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"We are talking about the ideas themselves as property."

Ideas in themselves cannot be property. I do not know why you insist on talking about if ideas *as such* is the topic, because not even Rand believed ideas as such apart from a thinker could possibly exist. She believed in an integrated body and mind, so there is no reason to suppose Rand is saying that ideas as such can be owned, especially when she says an idea must be given a material form. All the talk about ideas as such is irrelevant - it is a strawman. I've been saying all along that *information* can be owned, not ideas as such. Rand didn't write a lot on IP, so if she was not clear enough, fine. My objective is to see if IP is valid at all, not if Rand wrote two sentences that you think are not written well enough. IP as a concept referring to ideas as such is invalid, but that doesn't mean the concept of IP is invalid. It just means we'll have to see if there is a valid conception.

 

The concept objectivity often refers to apart-from-the-self thinking, but with better thinking about objectivity, your understanding of the referents change. Like objectivity, we don't need to throw out IP.

 

Watch this 2minute clip for some background related to what I'll write about next.

 

The whole thing is on a totally different topic, but this part of the video is exactly about IP.

Edited by Eiuol
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I remember addressing those points . What in my replies do you find inadequate? I'll address them one more time: Straw man. Here's what's really at the heart of IP:http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/

It is very important to realize that the action of filing for or declaring a copyright or a patent is NOT a declaration that one cannot think about the ideas behind the products nor can prevent you fr

Oh, that's fine! If you mean that you weren't attempting to make an actual argument, I'll agree, and then we can say that it was "unsubstantiated assertion" or something, rather than "begging the ques

"We are talking about the ideas themselves as property."

Ideas in themselves cannot be property. I do not know why you insist on talking about if ideas *as such* is the topic, because not even Rand believed ideas as such apart from a thinker could possibly exist. She believed in an integrated body and mind, so there is no reason to suppose Rand is saying that ideas as such can be owned, especially when she says an idea must be given a material form. All the talk about ideas as such is irrelevant - it is a strawman.

 

Well it appears that we have reached an impasse, then, for I do not know that I can do any better for you than I have already done:

 

I just see no other way to understand how one might read Rand saying "what the patent or copyright protects is not the physical object as such, but the idea which it embodies" as other than that patents or copyrights do not protect physical objects as such, but the ideas which they embody. IP protects ideas. That's what Rand is saying, and that's why I'm saying it's what she's saying.

Right. She is drawing a distinction between that which IP may properly protect, in her view, and another category of ideas which it cannot -- "discoveries." This does not mean that such "discoveries" have to do with ideas while IP does not. It rather points up the fact that IP does have to do with the protection of "idea property," in that we must make certain not to confuse that with these "discoveries," which are deemed not protectable.

Why "as far as you're aware"? She says that specifically in the very portion I've quoted while presenting my case, and I've said nothing to imply that this is not her position. I'm certainly not trying to hide it. Here it is again:

Do you see how she says that "an idea...cannot be protected until..."? Meaning that once this condition is satisfied, then an idea can be protected. She continues:

"But" because she is drawing a contrast between the fact of an idea's "embodiment" and the nature of the property being discussed. She's saying "yes, it must be embodied -- given some physical form -- but don't get confused by this! We're not talking about the 'material value,' per se, when we discuss 'intellectual property.' We are talking about the ideas themselves as property."

And... that's it, Eiuol. That's the very thing I've been saying.

You're saying in response that my reading of Rand -- which I hold to be the only reasonable reading, for the reasons given -- is necessarily incorrect, because that would be contradictory to the larger body of her work.

But Eiuol, that is my case. I am saying that the arguments Rand advances in "Patents and Copyrights" are contradictory to her other writings on rights and property. So... it appears that you're coming at this as though it is impossible for Rand to have ever contradicted herself in this fashion... That you know, prima facie, that I can't be right, because if I am, then that leads to the conclusion that Rand contradicted herself with this essay, and that's impossible. I think I anticipated this sort of thing when I said:

 

Now, like I say, the reason I think some people do not want IP to be a property claim on ideas, as such, is because they are dealing with an apparent contradiction between some of Rand's essays/claims. It is almost as though they have taken as an unassailable premise that no such contradictions can possibly exist. Thus, when it seems like there might be a divergence between Rand's treatment of property generally, and her discussion of IP, it must be the case that she's actually talking about the same thing despite how it appears. Thus, it's all somehow "material values," whatever that's left to mean.

And I expect that your further response to this would be something like, "no, I don't think it's *impossible* that Rand contradicted herself... I just don't see any contradiction here." And then I would have to try to demonstrate the circularity of the arguments you've made, and how they do indeed rely upon an initial dismissal of the possibility that there may be any contradictions between Rand's essays... but I feel as though I'm continually running up against a refusal to see something that is clear, and has been demonstrated, so I don't know whether further demonstrations on my part will help to resolve the problem here.

 

I've been saying all along that *information* can be owned, not ideas as such. Rand didn't write a lot on IP, so if she was not clear enough, fine. My objective is to see if IP is valid at all, not if Rand wrote two sentences that you think are not written well enough. IP as a concept referring to ideas as such is invalid, but that doesn't mean the concept of IP is invalid. It just means we'll have to see if there is a valid conception.

No... it's not that Rand didn't write "well enough," or wasn't clear. She was clear. But then, the case I've made (specifically here referring to the nature of IP as "idea property") hasn't been alone an interpretation of "two sentences" of Ayn Rand:

 

Rand's use of "material values" in [essays such as "Man's Rights"] is inextricably and meaningfully bound with the specific arguments she presents there in describing property and property rights, and their application -- it is there that the contradictions [with "Patents and Copyrights"] lie, and not simply in word choice. For instance, when Rand describes the source of a man's claim to a material value (i.e. property) in "The Property Status of the Airwaves," she is describing a process that is antithetical to the process she describes in "Patents and Copyrights." That sort of contradiction cannot be done away with by claiming that Rand is discussing the same sort of thing in "Patents and Copyrights" as elsewhere ("material values"), for she is not.

So if property and property rights concern "the right to gain, to keep, to use and to dispose of material values," then what is the province of intellectual property? I think Rand understood what is claimed with IP, and I think she made herself clear (emphasis in original, as for instance, the parallel italicizing of "idea" to "intellectual" which helps the reader to connect these two terms; "intellectual property" is "idea property"):

 

I contend that her meaning is unambiguous. When she says that IP does not protect physical objects as such, but the ideas which they embody, she is saying that the "property" in IP are ideas. But this is not alone what Rand "contends." It is also the only thing that makes IP sensible.

Given a situation where Man A innovates and builds Object X, and Man B builds Object Y (which is here considered sufficiently similar to X to constitute an IP violation), IP holds that Man A owns Object Y. Man A's claim to Object X is that he has performed the mental and physical labor necessary to bring Object X into being (qua material value; or property). Obviously Man A cannot make the same claim for Object Y, as it was Man B who performed the mental and physical labor necessary to bring Object Y into being (in the same sense as Man A did for Object X). So how can Man A claim Object Y as property (keeping our view of property as solely "material values" and not "ideas") without laying a prior claim to the idea behind Object Y? He cannot.

It is a dodge (and an ineffectual one) to say that Man A simply owns Object Y (somehow) without recognizing that the source of this claim is that Man A has property in the idea embodied in Object Y. We cannot ignore the reality of this situation out of existence. IP is the claim that ideas are property.

So, yeah, this isn't about Rand's phrasing. This is about the concept of IP, and not alone in the abstract, but in how it is actually applied. I understand that you may conceptualize IP differently than Rand, and you may not agree with IP as currently practiced -- that's fine, and it's fine to discuss your ideas, too, whatever they may ultimately be (though you have rejected nearly every attempt I've thus far made to tease out the nature of your ideas on IP). But I do not believe we ought to attempt to remake Rand's words or expressed ideas to conform to your own, saying that she just expressed herself poorly, but you know what she really meant to say. I think she was clear and unambiguous in expressing herself, and we should respect that by taking her at her word, even if that means that we have found a contradiction between her writings.

 

Oh, and tad?  I really appreciated the "ambiviolent" pun.  :)

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I only mean to say that considering what Rand means by idea, and how she explicitly talks about giving an idea material form, it is a strawman to suggest Rand is saying that ideas as such can be owned. We'd have to drop the context of everything else Rand wrote to somehow interpret that she said ideas as such.

You didn't really present anything other than what reminds me of an argument for materialism via reductio ad absurdum. There is a mind. There is a body. Therefore, minds and bodies are entities that can exist separately. But this is absurd, since to point out a mind is to ignore the electric impulses in the brain. It is absurd to believe in a mind, as minds would be mystical and causeless. Only bodies are material, minds are immaterial. We can reject the mind because minds as such do not exist.

Edited by Eiuol
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I only mean to say that considering what Rand means by idea, and how she explicitly talks about giving an idea material form, it is a strawman to suggest Rand is saying that ideas as such can be owned.

 

I know that this is what you mean to say, but you are wrong to say it. Rand does "explicitly" talk about giving an idea material form. She goes on to say, in an equally explicit fashion, that it is not that material form which is the subject of IP, but the idea embodied by it. She is saying that an idea must be embodied in a material form before it can be owned, but that it can be owned thereafter. That is what she is saying.  (And she is wrong.)

 

We'd have to drop the context of everything else Rand wrote to somehow interpret that she said ideas as such.

 

It doesn't work like this. We don't take the words or ideas of a person as some necessarily indivisible whole, and then interpret every statement as though it is a consistent part of every other. If this were the case, then nobody could ever contradict himself. But people can, and do, and I contend that Rand does here, on the basis of the arguments that I have made, and the evidence I have presented, time and time again.

Or look at it this way: How would you know that Rand had ever contradicted herself (if you even agree that this is possible in theory), if you are bound to "interpret" every given sentence or essay as fully consistent with every other?

 

You didn't really present anything other than what reminds me of an argument for materialism via reductio ad absurdum. There is a mind. There is a body. Therefore, minds and bodies are entities that can exist separately.

 

This is not at all what I am saying, and is quite nearly the opposite of what I'm saying.  I am at a loss as to how I can speak myself more clearly than I have already attempted.

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I know that this is what you mean to say, but you are wrong to say it. Rand does "explicitly" talk about giving an idea material form. She goes on to say, in an equally explicit fashion, that it is not that material form which is the subject of IP, but the idea embodied by it. She is saying that an idea must be embodied in a material form before it can be owned, but that it can be owned thereafter. That is what she is saying.  (And she is wrong.)

Right... that is what she is saying. She is saying that ideas such are not something to be owned. Ideas mixed with a material form can be. That's the same as saying an idea must be embodied before it can be owned, and an embodied idea may be owned. How does that equal ownership of ideas as such? By as such, I mean ideas as an introspective piece of knowledge. An idea to be owned needs to be utilizable and realizable in the real world. *This* I don't believe to be contradictory to other things Rand said. She wrote about property as a right to action: "it is not the right to an object, but to the action and the consequences of producing or earning that object." Now, for something to become property, she writes: "Any material element or resource which, in order to become of use or value to men, requires the application of human knowledge and effort, should be private property—by the right of those who apply the knowledge and effort." IP is part of the category property, it just pertains to particular *useful* information. That's all I have to add about what Rand said. I want to offer more of my defense of IP (also, please take a look at my link)

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Ayn Rand said that property rights are not the right to own property, but the right to invent and construct property and enjoy the consequences without interference.  If we have to start at some common denominator, I think this is the most accurate description of property rights that I've ever heard, read or conceived of.  This definition of property rights is the objectively true one.

The basis of property rights is the principle of causality; HOW any object came to exist determines WHOM it belongs to.

 

Inventor A and inventor B have both grappled with the same product or technique, independently, for years upon years.  Then they both reach the well-earned conclusion of their toils simultaneously and rush down to the patent office to reap the benefits of it.  A arrives one minute earlier than his competitor, who got stuck in traffic; A files a patent and forbids B, at gunpoint, from ever giving concrete form to his achievement.

And B is not punished- how?

"Only a slave can work with no right to the product of his effort."  -Ayn Rand

Mental effort is a form of actual exertion.  Inventor B worked long and hard for the reward of building his idea, in reality, on Earth- and was then told by a government beaurocrat, at hypothetical gunpoint, that he had no right to the product of his mind.  This is theft/slavery.

 

Now, suppose that person B went out and built his idea anyway, in secrecy.  At this point, by using A's idea without his permission, B has violated his rights.

Stop and consider that, for a moment: the production of value harms those who haven't produced.

 

And why?  What has B deprived A of by using his idea, without permission?  Money- because B should have paid A and hasn't.

 

Stop and consider that.

To forbid someone, at gunpoint, from bringing an idea into concrete form, is right; for someone to use an idea without permission is wrong.

 

Does a mind have the right to profit from its own products?  Absolutely.

But I think that a distinction must be made, here.  When you invent something, you shouldn't create one of Aristotle's metaphysical essences which you then own henceforth- this is implicit in the very expiration of patents.

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold
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I want to offer more of my defense of IP (also, please take a look at my link)

 

I did look at your link, Eiuol. Of course I did, before I posted my reply to that post. I'm sincerely interested in getting to the bottom of this issue. If not for everyone (for I don't think that everyone who is concerned with this issue is reachable through discussion), then at least for myself. And if I'm going to discuss matters with you, I'm going to do so honestly. I will respond to your examples. I will answer your questions. Or at least, I will do these things to the best of my ability. (I didn't reply immediately to the Dennett clip because I didn't think I had anything substantial to say about it in reply, and you had indicated that you were going to use it as a background to develop a thesis that I don't believe has yet arrived.)

And I eagerly await your defense of IP... but in the meantime, I've been searching on my own, trying to piece together what it is that you might believe about these issues, because the examples you've raised and the paraphrase you've made of my own arguments have led me to believe that we... as yet have nearly no common ground on this subject. I literally don't understand what you're talking about, and I strongly suspect that you don't understand what I'm talking about. So that's a pickle. :)

Along the way, I've tried to engage you with examples in an attempt to tease out your positions (of theoretical examples, and real life cases)... but you haven't been willing to engage me on my terms. But anyways, reflecting on things and a couple of your more recent posts, I think I may have had an idea as to what you're saying. I'm going to attempt to describe my thoughts on your position now, so please feel free to correct me where I go wrong (as I almost assuredly will):

You're saying that a piece of property, any property -- like a piano -- is itself an object of "intellectual property." A man performs mental labor and physical labor both in fashioning that piano, and the result is that he owns an idea, but in material form. An embodied idea. Thus, to own a piano is to own a piece of intellectual property.

I think this accounts for your reply here:

 

Right... that is what she is saying. She is saying that ideas such are not something to be owned. Ideas mixed with a material form can be. That's the same as saying an idea must be embodied before it can be owned, and an embodied idea may be owned. How does that equal ownership of ideas as such?

 

If I'm right, this would explain why you supposed that my position should leave me unable to account for the argument between Sergei and Franz; if I don't believe in "intellectual property," then what is it about the piano that Franz has any claim in? Am I saying that Franz's mind had no role in the piano's creation? That there is no such thing as mind? It would also account for the examples you've proffered of IP, such as building a car based off of "stolen blueprints." Because you see the blueprints as being an embodied idea, and therefore intellectual property. And therefore, unauthorized use of those blueprints is "theft of intellectual property." And it makes you ill-disposed to respond to examples like an "independent inventor," because at best you consider those to be some sort of a borderline case, and to not pertain to what intellectual property is supposed to be all about, at heart.

But... and I'm going to ask you to please try to hear me out on this... I think that if this captures your position at all (and I grant that this is a big "if"), then you have a critical misunderstanding as to what "intellectual property" is, as used by Rand or Mossoff or as practiced in law.

The question of IP is not whether Franz (to use what is most convenient) has invested mental labor into creating his piano, or whether the resultant property depends on our recognition of that. It absolutely does, and has from the start. A piece of property -- a singular piece of property, which is this piano -- belongs to he that invests the mental and physical labor required for its creation. When Franz builds the piano, it is his on that basis. Sergei only offers the small (and not principled) complication that the physical labor he performs, he trades to Franz... but this has naught to do with the case for intellectual property, or my case against it. Everything you've raised with Franz and Sergei is fully consistent with "property," as such, and does not need any separate argument for, or understanding of "intellectual property."

So what is "intellectual property" then? I raised Joseph to get at intellectual property, for his is the example that speaks most to it. Given "property," there is no question that Franz owns the piano he builds. And there is also no question that Franz owns the piano that Sergei builds, being in Franz's employ to build that piano, and through the trader principle. But the question of IP is whether or not Franz owns "pianos," as such, or Joseph's piano, on the basis of some perceived similarity between them.

It does not have to do with whether Joseph has stolen piano blueprints from Franz, or whether he used to work with Franz, or whether he knows Franz, or has heard of him, or seen his pianos. It is this alone: Joseph's piano is judged similar enough in design to Franz's piano (via some as-yet undefined criteria), therefore Franz owns Joseph's piano.

Thus, we are abstracting something in our consideration of these pianos... and that abstraction, beyond the material fact of any given piano, or the mental labor involved in its actual creation, is what we are asserting that Franz "owns" when we accord him "intellectual property." It is not a question of "the idea as embodied in the material value of Franz's particular piano." That is just his property. But his "intellectual property" extends to objects Franz has never touched, and has had no hand in shaping (literally, and also as he would in Sergei's case). It extends to things that other people have labored over, mind and body, and which we would in all other respects recognize as being unquestionably "their property" on the very same basis that we would accord Franz's piano to Franz.

That is what is under consideration, that is the nature of intellectual property, and what I object to. If you still disagree as to the nature of intellectual property, as I expect you will, that's fine, but we need to pin this down before we can accomplish anything. Please don't neglect my examples along the way; they are meant to help sort this out for the both of us.

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Ayn Rand said that property rights are not the right to own property, but the right to invent and construct property and enjoy the consequences without interference.  If we have to start at some common denominator, I think this is the most accurate description of property rights that I've ever heard, read or conceived of.  This definition of property rights is the objectively true one.

The basis of property rights is the principle of causality; HOW any object came to exist determines WHOM it belongs to.

 

Agreed.

 

Inventor A and inventor B have both grappled with the same product or technique, independently, for years upon years.  Then they both reach the well-earned conclusion of their toils simultaneously and rush down to the patent office to reap the benefits of it.  A arrives one minute earlier than his competitor, who got stuck in traffic; A files a patent and forbids B, at gunpoint, from ever giving concrete form to his achievement.

And B is not punished- how?

"Only a slave can work with no right to the product of his effort."  -Ayn Rand

Mental effort is a form of actual exertion.  Inventor B worked long and hard for the reward of building his idea, in reality, on Earth- and was then told by a government beaurocrat, at hypothetical gunpoint, that he had no right to the product of his mind.  This is theft/slavery.

 

Okay. So, as I understand it, here is Rand's case for IP in a nutshell, as it applies to Inventors A and B:

The source of intellectual property rights are held to be the same source as that of property generally: "HOW any object came to exist determines WHOM it belongs to." So in this case, if Inventor A invented the widget, then the mental effort performed in doing that is held to account for every subsequent widget, whether made by Inventor A or anybody else. They all come to exist due to Inventor A's mental labor (and whatever physical labor is involved is held as negligible).

Inventor A thus has a right to "the product of his mind," which is held as property (i.e. "intellectual property"): the widget, as such. Because property entails a right of exclusion, this means that Inventor B has no right to that which we have already judged to be Inventor A's property, without Inventor A's agreement. Inventor B has no right to make widgets, or sell them, or use them, and if things are that way because Inventor B is one minute too late, then that's... just the way it is.

And so, if you were to grant Inventor B any use of the widget outside of Inventor A's agreement, then per Rand's argument in "Patents and Copyrights," you would be the one to turn Inventor A into a slave, in giving him no right to the product of his effort.

I disagree with that argument. I do not think that there is a "product of the mind," in the sense of property, that is not also a "product of the body," as both types of labor are necessary to produce any material value, or wealth, in reality. I also disagree that the mental effort in, say, inventing the widget is in fact responsible for every subsequent widget. Even imagining Builder C (who is not an Inventor at all), who studies the widget made by Inventor A and then sets about to produce his own, it is not the case that the widgets that Builder C then produces owe their existence to Inventor A. The widgets that Builder C produces exist on account of the mental and physical labor of Builder C, in studying/"copying" and then taking the steps necessary in reality to create these new material values. And so, if it is the case that "HOW any object came to exist determines WHOM it belongs to," which remains the foundation for any case for property, then those widgets belong to Builder C.

 

Now, suppose that person B went out and built his idea anyway, in secrecy.  At this point, by using A's idea without his permission, B has violated his rights.

Stop and consider that, for a moment: the production of value harms those who haven't produced.

 

Yes. Intellectual property, as argued by Rand and others, sets producers against one another, and makes one man richer by impoverishing others. I hold that Rand implicitly recognized this result when she surmised that continuing to treat intellectual property as property in fact (which she does when denying Inventor B any claim on his own creation) by treating it as a perpetual claim would destroy the possibility for future production (and thus, we need a time limit for pragmatic reasons, to be determined... somehow). But this is not how any other actual right works, let alone property. The more actual property created, the wealthier those who create it are, at nobody else's expense.

 

As actual property is created and held in perpetuity, the world gets richer, full stop.  As intellectual property is enforced by law, the more of it there is and the longer it is granted, the greater the "lien" against production.

 

And why?  What has B deprived A of by using his idea, without permission?  Money- because B should have paid A and hasn't.

 

Stop and consider that.

To forbid someone, at gunpoint, from bringing an idea into concrete form, is right; for someone to use an idea without permission is wrong.

 

Does a mind have the right to profit from its own products?  Absolutely.

But I think that a distinction must be made, here.  When you invent something, you shouldn't create one of Aristotle's metaphysical essences which you then own henceforth- this is implicit in the very expiration of patents.

 

A mind has "products," in a sense, which are ideas. And the possessor of such a mind absolutely has the right to profit from those ideas insofar as he is able. But I do not believe that the "products of mind" are sufficient to constitute "property," which relates specifically to "material values," and not for no reason, but because the "right to life" needs to be implemented through those material values.

In reality, material values are not created through mental effort alone, but through a combination of mental and physical labor. That combination of effort, and only that combination, is what actually creates property and answers the question of "HOW any object came to exist"; it thus "determines WHOM it belongs to," which is not simply the innovator of an idea, but the creator who applies the mental and physical labor necessary to bring a material value into actual being.

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DonAthos in #109 said

A mind has "products," in a sense, which are ideas. And the possessor of such a mind absolutely has the right to profit from those ideas insofar as he is able. But I do not believe that the "products of mind" are sufficient to constitute "property," which relates specifically to "material values," and not for no reason, but because the "right to life" needs to be implemented through those material values.

In reality, material values are not created through mental effort alone, but through a combination of mental and physical labor. That combination of effort, and only that combination, is what actually creates property and answers the question of "HOW any object came to exist"; it thus "determines WHOM it belongs to," which is not simply the innovator of an idea, but the creator who applies the mental and physical labor necessary to bring a material value into actual being.

So in LFC, there would be no Coke and Pepsi only cola, no Windows just operating systems, no IE just browser programs, no Fords just cars, no Zen and the Art of Motorcyle Maintainence just books, no Like a Virgin just recorded music? How in practical terms, is this any different from a 'perfect' system of socialism?

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DonAthos in #109 said

"A mind has 'products,' in a sense, which are ideas. And the possessor of such a mind absolutely has the right to profit from those ideas insofar as he is able. But I do not believe that the 'products of mind' are sufficient to constitute 'property,' which relates specifically to 'material values,' and not for no reason, but because the 'right to life' needs to be implemented through those material values."

So in LFC, there would be no Coke and Pepsi only cola, no Windows just operating systems, no IE just browser programs, no Fords just cars, no Zen and the Art of Motorcyle Maintainence just books, no Like a Virgin just recorded music? How in practical terms, is this any different from a 'perfect' system of socialism?

Nobody steals your operating system at beaurocratic gunpoint and nobody tells you which car to drive or which books to read.

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold
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what about genetically modified seeds? I don't think Monsanto can patent the sequence of nucleotides itself but I imagine the method of inserting the sequence into the seed's DNA might be (or is already). So I guess my broad question is: should the genes be patentable?

Edited by Mikee
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DonAthos in #109 said

A mind has "products," in a sense, which are ideas. And the possessor of such a mind absolutely has the right to profit from those ideas insofar as he is able. But I do not believe that the "products of mind" are sufficient to constitute "property," which relates specifically to "material values," and not for no reason, but because the "right to life" needs to be implemented through those material values.

In reality, material values are not created through mental effort alone, but through a combination of mental and physical labor. That combination of effort, and only that combination, is what actually creates property and answers the question of "HOW any object came to exist"; it thus "determines WHOM it belongs to," which is not simply the innovator of an idea, but the creator who applies the mental and physical labor necessary to bring a material value into actual being.

So in LFC, there would be no Coke and Pepsi only cola, no Windows just operating systems, no IE just browser programs, no Fords just cars, no Zen and the Art of Motorcyle Maintainence just books, no Like a Virgin just recorded music? How in practical terms, is this any different from a 'perfect' system of socialism?

 

I'll start by answering you directly. LFC sans IP (if we find that to be proper) would be different from a socialist system in this way: people would have their rights protected. Which means their right to life, to liberty, to the pursuit of happiness, and to property.

So... in many ways, I expect that the elimination of IP would leave LFC looking a lot like LFC already does in our imagination or arguments. That said, I cannot pretend like there would not be differences. Of course there would be. If I'm right about IP's status as being a system of governmental fiat as opposed to the protection of natural rights, then I expect that those differences would be positive on the whole, and considered in context. But I don't have the power to say precisely what those differences would be.

Certainly, I don't think that the elimination of IP would mean the things you suggest right here... but I don't see the reasoning you've done to get there, either. So perhaps you can explain why you think Coke and Pepsi wouldn't exist (only cola)? 

 

what about genetically modified seeds? I don't think Monsanto can patent the sequence of nucleotides itself but I imagine the method of inserting the sequence into the seed's DNA might be (or is already). So I guess my broad question is: should the genes be patentable?

 

Earlier I raised the question as to whether patents apply strictly to some arrangement of molecules, or more properly to methods, or both:

 

[W]hat is "vulcanization"? Is it not a "method of strengthening rubber"? (Or something like that, at least! :) ) Why should a method of strengthening rubber be regarded as a valuable product of the mind, but not a method of exercising one's pet? And what about growing corn in a hydroponic plant? Unless I much mistake, that is clearly a "method of growing corn."

The question of the pencil sharpener led me to wonder for a few minutes whether patents properly protect the pattern of an object, or a method of doing something (as in the above examples), and to sort that out for myself, I developed a small hypothetical. Suppose two independent inventors, A & B, simultaneously working on building a pencil sharpener without knowledge of the other. They submit claims to the patent office, again in mutual ignorance, and build up their stock and begin to sell wares. The patent office eventually awards the patent to Inventor A (as he was five minutes earlier to the office), and thus Inventor B is completely out of luck, stuck with his warehouse full of unsellable wares. Or is he?

What if he were to repackage his "pencil sharpeners" as paperweights? Now, never mind that a judge probably would not allow this to happen if suit were brought, and would issue an injunction on the basis that, once people had this "paperweight" in their homes, they would simply use it as a pencil sharpener. But suppose that we could count on people to be honest and only use this repurposed paperweight as a paperweight. Would there then be any reason to restrict Inventor B from selling his stock? I don't think so. So long as people did not use the paperweight to sharpen pencils -- presumably they could do just about anything else with it -- it should not run afoul of Inventor A's patent, or his rights. Right?

If that's the case, then isn't Inventor A's patent on a "pencil sharpener" really a patent on a "method of sharpening pencils"? I think so.

 

...but that didn't seem to spark any kind of an interest.

Anyways, here's what Wikipedia says under "biological patent":

 

A biological patent is a patent relating to an invention or discovery in biology. It can be a composition of matter, a method for obtaining or using one or more thereof, or a product combining such things. As with all utility patents in the U.S, the patent provides the patent holder with the right to exclude others from making, using, selling, or importing the claimed invention for a limited period of time - for patents filed after 1998, twenty years from the filing date. Natural biological substances themselves can be patented (apart from any associated process or usage) in the United States if they are sufficiently "isolated" from their naturally occurring states. Prominent historical examples of such patents on isolated products of nature include adrenaline, insulin, vitamin B12, and gene patents.

 

So I think that IP as practiced allows for the kinds of things you're discussing. Whether that's permissible per the typical Objectivist arguments for IP, as presented in this thread? Perhaps not for Eiuol, who seems to be working off of his own understanding, but otherwise I think so. After all, consider that Mossoff holds protectable property as being "all values created by all types of productive labors." So if there is value in the development of a sequence of nucleotides, or the method of inserting that sequence into a seed's DNA (and I think we would both concede that "yes, there is value there"), and if that value is borne of a productive labor by one or more persons (again, "yes"), then I think that we have to conclude that this is property and ought to be protected by law.

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If I could copy or offer the same recipe and trademark, why would there be a Coke? I doubt that particular company started because they felt the need to supply soft drinks, they probably reasoned more along the lines that what was theirs would be protected and planned accordingly.

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If I could copy or offer the same recipe and trademark, why would there be a Coke? I doubt that particular company started because they felt the need to supply soft drinks, they probably reasoned more along the lines that what was theirs would be protected and planned accordingly.

You would need to pay for the ingredients, the process of making them into Coke and then charge some profit.  Your Coke would be sold alongside Coca-Cola's Coke, the exact same products in direct competition with each other.

The question would be who could sell the most for the cheapest; the market would respond accordingly.

 

Unless I'm very mistaken, I don't think this results in any form of collectivism at all. . .

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If I could copy or offer the same recipe and trademark, why would there be a Coke? I doubt that particular company started because they felt the need to supply soft drinks, they probably reasoned more along the lines that what was theirs would be protected and planned accordingly.

 

Why does anyone offer any product for sale? Because there's presumably some party interested in purchasing it. Unless you're positing a world where people can't tell the difference between Coke, Pepsi, and some generic cola -- or a world where people don't care what they drink -- then I guess that those who make these kinds of products would still have an interest in catering to the particular tastes of the marketplace (or watch themselves being passed by a competitor).

Unless you're saying that there's no good reason to invent something without patents and etc.? But here are a couple of good reasons, I think, to invent Coca Cola: it tastes good, and will sell. So if you're in your drugstore, circa 1880s, or whenever and wherever it was, and you'd like people to come to your place rather than your competitors, you will offer whatever you think will best draw that sort of traffic (including your new cola recipe).

Trademark isn't something we've discussed a lot on its own (or at all), but I'll just note that I think that a lot of whatever is valid about trademark is actually anti-fraud. Without IP, it still ought to be illegal to mislead a person into thinking they're buying X when really they're getting Y, and I would fully expect that most of what we associate with trademark would arise "organically," under the protection of actual rights.

Besides all of this, I don't know the particulars of how this is handled legally, but I don't think that the current Coke recipe is protected, except that it is kept secret. If there had ever been a patent on it, it would long since have expired.  I believe (though I could be wrong) that if you were able to make something that "tastes like Coke," you would be welcome to it.

If you have similar questions as to "what would the world be like without IP," I guess you can look at the world as it is with -- or without -- other sorts of coercive monopolies. For instance, we could rephrase your Coke question like this:

Unless I am given an exclusive monopoly over... pizza sales in Portland, then why should I bother opening up a pizza restaurant there? If anyone else could also offer pizza for sale (using the same ingredients even!), what's the point to my doing it, too? I'm not going to start such a company because I feel the need to supply pizza; rather I would like my business interests (i.e. all of the pizza money of the citizens of Portland) to be protected by law so that I may plan accordingly.

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The main dispute sames to have boiled down(up?)to whether or not a patent equals monopoly granted by government fiat. Coke has every right to let competitors offer the same recipe with identical packaging. In what way is that a monopoly?

 

I'm sorry, but that's not what the main dispute is.  It is rather a restatement of the position I've taken. Though I'll note that the idea that Coke can "let" others use that recipe would not make it "not a monopoly"; rather, it speaks to the control that Coke would have -- singular power over that commodity -- making it a monopoly (treating the recipe as a matter of IP... though, if you've read the reply before this one, you'll see that I believe that the Coke formula is not protected by patent, but is kept secret.  I don't think Coke has any actual power to prevent anyone else from independently arriving at their formula).

 

The main dispute is whether IP is a right, as Rand contends. If it is, then such monopolies are proper (just as I have a "monopoly" on my car, the fact that I may loan it to others notwithstanding). If it is not a right, as I contend, then it is a matter of governmental fiat and a violation of the rights of others.

 

We cannot avoid sourcing our arguments in rights if we want to arrive at a proper conclusion.  Though it is not always the easiest thing to do, if we really want to get to the bottom of this issue, then we must therefore be willing to get into the nature of rights, the meaning of property, and associated issues, and also the demanding requirements for the objective implementation of law, as I have been attempting to do throughout the thread.  I don't believe we're going to find an easy out.

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I liked this essay, it touched on many of the points I made in questioning one's stance against IP and the like. I too have had a problem with being comfortable with a simple utilitarian basis for such protection, it smacks too much of what was uncomfortable with Mills. I would like to see property protected for the individual and not base a moral justification for such protection on a standard measured by collective results, eg for the greater good.

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It was a very perceptive and apt essay, (and there can be no rational distinction between material and immaterial values- there are no nonphysical existents) but I have an entirely different issue with IP.

 

A invents and patents X before anyone else; when B independently arrives at the same idea, he is screwed.

This is not an arbitrary or a trivial allegation.  I think it directly shows exactly what is wrong with IP.

 

The principle behind property rights is causality; you own what you create.  Therefor, if I were to create something:

 

:fool:  :sorcerer:  :fool:  :ninja:  :fool:

I could claim to own it on the basis that, if I had not placed those images there, they would not exist.  This much is sound.

 

If I were to have created something particularly brilliant I could claim to own the idea; I could patent my pattern :fool:  :sorcerer:  :fool:  :ninja:  :fool:  and demand that nobody on this forum use it without my permission.

 

Assuming that everyone who would WANT to create that pattern (everyone who must ask me for permission) only learned of its possibility because I thought of it first, this would be entirely logical and moral.  But what if someone else thought of it, independently, at some later time?

By definition, if someone else thinks of it THEMSELVES before implementing it then I did NOT cause it, at least in that instance!!

 

I think it is a removal of cause from effect, necessarily inherent in the claims which IP makes about the future.  (if anyone else ever tries to create that pattern it must be because they heard about my prior idea)  Such claims about the future, in order to be fully accurate, must be made by an omniscient being.

Since human beings aren't omniscient, when they attempt to claim ownership of FUTURE creations, there will be mistakes; because this involves property rights which are individual rights, any mistakes will necessarily be IMMORAL.

 

I've heard it said that such would also apply to land ownership, and that's "just the way it goes".  If this does also apply to land ownership then that concept must also be reexamined.

 

Current patent laws are immoral because you cannot own potential values; only actual ones.  This is the root of it.  Observe the number of things that must be "just the way it goes" because of this fundamental aspect.

 

Any moral concept of intellectual property MUST allow for each case to be evaluated independently because you can only own what you have ACTUALLY caused.  That's my objection; that's the distinction that's lacking; that's the direction in which we have to take this.

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The Spectre of Materialism

 

It was a very perceptive and apt essay...

 

I disagree! :P

Despite the thread flirting with it from time to time, I've been hoping to avoid this conversation turning to questions of materialism. But now it seems that some comment is required, so...

 

(and there can be no rational distinction between material and immaterial values- there are no nonphysical existents)

 

Is this so?

However we ultimately believe "mind" is constituted, or "emerges" from matter (however "matter" itself is ultimately constituted), and according to our best physics, I think we have long drawn a rational distinction between what we would ordinarily describe as being the "material and immaterial," just as we draw a rational distinction between "existence" (as in: "primacy of") and "consciousness," though there is no consciousness without existence.

I think that Rand draws just such a distinction, for instance, when speaking as John Galt here:

 

You are an indivisible entity of matter and consciousness. Renounce your consciousness and you become a brute. Renounce your body and you become a fake. Renounce the material world and you surrender it to evil.

 

Or, if we are comfortable reducing consciousness to "matter" in this sense (which I think by the spirit of the above would count as a "renunciation"), then why should Rand say "an indivisible entity of matter and consciousness," as though these are not the very same thing? Why not say "an entity of matter and matter alone"?

Because Rand's recognition of "consciousness" is an explicit rejection of such materialism (just as it is here).

No, Rand is not referring to "any values whatsoever" when she refers to "material values"; she is referring to some particular subset of values, against which other kinds of values may be compared (i.e. "non-material values"). And Mossoff understands this dichotomy, while taking up her IP arguments over her views on rights or property more generally, when he writes "Rand’s ethical theory makes explicit why property rights have never been limited to just physical objects." He is here asserting that there are objects, which are not physical, that are yet the subject of property rights.

Their arguments do not depend upon whether or not a thought is ultimately stored as some chemical in the brain, or what have you, and thus may be described as "physical" or "material" in that sense. They are rather addressing themselves to the distinctions that we routinely experience between touching a particular table (which is "physical" and a "material value") and contemplating the table, as such (which is not). I believe that this is an eminently rational distinction to make, however we decide on IP, and it is a distinction that needs to be preserved to make any sense of the arguments that have been offered for either side.

And... as regards the Machan essay, I just have to comment quickly about this:
 

Supposedly, then, in nature itself there are two fundamentally different types of beings, tangible and intangible ones. Is this right?
 

Again, it may seem at first inspection that it is. We have, say, a brick, on the one hand, and a poem, on the other. But we also have something very unlike a brick, for example, smoke or vapor or clouds. In either case it's not a problem to identify and control the former, while the latter tend to be defuse and allusive. We also have liquids, which are not so easy to identify and control as bricks but more so than gases. Indeed, it seems that there is a continuum of kinds of beings, from the very dense ones to the more and more defuse ones, leading all the way to what appear to be pure ideas, such as poems or theater set designs.

 

So a "pure idea" (as opposed to...?) is held to be, not a different kind of entity than a brick, but only less dense..? I... don't even know what to make of such a notion, except to say that that I find it remarkable! If anyone wants to explore such a notion (for I wouldn't want to start it off myself; I as yet have nothing positive to say about it, and can only come up with expletives), that would probably be best in another thread. I will say this, though, as it pertains to the present topic: I think such an idea has nothing to do with Objectivism, nothing to do with reality, and I think that such an idea has nothing to do with IP, as argued by anyone apart from Machan himself, or as practiced in the world, now or at any point in history. If it were taken seriously...? Then perhaps we could start discussing IP as the literal ownership of the brain chemistry of an "idea" in someone else's head; after all, that's just the diffuse, physical reality of the property of the patent holder, yes? (!!!)
 

If I were to have created something particularly brilliant I could claim to own the idea; I could patent my pattern :fool:  :sorcerer:  :fool:  :ninja:  :fool:  and demand that nobody on this forum use it without my permission.
 
Assuming that everyone who would WANT to create that pattern (everyone who must ask me for permission) only learned of its possibility because I thought of it first, this would be entirely logical and moral.

 

I disagree. I do not believe that when someone gets an idea to do something by watching you, that they therefore require your permission to do likewise, or that to insist on such would be either logical or moral.

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Or, you know what?  I got to thinking about it in the shower and...
 
For the moment, let's go ahead and approach this discussion from the perspective that ideas are also "material values" (sorta like bricks)... where would that leave us as regards Rand, Objectivism, and property?
 
Here's Rand:

 

Any material element or resource which, in order to become of use or value to men, requires the application of human knowledge and effort, should be private property—by the right of those who apply the knowledge and effort.

 

All right. So where "intellectual property" is concerned, the material element or resource which becomes of value/use via the application of human knowledge and effort -- the "material value" which is therefore "private property," and the subject of property rights, accounted to the man who has applied the knowledge and effort necessary to create it -- is... the idea, itself! Meaning the physical, material idea: whatever neurons firing, pathways created, chemicals dumped, etc., that takes place in the human brain, and specifically his brain. That, and that alone, is the property owned.

If a man then takes that idea, which is physical and his, and applies it to some particular other material element or resource (like whatever is required for a pencil sharpener), then he thereafter also owns *one pencil sharpener* for his efforts.

But another man who does the work necessary to hold a similar idea in his own mind? That idea is his private property, by this same rationale, for in that case he is the one who applied knowledge and effort to have those neurons fire, create that pathway, and dump those chemicals, in his own brain. This is true even if he did so on the basis of having seen the first pencil sharpener. And that being his idea, he is equally free to use it in the creation of a further material value, even if that further material value is also a pencil sharpener.

What irony; that might be the cleanest rejection of IP yet!

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Or, you know what?  I got to thinking about it in the shower and...

 

For the moment, let's go ahead and approach this discussion from the perspective that ideas are also "material values" (sorta like bricks)... where would that leave us as regards Rand, Objectivism, and property?

 

Here's Rand:

 

 

All right. So where "intellectual property" is concerned, the material element or resource which becomes of value/use via the application of human knowledge and effort -- the "material value" which is therefore "private property," and the subject of property rights, accounted to the man who has applied the knowledge and effort necessary to create it -- is... the idea, itself! Meaning the physical, material idea: whatever neurons firing, pathways created, chemicals dumped, etc., that takes place in the human brain, and specifically his brain. That, and that alone, is the property owned.

If a man then takes that idea, which is physical and his, and applies it to some particular other material element or resource (like whatever is required for a pencil sharpener), then he thereafter also owns *one pencil sharpener* for his efforts.

But another man who does the work necessary to hold a similar idea in his own mind? That idea is his private property, by this same rationale, for in that case he is the one who applied knowledge and effort to have those neurons fire, create that pathway, and dump those chemicals, in his own brain. This is true even if he did so on the basis of having seen the first pencil sharpener. And that being his idea, he is equally free to use it in the creation of a further material value, even if that further material value is also a pencil sharpener.

What irony; that might be the cleanest rejection of IP yet!

 My position concerning this line of reasoning is partial argreement. As I have said previously , given what I think a LFC society would 'look like', I do not see why I could not reverse engineer or flat out copy the blueprints for a Mercedes build it and use it. Mercedes should not be able to stop me or seek restitution for a 'lost sale', if the property I created remains mine. Their rights to the duly recognized original idea would only be violated if I were to try and use ,without their permission, their idea in the marketplace, if I were to try and profit by trade using their recognized property. 

So in the pencil sharpener example I agree, the first gent owns his physical sharpener just like the second, only the first gent assuming his having the origianl idea duly recognized by appropriate processes also owns the subsequent rights in property to the trade of all like items.

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