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KateTheCapitalist
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I feel as though A correct interpretation of Objectivist legal stance on Intellectual Property is that of Anti Copyright because of the innate property right violations that IP suggests,
when you have a scarce resource like a spear for example and you use that spear and someone takes it this is a clear violation of your property right to that spear because it creates a conflict in which the original owner is the only justifiably right one  
however when someone copies your idea of a spear and makes their own there is no conflict of property you are not taken what someone else has the right to or homesteaded but instead are creating your own property to use for your benefit with no conflict of scarcity because ideas are not a scarce resource 

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I'm unsure if you're familiar with Rand's position on intellectual property rights but disagree with it or if you're not aware that she actually did have a stance on the issue. She was strongly in favor of both patent and copyright law as a means of protecting "the mind’s contribution in its purest form: the origination of an idea". (Rand 1964, Patents & Copyrights) 

Objectivists have argued that it does not, in fact, make any sense to draw a dividing line between intellectual property and other forms of property since it was ultimately man's mind which brought it all about. When I want the government to protect my factory, it is the preservation of my mind to act freely that I seek since this will enable my survival as a rational being. 

Now, in regards to the scenario you provided, it is highly problematic because you've seemingly plucked it out of thin air. To begin with, if a spear is being used for the purposes of defense or hunting then this would imply a primitive society, in which case the subject of individual rights is moot anyway. But, secondly, you simply can't own the idea of a spear (although you can own the specific type of spear which your company manufactures), so in a free society the government could not confiscate it from you, nor could a company claim sole monopoly on its production in a court of law. 

Intellectual discoveries, however, cannot be reasonably patented. To quote Rand once again: 

"It is important to note, in this connection, that a discovery cannot be patented, only an invention. A scientific or philosophical discovery, which identifies a law of nature, a principle or a fact of reality not previously known, cannot be the exclusive property of the discoverer because: (a) he did not create it, and (b) if he cares to make his discovery public, claiming it to be true, he cannot demand that men continue to pursue or practice falsehoods except by his permission. He can copyright the book in which he presents his discovery and he can demand that his authorship of the discovery be acknowledged, that no other man appropriate or plagiarize the credit for it – but he cannot copyright theoretical knowledge." 

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2 hours ago, RationalEgoist said:

But, secondly, you simply can't own the idea of a spear (although you can own the specific type of spear which your company manufactures), so in a free society the government could not confiscate it from you, nor could a company claim sole monopoly on its production in a court of law. 

Firstly, why can't you own the idea of a spear?

Secondly, alright, let's say that you have a Tesla.  I think it's pretty cool so I ask to borrow it, I reverse-engineer it, build a copy for myself and then return yours back to you.  Whose rights have been violated?

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2 hours ago, RationalEgoist said:

I'm unsure if you're familiar with Rand's position on intellectual property rights but disagree with it or if you're not aware that she actually did have a stance on the issue. She was strongly in favor of both patent and copyright law as a means of protecting "the mind’s contribution in its purest form: the origination of an idea". (Rand 1964, Patents & Copyrights) 

Objectivists have argued that it does not, in fact, make any sense to draw a dividing line between intellectual property and other forms of property since it was ultimately man's mind which brought it all about. When I want the government to protect my factory, it is the preservation of my mind to act freely that I seek since this will enable my survival as a rational being. 

Now, in regards to the scenario you provided, it is highly problematic because you've seemingly plucked it out of thin air. To begin with, if a spear is being used for the purposes of defense or hunting then this would imply a primitive society, in which case the subject of individual rights is moot anyway. But, secondly, you simply can't own the idea of a spear (although you can own the specific type of spear which your company manufactures), so in a free society the government could not confiscate it from you, nor could a company claim sole monopoly on its production in a court of law. 

Intellectual discoveries, however, cannot be reasonably patented. To quote Rand once again: 

"It is important to note, in this connection, that a discovery cannot be patented, only an invention. A scientific or philosophical discovery, which identifies a law of nature, a principle or a fact of reality not previously known, cannot be the exclusive property of the discoverer because: (a) he did not create it, and (b) if he cares to make his discovery public, claiming it to be true, he cannot demand that men continue to pursue or practice falsehoods except by his permission. He can copyright the book in which he presents his discovery and he can demand that his authorship of the discovery be acknowledged, that no other man appropriate or plagiarize the credit for it – but he cannot copyright theoretical knowledge." 

 

Morality is based on man’s nature and man’s relationship to reality. In any society , at any time man’s nature is the same , why would morality not apply to a ‘primative’ society? Isn’t it more that man’s relationship to reality changes , as in it isn’t necessarily that man lacks morality or the need for it , but that giving some contexts a more pragmatic ethics is ‘more’ beneficial?

Having your spear design ‘stolen’ by Og the elder would mean any energy you expand to defend your property would most likely negatively affect your overall thriving and deprive yourself of any benefit of a better armed hunting party.

 

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1 hour ago, Harrison Danneskjold said:

Firstly, why can't you own the idea of a spear?

In 2023, how would you establish a chain of transmission to the original creator of the spear? And the nature of such an object as a spear sort of precludes it from being patented anyway since what constitutes a spear can differ. I mean, you could just sharpen a wooden stick, and that could be considered a spear. 

1 hour ago, Harrison Danneskjold said:

Secondly, alright, let's say that you have a Tesla.  I think it's pretty cool so I ask to borrow it, I reverse-engineer it, build a copy for myself and then return yours back to you.  Whose rights have been violated?

The founder of Tesla, the company as a whole, the manufacturer, etc. They are making a loss because this hypothetical you decides to be a leech, especially if you then decide to manufacture these cars. 

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1 hour ago, tadmjones said:

 

Morality is based on man’s nature and man’s relationship to reality. In any society , at any time man’s nature is the same , why would morality not apply to a ‘primative’ society? Isn’t it more that man’s relationship to reality changes , as in it isn’t necessarily that man lacks morality or the need for it , but that giving some contexts a more pragmatic ethics is ‘more’ beneficial?

Having your spear design ‘stolen’ by Og the elder would mean any energy you expand to defend your property would most likely negatively affect your overall thriving and deprive yourself of any benefit of a better armed hunting party.

 

Well, it's not that morality doesn't "apply", but that a legal conception of individual rights simply wouldn't take root and spread in a primitive society. Just take a look at the progression of history. Judge for yourself what kind of societies allowed for a rational, free culture to blossom. 

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27 minutes ago, RationalEgoist said:

The founder of Tesla, the company as a whole, the manufacturer, etc. They are making a loss because this hypothetical you decides to be a leech, especially if you then decide to manufacture these cars. 

You mean because I built myself a Tesla instead of purchasing one from them, right?

 

While I'm not opposed to the notion of a "leech" in general I'm not sure it applies to someone reverse-engineering a sophisticated piece of technology, purchasing all the raw materials for it and then using those raw materials to duplicate it for themselves.

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold
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3 minutes ago, Harrison Danneskjold said:

You mean because I built myself a Tesla instead of purchasing one from them, right?

Right. But usually conversations regarding intellectual property involve the hypothetical person then going on to sell the items to the public too. 

4 minutes ago, Harrison Danneskjold said:

I'm not sure it applies to someone reverse-engineering a sophisticated piece of technology, purchasing all the raw materials for it and then using those raw materials to duplicate it for themselves.

You said "build a copy". This, to me, is the crux of the issue. From whom did you obtain the original design? Whose mind was able to come up with the Tesla originally?

Intellectual property rights should exist so that the producers of the world can reap the material rewards of their mind's work. 

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2 hours ago, Harrison Danneskjold said:

Firstly, why can't you own the idea of a spear?

Secondly, alright, let's say that you have a Tesla.  I think it's pretty cool so I ask to borrow it, I reverse-engineer it, build a copy for myself and then return yours back to you.  Whose rights have been violated?

You can own the idea of spear, if you were the truly the first to conceive of it, but only temporarily.   Property rights in real estate and other material things do not have time limits.  As Rand explained above discoveries cannot be property at all.  Between those two ends of the spectrum there is the invention, which is created by the inventor and so is eligible to be property but there is also the problem of demanding that men continue to pursue or practice falsehoods except by his permission. (where by falsehood there are the inefficient old ways the new invention renders obsolete).   No man should be able to demand such a thing forever.  An inventor deserves some recognition and property interest in an invention, but a time-unlimited property right would be unjust.  Patent rights are time-limited to attempt to balance the rights of all concerned.  Whether the duration of patent rights should 17 or 20 years is optional, much like making age 18 be the legal threshold of adulthood instead of 16, 17 or 21.   

Patents, being themselves property, can be sold and usually are.  So the Tesla example violates the right of the patent holder but just for the aspects of the car that are patented.  The idea of a car and of electricity and even an electric car are long known and no longer patented or patentable, only specific enabling new features and technologies.

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1 hour ago, RationalEgoist said:

Well, it's not that morality doesn't "apply", but that a legal conception of individual rights simply wouldn't take root and spread in a primitive society. Just take a look at the progression of history. Judge for yourself what kind of societies allowed for a rational, free culture to blossom. 

At first blush that seems a little circular , individual rights arise in societies that are amendable to the practice of rights and rights recognition ? 

 

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6 minutes ago, tadmjones said:

At first blush that seems a little circular , individual rights arise in societies that are amendable to the practice of rights and rights recognition ? 

 

Nature grants man his rights. And, as you say, our conditions for surviving as rational beings on Earth have not changed in any fundamental way. However, these nature-given rights that we possess by virtue of being a certain kind of organism will not be defended in an institutional way if the society remains on a primitive level. Compare America during the pre-colonial period to America as it existed in the 19th century. Compare Palestine before the period of mass Jewish immigration to the state of Israel today. What I was trying to point out is the reason that individual rights are not respected is because any conception of rights as individual simply won't be able to flourish (if it even arrises to begin with) seeing as how the whole way of life in a primitive or barbaric culture is so radically different from that of a civilized culture. 

In short, my argument is that civilization is a prerequisite in order to develop a rights-respecting society, and vice versa.

Would you agree? 

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If pure ideas, devoid of physical manifestation, could indeed be property, that would have some significant consequences for man’s existence in a civilized society governed by objective law. If you own the mere idea of a spear, that means that as your property, no one else can even think that thought, and there would have to be laws punishing certain thoughts (thinking of someone else’s property). Hopefully it is clear why such a law would be bad (“Sorry dude! I didn’t mean to think about your car, or your house, or your dog”). In order to know what acts are forbidden (a prerequisite to objective law in a rational society), there must be an objectively-knowable repository of “owned ideas” – we certainly have such a thing in the case of patents. Patent and copyright law does not forbid knowledge of thoughts, it forbids certain actions – copying. Applying copyright concepts to ideas brings about a contradiction that you have to break the law to obey it – you must think about a spear, to know that thinking about a spear is illegal.

Of course, spear-idea qua property is ludicrous, since the spear was not first thought of by Og, as spuriously maintained by the descendants of Og. Every right-thinking descendant of Thag knows that it was Thag who first thought of the spear. So now this brings us to the modern, real world, where we have the distinction between the “thought of the light saber”, and the reality that nobody knows how to actually do that. The bar for abstractly thinking some vague thought is extremely low, and you can bet there would be patent trolls out there “thinking” thoughts and legally registering them, so that when someone else managed to actually perform the meritorious act of building a light saber, he gets hit with a massive patent infringement lawsuit. Talk about the opposite of an incentive to use your mind!

The only resolution to this problem is a legally-specific time-limited right to a combination of body and mind. It’s not that you cannot have the idea of a spear, or a light saber, it is that you cannot act on it in a specific way. You can talk and think about another person’s intellectual property, you just can’t act on that idea in a specific and limited way, namely “make a copy”. Only the rights-holder can do or authorize that, for the duration of the (non-renewable) right.

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31 minutes ago, RationalEgoist said:

Nature grants man his rights. And, as you say, our conditions for surviving as rational beings on Earth have not changed in any fundamental way. However, these nature-given rights that we possess by virtue of being a certain kind of organism will not be defended in an institutional way if the society remains on a primitive level. Compare America during the pre-colonial period to America as it existed in the 19th century. Compare Palestine before the period of mass Jewish immigration to the state of Israel today. What I was trying to point out is the reason that individual rights are not respected is because any conception of rights as individual simply won't be able to flourish (if it even arrises to begin with) seeing as how the whole way of life in a primitive or barbaric culture is so radically different from that of a civilized culture. 

In short, my argument is that civilization is a prerequisite in order to develop a rights-respecting society, and vice versa.

Would you agree? 

Yes I would agree , and it is circular nonetheless.

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23 hours ago, RationalEgoist said:

I'm unsure if you're familiar with Rand's position on intellectual property rights but disagree with it or if you're not aware that she actually did have a stance on the issue. She was strongly in favor of both patent and copyright law as a means of protecting "the mind’s contribution in its purest form: the origination of an idea". (Rand 1964, Patents & Copyrights) 

Objectivists have argued that it does not, in fact, make any sense to draw a dividing line between intellectual property and other forms of property since it was ultimately man's mind which brought it all about. When I want the government to protect my factory, it is the preservation of my mind to act freely that I seek since this will enable my survival as a rational being. 

Now, in regards to the scenario you provided, it is highly problematic because you've seemingly plucked it out of thin air. To begin with, if a spear is being used for the purposes of defense or hunting then this would imply a primitive society, in which case the subject of individual rights is moot anyway. But, secondly, you simply can't own the idea of a spear (although you can own the specific type of spear which your company manufactures), so in a free society the government could not confiscate it from you, nor could a company claim sole monopoly on its production in a court of law. 

Intellectual discoveries, however, cannot be reasonably patented. To quote Rand once again: 

"It is important to note, in this connection, that a discovery cannot be patented, only an invention. A scientific or philosophical discovery, which identifies a law of nature, a principle or a fact of reality not previously known, cannot be the exclusive property of the discoverer because: (a) he did not create it, and (b) if he cares to make his discovery public, claiming it to be true, he cannot demand that men continue to pursue or practice falsehoods except by his permission. He can copyright the book in which he presents his discovery and he can demand that his authorship of the discovery be acknowledged, that no other man appropriate or plagiarize the credit for it – but he cannot copyright theoretical knowledge." 

I make a distinction between randianism and objectivism 
rand laid out the proper philosophy but came to incorrect conclusions (which she has done on many matters) i know she has a stance and im saying shes wrong also spear doesn't dennote primitive society thats just drawing conclusions from which they dont exist as well as even if its a primitive society rights still exist objectively they may just not be recognized 
you didnt even engage with my critique that piracy and plagiarism doesnt violate anyone's property rights  because you arnt leaving someone else without what they own
and IP in itself violates property rights by preventing man from doing as he wishes with his own property 

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Kate,

Would you say that plagiarism is dishonest and should not be done even if it is not against the law?

When you say "preventing man from doing as he wishes with his property," isn't that begging the question at issue by your use of the term property, rather than possession?

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I don’t understand your argument against intellectual property, so it would help if you clarified. I do understand that you reject the Objectivist position, which is your business, but (1) what contrary position are you arguing for – presumably it more that a declaration of disagreement and (2) what is the argument in support of your position? You seem to rely on the notion that being a “scarce resource” is relevant, I just don’t see how (also, what is a “scarce resource”, what other kinds of resources are there?).

It seems to me that you must have some completely different theory of the concept “property” from Objectivism. How do you determine what constitutes someone’s property? What about real estate, for example?

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On 1/4/2023 at 1:16 PM, KateTheCapitalist said:

IP in itself violates property rights by preventing man from doing as he wishes with his own property 

Would you say that scarcity is an integral part of the concept of "property" and why it matters?

 

For the record, I call myself an Objectivist and I agree with you.  This is one of maybe two or three issues where I think Rand got it wrong (although a few years ago I came around to her position on anarchy).  If I can build my own spear out of my own materials, and you get to keep yours, then I don't see whose rights are violated.

Those who disagree with us will say (as @RationalEgoist did) that the originator of the idea was robbed because we didn't participate in the transaction we supposedly would have if we hadn't built our own spear.  That's the crux of the counterargument.  And it isn't flatly wrong, although the possibility of this hypothetical transaction still does not seem comparable to literal robbery.

In one scenario the other guy wakes up one morning to find that he has no spear to hunt with.  In the other he still has his spear and we simply have a new one.  This is obviously not the same.

 

That, however, seems to be about the point where communication has broken down in the conversations I've participated in.  I still agree that scarcity is a non-negotiable aspect of what "property" means (it's why we buy and sell water but not air) and in the decade since I really discovered Ayn Rand I haven't changed my mind about that.

 

Welcome to the forum.  :thumbsup:

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On 1/3/2023 at 9:38 PM, RationalEgoist said:

Perhaps it is circular. I'll have to chew on that. 

It's a spiral.   I'm not being facetious here, "the spiral of knowledge" is a thing in Objectivist epistemology.  It refers to the ever widening context of knowledge that prompts revisiting the already known and obvious for new integrations.  "Rights" are not obvious.  The context in which people are using spears for survival is not a context that will provide any need to discover patent rights.

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"Intellectual property" is an originally valid concept that has been deeply corrupted by the Establishment.

There are too many dishonest government officials (and quasi-officials) who are shifting the definition and the implementation to suit their own nefarious purposes.

One example is using copyright for censorship. There should be checks and balances against that sort of usage, such as fair use and copyright expiry, but in practice neither of those is readily available anymore. You might be able to buy or keep a physical copy of something, but physical copies are gradually going out of existence, in favor of "electronic" copies that can disappear at the whims of certain people (and cannot be copied even if the legal copyright has expired). Further, it's difficult to publish your own work without entrusting it to a publisher who has such powers, and leaves you with no recourse even if you are the author.

Another example is using "intellectual property" to own people, i.e., the intellect of one person becomes the property of another. This can happen through "inevitable disclosure of trade secrets" doctrines and other such things. You can't sell yourself into slavery, and you can't lose the rights to your lungs or liver, but you can lose the rights to your brain.

Too many of the "honest" officials are clueless about how to properly defend the concept of intellectual property, and so it slips away, but if you look more closely you often find that the reason for their cluelessness is that they are being dishonest about other issues and must reject any epistemology, framework, or concept that would expose their own dishonesty.

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I don’t understand how the government uses copyright to censor anything. By law, the federal government cannot prohibit copying its works. Other levels of government are usually required to make available public records, so for example they cannot suppress dissent by forbidding discussion of a particular law (anyhow, that right is covered by the First Amendment, which trumps copyright law). A state or municipal government could, for example, publish a book and under copyright law could forbid you from copying that work, but I don’t see how that constitutes censorship. That’s a point that needs to be explained.

It is not censorship when a publisher exercises its property right to a work that it owns. Censorship is an act done by the government

Your implication that copyright expiry is not “readily available” anymore is simply untrue – copyright always expires at a legally-defined time. Maybe you are claiming that the duration of copyright is too long. The 75 years vs. 50 years vs. 25 years question is a difficult one, but “arbitrary” numbers are necessary in a society with objective laws. The determination that a person can be held liable for contracts at age 18 is an “arbitrary” number, perhaps the number should be 19 or 17. If you want to argue that a 4 year old should be held liable for their contracts, perhaps that would be an topic worth discussing separately.

And fyi, “fair use” is rampantly available. The main problem with fair use is that it is not clearly defined – what counts as “fair” is highly arbitrary.

Physical copies can disappear at the whim of certain people (“owners”) just as much as electronic copies can. There are tons of physical products that I can’t get anymore because there doesn’t seem to be sufficient market to warrant maintaining the machinery. That’s life.

Far from suppressing the acquisition of desirable stuff, the expansion of electronic means of promulgation has made it much easier to get free stuff. Print books are rather expensive, and electronic books are dirt cheap, or could be. These days, it is not difficult to self-publish and freely distribute a book that you write. An author has to make a choice – do they want to make money from the work and do they want it to be widely and systematically disseminated, or are they satisfied with free, informally-distributed samizdat? If you’re not happy with your particular publisher, there are plenty of competing publishers, so I don’t see how publisher control is relevant to the question of whether I have a property right to the book that I write.

I just don’t see any argument here that government officials have in any way corrupted concepts of intellectual property rights. Your objections seem to be based on commercialization – Disney not making their movies available all the time and using the law (statutory law and the law of supply and demand) as a way of generating value; contract law and the fact that you can’t sell trade secrets when you agree to not sell trade secrets.

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5 hours ago, tadmjones said:

As an aside I think Sherlock Holmes just entered the ‘public domain’ , I assume that means Doyle’s estate no longer generates revenue from the character.

Is entering the public domain basically the default when a copyright/patent has expired? 

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