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I meant to re-read Rand's IP essay, but I'll have to do that for next time.

She elaborates on the concept in other places as well. Her descriptions of those things are contradictory, in both phrasing and fact, to her arguments for IP in "Patents and Copyrights."


I think that's due to a fundamental disagreement, in the sense that a if a "hard" materialist said Rand contradicted herself with regard to the nature of concepts, that would be true, but only supposing the premises of the hard materialist. In this context, I don't think you are a hard materialist, although your arguments lean towards that kind of materialism where the only real things are tangible things (i.e. there are no such thing as volition, it's just an illusion). While it seems like I'm merely making analogies here, I think the epistemological basis is where disagreement is occuring. Indeed, property involves material values, but that just refers to the real-ness of creations as differentiated from totally abstract values like reason or honesty.

Whatever is true about the nature of property was equally true in 1750 and 750.


Absolutely! My point though was to bring in contexts where development of the concept "intellectual property" makes sense and comes as a sub-concept of property. In 750, there was nothing like mass production, reproducibility, factories, division of labor large scale, machines, and so on. Intellectual property had no meaning, nor any way to violate IP. There weren't even printing presses!

In the 1750s, there were printing presses, but hardly anything that requires a broad legal or philosophical basis to even writingg - you basically had to go out and buy what you want to read, with little way for anyone beside the creator to attain the book. IP is at best, in that time period, a very borderline and rare circumstmance.

In the industrial revolution, in the 1830s and so on, mass production and machinery became realistic. If you have standardized machinery, then you could realistically copy what another person created. Now, this is difficult to do anyway, although some looms had punch cards like early computers where a pattern can be produced from a set of specific hole punches. Also, labor was a real force of production, so it becomes necessary to distinguish how property and wages arise from the intellectual labor required. Where does creation come from? What is fundamental? Before then, laborers creating goods at large scale was mostly implausible and laborers probably owned anything they created with their hands as was their right (if I knew about how guilds worked, that'd help). All I am doing by mentioning dates is establishing in history why I think the concept of IP comes up. Similar to how Rand said she needed to understand the industrial revolution before coming up with her ideas on capitalism.

And more important than that, Sergei is operating in Franz's employ! They have come to a contractual understanding that the pianos that Sergei builds are Franz's property.


I was expecting this line. :)

It sounds like you are implicitly suggesting that contracts have supremacy over rights, where a rights violation is impossible if there is a voluntary agreement. However, going by what Objectivism suggests about rights at least, a contract that has rights violations with it is null and void. A person cannot contractually enslave themselves. An employer cannot contractually justify beating their employees. You could say Sergei's pianos are part of a trade with Franz for a wage, but it starts to sound like extortion if there is no such thing as IP (indeed, you may say IP is actually extortion if it is invalid). If Sergei has a right to the products of his labor of his hands in a fundamental manner, how is it that a contract suddenly makes it okay? Extortion is a rights violation, and I doubt contract supercedes it.

I brought the Sergei story up for this very reason about contracts. Or at least, I was directing straight into the topic of rights. Contracts are important, but I'd say rights take supremecy to the extent that contracts in a capitalist system are derivative of a property right. I couldn't say "well, Sergei agreed, so that's that" since a contract only makes sense once you establish ownership of various goods or what it is that people may reasonably demand. Certainly contracts were around before rights, but I do not think medieval contracts would really all be justified with the current concept of rights.

Getting back to my main point, as Sergei, I'd say: "You are abusing me by means of a contract. The government permits this, which is atrocious. My rights are what matter here. How can I agree to say you own these pianos when, if I own what I build, I am the one who should determine who gets the piano after it is built? I could pay you for using your machines, but these pianos are mine to decide to sell to you or Wolfgang."

She's saying "yes, it must be embodied -- given some physical form -- but don't get confused by this! We're not talking about the 'material value,' per se, when we discuss 'intellectual property.'


I'm genuinely confused by you. In what way does the requirement of an idea being embodied imply in any way that intellectual property is merely idea property? If we're talking about ideas themselves, nothing else, well, embodiment would be irrelevant. It is just wrong to say "IP is a claim that people may own ideas", given that all anyone has argued is that *some* ideas may be owned (emboded ones), while your statement here means *all* ideas. So, I do not understand this part.

I wanted to move onto a Franz example for 2013, but that's more complex, so it will have to wait. There are some preliminary points to make, though.

The question of IP is not whether a given mp3 is protected property or not -- it absolutely is -- but whether the information encoded by an mp3 (i.e. the "idea" of it) is protected.


Very important to discuss further!

There is nothing about an mp3 besides encoded information. You won't find an mp3 cartridge, you only download information, a pattern of bits. An mp3 is not tangible property, but it's intellectual property to the degree the only thing that can be owned is encoded information. It's important to specify how the most IP of all IP - computer software, data, encoded information - is better understood as tangible IP. I do not know a great deal about hardware limitations. At the very least I know that anything on a computer is encoded information. So if you want to build up your case further, it's important to address the nature of property in a digital world. We have better inductive material than Rand ever did for supporting or even denying IP
 

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My position concerning this line of reasoning is partial argreement. As I have said previously , given what I think a LFC society would 'look like', I do not see why I could not reverse engineer or flat out copy the blueprints for a Mercedes build it and use it. Mercedes should not be able to stop me or seek restitution for a 'lost sale', if the property I created remains mine.

 

Well, I agree with you, but I think that Rand and Mossoff (and the law) disagrees with us on this point. They have argued that, in someone else owning the idea Mercedes, you have no right to build one for yourself. That is what they believe it means to have "intellectual property."

 

Their rights to the duly recognized original idea would only be violated if I were to try and use ,without their permission, their idea in the marketplace, if I were to try and profit by trade using their recognized property.

 

And I know that you make this distinction, but I don't know your principled argument for it. So please explain -- why do you think someone should not be allowed to profit on the property they build in the marketplace in this manner? Doesn't this seem exactly to you like any other sort of coercive monopoly we might imagine (like on pizza sales in Portland)? And if you agree that the Mercedes you build is fully your property -- being yours in the same way, and for the same reasons, that the cars owned by the Mercedes people are theirs -- then shouldn't you also have your full spectrum of property rights over that object (for what is "property" without "property rights," but meaningless)? And isn't the right to sell (given a willing buyer) among these property rights?

 

So in the pencil sharpener example I agree, the first gent owns his physical sharpener just like the second, only the first gent assuming his having the origianl idea duly recognized by appropriate processes also owns the subsequent rights in property to the trade of all like items.

 

Your use of language is ultimately question begging; you are putting the cart before the horse. We must first establish whether such a right (i.e. a rightful monopoly in the marketplace) exists, and ought to therefore be protected, and then we can speak about his idea being "duly recognized by appropriate processes." If no such right exists -- and I'm arguing that it does not -- then no process to try to give a man such a right can be "appropriate."

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Absolutely! My point though was to bring in contexts where development of the concept "intellectual property" makes sense and comes as a sub-concept of property. In 750, there was nothing like mass production, reproducibility, factories, division of labor large scale, machines, and so on. Intellectual property had no meaning, nor any way to violate IP. There weren't even printing presses!

 

I think this points to where the discrepancy between us actually lies! :) It has nothing to do with "materialism," or anything else; it has to do with your concept of IP, which I believe is incorrect.

 

(For the record, I believe in volition, reason, honesty, etc., as being real things, but not themselves material, if that clarifies my stance on that topic, or otherwise impacts the discussion in your opinion. I believe in the reality of concepts, I just do not believe that a person can own a concept, as it is not material or physical but an abstraction, and "property" only properly applies to material values.  Though in a prior post, I did make an attempt to rephrase my argument for those who wish to treat ideas themselves as physical entities and "material values," which was at least a fun exercise, with surprising results.)

Anyways, it is not the case that there was no way to violate IP in 750.  It has nothing to do with the invention of the printing press. In Rand's argument, any invention or innovation carries IP with it (and in Mossoff's argument, any value creation whatsoever). So if anybody in 750 did anything for the first time, then no other man should have the right to do that same thing.

That is the nature of "intellectual property," and we must sort this vital issue out before we lose ourselves in tangential issues again.

 

In the 1750s, there were printing presses, but hardly anything that requires a broad legal or philosophical basis to even writingg - you basically had to go out and buy what you want to read, with little way for anyone beside the creator to attain the book. IP is at best, in that time period, a very borderline and rare circumstmance.

 

This is not so.

Examine again Rand's case against IP held in perpetuity:

 

If it were held in perpetuity, it would lead to the opposite of the very principle on which it is based: it would lead, not to the earned reward of achievement, but to the unearned support of parasitism. It would become a cumulative lien on the production of unborn generations, which would ultimately paralyze them. Consider what would happen if, in producing an automobile, we had to pay royalties to the descendants of all the inventors involved, starting with the inventor of the wheel and on up.

 

Note the unavoidable implication here: the "inventor of the wheel" held IP (of nature, of right, whether recognized by his fellow men or not)! This means that once he made a wheel, if anyone else also made a wheel without the inventor's permission, then that person was initiating the use of force!

You are seemingly lost in an idea that IP applies only to literal copying technologies. It does not. It applies even to those things that you might invent yourself, unaware that they have been done before. That is intellectual property.

 

It sounds like you are implicitly suggesting that contracts have supremacy over rights, where a rights violation is impossible if there is a voluntary agreement.

 

Not at all. Such contracts themselves proceed from rights (liberty, association, property, and on down the line); they have no "supremacy" over them.

 

However, going by what Objectivism suggests about rights at least, a contract that has rights violations with it is null and void. A person cannot contractually enslave themselves. An employer cannot contractually justify beating their employees.

 

Absolutely right -- a person cannot contractually enslave himself. And yet a contract such as we're discussing between Sergei and Franz is a trade of property, and not such an example of enslavement. And on the nature of such contracts, Rand says:

 

A unilateral breach of contract involves an indirect use of physical force: it consists, in essence, of one man receiving the material values, goods or services of another, then refusing to pay for them and thus keeping them by force (by mere physical possession), not by right—i.e., keeping them without the consent of the owner.

 

If Sergei has a right to the products of his labor of his hands in a fundamental manner, how is it that a contract suddenly makes it okay?

 

Because he is trading the "products of his labor" and receiving something of value in return -- something that he agreed to trade for, in just that manner. It is in recognition of Sergei's "right to the products of his labor" that he has something to trade in the first place, and why he is now owed a wage.

The contract, of itself, doesn't "suddenly make" anything "okay." It represents a volitional trade of the products of both mens' labor; it is an exercise of their rights, not an abrogation of them. And it does not have anything to do with intellectual property, which is something completely and wholly different.

 

Getting back to my main point, as Sergei, I'd say: "You are abusing me by means of a contract. The government permits this, which is atrocious. My rights are what matter here. How can I agree to say you own these pianos when, if I own what I build, I am the one who should determine who gets the piano after it is built? I could pay you for using your machines, but these pianos are mine to decide to sell to you or Wolfgang."

 

And I would agree with Sergei that his rights are what matter here. His right to associate with me, to trade his labor for a wage, generally to "contract," all of these are examples of his rights. And in the end, through his labor, he has wound up with property that is rightly his, which is his wage; whatever he has done through his labor on the piano -- and he has done something, we must agree -- he has traded to me, of his own free choice.

That's not a violation of rights, but an exercise of them...

But it *would* be a violation of rights if Sergei built such a piano on his own time, of his own tools and materials, in his garage, and then I laid claim to that piano on the basis that "it is very similar to the pianos that I normally build." That involves no such contract. No such trade. No compensation for Sergei's labor, let alone an agreed upon compensation. And that, Eiuol, contra your example, is actually what "intellectual property" is, and the subject of our discussion.

 

I'm genuinely confused by you. In what way does the requirement of an idea being embodied imply in any way that intellectual property is merely idea property?

 

I know that you are confused, and I'm sorry, and I very much want to clarify our communication.

I am not saying that "the requirement of an idea being embodied" implies that "intellectual property is merely idea property." (And where does that "merely" come from anyways?)

I am saying that Rand holds that an idea must be embodied before it can be held as property. But once an idea is embodied -- as in, one instance, I make one singular physical, material pencil sharpener -- then I own that idea, as in: I own (potentially) "the pencil sharpener," as such, or any other given pencil sharpener that is judged similar enough to my own via some unspecified criteria.

Have you read the new posts in this thread before posting this, your most recent reply? Because I'll note that you're responding to an older post, and intriguingly, one you had already responded to. And your current responses do not seem to be informed by any later material, such as when I tried to clear up what I think are your fundamental misconceptions here (please see the actual post for its full context):

 

[i think that you're] saying that a piece of property, any property -- like a piano -- is itself an object of "intellectual property." A man performs mental labor and physical labor both in fashioning that piano, and the result is that he owns an idea, but in material form. An embodied idea. Thus, to own a piano is to own a piece of intellectual property.

[...]

But... and I'm going to ask you to please try to hear me out on this... I think that if this captures your position at all (and I grant that this is a big "if"), then you have a critical misunderstanding as to what "intellectual property" is, as used by Rand or Mossoff or as practiced in law.

The question of IP is not whether Franz (to use what is most convenient) has invested mental labor into creating his piano, or whether the resultant property depends on our recognition of that. It absolutely does, and has from the start. A piece of property -- a singular piece of property, which is this piano -- belongs to he that invests the mental and physical labor required for its creation. When Franz builds the piano, it is his on that basis. Sergei only offers the small (and not principled) complication that the physical labor he performs, he trades to Franz... but this has naught to do with the case for intellectual property, or my case against it. Everything you've raised with Franz and Sergei is fully consistent with "property," as such, and does not need any separate argument for, or understanding of "intellectual property."

So what is "intellectual property" then? I raised Joseph to get at intellectual property, for his is the example that speaks most to it. Given "property," there is no question that Franz owns the piano he builds. And there is also no question that Franz owns the piano that Sergei builds, being in Franz's employ to build that piano, and through the trader principle. But the question of IP is whether or not Franz owns "pianos," as such, or Joseph's piano, on the basis of some perceived similarity between them.

It does not have to do with whether Joseph has stolen piano blueprints from Franz, or whether he used to work with Franz, or whether he knows Franz, or has heard of him, or seen his pianos. It is this alone: Joseph's piano is judged similar enough in design to Franz's piano (via some as-yet undefined criteria), therefore Franz owns Joseph's piano.

Thus, we are abstracting something in our consideration of these pianos... and that abstraction, beyond the material fact of any given piano, or the mental labor involved in its actual creation, is what we are asserting that Franz "owns" when we accord him "intellectual property." It is not a question of "the idea as embodied in the material value of Franz's particular piano." That is just his property. But his "intellectual property" extends to objects Franz has never touched, and has had no hand in shaping (literally, and also as he would in Sergei's case). It extends to things that other people have labored over, mind and body, and which we would in all other respects recognize as being unquestionably "their property" on the very same basis that we would accord Franz's piano to Franz.

 

 

Very important to discuss further!

 

We... have done:

 

"The question of IP is not whether a given mp3 is protected property or not -- it absolutely is -- but whether the information encoded by an mp3 (i.e. the "idea" of it) is protected."

Okay, then what about an mp3 is validly protected? An mp3 only exists as encoded information, so I don't know what about an mp3 you say is property. I want you to be explicit here. In fact, a lot of justification regarding IP involves how an mp3 is property and only as encoded information. Can you clarify?

 

I don't have expertise when it comes to computers, so I don't know to what extent I'll be able to discuss this reasonably, but the mp3 is, itself, property. As in: if you were to come to my computer and delete my mp3, making it so that I no longer had it, you would be violating my property rights. The mp3 exists as something physical, and it is that thing which I own (just as I could own a cassette tape or a record or bound sheet music).

However, if you were to hear the music that my mp3 allows me to play (through legitimate means; perhaps you're at a party at my house, and the song plays) -- and thereby access the information encoded by that mp3, which is the music -- and then you started whistling the tune to yourself, or wrote down the notes, or played them at the Royal Albert Hall with the London Symphony Orchestra backing you, that would not have to do with my property, which is the mp3, still on my computer.

You've posted in response to me a few times subsequent to this, but I don't think you'd replied at all to this material on the mp3, and I don't know that I yet have any better response (at least, until I know how you take what I have to say about the above).

 

So if you want to build up your case further, it's important to address the nature of property in a digital world. We have better inductive material than Rand ever did for supporting or even denying IP

I believe that I have before tried to engage you on the state of the modern "digital world," and how we might use it inductively, here:

 

You know, on reflection I think that Eiuol made a very intriguing point regarding the implementation of IP law when he said:

 

And I agreed that it would be near impossible. But we don't need theoretical pencils made from theoretically patented pencil sharpeners to examine the near impossibility of enforcing even those IP claims that I have to imagine every IP advocate would endorse, like... media. Video games. Novels. Television shows. Movies. Music. Routinely stolen, traded, remixed, turned into "meme," or fan art. I think it's not exaggerating to say that this is a key part to the current youth culture, if not its defining feature.

Perhaps it is the case that we live in some sort of a Dark Age where seemingly an entire generation thinks nothing about initiating the use of force against others... but I cannot quite yet credit that. In any event, I think it's clear that the genie is out of the bottle here, and that technology will allow even *greater* "theft" as it continues to evolve and adapt to personal use (we might imagine, for instance, what 3d printer technology might one day mean to patent enforcement).

 

But you didn't respond to any of that, either...

Perhaps you would like to now?

Edited by DonAthos

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"Absolutely right -- a person cannot contractually enslave himself. And yet a contract such as we're discussing between Sergei and Franz is a trade of property, and not such an example of enslavement. And on the nature of such contracts, Rand says:"

 

So, how is it that it's just to say "any labor you do, your property in this factory is mine"? How could Franz possibly make Sergei contractually obligated to give him the piano before the piano exists? If IP is invalid and a person *only* owns what they make with their own hands fundamentally (a trade is only of consequence when you establish whose property is whose before a transaction), then Sergei is being abused.

 

(This is just a point I want to get at socratically, I'm not just sniping quotes. I'll do a bigger post another time)

Edited by Eiuol

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However we ultimately believe "mind" is constituted, or "emerges" from matter (however "matter" itself is ultimately constituted), and according to our best physics, I think we have long drawn a rational distinction between what we would ordinarily describe as being the "material and immaterial," just as we draw a rational distinction between "existence" (as in: "primacy of") and "consciousness," though there is no consciousness without existence.

Alright.  All I was trying to say was that ideas are ultimately physical processes.

The distinction would be a rational and useful one- so long as we remember that it's an artificial distinction, for the sake of epistemological ease and clarity.

 

 

Their arguments do not depend upon whether or not a thought is ultimately stored as some chemical in the brain, or what have you, and thus may be described as "physical" or "material" in that sense. They are rather addressing themselves to the distinctions that we routinely experience between touching a particular table (which is "physical" and a "material value") and contemplating the table, as such (which is not). I believe that this is an eminently rational distinction to make, however we decide on IP, and it is a distinction that needs to be preserved to make any sense of the arguments that have been offered for either side.

This is indeed an important distinction.  But I don't think it's one of material versus immaterial, but one of the specific versus the general.

 

If someone invents a pencil sharpener, do they own THAT pencil sharpener or pencil sharpeners, as such?  It isn't ideas versus physical values- there are no nonphysical existents.  It's a matter of ONE pencil sharpener versus ALL pencil sharpeners.

And it ultimately comes down to the question: when someone invents something, are they responsible for ALL instances of that invention, everywhere, from then on?  I think not.

And if we accept that they are responsible for ALL pencil sharpeners, as such, then the mental gymnastics required to preserve that premise multiply unto absurdity.

 

I do not believe that when someone gets an idea to do something by watching you, that they therefore require your permission to do likewise, or that to insist on such would be either logical or moral.

This, however, is not something I had considered and seems very important to examine.

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I think this points to where the discrepancy between us actually lies! :) It has nothing to do with "materialism," or anything else; it has to do with your concept of IP, which I believe is incorrect. . .

Anyways, it is not the case that there was no way to violate IP in 750.  It has nothing to do with the invention of the printing press. In Rand's argument, any invention or innovation carries IP with it (and in Mossoff's argument, any value creation whatsoever). So if anybody in 750 did anything for the first time, then no other man should have the right to do that same thing.

That is the nature of "intellectual property," and we must sort this vital issue out before we lose ourselves in tangential issues again.

Bull's eye.

 

If the FIRST person to think of something is the de facto cause of ALL people who think of it (like inventors A and B, who both arrive at the same idea) then nobody has a right to do ANYTHING less than 100% original, without someone else's permission.

If the inventor of the wheel had patented it then nobody since then could've used it without his permission.

 

What if Thomas Edison, after inventing the light bulb and patenting it, had died without giving permission for anyone to use it?  If we were to truly be consistent about this then nobody would have the right to create or use light bulbs- the manufacture of light bulbs would be theft, universally.

This would result in the universal prohibition against production, as such, and ultimately a prohibition against life (since one is impossible without the other).

 

Again, because property rights are based on causality, it ultimately comes down to cause and effect.

 

If person B gets the idea for light bulbs from person A (he never would have thought of them, himself) then A can be said to have caused B's production of light bulbs and, in my opinion, should be entitled to the usual IP relationship with B.

But that comes down to another thing to examine- if you see someone else doing something, must you ask their permission before imitating them?  If not then this, itself, is not true.

 

My fear here is that, if we reject IP in even the cases where A truly did cause B's idea (A thought of it first) we run the risk of sanctioning Orren Boyle's morality- why would it be wrong to steal Miracle Metal?  But I need to give it further consideration; that's only my off-the-cuff analysis.

 

But if person C thinks of A's idea independently, AFTER A thought of it but WITHOUT any help from A, then there is no way A could have caused C's idea and consequently he has no rights whatsoever to C's actions.

 

Thusly, reverse-engineering would probably be a sort of fuzzy grey area.

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold

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"Absolutely right -- a person cannot contractually enslave himself. And yet a contract such as we're discussing between Sergei and Franz is a trade of property, and not such an example of enslavement. And on the nature of such contracts, Rand says:"

 

So, how is it that it's just to say "any labor you do, your property in this factory is mine"?

 

mine... in exchange for this wage, if you agree to such an exchange."

You forgot that last bit, which it turns out is important, lest we drop vital context, and arrive at unfortunate and errant conclusions like "wage labor is slavery."

Trade, including wage labor, is a voluntary exchange of value for value; it is not slavery.

 

How could Franz possibly make Sergei contractually obligated to give him the piano before the piano exists?

 

How can he "make" him contractually obligated...? He doesn't. (Or if he does "make" him in fact, through coercive means, then the contract is not binding.) They enter the contract of their own free will.

Look, suppose I offer something to you for sale -- let's say a hat. And you agree to pay me my asking price, ten dollars, for the hat. I hand the hat over to you, and you... decide you won't give me the ten dollars. You're keeping both the hat and the ten dollars, and now you may ask "how can I possibly make you contractually obligated to give me that ten dollars?"

But I'm not "making" you contractually obligated to do that. *You* made *yourself* contractually obligated to do that when you agreed to buy the hat, at that price. To keep the hat and money both would be theft on your part (just as it would be theft for me to take your money, then keep the hat). The piano thing is precisely the same as this: it is a trade, of labor for wage. While we would otherwise recognize a property interest in Sergei's building a thing, like the piano, it is precisely that which is being traded for that wage.

 

If IP is invalid and a person *only* owns what they make with their own hands fundamentally (a trade is only of consequence when you establish whose property is whose before a transaction), then Sergei is being abused.

 

It's so bizarre. It's like you're leading a person through a door into a room, sealing off the door with bricks, then demanding to know, "Well, how did the person get into the room!? There are no doors!" :)

Of course a person does not *only* own what they make with their own hands: they may trade, as you immediately observe thereafter. And a trade, itself, does not have to be property for property -- it can be some non-material value for a material value. And we know that the labor that Sergei puts into building this piano, which is just such a kind of "non-material value" -- and whatever property/material value otherwise results from that labor -- is being traded, to Franz, in exchange for the material value of the agreed-upon wage. That's the nature of their trade. The nature of their agreement.

As to whether IP is invalid... I argue that it is, but Eiuol, that's a completely separate conversation. Please signify somewhere that you understand that this example of Franz and Sergei, as you have framed it and come back to it, has nothing to do with intellectual property. This is just property. (My example of Joseph is the test case for intellectual property, but through your silence you appear resolved not to discuss him, or any other example I raise for the purpose of actually getting at IP.)

I've... been trying to think of some way I can get you to see this, because obviously my efforts thus far have failed (assuming you have read the posts wherein those efforts lie). So look, let's agree that the relevant, recognized form of IP where pianos are concerned is "the patent." And let's set the term of patent issue at 20 years, because we (somehow) deem that to be "the most rational possible term"; perhaps we roll dice for it. And let's agree that Franz patents his piano, and thus has his IP in that piano and subsequent iterations protected.

Now it's year 21, and Sergei builds a piano in Franz' employ, just as the scenario you've constructed, and he demands to keep the piano because Franz' legal IP protection -- the patent -- has expired! Well, what now? Does Franz have any claim over the piano that Sergei has built? If so, on what basis?

Hint: it is their contract; if Sergei had claimed the piano he had built in year 19, the patent would never have been invoked in that case either, and was irrelevant to it. It is Franz's piano in any event, on the basis of their contractual agreement and that alone. This is not an example of IP.

 

(This is just a point I want to get at socratically, I'm not just sniping quotes. I'll do a bigger post another time)

 

I will look forward to it. Though... when you do write more, at some point, I would also like to feel as though you understand that a discussion does not consist of only asking your own questions and raising your own examples. It is supposed to be reciprocal, and I would like to see some of the questions I've set for you answered, and some of the examples I've raised addressed.

 

And it ultimately comes down to the question: when someone invents something, are they responsible for ALL instances of that invention, everywhere, from then on?

 

Agreed. That is the question.

 

I think not.

 

Agreed. That is the answer.

 

If the FIRST person to think of something is the de facto cause of ALL people who think of it (like inventors A and B, who both arrive at the same idea) then nobody has a right to do ANYTHING less than 100% original, without someone else's permission.

 

Except that we might ask whether it's true that the first person to think of something is the de facto cause of all people who subsequently think of it. If we are agreed that thinking is a volitional process, and not automatic, then perhaps it is rather that anyone who thinks of a thing is the de facto cause of his own process of thought (and is thus entitled to the fruit thereof). For in "What is Capitalism?", Rand says:

 

Men can learn from one another, but learning requires a process of thought on the part of every individual student. Men can cooperate in the discovery of new knowledge, but such cooperation requires the independent exercise of his rational faculty by every individual scientist. Man is the only living species that can transmit and expand his store of knowledge from generation to generation; but such transmission requires a process of thought on the part of the individual recipients.

 

IP, taken seriously, taken all the way, casts mankind as nothing but thieves and looters, living at the expense of those who have innovated every single thing and every single method, stretching back to the dawn of man. Even the innovator himself is stealing from the great store of intellectual value provided by the billions before him. It is... and it's amazing where we go when we unravel a contradiction, as IP has proven itself to be...

But IP is the literal and full implementation of Obama's "you didn't build that" campaign.

 

By forbidding an unauthorized reproduction of the object, the law declares, in effect, that the physical labor of copying is not the source of the object’s value, that that value is created by the originator of the idea and may not be used without his consent

 

You "build" a piano, but... you're not the innovator? Then you're just "copying." The value of that piano was created by the first man to build a piano, not by you, despite whatever labors you may have gone through to bring it into existence. (Or was the value created by the first man to build a harpsichord? Or the first man to build a stringed instrument? Or the first man to build an instrument? How many fathers does one idea have?)

You didn't build that.

 

If the inventor of the wheel had patented it then nobody since then could've used it without his permission.

 

He didn't need to patent it:

 

The government does not “grant” a patent or copyright, in the sense of a gift, privilege, or favor; the government merely secures it...

 

The right is his, whether his government recognizes it or not. (Whether or not he in fact has a government at all.) And since a violation of rights is an initiation of the use of force, absent other better means to defend himself, the inventor of the wheel would have been justified in using force to prevent anybody else from using their own, self-made wheels. In the name of justice.

 

What if Thomas Edison, after inventing the light bulb and patenting it, had died without giving permission for anyone to use it?  If we were to truly be consistent about this then nobody would have the right to create or use light bulbs- the manufacture of light bulbs would be theft, universally.

This would result in the universal prohibition against production, as such, and ultimately a prohibition against life (since one is impossible without the other).

 

Yes. And again, Rand recognized that being "consistent" about IP would result in such a general death with her comment about the "cumulative lien on production" that perpetual IP would entail (i.e. treating this supposed "property" as property). That... doesn't pass the smell test of a "right" to me. It doesn't sound like Objectivism either.

 

Again, because property rights are based on causality, it ultimately comes down to cause and effect.

 

If person B gets the idea for light bulbs from person A (he never would have thought of them, himself) then A can be said to have caused B's production of light bulbs and, in my opinion, should be entitled to the usual IP relationship with B.

 

I disagree that this is the correct approach, or the right view of causality for property, such as we are discussing. There are several "causes" for person B's getting the idea for light bulbs in the sense of "he would not have thought of it, except for..."

He would not have thought of it except for person A. He would not have thought of it except for his teachers, who prepared him to understand person A. He would not have thought of it except for his parents, who gave birth to him and raised him and sent him to his teachers. He would not have thought of it except for his grandparents, who...

In this sense, we are all the "cause" of a myriad of things over which we have (and ought to have) no property right. If I smile at a pretty woman, as I am wont to do, and this inspires her to go out and conquer the world, as it should, I do not have a share in her spoils (qua property, but she may well think me a kindly thought from time to time, in the name of justice).

Rather, when I do something of my volition, I am the cause of that thing in the sense that concerns property. My parents, teachers, etc., they may all expect gratitude (and may even deserve it with varying degrees of justice), but they will still have to negotiate with me for a check.

And if person B thinks of the light bulb, whatever else he owes to person A in that same fashion (notwithstanding any particular contracts they may have entered prior to this instruction), then person B is the cause, through his volitional use of reason and other mental faculties. Whatever he subsequently produces, he has likewise caused.

 

But that comes down to another thing to examine- if you see someone else doing something, must you ask their permission before imitating them?

 

Nope.

Imitating others is often the key to success in life, their permission being irrelevant to this equation. You observe a strategy that is superior to your own? Adopt it. (Or fail to do so at your peril.) Imitating me and her mother is currently what my daughter is engaged in; it is her primary survival strategy, and how she will learn... oh, nearly everything. Imitation, "copying," this is how humans live, survive, thrive, and flourish, only we should endeavor to call it by its more proper title: learning.

 

If not then this, itself, is not true.

 

My fear here is that, if we reject IP in even the cases where A truly did cause B's idea (A thought of it first) we run the risk of sanctioning Orren Boyle's morality- why would it be wrong to steal Miracle Metal?  But I need to give it further consideration; that's only my off-the-cuff analysis.

 

It's been a while since I've read Atlas Shrugged, but I'll say at least that theft is still theft. While it is legal to reverse engineer the Coca-Cola formula (if you can manage it), it would still be illegal to break into their vault and seize the formula. It would be morally perverse, and tyrannous, to use the law to compel Coke to give up their formula.

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tadmjones, on 01 Jun 2013 - 22:44, said:snapback.png

Their rights to the duly recognized original idea would only be violated if I were to try and use ,without their permission, their idea in the marketplace, if I were to try and profit by trade using their recognized property.

DA said #127

"And I know that you make this distinction, but I don't know your principled argument for it. So please explain -- why do you think someone should not be allowed to profit on the property they build in the marketplace in this manner? Doesn't this seem exactly to you like any other sort of coercive monopoly we might imagine (like on pizza sales in Portland)? And if you agree that the Mercedes you build is fully your property -- being yours in the same way, and for the same reasons, that the cars owned by the Mercedes people are theirs -- then shouldn't you also have your full spectrum of property rights over that object (for what is "property" without "property rights," but meaningless)? And isn't the right to sell (given a willing buyer) among these property rights?"

 

 

 

I am going to assume the context of an imagined LFC society, irrespective of Rand's( and others') stated arguments concerning IP . 

 

When I sell the garage built Mercedes, the object I own ,am I not also selling the design that is 'embodied' in the object? I did not create the design, I appropriated it. The rights of the duly recognized owner of the design  can only be violated if I try and profit from his property and then his only due compensation to the extent that I 'stole' a sale form him(or the coporation), he would not be entitled to be compensated for the costs of the physical components of the object(the circitury, steel, rubber ect) because he never owned those objects,  my object does not have any of his physical (material)property incorporated in it. But the fact of the design does exist, it is a 'thing'(albeit nonmaterial), why would the creator of a 'thing' not have owernship of it?

 

In an earlier example I suggested that a novel would be a good way to look at the issues invovled precisely because of the view I am trying express concerning ownership(copyright-ability) of certain things(ideas). I said that I consider the specific sequence of words to be the novel, the manner in which that novel is conveyed is secondary. When a book is printed and a copy is sold that is nothing more than the conveyance of the novel whether that be by printing ink on paper or a computer file would change nothing concerning the 'thing' that is the novel. If one owned a copy of a novel they own the particular copy, they do not own the 'novel'.  

Edited by tadmjones

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Trade, including wage labor, is a voluntary exchange of value for value; it is not slavery.

This is not answering the question, wage is for labor. Sergei is not doing just labor, he is making property that would be his if it weren't for Franz really defining his way out of violating a fundamental Sergei's property rights. So, how is it just for Franz to lay any kind of contractual claim prior to any material values existing? An exchange requires a material value existing, no?

Please signify somewhere that you understand that this example of Franz and Sergei, as you have framed it and come back to it, has nothing to do with intellectual property.

I think intellectual property is the only basis from which to justify what a capitalist produces with laborers. Without IP over the specific Franz Brand pianos, Franz would be abusing his laborers by violating their rights which no contract could get around the same as self-enslavement. Is it really just to say "I'll give you $3 an hour to make these pianos that are worth $5000 dollars; take it or leave it"? The economic balance of that doesn't make sense, and laborers working like that really should demand more for their pianos. Franz, to me, would appear to be abusing some power of authority by means of a superior standing as a factory owner, rather than at least respecting property rights of his employees.

It's not possible to talk about Joseph until at least establishing if IP is good for anything in the first place, and it's nature, before going onto legal cases which necessarily questions the justification. But I don't think we ever got at it's nature, hence my mentions of concepts, materialism, etc.  "Meaning the physical, material idea: whatever neurons firing, pathways created, chemicals dumped, etc., that takes place in the human brain, and specifically his brain. That, and that alone, is the property owned." This is a good example of materialism. I literally am unable to make any point on this except no, this isn't even what an idea, concept or process is. An idea is not the same as its instantiation within the brain. So, in a way, I need clarification: is this quoted part what you believe an idea is? Or is it just trying to say that IP is self-refuting if IP takes ideas (only ideas with a corresponding embodiment) as property?

Does Franz have any claim over the piano that Sergei has built? If so, on what basis?

Yes. The patent applies to the time the patent was legitimate. Similar to how you can't be convicted of a crime if you committed the act before it was a crime. Legal matters aren't reasonably retroactive.

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This is not answering the question, wage is for labor. Sergei is not doing just labor, he is making property that would be his if it weren't for Franz really defining his way out of violating a fundamental Sergei's property rights. So, how is it just for Franz to lay any kind of contractual claim prior to any material values existing? An exchange requires a material value existing, no?

 

Well of course, if Franz doesn't have prior-existing ownership (or contractual use of) the factors of production that are going into the piano production, then it is clear that he's guity of theft of whoever owned them, but it's hard to see how that would satisfy the question it hand, maybe I'm misunderstanding though.

 I think intellectual property is the only basis from which to justify what a capitalist produces with laborers. Without IP over the specific Franz Brand pianos, Franz would be abusing his laborers by violating their rights which no contract could get around the same as self-enslavement.

Whoa now. Since you say you think this is the only way to justify wage labor, I'm interested in why you think the standard (and I think correct) Bohm-Bawerkian explanation fails?

Is it really just to say "I'll give you $3 an hour to make these pianos that are worth $5000 dollars; take it or leave it"? The economic balance of that doesn't make sense, and laborers working like that really should demand more for their pianos.

 Hmm... somehow I think Bohm-Bawerk would be less than convinced by this reasoning. :(

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I'm not familiar with Bohm-Bawerk, so do you have something to link to read about that?

Well the work in which Marx was answered to was Bohm-Bawerk's Karl Marx and the Close of His System (which you can find for free at Mises.) I don't mean to imply that you have to read through the whole thing to understand the argument, but Bohm-Bawerk answers the exploitation argument by accounting for the phenomenon of time preference as a category of human action. That the laborer did not recieve the so-called "surplus value" reflects the fact that he is exchanging future goods against present goods at a discount, and demonstrates that it is impossible to do otherwise.

 

In short, Sergei

 

1) hadn't saved, by reducing his previous consumption sufficiently below his income to accumulate the necessary "piano capital" like the frugal Franz did

2) he wanted money payment while he worked, and was not willing to wait for the number of months it took for the piano to be produced and sold, like the patient Franz was

3) was unwilling to be saddled with the risk that the piano might not sell for $5,000, a risk Franz was willing to take.

 

So we don't need to appeal to IP to explain Franz' ownership in the resultant piano. Franz owned various piano-factors, Franz did not sell these piano-factors to Sergei, rather he sold Sergei money ($3 per hour) in exchange for employing labor services on his piano-factors. Sergei found this agreeable because he'd rather have whatever $3 an hour works out to be than having had to restict his consumption and save, having to wait for payment, and having to risk it not being saleable.

 

No one is, of course, preventing Sergei from doing these things and becoming a piano-capitalist, and the IP question seems to me to be rather a question of something more like "if Sergei was a fellow piano-capitalist and copied Franz' piano-making recipes, would this be justified?" That, I don't have an answer to.

 

All of this can be justified with a Lockean homesteading/title transfer theory of property and is not effected regardless of whether or not IP is justified.

Edited by 2046

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But IP is the literal and full implementation of Obama's "you didn't build that" campaign.

You "build" a piano, but... you're not the innovator? Then you're just "copying." The value of that piano was created by the first man to build a piano, not by you, despite whatever labors you may have gone through to bring it into existence. (Or was the value created by the first man to build a harpsichord? Or the first man to build a stringed instrument? Or the first man to build an instrument? How many fathers does one idea have?)

You didn't build that.

True.  And particularly troubling.

 

And again, Rand recognized that being "consistent" about IP would result in such a general death with her comment about the "cumulative lien on production" that perpetual IP would entail (i.e. treating this supposed "property" as property). That... doesn't pass the smell test of a "right" to me. It doesn't sound like Objectivism either.

Hmmmmm. . .

So with IP we have a standard which is impossible to practice (or, if practiced consistently, will consistently harm its adherents) and therefore equates human life with thievery and sin.

 

There may be a reason that it doesn't seem to fit with the Objectivist framework.

 

He would not have thought of it except for person A. He would not have thought of it except for his teachers, who prepared him to understand person A. He would not have thought of it except for his parents, who gave birth to him and raised him and sent him to his teachers. He would not have thought of it except for his grandparents, who...

In this sense, we are all the "cause" of a myriad of things over which we have (and ought to have) no property right.

My parents, teachers, etc., they may all expect gratitude (and may even deserve it with varying degrees of justice), but they will still have to negotiate with me for a check.

And if person B thinks of the light bulb, whatever else he owes to person A in that same fashion (notwithstanding any particular contracts they may have entered prior to this instruction), then person B is the cause, through his volitional use of reason and other mental faculties. Whatever he subsequently produces, he has likewise caused.

Also true.

Although causality IS the principle behind property so I think it's important to recognize, but everything above is accurate; I think there must be an exception to the rule in any claim to cause another human being or any of their subsequent actions.

 

Causality is the root of property; you own what you create.  But you cannot cause another mind and this would be why parents do not claim to own their children; man is a being of self-made (thusly self-owned) soul.

So, if we take that to its logical conclusion, then you cannot own an idea of any sort- because you cannot own another person, in whole or in part or in action.

 

If so then why would it be wrong to pirate music from the internet?  I think you may be right but I'm not sure about the implications.

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold

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You cannot control someone.

 

There are a potentially infinite number of choices available to everyone at all times, by virtue of free will.  You can affect these options; you can add to, detract from or skew them in various ways, but you can never limit anyone to only one.

Therefore you cannot control someone.

 

Since you cannot control a person, you cannot claim to have caused any aspect of them- volitional causality implies intention and you cannot intentionally change another person; any change in their mental content or function is through their own intentional choice.

 

Therefore you cannot own another person- OR ANY OF THEIR IDEAS!

 

For inventor A to own the light bulb made by industrialist B he would have to be responsible for its existence; in order to have caused B's light bulb he would have had to have forced B to make it, not even at gunpoint, but through direct and involuntary control.

This is impossible for a human being to accomplish.

There can be no such intellectual property.  (?!)

Implications. . . ?

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold

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This is not answering the question, wage is for labor. Sergei is not doing just labor, he is making property that would be his if it weren't for Franz really defining his way out of violating a fundamental Sergei's property rights.

 

Not at all. Franz is not "defining his way out of" anything. Sergei has agreed to trade his labor, including whatever property in the piano he would otherwise hold, to Franz for that wage. You can say all you want that this isn't the situation, but it is the situation. It is a trade. It is not to do with IP. There isn't any other way of answering this question.

 

So, how is it just for Franz to lay any kind of contractual claim prior to any material values existing? An exchange requires a material value existing, no?

 

No. A trade can consist of material or non-material values, and labor can be traded for a wage, which is the case here.

 

I think intellectual property is the only basis from which to justify what a capitalist produces with laborers. Without IP over the specific Franz Brand pianos, Franz would be abusing his laborers by violating their rights which no contract could get around the same as self-enslavement.

 

Please listen: this has nothing to do with "intellectual property." This isn't that topic.

 

Is it really just to say "I'll give you $3 an hour to make these pianos that are worth $5000 dollars; take it or leave it"?

 

Yes, that really is just. The laborer can refuse. And further, the wage does not reflect the ultimate price of the piano, but the perceived value of the labor (or what the market will bear, at any rate). If the laborer believes that his time and efforts are worth more, he can say so, and then the employer can accept or refuse that negotiation.

 

The economic balance of that doesn't make sense, and laborers working like that really should demand more for their pianos.

 

Sometimes they do.

 

Franz, to me, would appear to be abusing some power of authority by means of a superior standing as a factory owner, rather than at least respecting property rights of his employees.

 

Their rights are respected in that they may agree to such a contract or refuse it or renegotiate it (provided that the factory owner ultimately agrees). They each have the right to associate freely, or not to associate at all, if they choose. The workers have no right to any particular wage, as such, regardless of however much profit the factory owner ultimately realizes. There is no abuse of authority in Franz acting to maximize his profits.

This has nothing to do with intellectual property, for reals, Scout's honor (if I were a Scout).

 

It's not possible to talk about Joseph until at least establishing if IP is good for anything in the first place, and it's nature, before going onto legal cases which necessarily questions the justification.

 

No, see, that's just it though: Joseph's case *is* an examination of the nature of IP. There is no IP apart from Joseph and cases like his. There are no more fundamental building blocks available, no other areas to sort out whether IP is good for anything else. That is the very matter before us, the very matter upon which Rand wrote "Patents and Copyrights." It is all "patent" and "copyright" -- the whole kit and caboodle -- and that means Joseph, and Nosferatu, and cat exercise, and anti-Kant t-shirts, and building a Mercedes in your garage, and all of the rest of the examples that you do not care for, and to which you have opted not to respond. That is what IP is.

 

But I don't think we ever got at it's nature, hence my mentions of concepts, materialism, etc.  "Meaning the physical, material idea: whatever neurons firing, pathways created, chemicals dumped, etc., that takes place in the human brain, and specifically his brain. That, and that alone, is the property owned." This is a good example of materialism.

 

Yes, that's what I meant it to be -- a good example of the materialism that was introduced by the linked essay (from #121) that was proving popular for others in the thread, and to which I was responding.

 

I literally am unable to make any point on this except no, this isn't even what an idea, concept or process is. An idea is not the same as its instantiation within the brain. So, in a way, I need clarification: is this quoted part what you believe an idea is? Or is it just trying to say that IP is self-refuting if IP takes ideas (only ideas with a corresponding embodiment) as property?

 

The part you've quoted is not what I believe an idea is. The part you didn't quote, but which headed that post, reads:

 

For the moment, let's go ahead and approach this discussion from the perspective that ideas are also "material values" (sorta like bricks)...

 

In the previous post (which I pretentiously entitled "The Spectre of Materialism"), on that topic, I had said:

 

So a "pure idea" (as opposed to...?) is held to be, not a different kind of entity than a brick, but only less dense..? I... don't even know what to make of such a notion, except to say that that I find it remarkable! If anyone wants to explore such a notion (for I wouldn't want to start it off myself; I as yet have nothing positive to say about it, and can only come up with expletives), that would probably be best in another thread. I will say this, though, as it pertains to the present topic: I think such an idea has nothing to do with Objectivism, nothing to do with reality, and I think that such an idea has nothing to do with IP, as argued by anyone apart from Machan himself, or as practiced in the world, now or at any point in history. If it were taken seriously...? Then perhaps we could start discussing IP as the literal ownership of the brain chemistry of an "idea" in someone else's head; after all, that's just the diffuse, physical reality of the property of the patent holder, yes? (!!!)

 

So taking my quote in that context, I think (hope?) that it is clear that I am not endorsing Machan's materialist arguments, or any materialist arguments.  I was arguing directly against them (in the first place) and then taking them seriously for argument's sake (in the second place), where I found that even given that materialist approach, there is no case for IP.

 

Yes. The patent applies to the time the patent was legitimate. Similar to how you can't be convicted of a crime if you committed the act before it was a crime. Legal matters aren't reasonably retroactive.

 

I believe you mistake my question. I am asking about what happens after the patent expires...? Franz held a patent on his piano for twenty years, but now it is one year later. His patent has expired. And Sergei is working for Franz, just as always, only now Sergei says that he's keeping the piano he has built. Why? Because Franz's patent has expired, and Sergei maintains that the only thing that ever justified giving up the pianos he has built with his own hands was Franz's IP. But now that this IP is no longer under legal protection, how can Franz claim that the pianos Sergei builds are not Sergei's, but Franz's?

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I am going to assume the context of an imagined LFC society, irrespective of Rand's( and others') stated arguments concerning IP .

 

Yes, okay, though I hope you understand that my arguments are typically directed contra Rand's specific argument for IP (given the nature of this site, the OP, and the fact that I am an Objectivist). That is the specific context within which I am making my case.

The other difficulty here is that, in imagining an LFC society, we first need to have a clear understanding of "what rights exist" -- for we only have an LFC society on the basis of a full implementation of rights. Someone else's vision of an LFC society might entail that you not be allowed to build that Mercedes, because they believe you do not have the right to do it, and that you are therefore initiating the use of force in building that car, even for your own personal use.

But yes, I understand, you do not necessarily agree with Rand's arguments re: IP.

 

When I sell the garage built Mercedes, the object I own ,am I not also selling the design that is 'embodied' in the object?

[...]

But the fact of the design does exist, it is a 'thing'(albeit nonmaterial), why would the creator of a 'thing' not have owernship of it?

 

Because property concerns material values or things, not non-material values or things:

 

[The right to property is] to the right to gain, to keep, to use and to dispose of material values.

 

And the reason why this is accounts to why a right to property exists in the first place:

 

Just as man can’t exist without his body, so no rights can exist without the right to translate one’s rights into reality—to think, to work and to keep the results—which means: the right of property.

 

Or, if we reject Rand's formulation of property as above, then I don't know what exactly we're left with to imagine our LFC society in the first place.  We would have to start from scratch.

 

In an earlier example I suggested that a novel would be a good way to look at the issues invovled precisely because of the view I am trying express concerning ownership(copyright-ability) of certain things(ideas). I said that I consider the specific sequence of words to be the novel, the manner in which that novel is conveyed is secondary. When a book is printed and a copy is sold that is nothing more than the conveyance of the novel whether that be by printing ink on paper or a computer file would change nothing concerning the 'thing' that is the novel. If one owned a copy of a novel they own the particular copy, they do not own the 'novel'.

 

I agree that this expresses the pro-IP viewpoint where novels are concerned. Though it typically goes further -- though you may or may not agree with any particular aspect. Novels are not accounted alone a "specific sequence of words," but a story which could be expressed in other media, like film. And further, similar stories might be considered "derivative" and thus also IP violations, despite being a different sequence of words concerning different characters or what-have-you. As an example of how complex this might sometimes be (if you agree that the example I'm about to provide is sufficiently "complex"), there is the interesting case of the famous film Nosferatu, over which I've attempted (and thus far failed) to raise discussion. You may read about it here.

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Please listen: this has nothing to do with "intellectual property." This isn't that topic.

I think it does. I wrote it, so I would know. But I'll drop that line of reasoning for now since it's not going anywhere. I see your point at the end of your post, and it's a very good one. Although, I think it's evidence that if IP is valid, then it should last at least as long as the creator's lifetime.

 

So, Sergei quits his job in protest. Franz is happy,.until he hears about Joseph building Franz Brand pianos... (that's what I'll discuss next large post).

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I think it does. I wrote it, so I would know.

 

LOL Yeah... :)

 

But I'll drop that line of reasoning for now since it's not going anywhere...

 

Well, I think that this good has come from that line of reasoning (at least): we now know that the first and most important question we need to resolve between us is "what is the matter of intellectual property?" That may be the heart of our ultimate departure on the subject.

And actually, taking the arguments that you've raised throughout this thread, I have reason to suspect that... if you thought that IP is what I say it is? You would also reject it as being a remnant of the mind/body split.  So perhaps we could reach some agreement on that contingent basis?  That whatever I'm describing conceptually as "intellectual property" is contradictory to rights, property, and etc. (even if you continue to believe that my vision of "what intellectual property actually is" is not accurate).

 

I see your point at the end of your post, and it's a very good one. Although, I think it's evidence that if IP is valid, then it should last at least as long as the creator's lifetime.

 

If IP were valid (which in this context means: were a right), then I would like to understand why it isn't treated like other property is -- free to pass down through the generations. After all, I might be Franz's great-great-grandson. I still wouldn't want Sergei's descendants to walk out of my factory with the pianos that they had built in my employ.

 

So, Sergei quits his job in protest. Franz is happy,.until he hears about Joseph building Franz Brand pianos... (that's what I'll discuss next large post).

 

And I will look forward to it, as always.

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DonAthos siad in # 143

 

If IP were valid (which in this context means: were a right), then I would like to understand why it isn't treated like other property is -- free to pass down through the generations.

 

 

Property isn't passed 'down through the generations'. Land or physical objects can and do exist beyond the lifetimes of the original owner and then also subsequent owners, but the owner at any one time is ..well the owner. If IP were understood as the ownership of an idea for commercial use and that that ownership only applies to the originator , would you be cool with that?

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DonAthos siad in # 143

 

If IP were valid (which in this context means: were a right), then I would like to understand why it isn't treated like other property is -- free to pass down through the generations.

 

 

Property isn't passed 'down through the generations'.

 

I don't understand; it seems to me that it is. I own property that belonged, for instance, to my great-grandfather. I own it because he gave it to his children, who gave it to their children, who gave it to me. I will pass that same property on to my children, and then they will have the option of passing it down to theirs. At no point will the government intervene and declare that property forfeit to some "public domain," because my family has somehow owned it too long (hopefully! :) ).

Isn't that what it means for property to be "passed down through the generations"? Doesn't the fact that my family has done this -- legally -- prove the truth of precisely what I said, that such property is "free to pass down through the generations"?  Isn't it unlike IP in this regard (which was the point)?

(Of course, not all property makes it through the inheritance process when there are things like estate taxes and such... but then, I can't imagine that your imagined LFC society would incorporate an estate tax or anything like it.)

 

If IP were understood as the ownership of an idea for commercial use and that that ownership only applies to the originator , would you be cool with that?

 

I would be cool with that if I understood the nature of IP and saw that the nature of IP required this precise formulation. But I am not cool with it if we set up a bunch of laws according to our whims and call them IP "just because."  I must first be satisfied that IP is a right, and is this way, by right. There must be some reason(s) to understand IP in precisely the way you describe and no other. Absent those reasons, this looks arbitrary, like governmental fiat, and like the initiation of the use of force via the establishment of a coercive monopoly.

Further, while I understand that what you argue for when you argue for "intellectual property" might not have anything to do with Rand's version, or Mossoff's, or that which is practiced in the United States*... I should note that IP is generally not restricted to "commercial use" (as we have discussed) and that it is completely transferable. That is, you may sell your rights, or you may pass them on in your will as you would other property. The only catch is: there's a time limit; a point at which nobody is thereafter allowed to be the owner of that particular piece of "property," where it is stripped from its rightful owner (even if it is the innovator) and given to the "public," presumably as a matter of altruistic charity.

So if you want to argue for IP as this -- or something else -- it's fine either way, and I'm happy to discuss it. But then I expect your argument to consist of, well, an argument, that things need to be the way you say for the following reasons (and then we can examine the merit of those reasons, and see whether they apply to particular test cases, and what they imply, etc).

It isn't simply a matter of finding some possible configuration of IP laws that satisfies me emotionally; it is a matter of understanding what IP actually is, whether it is a right in fact (meaning everything that "rights" mean, and for the same reasons), and if so, how it may be implemented objectively into law, following the same standards we hold for everything else, and for the same reasons.

* Just like Eiuol's version is his own, and doesn't necessarily have to do with Rand, Mossoff, law, or etc....

 

Once again, I'm struck by parallels to religious conversations I've had, where no two people mean the very same thing when discussing "God."  It is just a nebulous non-entity, meaning whatever it has to mean, ad hoc; "agreement" is predicated on somehow just knowing what we're talking about, without the need for definition or scrutiny.  *Is* there even any coherent concept of "intellectual property" to be discussed, I wonder...?  If I eventually agreed with any particular proffered vision of IP, would everyone who "defends IP" generally then be satisfied that we were all in agreement on the issue, even though conceptually we might still be world's apart...?  It's curious.

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Further, while I understand that what you argue for when you argue for "intellectual property" might not have anything to do with Rand's version, or Mossoff's, or that which is practiced in the United States*... I should note that IP is generally not restricted to "commercial use" (as we have discussed) and that it is completely transferable. That is, you may sell your rights, or you may pass them on in your will as you would other property. The only catch is: there's a time limit; a point at which nobody is thereafter allowed to be the owner of that particular piece of "property," where it is stripped from its rightful owner (even if it is the innovator) and given to the "public," presumably as a matter of altruistic charity.

I do not see how this is true, as I don't see how IP could ever be *transferable*. Indeed, you may sell rights to IP in the sense a person has explicit permission to use it, but not that it can ever be transferred. Land works like that too, but it can be transferred since it is spatial (it's not exactly tangible, land is abstract still). The reason to have an expiration is because people plan around property or the status of the world right now - for practical reasons, "time of death + X years" is needed for people to be able to reasonably respond. And after that, it is just unowned. Not public, but there is no one to violate the rights of. Rights apply to people, not floating ideals which exist on their own.

 

It appears to me that you think *all* property must have the characteristic of transferability, so you are reasoning from that about what would be the case if IP were valid.

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oh boy I just read Spooner for the first time , chapter I section II seems to say

 

When I sell the garage built Mercedes, the object I own ,am I not also selling the design that is 'embodied' in the object?

I guess to be taken seriously , by some, I should have read Spooner first, so I could quote him.

 

Although perhaps further in the essay he says in some fashion, that wealth can some how not be 'owned', but first glance seems to side with the garage built Merc, I guess I will need to finish the essay.

Edited by tadmjones

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It appears to me that you think *all* property must have the characteristic of transferability, so you are reasoning from that about what would be the case if IP were valid.

 

I think it's important for you and I to try to pin down the nature of IP (as in: what is it?) before we look at "transferability" together.

For now, suffice it to say that I do expect that property will be transferable -- as in salable, or giftable, willable, or generally "disposable" -- that this constitutes part of the actions which are, together, the "right to property." If I own some property that we're calling "intellectual property," then I expect that I have the right to sell that property to you (absent some specific encumbering contractual obligation, or similar).

And I believe that this is how IP is treated currently. I can own a story (via "copyright," being the writer, the author, the innovator) and sell you that story -- meaning all of the rights to it, such that I would no longer have any rights to that story. It is transferable.

From legalzoom.com (for whatever that's worth):

 

Patents, trademarks, and copyrights are all forms of intellectual property and just like any other property, intellectual property can be bought, sold, inherited, or otherwise transferred.

 

***

I don't know when I'll get to the Spooner essay, though I will get to it.

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I don't know when I'll get to the Spooner essay, though I will get to it.

 

What a fascinating essay. I have not yet read the entirety (and I don't know that I will; those are a lot of objections!), but I believe I've read sufficiently of it to have drawn some opinions. One of the things I find remarkable is how many of the various ideas and attitudes and arguments, found in Mossoff, Rand, and even folks here like Eiuol and Dante, can be found also in this earlier Spooner, howsoever dissimilar and divergent their views might otherwise prove in application. It is like a clearinghouse of intellectual property argument.

I still find his argument incorrect, but I cannot say that it is not comprehensive.

So then...

I believe that Spooner's argument turns on an equivocation and then ultimately rests upon the same mind-body split as Rand's. If anyone wishes to take up Spooner as their own position, and mine him for specific arguments, we can go into more detail and depth, but for now here's my Cliff's Notes version:

He asserts that an idea is owned by a man in the sense of also owning the specific air one breathes:

 

The air, that a man inhales, is his, while it is inhaled. [...] The sun-light, that falls upon a man, or upon his land, or that comes into his dwelling, is his; and no other man has a right to forbid his enjoyment of it, or compel him to pay for it.

[...]

All a mans enjoyments, all his feelings, all his happiness, are his property. They are his, and not another man's. They belong to him, and not to others. And no other man has the might. to forbid him to enjoy them, or to compel him to pay for them. Other men may have enjoyments, feelings, happiness, similar, in their nature, to his. But they cannot own his feelings, his enjoyments, or his happiness. They cannot, therefore, right fully require him to pay them for them, as if they were theirs, and not his own.

A man's ideas are his property. They are his for enjoyment, and his for use. Other men do not own his ideas. He has a right, as against all other men, to absolute dominion over his ideas. He has a right to act his own judgment, and his own pleasure, as to giving them, or selling them to other men. Other men cannot claim them of him, as if they were their property, and not his; any more than they can claim any other things whatever, that are his.

 

I take no issue with this, apart from a quibble on whether happiness can be "property," but the sense of it as used here is fine, I think. We will therefore proceed on his terms, accounting such things as property. But now let us pause and note what these specific observations entail. When he says that a man owns his "feelings," but other men may have feelings "similar in their nature" to his, what does that mean, in reality? It means that my happiness is mine just as your happiness is yours, my sadness is mine just as your sadness is yours. While there is a (conceptual) sense in which we may talk about us both having the same feeling -- "we are both happy" or "we are both sad" -- in reality, our ownership concerns separate emotions, separate feelings, similar in their nature, but which are materially separated and distinguished by the fact that one occurs in me while the other occurs in you.

Thus, while a man owns his own feelings, no man may own the feelings of any other man. And if we were to approach "happiness" or "sadness" or any other feeling in the conceptual sense (i.e. we are experiencing the same thing -- happiness!), then we would still have no cause in claiming property over that concept, for as Spooner says in heading into this very section, and by way of defining his terms:

 

Every conceivable thing, whether intellectual, moral, or material, of which the mind can take cognizance, and which can be possessed, held, used, controlled, and enjoyed, by one person, and not, at the same instant of time, by another person, is rightfully a subject of property.

 

Happiness or sadness, as a concept, can be "possessed, held, used, controlled, and enjoyed" by multiple people at the same instant of time, and thus they are not "rightfully a subject of property."

In examining his paragraph on "ideas as property," then, what does he mean? Following his paragraphs on material property (air and sunlight) and feelings (happiness and sadness), I believe we must take it as following suit. That is also the only interpretation that follows, given his criteria for what constitutes a rightful "subject of property." In other words, a man owns the idea that is in his mind, in the same sense that he owns the happiness that is in his heart... but other men may own ideas or feelings which are "similar in their nature," except for being possessed of another mind, another heart, another man, just as you own the sunshine that falls on you, but not "sunshine, as such."

Or, if we were to treat ideas conceptually, saying that two men "share the very same idea," then it would fail to meet his criteria for property generally, as now that idea could be "possessed, held, used, controlled, and enjoyed" by multiple people at the same instant of time, just as two men may be happy simultaneously.

And yet.

Throughout the rest of the essay, Spooner equivocates on these two senses. Having established that a man owns his specific ideas in the same way that he owns the specific air he breathes, or the specific happiness he feels, he then treats those same ideas conceptually, in that when one man holds an idea, then nobody else may hold such ideas "similar in their nature" in the same sense that he had earlier employed. It is an intellectual bait-and-switch.

And then he further bases his IP arguments in a mind-body split, just as Rand ultimately does:

 

If his mind produces wealth, that wealth is as rightfully his property, as is the wealth that is produced by his hands. This proposition is self-evident, if the fact of creation, or production, by labor, be what gives the creator or producer right to the wealth he creates, or produces.

 

Here we have wealth (a term that in Spooner's use holds no distinction between the mental and the physical) divided into two separate categories according to that which has produced it by his account, "mind" or "hands." Material wealth is (temporarily) held here to be of the "hands," as though they could operate without the mind in concert.

Then Spooner goes the other direction. Here is a (temporary) rejection of the mind-body split (apart from some quibbles in language, and the fact that I'm cherry picking from this paragraph for the purpose of highlighting the contrasts/contradictions I find in his thought; as written, it is rather more muddled):

 

But, secondly, there is no real foundation for the assertion, or rather for the distinction assumed, that material wealth is produced by physical labor, and that ideas are produced by intellectual labor. [...] Bones and muscles perform no labor of themselves; they move, in labor, only as they are moved by the mind, will, or spirit. It is, therefore, as much the mind, will, or spirit, that lifts a stone, or fells a tree, or digs a field, as it is the mind, will, or spirit, that produces an idea. There is, therefore, no such thing as the physical labor of men, independently of their intellectual labor. [...]

 

But here is where he goes too far:

 

All wealth, therefore, whether material or intellectual, which men produce, or create, by their labor, is, in reality, produced or created by the labor of their minds, wills, or spirits, and by them alone.

 

This is simply not true. Whatever is true about the relationship of a man's mind to his body -- and I would not cast it as puppet-master to puppet as Spooner does -- it simply isn't the case that material wealth is created by the mind alone. And the fact that physical labor is required to produce material wealth, or otherwise acquire property, is vitally important for the question of subsequent ownership in that property, as Spooner implicitly acknowledges when he earlier describes the process of realizing property in the previously unowned wealth of the world:

 

The natural wealth of the world belongs to those who first take possession of it. The right of property, in any article of natural wealth, is first acquired by simply taking possession of it.

Thus a man, walking in the wilderness, picks up a nut, a stick, or a diamond, which he sees lying on the ground before him. He thereby makes it his property- his own.

[...]

After he has taken possession of it, it is his, by an additional right, such as no other person can have, he has bestowed his labor upon it- the labor, at least, of taking it into his possession; and this labor will be lost to him if he be deprived of the commodity he has taken possession of. It is of no importance how slight that labor may have been, though it be but the labor of a moment, as in picking up a pebble from the ground, or plucking a fruit from a tree. Even that labor, trifling as it is, is more than any other one has bestowed upon it. And it is enough for him, that that was his labor, and not another man's. He can now show a better right to the thing he has taken possession of; than any other man can. He had an equal right with any other man before; now he has a superior one, for he has expended his labor upon it, and no other person has done the like.

 

Is it the case that coming to have this nut, stick, or diamond, was wholly a matter of "mind, will, or spirit," and that alone? A man may spy something and desire it -- he may will it all he wants -- but his ownership of the same utterly depends on his ability and labor in taking possession of it, physically.

Man's mind and body (insofar as it is sensible to speak of them separately) must conspire to produce material values, and our understanding of resultant property must not pretend as though reality works otherwise, when it does not. It is the man who picks up the stick, notwithstanding all those who might will it without making the successful effort to pick it up in fact, who owns it in fact.

So yeah, this is my initial response to Spooner, though obviously he has a lot to say on the subject, so I will not have addressed every idea or claim in the measure it would otherwise deserve. But if anyone else wishes to pursue any particular line of thought or argument, I'd be happy to do so.

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