, 2014, 4:32 pm

        I agree, Mike, that Dr. Kinsella gave Molyneux too much of a break. Especially when he (Kinsella) gave an example that you shouldnt kick out a Jewish family out of their house even if current Nazi laws allow it. In fairness, he did say it was wrong of Molyneux to do it.

        On the “defensive copyright”: not sure you can have it. Patents yes, copyrights not sure. Copyrights are a given, for patents you need to apply. You can just make copyrights as “soft” as possible, e.g. creative commons. But some people don’t do that which might be a bit like intimidating people with the copyright law.
        I am not sure though, i just heard Dr. Kinsella mention something along these lines, maybe he’ll clarify it himself.

        • Stephan Kinsella September 1, 2014, 4:38 pm

          saying I gave Moly too much of a break–I just don’t think like this. I am interested in libertarian theory. Copyright law is the problem; there could be no DMCA takedowns without it. There are thousands of uses of copyright every day; they are all unjust. They are not surprising. Whether a particular person used a bad law to result in injustice is not that interesting to me. I said I would not do it, and think it’s a mistake. I was trying to broaden this issue to point out that the focus on “hypocrisy” and even on personal actions is a distraction. The problem is the bad state laws.

          • Jan Masek September 1, 2014, 5:17 pm

            I absolutely agree that Molyneux’s actions speak nothing of the nature of IP laws and also agree that people need to concentrate on the real problem which is not what an individual (no matter how much associated with the liberty movement) does.
            It is similar to the argument from authority (e.g. “as Rothbard says”), only the opposite (“even Molyneux uses IP” or “even Hayek admits that…”). Both fallacious.
            Only I thought it’s good to show clearly that I distance myself from such things so that others, not fully understanding the distinction between the subject matter itself and its proponents, get it that we are not a cult.
            He is a laughing stock among his opponents and rightly so, I think. It’s just worth a mention. Which you did, you didn’t try to excuse him, only I thought it deserved a harsher damnation but that was just my opinion.

  • Mike Cuneo September 3, 2014, 12:53 pm

    After doing a lot more research, and listening to Molyneux, I have come to the conclusion that both sides are somewhat wrong in their approach.

    The Molyneux “cult members” are lashing out at other ancaps for attacking Molyneux, and ignoring their perfectly good theories, works, etc towards liberty.

    The people who claim Molyneux is operating a cult, are lashing out at one of the great ancap thinkers of our time, and of all time.

    His theories do not have to be absolute, black and white, 100% take it or leave it all. You can disagree with him on issues such as De-fooing, childhood, etc and still agree 100% that the state must go. That’s a personal decision, and I don’t see why we are being forced to choose sides, when we are all on the same side (no state.)

    I think a lot of it has strong personal undertones, some people don’t like him as a person, are jealous, think he’s a charlatan, etc. Meh. Even if someone was openly racist/cheated on their wife/held other scumbag personal opinions, etc, if they were an ancap, I would listen to them and respect their opinions on most topics way more than the average statist.

    • Jan Masek September 3, 2014, 2:53 pm

      I agree in principal, although I see a difference between cheating on one’s wife (bad but compatible with ancap) and using the state to censor stuff (not compatible).
      Perhaps you could use the estoppel doctrine here: Molyneux demonstrated by his actions that he thinks it is permissible to use aggression. Therefore he is not consistent when he claims it’s not.
      Well he would not be consistent even if he claimed it is permissible, as Hoppe shows.
      He is still a great guy overall but this is awful and I just think it needs to be said. Same thing with Ron Paul.
      (Molyneux explains it by trying to prevent harassment of his callers but that’s just silly)

  • Jan Masek September 5, 2014, 4:04 am

    There is an article by Walter Block on today’s Lew Rockwell.com which is very relevant to this. Block argues it would be compatible with libertarianism to sue NY Times for libel on the grounds that they are criminals themselves. Which is a fair point although I think it means that almost NO violent act against the state agents can be classified as aggression. I guess Block would have to argue that it is perfectly fine to rob the house of a state agent.
    I would love Dr. Kinsella to talk about this with Walter Block.

  • Reinier Bakels September 11, 2014, 8:33 am

    Read the famous 1958 Machlup report. He explains that the term “intellectual property” was adopted after the French revolution (1789) with the political purpose to benefit from the fact that “property” was promoted to a “holy and inalienable right” by this revolution. There was indeed an awareness the patents are actually privileges – but privileges were considered politically unacceptable in the spirit of “liberty, egality and fraternity” of this revolution. Note that the British already in 1623 criticized privileges in the “Statute of Monopolies”.
    Freedom of enterprise is incompatible with privileges of “monopolies”.

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