Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

Intellectual Property: A Thought Experiment

Rate this topic


Recommended Posts

You didn't answer my question. You tell me what I am convinced of (psychobabble). You ask more questions.

How about we take turns answering questions and skip the psychobabble. It's more fun that way.

Doesn't the taking of turns and the answering of questions presuppose that the participants taking turns actually have the answers to the questions being asked? When two or more responses to the same question differ at the same time and in the same respect - would they all be considered correct answers?

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Replies 341
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Top Posters In This Topic

Popular Posts

Moving on... (He said she said doesn't help anything and I want to keep this on topic. Post in that other thread if you find it necessary.) I'm using this thought experiment to ask specific question

Property rights, like all rights, are a right to action, not objects, materials, etc. Seems like everyone is ignoring this, and treating property rights as the right to materials and objects. The i

Not virgin land, without inhabitants or signs of civilization; no.  But anything you do TO the land or WITH the land will allow you to define it ostensibly.   I would argue that land-ownership is no

As to your point about and justification for property rights, that is not Rand's reasoning behind it -- it's almost the inverse of her reasoning...

No, my reasons have to do with first use - not first thought - and that is exactly what Ayn says. OBVIOUSLY, for a human to make use of an object requires knowledge, and it is the application of knowledge to material objects that creates the right of property, not necessarily original knowledge. Read what Ayn says and note that nowhere does she insist on ORIGINAL knowledge (thanks to muhuk Post #91 & 93):

Ayn: It is the right to gain, to keep, to use and to dispose of material values.

[This says I have the right to own material objects, not thoughts]

Ayn: 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.

[so, if I apply an idea originated by you which is now my knowledge and I apply my effort, the material becomes my property - because I applied the knowledge and effort.]

Ayn: A right does not include the material implementation of that right by other men; it includes only the freedom to earn that implementation by one’s own effort . . . .

[so, if I implement an idea originated by you using my materials, that is not included in your right - you have to expend your own effort on your own material in order to own it.]

Ayn: Man has to work and produce in order to support his life. He has to support his life by his own effort and by the guidance of his own mind. If he cannot dispose of the product of his effort, he cannot dispose of his effort; if he cannot dispose of his effort, he cannot dispose of his life.

[so, if I use an idea originated by you because my own mind has guided me to see it as a good idea, I should not be interfered with by you, since that deprives me of the right to dispose of my own life.]

Ayn: It is the institution of private property that protects and implements the right to disagree—and thus keeps the road open to man’s most valuable attribute (valuable personally, socially, and objectively): the creative mind.

[so, you limiting what I can create with my own private property and using my own mind, because you don't want to be imitated is a violation of private property]

 

Your reasons for supporting any property at all aren't legitimate because they ignore the source of property to begin with -- human ingenuity. And who is the source of all ingenuity? One person. So, it's not surprising that you reject IP, which refines further the reasoning behind property which you reject or ignore.

Wrong. The source of private property is ingenuity applied, not originated. If I apply your ingenious idea to my materials, the result is mine because....see above. Ayn and I agree perfectly on the source of private property. It must be material and it must come into use to become property, which OF COURSE will require knowledge and effort, but that does not need to be specified since it is true of all human action. What is NOT true of all human action is first use - which is the source of property rights.

Edited by howardofski
Link to post
Share on other sites

I didn't use the term psychobabble.

No you did not. You said, "You're convinced that..." and I labeled that as 'psychobabble'. It was an irrelevant aside. Let us continue. I still would like a reply to my question about copyrights. Then I will respond to your other items.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't know what it matters to our scenario "who invented the piano" -- why we should ever need to figure that out to suss out a modern day example of one or two guys building a piano between them. The piano was invented 300 years ago, per Wikipedia.

Wait, is the second case you give based off the first, i.e. that all piano designs are in public domain? I was talking on the presumption that we were discussing Franz Brand Pianos as stipulated in the OP. "Who invented the piano" meant who invented the particular type of piano in question - Franz in this case.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Wait, is the second case you give based off the first, i.e. that all piano designs are in public domain? I was talking on the presumption that we were discussing Franz Brand Pianos as stipulated in the OP. "Who invented the piano" meant who invented the particular type of piano in question - Franz in this case.

I agree. I believe the premise of the example is that the Franz Brand Piano is a new and 'patentable' invention (given IP law).

Link to post
Share on other sites

Doesn't the taking of turns and the answering of questions presuppose that the participants taking turns actually have the answers to the questions being asked? When two or more responses to the same question differ at the same time and in the same respect - would they all be considered correct answers?

No. No.

Edited by howardofski
Link to post
Share on other sites

DonAthos, in Post #191 leads me to these schematic questions, offered here to the Pro-IP debaters as thought experiments:

Able thought of it and built the first one, but Baker imitated and built the second one. Who owns the second one?

Able thought of it, revealed the plans to all and Baker then built the first one. Who owns it?

Able and Baker both thought of it and built it, but Able thought of it sooner while Baker built it faster. Who owns what?

Answer: IP law is nonsense. Property is physical objects and materials that have been put into use and whoever was first to use them was the original owner. Full stop, as DonAthos says.

Edited by howardofski
Link to post
Share on other sites

If you have other arguments, state it clearly, but often they boil down to the "I own the materials" argument. The key is that I am saying owning individual "parts" therefore you own the "whole" is a faldesign and object cannot be treated identically, any more than you own an island because you own a house on the island. If IP is to be invalidated, other arguments are needed. At least, if you want a robust argument. I emphasize that IP should instead be called "design property"!

Rand's case for IP hinges on the distinction between thoughtful and thoughtless actions. This means that deliberate actions can sometimes be thoughtless (mindless) and hence involuntary.

For a man to choose to do anything mindlessly is a self-contradiction; choice is an attribute of the human mind, exclusively.

There is no such thing as a man capable of mindless duplication, as Rand herself pointed out in the Romantic Manifesto.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Wait, is the second case you give based off the first, i.e. that all piano designs are in public domain?

Yes. Here was what I'd written in setting up the scenarios:

 

Scenario #1. We'll stick with our old buddy Franz. Imagine that it is The Future -- at a time when nearly all patentable piano designs have passed into "the public domain," so we do not need to fear about Franz's relationship with IP as he decides to build a piano for himself. He gathers the requisite materials such that they are his property (he purchases them, or he finds them in some copacetic manner, or etc), and then selects a design that he finds appealing from whatever the Internet has become. He constructs the piano in his garage according to that design.

Question(s): is the resultant piano Franz's piano? If so, on what basis?

Scenario #2. Introducing Wolfgang. Same setting -- The Future. Franz proceeds as before, acquiring the materials in whatever way you would find legitimate and selecting his preferred design from the Internet. But then he employs Wolfgang to build the piano, making a contractual arrangement such that Wolfgang will put it together for Franz, for a fee. Wolfgang does so, and we wind up again with a single piano.

Question(s): Is the resultant piano Franz's piano? Or Wolfgang's? Again, upon what basis do we make this determination?

The setting is the same and Franz acquires his design in the same manner in each case: he does not create a new design, but selects a public domain piano design from the Internet.

Link to post
Share on other sites

No you did not. You said, "You're convinced that..." and I labeled that as 'psychobabble'. It was an irrelevant aside. Let us continue. I still would like a reply to my question about copyrights. Then I will respond to your other items.

I had thought that our respective positions on copyright were well understood.  Since that seems to not be the case....

 

It is moral for an architect to be able to assign copyright protection to the drawings and specifications that he produces, in order to prohibit their unauthorized use in the construction of a building.  I do not concede your notion that copyrights are an unethical abuse of State power, or that they in some way constitute an initiation of force, either explicit or implied.

Link to post
Share on other sites

IP is not a variant of property; it is anti-property.

Indeed! And I've noticed some things about that which beg an interesting question.

The first is that, while noncontractual "ownership" of anyone else's actions logically leads to nursemaid statism, its advocates usually attempt to avoid this (specifically in defining "patentability") by excluding drawbacks from their corresponding benefits (Nobel's guilt) and excluding evaluations from their corresponding facts (the scientific can be owned but not the philosophical).

While both accurately reflect Rand's essays on IP, they both strike me as very acausal; very Kantian.

The second is that the whole thing hinges on that "mind acting through other bodies" (which is a perfect summary), which means that nobody is responsible for their own natures (the innovator is), which flies in the face of everything else Rand thought.

---

Not only is IP anti-property, it's anti-mind and anti-self. What I don't understand yet is what the rest of it stems from.

Where is the root of the error?

Because despite its similarities to "you didn't build that" it still isn't quite the same. Every single variety of Collectivist I'm aware of hates innovators, to their core, but here's a collectivist concept which seems to be the opposite.

So what is the root of it?

Link to post
Share on other sites

Why do you think the morality/legality distinction is important here? I already explained how I think IP is the same as any other kind of property, so it should be treated like land or objects. I gave reasons why the concept of IP matters. I also explained why it deserves legal protection.

If you study the history of IP law you will find it is wholly a legal construct, invented to avoid the need for thousands of non-disclosure agreements. The common law attitude has long been trade secrets have identifiable protections, common knowledge does not. The very lack of 'moral' common ground has made IP law the gnarled, convoluted mess it is today, pretty much the world over...

Link to post
Share on other sites

No, my reasons have to do with first use - not first thought - and that is exactly what Ayn says.

No, it is not. But, as you posted earlier, you think that her quotes can be used to support either side of this debate, so I'm not sure why you're using them now. But, it's not actually true that she can be accurately quoted supporting two sides of an issue she clearly wrote about. She had one consistent view on property rights, which includes intellectual property. In fact, if intellectual property is invalid, so is Rand's entire basis for ethics and politics.

You say the man who did not think up the original idea deserves to be able to copy the man who did think up the original idea. This is the core of your argument, right? Do you not see how this contradicts your supposed emphasis on *use* in your justification for property rights? You can't use something without knowing how, and you say this is "OBVIOUS." Does use not originate from one man's ideas? If one man learns ideas for use from another man's prior thinking effort, who deserves the most benefit in a socioeconomic context?

But, you drop the appropriate context, repeatedly. In every post. When context is brought up, you simply repeat the same statements again and again: "IP is not property." Why? "Property is only material things." Why?

Link to post
Share on other sites

Howard,

As near as I can tell, if you stole the unpublished manuscript of Atlas Shrugged, and sold it to a Publisher, you would agree that Rand would have the right to take you to court, but only for the $10 or so value of the paper that the manuscript was printed on?

Link to post
Share on other sites

Howard,

As near as I can tell, if you stole the unpublished manuscript of Atlas Shrugged, and sold it to a Publisher, you would agree that Rand would have the right to take you to court, but only for the $10 or so value of the paper that the manuscript was printed on?

You have now shifted from refusing to answer questions about your own position to telling me what my position is. Amazing.

Link to post
Share on other sites

No, it is not. But, as you posted earlier, you think that her quotes can be used to support either side of this debate, so I'm not sure why you're using them now. But, it's not actually true that she can be accurately quoted supporting two sides of an issue she clearly wrote about. She had one consistent view on property rights, which includes intellectual property. In fact, if intellectual property is invalid, so is Rand's entire basis for ethics and politics.

You say the man who did not think up the original idea deserves to be able to copy the man who did think up the original idea. This is the core of your argument, right? Do you not see how this contradicts your supposed emphasis on *use* in your justification for property rights? You can't use something without knowing how, and you say this is "OBVIOUS." Does use not originate from one man's ideas? If one man learns ideas for use from another man's prior thinking effort, who deserves the most benefit in a socioeconomic context?

But, you drop the appropriate context, repeatedly. In every post. When context is brought up, you simply repeat the same statements again and again: "IP is not property." Why? "Property is only material things." Why?

Ayn, in the quotes I have offered, does take the same position as I do (and John Lock does). In supporting IP, she contradicts these quotes. I agree with what I have quoted and disagree with her support for IP.

Your claim that without IP, Ayn's entire ethics becomes invalid, is itself invalid. Without IP, humans would still have their minds, their liberty, their property (acquired by the first-use principal) and the NAP.

And you ask another question that has been repeatedly answered: who deserves? This whole question of "just deserts" has been covered and re-covered. The answer is to be found in the quotes from Ayn that I have offered. Read them. She does not mention who originated the knowledge.

She says property belongs to whoever applies knowledge to un owned materials and resources. Is she wrong or does that not mean what it says or will you be ignoring that quote?

Your insistence that this only counts for those who originated the knowledge is clearly a failure to comprehend what she actually wrote. Don't get me wrong - I am not claiming to be right because Ayn agrees with the first-use principal. The point here is that she does in fact agree with it, and her quotes make that clear, and I agree with it and, apparently, you don't.

You ask, "If one man learns ideas for use from another man's prior thinking effort, who deserves the most benefit in a socioeconomic context?"

How often must this be answered before you will admit that it has been answered? You deserve the property that you have invested your knowledge and effort in, nothing more. Reread Ayn's quote, or John Lock or the many posts in this thread. You do not deserve someone else's property simply because what they are doing with their property reminds you of what you did with your property.

You accuse me of dropping context, but neglect to say what context I am dropping. Did I drop your IP context? That's not a context. Did I forget to include the human mind? Quite the opposite. DonAthos has replied to this point (the effort of applying un-original knowledge) in great detail with no comment from you.

It appears to me that you do not read carefully or do not remember what has already been said in this debate, or haven't even bothered to follow it. You end with two "why" questions that have been repeatedly answered.

Meanwhile, I continue to wait for one of the pro-IP debaters to name what is taken from them when someone copies their ideas. Silence ensues of course because the answer is: Nothing!

Link to post
Share on other sites

See post 261.

My original question (205 & 213) asked if you agreed that force was only justified for self defense. That's a yes or no question. 261 says you do not concede that enforcement of IP law is an initiation of force.

I interpret this to mean that IP infringement must therefore be an initiation of force. But I dislike having to interpret indirect answers in a debate. So, to clarify your position, I ask:

Do you believe that:

IP infringement is an initiation of force?

Edited by howardofski
Link to post
Share on other sites

My original question (205 & 213) asked if you agreed that force was only justified for self defense. That's a yes or no question. 261 says you do not concede that enforcement of IP law is an initiation of force.

I interpret this to mean that IP infringement must therefore be an initiation of force. But I dislike having to interpret indirect answers in a debate. So, to clarify your position, I ask:

Do you believe that:

IP infringement is an initiation of force?

Moving on, Howard.  I should have dropped this discussion on your response #205.  In my book, your views are parasitical.  I can't imagine that anything will come of further discussions.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Moving on, Howard.  I should have dropped this discussion on your response #205.  In my book, your views are parasitical.  I can't imagine that anything will come of further discussions.

Well, as I have made clear in several posts, IP law and NAP are in direct contradiction. You refuse to answer questions that would lead to that contradiction becoming explicit. Instead you cook up examples which describe me as breaking and entering to steal manuscripts and you now deploy the term "parasitic" while announcing that you will not debate further. Good.

You claim that copyright enFORCEment is not an initiation of force.

It follows that copyright infringement IS an initiation of force, which is obvious nonsense.

Link to post
Share on other sites

My original question (205 & 213) asked if you agreed that force was only justified for self defense. That's a yes or no question. 261 says you do not concede that enforcement of IP law is an initiation of force.

I interpret this to mean that IP infringement must therefore be an initiation of force. But I dislike having to interpret indirect answers in a debate. So, to clarify your position, I ask:

Do you believe that:

IP infringement is an initiation of force?

Since it seems like an answer may not be soon in coming from other quarters, I'll say that it was this very question, which I'd initially asked of myself, that started me down this particular path of thought.

For here are a couple of my beliefs on the subject of rights and force:

I believe that rights may only be violated by the initiation of the use of physical force.

I believe that physical force is justified in retaliation to its initiation (and only in retaliation).

And so I started thinking of examples of IP and trying to view them in terms of the initiation of force (and also what retaliatory force would mean).

For instance, in post #230, I spoke of some scenarios where I have (or would) take actions contra-IP which I still consider to be moral action. It doesn't really comprise an argument, per se, but perhaps it speaks to some sort of... inductive approach to trying to convey my sense of IP? I don't really know! :) Anyways, this was one of my scenarios:

 

If I were a farmer and involved in plowing my fields, and if I saw that my neighbor had discovered some better way to plow fields, I would adopt that methodology without a moment's hesitation (assuming that such a thing otherwise made sense for me to do). I would not feel guilty for having done so. (Rather, I would feel guilty if I didn't.) Though I might feel appreciative towards my neighbor, and his ingenuity, I would not feel that I somehow required his permission to improve my own lot, or to make use of what I had witnessed.

Now... perhaps this does not run afoul of every possible IP scheme that the advocates of IP might propose -- there is a great variety, after all. But in my opinion, this is a direct violation of the kind of IP that Ayn Rand proposes, and for the very reasons that she gives.

I'm engaged in "mindless copying," aren't I? I'm seizing the value that my neighbor's mind has created -- a truly parasitical act, no?

And thus...

I'm initiating the use of physical force against my neighbor? By learning a better way of plowing my fields (through observing my neighbor, true) and putting it to use, to better my life?

And furthermore! Now I have made moral the use of retaliatory force against me!

It may suit us now to cast such a retaliatory force as some sort of antiseptic "fine" levied by an austere judge or something. I think that's how most conceive of it. But it doesn't have to be so. We are talking about physical force after all -- its initiation and retaliation. So we can ask ourselves questions like... what if the local law refused to take action against me (or didn't exist)? What would my neighbor be morally justified in doing?

What about seizing the produce from my fields at the point of his gun? What about burning down my fields altogether?

I don't expect any advocate of IP to follow us all the way down such a path of thought. And yet, I believe it's consistent with what they argue, whether they allow themselves to understand it or not. John Galt said:

 

It is only as retaliation that force may be used and only against the man who starts its use. No, I do not share his evil or sink to his concept of morality: I merely grant him his choice, destruction, the only destruction he had the right to choose: his own. He uses force to seize a value; I use it only to destroy destruction.

IP, and the arguments that underlay it, has my act of improving my farmland as me "using force to seize a value." It is me choosing my own destruction, through the act of destruction that I have myself performed.

Destruction?

Human learning (which is ultimately what the anti-concept of "mindless copying" resolves into), productivity, and the increase of actual, material wealth -- me acting for the betterment of my own life, in improving my plot of land while hurting no one -- is destruction???

I honestly feel that it is ludicrous on its face.

Now... there might be some out there who might even embrace this monstrosity. They might follow a path of mental math like this:

It is the mind which creates value, and thus a Mind owns that value which it creates. An innovator is entitled to Intellectual Property. The farmer owns the methods of improving farmland which he innovates. Thus for me (the second farmer) to use his method without permission *is* the initiation of physical force. Physical force in response to its initiation is entirely justified, and yes -- in a certain setting -- that might mean burning down my farmland. For after all, that is only "destroying destruction."

But what can I do for such a person? If they can't bring themselves to recognize that this is a horror... then what could I possibly say that would help them make that connection? Dub it rationalism? Propose that if "the initiation of physical force" were confined to people improving their own lots of land, that 1) we'd never have any conception of "the initiation of physical force" or 2) if we did, we'd account it a good thing? How can I break through to a man who is willing to surrender his reason, so that he may have the emotional satisfaction of believing that "he was right all along," no matter what he may have sacrificed for it?

Men must ultimately hold themselves to high standards of intellectual honesty, if discussion/debate is to do them any good.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Men must ultimately hold themselves to high standards of intellectual honesty, if discussion/debate is to do them any good.

Exactly right. We can not make it our purpose here to change minds. Our purpose can only be to present our case in the best philosophical form that we can. Being persistently challenged forces us to keep modifying the position or our rhetoric until it is the best we can do.

My formula for good philosophy is to compose sentences which are:

1 true

2 important

3 universal

4 clear

5 brief

I have learned a great deal in this forum about how better to state the anti_IP position. I have not learned of any new or better pro-IP arguments. I never expect to "win" debates - that would require an impartial jury and there is no such thing where ethical questions are involved.

Link to post
Share on other sites

My formula for good philosophy is to compose sentences which are:

1 true

2 important

3 universal

4 clear

5 brief

I don't know whether this will meet your formula, but in the spirit of the OP, I'd like to propose a thought experiment:

Suppose a society comprised of people who are completely isolated from one another, except that they may see and hear what the others are doing. (Perhaps this is something like a futuristic reality show a la Big Brother, or something similar.)

And so, there is no "physical" interaction between any individual and others, save for whatever is required to gather and transmit the video/audio feed.

This society could be as big or as small as we'd like it to be. For simplicity's sake, let's suppose two people, who may monitor one another and who are, themselves, monitored.

While one member of this society could not, for instance, steal someone else's piano, or his crops, what would still be possible would be: imitation. Or copying. Or learning. Or however you'd like to conceive of it.

If Person One invented the piano -- or a new type or design of piano, such that ordinarily we would find it "patentable," and thus a new piece of Intellectual Property -- and Person Two saw this, and considered it to be in his best interest to build likewise in his own realm, well...

Would that be the initiation of physical force?

Is Person One harmed? Should he be angry? Should he wish that he had some means of stopping Person Two from acting in this manner, or punishing him for doing so?

Is this an example of destruction? Or production? And if "destruction," what exactly has been destroyed?

Link to post
Share on other sites

This thread has gotten convoluted with warped, minuscule side issues and made up detail scenarios that do not speak to the spirit or reasons for the identification of intellectual property -- that is, context has been thrown away. Defenders of IP have been painted as irrational and emotional, even immoral, while detractors of IP supposedly see the truth, and isn't it so sad that men's minds can't be changed, no matter how hard we try? It's not hard to see why people would decide to just stop engaging. But, IP is an important issue. So...

There is really no point in arguing further if those opposed to IP agree with the following, since the fundamental beliefs of the two sides would be as opposed as a communist to a capitalist:

"The men who originate ideas and realize them in physical products do not deserve to decide how they are to be introduced and sold to other men, ie. the rest of society. Any man who can grasp any idea deserves to use it however he wants, even if he did not think it up himself, and even if he could not have thought of it himself."

To me, and not coincidentally, also to Rand, THIS is the immoral position. It is immoral to take the mental effort of another man and give him nothing in return. It is immoral (and parasitic) to receive the benefits of a rational, thinking society while rejecting what makes it all possible to begin with: mutual benefit through *mutual* trade -- and especially immoral to do this on *principle*!

Personally, (at the risk of sounding like hyperbole) it makes me sick that someone would want to do this, and even have the nerve to parade around saying so. "Thanks for thinking of all these great new ideas. Ok, see ya! Sucker!"

IP, like all laws and like society in general, isn't simple or automatic. It's difficult to formalize a way of recognizing who deserves what in the realm of mental effort. But, the alternative is to treat original thinkers like they are worth nothing. "It's the idea that's worth something, the guy who thought it up just happened to think it up! Oh well for him." Really... Well, those guys think differently, one way or another. They're either going to go after your dishonest self legally, or they're going to stop thinking up ideas to bring to market -- because no one wants to work for free, especially if the benefactor is an ingrate, on principle(!).

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...