Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

IP once more, with feeling

Rate this topic


Recommended Posts

Intellectual property.

 

The source of property rights is the law of causality. All property and all forms of wealth are produced by man’s mind and labor. As you cannot have effects without causes, so you cannot have wealth without its source: without intelligence.

-Rand

 

So if I go outside and build a mud hut somewhere I own it.  It is my hut because I built it; that is, without myself, my idea and my actions it would not exist at all.

 

What the patent and copyright laws acknowledge is the paramount role of mental effort in the production of material values; these laws protect the mind’s contribution in its purest form: the origination of an idea. The subject of patents and copyrights is intellectual property.

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.

-Rand

 

So if I go and invent the idea of a hut I own it; without myself and my idea, no huts (as such) would ever be invented. . . ?

AND if someone goes out and builds a hut without my permission, they are initiating coercive force against me:

 

By forbidding an unauthorized reproduction of the object, the law declares, in effect, that the physical labor of copying is not the source of the object’s value, that that value is created by the originator of the idea and may not be used without his consent; thus the law establishes the property right of a mind to that which it has brought into existence.

-Rand

 

So, if someone uses my idea at all they are acting as a human photocopier.

Thusly, if someone copies my idea without my permission, they are in effect stealing it from my mind; it is theft in the same way and for the same reasons as physical theft.

Note the distinction between physical theft and intellectual theft; see what happens if it's removed.

Note the implication of MINDLESS AUTOMIZATION inherent in treating potential property (ideas) as if they were actual property.

 

But are human beings capable of being truly mindless, and are ideas (which are POTENTIAL values) synonymous with actual values?

 

1.  An item's creator is its owner

2.  The first person to think of an idea is its de facto creator

C:  Intellectual property

 

I find the minor premise dubious but, even if we accept that, can you own someone's MIND (entailed by owning their ideas)?

Note I say 'their' ideas and, even if someone else thought of it first, it would be unintelligible to say that one person owns the ideas in someone else's mind.

 

Finally, I defy you to conceive of an implementation of IP which does not violate individual rights.

The prohibition of murder doesn't violate anyone's rights; nor does its implementation.  Same for rape and (physical!) theft.

So, if one man does have the right to his intellectual property after someone else has VOLITIONALLY learned of it (I'm not disputing the alternative) then his right doesn't have to violate anyone else's rights; does it?

 

My argument, as a syllogism:

1.  An item's creator is its owner

2.  Ideas of items are potentials; not actuals

3.  Whoever takes an idea (from any source) and acts on it owns the consequences

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Replies 76
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Top Posters In This Topic

Popular Posts

If someone can explain to me, in terms of the underlying principles (NOT pragmatism) why we shouldn't take IP straight; why you can't own discoveries, why you can't own an idea indefinitely, why you d

I think I need to re-read this and give it some more thought. But for now let me ask a crudely thought-out question, which may be too simplified and miss the mark of your argument.

 

Firing off the cuff and without a lot of thought about this subject, it seems on the surface of things that there is a difference between, say, (1.) watching your neighbor create the first fishing net and copying his idea so that you can catch more fish yourself, and (2.) taking someone's book that they've written and printing out your own copies and selling it to people and pocketing all the revenue.

 

Are either or both of those ideas protected as intellectual property? And how do those examples fit into your argument or Rand's argument?

Link to post
Share on other sites

The best thread on the topic is this one: Why should there be patents and copyrights?

 

A key point:

 

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

 

Also:

 

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

 

There is also this from the US copyright office:
 

Copyright, a form of intellectual property law, protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture. Copyright does not protect facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation, although it may protect the way these things are expressed. See Circular 1, Copyright Basics, section "What Works Are Protected."

 

.. and this on patents from the US patent office:


 

The patent law specifies the general field of subject matter that can be patented and the conditions under which a patent may be obtained.

 

In the language of the statute, any person who “invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, may obtain a patent,” subject to the conditions and requirements of the law. The word “process” is defined by law as a process, act or method, and primarily includes industrial or technical processes. The term “machine” used in the statute needs no explanation. The term “manufacture” refers to articles that are made, and includes all manufactured articles. The term “composition of matter” relates to chemical compositions and may include mixtures of ingredients as well as new chemical compounds. These classes of subject matter taken together include practically everything that is made by man and the processes for making the products.

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Firing off the cuff and without a lot of thought about this subject, it seems on the surface of things that there is a difference between, say, (1.) watching your neighbor create the first fishing net and copying his idea so that you can catch more fish yourself, and (2.) taking someone's book that they've written and printing out your own copies and selling it to people and pocketing all the revenue.

 

Are either or both of those ideas protected as intellectual property? And how do those examples fit into your argument or Rand's argument?

 I think so. . . But I haven't really considered works of art (such as books, movies or music) yet; mainly I've been focused on the first one, which is what I'm trying to refute.

I'll have to get back to you on that one.

 

 

Original.Creative,Recognized,In the context of LFC

Original- by what standards?

Is the car a new invention, or derivative of the wheel, or derivative of the wheel and the cart and the locomotive, et cetera?  I think any standards we try to implement there will necessarily be arbitrary.

Creative- same issue as original; there is no possible method of objective delineation.

 

If there is any possible way to objectively and morally implement IP, recognition would be crucial to it. . . But that's half of the problem, right there.

 

 

There are plenty of threads already on this. I bet that the straw man by which IP means that ideas are property has been contradicted in every one of them.

 There are.  I've read a few of them and skimmed several more; I think I've got the gist of it.

 

Does intellectual property mean "ownership of ideas" or is that a strawman?

If my interpretation constitutes a strawman then, by all means, correct me.  What does "intellectual property" actually mean?

Link to post
Share on other sites

If someone can explain to me, in terms of the underlying principles (NOT pragmatism) why we shouldn't take IP straight; why you can't own discoveries, why you can't own an idea indefinitely, why you don't actually own the idea that you own, why someone else's use of it hurts you at all, et cetera- if anyone can explain the real-world application of IP without resorting to arbitrary distinctions and integrations then I'll concede the point.

 

Because sofar I've seen a whole lot of "Well, yeah, if we were to really be consistent about it then nobody would ever be able to produce anything, BUT. . . " followed by a whole lot of clever exceptions, conditioners and modifiers.

IF we take IP straight THEN we must effectively outlaw human life.

 

So why should there be exceptions, limitations and compromises?  More specifically, why should we retain the concept at all?

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold
Link to post
Share on other sites

Causality is the root of property rights.  If you chop down a tree you own its lumber; it is yours because without your actions it would not exist as lumber.

 

BUT if you have a child you don't own it.  Even though your children would not be alive were it not for you (and your sex) you don't own them- because you cannot cause another mind (volition forbids it) and therefor cannot own it.

If your offspring chops down a tree it is theirs; not yours.

 

If you give someone else the axe they use to chop down a tree, unless there was a prior contract you DO NOT own their trees.

If you give someone else the IDEA of an axe you DO NOT own their axes, unless there was a prior contract!  Which, incidentally, is what I think the solution to this whole damn thing is.

 

The distinction between intellectual property and all other forms of property is that ideas exist inside of VOLITIONALLY CONSCIOUS MINDS which cannot be owned; if not then slavery.

The solution, for any would-be-inventors, is simply an extension of contractual obligations.

Link to post
Share on other sites

There are.  I've read a few of them and skimmed several more; I think I've got the gist of it.

 

Does intellectual property mean "ownership of ideas" or is that a strawman?

If my interpretation constitutes a strawman then, by all means, correct me.  What does "intellectual property" actually mean?

I'm not willing to start a conversation on this from scratch, and I hate the way you set this up anyway. You're using random quotes without even saying where they're from, and then you wildly read meaning into them that isn't in those quotes.

If your question on what IP is wasn't answered to your satisfaction in those threads, why not ask for clarifications there?

Link to post
Share on other sites

harrison:

Original- by what standards?

 

huh? the concept of 'original' is filled with such ambiguity that you do not understand my use of the term?

 

 

Is the car a new invention

 

 

To what do you refer to as 'the car' is it a specific design of an object? Or a specific object, because it kinda seems like you mean "you know, a car,man" in the sense that everyone knows what a car is, independent of the fact that a 'car' is a manmade object , to recognize the fact that 'a car' is a manmade object should kinda make one reflect on the idea that if not for one specific man that object may not be.

Link to post
Share on other sites

You're using random quotes without even saying where they're from, and then you wildly read meaning into them that isn't in those quotes.

 

 How so; specifically where?

 

If your question on what IP is wasn't answered to your satisfaction in those threads, why not ask for clarifications there?

 Because they're full of clutter.

 

harrison:

Original- by what standards?

 

huh? the concept of 'original' is filled with such ambiguity that you do not understand my use of the term?

 I mean that there is no possible way to objectively quantify originality.

We all know that original means new, novel; never-before-thought-of.  And you could very well quantify this, using the combined knowledge of all mankind as your standard.

 

But in order to OBJECTIVELY quantify it, for the standards of making it law, each and every citizen would have to know the combined knowledge of all mankind- because everyone has to know in advance whether or not they are committing a crime.

I am saying that any law which judges some standard of originality cannot be justly enforced.  It has nothing to do with the citizens, the accused, the courts or the police; a society of perfectly moral Objectivists could never enforce it morally because the law, itself, is unrealistic.

 

 

To what do you refer to as 'the car' is it a specific design of an object? Or a specific object, because it kinda seems like you mean "you know, a car,man" in the sense that everyone knows what a car is, independent of the fact that a 'car' is a manmade object , to recognize the fact that 'a car' is a manmade object should kinda make one reflect on the idea that if not for one specific man that object may not be.

I refer to whatever one would refer to as 'a car' during an emergency situation, when one has no time for semantic games.

I'm not disputing that without specific inventors, any idea MAY never have been conceived of (although I very much dispute that such is necessary) any more than I'm disputing that, without your parents, you WOULD not currently exist.

 

There is a very clear and well-understood exception to causal ownership, which is derived from the volitional nature of a conscious mind, and I'm saying that it applies to IP because of the nature of ideas.

Ideas are accepted, rejected, analyzed and modified volitionally, by self-directed and self-generated effort.  ANY idea which ANYONE acts on is their own idea, through their own choices; even if their own choices were to simply accept it at face-value.  This is why you cannot own another mind.

 

This is why parents do not own their children, this is why slavery in general is wrong whenever it is attempted and this is why our current understanding of IP is flawed- you cannot own another person's mind, the correlaries of which are their ideas and their actions.

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold
Link to post
Share on other sites

My argument rests on the identification that IP is the ownership of ideas, as such, and the identification that conceptualization is an independent process.

 

There is no such thing as collective consciousness and so any ideas which are transmitted, from one person to another, require the voluntary participation of both.  The ideas which any person holds are such because of their volitional participation, as are any actions they take.

Man is a being of self-made soul, which means a self-caused soul, which means self-ownership; this is the root of responsibility.

 

If I am wrong, and one person may own another's ideas (as per IP) then it's still flawed, because IF an inventor owns all instances of his invention THEN he is also morally responsible for anything done with it!!

 

Of course, this all rests on the premise that IP is conceptual ownership.  But I do not think that any other interpretation of it would be intelligible.

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold
Link to post
Share on other sites

Of course, this all rests on the premise that IP is conceptual ownership.  But I do not think that any other interpretation of it would be intelligible.

You're wrong, I found Ayn Rand's definition and description of the concept of Intellectual property perfectly intelligible.

And her description is different from yours. It's a little more complicated than saying that people own ideas, but still perfectly intelligible.

Edited by Nicky
Link to post
Share on other sites

"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."

Essentially Rand's description, I think?

 

How is this distinct from owning ideas, as such?

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold
Link to post
Share on other sites

"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."

Essentially Rand's description, I think?

 

How is this distinct from owning ideas, as such?

Well, what Rand is saying is coherent, and the phrase "to own an idea" is nonsense. An idea is a thought. You don't own it, it's an attribute of a person's conscious mind.
Link to post
Share on other sites

Patent infringement is the supposed theft of someone else's idea.

You must've posted this at least ten times already. Why? We got it the first time, I replied that it's a straw man three days ago.

Anyways, an idea cannot be stolen except through physical theft (if someone wrote it down) or the threat of bodily harm. Patents and copyrights aren't aimed at preventing that. Patents and copyrights enforce the conditions under which the originator of the idea shares it with the world, if he wishes to share it.

Just like contract enforcement and anti-fraud laws allow for the free trade of physical values without fear of anyone getting ripped off between the time one party's values leave someone's control and he gains control of the values he is supposed to receive for them, patents and copyrights allow for free trade in intellectual values without the person who wishes to share them with the world fearing being ripped off.

Without contract enforcement and anti-fraud laws, trade in physical goods would be limited to immediate, direct, face to face exchanges, and without patents and copyrights trade in intellectual value would be made virtually impossible (except on a one on one basis among friends). Novels couldn't be published, machines couldn't be designed, etc.

Edited by Nicky
Link to post
Share on other sites

I’ve always considered the IP vs. Copyright debate to be a natural extension of the mind-body dichotomy.  The truth is you need both since man is a being of ideas and objects; mind and body.  You have to conceive of something before you create it and you cannot create something without knowing what you are creating.  Materials do not pop into existence without purposeful thought and ideas not acted upon are thought without purpose.  The former is just the zombie view of humans and the later has tenure at Universities. 

 

For example, a medical company that spends money and many hours creating a new drug has to go through the thought process of formula and experiment, ideas and the product of those ideas tested, to bring some life saving drug to market.  The drug is the materials created (production) as well as the thoughts (trial and error of ideas) of those that conceived of it. 

 

You cannot take one without taking the other.  If you claim to be against the owner keeping either what you really want, whether intentional or not, is unearned access to the other.  Sure, you can patent a drug but if you make the formula common domain then the patent is useless since you get unrestricted access to make the drug for yourself.    You want the body without having to think.

 

Frankly, it sounds like spiritual parasitism as an excuse to get the unearned.  Why work for something when a real man will do the thinking for you?  Humans cannot thrive under such a system in the same way they cannot thrive in a Welfare State that takes the creations of thoughts. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

. . . the phrase "to own an idea" is nonsense. An idea is a thought. You don't own it, it's an attribute of a person's conscious mind.

 Exactly my point.

 

. . . patents and copyrights allow for free trade in intellectual values without the person who wishes to share them with the world fearing being ripped off.

 

 How would the world rip him off?  Honestly; let's analyze it.

Because with a tangible piece of property, if I take it from you, I have literally stolen your time and energy because you no longer have their product.

With IP, if I copy your idea you've lost nothing; I've gained and you're exactly the same.  So how is this being ripped off?

Potential sales.  Once we've accepted that you MUST ask someone else's permission before using their idea, then if you DON'T ask for their permission it's theft- because they never received their due.

 

Therefore, if we accept this, an absence of value is the same as the destruction of value.

 

 

The drug is the materials created (production) as well as the thoughts (trial and error of ideas) of those that conceived of it. 

 Absolutely.

 

 

You cannot take one without taking the other.

 No, you can't. . . But who said anything about taking anything?

 

The original inventor (in this case the company) still knows how to make the drug and is free to produce at will.  And if they don't want to tell anyone else how to make it then they don't have to.

 

All I'm saying is that ONCE an idea is in someone else's head, you no longer own it.  But before that, by all means, monopolize away.

So, yes, at some point someone would reverse-engineer this drug and see how to make their own.  This would create competition where there was none, in which case whoever can make it better will end up selling more of it.

I believe there is a word for this dynamic. . .

 

 

Why work for something when a real man will do the thinking for you?

 Because I think that, if handed the blueprints and schematics for any revolutionary idea, a real man would immediately start wondering how he could improve it- while a parasite would ask you to explain it to them.

 

And I'm actually not saying that anyone has to share their ideas, at all.  I just reject that you can own an idea in someone else's mind- even if you put it there.

 

 

Humans cannot thrive under such a system in the same way they cannot thrive in a Welfare State that takes the creations of thoughts. 

 Secondary; I'm trying to get down to the principles involved, here.

 

BUT, you might be interested to know, I absolutely think that humans could survive without patents or copyrights at all.  Other preexisting mechanisms, such as contractual obligations, could serve exactly the same function without any of the issues I see in IP.

Link to post
Share on other sites

 Exactly my point.

Then please stop arguing against the premise that IP is literally and only owning an idea. IP is neither a pure idea nor a purely material thing. IP existing is dependent upon a realizable product as well as the idea and means to make/produce/create that specific product. A mind exists, and a body exists, but it's nonsense to talk about either separately. Similarly, the intellectual end of property exists just as much as a tangible end of property, for all property.  That's not just a metaphor, though. I really mean that there isn't an idea to touch, but it does not mean that it's just some illusion that results from the use of property. I hoped Nicky pre-empted all this on post #5.

 

To consider being "ripped off", start with this. Say you're on vacation for a week and leave your bike at home. Someone uses your bike without permission while you are gone; you are being deprived of nothing, since you're on vacation. Suppose further that your bike is taken care of. You return home, find a sign on your bike that says "thanks for the joy ride". Were you ripped off? Why or why not?

Edited by Eiuol
Link to post
Share on other sites

Exactly my point.

What's your point? That saying that ideas are property is nonsense? You're the only one who's saying it.

Sure, you're claiming that Ayn Rand is also saying it, but that's a blatant lie. She never said that ideas are property.

How would the world rip him off?  Honestly; let's analyze it.

Let's not. Let's deal with issues one at a time. You asked what IP is, I told you. Let's focus on the difference between what I told you and what you're claiming IP is (ownership of ideas).

Let's not analyze anything else, until we cleared up that difference. Then, and only then, we can discuss whether IP is a good idea or a bad one.

Or, if we fail to clear up that difference, let's not have a pointless conversation go any further than it already has.

Edited by Nicky
Link to post
Share on other sites

You asked what IP is, I told you. Let's focus on the difference between what I told you and what you're claiming IP is (ownership of ideas).

Let's not analyze anything else, until we cleared up that difference.

 Fine.

WHAT, then, does intellectual property refer to?  It would help if you could identify the distinguishing characteristic for me.

 

 

IP existing is dependent upon a realizable product as well as the idea and means to make/produce/create that specific product.

 If you want to make some new type of shoe but lack a factory (realizable product I'll take as synonymous with idea; 'realizable' refers to the end results but not the method).  If you ask someone to use their factory (probably propose some sort of contractual arrangement) and they say no, you can go find another factory.

If you have a factory and want to use someone's shoe idea, and they say no, that's it; you cannot engage in that activity at all.

So the question is if those are identical; I would say no.  Sure, you can find another idea- but what if someone were to patent fire or the wheel?

 

Considering government isn't supposed to grant patents, but merely secure the preexisting right, how many rights must each of us violate on any given day?

 

 

IP is neither a pure idea nor a purely material thing. IP existing is dependent upon a realizable product as well as the idea and means to make/produce/create that specific product.

If someone else owns the means to create a product, but you own the patent, what exactly do you own. . . ?

 

To consider being "ripped off", start with this. Say you're on vacation for a week and leave your bike at home. Someone uses your bike without permission while you are gone; you are being deprived of nothing, since you're on vacation. Suppose further that your bike is taken care of. You return home, find a sign on your bike that says "thanks for the joy ride". Were you ripped off? Why or why not?

 Nope.

Theft is what it is because it deprives someone (the property owner) of their rightfully-earned benefits, NOT because it rewards thieves.  That the two nearly invariable correspond is irrelevant; if there is a situation in which some thief can benefit without harming the property owner at all (such as your scenario) then no harm has been done.

However, if anything were to happen to the bike or the owner were to be inconvenienced in any way by it, then he's been wronged- meaning that any thief attempting such in reality would have to be omniscient in order to morally "borrow" the bike.

Not so with IP.

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold
Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.


×
×
  • Create New...