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Intellectual Property: A Thought Experiment

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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

The question was not if ownership applies only to physical objects, but why does,it only apply to physical objects.

 

Ayn Rand was very explicit to define property rights over material objects (see #91). Isn't this enough to explain it from the point of view of Objectivism?

 

Also this:

 

 

Because you can't eat your lunch if I have eaten it, but you can use an idea which I have used. The lunch issue is what economists refer to as "scarcity". Scarcity does not apply to ideas. They don't get "used up" and one person's use does not preclude another person's use.

 
I think you are asking all the wrong questions here:
 
 

How does the consumption of the good affect the assignment of the rightful owner?

You could take my lunch by force and eat it, but that doesn't mean you owned it in a legal or moral sense. So I don't follow your use of the economic term in this instance.

How does the scarcity principle apply to rights in land property?

 
Look at this from this perspective:
 
If you have a sandwich and you eat is. You have exercised your right on your property. But now it's consumed.
 
If you have an idea and you use it for whatever, you still have that idea.
 
If you have a patch of land and you rent it for 50 years. You can't do anything else with it during that time.
 
If you have an idea and you use it this morning, you can use it again in the afternoon!
 
If you have a car and you drive it to work. Your wife needs to find other means of transportation. The car can't be in two places.
 
If you have an idea and you use it for yourself. Then you can share it with your wife and she can apply it. Guess what? You can still continue to utilize that idea. So can your wife.
 
It is not economics. It's the difference in nature, difference between mental entities and material entities.
 
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My question was an honest one.

 

And I took it exactly in that spirit. And I'd like to think I have given a straightforward answer.

 

 

I thought I remember you as stating in perhaps another thread , that since Rand wrote about property rights and copyrights patents, that the innovations in IT have change the paradigm as relates to IP. Perhaps I misremember.

 

Yes, I said something to the effect if Ayn Rand lived today she might have had different opinions on IP. I said this because these changes are paradigm changing. 50 years ago it would be a foolish thing to suggest an author to self publish, now it's at least viable and (arguably) a better strategy for certain markets. But let's please not get into the practical details of the application of IP. Because there's a more fundamental thing to be said:

 

  1. People against IP do not deny that Ayn Rand had said things in favor of IP.
  2. Ayn Rand defined property rights exclusively over material entities. (See #91)
  3. Given 1 and 2, Ayn Rand contradicts with herself.
  4. IP enables the initiation of force against people exercising their (material) property rights.
  5. 4 is a contratiction.

 

(If you are anti-IP and you think these do not represent your argument, please feel free to tell me to shut up.)

 

So @tadmjones you are right, but let's forget about what I said in another thread. Let's address these points.

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Ayn Rand was very explicit to define property rights over material objects (see #91). Isn't this enough to explain it from the point of view of Objectivism?

 

Also this:

 

 

 

I think you are asking all the wrong questions here:

 

 

 

Look at this from this perspective:

 

If you have a sandwich and you eat is. You have exercised your right on your property. But now it's consumed.

 

If you have an idea and you use it for whatever, you still have that idea.

 

If you have a patch of land and you rent it for 50 years. You can't do anything else with it during that time.

 

If you have an idea and you use it this morning, you can use it again in the afternoon!

 

If you have a car and you drive it to work. Your wife needs to find other means of transportation. The car can't be in two places.

 

If you have an idea and you use it for yourself. Then you can share it with your wife and she can apply it. Guess what? You can still continue to utilize that idea. So can your wife.

 

It is not economics. It's the difference in nature, difference between mental entities and material entities.

All of these examples(of practical applications of property) accurately describe instances of me enjoying disposal over my property, but in a society with a government based on a theory of negative rights as it relates to the individuals that make up that society, where do these examples show other people using my property?

Why are not my ideas just as scarce as my car?

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Why are not my ideas just as scarce as my car?

 

I know I asked you to not be sarcastic and all. So I have to refrain from it myself. But questions like this make it really difficult. I have just explained the concept of scarcity as I would explain it to a 5 year old, and as a reply to that you are asking this question. All I can say is that I'm very frustrated right now.

 

 

 

All of these examples(of practical applications of property) accurately describe instances of me enjoying disposal over my property, but in a society with a government based on a theory of negative rights as it relates to the individuals that make up that society, where do these examples show other people using my property?

 

I didn't say anything about other people using your property. I have observed that you were having trouble with the concept of property and I tried, and apparently failed, to explain it to you.

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Because it seems your anti IP stance is grounded in the protection of the imitators from the govtmuse of force per se regardless the validity of the offense.

Regardless of the validity of the offense? Of course not. We are debating whether imitation is morally the same as stealing a bicycle. I am saying that it is not - that imitation is not wrong and stealing a bike is wrong.

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Regardless of the validity of the offense? Of course not. We are debating whether imitation is morally the same as stealing a bicycle. I am saying that it is not - that imitation is not wrong and stealing a bike is wrong.

The thread isn't about imitation anyway, nor is imitation a valid basis to IP violations. It's vague and imprecise. Respond to the thought experiment, it defines things better. It isn't to imply a point, it's a context with premises of mine for my response.

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How does the consumption of the good affect the assignment of the rightful owner?

You could take my lunch by force and eat it, but that doesn't mean you owned it in a legal or moral sense. So I don't follow your use of the economic term in this instance.

How does the scarcity principle apply to rights in land property?

The point is that if a thing can be consumed, then we need the idea of "property" to sort out who shall consume it. But when consumption is not possible - everyone can "have" it - there is no longer a need to sort out who shall "have" it. So "ownership" becomes a non-issue. Ideas are not consumed, they are mental tools that anyone and everyone can use without interfering with anyone else's use.

So then the argument is, "I thought it up, therefore I own it - even after I reveal it to you."

The "therefore" in that sentence is what is being challenged by the Anti-IP debaters.

As for land, two people cannot be in the same place at the same time, just as they cannot both eat the same bite of lunch. But they can both use the same idea.

Edited by howardofski
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Regardless of the validity of the offense? Of course not. We are debating whether imitation is morally the same as stealing a bicycle. I am saying that it is not - that imitation is not wrong and stealing a bike is wrong.

Without engaging in equine juxtaposition, like answering my question about the moral principle of ownership with an economic term , why is stealing a bike wrong? But please don't start with NAP, it is not fundamental to morality or politics , it is a principle that describes the moral use of force. Saying that the only way to violate rights is by the use of force is not the justification of morality.

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Without engaging in equine juxtaposition, like answering my question about the moral principle of ownership with an economic term , why is stealing a bike wrong? But please don't start with NAP, it is not fundamental to morality or politics , it is a principle that describes the moral use of force. Saying that the only way to violate rights is by the use of force is not the justification of morality.

howardofski may well have his own answer to this, and he might not like mine. But while I'm anticipating Eiuol's response, may I take a crack at this to keep myself thinking?

Stealing a bicycle is wrong because the owner of the bicycle worked to obtain that bicycle (either through creating it or trading for it, which is itself ultimately sourced in creation of a kind; wealth is created through such work). He did so, so that he could ride the bicycle, or sell it, or use it in some manner to make his life better.

By stealing the bicycle, you are preventing him from making his life better in that fashion, despite the work he committed to do that very thing. You are divorcing the results of his efforts -- material wealth -- from the process that is required to create that wealth in the first place.

As life requires such material wealth -- people need bananas to eat, bicycles to ride, and generally to use the products of their labor -- stealing is anti-life. Directly so: if you continue to take food from a person's mouth, he will starve. Material wealth, banana or bicycle or whatever, properly belongs to the person who has performed the work required to create that wealth in reality. To take that wealth or otherwise prevent the creator's use of that wealth in whatever fashion he chooses (within the extent of his own rights) is therefore immoral.

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Without engaging in equine juxtaposition, like answering my question about the moral principle of ownership with an economic term , why is stealing a bike wrong? But please don't start with NAP, it is not fundamental to morality or politics , it is a principle that describes the moral use of force. Saying that the only way to violate rights is by the use of force is not the justification of morality.

You are looking for a justification of morality? Does this mean you don't know why one should have a moral code at all? I have no idea what "equine juxtaposition" means.

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The thread isn't about imitation anyway, nor is imitation a valid basis to IP violations. It's vague and imprecise. Respond to the thought experiment, it defines things better. It isn't to imply a point, it's a context with premises of mine for my response.

Then what is the valid basis of IP violations? How does one violate IP?

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You are looking for a justification of morality? Does this mean you don't know why one should have a moral code at all? I have no idea what "equine juxtaposition" means.

I don't know about "equine juxtaposition" either, lol, but I think that tad is absolutely right to ask why stealing a bicycle is wrong. And asking you for your view does not imply that tad doesn't have a moral code, or know why a person should have one. Seeking to understand your views is fair game for a productive discussion. Really important, actually.

If we're eventually going to talk about the morality of IP (or immediately), then I believe that we need to first come to terms on the morality of property rights, generally.

If we first know why stealing a bicycle is wrong, then we can ask whether making one's own bicycle (of similar design) causes the same harm, in reality, that stealing the bicycle does. Or any harm at all.

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I don't know about "equine juxtaposition" either, lol, but I think that tad is absolutely right to ask why stealing a bicycle is wrong. And asking you for your view does not imply that tad doesn't have a moral code, or know why a person should have one.

Don, Tad (in Post# 159)is asking why stealing is wrong, but also seems to be asking what justifies morality - a much more fundamental question. I have not implied that he lacks a moral code or can't justify one. I have asked him what he means by his (to me) complex question.

Further, notice that in asking his question, he proscribes two elements, which I have clearly employed in previous answers: scarcity (I assume this is what he means by an "economic term") and the NAP.

Now, if I am to eliminate these from my answer, then I end up with no need for the concept of property at all, which leaves us free to assign ownership by some other method - Tad's IP method?

The NAP is merely a prohibition against violating property rights, and property rights are a response to the obvious metaphysical fact of competition for scarce resources. They both mean the same thing: don't fight over scarce resources, but instead use a rule to assign ownership (give title).

Nevertheless, here is an outline of a my answer which should cover all bases:

******************************

Due to our lack of instinct and our gifts of free will and reason, and due to the optional nature of life, we must make choices and those choices can serve our lives or not. We need rules (moral principles) to guide us to pro-life choices if our choice is to live. This would be true even if we were alone on the proverbial island.

That is the justification of morality.

Due to our physical nature, we must choose to consume and use physical items in order to live.

Due to the scarcity of such physical items, in the company of others, there can arise conflicts of interest over who will consume what.

The sub-category of morality called political philosophy solves this conflict over consumption by assigning rights to consume called property rights, or ownership. It is important to solve this conflict of interests in consumables, by the political principal of property rights in order to avoid solving it by violence, which is dangerous (anti-life). Property rights (rules of ownership) allow individuals to live together in peace.

Ownership is assigned by homesteading, trading, or gifting. Homesteading means to be the first to make use of a scarce resource or area. Thus, property begins with our own bodies and then includes those objects or areas of land which we have made use of through homesteading, trading, or gifting.

The use of force violates the right of property.

Now, given the above, NAP is most certainly fundamental to both morality and to politics. Ayn refers to it as the basic principle of Objectivist politics. It also reflects the basic principle of social morality, which is "Do not harm the harmless". Stealing consumable (scarce) items harms the harmless. Scarcity and the NAP are the two most important ideas to understand in order to understand why it is wrong to steal a bicycle.

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equine juxtaposition = cart before horse?? Scarcity and NAP ARE the horse. Without them, there is no cart, unless it's a stolen concept cart, which is almost as bad as a stolen bicycle.

Scarcity isn't the horse. Ingenuity of use is the horse. A machine is a scrap heap of elements without the person who thought to turn the elements into something better. Pencil lead is "scarce" until someone invents a computer.

Since you're arguing that scarcity is the primary reason for property, and not the guy who thought up the use for something which then made it "scarce" due to demand for his invented use of it, you're putting the cart before the horse. The universe isn't inherently "scarce," ie. "useful." There is no known limit to usefulness.

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equine juxtaposition = cart before horse?? Scarcity and NAP ARE the horse. Without them, there is no cart, unless it's a stolen concept cart, which is almost as bad as a stolen bicycle.

Weren't you just in another thread arguing against having a government? What are you doing arguing about what the government should or shouldn't do?

Don't anarchists think that government is immoral no matter what it does, be it ban murder, the theft of physical property, or intellectual property?

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Scarcity isn't the horse. Ingenuity of use is the horse. A machine is a scrap heap of elements without the person who thought to turn the elements into something better. Pencil lead is "scarce" until someone invents a computer.

Since you're arguing that scarcity is the primary reason for property, and not the guy who thought up the use for something which then made it "scarce" due to demand for his invented use of it, you're putting the cart before the horse. The universe isn't inherently "scarce," ie. "useful." There is no known limit to usefulness.

A scrap heap of elements does indeed require a person who thought to turn the elements into something better, in order to become a machine. I agree. But that person does not need to have been the one who first had that thought.

In your post, you are using a different meaning of "scarce" than I am. It is often used to mean "in limited supply", as you are using it, but I am using the term in its other meaning of consumable and/or not usable by everyone at once.

This attribute of consumability is true of all objects, all the time, whether in use of not, but not of ideas. An idea can be applied to your scarce object but also to my scarce object. Your object is scarce because we can't both use it. It is yours because you used it first or traded for it. When I apply that same (non-scarce) idea to previously unowned materials, I then own that duplicate object by the same principles of homesteading, trading, etc. We both own similar but separate objects.

We own them because we used them first, not because we were the first to think of that use. It is the intelligent use of material that changes it from unowned to owned (I refer you to Ayn Rand for details on this point).

It is not true that ownership can only arise from intelligent use which involves original thinking. If that were the case, only inventors could own anything, and then they could only own their inventions. There must be a broader foundation for property rights that begins with original (first-time) use of objects, not original thoughts of use. Property does not begin with original thoughts. It begins with original use (meaning the object is being used for the first time) of a previously unused object/material.

My owning of my object does not interfere with your owning of your object.

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Weren't you just in another thread arguing against having a government? What are you doing arguing about what the government should or shouldn't do?

Don't anarchists think that government is immoral no matter what it does, be it ban murder, the theft of physical property, or intellectual property?

I don't think I have mentioned government in this thread. I recommend you read what I wrote there and if you find it in error, reply to it there. I look forward to your comments.

What I am discussing here is the morality of IP law.

For the record, I believe in a few good laws, but not in government. IP law is not good law. The most important law of all is the establishment of private property.

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Pencil lead is "scarce" until someone invents a computer.

 

The invention of computer, or manufacturing of computers, or invention or manufacture of anything else does not make lead more or less scarce.

 

Lead is scarce because there's only so much of it in the universe any given time.

 

 

In your post, you are using a different meaning of "scarce" than I am. It is often used to mean "in limited supply", as you are using it, but I am using the term in its other meaning of consumable and/or not usable by everyone at once.

 

The second meaning you mention is, I think, the property of identity.

 

-----

 

I have seen thoughts (as actions) being confused as ideas (as concepts) in these threads. Ideas do have identity, but thoughts refer to ideas. So thoughts are not necessarily unique by their content if they refer to the same idea.

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I don't think I have mentioned government in this thread. I recommend you read what I wrote there and if you find it in error, reply to it there. I look forward to your comments.

What I am discussing here is the morality of IP law.

For the record, I believe in a few good laws, but not in government. IP law is not good law. The most important law of all is the establishment of private property.

You believe in law, but not government. Ok then.
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I know I asked you to not be sarcastic and all. So I have to refrain from it myself. But questions like this make it really difficult. I have just explained the concept of scarcity as I would explain it to a 5 year old, and as a reply to that you are asking this question. All I can say is that I'm very frustrated right now.

 

 

 

 

I didn't say anything about other people using your property. I have observed that you were having trouble with the concept of property and I tried, and apparently failed, to explain it to you.

Admittedly I have been using the term 'idea' in a rather vague fashion. Added to that point , I do not mean that IP is or should be directly concerned with things immaterial. I am trying to focus on ownership and how that would apply to one's use, implementation of one's ideas eg a design for a widget. The point I was trying to illustrate with that question and related use of property, of mine and or others, was that if someone uses my idea and it becomes then our idea , does this not disallow ownership in the first place. It seems though that if we can agree that someone created the 'idea'? of the design , it would, objectively, be considered to be theirs, yes?

So 'my' idea is very scarce and then seems to be nonexistent when it becomes everyone's idea. 'My' idea is consumed, the idea still exists , but my ownership of it has ceased, somehow. Morally , it seems the creator should at least be acknowledged , and in a division of labor society I think that whatever rights pertain to physical property , could and should be protected in the implementation of the design of the widget.

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You believe in law, but not government. Ok then.

Yes, it is OK then, since law does not require government for either its establishment, nor for its enforcement. This is covered in other threads, but it is interesting that the two threads have in common the Objectivist promotion of monopoly, on using an idea in the case of IP, and on legislation and enforcement of laws in the case of government. In both cases, monopoly requires a violation of NAP.

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Yes, it is OK then, since law does not require government for either its establishment, nor for its enforcement. This is covered in other threads, but it is interesting that the two threads have in common the Objectivist promotion of monopoly, on using an idea in the case of IP, and on legislation and enforcement of laws in the case of government. In both cases, monopoly requires a violation of NAP.

I think this is taking us off track? (Though I understand the motivation. If I were defending IP, I'd rather talk about other things, too. ;))

howardofski, I believe you'd mentioned that the question of government is being discussed in another thread -- could you provide a link so that anyone interested could raise their objection there? (I disagree with you, for instance, and I'd like the opportunity to examine our views.)

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It seems though that if we can agree that someone created the 'idea'? of the design , it would, objectively, be considered to be theirs, yes?

No. This is certainly true of how we use language (it was HIS idea), but that expresses the origins of the idea, not a property right. Treated as property, an idea objectively "belongs" to whoever is thinking it, since it is an activity of their property - their brain.

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