Kinsella on Liberty Podcast, Episode 346.
I was a guest on the Tatiana Show, with host Tatiana Moroz. (Released July 1, 2021, recorded June 30, 2021).
From her shownotes:
COPYRIGHT & SATOSHI’S LEGACY WITH STEPHAN KINSELLA OF THE OPEN CRYPTO ALLIANCE
On June 29, 2021, a UK court found that Australian computer scientist Craig Wright is the proper copyright owner of the Bitcoin Whitepaper, awarding initial damages in excess of $48,000 to Wright and demanding that Bitcoin.org remove the Whitepaper from its site. Guest Stephan Kinsella of the Open Crypto Alliance joins Tatiana today to talk about the decision and why it reveals all the most troubling problems with the government-run patent, trademark & copyright system. He discusses the background of the case and the personal financial interest that he believes is driving Wright’s copyright trolling campaign. And he also gives his own thoughts on Bitcoin, blockchain technology, smart contracts and more.
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About the Guest:
(Norman) Stephan Kinsella is an attorney and libertarian writer in Houston. He was previously General Counsel for Applied Optoelectronics, Inc., a partner with Duane Morris, and adjunct law professor at South Texas College of Law. A registered patent attorney and former adjunct professor at South Texas College of Law, he received an LL.M. (international business law) from King’s College London-University of London, a JD from the Paul M. Hebert Law Center at LSU, and BSEE and MSEE degrees from LSU.
He has spoken, lectured and published widely on both legal topics, including intellectual property law and international law, and also on various areas of libertarian legal theory. Libertarian-related publications include Property, Freedom, and Society: Essays in Honor of Hans-Hermann Hoppe (co-editor, with Jörg Guido Hülsmann, Mises Institute, 2009); Against Intellectual Property (Mises Institute, 2008); and Law in a Libertarian World: Legal Foundations of a Free Society (Papinian Press, 2021). Forthcoming works include Copy This Book: The Case for Abolishing Intellectual Property (Papinian Press, 2022).
Kinsella’s legal publications include International Investment, Political Risk, and Dispute Resolution: A Practitioner’s Guide (Oxford, 2020); Online Contract Formation (Oceana, 2004); Trademark Practice and Forms (Oxford & West/Thomson Reuters 2001–2013); World Online Business Law (Oxford, 2003–2011); Digest of Commercial Laws of the World (Oxford, 1998-2013); Protecting Foreign Investment Under International Law: Legal Aspects of Political Risk (Oceana Publications, 1997); and Louisiana Civil Law Dictionary (Quid Pro Books, 2011).
Kinsella is a co-founder and member of the Advisory Council for the Open Crypto Alliance (2020–), a member of the Editorial Board of Reason Papers (2009–), a member of the Editorial Advisory Board of the Molinari Review (2014–), a member of the Advisory Board of the Lexington Books (Rowman & Littlefield) series Capitalist Thought: Studies in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (2013–), Founder and Director of the Center for the Study of Innovative Freedom (2010–present), and legal advisor to LBRY (2015–). Previously, he was Founder and Executive Editor of Libertarian Papers (2009–2018), a Senior Fellow for the Ludwig von Mises Institute (2009–2013), a member of the Advisory Council of the Government Waste and Over-regulation Council of the Our America Initiative (2014–2017), Book Review Editor of the Journal of Libertarian Studies (Mises Institute, 2000–2004), a member of the Editorial Board of The Journal of Peace, Prosperity & Freedom (Liberty Australia, 2012–2016), a member of the Advisory Panel of the Center for a Stateless Society (C4SS) (2009–2012), and served as Chair of the Computer Law Subcommittee of the Federalist Society’s Intellectual Property Practice Group.
Copyright and Satoshi’s Legacy with Stephan Kinsella of the Open Crypto Alliance
Stephan Kinsella and Tatiana Moroz
The Tatiana Show, June 30, 2021
TATIANA MOROZ: Hello everybody, and welcome to this last-minute special edition of the Tatiana Show. I’m here with Stephan Kinsella. He is a patent attorney and a libertarian writer, and we just ran into each other at PorcFest, so I wanted to catch up about that and then get to this breaking news about Satoshi being Craig Wright, which I don’t even know what to say about all that. So you probably know something about that. We actually had you on the show before. You were talking about some of these kind of patent trolls in blockchain. But before we dive into all this stuff, if you can please give some people your background, a little bit about how you got involved in all this stuff and just some overview about your experience.
STEPHAN KINSELLA: Sure. Well, I’m a long-time libertarian since 1982, so I’ve been interested in this stuff for a long time. I’m also a patent attorney with an electrical engineering background, so I deal in high-tech patent law, so I’m interested in technology, and so I got interested in Bitcoin early on and libertarianism and Austrian economics. They all tie together for me. So I’m a member also of the Open Crypto Alliance, which is a group that is trying to fight the patent troll threat to the Bitcoin and blockchain ecosystem primarily by nChain and Craig Wright and other companies.
And Craig Wright is also apparently a copyright troll, so that’s what the news item today was about. And as we talked about last time, and as I’ve talked about many times, although I’m a patent attorney, I’ve long been an opponent of the intellectual property system, patent and copyright law. And I’ve been warning for a while that this would happen, and it has happened now, and it’s happening now.
TATIANA MOROZ: I’d love to hear a little bit more about that because normally – I even did an episode a long time ago I think with Jeffrey Tucker and John Light. And we were talking about IP in the music world, and that’s a pretty contentious topic that I think we could do on our own with that episode. But can you broadly explain why would somebody not want patents or copyright? Doesn’t that give artists money? I mean shouldn’t people want to have some kind of incentive for their work? I know it’s kind of asking you to explain a really, really big thing in a short while, but let’s give it a shot.
STEPHAN KINSELLA: Well, I mean lots of things give artists money or give other people money. I mean the COVID payments right now are going to lots of people. And you could say, well, why would you want to stop giving people free money? I mean isn’t that good to give them money? The question for libertarians is one of justice. The intellectual property thing can be explained for normal people by explaining to them some principles of private property in all this and explaining why IP law is incompatible with that.
But for libertarians, I’m going to take that for granted. If you favor free markets and private property rights, if you oppose state censorship, if you are in favor of competition, then you ought to be opposed to patent and copyright law because these are government intrusions into the free market that reduce competition, restrict competition, and censor free speech. They’re not what they’re sold as. They’re not really systems that help the small guy, help the artist. They are really rooted in the government – in copyright, they’re rooted in the government practice of censorship, that is, state control of what can be printed.
And for patents, they were rooted in state grants of monopoly privilege to protect people from competition, and that’s what they’ve turned into now. So they basically reduce and impede innovation, make us all poorer, reduce competition. They harm the consumer, and copyright law threatens internet freedom. Websites are taken down all the time. Books can’t be published, and the white paper is now being – going to be taken down from bitcoin.org because of a state court using force in the name of copyright law. So this is a perfect example of how copyright law is censorship.
TATIANA MOROZ: How does that work? Because – okay, so I don’t pay attention to Craig Wright. I’ve got a couple random friends tell me that BSC has some kind of utility and it’s okay in certain ways. I’m like, yeah, yeah, yeah, whatever. But I don’t pay attention to this big fight, and I never thought we would come to this point where, all of a sudden, there are some headlines saying that we’re not allowed to use it on bitcoin.org anymore because it belongs to Craig Wright. And I haven’t taken the time to truly delve in, and I think some people are feeling similarly to me. So can you explain to me who gave who the authority to decide that he is – and are they saying he’s definitely Satoshi and so nobody is allowed to use his work? How does this – what’s happening here?
STEPHAN KINSELLA: No. No, he’s not – as far as I know, he’s not Satoshi. It wouldn’t matter if he was, but he’s not as far as I can tell. And this legal outcome doesn’t indicate that whatsoever. Of course, they’re going to claim that it does because they’re dishonest. They did this recently. So the way it works is copyright is granted automatically under almost all nations’ copyright law, which is all compatible with each other under the Berne Convention. Copyright is granted automatically to any author of any creative work as soon as they write it down basically. It’s automatic, and the author is the presumed owner of it, so whoever wrote the white paper is the owner of the copyright.
Now, the copyright – the paper was published, as I understand it, initially under an MIT license, which means that anyone who uses it has license or permission from the copyright holder, whoever he is, to use it as they see fit. So that’s a defense to claim of copyright infringement. Another defense to a claim of copyright infringement is that the person suing you is not the holder of it and doesn’t have the right to sue you. So I think what happened in this case was Craig Wright – number one, he registered the copyright in the US and then claimed that this was proof by the copyright office that he was the owner, which he’s not.
The copyright office will take anyone’s assertion that they’re the owner. They don’t investigate it or anything. It’s just – actually, you have to file it under penalty of perjury and fines, so if he’s lying, I think he’s subject to some potential damages there, but I guess he doesn’t care. And then what happened was he filed a copyright lawsuit against this Cobra guy in bitcoin.org. Cobra is some guy that runs – some anonymous Bitcoin guy who runs bitcoin.org apparently sued him for copyright infringement, making the assertion that he was the owner of the copyright and had the right to assert it. He didn’t prove it. He just asserted it. And it would have been easy for Cobra to show up in court and simply just deny it and say you’re not the – you have to prove you’re the copyright holder.
The problem is he didn’t show up because he wants to maintain his anonymity. So when you don’t show up – when someone sues you in a government court and you don’t show up, then the plaintiff wins by default. There’s a default judgment. So he has lost because he refused to defend himself unfortunately, which I understand why he didn’t. But he doesn’t have any status whatsoever. I believe there’s a separate lawsuit pending from Square and their group, COPA, which is a group that’s complementary to ours, the Crypto Open Patent Alliance, which is also a group trying to fight the patent threat to the Bitcoin ecosystem.
And I think Square has sued – or one of its subcompanies or something has sued for declaratory judgment-type action in – I think in the UK. And so they’re going to actually go to bat, and they’re going to, I think, force Craig to prove that he’s Satoshi, and I doubt he’ll be able to because there are ways apparently that he could prove it if he really were Satoshi by moving some coins around or signing some coins or something like that. I don’t know the technical details. But my suspicion is he’s going to refuse to do that or claim that he’s unable to for some obscure reason, and because his credibility is already shot because of the trouble in other lawsuits around the world, I suspect the judge will just say, well, you haven’t satisfied your burden of proof that you’re Satoshi and that therefore you own the copyright, so you don’t have a standing to assert copyright in this paper. That’s my guess as to what’s going to happen.
TATIANA MOROZ: It’s really weird how this is something that’s going on in the UK, and then you’ve got the US, and it’s – I mean crypto is an international thing. Is there even a place where he could go and say that’s it, everybody, you all lose? I’m winning all I want, so I’m definitely Satoshi. Or would he, let’s say, in attempting to establish that claim, is there a global copyright court or anything like that? Because I think there might be some overlap. How does that work exactly?
STEPHAN KINSELLA: No. Every country has their own copyright law, but they’re all roughly compatible with each other because they are all signatories to the Berne Convention, which requires every country to have similar protections for copyright and to recognize a copyright based upon the same principles. So once you publish or create an original work, you have a copyright that’s recognized in basically most countries of the world. So he has that right, and he can sue for infringement, or the owner can sue for infringement in any of their courts, although, as I said, the defendant has a couple of defenses.
One would be that they have a license under the MIT license the original paper was published with. And the second defense would be that the plaintiff doesn’t have standing to sue because he’s not the owner of the copyright. And I suspect that the defendants who put a fight will prevail on either one of those claims. But, by the way, the problem here is not Craig Wright or nChain. The problem is the law because, when you have a bad law, you’re going to have people take advantage of it.
It would be like complaining that people are taking welfare or PPP payments in the US, but the problem is the law that grants these payments. Once you have a pig trough out, pigs are going to come munch at it. The problem is not the pigs; it’s the trough. And so the problem here is the copyright law. If we had a copyright law and no one would ever take advantage of it, then we wouldn’t have a problem with it. The only reason we libertarians have a problem with bad laws is because they have an effect, and they have an effect because people employ and use those laws, so the problem is the law.
And it’s not abuse. This is not abuse. The problem is simply that the law is unjust. Now, I guess he is abusing it here because he is claiming to be the holder of the copyright, and he’s probably not. But even there, the legal system permits someone to file a suit and to get a victory in a default judgment is the victim doesn’t put up enough of a fight, which is what happened here. So even what happened in the UK just now is legal and not technically abuse. It’s slimy, shady behavior, but when you have a law that permits slimy, shady behavior to take advantage of it, that will happen.
TATIANA MOROZ: So what is going on with the organization that you’re working with? Because now you’ve got this Craig Wright thing, but has there been any progress since you guys discovered that some of these patents were being filed? And can you explain that a little bit?
STEPHAN KINSELLA: Sure. So there are two approaches to fighting this threat, and the nChain has a lot of patents on file, I think over 1000 at this point in the UK, in the US, and other places and other companies too. Some banks and some other tech companies are filing patents as well on blockchain technology. What I think is going on in the case of Craig Wright is he is fighting to have BSV be the main chain. And they lost the battle to BCH, and BCH/BSV lost the battle to BTC, and so I think he’s trying to use legal threats to kill the BTC chain so that – in the hoes that BSV will – this is just my guess, although some cryptic comments on Twitter today indicate that because they said something like, now that we’ve won this lawsuit on the copyright and the white paper, you should – everyone should switch to BSV, the true Bitcoin.
So I think they’re trying to use this as a desperate threat to kill BTC so that the one dominant blockchain will be BSV. That’s what I think is happening. I think it will fail. It will just slow things down and harm some individual people. The patent threat is, in a way, worse I think than the copyright threat because the copyright threat only threatens to take down the white paper for some places, but you don’t really need the white paper to have Bitcoin.
What you need is you need to have technology implemented on computers that run different things, the nodes and the minors and things like that. And so a patent lawsuit is more of a threat, so one approach is what COPA has done. This is the group co-founded by Square. They have basically a group of Bitcoin companies allied together in an alliance, and they agree not to sue each other or to let their patents be used by patent trolls later on if they go out of business. So it’s an attempt to defang their own patents so that they can’t be used against each other or the network.
The problem with that is it doesn’t stop trolls or third parties who don’t sign the alliance, so an outside party could still sue people in there. And so what our group is trying to do is identify patents among this group of patents that people have filed and find the weak ones and challenge them according to the relevant procedures in their patent systems, which is a relatively quick and cheap process compared to patent litigation. If you wait and let a patentholder sue a company, then that company could face millions of dollars in expenses just to fight it.
So a lot of them cave and roll over. That’s why patent trolls acquire license royalties from companies. They pick them off with small amounts of money, and then over time they build and build and build. So it’s a divide-and-conquer strategy. So our approach is let’s just have a little bit of effort and resources go in the early stage to nip these patents in the bud now. So we have identified some that we’re looking at. We’re going to start writing some articles to expose some of them, and some of them we’re going to file challenges on.
But right now, we’re gearing up because we’re a volunteer effort, so we have some of us – we have three or four or five patent attorneys who have joined together including me to try to identify the weaknesses. But in the end, we really need a little bit of funding to pay some patent searchers and to pay some patent attorneys to actually do the hardcore filing work, which is not that expensive. So we’re in the process of that. I think in the next month or so we’re going to start having some results to publicize.
TATIANA MOROZ: How do you get those funds? I mean are these other companies that kind of donate? Is it individuals in the crypto space that are interested in donating?
STEPHAN KINSELLA: Yeah. I think any companies that are potentially vulnerable to this, if they just donate a little bit now, then we can stave off some multimillion-dollar lawsuits later. Or, for example, if they start going after companies, if one company is targeted, instead of rolling over and paying $50,000 or something like that to make it go away and then making the patents stronger, they should contact us or COPA, and we can all say don’t settle yet. Let’s get the resources and the help of the community to try to attack this patent early on to defang it so that you don’t have to go to court and spend $2 million to defend it. So we’re trying to do what we can and to – I made the announcement at the Miami Bitcoin Conference where you were at too, to try to alert the community.
We did get some donations after that, but we’re hoping for more, and we also need crowdsourcing help from technical experts to help us look into some issues related to, say, elliptical curve cryptography and things like that. So if anyone wants to help, they can just go to OpenCryptoX on Twitter or our website, opencryptoalliance.org, and we need to all rally together to try to fight this threat to the openness and the competitiveness of the free-market nature that Bitcoin should be and needs to be.
TATIANA MOROZ: Do you have any other organizations that you guys have partnered with? I mean people can donate, but are there organizations that have similar interests, so by joining together, you can be a little bit more effective?
STEPHAN KINSELLA: I think right now the two main ones would be COPA and ours. On our website, we mention a few other things. There are some other more general groups in the patent space, but they’re not really focused on crypto. And then, of course, there’s my little group myself, my C4SIF, Center for the Study of Innovative Freedom, where I’ve been fighting from a libertarian point of view. I’ve been fighting intellectual property laws for a long time, which is why I’m a member of this group. So I’d just say it’s roughly an alliance of these Bitcoin tech groups, libertarians, anti-IP Austrian libertarians, anarchist libertarians, anyone who’s in favor of innovation actually.
There are some groups that are in favor of innovation, and they want reform of the patent law like the EFF, Electronic Frontier Foundation. But they don’t really have a principled, diehard case against patents. They just want it reformed. So their help is just tepid unfortunately because you can’t – it would be like saying the problem with the drug war is people go to jail too long for marijuana. You should only go to jail for three years for a drug offense instead of seven. I mean that’s not any – that’s like saying I – well, we can’t abolish slavery, but we should have a law making the masters treat their slaves politely.
Give the slaves due process when it’s time to be punished for disobeying their master’s orders. They should have due process. I mean what kind of radical principled message is that? You need to oppose IP full-throatedly because this stuff is not an example of an abuse. This is the natural – this is a natural course of affairs, the natural result of having these types of laws. When the government grants people monopoly power to censor others’ free speech or to restrict them from competing, they will use it, and this is what will happen. So this is the problem we need to strike at the root of this.
TATIANA MOROZ: So okay, maybe you’ve already answered this, but help me understand because it seems like you’re opposed to IP in principle. But some people would say, oh, I want a patent. I want somebody to pay me for my song. I want somebody to pay me for my drugs. Otherwise, I won’t make the drug, blah, blah, blah. Would you say that there is a free-market solution that would meet both the needs of creators that don’t necessarily want to give away the goods but that isn’t stifling competition in an unfair way? Is it the government interference that makes it wrong, or is there something else that people can do structurally that isn’t necessarily the state taking control that would keep both parties happy or both sides happy?
STEPHAN KINSELLA: Well, I think ultimately, it’s up to the entrepreneur to figure out how to make money in what they want to do in a free market in the fact of competition. But I would say that you’re going to have business models arise that respond to the given legal system.
So, for example, part of Tesla’s business model is to rely upon government subsidies to develop electric cars. If the government didn’t do that, then Tesla would have to develop cars in a different way, or maybe electric cars wouldn’t be developed, or maybe they would have been developed earlier, or maybe they’d be developed later. But the market is clearly distorted, and if you remove the government distortions, then the market would change.
So there’s no doubt that if you change the patent and copyright law, the way artists approach the market now will have to change. They have built their models partly upon reliance upon being able to stop people from copying their songs and things like that. And then they can demand a license to allow them to do it, and they can sell that for money. However, I will say that because of the advent of encryption and torrenting and the internet and digital technology, which has made copying extremely easy and so-called piracy very easy, basically copyright on a consumer level is almost a dead letter.
It’s almost impossible to stop people from copying photographs and songs and movies and software as they wish, and they do it, and it’s widespread, and it’s rampant. And artists and creators know this, and they have to deal with this already, so they have already modified their business model approach in the last 15 or so years to account for this threat. So you have more of the – I think you have an app that has – it’s a free app, but then you have to pay to upgrade, and then you have support and you have – people sell swag.
And then you have personal autographed copies from the artist. People are doing all kinds of different things trying to adapt to the fact that it’s easy for people to compete with you if what you’re selling is an easily copiable file. So you can’t guarantee that everything that’s profitable now would be profitable in a free market, but some things would be profitable that aren’t profitable now, so things would definitely adjust. But lots of examples from what people have tried before would lead you to think that it is possible for artists to make money in a free market.
So, for example, I’ve pointed out J.K. Rowling, the author of Harry Potter, is a – I think she’s the first female billionaire in England or the richest woman in England, something like that, or she was for a while. She made money partly because of copyright on all of her books, but she started this out as some kind of very poor welfare-type mom riding in on a train as a passion project. If she had published that in a copyright-free world on Amazon self-publishing, it probably would have been a runaway hit. She would have made a little money, but then maybe it would have dwindled after the pirate copies came in.
But now she knows she has an audience of millions of people, and she could have done a Kickstarter or something saying, hey, I’ve got book number two written. As soon as I get a million subscribers paying me $5 each, I’ll release book number two. That’s $5 million right there. And then maybe she could repeat that six or seven times and so we’re up to $20, $30, $40, $50 million. And then if someone was making a movie based upon the book, they wouldn’t need her permission, so you might have three or four pirate rogue movies being made of the Harry Potter books.
One of them – one of the producers might approach J.K. Rowling and say we’d like you to be a consultant and give this movie your official approval so that we’ll sell more tickets to your true fans, and we’ll pay you a cut of the royalties or the ticket sales, so then she makes more. [See “Conversation with an author about copyright and publishing in a free society”; also “Examples of Ways Content Creators Can Profit Without Intellectual Property”] I mean there’s easy – there’s lots of ways for commercial products to make money, but you have to think outside the box, and people are not forced to think outside the box as much now because they can rely upon government monopolies. But they would have to do it more if those monopolies were removed. But, on the other hand, artists’ freedom would be improved too.
You wouldn’t have to look over your shoulder, be worried about someone suing you because your song resembled someone else’s song like Led Zeppelin or Robin Thicke with that – got sued by Marvin Gaye’s estate for some song because it had cowbells in it. You’d be free to do whatever you wanted, so you could reuse, remix other people’s work. It would encourage people to be unrestricted. Rap music could engage in sampling without fear of lawsuits. So it would help artists as well as restrict some of the ability they have to use state force as part of their business model.
TATIANA MOROZ: I think that you’re going to have a hard time getting artists to do that. I’m an artist. It’s hard to make money. It’s a miserable gig. But I mean I get it. People have to compete and stuff, but I don’t think that people want to. But I think that you could also make the argument that by giving away some music – when Napster came out, the artists actually ended up getting more people and more fans because they gave away a little bit of the music, and they got longer-term fans.
I would say though that people are a little bit burnt out with Kickstarter, and I feel like it’s annoying to try and beg people to give you money. And if you don’t have a lot of people out of the gate with your J.K. Rowling example, okay, she could release it on the internet, but it’s not just like, okay, you can put out the greatest thing in the world on the internet. If nobody knows about it, if your marketing isn’t right, i.e., marketing—you need money, or you need to be a fricking genius, and not everybody is good at all those things.
So I find it to be kind of frustrating. Do you think it’s worse in the US or anywhere else, or is the government intervention making it more restrictive? For example, the recording industry, RIA, whatever it is, it’s this big institution that basically negotiates on behalf of all the artists. And they say, okay, everybody’s got to get paid this amount of money, and this is the rules, and we said so, and now everybody has to participate along these same rules. Can you speak to some of the other things that maybe won’t benefit artists there to help make the case that maybe they should reconsider the IP attachment?
STEPHAN KINSELLA: Well, I mean you just pointed out that it’s hard – it’s frustrating and hard for artists to make money. But that’s right now. That’s in a world with copyright, so copyright apparently doesn’t solve the problem. I think there’s a misconception, and this is partly because of propaganda spread by the government and IP groups. They spread these myths that the patent law is to protect the small inventor, and copyright law protects the small artist. But usually these are corporate interests that are served by these laws, and the small guy is usually hurt.
At least until recent – the last 10 or 15 years with the emergence of independent publishing platforms for books and for music and things like that. Most people had to sign away their rights to some big studio or agent or label or publisher. And in fact, the copyright system, the way it emerged if you understand the history, basically you had the church and the state control what could be printed by hand by the scribes. So they wouldn’t let them print these hand-printed books of impermissible materials, things you didn’t want the public to know about.
And then when the printing press came around in the 1500s, this threatened the government’s ability to censor speech. So they gave a monopoly on what could be printed to the Stationers Company for about 100+ years, which was still government control over what could be printed. So if you needed to publish a book, you had to go through them, and the government and the church censors would have their say-so first. When the monopoly on the Stationers Company was going to expire, they passed the Statute of Anne in 1709 as a way to formalize this institution. And to make it look better, they called it a copyright, and they gave it to the authors.
But, in practice, the authors had to give the copyright right back to the Stationers Company and the publishers in order to get their books published because they didn’t have Xerox machines at home. They had to go to the publishers. So it was a way of perpetuating the gatekeeper function of the publishing industry. And that persisted until probably 15-20 years ago. Now it’s being broken down because of technology. But technology is also breaking down the ability to enforce copyright law, so copyright law is helping to break – I mean I’m sorry. Technology is helping to break the stranglehold on the free flow of information that the publishing industry built up on copyright law was doing.
But it also means that the traditional ability to protect your work – in fact, copyright – the argument that was given to give copyright to the authors in the Statute of Anne was not that they could use it to prevent people from publishing their stuff. It was so that the author could be the one who could decide whether their work was published. So in other words, it wasn’t the decision of the state censor or the publishing company. It was the author. So the whole purpose of copyright was to prevent the author’s work from being censored. It wasn’t to let the author censor other people. It was to let the author’s work get out there.
But now it’s been perverted and twisted and turned upside down. I guess I would have to say that copyright law is actually, in fact, not helping most artists. And they need to realize that they have to be in favor of liberty. We have to be whole human beings. I’m a patent attorney. If I succeed in abolishing the patent system, I can’t make money being a patent attorney. I’m happy to pay that price because it’s the right thing to do. If I’m a drug attorney and I make money defending my libertarian clients from going to prison, being thrown in a cage because they were ingesting cocaine or marijuana, I want the drug war to be abolished. I want my job and my career to go away.
TATIANA MOROZ: Do you think there’s a lot of people like that though? Do you think that that exists? I mean how many lawyers are there out there? Because people are like, are lawyers are scum-suckers. And in a way, you’ve got to wonder how is the system ever going to change because there’s a lot of people that are sculpting the system, that are benefitting? I applaud you for putting principle over your pocketbook, but I mean how do you – do you think other lawyers are like that, or what do you think is the principle? So then how do you fix that? Isn’t that bad news bears?
STEPHAN KINSELLA: Well, it’s just like my point earlier that if you have a bad law, people will take advantage of it, and also people will profit off of it by specializing it and perpetuating it, just like the teacher’s unions are going to favor public schools, just like mailmen working for the US Post Office are going to say the post office is a great thing. They have a vested interest in being dishonest even and pushing their interest, so that’s not going to change. So this is why I’m a Bitcoiner. I actually think Bitcoin is our greatest hope for liberty, and that’s just one subset of technology.
I think technology and prosperity and Bitcoin as a subset of that is our greatest chance for liberty. So technology has already eviscerated copyright law and made it very difficult to enforce.
My hope is that patent law will suffer the same fate as 3D printing matures. Now, I don’t think it’s going to be tomorrow. This may take 50 years, 20 years, 30 years before 3D printing is advanced enough to where everyone has a very sophisticated 3D printer in their house. They can download an encrypted file for any object on the dark web because information can be protected, and they can use that information to print a device that’s patented. So I think hopefully 3D printing will allow us to evade and undermine patent law just like encryption and the internet has helped us to evade and is undermining copyright law. So I don’t wait for the profession to change or the politicians to change or even the voters who are ignorant of all this and have been bamboozled by the propaganda about it. I don’t think there’s any hope that that’s going to change. I don’t speak the truth in the vain hope that I’m going to persuade my fellow patent lawyers. It’s just because you asked the question and I answer it honestly.
TATIANA MOROZ: Okay, well, I mean that’s a good, encouraging point that there is going to be a lot of innovation that can’t be controlled. I wonder how successful governments will be using some of these threats to say, oh, well, no. Sorry, got to shut down freedom of speech, and it always kind of makes me think about the different ways that speech exists. I could say I want to tweet as much as I want, but there’s also things like the Ghost Gunner or whatever, and are you allowed to print the plans to make a gun like that. Do you think that – is there even an – like if I was the government, I wouldn’t want people to print a Ghost Gunner or any kind of fake gun. Obviously – well, I guess it’s a real gun. But guns are what they take away right before they take away more of people’s freedom. Do you think that there is an incentive to have that right upheld by the overlords?
STEPHAN KINSELLA: The guns are a good example. So 3D printers are also going to make it difficult for the government to restrict gun freedom, which is also important. I think they’re going to try to stop it, but that’s like trying to enforce copyright in a world where copying is easy. I think once the technological genie is out of the bag, it becomes impossible for the government to stop it. Some have argued that the government will shut down Bitcoin when it becomes obvious to them that it’s a threat. But I think the way Bitcoin is designed, the only way to shut down Bitcoin would be to shut down the whole internet.
TATIANA MOROZ: They would have shut it down by now I think if they wanted to. I mean they’re not that stupid. They would have figured – somebody would have figured out by now, okay, this could really threaten us. Let’s shut it down. But no, I mean that’s why they have Bitcoin obituaries, right?
STEPHAN KINSELLA: Exactly, 330-something of them. My Bitcoin socks say that.
TATIANA MOROZ: And counting. There’s always another chance for Bitcoin to die, maybe not today, maybe tomorrow. Any time. And then you buy the dip.
STEPHAN KINSELLA: So – but look back on the original thing. Look for Craig Wright and his cronies to trumpet this as a victory, proving that he is Satoshi as part of their sales pitch to get people to invest in them or to take them – give them some credibility or to switch to the BSB chain for some reason. I think that’s what they’re going to do. They’re going to dishonestly depict – portray this default judgment as an endorsement of the claim that he is Satoshi by a government court, which is just not true. It’s a complete lie.
TATIANA MOROZ: Okay. Well, I’m glad to have that cleared up. I feel confident to tell people that it’s not true anymore. And I can refer them to this episode. We were just at PorcFest, and I know that you’re doing this blockchain law stuff. What were you talking about at PorcFest?
STEPHAN KINSELLA: Well, usually people ask me to speak on IP because that’s what they know me for. But I write and talk a lot about the libertarian topics over the years, contract theory and rights theory and legal issues. So I spoke on the problem with libertarian constitutions and the idea of drafting the right libertarian constitution and contrasted it with what we – how we should we view the law in an anarchist free-market society, the idea of private law codes based upon libertarian principles.
And my idea of how I’m going to finish some kind of statement of libertarian principles in a systematic hierarchical fashion that I think lays out what our libertarian principles are all about and that could serve as a basis for the development of libertarian legal principles based upon these libertarian principles. So it was about libertarian constitutions and law.
TATIANA MOROZ: Are you excited about the ability for blockchain to help with that? Do you think that there’s some – or is it more of a matter of writing it properly? Do you that blockchain implementation will be helpful?
STEPHAN KINSELLA: Unlike a lot of other Bitcoin enthusiasts who make all these claims that the blockchain technology is great and has other uses, the smart contracts, I’m a huge skeptic of all of that.
TATIANA MOROZ: Really? Okay.
STEPHAN KINSELLA: I mean some of the Bitcoin proponents even say things like – not Bitcoin, but they’ll say, well, Bitcoin is not going to work, but blockchain is great. I think they have it exactly backwards. My view from what I understand of it is the blockchain is an ingenious but extremely and intentionally inefficient, slow, cumbersome, expensive ledger or database that has only one use, and that is for money, and that is only for digital money. And that means only for Bitcoin because I think there can only be one, and I think it will be Bitcoin. So I think the blockchain has only one use, and that’s the backbone for Bitcoin.
I think smart contracts – the whole idea of smart contracts is confused and misplaced, but that’s me. I could be wrong about that, but that’s my understanding because everyone that talks about smart contracts, I sense confusion in what they say. They use the word contract to refer to things that are not contracts. They use the word property and ownership to refer to things that are not property and ownership. So I’m a big skeptic of all these things. There was a debate at PorcFest by the guys in the Bitcoin tent or whatever you call it. It was Tone Vays and Surfer Jim versus Jeremy Kaufman and some other guy arguing about Bitcoin versus Shitcoins.
And Surfer Jim had some really good comments about the problems with using Bitcoin and blockchain for anything other than as the backbone for money, mainly that you can automate transfer of digital assets that are in the blockchain, but to go outside of that and go to translate into the real world, which we need to do for a contract because it has to affect things in the real world like title to an object, like a car or a house or money in someone’s bank, or if you have to get data out of the real world, which they call oracles, some third party has to be there to do that, or if there’s a dispute over the interpretation of a clause’s contract, you have to go to an arbitrator or a human being.
So I don’t think these perfectly automated, self-contained contracts are possible except for purely digital assets, so there’s extremely limitations on how these contracts can be used. And not only that, most contracts have lots of clauses that require human interpretation and judgement, so they can’t be automated. So I just think that the whole idea of – I mean I think Bitcoin is revolutionary because it solves a problem, a big problem. And the problem is that we need money because barter is inefficient, so money solves a big problem.
But government has taken over our money and has made it extremely unreliable because it’s inflationary. So Bitcoin solves that problem. That’s why it’s revolutionary. Smart contracts don’t solve a problem because we don’t have a problem with having contracts written and enforced. They work fine. Maybe they’re slightly inefficient, and maybe smart contracts would make them 2% more efficient, but that’s not revolutionary, which is also why I think the original idea of Bitcoin as a payment network like the Bitcoin cashers idea, now with kind of the early ideas about Bitcoin as being a payment system that would be cheap and easy and fast and a replacement for PayPal or the Visa system or credit cards or whatever.
I think you can see in retrospect that was misplaced too because that’s didn’t solve a big problem because we already have a point-to-sale network. We already have PayPal. They work fine. They’re fast. They’re quick. They work great. What are you going to do, reduce the fees by 2%? Okay, that’s fine, but that’s not revolutionary, and, in fact, I think lightning will do that in the end to be honest. So I think that this payment idea didn’t solve a big problem. The smart contracts idea doesn’t solve a big problem.
Well, there’s not a big problem to solve, and I don’t think they solve it anyway because I don’t think smart contracts are really that useful except for a very narrow subset of contracts. So Bitcoin, to me, is revolutionary because it uses an inefficient database to solve a huge problem, and that’s good enough. And it’s going to achieve liberty for us by choking off the state’s funding, its printing press basically.
So that’s enough for me. If Bitcoin just does that, I’ll be happy with it. And if assholes like Craig Wright don’t slow it down with their pesky lawsuits and – I mean these guys have tried to use copyright now. They’ve threatened to use trade secret law. They’ve threatened to use trademark law because of the name Bitcoin. They threatened to use patent law, and they threatened and tried to use antitrust law too and probably other types of law too. So they keep using utterly evil, coercive state laws that should be abolished in the service of trying to promote their chain over someone else, which is totally reprehensible.
TATIANA MOROZ: I don’t think that they’re winning any fans. Okay, so if people want to support you and they want to learn more, how do they do that? What are some action items?
STEPHAN KINSELLA: Go to opencryptoalliance.org and look at our information, and if you have an interest in volunteering some of your time, if you’re a technical expert like, for example, on elliptic-curve cryptography, contact us through that site, and we’ll talk to you privately about what we need to try to start attacking some of these patents. And if you’re a company out there with any cash that you consider donating in this effort, we can talk to you about that. We don’t need a ton of cash to get this going. We just need a little bit to get the first few rolling, and once we start having some victories, it will start showing.
I mean I actually personally think, from the patents I reviewed from nChain alone, the vast bulk of them are complete, what you would call, bullshit. But the problem is the patent office is manned by incompetent personnel that examine these patents, and they’re interpreting a non-objective law, so there’s really no objective answer. So it’s hard to say they’re abusing the system, but a lot of these patents would be struck down if they were looked at with a closer eye. It’s just that takes money to do it. It usually takes a lawsuit, which takes millions of dollars, so we want to do it before at the early stage when it’s cheaper to leverage the funds. So if you’re interested in learning more, talking to our founder, Jed Grant in Luxembourg, about what you can do to help us just fight for the Bitcoin ecosystem and thereby fighting for human liberty and human prosperity, contact us.
TATIANA MOROZ: Awesome. Well, thanks so much. I support you guys, and thanks again for hooking it up with Bitcoin 2021. That was great, and I look forward to seeing you again. Maybe we should do some kind of a debate. Have you ever debated anybody about the music thing? I don’t feel like I could make a good argument. But I’m not sure I like what you have to say, so I want somebody to take the other opposing position. I want to, I don’t know, explore it a little bit more but with somebody who can advocate for it a little bit more strongly than I can. Have you ever done anything like that?
STEPHAN KINSELLA: I’ve done lots of debates usually on patent law or IP in general. I don’t think much specifically on the music question, but I’d be happy to, especially if we can have a friendly discussion about it and try to learn from each other. I’m all in favor of trying to find ways that artists can survive in a world where we have more freedom that they have to cope with. But I’d be happy to talk further with anyone about this.
TATIANA MOROZ: I have just the guy in mind. I already have somebody who I’m thinking of, a music friend of mine, so that will be fun. Thank you, Stephen, for – Stephen – Stephan, for joining us today, and we’ll see you next time on the Tatiana Show everybody. Bye now.
TATIANA MOROZ: What’s the point of all this technology without a little love in our lives? Our host, Tatiana Moroz and Lauren Kaszovitz, have come together to bring you Proof of Love. Go to proofoflovecast.com. The Tatiana Show has been brought to you by cryptomediahub.com, a boutique marketing and PR agency for Bitcoin and beyond.
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