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Why should there be patents and copyrights?

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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.

I hadn't read this yet. You said it much better than I did.

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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

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?

I accept the exact same justification (her ethics). I just disagree with her about what property is and isn't.

Edited by Mnrchst
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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.

Material stuff, e.g. trees, rocks, land, the laws of physics, etc. would exist even without human life.

You're contradicting yourself here.

Also, you're ignoring the fact that copyrighting all ideas would be terrible.

Edited by Mnrchst
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Dude, WTF is up with your manner of replying to people? Don't you know it's annoying just picking one sentence here and there, and making short remarks in three separate posts? Can you express a solid thought without breaking up everything into multiple quotes and going on a bunch of unecessary tangents? But since the post you linked to was good, I'll reply to that.

So in order to delegitimize intellectual property, we would have to show some reason why property rights should not be extended to that area. Your argument was that ideas shouldn't be property because they aren't possessable. But this is plainly false, or at best a straw man. Of course intellectual property is possessable, or we wouldn't be having this debate about it. The question is whether it should be, not whether it is. Or, on the other hand, you seem to be thinking that intellectual property rights somehow means you have to be able to hold an idea in your hand, put it in your pocket, or set it on the table, etc., then that would be a straw man. Private property rights in intellectual property refers to the reification of those ideas in tangible property (which the second part of your argument seems to recognize), so this part of your argument about possessability doesn't tell us why we shouldn't have control over the reification of the idea. It just refutes a weird argument about ideas that no one ever made, that ideas exist "by itself."

Secondly, your argument was that since possessability can't have two people with exclusive control over the same property, and intellectual property limits some people's control over their property, it is therefore illegitimate. But we would need more than this to achieve your goal, because (as I wrote in the previous post):

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.

In other words, we can't appeal to the fact that intellectual property will limit someone's control over their property because any assignment of rights will limit someone's allowable control over their property. So your justification for why ideas shouldn't be property on those grounds doesn't succeed. I, myself, am still uncertain about IP, so there might be a reason why it shouldn't be recognized (you say it would be terrible, but seem lacking on the evidence and proof unfortunately), but at least this argument didn't work out.

BTW, there is no contradiction in the post you referred to. You must be reading it wrong (you should note that the "it" in the first sentence refers to "intellectual stuff" not "material stuff.")

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I hadn't read this yet. You said it much better than I did.

Well, in that case, you should know that I agree with Greebo and not you on that argument. There is nothing whatsoever wrong with using contracts to protect one's ideas and innovations, as you are not contracting for the idea, but for the use of the tangible property. If you have a right in the tangible property, it follows that you may sell all the rights to own and use this tangible property except the right to copy it. If the person copies it after making such an exchange, he is liable for damages. The only problem with this is that it does not extend to third parties who did not much such a contract. But, like I said, this is a side-issue, because if there is no reason to restrict property rights to tangible goods only, then the whole point is moot.

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No one should be able to sign a contract which signs away their rights and have the government enforce it.

Interesting - so you're saying a person isn't free to choose to stop being free... that'd be a good side thread.

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).

Well there goes coal mining, construction, steel manufacture, etc. Because what you've forgotten in the above is a key word: force. The involuntary exposing of others to risks they would otherwise not experience, like driving drunk, is wrong. But people who work in a foundry, or on high tension lines, etc. as part of their jobs are exposed to great physical risk every day. The key is, the risks are - or *should* be - known and the workers are agreeing to those risks. And they're doing it *under contract* - the contractual agreement of employment - the employer has said, "I will pay you $x an hour to go in to that hole in the ground and risk your life" and the miner has said, "I will risk my life for $x an hour".

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.

Now you are equivocating. You are equating an agreement to do something with slavery.

Would you similarly argue that if I sold you a piece of property but with the express requirement that the property never be subdivided, that I couldn't enforce such a requirement?

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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.

The idea isn't really the issue, because the idea alone is worthless without action. Ideas are abstracts, to be sure. Action and production are real.

If I write a book, I apply creative, productive effort in the process to make something which has never existed before.

If I am the first person to bring this new entity into existence, be it "Moby Dick" or "Windows 7" or "Stairway to Heaven" - it would not exist without my effort, as surely as if I make an axe like every other axe, the axe I made is mine.

But unlike the axe, without seeing or loading or hearing MY product, you can assert "Oh I was planning on making that very same thing I had the exact same Idea and everything!" but you cannot prove it and the much more likely case is that no, you actually weren't ever going to come up with that exact same thing, and if you are only able to produce that thing after having had access to the one I made, then it's quite reasonable to conclude that you are only copying it, not creating it on your own.

Thus the property you make would never have been able to be yours without my item in the first place. I can't stop you from understanding how it works or how to reproduce it if I sell it to you - but *if* you would never have been able to do that w/o my efforts, then your very ability TO reproduce it came *from me*. If you would never have had it w/o me, you cannot have the "right" to reproduce it because you can't reproduce it to begin with.

Which is why it really comes back to, "can I sell something to you and as a term of that sale, require you to never reproduce it without my permission"?

Edited by Greebo
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That's pragmatism, and we are not pragmatists here.

It's pragmatism to expect one's ideas to actually work out well in reality? There is a difference between pragmatism and recognizing that if we have the correct moral principles, they should also be practical for human life, and here's the difference. Pragmatism is "whatever works, regardless of principles." It fundamentally rejects the idea that we can come to principles which we know will never need to be broken. Here, however, we are arguing over principles; property rights in certain kinds of ideas vs. no property rights in ideas, ever.

My response to Mnrchst's assertion would be that, in fact, no one is advocating property rights in everything that could possibly be called an idea, but rather property rights in certain kinds of ideas, e.g. inventions. You will not find Objectivists arguing that, for example, scientific discoveries should be patentable in some way.

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You're contradicting yourself here.

Also, you're ignoring the fact that copyrighting all ideas would be terrible.

Copyrighting all ideas is NOT the issue. I thought this was already addressed by Grames in post #39:

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 think we need to focus on what Grames called "certain kinds of products of mental effort" which is what constitutes intellectual property. Are you debating whether such products are, in fact, property?

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It's pragmatism to expect one's ideas to actually work out well in reality?

"Whatever works, regardless of principles" has an implicit parallel: "Not that which doesn't work, regardless of principles".

It's pragmatism to base the decision of what one *should* do on what the outcome will be without regard to the moral basis, and it is my interpretation that mnrchst is doing just that with his statement.

If the moral action leads to an immoral result, no moral choice is possible, and you are in a genuine emergency situation.

When it comes to patents and copyrights, that is not the case, and the moral basis for not granting IP rights to *every* idea is easily shown:

One should not attempt to copyright ALL ideas because one cannot morally attribute every idea to a single originator. One cannot patent the wheel because there is no possible way to claim that it is by one's own effort and no one else's that anyone else is able to use the wheel. To attribute the wheel to one person today would be unjust because that person would receive benefits they did not earn.

Edited by Greebo
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Don't you know it's annoying just picking one sentence here and there, and making short remarks in three separate posts?

My bad. I tried to correct it right after I wrote them, but they don't let me delete posts (as far as I can tell).

Of course intellectual property is possessable, or we wouldn't be having this debate about it.

You mean patents/copyrights? Yes, they're possessable--they're property according to the law. Are ideas possessable? Not by themselves. Therefore, you possess matter which contains an idea, you don't literally possess the idea.

you seem to be thinking that intellectual property rights somehow means you have to be able to hold an idea in your hand, put it in your pocket, or set it on the table, etc.

Again, are we talking about patents/copyrights?

Private property rights in intellectual property refers to the reification of those ideas in tangible property (which the second part of your argument seems to recognize), so this part of your argument about possessability doesn't tell us why we shouldn't have control over the reification of the idea.

Because then you're controlling another person's property even though they aren't tangibly harming anyone or increasing a risk of harm to them.

Someone can say "But songs = property," but they have to have an argument for that. I have an argument for why only physical property counts. If you disagree with it, you have to offer a counter-standard.

It just refutes a weird argument about ideas that no one ever made, that ideas exist "by itself."

My point is that a requisite of property is that it's only one person's, so they have to possess it.

In other words, we can't appeal to the fact that intellectual property will limit someone's control over their property because any assignment of rights will limit someone's allowable control over their property.

No, I said (in my long post) that we shouldn't control a person's property unless they're harming/increasing the risk of harm to another's person's physical property or their body. This doesn't happen when you download a song. Therefore, if we have patents/copyrights, we control another person's property when they don't harm anyone else.

In other words, if we all agree that non-human non-oxygen physical stuff = property, then you have to have a counter-standard for what is and isn't property to justify controlling certain property in certain circumstances.

BTW, there is no contradiction in the post you referred to. You must be reading it wrong (you should note that the "it" in the first sentence refers to "intellectual stuff" not "material stuff.")

Ah, gotcha. Although, this would mean people are "IP" as well, as they are created by a person's thoughts.

Edited by Mnrchst
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There is nothing whatsoever wrong with using contracts to protect one's ideas and innovations, as you are not contracting for the idea, but for the use of the tangible property. If you have a right in the tangible property, it follows that you may sell all the rights to own and use this tangible property except the right to copy it. If the person copies it after making such an exchange, he is liable for damages. The only problem with this is that it does not extend to third parties who did not much such a contract.

I'm not sure what you're saying here.

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Well there goes coal mining, construction, steel manufacture, etc. Because what you've forgotten in the above is a key word: force.

I meant without their consent.

Would you similarly argue that if I sold you a piece of property but with the express requirement that the property never be subdivided, that I couldn't enforce such a requirement?

No, as long as I agree that it's property. Again, the issue is what is and isn't property. You need to provide a counter-standard for what counts as property and what doesn't.

And you didn't respond to my belief that people can't choose to be free (if slavery is illegal, how can it be legal to voluntarily become a slave?). My point was that you can't sign a contract that says "I declare I have property rights to something which the government says I have no right to declare my property" and expect the government to uphold it.

What counts as property? What doesn't? Why?

Edited by Mnrchst
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If I am the first person to bring this new entity into existence...it would not exist without my effort, as surely as if I make an axe like every other axe.

Again, the argument "I made it, therefore it's mine" is incomplete.

Thus the property you make would never have been able to be yours without my item in the first place.

You're assuming that if someone invents something, no one else would've ever invented it if you hadn't told anyone about it.

Which is why it really comes back to, "can I sell something to you and as a term of that sale, require you to never reproduce it without my permission"?

Which is when it really comes back to, "What counts as property? What doesn't? Why?"

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That's pragmatism, and we are not pragmatists here.

Then why do you (I assume) oppose copyrighting all ideas? I oppose making any idea property. Therefore, my opposition to making every idea property is moral, not utilitarian. If you support some ideas being property and oppose others being property, then you need to explain (in moral terms) how we tell the difference.

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My response to Mnrchst's assertion would be that, in fact, no one is advocating property rights in everything that could possibly be called an idea

I never said anyone was. I'm pointing out that y'all need to explain where we draw the line. In other words, if someone makes the argument "If I make an idea, then [argument], and that makes it my property" that the argument is incomplete.

Edited by Mnrchst
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One should not attempt to copyright ALL ideas because one cannot morally attribute every idea to a single originator.

Isn't that a pragmatic argument? You could just as easily say "How can we know that the person who filed the patent first really came up with the invention first? If someone comes into the patent office the following day, how can we prove they didn't come up with the invention the day before the first patent filer did?"

Edited by Mnrchst
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I never said anyone was. I'm pointing out that y'all need to explain where we draw the line. In other words, if someone makes the argument "If I make an idea, then [argument], and that makes it my property" that the argument is incomplete.

See my post #137 which provides a quote from post #39 by Grames. Do you wish to address that?

I think we need to focus on what Grames called "certain kinds of products of mental effort" which is what constitutes intellectual property. Are you debating whether such products are, in fact, property?
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Isn't that a pragmatic argument? You could just as easily say "How can we know that the person who filed the patent first really came up with the invention first? If someone comes into the patent office the following day, how can we prove they didn't come up with the invention the day before the first patent filer did?"

Honestly, It cannot matter. It is first come, first serve, not first to think of it, first served. If you are thinking of buying a piece of land 10 days before someone else but he buys it before you, isn't that the same principle?

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I have to say, 1-2 sentence responses to quote is very unproductive. This isn't a chatroom, it's a forum. Writing paragraph(s) would make discussion a lot more organized, easier to follow, and easier to read. Some kind of advocacy of organized and consolidated posting would be a great idea here.

Also, there was next to no thought out response to Mark's post all the way on page one mentioning the general idea of what property is. You said you don't understand how it couldn't apply to children. That's a ridiculous idea, since people don't MAKE kids, they are only involved in one step of the whole automatic biological process. It's not like you grab parts and BUILD a kid. The process of creation we're discussing here is the volitionally-directed process of creation that requires mental labor. So until you address those fundamental ideas more concisely, this discussion gets absolutely no where.

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I don't think there is anything left of your argument at this point, but there are two parts of your counter-argument that bear analysis. First involving your idea of a standard for property violations, which begs the question as I have shown. Second involving your attempt at a reductio ad absurdum on the Randian standard, which I think also fails.

No, I said (in my long post) that we shouldn't control a person's property unless they're harming/increasing the risk of harm to another's person's physical property or their body. This doesn't happen when you download a song. Therefore, if we have patents/copyrights, we control another person's property when they don't harm anyone else.

In other words, if we all agree that non-human non-oxygen physical stuff = property, then you have to have a counter-standard for what is and isn't property to justify controlling certain property in certain circumstances.

In the above quote, you blithely throw the word "physical" in what you subscribe to as the standard of what we should consider to be a rights violation. Your standard assumes "that we all agree that non-human non-oxygen physical stuff = property," but this is precisely the subject that we don't agree on. The pro-IP side doesn't agree that only physical stuff is property, and thus that only physical violence limited to physical property rights constitute a violation. Thus, since any assignment of rights will limit someone's control over their property in some way, we won't know what to consider as an invasion of rights until we figure out what should someone have a right to. If intellectual stuff is property then our standard of invasion can't be limited to just physical property invasions or harm. But this is precisely the question under consideration. So to retort, "but there isn't any invasion of physical property because that's the standard" is circular because it assumes that which it needs to prove what constitutes an invasion of property rights, and it is therefore invalid.

Now the Randian counter-standard was already stated: that a man has a right to own the product of his mind. If the product of your mind is property, then you have the right to exclude others from copying it. This is where enters your attempt at taking that standard down. You say "this would mean people are IP as well."

This may seem like a clever reductio ad absurdum, but I don't think it gets you as far as you think it does when we break this down and look at what you're asking. It is a bit of a jump to go from parents owning the product of their efforts to owning their children. If the question is "Do parents own the product of their sexual activities?" The answer is YES. So we know that human beings don't come from nothing or no one, they are produced by other human beings. But the child is not immediately finished upon the efforts of the couple, there are stages. There are "producer goods," so to speak, which are owned by the parents, combined in a certain way to yield something else that is owned, but which eventually develops into something that has its own rights. The nature of the thing being produced has to be taken into account of. So, as soon as the constituent elements of human-production are combined to result in another moral agent, then ownership changes.

Surely they own their sperm and eggs, then an embryo is produced by joining them. Surely they (or at least since it is in the mother's womb, we can definitely say the mother) owns the embryo. Then it develops into a fetus, which is also property of the mother. Then the fetus develops further into a physically separate human being. But what happens at this point? Not merely a material object has been produced, but another human (i.e. another moral agent with its own rights) has been produced.

The parents do have jurisdiction over their child. For instance, we would not say that a Pakistani has any moral claim over the child of a couple in Nebraska. But what the couple has is not ownership of a material property, but the ownership of guardianship over a developing moral agent. Thus, there is no problem with property rights and children, and this isn't something new in the history of philosophy, e.g. see John Locke's excellent treatment of the issue (and demolition of the "we are all slaves of Adam" argument) in the Two Treatises on Government:

Children, I confess, are not born in this full state of equality, though they are born to it. Their parents have a sort of rule and jurisdiction over them, when they come into the world, and for some time after; but it is but a temporary one. The bonds of this subjection are like the swaddling clothes they art wrapt up in, and supported by, in the weakness of their infancy: age and reason as they grow up, loosen them, till at length they drop quite off, and leave a man at his own free disposal.
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