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Intellectual Property: A Thought Experiment

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 I was, and still do, maintain that IP is the ownership of ideas.  =]

 

But as has been accurately pointed out, property rights are the right to action- you do not have the right "to" any object which you own; you have the right to DO something with it.  And accordingly, intellectual property (in the form it's conceived of, here) isn't the right to someone else's thoughts or ideas, or any of their brain chemistry.

 

If you claim to own a piano, you claim the right to use that piano.

If you claim to own the IDEA of a piano, you are claiming the right to build such a piano.

 

Therefore, when we say that Franz owns his piano design, what we mean is that he owns the right to act on it.  This is the ownership of ideas- specifically the right to act on them.

Whaa...? Sorry man but that literally made no sense to me. If ownership refers to the right to dispose of something, then it having a right "to" own something is a right to action, so what is the difference between that and having the right "to" an object in your mind? Rand's emphasizing the right to action was in differentiation to welfare rights, so I have no idea the difference here.

 

No one challenges the right to build a piano per se, just whether or not someone's intellectual creations can be property will affect whether I can build a piano with some non-consenting inventor's designs, for example.

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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

If IP is not governed by contract (in a proper Objectivist society with minimal government), then does it fall under a sort of criminal jurisdiction? 

 

I understand the criminal part of government power as arising from situations where an individual is faced with the initiation of physical force, fraud, and theft, in which case the individual has already delegated the use of force to the government, e.g. police + judicial system, to use force to prevent harm, theft, or fraud or to return stolen goods etc.  All sanctions by such a proper government can be seen as what would have been proper for the individual to do had there not been the delegation to a government.

 

Is it possible to set a standard for what kinds of things are property, what kinds of acts constitute theft, etc., on the basis of this delegated use of force principle?  i.e. think what is reasonable for the use of force first then define "property" based on that.

 

In other words: If government only has the authority to protect your property by virtue of your delegating your "intrinsic right" to use force in defence of that "property", then by deciding what IS and what is NOT property are we not defining what, if government, were not doing its job of using force, YOU COULD use FORCE to defend?

 

In reality I think we are determining both what IS property and what you COULD use FORCE to defend simultaneously, my query is WHERE do you draw that line?  It is not one of mere academics or economics it is much more "hands on" and possibly violent!       

 

Please excuse the awkwardness this was hastily written down.

 

SL

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(By the way, I say IP is ownership regarding *some* ideas, but IP is not ownership of *merely* ideas. It's not a major point, but it's there.)

 Conceded.

IP, as it currently stands, doesn't give anyone the right to charge others for reminiscing or fantasizing.

 

 

Realistically, any discussion on rights presumes someone finds out about a violation and can demonstrate a loss that hinders life sustaining action.

 Agreed.

And that's exactly what it comes down to: does Wolfgang's piano harm Franz or infringe on his right to life?

 

If I understand correctly then it deprives him of the fee he is entitled to charge for it (the so-called Free Rider problem) in which case I suspect we may implicitly accept production to be a zero-sum game.

 

 

A contract isn't necessary, for example, to loan you a bike, although if you sold the bike or otherwise made a profit from my bike, I'd probably have the legal right to take you to court.

 Absolutely; because you would've deprived me of all of the time and effort spent earning that bike.  The question is whether Wolfgang has done the same.

 

 

The question to ask is more about what defines a product of one's thinking and efforts. Is the idea behind the blueprint a product? Without a blueprint, I'd argue it wouldn't be a product, and only a product in the sense of figuring out a math problem. What Franz has is a creation, taken from research and being able to make a product, more than just figuring out an abstract solution.

No, the idea of a product is not the same as the finished product; it is the potential, along with the raw materials for that product. 

 

The idea for a product is, itself, a form of value; the accomplishments of someone like Edison did not happen automatically and do improve countless lives in countless ways.  That much, at least, is certain.

 

But sharing your idea with someone diminishes the rewards of your labor (literally, your invention itself) not in the slightest, as opposed to physical theft, which does.  I think this warrants a distinction which is why I would disagree.

 

To add onto the story, or background for Franz, if he had just began selling pianos within a month for $500, do you think he has a legal right to be compensated for those $500 Franz would have asked for?

 Hmmmm. . . .

 

I'm not sure yet.  I feel that would change the equation somehow but I'm not sure why; I'll get back to you on that.

However, even if we accept IP as it currently stands, Wolfgang provided the parts and the labor.  If his rights have been violated then I would consider Franz entitled to whatever portion of the finished products' worth was directly attributable to his improved design.

 

But what if he didn't want money?

 

Property rights imply the right to choose how to use and dispose of your own property.

If we declared that a baker could only eat his cake, and not sell it, we would be violating his rights; the same if we did the opposite.

 

So if, for the sake of argument, Franz has the exclusive right to create his own type of piano, then what if he doesn't want to build any?

Further: what if he took Wolfgang to court, not for competing with him, but violating a right he had no intention of using?

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No one challenges the right to build a piano per se, just whether or not someone's intellectual creations can be property will affect whether I can build a piano with some non-consenting inventor's designs, for example.

 That's what I meant.

 

Does one person's mimicry of another's idea infringe on their individual rights?  There's no way to conceive of it without ownership of ideas, themselves.  The closest I can come, for the sake of constructive discourse, is the "exclusive right to build something" i.e. the right to prevent others from building it.

 

 

In reality I think we are determining both what IS property and what you COULD use FORCE to defend simultaneously, my query is WHERE do you draw that line?  It is not one of mere academics or economics it is much more "hands on" and possibly violent!       

 Exactly so.

IF Franz has the right to prevent Wolfgang from building his piano, and Wolfgang has violated that right by building it, THEN Franz in fact has the right to take it back- by force, if necessary.

 

That's why I think there's been so much fuss over this issue, recently.

 

In defining the limits of property rights, we are actually defining what you can or cannot defend violently.  So yes, it's sort of important.

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 That's what I meant.

 

Does one person's mimicry of another's idea infringe on their individual rights?  There's no way to conceive of it without ownership of ideas, themselves.  The closest I can come, for the sake of constructive discourse, is the "exclusive right to build something" i.e. the right to prevent others from building it.

Well again, like DA and I were saying, sure, but that depends on what you mean by "idea."

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Fine- the right to prevent anyone else from creating a specific object or enacting a specific method.  Better?

I mean sure, but not really cause I mean that's kind of vague and negatively formed, that's like saying property rights in my car is the right to prevent you from doing specific things to it. Well okay, but it doesn't help us reach clarity.

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In a civilized society, when is violence ever the moral response(aside from emergency) to a rights violation? IP is based on the context of a civil society, IP is meaningless to a man in isolation, the context of a rational division of labor society is the only setting were IP 'makes any sense'.

'Ownership of ideas, ..or ideas as such..' most of the discussion stemming from these types of ideas seem to me to be more along the lines of floating abstractions as concerns property rights , because the idea of commerce constantly seems to be dropped.

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In a civilized society, when is violence ever the moral response(aside from emergency) to a rights violation? IP is based on the context of a civil society, IP is meaningless to a man in isolation, the context of a rational division of labor society is the only setting were IP 'makes any sense'.

'Ownership of ideas, ..or ideas as such..' most of the discussion stemming from these types of ideas seem to me to be more along the lines of floating abstractions as concerns property rights , because the idea of commerce constantly seems to be dropped.

 

In an objectivist society, use of force IS moral if: 1. it would have been moral in "pre-society" for the individual to act so, 2. THAT particular moral ability to act so IS actively being delegated to the minimal Objectivist government "post-society" and thus IS moral for the Police to act so.

 

The morality of the use of force does not depend here upon who does the forcing... if in a situation A) the police exerts the force on the "thief" or the victim exerts the force on the "thief" the morality of the use of force on the thief does not change, precisely because the police stand in as a proxy for what the individual could/should have done.

 

 

If you see me using a new fishing rod I invented to catch more fish (3x as many in the same time) and you build your own:

 

either

 

A: it is moral for me to confiscate and destroy that rod and any rod you build based on mine in perpetuity or moral for me to confiscate forcibly any and all fish you caught with it and forcibly take any and all monies you made from the sale of any fish and/or forcibly take your goats or vegetables to the tune of the amount of food you did not have to eat by virtue of the fish you caught.... AND it is also moral for the police acting on my behalf to do so, OR

 

B: it is not moral for me or the police to use force in respect of anything related to the rod you build based on mine nor the fish you caught as a result.

 

The question is whether IP is an "enforceable" property right according to Objectivism.

 

 

IF we look at IP as a voluntarily adopted "custom" which is not one that is "enforceable", then I could try to persuade others, (by letting them know you saw what I was doing and that your fishing rod was not original), not to buy fish you caught, perhaps not to deal with you.  I would suggest to my IP loving friends not to sell (not at good prices anyway) their inventions to your friends who, if they deal with you, clearly don't respect IP.  Then on a voluntary basis, people who "chose to recognise" IP would participate and those who did not would not... although they would be doing a lot of copying.

 

SL

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The question is whether IP is an "enforceable" property right according to Objectivism.

I started to answer this question in my OP. I explained the ways I thought that IP can be objectively defined and therefore be enforceable. I didn't write the post to just ask about IP in general, I wrote it specifically to discuss what you are asking. What would be a right way and a wrong way to consider IP - is there anything about Wolfgang's piano that would belong to Franz? Part of my argument is that the duplicate is still Franz's piano based on the piano's origins and purpose, so at the least, Franz may limit and control how that piano may be made. Yet as Nicky's first post suggested, the proper legal response is, for example, monetary compensation, not quite confiscation of the piano that Wolfgang made. I started by explaining how I understand IP to be relatively inductively, and it seems you overlooked that important part.

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In an objectivist society, use of force IS moral if: 1. it would have been moral in "pre-society" for the individual to act so, 2. THAT particular moral ability to act so IS actively being delegated to the minimal Objectivist government "post-society" and thus IS moral for the Police to act so.

 

The morality of the use of force does not depend here upon who does the forcing... if in a situation A) the police exerts the force on the "thief" or the victim exerts the force on the "thief" the morality of the use of force on the thief does not change, precisely because the police stand in as a proxy for what the individual could/should have done.

 

 

If you see me using a new fishing rod I invented to catch more fish (3x as many in the same time) and you build your own:

 

either

 

A: it is moral for me to confiscate and destroy that rod and any rod you build based on mine in perpetuity or moral for me to confiscate forcibly any and all fish you caught with it and forcibly take any and all monies you made from the sale of any fish and/or forcibly take your goats or vegetables to the tune of the amount of food you did not have to eat by virtue of the fish you caught.... AND it is also moral for the police acting on my behalf to do so, OR

 

B: it is not moral for me or the police to use force in respect of anything related to the rod you build based on mine nor the fish you caught as a result.

 

The question is whether IP is an "enforceable" property right according to Objectivism.

 

 

IF we look at IP as a voluntarily adopted "custom" which is not one that is "enforceable", then I could try to persuade others, (by letting them know you saw what I was doing and that your fishing rod was not original), not to buy fish you caught, perhaps not to deal with you.  I would suggest to my IP loving friends not to sell (not at good prices anyway) their inventions to your friends who, if they deal with you, clearly don't respect IP.  Then on a voluntary basis, people who "chose to recognise" IP would participate and those who did not would not... although they would be doing a lot of copying.

 

SL

 

If situation A were to apply to two individuals in isolation , how or why would it be moral for you to act to keep me from sustainance? How would my copying of your design and utilising it be an action on my part that hinders your 'natural' freedom to act and catch fish? Would stopping me from copying by force, be an action by which you would gain or keep value ? I would say in that specific example that in isolation any force you would use to stop me from fishing, even with your design that I purposefully copied, would be an initiation of force, if not, against what are you retaliating?

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'Ownership of ideas, ..or ideas as such..' most of the discussion stemming from these types of ideas seem to me to be more along the lines of floating abstractions as concerns property rights , because the idea of commerce constantly seems to be dropped.

 Alright.  Wolfgang builds a piano based on the schematics Franz created, and then he sells it.  Is that commerce or a crime?

 

Commerce is derivative of property rights and must come after them.  Contrary to Peikoff, I think we absolutely must drop that context (and all else following FROM the issue at hand) until the matter has been decided; otherwise we'll be discussing two entirely separate concepts of 'commerce'.

 

It can do nothing but bog this thread down in the hopeless confusion which has already devoured several others.

 

 

If situation A were to apply to two individuals in isolation , how or why would it be moral for you to act to keep me from sustainance? How would my copying of your design and utilising it be an action on my part that hinders your 'natural' freedom to act and catch fish? Would stopping me from copying by force, be an action by which you would gain or keep value ?

This is entirely true.  But I find no fault with the hypothetical, itself.

 

Strictly Logical is entirely correct in his assessment.

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold
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These may well be neglected aspects worthy of inclusion of the ongoing analysis and/or thought experiment.

 Company X is guilty of theft (regular, old-fashioned theft) and liable for any and all damages incurred by its meddling.

 

Eiuol, are you familiar with the "free rider problem"?

 

Is Franz limited, in excersizing his ownership, to asking for monetary compensation?  If so then this is implicitly based on that concept.

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I started to answer this question in my OP. I explained the ways I thought that IP can be objectively defined and therefore be enforceable. I didn't write the post to just ask about IP in general, I wrote it specifically to discuss what you are asking. What would be a right way and a wrong way to consider IP - is there anything about Wolfgang's piano that would belong to Franz? Part of my argument is that the duplicate is still Franz's piano based on the piano's origins and purpose, so at the least, Franz may limit and control how that piano may be made. Yet as Nicky's first post suggested, the proper legal response is, for example, monetary compensation, not quite confiscation of the piano that Wolfgang made. I started by explaining how I understand IP to be relatively inductively, and it seems you overlooked that important part.

 

I will admit I literally overlooked your explanation as to what you "understand IP to be relatively inductively", and jumped in with what I thought was most pertinent (to my mind).  I will go back and read your analysis. 

 

 

In the meanwhile I wonder:  do we not all believe that government "is force" (properly delegated)?  That anytime anything at all which is not voluntary in a society, is caused by actual or the threat of the use of force?  I was under the impression this was a basic tenet of Objectivist politics.  ( I love Yaron Brook's debate with Miles Finch? on the Proper Role of Government see Youtube) 

 

IF Franz has the right to retaliate of course that force is moral (as would the action by government he has delegated to them) but that does not change its nature.  As such "monetary compensation" is window dressing... if Wolfgang simply refuses to pay and continues to play the piano... force will be used by the authorities to separate him from it, or him from his money....  this is what I mean by "enforceable".

 

If society chooses not to force him then IP is in that society is not "enforceable".  In which case I would say it has not been given the status of a property right but a voluntary "custom". 

 

I'll take a look at your post Eioul

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If situation A were to apply to two individuals in isolation , how or why would it be moral for you to act to keep me from sustainance? How would my copying of your design and utilising it be an action on my part that hinders your 'natural' freedom to act and catch fish? Would stopping me from copying by force, be an action by which you would gain or keep value ? I would say in that specific example that in isolation any force you would use to stop me from fishing, even with your design that I purposefully copied, would be an initiation of force, if not, against what are you retaliating?

 

These are precisely the kinds of questions one needs to ask when deciding the status of inventions, ideas, written works etc.

 

I ask this, if Don knows Jack would love to copy his fishing pole, and wants to trade with Jack for that design... why doesn't Don keep it secret from Jack, make a contract with Jack before hand with some clever use, license or sale provisions to their mutual benefit.  (not zero sum of course both parties benefit) e.g. Jack pays Don fish for every 3 he catches (which is three times what he normally would have caught).  If Don's invention turns out to be better than originally advertised (originally say at 3x better) then Jack ends up keeping a larger proportion of the fish he catches.  If Don's invention turns out to be much worse... Jack simply does not use it and owes Don no fish at all. 

 

Additionally, one of the terms of the contract between Don and Jack is that Jack must keep the invention secret, and only Don can contract with others directly in the same way he and Jack had.

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I ask this, if Don knows Jack would love to copy his fishing pole, and wants to trade with Jack for that design... why doesn't Don keep it secret from Jack, make a contract with Jack before hand with some clever use, license or sale provisions to their mutual benefit.  (not zero sum of course both parties benefit) e.g. Jack pays Don fish for every 3 he catches (which is three times what he normally would have caught).  If Don's invention turns out to be better than originally advertised (originally say at 3x better) then Jack ends up keeping a larger proportion of the fish he catches.  If Don's invention turns out to be much worse... Jack simply does not use it and owes Don no fish at all. 

 

Additionally, one of the terms of the contract between Don and Jack is that Jack must keep the invention secret, and only Don can contract with others directly in the same way he and Jack had.

 

You have no idea how much I agree!

 

For the clever contract, it would have to stipulate the standards of the idea (which is at that point a secret) and the amount to be paid for it IF it satisfies such standards, because otherwise it would provide no mechanism to defend oneself from fraud.

So something like:  "Jack will pay Don $X upon learning of his idea, if it satisfies requirements Y and Z."  Insert anything else in place of X and Y; it would still function the same.

 

And if so then there is no need to invoke IP, there is no need for any of this mess; it is all simply and effortlessly reducible to standard contractual obligations.

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold
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And if so then there is no need to invoke IP, there is no need for any of this mess; it is all simply and effortlessly reducible to standard contractual obligations.

I addressed this earlier when I said that you don't need to write up a contract to find someone accountable for using your property, like I mentioned before about loaning a bike. If they ruin your bike, or otherwise infringe upon your ability to use it, then it's sensible to say that regardless of any contract, you can legally demand compensation. Contracts alone are fine for special agreements between two parties, but violating rights is not dependent upon a contract in place that can be violated. Slavery for instance is a rights violation even with a contract; theft (or blameworthy damage) of a bike is a rights violation even without a contract. Contracts may or may not be a matter of custom within a society, but questions of property rights or any other rights are never a matter of custom. I'm saying that IP is far more important and fundamental to one's flourishing than say, what clothes your employer requires you to wear as a contractual agreement.

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Indeed the whole "IP as contract" argument, for example given in Rothbard, is quite limited in scope. Contractual copyrights only bind the parties to the contract, and not any third parties, they do not afford the protection of real rights given by IP law. If Franz makes a contract with Wolfgang to reserve his right to copy his piano, but does not have a contract with Ivan, then only Franz' property right in the piano design will prevent Ivan from copying it (and will make Franz' contract with Wolfgang unnecessary.)

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If they ruin your bike, or otherwise infringe upon your ability to use it, then it's sensible to say that regardless of any contract, you can legally demand compensation.

 Yes, because. . . ?

 

 Think of it this way. 

 

Suppose we were roommates who shared a communal living room.  Suppose further that you take great care to keep that room immaculate, each and every day, and that one day I come barging in tracking mud everywhere and ruin all of your hard work.

This directly corresponds to the Objectivist concept of property rights- the products of your time and effort are out-of-bounds to others' interference.

 

(And if there's something wrong with this conception then please correct me.  This was how I originally got a firm grip on the idea and now, whenever I find myself in doubt, I visualize someone wrecking a tidy room and the subsequent wrath incurred.)

 

So extending this a bit further, suppose I come in one day to find you busily cleaning away, and I just sort of mention a far superior way of tackling the problem.  And then, after realizing that I am right once more, you might thank me and begin to act on that idea.

 

Using this analogy, would I have any right to prevent you from doing so?

 

Does Franz have the right to prevent Wolfgang from building a piano OR, if he has already done so, to defend that right retroactively by destroying it?

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 Incidentally, this relates to the Ship of Theseus because of concept-formation.

 

Physical property rights are easy to define.  If you want to know what my car is, my house, my laptop computer or anything else, I can point at it ostensibly and declare: "This!"  Physical property is easy to define because it is perceptual.

 

Intellectual property is conceptual in nature; you're distinguishing one GROUP of things from another group which, while not simply arbitrary, lends itself to a whole host of issues.  Where does one concept end and another begin?  What about borderline cases?

 

If one were to seriously attempt to define the rules of intellectual-property-designation, they would probably fill a book.  And if they didn't then I'd call them arbitrary.

 

 

 

As to the original post, YES Wolfgang's piano is the same as Franz's- in the same way that one man is the same type of thing as another man (if you omit enough measurements).  Now, if I understand you correctly, you're advocating that Franz has the right to take Wolfgang to court (or anyone else who builds such a piano) but only for a certain amount of money?

 

Quite simply- why?

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You couldn't say "This!" about land either.

 

My main idea is that Franz should be able to take Wolfgang to court, not necessarily that demanding money is the only thing Franz can ask for. I say "take to court" because that's what one would do for any rights violation. If at least I can say that Wolfgang's piano is the same as Franz' piano in a conceptual sense, and I can say that a method to produce that piano is a product of Franz' thinking, then Franz also has the right to control the production of that piano in a conceptual sense. That might not necessarily mean outright confiscation of the piano, don't boil it down so simply.  

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You couldn't say "This!" about land either.

 No, you couldn't.

But since property rights are the right to create and then to use, where does land fall into that?  You own your house because you built it and you own your fence and your neatly-mowed lawn for the same reasons; anything which you improve about your "land" is what makes it yours.

These things, which COULD be defined ostensibly, are the only things that make "land ownership" meaningful at all.

 

 

If at least I can say that Wolfgang's piano is the same as Franz' piano in a conceptual sense, and I can say that a method to produce that piano is a product of Franz' thinking, then Franz also has the right to control the production of that piano in a conceptual sense. That might not necessarily mean outright confiscation of the piano, don't boil it down so simply.  

How exactly does one control production in the conceptual sense?

 

 

My main idea is that Franz should be able to take Wolfgang to court, not necessarily that demanding money is the only thing Franz can ask for.

 Alright.

 

So what about the person who discovered the harmonic properties that enabled Franz to invent the piano that Wolfgang built [the enabling discovery]?  Every is implies an ought.

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You can't define land ostensibly. As I said in the OP, there is no intrinsic boundary, a boundary has to be defined conceptually. I brought that point up because it's an example of property in a conceptual sense with application to concrete objects. Controlling a piano in a conceptual sense I mean having control over conceptual aspects of production, in the same way you'd have control over land in a conceptual sense. You can do all sorts of things on your own land, but really what the point is of land is to do things on or with, not to just "have" land. Ideas of production are used just as much as land is used, and you can even define the extent of privileged use (or what I described as "range of application" at first) in terms of what the method is useful for.

 

So what about the person who discovered the harmonic properties that enabled Franz to invent the piano that Wolfgang built [the enabling discovery]?  Every is implies an ought.

That's a discovery. It's not a product of one's thinking in the same sense as a method of building certain pianos. The principles of harmonics aren't simply created.

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I have a few thoughts distinguishing those things to which western societies accept property rights may attach and those things to which they do not.

 

Property Tangible:  personal objects from pebbles to buildings and real estate,

 

Property Intangible: writings, music, performances, inventions, designs, media, forms of expression, trade marks/names

 

NONproperty Tangible:  The atmosphere, light from the sun, ocean water, ocean seabed  beyond ?200? miles of shore, planets (no matter who when or how discovered) stars other astronomical objects

 

NONProperty Intangible: Mere ideas (absent the how), purely mathematical or abstract algorithms, scientific discoveries, information per se, information collected but not arranged as a form of expression, schemes per se of doing business.

 

What I see as important for both tangible and intangibles to be property are at least one of the following: effort to bring about create or acquire the property, possession/control of the property,  usefulness/desirability - continuing commercial aspect of the property. 

 

Perhaps it would be better to describe it in the negative:  That which takes NO effort whatever to create or acquire, OR cannot be possessed or controlled, OR has NO usefulness/desirability or commercial aspect whatever, will likely not constitute property.

 

 

I think the problematic area for deciding whether an invention like the piano is "property" is the issue of possession and control.

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You can't define land ostensibly.

 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 not ownership of the land, as such, but of whatever you build or engineer or alter or DO to it- all of which can, coincidentally, be defined effortlessly by simply pointing at it.

If land ownership is simply ownership of the land, itself, then I claim the moon (also defined ostensibly).

 

 

The principles of harmonics aren't simply created.

And yet, neither are pianos.  Wolfgang's piano depends on Franz' invention, which depends on countless earlier discoveries.

 

No, the principles of harmonics aren't simply created; they're part of that arrangement of matter and energy which simply exists, in nature.  But you claim that Franz owns his invention, which is nothing more than the concept of some NEW rearrangement of matter and energy; why can't scientists patent the discoveries which he depends on?

These discoveries don't just happen, spontaneously; they require the time, thought and energy of someone who is willing to work for them.  They are a value just as much as Franz' piano is; how could he have invented it without them?

 

The principles of harmonics would have existed in nature, regardless of any scientist's actions. . . But without their actions, Franz would never known of them and Wolfgang would have no piano.

 

And actually, if land-ownership truly does simply mean "ownership of thus-and-such patch of dirt" then there is no possible way to exclude discoveries from the patent office.

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