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Why should there be patents and copyrights?

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Check this link out. Yes, I know it's written by someone who is an anarchist, however, the particular points here don't depend on that conclusion (except maybe Fallacy 1): http://mises.org/Community/forums/t/13692.aspx

See Fallacy 4.

Your part about considerations to make regarding law, those are valid questions but prove nothing. Mention particular laws, look at how intellectual property is actually codified, then you can address those laws as immoral or improper or arbitrary. Until then, you're merely pondering out loud. It would be better to ask a lawyer those questions. The standard to use is if someone is using a specific kind of idea which is manifested in physical form (songs are manifested physically as data on a CD, record, .mp3 file, etc). Similarity is not the standard to use. If you use a song and change a few notes, it means you used someone a song someone else made. I would like to read up on laws regarding music better, but the general idea is to look at if an idea is already used or developed by a person. It IS possible to know ahead of time if you are using an existing idea, it would just take some effort to find out. You probably could ask someone who knows a lot about music of the song's genre you created. Given the nature of how music is developed in the first place, it is proper to give a lot of wiggle room for inspiration. If you're not sure about your song, ask an expert, and look at the law. That will provide your answer ahead of time. All you're saying is you want it to be EASY to figure out. We can argue about details, but at least address using a song by an artist and putting your name on it instead; in other words, is plaigarism okay?

Every new idea couldn't be used without the permission of either the creator or the first to file.

How terrible, asking for permission! Every movie produced a director cannot be used without permission from the director, the owner of the idea that is a movie. I should be able to see the movie whenever I want, especially if I find it online for free. I don't care if a director made the vague idea a reality, an idea like a full movie shouldn't be owned, it's not fair! Both the director and I can watch the movie, I'm not depriving the director of anything. You can't tell me what I can and can't watch on my computer! Who needs IP, directors can ask for donations. (That amounts to intellectual communism, that no person should have an absolute claim to anything intellectual.)

Or you might get someone discovering the cure for cancer, and perhaps there isn't an alternative cure, or perhaps the alternative cure can't be invented for at least another 100 years, and the inventor decides "You know what, I'm gonna not let anyone use this cure for as long as my patent lasts because I'm super crazy" while another inventor was months away from the same discovery and wanted to sell it at a price to maximize profit.

I'm surprised you used this argument. Say someone develops a diabetes treatment, and they produce the medications. Let's supppose further this isn't an IP issue; the medication inventor opted for a "trade secret" route. The producer then decides "You know what, I'm not gonna let anyone use this medication unless they give me a trillion dollars PER PILL because I'm super crazy." Is it okay to take the medications that person created?

What I'm pointing out in that paragraph is that you aren't sufficiently addressing what property is. Your arguments are essentially anti-property, even if you are only arguing about IP. You agreed at the beginning that property is fundamentally intellectual in nature, you need to incorporate that into your discussion here.

(Nitpicky points:

(1) you don't own your body, you ARE your body.

(2)"This is because all rights are contextual: if someone is prevented from building a dynamite factory in a crowded area, they are prevented from using their property to threaten people--an initiation of force. " Threats ARE an initiation of force, thus responding to that is retaliation. You may have meant that the THREAT is an initiation of force, or that PREVENTING any propery use is an initiaton of force. Your grammar is odd.)

Edited by Eiuol
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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

Sorry, Mnrchst, I've reached the limits of my stamina. Good luck to you and the rest in coming to an accord on this matter. I've just got one more thing to say before I stop writing here (I'll probably still read). It pertains to two of your statements. Here is the first:

If someone says to you "I'll let you have a copy of my song if you promise not to make a copy of it in exchange for me such and such" and you make a copy of it, you did something bad (betraying their trust), but I wouldn't say you did anything that should be illegal.

And, the response I expected from a personal inquiry:

I will exercise my 5th amendment rights at this time.

I'd call someone who is "guilty of doing something bad" (everytime he violates the nonlegal, but moral, aspects of copyright by downloading gigs of ill-gotten music and video files) an untrustworthy a-hole. If he also acknowledged the fact that lying to gain a value from someone without the other's consent was immoral, I'd call him a hypocrite. He'd still be an untrustworthy hypocrite if he torrented the file from other untrustworthy, hypocritical a-holes, instead of engaging in the deception first-hand. The degree of such a man's dishoner could be measured by the number of KBs occupied by his digital skeletons. Everytime he checked his hard drive space he'd have to reconcile what he found with his self-image. But there is good news for people like him: redemption can be found, beginning with deleting those KBs and tossing out the burned CDs.

Edited by FeatherFall
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I'm sorry? What in your opinion is the origin of rights? The Government?

The nature of humans, or, maybe just existence. Again, you don't have the right to make any stipulation in a contract and expect the government to make sure people abide by it. It depends on what the stipulation is.

You're refusing me the right to set the terms. You're saying that I cannot rightfully require that you agree to the only terms under which I would agree to the sale.

...

By what right do you tell me that I CAN NOT ask you to voluntarily agree to my terms?

...

Hence, force.

Are you even reading my posts? "Dear Government, I bought a slave the other day, the seller signed a contract with me saying the slave was in good health, and it wasn't. I want compensation" or "Dear Government, I sold a slave the other day, and the buyer signed a contract with me saying his gold saw legit, and now I found out it's fool's gold!" No one has the right to set any terms on a contract.

You claim I do not own the idea - but I'm the one who has it, not you, but if I sell you the product, you'll be able to figure out how the idea works NOT by figuring out the idea but by figuring out what I did and working backwards. You'll be taking my work and reverse engineering it, not coming up with something original.

Yes, you possess it. That doesn't necessarily means the idea itself is your property. I've already addressed this point. Please read over this thread.

And if the basis for your standard of a contract is purely legal enforceability, and my requirement can't be enforced, then what, you'll agree to my terms under false pretense.

It's not. And you'd know in advance of your dealings how the government's going to view it. Again, read this thread.

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I'm no legal scholar. I think it's right not to require testimony when your own testimony could condemn you. In legal procedings against one part of a married couple, joint wealth is often at risk. A spouse who had no knowledge of the other's infraction doesn't know if his or her testimony will lead to the loss of his or her life's savings. So in some cases it might be okay, I'm really not sure.

That's a good point, but people shouldn't share wealth in the legal marriage sense (becoming one legal entity) because it's immoral. So, I'd say it's just plain terrible that that law exists, even though it's a logical corollary from the two people = one legal entity thing.

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If he also acknowledged the fact that lying to gain a value from someone without the other's consent was immoral, I'd call him a hypocrite.

You totally misinterpreted what I said:

"I'll let you have a copy of my song if you promise not to make a [as in ANOTHER] copy of it"

Someone who gets a copy of a song from someone on a CD in this situation has the (moral) authority to listen to that copy but not make another copy. I was talking about a hypothetical situation in a society without copyrights. I don't think copyrights should exist. Therefore, I don't think it would be hypocritical for me to download copyrighted material and at the same time say "In a society without copyrights, you're totally a jerk if you make a deal with an artist to listen to a copy of their song and not make another copy of it."

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How terrible, asking for permission!

Did you read my post? I'm pointing out what would happen if every idea were copyrighted.

Is it okay to take the medications that person created?

No, if you're talking about "pills"--it's their property. I'm not sure what your point is. Again, I'm talking about the utilitarian aspects of the issue.

What I'm pointing out in that paragraph is that you aren't sufficiently addressing what property is.

Did you read my post explaining it? How is it insufficient?

Your arguments are essentially anti-property, even if you are only arguing about IP.

How so?

You agreed at the beginning that property is fundamentally intellectual in nature, you need to incorporate that into your discussion here.

1. For most property, you have to think to create it, and thinking is intellectual.

2. For all property, you need a government for it to really be property, and government is an intellectual construct.

Again, I've said this before. I think generally people here are generally just reading the posts I make in response to their posts.

(1) you don't own your body, you ARE your body.

That's true. But you still own it.

(2)"This is because all rights are contextual: if someone is prevented from building a dynamite factory in a crowded area, they are prevented from using their property to threaten people--an initiation of force. " Threats ARE an initiation of force, thus responding to that is retaliation. You may have meant that the THREAT is an initiation of force, or that PREVENTING any propery use is an initiaton of force. Your grammar is odd.)

My bad. I'm saying the threat (not like "I'mma kill you bitch!") of the factory is an initiation of force. I'm certainly not saying any prevention of private property use is force, which was the point of the paragraph.

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See Fallacy 4.

Again, the essential issue is what makes something worthy of property and what makes something not worthy of property, which I've covered in my long "my case" post.

A counterfeit copy of intellectual property...gives the counterfeiter a productive advantage by multiplying his instances of the scarce information, while reducing the productive advantage of the producer of the information and of those who have entered into contractual relations with him to obtain part of the scarce information.

This is only the case if they try to sell the idea, which they couldn't if there's no copyright. Again, people can donate.

And his/her attempt to connect that idea with the Keynesian "let's just print money" thing is way too underdeveloped for we to take seriously. The argument isn't "We'll increase wealth if we let the idea spread" it's "The creator isn't tangibly harmed" as in "Nothing is taken away by copying" which is the title of that section. You could say that wealth has increased because the idea is getting more use, and that's actually true.

Some in reply claim that money can only enjoy property protection to the extent that it is a claim on scarce metal specie. However, it is not the specie that money consumers demand, but the more efficient productivity of the money-substitute itself.

And what does this have to do with patents/copyrights?

The existence and propagation of counterfeit products of lower quality directly destroy the confidence of consumers in the products of this enterprise, and make all accumulated goodwill worthless. In the case of money, it may get to the point where there is no longer trust in the authenticity of any media, and the money is simply rejected as a medium of exchange. The entire investment made into the good by the original producer is thus made worthless, in essence expropriated and consumed, by the counterfeiter.

Is the argument actually that if enough people use an idea, the idea itself will become worthless? That's certainly the case with fiat money (printing more dollars)--eventually people use gold/oil/assorted stuff for money. But if more people use an idea, the value of the idea still has the value of the idea. Maybe the creator of the idea gets less value out of the idea if other people can use it for free, but the use of the idea itself isn't going to suddenly be useless (as with fiat money printed into oblivion).

I'd say this the worst argument in favor of copyrights and patents I've ever heard. And before anyone goes all marginal utility on me, the use of cold fusion is pretty awesome no matter how many people know about how to do it.

Edited by Mnrchst
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I'd say this the worst argument in favor of copyrights and patents I've ever heard. And before anyone goes all marginal utility on me, the use of cold fusion is pretty awesome no matter how many people know about how to do it.

It's not an argument for IP as much as arguing against the idea that no one is harmed/negatively affected. Someday I'll write something about why a lack of IP respect leads to a decline in quality of art produced. I guess that's related.

I did read your entire long post, and I'm pointing out particular reasons why I think your reasoning was incomplete. The example with the pills is the same sort of thing your point about someone having a cancer cure. You can use that same argument to refute property rights entirely, and it rests on an idea that it is unfair/"selfish"/cruel to keep cures away from people. The idea of IP is that people ought to have rights to the product of their labor, which includes artistic creations like songs, or specific processes like a *particular* kind of cancer cure. Not only that, but the rules of IP are codified and you can look up laws; if you think that IP can't ever be done without subjective standards, then prove it, show me some bad/arbitrary laws. There were problems in your reasoning/justification for property in the first place, too. You said nothing about plagiarism, which is an IP issue. I probably should have addressed that, but see page one with Mark's post and respond to that. I'm kind of repeating myself by now, but I am curious what you have to say about plagiarism.

Edited by Eiuol
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The example with the pills is the same sort of thing your point about someone having a cancer cure. You can use that same argument to refute property rights entirely, and it rests on an idea that it is unfair/"selfish"/cruel to keep cures away from people.

Again, I'm pointing out that there's no utilitarian case against the lack of patents/copyrights. The point about cancer wasn't to say "And this is why patents are bad." I was pointing out that a lack of patents isn't necessarily bad in a utilitarian sense.

Do you disagree with my (moral) standard for property? If so, why? What is your standard? Why is it better?

Edited by Mnrchst
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Are you even reading my posts? "Dear Government, I bought a slave the other day, the seller signed a contract with me saying the slave was in good health, and it wasn't. I want compensation" or "Dear Government, I sold a slave the other day, and the buyer signed a contract with me saying his gold saw legit, and now I found out it's fool's gold!" No one has the right to set any terms on a contract.

If in the 1700's such a transaction occurred, the Government WOULD have enforced it.

What no one has is the right to set terms they have no moral RIGHT to on a contract. For instance, no person has the right to own a slave, and so such a contract SHOULD not be enforced.

But if I contract you to play for my ball team for five years and I'll pay you a million a year on condition that you play for me exclusively and I find you've been moonlighting for the Mets, I'm gonna sue you for breach of contract and I'm going to win, because I bought something from you that YOU owned - YOUR PROMISE, and you broke it.

And that's all a copyright or a patent is - it's recognizing that THE ONLY way you're going to get your hands on something I produce is with the implicit agreement indicated by the © and the ® that you recognize and accept that requirement I've set on the sale of my product.

Yes, you possess it. That doesn't necessarily means the idea itself is your property. I've already addressed this point. Please read over this thread.

No need. The idea exists in my head alone, and you've guaranteed that you'll never see how it works because I'll never sell it to you, or ever let you even see it in operation.

And that's me exercising my right to set the terms I like on MY idea. Congratulations - now the world may never get the cure for 4th stage lung cancer, cause I can't be guaranteed to make a profit on my effort.

Edited by Greebo
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And that's all a copyright or a patent is - it's recognizing that THE ONLY way you're going to get your hands on something I produce is with the implicit agreement indicated by the © and the ® that you recognize and accept that requirement I've set on the sale of my product.

Again, people produce children, or the phrase "fo shizzle dizzle". The issue is what things people produce should be treated as property. And I think people have no moral right to own ideas.

No need. The idea exists in my head alone, and you've guaranteed that you'll never see how it works because I'll never sell it to you, or ever let you even see it in operation.

Unless someone else independently comes up with same idea. People have free will, right? Also, let's assume a person never knows of an idea because its creator never tells anyone else. What of it?

And that's me exercising my right to set the terms I like on MY idea. Congratulations - now the world may never get the cure for 4th stage lung cancer, cause I can't be guaranteed to make a profit on my effort.

Assuming you decide to not tell the world/invent in the first place this discovery, yes, it possible no one alive at the time will get that cure. It's also possible someone might decide to tell the world about their discovery precisely because patents and copyrights no longer exist. Again, people have free will.

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Yes, people have free will - and if someone else comes up with my invention entirely on their own, that's possibly another matter - but you're saying that I cannot, as a part of the sale of my invention, ask for a commitment from you to not profit from my invention.

Unless you can prove that me *asking* for that commitment and someone else *voluntarily* agreeing to that commitment is an initiation of force against me or them, you cannot create a moral case for *stopping* us from reaching that mutual agreement.

So - can you make that case?

Because if you cannot, then I *must* be allowed to require that commitment as a condition of sale because the only way you can stop me from asking for that commitment and stop my customers from agreeing is by executing force against us.

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you're saying that I cannot, as a part of the sale of my invention, ask for a commitment from you to not profit from my invention.

By duplicating it? The inventor could ask, but I don't think that's something the government should prevent people from doing.

Unless you can prove that me *asking* for that commitment and someone else *voluntarily* agreeing to that commitment is an initiation of force against me or them, you cannot create a moral case for *stopping* us from reaching that mutual agreement.

I'm not. I'm just saying the government shouldn't recognize it.

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And why should the Government refuse to recognize a contract between two parties if those parties did so willingly and with full understanding of the nature of the agreement?

Don't introduce an arbitrary third party slave again - this is a contract between two people about a piece of property and what one party will not do with it.

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That's a good point, but people shouldn't share wealth in the legal marriage sense (becoming one legal entity) because it's immoral. So, I'd say it's just plain terrible that that law exists, even though it's a logical corollary from the two people = one legal entity thing.

Prove this assertion please. (bolded text)

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And why should the Government refuse to recognize a contract between two parties if those parties did so willingly and with full understanding of the nature of the agreement?

Don't introduce an arbitrary third party slave again - this is a contract between two people about a piece of property and what one party will not do with it.

So your argument is that ideas are property because that are property.

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Prove this assertion please. (bolded text)

Because property has to be owned by one person in order actually be property. This is why public property is a misnomer. You can have two people own a 50% share on something, but it makes no sense to say they're now a single "legal person" so they now collectively own things (and don't have to testify against each other). In a nutshell, you don't own it if you can't sell it. You can't sell part of the highway and one married person can't sell their (entire) house (or sell a 50% share of it) without the consent of their husband/wife.

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If I may, let's take a step back. We aren't going to get anywhere arguing about whether or not I have a right to do this or that particular thing, or whether the government should recognize this contract or not. Of course one side is going to say that it is not a violation of your property rights in your tangible goods to prevent you from copying my idea, because I have a property right in my idea, and thus it follows that I have a right to exclude you from it. And the other side is going to argue that it is a violation of my property rights to prevent me from copying your idea, as it follows from the fact that you don't have a property right in it.

Let's put it all in terms of tangible goods for simplification and to remove any assumptions about IP. If you prevent me from stealing your car, you have restricted my freedom of choice with my property (e.g. with my screwdriver that I used, or at least with my physical body.) And if I am free to take your car, your freedom of choice over that object (the car) is restricted.

The point is that we cannot assess what choices people should have available to them without knowing what rights people have. Any assignment of rights will restrict someone's control over some object.

We won't get anywhere unless we address the fundamental ethical issue at hand dealing with what exactly is the justification for assignment of rights to IP, or does it lack justification. Being that this is the Objectivism forum, it's very easy to point to the arguments Rand already made about the justification property rights, and go from there. So the question for Mnrchst is: does he accept that justification for property rights, or does he have a different one?

The justification Rand makes for property rights has nothing to do with what is tangible or intangible, but between what is untouched by human meaning, and what is subject to it. Whether or not some thing can be copied is not a basic criterion. Certainly, the argument is not about whether or not property that goes beyond the particular material implementations embodying it can be owned, but whether it should be ownable. The production theory of property rights ties the justification for ownership to human intention. Property, in some fundamental manner, involves anything that comes from humans in some way.

It is not the tangibleness of physical property that gives us a right to it, it is the requirements of human life according to the nature of man that sets the terms for how we interact with the world, and thus the moral terms for how we should interact with it, and with other humans. The legitimacy of a privately ownable entity is not dependent on copyablity or reproducibility, but its relation with a moral agent.

Material stuff, e.g. trees, rocks, land, the laws of physics, etc. would exist even without human life. It is the relation it stands with human beings, based on human nature, that makes it a subject of property rights. It is our decision to rearrange, transform, "mix our labor with" some previously unowned tangible good that makes it our property. It is our judgment to invest something with value, to manipulate it and make use of it for human ends, that makes something the subject of property rights. Intellectual stuff, then, seems like an even better candidate for property rights, more fundamentally property, than material stuff, because it would not even exist without having been created by human beings. (This, I think, is what Rand and Spooner mean by saying "all property is fundamentally intellectual property.")

So being that the production theory of property, of which Rand is squarely in the tradition of, states that property rights are invested in any given thing when human beings are agents of creation, when they make something on their own initiative, when they invest the world with their distinctive effort, they therefore gain just or rightful possession of what they have produced, they then have a right to their creations, which came from them. The central question then, is whether someone produces a work, creates something, be it investing material with his distinctive effort, or be it using his reason and creative effort to create non-material values, should he morally be deprived of this?

So the question Mnrchst would have to answer is, given the above, why ownership should be limited to only material property, and denied to intellectual property?

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So your argument is that ideas are property because that are property.

No, my argument is that a contract should be upheld.

Stop dodging the questions.

Why should the Government refuse to recognize a contract between two parties if those parties did so willingly and with full understanding of the nature of the agreement?

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If I may, let's take a step back. We aren't going to get anywhere arguing about whether or not I have a right to do this or that particular thing, or whether the government should recognize this contract or not.

The rights are at the center of this issue, and whether Government should uphold those rights or not is also crucial, so no, please answer those questions DIRECTLY for a change.

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The rights are at the center of this issue, and whether Government should uphold those rights or not is also crucial, so no, please answer those questions DIRECTLY for a change.

But this whole "IP as the right to contract" is only a side-issue. The question is whether or not someone has a right to sell something conditionally, i.e. sell all the rights to something except the right to reproduce it, or whether someone doesn't have the right to do that because they don't own the idea in the first place and thus cannot contract it. Unless you address the root issue of why ideas should be property in the first place, then you both will just be accusing the other of dodging the question.

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Why should the Government refuse to recognize a contract between two parties if those parties did so willingly and with full understanding of the nature of the agreement?

No one should be able to sign a contract which signs away their rights and have the government enforce it. I'm saying people should be able to use their [physical] property in any way they want that doesn't harm another person's body or their [physical] property or expose either to unreasonable risk (determined by courts, i.e. zoning). No one should be able to sign a contract that says "I'm so and so's slave" and have the government enforce it. Therefore, no one should be able to sign a contract that says "I won't make a copy of the song on this CD" and have the government enforce it.

Again, the essential issue is what people do and do not have a right to.

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