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Mnrchst

Why should there be patents and copyrights?

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That doesn't mean there's no thought process behind people making babies today. In fact, there usually is. If the argument for IP is that you deserve what you create through volitional thought because you created it, the argument is therefore incomplete because people create babies through volitional thought all the time.

What qualifies your home, your car, your furniture and your kitchen appliances as property?

What distinguishes those things from a baby?

Edited by Craig24

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What distinguishes those things from a baby?

One set has rights and the other doesn't.

This completes the argument and was explained earlier.

This doesn't complete the argument. The argument is "You own everything you create through volitional thought except people, and fashion styles, and probably a phrase like "I love you", but I guess "I'm lovin it" is OK, and an idea that's different enough from other ideas, but not if it's too similar, but it's still OK if it's a parody, whatever that is." Except fashion styles and the phrase "I love you" don't have rights either. I don't see how the argument is complete.

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What qualifies your home, your car, your furniture and your kitchen appliances as property?

What distinguishes those things from a baby?

One set has rights and the other doesn't.

Ok, you see the distinction when a baby is compared to a house but not a recorded song?

I'm puzzled.

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Mnrchst, you've repeatedly singled out children. I've explained to you why they are excepted from ownership even when they are the product of deliberate action. If you want us to focus on fashion styles or trademarked phrases, we may cooperate. But you can no longer group children in with other flaws you think you've found in the case for IP. I invite you now to explicitly concede that children are not a threat to arguments for IP, so we can move on.

I ask this because you have a history of returning to old points to evade answering the more recent challenges to your argument; I cannot take anything more you say seriously until you concede this point about the rights of children.

(editted for clarity).

Edited by FeatherFall

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I'm glad to see this discussion. Intellectual property is an issue I've always had difficulty understanding fully. At the risk of pulling the thread in a different direction -- I don't intend to question whether children are property -- I'd like to try to formulate that difficulty here, in the hopes that others will understand my meaning and point me in the right direction.

Early in the thread, FeatherFall said this:

Just as the farmer deserves to reap the rewards for the crops he grows, so too does the inventor deserve the rewards for his invention.

Allow me to stipulate that I completely agree. A farmer grows crops and deserves to "reap the rewards." But what are the "rewards" that he is to reap, and how are those determined? They are not determined by fiat or decree, but by the nature of what those crops are; as they are the farmer's property, he may consume his crops, or sell them, or dispose of them in any manner he sees fit, and in this way he is "reaping the rewards." Apart from the exercise of his rights, there are no additional rewards to be had.

If an inventor invents a machine that improves the stability of his crops, then that inventor deserves to "reap the rewards" just as the farmer had. But what are the rewards in this case? He may use his machine, and thereby increase his crop production. He may sell his machine, as a unique item or as part of a mass production, and otherwise he may dispose of his property as he sees fit. Just as with the farmer, our inventor is reaping the rewards of his work in this manner.

But where the inventor -- and intellectual property -- is concerned, it seems to me that we're arguing to give the inventor additional rights and rewards not available to the farmer.

If the farmer takes his crops to market, he must compete with all those who do the same things that the farmer does. Yet the inventor, via patents, seeks to prevent any would-be competitors from crafting a machine like his own. Where does the inventor acquire the right to tell others what machines they can and cannot build?

If another man (we'll call him patent-breaker) does the mental work necessary to understand the inventor's machine, and employs the physical labor to build it, then isn't he just as entitled to "reap the rewards" of his efforts as anyone else? If patent-breaker got the idea from observing the inventor's machine, what of that, so long as his initial observation was legal, and no agreed-upon contracts were broken?

If we argue that the inventor's machine represents some special labor of the mind, aren't we short-changing what the farmer does? Isn't the wealth created by the farmer just as dependent on his mind? Why does the farmer only own the material results of his efforts, when the inventor can lay claim on entire ideas and processes?

While I agree that the inventor is absolutely entitled to reap the rewards of the machine he's built, I'm finding it difficult to see how one of those rewards entails a political authority to ensure that no other man may employ his own property, liberty and labor to build a like machine. In this way, "intellectual property protection" seems more like the initiation of force to me than otherwise.

Can anyone please help me to see my error?

Edited by DonAthos

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If another man (we'll call him patent-breaker) does the mental work necessary to understand the inventor's machine, and employs the physical labor to build it, then isn't he just as entitled to "reap the rewards" of his efforts as anyone else? If patent-breaker got the idea from observing the inventor's machine, what of that, so long as his initial observation was legal, and no agreed-upon contracts were broken?

Just a comment on this; I don't think that this line of argument is a valid approach to determining whether or not intellectual property rights are valid. After all, if a thief put hundreds of man-hours into planning and executing an elaborate heist, we would not then say that he is entitled to "reap the rewards" of his effort. This is because his efforts have been geared towards an activity that violates someone else's rights.

So the question is whether the patent-breaker is violating someone else's rights through his labor, like the thief, or engaging in valid production, like the original inventor. Obviously, this hinges on whether or not the original inventor has a property right in the idea that is being copied. In either case, it is begging the question to say, "Well the patent-breaker exerted effort, so he's entitled to the copy," because it assumes that his efforts were not violating the rights of the inventor.

The more intellectual property debates I observe, the more I'm convinced it always comes down to one's overall theory of property rights; why we have them, what they are meant to do, etc. Most other arguments that I see about IP specifically, like the one you've put forth, end up ultimately depending on a pre-formed theory of rights, and don't help to determine whether IP is valid.

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I invite you now to explicitly concede that children are not a threat to arguments for IP, so we can move on.

I already did (post #165).

Here's what I'm not saying: "Because children are the product of volitional thought, there's no way to argue IP is legit."

Here's what I am saying: The argument in favor of IP that "You deserve the product of your volitional thought because you created it, but here are a bunch of exceptions--children, your idea if it's used in a parody, your song/book if it's not a parody and is very similar (by some standard) to another song/book, a fashion style, etc." is incomplete.

What would be complete would be "You deserve the following products of you volitional thought because of the following properties which they have in common, and here's why any other product of your volitional thought doesn't qualify."

Edited by Mnrchst

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If another man (we'll call him patent-breaker) does the mental work necessary to understand the inventor's machine, and employs the physical labor to build it, then isn't he just as entitled to "reap the rewards" of his efforts as anyone else?

Not necessarily--it's harder to create a new idea than to understand it.

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What would be complete would be "You deserve the following products of you volitional thought because of the following properties which they have in common, and here's why any other product of your volitional thought doesn't qualify."

Validity does not require that we offer an argument that is "complete" in the sense you mean. You are asking us to address every specific application of IP before its validity is established; that's not reasonable. That's like requiring Newton to explain why bodies approaching the speed of light act differently before we can believe his laws of motion. Even if we completely addressed your concerns about trademarks there would be nothing stopping you from requiring that we address chemical analogues, gene coding, hypothetical ESP performances, etc, ad infinitum. As new technologies, art mediums and forms of entertainment are created new applications of IP will have to be worked out. This is not evidence of a flawed theory, but rather it is evidence of the fact that knowledge is contextual (even moral knowledge). For examples of how we are still in the process of discovering how IP applies to fashion, I refer you to the following links:

Fashion Law 101: Trademarks

Fashion Law Blog

I haven't read this blog and I am not an expert on IP law, so I cannot endorse the opinions presented in those links. My point in presenting them is to show that new applications of IP are highly technical questions that require expertise to apply previously established principles. If you still want to become an expert before settling on an opinion of IP I suggest moving your investigation to places like the site I linked to. If you want to discuss the validity of IP in general, then we have to dial back the discussion to more basic principles and find out which premises of yours have lead you to believe that non-physical creations don't require protection.

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That doesn't mean there's no thought process behind people making babies today.

But patents and copyrights and the like only can apply to NEW ideas. Making babies is not a new idea.

So please stop this absurdity and get back to a real argument or we're done.

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Validity does not require that we offer an argument that is "complete" in the sense you mean. You are asking us to address every specific application of IP before its validity is established; that's not reasonable.

I realize it's not reasonable to come up with an argument that is complete is that sense. What I mean is, what are the principles at work when determining how we should assign IP? The idea that "people deserve the fruits of their labor" seems far too vague to me for determining what is and isn't property. If this is all we have to go by, the arguments over what counts as property as what doesn't seem pretty arbitrary.

For example, if we can all agree that not all ideas should be IP, what makes the ideas that aren't worthy of IP different (in general) from the ones that are? I don't think "leave it up to the courts" is a satisfactory answer.

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Mnrchst, there is a great entry on patents and copyrights, in The Ayn Rand Lexicon. I recommend reading the whole thing (it's very short) before reading the rest of my post. There is a passage that applies to your latest question, in Rand's own words:

An idea as such cannot be protected until it has been given a material form. An invention has to be embodied in a physical model before it can be patented; a story has to be written or printed. But what the patent or copyright protects is not the physical object as such, but the idea which it embodies.

I'll recap IP from the ground up:

Human survival requires thought-based action. The social corollary of this is that each human must leave every other human free to act. The application of this social corollary leads to a set of moral principles called, "rights."

Strictures are placed on specific values that a human being has acted to create, gain or keep. Things protected by such strictures are called, "property," and the strictures themselves are called, "property rights." Because humans need property to live, violating these strictures will destroy that which someone acted to create, gain or keep. In short, property violation nullifies thought-based action, undermining survival.

Ideas become property when they are first reified in a concrete sense (once they are made physical). Ideas that cannot be reified are not subject to property rights. Styles, for instance, cannot be reified. Styles refer to open-ended set of traits, not to a single specific concrete. Styles are concepts, and a concept cannot be reified in total and therefore cannot be made property. A specific machine or song, on the other hand, can be reified.

The above should be enough to work with when deciding what is and isn't property. I'm no expert, so what follows may be mistaken. I don't think McDonald's should be able to trademark the phrase, "I'm lovin' it," because it isn't a unique creation. I think you could say that a specific pattern of a specific fabric dyed in a specific way could be property. I'm not sure whether or not this is done in the real world; it may be that our government only protects branding at the moment.

It actually does seem to me that one encounters problems when trying to apply property rights to performances, which is a concern you and I share. However, as I explained earlier, contract law would be enough to protect performances in the absence of a true property right. As to the question of similarity, I don't have an answer for you. If a different instrument set is used to duplicate a song structure with a dialated tempo, is IP violated? I don't know enough about music to say one way or the other. However, ripping a song and putting it on Bit Torrent is a clear violation of property rights.

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The social corollary of this is that each human must leave every other human free to act. The application of this social corollary leads to a set of moral principles called, "rights."

I think it's more accurate to say "not initiate force" instead of "leave every other human free to act." That brings up the question of what does and doesn't constitute an initiation of force, and, therefore, what should and shouldn't be considered property. This isn't addressed in your post. Saying "Because humans need property to live..." doesn't tell me anything about what should and shouldn't qualify as property.

If you don't believe every new (non-philosophical/scientific) idea should be property, then it doesn't make sense to say "Non-philosophical/scientific ideas should be property" because you also think certain of those ideas shouldn't be property. It would make more sense to say "These ideas should be property, and these shouldn't, and here's why." I realize this would have to be ridiculously complex to be comprehensive, but I think there should at least be some specificity with regards to what counts and what doesn't. Otherwise, what do we have to go off of?

Styles, for instance, cannot be reified. Styles refer to open-ended set of traits, not to a single specific concrete. Styles are concepts, and a concept cannot be reified in total and therefore cannot be made property. A specific machine or song, on the other hand, can be reified.

If a different instrument set is used to duplicate a song structure with a dialated tempo, is IP violated? I don't know enough about music to say one way or the other. However, ripping a song and putting it on Bit Torrent is a clear violation of property rights.

It sounds like you're saying that something has to be concrete for it to be property, and that IP is violated if it's an exact copy. But what about the "similar song", like you mentioned (or a more similar one)? It sounds like in the status quo the song itself is being treated as a concept, because you can violate it by interpreting it with your own instrumentation/vocals (at least if the words are unchanged and it's made to sound very similar). Isn't that like having fashion styles copyrighted? You could always copyright a particular concrete example of the fashion style, and then say there's been a copyright violation when someone wears their clothes in a similar way. This makes me wonder if perhaps we should have patents, but not copyrights. Also, it's definitely true that we need ideas (which are currently patentable) to survive (even in an idealized situation because our sun's running out of gas), but I don't see how books/music could be a key component to our survival.

I don't think McDonald's should be able to trademark the phrase, "I'm lovin' it," because it isn't a unique creation.

I'm curious, are you opposed to all trademarks?

Edited by Mnrchst

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Okay, we're done, troll.

Why? You didn't say. Wouldn't that make your post extraneous?

I'm pointing out that there's a unique product of sex (which is also a product of volitional thought). Therefore, the argument that "you own the products of your volitional thought" is an incomplete justification for IP if you also think people shouldn't be property. If I'm wrong about this, you can explain why. "But people have rights" doesn't cut it because a product is "something resulting from or necessarily following from a set of conditions" which applies to children.

I don't see this as being any different than when Stephan Kinsella says scarcity is the foundation of rights because there would be no concept of rights without scarcity. This obviously isn't true because people could still object to an abortion taking place even they could dream up their own fetus. Ironically, Kinsella and I exchanged a few e-mails and while I repeatedly made the point about abortion, he repeatedly re-iterated the existing argument, thereby ignoring mine, and it has now been several days since his last response.

Calling someone a "troll" or "moron" isn't persuasive. It's not like I'm deliberately disagreeing with you guys just to annoy you. You're free to believe that if you want. Actually, I want to be convinced of my beliefs. I am neither convinced that IP is bad nor good. Hence, this thread, and my e-mails with Kinsella.

If I "just don't get it" you should explain what I'm not getting. If you do and I make responses to that, you should respond by pointing out what new my error is, or re-explain what you've already explained in a way that addresses my confusion. What do you think is a more effective means of convincing someone of something--argumentation or calling them a moron/troll? Yea, maybe I just "don't get it", but I don't think we're anywhere near "Oh, but the Bible says it's the word of God, so there ya go."

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I think it's more accurate to say "not initiate force" instead of "leave every other human free to act."

Putting it this way is more concise, and while it is technically correct it leads to confusion. What about fraud? Objectivism recognizes that within the context of reason-directed action, fraud is a variety of force. But most non-objectivists don't equate force with fraud, so I like to spell it out. The word "initiatiate" is only important in justifying retaliatory force.

it doesn't make sense to say "Non-philosophical/scientific ideas should be property"

I didn't say that; in fact, I didn't even address discoveries because we agreed to put them behind us long ago. I said that values which one acts to create, gain or keep are property. I then went on to explain how to apply this to a few specific things you mentioned earlier. This next part is kind of funny to me. I actually thought about re-addressing discoveries in my last post, but because I thought we resolved that topic (silly me) I decided against it. Also, discoveries were the main thrust of the article I linked in my last post, so again, it seemed unnecessary. Did you even read the article?

And no, I am not opposed to all trademarks. I think some are immensely important. Logos, for instance, are kind of like a company signature. Counterfeiting another company's logo to sell something of your own would be an act of fraud similar to forging a co-signee's signature on a loan. It's very important to protect some trademarks.

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I'm pointing out that there's a unique product of sex (which is also a product of volitional thought). Therefore, the argument that "you own the products of your volitional thought" is an incomplete justification for IP if you also think people shouldn't be property. If I'm wrong about this, you can explain why. "But people have rights" doesn't cut it because a product is "something resulting from or necessarily following from a set of conditions" which applies to children.

Seriously, this again? Did you or did you not concede this point already? If I have to go through this nonsense again I'm done here.

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I'm pointing out that there's a unique product of sex (which is also a product of volitional thought). Therefore, the argument that "you own the products of your volitional thought" is an incomplete justification for IP if you also think people shouldn't be property. If I'm wrong about this, you can explain why. "But people have rights" doesn't cut it because a product is "something resulting from or necessarily following from a set of conditions" which applies to children.

This picture applies well, even if you didn't intend this. You are overgeneralizing about what is meant by "products of one's volitional creative efforts." You identify one instance of volition, and a baby is being made, therefore, volitional creation? There are many errors within that thought process.

077ab55046ce80eaf9a3ddea999597ca_L.jpg

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Mnrchst,

So in your view a man has no right whatsoever to benefit from his idea without allowing all others benefit as well?

An idea is the product of a man's mind. A mind is not something you "own", that would be a contradiction because without a mind there is no "you" to own it. A man with no mind is no longer a man, as he has no consciousness or rational faculty.

Ideas are products of a mind. The idea itself exists in the mind and only in the mind. You seem to be basing you argument on the form that ideas take, that is to say they take on a form that has no physicality and that can copied simply by having its knowledge...that they can only exist in the mind. The principle here is the law of identity. The form ideas take is based upon their nature, and so it is not valid to use the standard for their posession that you use. That standard is based upon the nature of a physical object. A car cannot exist in its own nature in the minds of anyone who knows it, an idea can. They are different in their nature.

An idea is a product created by a man using his mind. That mind is not simply something he has but also something that he is. Any product of his mind belongs to him by definition because that thing is a product of that which defines man.

Now, because of the nature of ideas, there can be no preventing others from possessing them. The point of propery rights, as has been discussed, is the right to control the propery. If a man has the right to the product of his own mind, a song is the product of his own mind, how is that song not property? What standard do you use to determine that because you may have knowledge of a song another wrote, you have the right to control it? What standard do you use to determine that the concept of property in only to be applied to physical objects?

The law of identity is also why your "chilren" argument is invalid. A child is a human being with rights based upon his nature. He cannot even be considered in a discussion about property because his nature excludes him from the outset.

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I said that values which one acts to create, gain or keep are property.

So what are values? Rand said values are "that which one acts to gain and/or keep."

So, you're (I assume) saying, in effect: "I said that which one acts to gain and/or keep which one acts to create, gain or keep are property."

Can't someone act to create a nuclear bomb? Or gain/keep stolen property or a person? Should that all be considered property? Only certain values should be considered property. Which values? Why? Why are other values not worthy of being property?

Furthermore, just so we're clear, Rand also said: "Material objects as such have neither value nor disvalue; they acquire value-significance only in regard to a living being—particularly, in regard to serving or hindering man’s goals."

I think some are immensely important. Logos, for instance, are kind of like a company signature.

You're right. What I meant was "should there be trademarks for phrases"?

Also, what about selling t-shirts with a company's logo on it? Should that be illegal?

Edited by Mnrchst

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This picture applies well, even if you didn't intend this. You are overgeneralizing about what is meant by "products of one's volitional creative efforts." You identify one instance of volition, and a baby is being made, therefore, volitional creation? There are many errors within that thought process.

What errors? You're not telling me what they are. How is making a baby not volitional creation? If you actually explained this, I'd be able to consider the arguments.

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