Mnrchst Posted June 23, 2011 Report Share Posted June 23, 2011 (edited) I have a few problems with the idea of patents and copyrights. I'm hoping someone can explain a rationale for them that's a little clearer than Rand's in her essay on the subject. 1. Rand said that patents and copyrights are a recognition of the idea that people have the right to the product of their own mind. Ignoring exceptions Rand did or would've made to this (children, mathematical discoveries, or a laser which is our only hope of saving the Earth from a giant asteroid on a collision course with our planet) doesn't this just mean that it should be illegal for someone to read your mind and use one of your ideas (which no one else knows) without your permission? 2. How is telling someone they can't use an invention someone else came up with not an initiation of force if the person who invented it willingly told other people about it? I don't see how you're being harmed by people using an idea you came up with if you voluntarily tell them about it. Someone might argue that without the inventor, the idea couldn't be used by the society at large. However, the other element is them telling people about it, which is a choice. Furthermore, couldn't someone invent a new type of metal and sell it without telling anyone how it works and make a lot of money off of it before it gets reverse-engineered? It seemed to work for Henry Rearden (until he gave it away). I have no problem with a person inventing something, not telling anyone how it works, and selling it to people (unless there's a plausible national security risk involved in our not understanding it, like if it's a cold fusion reactor instead of a metal or a faster processor), but it's not like the moment you invent something it automatically becomes known to the general public. What about someone getting donations for inventing something? There's no reason why they necessarily would make less money off their invention if there's no patents or copyrights. If everyone could use the a machine which improves economies of scale, there would be the potential for a greater increase in productivity than if it's use is limited. If everyone who could implement the new technology did, and everyone who would've paid the inventor's asking price if s/he held a patent and set a price still did despite the lacks of patents, and someone else who used the invention donated something (however small), the inventor would make more money because s/he didn't/couldn't set a price to keep people from using the invention. 3. Rand said a mathematical or philosophical discovery is about the nature of reality, but a new machine isn't. Therefore, mathematical and philosophical discoveries aren't copyright-worthy, but machines are patent-worthy. But doesn't the machine also concern the nature of reality (i.e. if you put these things in this arrangement you get this result)? I'm not sure how we draw the line between what's copyright/patent-worthy and what isn't. Is a new style of clothing copyright-worthy? If not, how is it fundamentally different from a song? 4. Even if patents are legitimate, I'm not sure how copyrights could possibly be legitimate because there's no way (I can think of) where you can demonstrate a copyright violation. At what point does the new song/book/screenplay become similar enough that there's a violation? By what standard? What about "fair use"? How can we draw the line between satire and non-satire? I think it's ridiculous to say "Oh, well that's not an issue for philosophy. There's some line somewhere, and we'll just let the courts figure it out." Can't philosophy at least provide us with some guidelines on this issue? And, if so, what are those guidelines? Since antitrust is illegitimate because there's no way anyone can know when they're violating the "law", do I really have to go through every copyrighted book where it's plausible that there could be a copyright violation before I try to release a new book? What if (by a dramatic coincidence) there's a number of similarities with some book written 20 years ago? How am I supposed to avoid this? Maybe no one figures this out until a few months after it's released and I get sued big time. Is that really fair? * * * Just in case it gets made if I don't already respond to it, I want to address a utilitarian argument I often hear on this subject (I'm guessing it wouldn't, but I still want to cover this just in case). "But people won't be motivated to invent without patents and copyrights" Wouldn't it make just as much sense to say "But people won't voluntarily donate to the government without taxes"? I'd say that if people are self-interested, they'll donate to inventors/artists. As far as the "free-rider problem" goes with respect to taxes, I suppose most Objectivists would argue (and I agree with them) that you shouldn't trade/hire/work for the non-totally broke people who don't donate to the government. I apply the same argument to the non-totally broke people who don't donate to inventors/artists. * * * Finally, while this is a bit off-topic, since all property is fundamentally intellectual, isn't the term "intellectual property" a redundancy (like "rational self-interest" or "ethical egoism" or "individual rights" or "laissez-faire capitalism")? Shouldn't we just say something like "ideas property"? Edited June 23, 2011 by Mnrchst ropoctl2 and 0096 2251 2110 8105 2 Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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