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KOL208 | Conversation with Schulman about Logorights and Media-Carried Property


Kinsella on Liberty Podcast, Episode 208.

[Transcript available here.]

A conversation about intellectual property and libertarian and property theory with my old friend J. Neil Schulman. We discussed our differing views on IP, as a result of my comments on a recent post Patrick Smith: Un-Intellectual Property. Hey, I tried my best, but we never quite saw eye to eye.

For further information, see Neil’s posts Human PropertyThe Libertarian Case for IP; and Media-Carried Property (MCP).

See also the comments here to The Origins of Libertarian IP Abolitionism and My Unfinished 30-Year-Old Debate with Wendy McElroy. For further material about Schulman’s logorights theory, see:

For some related material discussed, see

{ 6 comments… add one }
  • Kevin Regal March 5, 2016, 8:38 am

    I just listened to this whole discussion. I still don’t understand how Schulman determines which non-material things are ownable and which are not. I am absolutely convinced, though, that you are an extremely patient person.

  • J. Neil Schulman March 7, 2016, 7:23 pm


    About ten minutes after I cross-posted and tagged this page I lost Internet and just got it repaired a couple of hours ago. So having caught up with backlog this is my first chance to thank you for the podcast discussion.

    There’s one main area where I think I didn’t fully convey one of my observations and it’s this: I believe your criticism of Media Carried Property as eventually devolving into a situation where permission would be required for all or almost content could be equally applied to all physical property being re-homesteaded so there would be no unowned land as well. In fact, under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, with its application to extraterrestrial bodies, there is already an attempt to monopolize all territorial rights by superstatists and forbid new claims for private ownership.

    Statists favor monopoly control by States and Superstates. Patent law is weak tea compared to States declaring technologies and documents classified and therefore under the monopoly control of Secret Agencies.

    But that’s not what any libertarian, Voluntaryist, Agorist, or anarchist such as myself could find anything but egregiously evil.

    I oppose taking materials from the public domain by statist corporations such as Disney and Getty and making them their private property by force of statist law.

    I oppose corporations like Monsanto patenting DNA, which is a common wealth shared by the human race.

    I believe all kinds of property can be subject to common-sense limits.

    Nonetheless, your criticism of “permission based” MCP can be applied just as easily to all other kinds of property and once that concept is accepted the very concept of private property, which is by definition permission based, can be deconstructed and the communist premise of universal use without permission could prevail.


  • anarchoproctologist March 8, 2016, 6:19 pm


    You have the patience of a saint. That was exasperating.

    The final minutes were particularly gruesome. I truly wonder if the continual interruptions and refusal to answer simple questions were a subconscious effort to avoid confronting the blatant internal inconsistencies and misunderstandings that Mr. Schulman has.

    For someone who literally refers to and “parodies” (pays homage to?) Mises, it is telling that Mr Schulman would not even agree to the most basic definition of action – the purposeful employment of scarce means, guided by knowledge, to achieve ends.

    In doing so, he avoids the obvious conclusion that knowledge is not scarce. Scarce means are scarce which is why they are called scarce means. This simple point is devastating to his entire construct.

    Mr Schulman betrays his (mis)misunderstanding of human action when he says “Human action is itself a scarcity” What!? He goes on,”the employment of human action on something else has at least the potential to satisfy the conditions of creating a scarce something”

    AHA!! Now it is clear.

    He doesn’t understand praxeologic action and doesn’t understand what scarce means are either. He thinks that human action is the actual work involved. Since work was employed in order to create this unique “thing” (his word), as exemplified by the (unique) alphanumeric sequence, therefore he can own it.

    He actually says that alphanumeric sequences are a ” unique objects”. Huh? Nice trick going from the alphanumeric sequence “exists” to it is a “thing” to it is an “object”. Since it is “unique” it is therefore “scarce”. No, sir, alphanumeric sequences are not objects at all, nor are they scarce. No amount of rhetoric can change that. That is the entire point.

    Clearly, stripped down to its essence, Schulman’s claim is that he has an ownership in the value of that alphanumeric sequence’s use. In order to justify and obfuscate this, he uses rhetorical tricks like conflating uniqueness and scarcity, distorts the meaning of praxeologic action, and twists an idea (alphanumeric sequence) magically into an “object”.

    Let’s be clear about a book, for example.. The paper, the glue, the binding, and the ink are scarce means. The alphanumeric sequence is nothing more than the pattern of the ink on the paper. In fact, the alphanumeric sequence is the recipe for creating a specific book. This recipe can be used by millions of people for billions of years without the slightest diminution of the recipe itself or its dissemination throughout the galaxy. Hence, the recipe is not scarce.

    So, when I arrange my paper, glue, bindings, and ink in a certain pattern, they are still my paper, glue,bindings, and ink. The fact that they are arranged in a pattern that you claim to “own”, doesn’t magically give you property rights in my paper, glue, binding, and ink.

    The reason people call it “Intellectual Property” is precisely because it is NOT property.

  • JAN MASEK March 11, 2016, 5:36 pm

    Terrible, terrible debate, the guest had virtually nothing intelligent to say, he just kept interrupting, his only mode of discourse was to disagree, his argumentation not only made no sense, you could never find out what it actually is. If you ask the guest if the sky is blue you will never get a straight yes or no or I don’t know, instead you will get a lecture full of smarty words that makes no sense.
    Ecellent example that you don’t become smart by using smart words. The guest is one of the dumbest people I have ever heard, please do not ever bring him back. What a waste of time.
    Kudos to Dr. Kinsella who should have but never lost his nerve. This guy was almost as bad as the infamous Jan guy.

  • Noah Figg March 15, 2016, 11:57 am

    Mr. Schulman seems to believe you don’t own constituent parts of an object, only the full “conceptual” object. And he seems to really think you are just owning the concept more than the physical thing in all its complexity. People transform things they own, all the time, did he acknowledge that that I missed? Matter and energy are both able to be owned it seems, even if not in a recognizable distinct object form. It’s true the matter or energy in an object may change over time but the change is so small (off-gassing, recycling photons/electrons, etc.) it is essentially the same object and the same matter, even though it is always under some kind of change process. “I” am constantly changing, but am always the same person conceptually and largely in terms of matter as well. Does any of that undercut the matter being owned argument?

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