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Why should there be patents and copyrights?

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You exclusively control the use of your invention from the time you have invented it to the time someone else invents it. I think you're consenting to other people using your work when you tell them about it--they can't use it if you don't tell them about it. It's not like everyone finds out about your invention the moment you invent it.

Making it possible for other people to steal your idea is not the same as consenting. If I leave my wallet or my iPod lying around unsupervised, I shouldn't be surprised when someone steals them, but that doesn't mean it's not still stealing. Property rights don't disappear just because you're careless.

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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 th

I will be more exact and precise in my expression. Please be literal in trying to understand what I write. You claimed it was possible to download a copyrighted song and then not make money

"Grabbing" to me would mean reading someone's mind without their consent and then using their idea. If someone tells people about an idea and they use it, how are they "grabbing" it?

I was including all property in there, including cars. I wasn't making a metaphor or anything like that.

I didn't make that argument.

Never said you did. I was addressing potential arguments, and reasoning I've heard before.

So we're talking about a physical copy of a manuscript? Yes, obviously that's theft because the owner doesn't have the manuscript. If I use an idea you told me about, you haven't been deprived of your idea.

That was probably a poor example for me to give.

I agree. If I read your mind without your consent and then use your idea, I've used your idea without your consent. If you tell people about your idea, you have, as far as I'm concerned, consented to them using it. The critical issue here is what makes property property.

You seemed to grasp and agree that property best refer to the fruits of one's labor, or what a person trades in order to receive a value as well. "As far as I'm concerned" isn't an argument, so I can't respond to that in a meaningful way.

I think what makes property property is that you earned it and only you can have it. I'm not the only person who can have an idea because I can tell people about it. Even if I let people live in a tent in my backyard, it's still my backyard and I can tell those people to get lost any time I want. Other people using my idea doesn't necessarily mean I can't use my idea.

And you can tell people to not use your idea even if they know what it is. You could also refrain from telling anyone, because you can do whatever you want with your idea, supposing you could actually DO something with an idea. That does follow from what you say here, that I write a book means I earned to call the contents my property. I can tell you not to type up the book on your computer which you might use to give to your friends.

In other words, "If you don't mind people doing stuff without your permission, it's fine if you give them permission." Huh? Do you mean "It's okay for people to take your car without you giving them your explicit personal blessings if you sign some court order saying, in effect, anyone can come and drive off with your car and it's all good"?

I meant that if you don't mind, you wouldn't do anything about it.

I don't like responding to quote bombs, so I only responded to some of it.

Edited by Eiuol
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But you may will be deprived of the VALUE of the idea, the VALUE which has been created by the originator's reasoning mind. Think of this less in terms of property and more in terms of the value that has been created. Think more in terms of what is EARNED versus what can be taken without EARNING it.

How is the creator of an idea deprived of the value of the idea without patents and copyrights? Why do I not necessarily earn the use of an idea if the creator of the idea tells me about it?

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That's only true if you totally ignore the change in context that a business transaction is a VOLUNTARY exchange of value.

A person who invents something and tells people about the idea is doing so voluntarily.

I wouldn't want to think you are being deliberately obtuse in this argument, but between this and your confusion with why people are not property, it appears you are forgetting gaping amounts of Objectivism in order to poke holes in other's arguments.

I never said "I'm not sure if people are property or not." I said it makes no sense to say "A person's product = their property" because children are a product of their parents.

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"As far as I'm concerned" isn't an argument, so I can't respond to that in a meaningful way.

I agree. I've said that I believe an inventor has consented to people using their idea if they tell people about the idea because they do chose to do so voluntarily.

And you can tell people to not use your idea even if they know what it is.

You sure could. But you couldn't prevent them from using it without the barrel of a gun.

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Making it possible for other people to steal your idea is not the same as consenting.

Why is a person using an idea I told them about voluntarily theft? Is it because my idea is my property? If so, why?

If I leave my wallet or my iPod lying around unsupervised, I shouldn't be surprised when someone steals them, but that doesn't mean it's not still stealing. Property rights don't disappear just because you're careless.

If I put a song on a CD and leave it lying around unsupervised and someone takes it, that's stealing because the CD itself is my property. If I put a song online (which is what we're actually debating), I shouldn't be surprised if a musician plays it at a live concert (thereby making money off of it). And I can still play the song because my knowledge of it hasn't been taken from me. If I leave my wallet lying around and someone takes it, I no longer have my wallet.

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A person who invents something and tells people about the idea is doing so voluntarily.

Telling people about the product and granting use or rights to the product is not the same thing. If I tell you I have a car, I'm not granting you the right to take or use it.

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Telling people about the product and granting use or rights to the product is not the same thing. If I tell you I have a car, I'm not granting you the right to take or use it.

I said "Why do I not necessarily earn the use of an idea [key word] if the creator of the idea tells me about it?"

I didn't say "Why do I not necessarily earn the use of anything anyone tells me about?"

The only way to prevent people from using an idea you tell them about is to use force. Therefore, the issue is why ideas are or aren't property. I'm saying property is something you can be deprived of. If someone uses an idea you tell them about, you haven't been deprived of your idea. If someone takes my car, I've been deprived of my car.

I thinks it ridiculous for someone to say "Hey, I know I could totally not tell you about this idea, but I'm going to go ahead and tell you about it, thereby enabling you to use it...but don't use it!" If we're preventing people from playing a song on their computer, we're controlling the use of their property (the computer). This is only justified if the song is property of the creator.

Why is it the property of the creator?

Edited by Mnrchst
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I started this discussion thinking patents and copyrights are immoral.

I also like to think I've got an open mind. If I'm wrong about something I want to know why I'm wrong so I don't think the wrong thing anymore. I'm open to persuasion here, y'all.

I say this because there seems to be (a little) hostility directed towards me by some users which I'm bothered by. I've been accused of dropping huge parts of Objectivism and ignoring the context of this discussion (without explanation). If nothing else, everyone will be able to defend copyrights and patents better in the future by debating the issue with me.

Also, I'd say there's been a general lack of persuasive argumentation here. There's been a lot of evasion and overly simplistic argumentation, in my opinion, actually:

* I asked "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?"

and <OCSL> said "Isn't it also an initiation of force to tell someone to get off of your property?" as if to say "I think you're saying the initiation of force is just using force. You fail to understand that ideas are property and that property must be protected with force."

But s/he didn't say why ideas are property.

* <Featherfall> made the argument that inventors would make less money without patents and copyrights, ignoring the fact that people have free will and can donate money to inventors. S/he made a utilitarian argument (which I'm not sure is even true--I refer you to Radiohead's "In Rainbows" and the many charities around the world).

The issue here is whether or not ideas are property.

* <OCSL> said that "songs and inventions are property because they are a direct product of the man who produced it."

and

<Marc K.> said that "people are entitled to the fruits of their labor."

This ignores the fact that this applies to children (as well as an invention necessary to save the human race from extinction).

* <Featherfall> said that without patents and copyrights "there is no mechanism to guarantee he [the inventor] reaps a reward commensurate to what he's provided."

But s/he didn't say why this is bad or why this means ideas are property.

* <Greebo> made a post that I don't know what to make of. S/he asked 4 questions and provided no answers to them.

* <Grames> said a copyright infringement or a patent infringement means someone making money off a copyrighted/patented idea (which isn't true). Later, s/he said this statement still makes sense because it's bad when people make money off an idea without paying an inventor who voluntarily tells the general public about it.

But s/he didn't say why.

S/he also said that "You violate the patent by using it without permission" as if I'm not aware of this, that I was arguing in favor of indefinite patents and copyrights (when I wasn't, because I was arguing against any patents and copyrights, and I already said I read Rand's essay), and that people have no legal right to play an uncopyrighted song (which isn't true).

* <Eiuol> talked about all the work that goes into making a book without explaining why that means a book should be property (raising a kid is a lot of work, too).

* <RationalBiker> said "Because people aren't property." in response to my statement that OCSL and Mark K.'s argument that "people are entitled to the fruits of their labor" such as "songs and inventions" because "they are a direct product of the man who produced it" was incomplete because it ignores the fact that this also applies to children.

I assume s/he wrote this because s/he didn't understand that I was pointing out that someone else's argument, as stated, was incomplete, as if I somehow demonstrated that I think people are property. I know people aren't property.

What makes ideas property? It's obviously not that they require intellectual and physical effort to produce, because kids do, too.

S/he also said that the creator is deprived of the value of their idea without patents and copyrights without explaining why.

S/he also said "That's only true if you totally ignore the change in context that a business transaction is a VOLUNTARY exchange of value." in response to my statement that "If the harm here is "benefiting financially", then every free business transaction where financial values are exchanged is bad because both sides benefit financially." without explaining why using an idea an inventor told you about voluntarily isn't a voluntary activity.

If I tell the general public about an idea, why is it bad for them to use it without my permission on an individual basis? If I tell people about my idea, and I only tell the people I want to use the idea, and I tell them all it's okay for them and only them to use the idea, why should the state use force against those who use my idea without my permission if they find out about it from one of the people I told?

S/he also made the petty statement "Actually it does, if you don't drop the context of the discussion."

Are children products of their parents? Do parents decide (intellectually) to make a kid, then (physically) make the kid with their labor? Doesn't this mean that the statement "A person owns the product of their thinking/labor" is incomplete?

* <Dante>'s argument about the wallet/iPod doesn't apply to ideas (in my opinion) because inventors who tell people about their ideas do so voluntarily. What would be comparable would be a CD with a new song on it. In that case, my property--the CD--has been stolen because I've been deprived of it.

* <Eiuol> said "You seemed to grasp and agree that property best refer to the fruits of one's labor"

but I already explained that I think property is something you earn and can be deprived of (in and of itself), and that this doesn't apply to ideas because the only way you can be deprived of them is if someone uses it without your consent (and I think consent applies to telling people about it, because you don't have to do so).

Another example I just thought of would be if someone erased the idea from your mind. In that case, part of your brain has been altered without your permission, and your brain is your property because it's part of your body.

s/he also said "or what a person trades in order to receive a value as well." This ignores the fact that someone can charge people tickets for a concert and play new songs at the concert.

* * *

Can someone please just tell me why what makes property property isn't that you can be deprived of it (in and of itself)?

And if you really think I'm obtuse, please review this entire thread and tell me why in plain and respectful language. What is it I'm not getting?

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I will be more exact and precise in my expression. Please be literal in trying to understand what I write.

If the harm here is "benefiting financially", then every free business transaction where financial values are exchanged is bad because both sides benefit financially.

You claimed it was possible to download a copyrighted song and then not make money off of it. I dispute that is at all possible if the song was only otherwise available by purchase. You have the benefit of possessing the song without making the appropriate trade of value for value, in other words you have accomplished a petty theft. You have more money than if you had paid for the song.

I "violate the patent [i assume you mean copyright, since we're talking about a song] by using it without permission" eh? Um, duh. I'm arguing that copyrights are bad. Did I ever say that downloading a copyrighted song isn't a copyright violation?
No, I shifted to patents. The topic of the thread is both patents and copyrights. The property right is in the invention, and if you have it without permission you are infringing the patent. It does not matter in the least if you invented it independently if you did so after the patent holder. The publication of the patent is official notice of the property claim fully equivalent in function to a deed registered with the local government, and after that time you are bound to respect the inventor's right to exclude others from his property. (There is an exception granted in patent law for prior inventions held as a trade secret, continued use of the trade secret is not infringing.)

The question I have is does telling people about an idea you have constitute consent for them to use it? I think this is the case. If this isn't the case, why isn't it so? If it's because a song is property, why is this so?

The continued reference to "idea" is inexact and misleading. It is not mere ideas that are property. Only inventions in specifically claimed forms can be patented and only specific original works can be copyrighted.

Any and all rights only pertain to a social context. If disclosure of the patent or exhibition or sale of the copyrighted work constituted permission for all comers to reuse and resale that property that would be the immediate negation of any property right because one attempted to use it in a social interaction. So, this criterion you propose "if you tell people about it you give it away" is simply assuming there is no such thing as a property right, not proving there is no property right.

I thought you said control doesn't matter.

You said earlier that:

"Your analogy with the car has the exact same relation to necessity. Maybe you loaned your car out, and while you don't have it you can't use it. This example establishes that the (ill-formed) conversion does not follow: if you don't have your car, it is not necessarily true that your property rights are being violated."

So, you're saying that control doesn't matter, right?. You're saying the issue is whether or not an idea is property or not, and whether I "control" it doesn't matter (because I don't really control a car I've loaned out which is still my property). So even though I'm right when I say you can control an idea by deciding whether or not to tell people about it, that isn't the essential issue, because even though I can control the use of the idea, my telling people about it alone doesn't constitute consent to its use. It's my property because [?] and even if I tell people about it that doesn't mean I'm consenting to their using it.

Why it this so?

No, you got it totally wrong. Control is the only thing that matters. I was drawing a distinction between possession and control. One of the important conveniences of living with a government that defines property rights by means of formal titles such as deeds to land, copyrights, and patents is that continuous possession and self-defense of your own property is not required. You can lend your car and still own it and control it. "Control it" does not mean you can still drive it remotely, it means you can delegate authority to drive it to someone else without forfeiting your right and title to the car.

The way I look at it is a person's thoughts are their property, but an idea in and of itself isn't the property of whoever came up with it. If they're deprived of the idea, they're being deprived of their thoughts--their body--their property. If someone uses an idea they came up with, they're not being deprived of their idea because they still have the idea.

Again this is imprecise thinking, it is not mere "ideas" that are at issue. Only certain kinds of products of mental effort are potentially intellectual property. By constantly using "ideas" you cast the net far too widely. Most thoughts referred to by the concept of an idea are not eligible to become property.

I'm not talking about indefinite patent terms. Where are Earth are you getting this from?

If a patent can be unpredictably shortened by someone else inventing it, then that is indefiniteness on the too-short side. Indefiniteness does not only mean 'indefinably too-long'.

The point I'm making is that I get to listen to my song or use my invention as long as no one else discovers it. It's not illegal for me to do this because there's no copyright or patent on it.

How is there no legal right for me to listen to an un-copyrighted song or an un-patented invention?

Now it is my turn to ask where are you getting this from? That is not the law, nor is it desirable that it should become the law.

Can someone please just tell me why what makes property property isn't that you can be deprived of it (in and of itself)?

And if you really think I'm obtuse, please review this entire thread and tell me why in plain and respectful language. What is it I'm not getting?

What makes property property is the acquisition or creation, use and disposal of it. In a land with no government, "the fountainhead of property is possession" (stealing a phrase from Adam Mossof). In the social context of civil society it is logically necessary to have the right to exclude others in order to preserve the original right to acquire, use and dispose of property in relations with other people.

Denying the right to exclude makes property socially nonexistent, and the consequence would be that the only property anyone could ever have is what could be immediately physically possessed and defended. In this case, the very concept of property would be completely redundant and have no different meaning than possession.

This line of thinking that no one should have control of anything except immediate possessions dovetails nicely with the anarchist desire to breakdown all social abstractions into mere concretes, but it has nothing to do with freedom from the encroachments of other men on one's own efforts. By destroying the ability to own anything beyond what is at hand, this would effectively destroy capitalism and make the communists and other forms of egalitarian utopians happy that everyone is now equally poor and no one can ever be rich. This idea is just vile.

Many of the questions people post here, including this one, are actually not very philosophical but are primarily about the philosophy of law. There are new legal problems with extending intellectual property into digital media, and the ability of big media companies to purchase congressmen and unfairly extend their copyrights beyond all bound of reason is unjustifiable. It is an impractical and immoral solution to these problems to destroy the very idea of property and the right to exclude.

Here is more detailed writing on these specific problems:

What is Property? Putting the Pieces Back Together

Adam Mossoff, George Mason University School of Law

Arizona Law Review, Vol. 45, p. 371, 2003

Abstract:

This article offers an alternative to twentieth-century theories of property, which have eviscerated the concept of property and thereby undermined the policy foundations of property doctrines ranging from eminent domain to intellectual property. The result is that legislators and judges lack the ability to define properly the purpose or the boundaries of the legal doctrines that they are enacting into law or ruling on from the bench. The complaints are omnipresent - from the expansion of legal entitlements afforded to owners of intellectual property to the indeterminacy that plagues the takings jurisprudence. As a solution, this article advances an "integrated" theory that combines the exclusive rights to acquire, use and dispose of one's possessions into a broad concept of property. The integrated theory of property provides a descriptive account of past and present property doctrines, and justifies or critiques the evolution of these doctrines into the twenty-first century.

Is Copyright Property?

Adam Mossoff, George Mason University School of Law

San Diego Law Review, Vol. 42, p. 29, 2005

Abstract:

This essay is based on commentary on Richard Epstein's article, Liberty vs. Property: Cracks in the Foundation, which was delivered at a 2003 conference. The essay suggests that the opponents of Epstein's position that copyright entitlements are derived from similar policy concerns as tangible property rights would reject his thesis at the conceptual level, maintaining that copyright is not property, especially in the context of digital media. By assuming their rallying cry that "copyright is policy, not property," this essay reveals that opponents of digital copyright are caught in a dilemma of their own making. In one sense, their claim that "copyright is policy, not property," is an uninformative truism about all legal entitlements, and in another sense, represents a fundamental misconception of the history and concept of copyright. The concept and historical development of copyright are more substantial than its representation today as merely a monopoly privilege issued to authors according to the government's utility calculus. The essay concludes with the observation that those who wish to see copyright eliminated or largely restricted in digital media are in fact driven by an impoverished concept of property that has dominated twentieth-century discourse on property generally. As a doctrine in transition - we are still in the midst of the digital revolution - copyright may be criticized for various fits and starts in its application to new areas, but the transition itself does not change copyright's status as a property entitlement.

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A person who invents something and tells people about the idea is doing so voluntarily.

Which is not the same as what I said... I said a voluntary EXCHANGE OF VALUE, not any voluntary communication between two people about anything.

If I tell you I have a hot wife, I'm not giving my consent for you to go have sex with her, though by your liberal interpretation of any communication between people about an idea, it would seem you might draw that inference.

How is the creator of an idea deprived of the value of the idea without patents and copyrights?

Because they have lost the exclusive ability to pursue whatever value the idea does have in the marketplace. Once a CD has been ripped and plastered all over the internet, the artist WILL lose the value of sales that will not occur because people downloaded it for free. The product's value has been decreased by a cheaper outlet of that product by another party. And to head it off at the pass, not everybody who downloads stuff freely from internet are in the category of "well they wouldn't have bought it anyway".

Why do I not necessarily earn the use of an idea if the creator of the idea tells me about it?

Because "earning" requires more specific communication than simply "talking about it" as noted in my example above.

Lastly, it would seem to me that if a person has no problem depriving another person of the value of their work and effort in creating a non-material product, why stop there? Why not deprive them of the value of their material property too? It just doesn't make sense to say it's okay to take one and not the other.

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Can someone please just tell me why what makes property property isn't that you can be deprived of it (in and of itself)?

This is really the heart of the question. What is the fundamental reason that we have property rights? According to most anti-IP viewpoints, we have property rights because resources are scarce (rivalrous), and we need rights to decide who can do what with those scarce resources. Since ideas are not scarce (non-rival), property rights should not apply to them. However, the Objectivist approach to individual rights, and property rights in particular, is quite different, and scarcity is not the fundamental starting point for property rights. We need property rights because at a fundamental level, human beings survive by using our minds to create value. In order to successfully live and thrive by creating value, we need to have control over the value that we create. It's not about scarcity, fundamentally, but rather about what we need in order to be able to live by our own productive work. It's about what kind of society is required by man's nature as a productive being. This is obviously a bare-bones account of just the general thrust of two approaches to property rights, but we can already see that there is no reason in the second account to limit the values that are protected to just physical goods. An inventor who lives by generating new ideas has just as much right to the product of his labor as a craftsman who creates physical objects, and a society intended to allow men to flourish under it should protect both of them. Property rights do also help us deal with scarcity, but that is not fundamental to their nature in the Objectivist account.

I'd definitely recommend looking at the links Grames posted for a more in-depth look at a theory of property rights not based on scarcity; there's only so much that can be presented in an internet discussion forum.

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Dante, is there another source besides those Mossoff papers which deals with the philosophic foundations of the production theory of property rights, or does a reduction of the concept? As I myself still don't fully get it. For example, what does it mean to "create values"? Doesn't this mean that I would have to own the value of my property? But since value is relational, isn't the value of my property existing in the head of someone else? I don't get how this would work. Mossoff says that the source of all rights are that man needs to "create material values," but of course we don't create material (as in to deny the principle of conservation of mass), we just rearrange it (as in the way Rand recognizes "creation" to mean in her discussion of metaphysics.)

I just don't get which valuable ideas are property and which aren't. If all intellectual efforts are productive and valuable to somebody, what does this mean about property rights for which ideas? Does this mean that all people who thought of doing something before someone else get to exclude others from doing it? How can the human race survive in such a case? Or am I misunderstanding what intellectual property actually is? Like, where is the line drawn in what products of intellectual labor are property and what aren't?

For example, there is the criticism of the Objectivist production theory of property, which asks what would be the result of applying this from the beginning of mankind on:

http://sheldonfreeassociation.blogspot.com/2011/04/question-for-randian-ip-advocates.html

That case prompts a thought experiment: Imagine a primitive tribe in which one member does painstaking research on which wild berries are good for human consumption and which are not. (The Randian case emphasizes that such knowledge is not automatic as it in the case of lower animals, but has to be discovered by intellectual effort.) He learns through his work that when he eats one particular berry he gets healthier and more energetic -- better in every way. He also discovers that other berries are best avoided. The rest of the tribe observes and takes notes.

Question: Under Randian IP law, would the others need the innovator's permission before they may consume the healthful berries? Or does the innovative have an exclusive right to the fruits of his effort. (Pun intended.)

If not, why not?

Then it brings to light other questions, such as, what about the guy who invented the patent system itself? Or what about the Founding Fathers who invented the Constitution? Can they tax us for using the government? What about an entrepreneur: he figures out a gap between cost of input and price of output, seizes upon the opportunity to make a profit. Others see this and imitate him, thus causing profit. Should they be prevented from imitating him? If not, why not?

Etc.

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For example, what does it mean to "create values"? Doesn't this mean that I would have to own the value of my property? But since value is relational, isn't the value of my property existing in the head of someone else? I don't get how this would work.

"Create values" means to create an object that has value to you or others. "Value" can refer to the object of the action of valuing or to the potential it has in trade. If the object is your property, then so too is the potential it has in trade as that is one of its uses and an option in disposing of it. The particular magnitude of the object's potential in the trade ("the value of the value", heh) is relational and therefore dependent upon the trading partner, but that does not contradict the principle that the object is yours by right and so is its (variable) trade value.

A similar question is "Who owns the price of an object?". The answer is determined by who controls the price. The owner of the object controls the price by virtue of his control over and possession of the object. Certainly he ought to be influenced by the price the market will bear if he wants to sell, but the final authority on setting the price is the owner of the underlying good. Economic thinking that claims prices are set by supply and demand curves skips over the people acting, it is economics without the subjects performing the valuations.

Mossoff says that the source of all rights are that man needs to "create material values," but of course we don't create material (as in to deny the principle of conservation of mass), we just rearrange it (as in the way Rand recognizes "creation" to mean in her discussion of metaphysics.)

Adam Mossof certainly knows that. I do not understand why you let yourself get distracted with such out-of-context nitpicking. It is true we do not create material but Mossof is not writing a essay on metaphysics. Mossof wrote "create material values," which is accurate and true. The value (the object of the action of valuing) is created by mixing time, labor and skill with the prior existing materials. A writer has got to draw a line on his efforts somewhere and not attempt to explain everything at once.

I just don't get which valuable ideas are property and which aren't. If all intellectual efforts are productive and valuable to somebody, what does this mean about property rights for which ideas? Does this mean that all people who thought of doing something before someone else get to exclude others from doing it? How can the human race survive in such a case? Or am I misunderstanding what intellectual property actually is? Like, where is the line drawn in what products of intellectual labor are property and what aren't?

Objectivity in intellectual property is established by only protecting particular expressions for copyright and particular claims in regard to an invention to be patented. In other words, the intellectual efforts involved must be reified into an objective format. Reification is known as a logical fallacy, but that is only a proper diagnosis when an abstraction is purported to exist or act but does not exist and cannot act. However, it is not the case that reification is not possible. Any thought which is put into words and then spoken or written aloud has been reified into a particular form, and an invention is a reification of the thoughts of the inventor. A selective re-creation of reality according to an artist’s metaphysical value-judgments is a reification of the artists thoughts.

There are other requirements. Copyrightable works must be original. Patented work must be novel, non-obvious, useful, and of patentable subject matter. Copyrights and patents must be for only finite durations after which they are no longer property. The question of what is copyrightable and patentable is a solved problem. Anything, any thing or process that creates a thing, crafted by "the hand of man" is potentially intellectual property.

The discovery that a berry is edible is not a thing, nor was the berry man-made, therefore it is not potentially property.

Then it brings to light other questions, such as, what about the guy who invented the patent system itself? Or what about the Founding Fathers who invented the Constitution? Can they tax us for using the government? What about an entrepreneur: he figures out a gap between cost of input and price of output, seizes upon the opportunity to make a profit. Others see this and imitate him, thus causing profit. Should they be prevented from imitating him? If not, why not?

Etc.

Governments are not things, nor are they processes for the creation of things. Profit is a generality, only particular forms of making a profit are potentially property. How there could be formal intellectual property before profit was discovered is a mystery and sounds like a stolen concept to me.

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* <Featherfall> made the argument that inventors would make less money without patents and copyrights, ignoring the fact that people have free will and can donate money to inventors. S/he made a utilitarian argument (which I'm not sure is even true--I refer you to Radiohead's "In Rainbows" and the many charities around the world).

The issue here is whether or not ideas are property.

If you'd please carefully re-read my post (it's short), you'll find that I didn't ignore the fact that people can donate to inventors. My point was this; while it is possible that someone could benefit the most by requesting donations, this is irrelevant to the question of how to define property. This seems to be your position as well, so I wonder why you mentioned donations in the first place. My argument was incomplete, but not utilitarian. Property rights are only useful because they allow a person who creates a value to decide how it is used. I should have explained that before moving on to explain how a person is harmed if their IP is stolen. Rational Biker also explains how such harm is done in post #42.

* <Featherfall> said that without patents and copyrights "there is no mechanism to guarantee he [the inventor] reaps a reward commensurate to what he's provided."

But s/he didn't say why this is bad or why this means ideas are property.

The need for such a mechanism is dependant on the fact that inventions are property - if they are property, than we need laws that address them specifically, because they are a little different from material property. By the way, my name is Jacob, I'm male, and I like peanut butter'n' ham sandwiches.

I think I'm going to stop posting on this thread for now. Grames is doing a much better job of defending IP than I could. But before I go, I'd like to know how you (the OP) respond to his point about binding use agreements. Specifically I'd like to know your take on this: If you consent before transfer of property, can someone rightfully limit your use of such property after they transfer it to you? If so, why can't that person limit your use of an intellectuall creation in the same way?

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There’s a lot for me to untangle here:

You have the benefit of possessing the song without making the appropriate trade of value for value, in other words you have accomplished a petty theft. You have more money than if you had paid for the song.

When you say "value for value" are you excluding gifts/charity? Certainly someone can make something and give it away and that's fine.

How is it theft if the creator willingly reveals the song to the general public? I don’t see how the creator is violated in this way. If the creator doesn’t want people listening to the song without paying for it, then the creator has the option of not revealing the song to the general public.

No, I shifted to patents.

You said that a copyright violation means:

“selling that particular sequence of words or notes, or performing it for compensation”

and I pointed out that it means to “use the idea”

and you responded: “You have already benefited financially by downloading the song without paying for it, you have made money off of it.”

but what you actually said was “selling that particular sequence of words or notes, or performing it for compensation”

Which is different from saying:

“You have already benefited financially by downloading the song without paying for it, you have made money off of it”

As for your point about patents, I recognize now that you had moved on to a separate issue (patents instead of copyrights). What confused me was that you said it right after saying “You have already benefited financially by downloading the song without paying for it, you have "made money off of it” which doesn’t square with “selling that particular sequence of words or notes, or performing it for compensation”.

Basically, I thought you were saying, in effect

“It made sense when I said:

“You have already benefited financially by downloading the song without paying for it, you have made money off of it”

As an explanation of why a copyright violation means “selling that particular sequence of words or notes, or performing it for compensation”

Because

You violate the patent by using it without permission.”

My confusion was basically that I don’t see how “You have already benefited financially by downloading the song without paying for it, you have made money off of it." Is an explanation for why a copyright violation is limited to “selling that particular sequence of words or notes, or performing it for compensation”

In effect, you were saying “A copyright violation is when you sell that particular sequence of words or notes, or performing it for compensation” and I was pointing out you also can “use the idea” without SELLING it to someone.

I’m already aware that a patent violation is “using it without permission” (as in express permission granted on a case by case basis). My saying that “If I build a patented invention and don't try to sell it, it's a patent violation.” is correct because it’s patented. You said in response “You violate the patent by using it without permission” which I understand. I was pointing out that I don’t have to sell something patented/copyrighted to violate a patent/copyright, hence the “and don’t try to sell it.” I wasn’t saying a patent violation is limited to when I use a patented invention without selling it (that would mean it’s okay as long as I try to sell it).

The continued reference to "idea" is inexact and misleading. It is not mere ideas that are property. Only inventions in specifically claimed forms can be patented and only specific original works can be copyrighted.

Does this include a new style of clothing, or a crude drawing? If not, why not? What makes an idea worthy of copyright/patent?

Any and all rights only pertain to a social context. If disclosure of the patent or exhibition or sale of the copyrighted work constituted permission for all comers to reuse and resale that property that would be the immediate negation of any property right because one attempted to use it in a social interaction. So, this criterion you propose "if you tell people about it you give it away" is simply assuming there is no such thing as a property right, not proving there is no property right.

No, I’m saying property is property if it can be deprived of the owner in and of itself. If I put a song online (which is telling people about it) I’m not deprived of the song. If I tell someone “I have a car” and they drive off with it, I’m deprived of it. If someone “takes” my idea, I understand that to mean they’ve either read my mind without my permission or have erased the idea from my mind.

No, you got it totally wrong. Control is the only thing that matters. I was drawing a distinction between possession and control. One of the important conveniences of living with a government that defines property rights by means of formal titles such as deeds to land, copyrights, and patents is that continuous possession and self-defense of your own property is not required. You can lend your car and still own it and control it. "Control it" does not mean you can still drive it remotely, it means you can delegate authority to drive it to someone else without forfeiting your right and title to the car.

Grames, on 24 June 2011 - 12:16 PM, said:

“It is not the possession that matters for either the car or the copyrighted work, it is the control that matters. Control includes consent of the owner or author”

Mnrchst, on 24 June 2011 - 12:37 PM, said:

“What I meant was my property rights have been violated because it [the car] was stolen. If I loan it out and say "I'll be wanting this back soon. I'll call you when I want to use it and you bring it back to me." then I can still use it when I want to. I can't do this with a criminal who stole it.”

Grames, on 24 June 2011 - 01:55 PM, said:

“You can't precisely because it [the car] is no longer under your control. Control is what matters.”

Grames, on 25 June 2011 – 12:07AM, said:

"Control it" does not mean you can still drive it remotely, it means you can delegate authority to drive it to someone else without forfeiting your right and title to the car.”

So, you’ve gone from “Control means consent” to “Control doesn’t mean consent” and back to “Control means consent.”

You said “You can't precisely because it [the car] is no longer under your control. Control is what matters.” But I loaned that car out. The guy is using it with my permission. So, if control means consent, then I still control it because I consented to the guy using it.

You see why I’m confused here?

Again this is imprecise thinking, it is not mere "ideas" that are at issue. Only certain kinds of products of mental effort are potentially intellectual property. By constantly using "ideas" you cast the net far too widely. Most thoughts referred to by the concept of an idea are not eligible to become property.

So what makes an idea worthy of copyright/patent?

If a patent can be unpredictably shortened by someone else inventing it, then that is indefiniteness on the too-short side. Indefiniteness does not only mean 'indefinably too-long'.

But it hasn’t been patented. That was my point. If I invent something and don’t tell people about it, I control the use of the idea until someone else invents it because I’m the only one who knows about it. If I invent something and don’t tell people about it, it obviously hasn’t been patented.

Now it is my turn to ask where are you getting this from?

I’m getting it from you.

The reason I asked the question

“How is there no legal right for me to listen to an un-copyrighted song or an un-patented invention?”

is because you said

“Keeping your invention a 'trade secret' can potentially preserve the exclusive advantage of an invention for longer than a patent term but there is no legal right to the invention in that case.”

So, you said, in effect, “You have no legal right to use an invention you invented if you don’t patent it”

And, I’m like, “Why?”

And you ask “Now it is my turn to ask where are you getting this from?”

Well, you’ll notice that when I said that, there’s this quote bubble right above it where you say an inventor has no legal right to use an invention s/he invented if you s/he doesn’t patent it.

That is not the law

I know it’s not the law. How is that relevant? I’m saying the law should be changed.

nor is it desirable that it should become the law

Why?

What makes property property is the acquisition or creation, use and disposal of it.

I'm not sure you're even making an argument about what's property and what isn't. What I meant was "what makes one thing worthy of being of property and another thing not worthy of being property?" not "So what does the word property mean anyway?" I'm aware that property should be used and disposed of by the owner.

I'm guessing you're not providing an argument for what is property-worthy here. If so, then I'd say the argument would wean that "If you can use it, it's your property" and "If you can dispose of it, it's your property."

In the social context of civil society it is logically necessary to have the right to exclude others in order to preserve the original right to acquire, use and dispose of property in relations with other people.

Denying the right to exclude makes property socially nonexistent, and the consequence would be that the only property anyone could ever have is what could be immediately physically possessed and defended. In this case, the very concept of property would be completely redundant and have no different meaning than possession.

The creator can exclude everyone from their discovery by not telling them about it (never letting anyone else listen to their song or using the new metal to build their own factory but not selling it to anyone else).

This line of thinking that no one should have control of anything except immediate possessions dovetails nicely with the anarchist desire to breakdown all social abstractions into mere concretes, but it has nothing to do with freedom from the encroachments of other men on one's own efforts. By destroying the ability to own anything beyond what is at hand, this would effectively destroy capitalism and make the communists and other forms of egalitarian utopians happy that everyone is now equally poor and no one can ever be rich.

What do you mean by "immediate possessions"? Do you mean physical property? If so, how does a lack of patents/copyrights lead to egalitarianism? If a society should have its citizens voluntarily donate to a government, why shouldn't it have its citizens voluntarily donate to artists/inventors?

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If I tell you I have a hot wife, I'm not giving my consent for you to go have sex with her, though by your liberal interpretation of any communication between people about an idea, it would seem you might draw that inference.

If I voluntarily tell you about my hot wife, you can't have her sit on your dick without her permission unless you rape her. If I voluntarily upload a song onto the internet, you can have it on your computer without tangibly harming me.

Also, the only way the fucking of your wife could be up to is if she's your property.

They have lost the exclusive ability to pursue whatever value the idea does have in the marketplace.

Not necessarily. An artist can have people pay them to put on a concert which includes new songs.

Once a CD has been ripped and plastered all over the internet, the artist WILL lose the value of sales that will not occur because people downloaded it for free.

People have free will. They can choose to donate to the artist. You might as well say "Once a society eliminates taxation, that society WILL lose the value of money being spent on government services."

Not everybody who downloads stuff freely from internet are in the category of "well they wouldn't have bought it anyway".

Not all of them, that's true. But there doesn't have to be anyone who spends less than what they would've without the possibility of media "piracy". Not everybody who lives in an Objectivist society and doesn't donate to the government falls into the category of "well they wouldn't have been taxed anyway." Should we have taxes then?

It would seem to me that if a person has no problem depriving another person of the value of their work and effort in creating a non-material product, why stop there? Why not deprive them of the value of their material property too? It just doesn't make sense to say it's okay to take one and not the other.

By this rationale, doesn't someone who doesn't donate to an Objectivist government deprive us of the value of our work as well? In either the case of someone using an invention without paying the inventor or someone benefiting from an Objectivist government without donating to it, no one is tangibly harmed by the person who isn't donating. They aren't depriving anyone of something (like a car). They aren't necessarily a terrorist (contributing to the need for a military) or committing crimes (contributing to the need for police) or suing/getting sued by anyone (contributing to the need for a court system). So if a person not paying for their government should be legal, why should a person not paying the artist/inventor for a somewhat recent song/invention they're using not be legal?

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"Create values" means to create an object that has value to you or others. "Value" can refer to the object of the action of valuing or to the potential it has in trade.

Do you mean "You own a value your create"? A person could create a child via sex and sell it into slavery.

Copyrightable works must be original.

Where do you draw the line between original and not original?

Patented work must be...of patentable subject matter.

So what makes something patentable?

The question of what is copyrightable and patentable is a solved problem.

Do you mean correctly solved? Okay, what's the answer? What are the standards for what is copyrightable and patentable? What is the standard for originality in art?

Anything, any thing or process that creates a thing, crafted by "the hand of man" is potentially intellectual property.

Children can be crafted by "the hand of man"...literally.

The discovery that a berry is edible is not a thing, nor was the berry man-made, therefore it is not potentially property.

I agree.

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If you'd please carefully re-read my post (it's short), you'll find that I didn't ignore the fact that people can donate to inventors.

I said "<Featherfall> made the argument that inventors would make less money without patents and copyrights, ignoring the fact that people have free will and can donate money to inventors."

because you said:

"Not only does the original inventor make less on the inventions he sells..."

I took that to mean that without patents they'd necessarily make less money. I don't see why that's necessarily the case.

Property rights are only useful because they allow a person who creates a value to decide how it is used.

Only if the value is worthy of being property. Why are songs/inventions worthy of being property?

Rational Biker also explains how such harm is done in post #42.

Post #42 was by Grames.

The need for such a mechanism is dependant on the fact that inventions are property.

Why are inventions property?

I'd like to know your take on this: If you consent before transfer of property, can someone rightfully limit your use of such property after they transfer it to you? If so, why can't that person limit your use of an intellectual creation in the same way?

What do you mean by transfer?

Do you mean:

If someone says "Hey, I'm gonna let you borrow my car (and drive it wherever) for the next 30 days if you pay me $50 now and we agree that you pay for whatever damage happens to it."

and the other guy's like "Okay."

is it okay for the owner of the car to tell the "renter" of the car a few days later "Oh yeah, now you can still drive it wherever, but now you can't put gasoline in it"?

Well, if there's no legal agreement at work here, then I'd say that's fine.

However, let's say they make a contract that says "There will be no adding of stipulations by the owner or renter during the 30 days once the contract is signed unless they both agree to it." In that case, no it's not okay,

Anyway, what does this have to do with whether or not a song in and of itself is property? It's like you're saying "If someone lets you borrow your car and then tells you you can't use it in such and such a way, and you think that's okay because it's the original controller's property, why can't you allow that the original controller (creator) of a song should be able to tell people they've allowed to have a digital copy of their song not to upload the song to others?"

Well, it's because I don't think a song qualifies for being property. I think something is property if it isn't a person and isn't infinitely reproducible (in other words, it necessarily can only be controlled by one person--if I build a house, I've only got the house itself and if I make a song, the song can be reproduced into millions of digital copies with my consent if I put it online).

Since there should be no such thing as "public property" because there isn't an individual controller over a given amount of the property, why should we have a person be the owner a song/invention if it isn't definable in material terms? You own your mind/brain (which is thinking of the song) and the file on your computer (which can play the song) and the invention you made (because it's your [physical] property) and the manuscript which explains how to make the invention (because it's your paper) because it's definable in material terms.

But you can't say "Yea, that there's my public property." Can you sell it? If not, how is it your property? You could tell someone about your idea and then have them erase it from your mind, which would be the closest you could get to "selling" the idea, but in that case you've had your body (your brain) altered. But the idea itself hasn't been altered. The idea itself still won't be altered when the whole world knows about the idea. But I can alter material things (like my car) and only one person can necessarily control my car and the car is definable in material terms, while the song/invention can only be expressed with physical things (the brain waves, sound waves, paper, computer screen, etc.).

Yes, people should be able to control the use of property. But why are songs property?

I know it's not because the creator loses value without patents/copyrights because people have free will and can donate to the creator.

And I know it's not because the creator created it, because people create children.

I take the initiation of force to mean "Force is used against you (harm) when you haven't harmed anyone." How have you harmed anyone if you use an idea the creator allowed to potentially be known to you? The creator doesn't actually lose anything. They haven't lost money because people can still donate to them. And they haven't lost the ability to control the idea because they could've not told anyone about it.

Are we supposed to think "But they can't control exactly who listens to the song if they put it online"? Why should they? They should only be able to if it's their property. But why is it their property?

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There’s a lot for me to untangle here:

You completely failed. In fact, you confused everything further.

When you say "value for value" are you excluding gifts/charity?
Yes. Gifts are given not taken/illicitly downloaded so why even bring this up? It does not illuminate the intellectual property issue at all.

How is it theft if the creator willingly reveals the song to the general public? I don’t see how the creator is violated in this way. If the creator doesn’t want people listening to the song without paying for it, then the creator has the option of not revealing the song to the general public.

If it is kept secret then he can't trade it for money or make a living as an artist.

You said that a copyright violation means:

“selling that particular sequence of words or notes, or performing it for compensation”

and I pointed out that it means to “use the idea”

No, I said that.

What does "use the idea" mean in relation to copyright? It means selling that particular sequence of words or notes, or performing it for compensation. If someone else sells it, or does not buy it because he already has it, or performs it instead of you, then you are harmed if it was your intention to use it in commerce.

Furthermore, the importance of that phrase is that it describes how the author uses his property. The same actions by others can constitute copyright violation because they diminish the author's ability to use his property.

and you responded: “You have already benefited financially by downloading the song without paying for it, you have made money off of it.”

but what you actually said was “selling that particular sequence of words or notes, or performing it for compensation”

The exact part that applies to this portion of the sentence you want to nitpick is "... or does not buy it because he already has it". Assuming you understand nothing, I will spell out that the reason this is so: because a thief has stolen it already the thief has to need to buy it, and is enjoying the benefit of possessing it without compensating the creator.

Does this include a new style of clothing, or a crude drawing? If not, why not? What makes an idea worthy of copyright/patent?
Read up on design patents and trade dress. Crudeness doesn't matter, originality does.

No, I’m saying property is property if it can be deprived of the owner in and of itself. If I put a song online (which is telling people about it) I’m not deprived of the song. If I tell someone “I have a car” and they drive off with it, I’m deprived of it.
I know perfectly well what you say. You merely equate property with possession. The truth is that property rights are not rights to things, they are rights to actions with those things as objects of the those actions. The right to act to use, sell, dispose of a song is impaired when others unrightfully reproduce it.

If someone “takes” my idea, I understand that to mean they’ve either read my mind without my permission or have erased the idea from my mind.
And since neither action is remotely possible, then taking an idea is impossible. But this is stupid. What is taken is one's ability to put (not an idea, dammit) a protected work to use. Using a song means selling it or performing it. When others reproduce the song without authorization then sales and the value of a performance is diminished.

So, you’ve gone from “Control means consent” to “Control doesn’t mean consent” and back to “Control means consent.”

You said “You can't precisely because it [the car] is no longer under your control. Control is what matters.” But I loaned that car out. The guy is using it with my permission. So, if control means consent, then I still control it because I consented to the guy using it.

You see why I’m confused here?

That middle part that confuses you ended with the stolen car:

... I can't do this with a criminal who stole it.”

My reply was about the stolen car. “You can't precisely because it [the car] is no longer under your control. Control is what matters.”

You didn't have control when the car was stolen.

Control always means consent. I did not go back and forth.

So what makes an idea worthy of copyright/patent?
See post #42 above for a review of the criteria in the paragraphs starting with the words "Objectivity in intellectual property is established by ..."

I’m getting it from you.

The reason I asked the question

“How is there no legal right for me to listen to an un-copyrighted song or an un-patented invention?”

is because you said

“Keeping your invention a 'trade secret' can potentially preserve the exclusive advantage of an invention for longer than a patent term but there is no legal right to the invention in that case.”

So, you said, in effect, “You have no legal right to use an invention you invented if you don’t patent it”

And, I’m like, “Why?”

And you ask “Now it is my turn to ask where are you getting this from?”

Well, you’ll notice that when I said that, there’s this quote bubble right above it where you say an inventor has no legal right to use an invention s/he invented if you s/he doesn’t patent it.

I asked you to be literal and precise for this exact reason. I most certainly did not write that an inventor has no legal right to use an invention s/he invented if you s/he doesn’t patent it. This phrase "to use" after 'legal right' is entirely your invention. (heh.) Your interpretation of what I meant "in effect" was wrong. I told you to be literal. Without a patent there are no legal rights at all pertaining to the secret invention because it does not exist as far as the law is concerned. You have no property right to the invention because it is invisible to the law. Heck, even as ordinary non-intellectual property try to inform the police that your valuable secret invention was stolen, and see what they can do for you when you refuse to tell them what it looks like or does.

I know it’s not the law. How is that relevant? I’m saying the law should be changed.

What a clustf**k.

Understand this once and for all: It is not illegal to listen to your secret song or use your secret invention. It should not become illegal. You already can listen to an un-copyrighted song or use an un-patented invention legally because it can't possibly be illegal. The law does not need to change to permit you to use your secrets in peace.

All you need to understand is that there are people that want to extract the maximum value from songs and inventions by sharing them in society by selling them to voluntary purchasers. They have every right to do so because songs and inventions are property, and property necessarily comes along with a right to exclude.

I'm aware that property should be used and disposed of by the owner.

When you claim things like songs and inventions are not property you are claiming they cannot be used and disposed of. That makes no sense, because they obviously can be used and disposed of. That is what also makes them property.

I'm guessing you're not providing an argument for what is property-worthy here. If so, then I'd say the argument would wean that "If you can use it, it's your property" and "If you can dispose of it, it's your property."

Hey, guess what? Even though you can hardly believe it, that is the argument. I would add "If you created it, it's your property." There are limits, see post #42.

The creator can exclude everyone from their discovery by not telling them about it (never letting anyone else listen to their song or using the new metal to build their own factory but not selling it to anyone else).

This is stupid because you can't get much use at all out of a secret. If artists and inventors have to hide their works there may as well not even be any artists and inventors.

What do you mean by "immediate possessions"? Do you mean physical property?

The concrete, tangible items within arms reach. That is what your understanding of property as possession instead of a right to action would reduce us to, nomads with nothing but the clothes on our backs and the stick in our hand, or subsistence farmers sleeping out in the small field every night to keep the crop thieves away.

If so, how does a lack of patents/copyrights lead to egalitarianism?

By destroying a critical source of wealth in a capitalist society, and by being an attack on the same principle underlying all property rights to even tangible, physical property.

If a society should have its citizens voluntarily donate to a government, why shouldn't it have its citizens voluntarily donate to artists/inventors?

Property is a right. Rights are violated by initiations of force. Theft of property is an initiation of force. It is morally and legally obligatory to prosecute thieves. Citizens voluntaily donate to artists and inventors by paying the price asked for them or not buying the products offered. Not buying but still taking against the consent of the artist or inventor is theft.

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If I voluntarily tell you about my hot wife, you can't have her sit on your dick without her permission unless you rape her.

You clearly miss the point that I was making about what constitutes permission in terms of communication.

If I voluntarily upload a song onto the internet, you can have it on your computer without tangibly harming me.

Perhaps, but this isn't just about you, it's about all creators of products.

Not necessarily. An artist can have people pay them to put on a concert which includes new songs.

Yes, necessarily. Creating a new idea and making money from that does not restore the value lost from the original idea. This is like saying that if your car is stolen, you can always get a new car to restore the value lost.

People have free will. They can choose to donate to the artist. You might as well say "Once a society eliminates taxation, that society WILL lose the value of money being spent on government services."

Non-sequitur to the point I've made.

Not all of them, that's true. But there doesn't have to be anyone who spends less than what they would've without the possibility of media "piracy".

I see. Rather than acknowledging a person's right to the fruits of their labor, you would rather not have them produce their work in digital form because it becomes easy to steal. If they make it easy to steal, it must therefore be moral to steal it. Gotcha. This principle carries over to material products as well. If I leave the keys in my car, it is now moral to steal my car.

Not everybody who lives in an Objectivist society and doesn't donate to the government falls into the category of "well they wouldn't have been taxed anyway." Should we have taxes then?

More non-sequitur.

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