Feb 212010

The non-existence of intellectual property demands the existence of copyright. Observe:

Let’s begin from the assumption that there is no such thing as intellectual property – only physical property.

Pretend I have written some music, played it, and recorded it onto a CD at a material cost to myself of some £3000 and 40 hours of labour time. My CD is physical property only, and my estimation of its worth is £3000, plus let’s say £120 for labour (at £3 an hour, that’s a bargain), plus an ideal, though small, profit margin of 8% – a grand total of £3370.

I could make 337 copies of this CD, which would also be my property, and sell them for £10 apiece – fine. But it’s not in my interest to do so unless I sell all 337 copies at once. Because once I’ve sold the first copy, which is after all only physical property, the new owner of that CD can duplicate it and give it away for free, thus making my £10 copies less attractive in the marketplace and therefore less likely to find willing buyers.

Possibly my solution here is to invite pre-orders. Once 337 people have pre-ordered and pre-paid – and the £3370 is comfortably in my bank account – I can send out all of the CDs at once. Fine.

But suppose more than 337 people order a copy of my CD. Very well; I shall make more copies and make those available for pre-order and pre-payment too. In fact, I will make as many copies and sell as many pre-orders as the market demands; but nobody will receive their CD until that demand is exhausted and the profit guaranteed (by its presence in my bank account), because the minute I actually hand over the first disk, everything on it ceases to be my property and can be made available for free.

My other option is to make no additional copies of the CD, and to sell my single existing copy for £3370. (This is, for example, what happens with unique pieces of art.)

Essentially, therefore, if the CD and everything encoded on it is purely physical property, I have absolutely no incentive to make it someone else’s property until I have received the compensation I desire. This is not so much a problem if I sell it as a single entity to one buyer for £3370 (although I think few people would pay that amount for a music CD).

But if I want to sell copies of it at reduced cost to multiple buyers, it makes sense for me to hold onto all copies until I have as many confirmed buyers as possible. This could end up being ridiculous; there could be a time lag of literally years between when the first buyer pays me and when I send him his copy.

Buyer #1 obviously does not want to wait years; in fact, since he has already paid me for his copy of the CD, it is now his property, and I have no right to withhold it from him. But if I send it to him immediately, the CD and everything on it becomes his property, and he can duplicate it and give it away for free, meaning people will be less likely to buy copies from me, meaning I am likely to make a massive loss. In fact, if I sell him his copy for £10, he makes his property available for free, and nobody buys copies from me, I have made a loss of £3360.

But wait! There may be another way. Let us say that I agree to sell a copy of my CD to Buyer #1 as long as he agrees not to make the material on it freely available for x number of years, x being the time during which I reasonably predict demand for my music CD to exist. This will naturally involve a reduction in price to compensate him for voluntarily restricting his use of his property, but fine. If I can get all of my buyers to agree to the same terms of sale, they will get their property, and I will get my money, and all will be happy.

And lo and behold, we have just invented ‘copyright': the agreement by which the buyer gets his purchase of property at a discounted price in return for not making that property freely available for x number of years. This enables the seller to compensate for that discounted price by making up the difference in volume of sales.

Since we have copyright, as a good way to satisfy both buyer and seller with respect to their property and money, I therefore conclude that intellectual property does not exist.

  45 Responses to “There is no such thing as IP”

  1. As I posted on DK’s comments section, 90% of what you need “IP” for is perfectly achievable through a sensible application of contract law. “By reading and decoding this CD you agree not to copy etc. etc.”

    • True. The problem, as I see it, is that the buyer gets the item without ever explicitly (and actionably) agreeing to the terms of sale. This is a stupidity on the part of the seller, frankly. I wouldn’t fucking hand over my house to a buyer until they’d signed a contract in the presence of witnesses. But just because the sellers of music CDs are acting in remarkably good faith and generosity doesn’t mean that buyers are therefore justified in shafting them.

      The thing is, there’s no real way for the sellers to get around this problem (a) without copyright law, which makes the contracts actionable if broken; and (b) without the mahoosive cost of identifying the breachers of the contract and suing them individually. (b) is why we end up with stupid crap like the Digital Economy Bill. And frankly, (b) is a pretty much insurmountable problem if we’re committed to the civil liberties and rule of law that the DEB would infringe. I don’t have an objection to this per se; if you insist on suing somebody, bearing the costs of doing so is just something you’re going to have to put up with.

      However, if we’re going to accept that it’s really hard to enforce such contracts, or do away with the contracts all together, we’re going to have to accept as well that fewer people will be bothered to create/sell ‘intellectual property.’ If that’s what the democratic majority demand, then fine; it doesn’t have to be a matter of intellectual vs. physical property at all. It’s simply a matter of the profit motive. If, for whatever reason, you’re unable to sell your property for an amount that suits you, you’ll be less inclined to create the item in the first place – particularly if circumstances lead you to believe that, in fact, you won’t even be able to sell it for enough to break even.

      • Well it’s not the purchase per-se where they need to agree to the contract; but popping the CD into their player and playing it. I’d personally take a leaf from the book of white goods manufacturers and their “warranty void if removed” stickers; having a girt sticker on the shiny side saying: “By removing this self-adhesive film you agree to the following terms and conditions”

        The enforcement is an entirely different issue.

        As I also said on DK’s thread, in David D. Friedman’s system of competing overlapping jurisdictions, companies compete on (amongst other things) the legal system they enforce, and the “treaties” they’re signed up to with other companies. In such an environment copyright and patent law that struck the right balance between encouraging innovation and encouraging re-use would evolve.

        Really — were we in a position to make laws — the trick is not to find the optimal solution, but to find the way of finding the optimal solution; to create a system of copyright/patent that’s flexible and lucid, able to be adapted by creators and consumers to whatever their specific needs are. Then just unleash the market upon it. “Copyright as a Contract” kinda achieves that, by forcing creators and distributors to actually think about these things and innovate, rather than telling them: “dw guise; the gummit will make it all better.”

        • Yup, completely agree.

          • But copyright was invented because, back in days of yore, people didn’t sign contracts or licences for the vast majority of things (deeds for sales of land being one of the few exceptions) and those contracts didn’t have small print.

            So copyright and patents expressed a general contract imposed by the state.

            You make argue, in a libertarian manner, that state imposition is, by default, a wrong – but the key aspect is that it also set an outer limit on the imposition of contractual controls (until Disney came along and his paid shills starting extending copyright limits …) And, it has to be said, removing the requirement for paperwork for something as simple as the exchange of a small piece of physical property (your CDs) isn’t necessarily a social wrong. I appreciate that there is a good argument for allowing creators to alter the terms of their copyright licence – which they can. Really. All you need to do add a licence term which converts the maximal legal rights retention (or whatever level of rights you wish to impose) to which-ever open licence you choose (I’ve picked Creative Commons Attributed / Non-Commercial but YMWV) at a certain date or, if you wanted to cause extreme confusion, after a period of time after purchase.

            But your fundamental argument is flawed. Copyright is not the only form of intellectual property. Disregarding patents (which are entirely analogous), you also have trademarks and registered designs – which do not have the time limitations. Some Trade Secrets have lasted for over a hundred years. So, although I agree with you that “property”, as in “intellectual property” does not have quite the same meaning as it does in the real world (it’s more of a lease – but you can buy and sell leases), it is still as valid a description as any.

          • I hadn’t considered trademarks etc. although I think they’re covered in my caveat (“90% of what you want to achieve…”) although maybe 90% was a little too high.

            As an aside, I hear the LvMI have some nice arguments against IP, although I haven’t read any of them.

            But as I say, the design of the system of copyright, trademark, patent etc. is less important than the design of the meta-system which allows copyright, trademark, patents etc. to evolve and adapt with the times.

            People don’t like change, governments even less so. The result in this corporatist age is that the government is implementing ever more illiberal laws in an attempt to enforce 19th century ideas about intellectual property, rather than taking a step back and allowing/forcing market actors to innovate.

          • The result in this corporatist age is that the government is implementing ever more illiberal laws

            Don’t disagree with that.

            in an attempt to enforce 19th century ideas about intellectual property, rather than taking a step back and allowing/forcing market actors to innovate.

            I think you are being rather unfair to our forbears here. They were quite keen on what, now, look like short limits of exclusivity. Yes, modern technology has changed things but so has the pace of innovation – I’m not against reconsidering things (and I believe that copyright, specifically, is now too long) – an overhaul is needed but I am reluctant to look at the only solution being individual negotiation of contract – especially given the weak negotiating power of the consumer and the oft-demonstrated flexibility and freedom to innovate of the call-centre sales-droid (and their seniors.)

          • Wholly agreed. Obvious the meta-system no longer works as well as others we might envision, and it’s entirely illiberal of the state to prohibit or restrict those, erm, organic developments.

          • That sounds fair, really. Certainly I think it’s possible for artists/creators/inventors to profit from their work while still protecting the property rights of those who purchase it, without allowing the state to trample upon either. Finding the best way of doing this is difficult – few people seem to agree – but to assert the current system is flawless, and shut down debate (a la the Mandelsnake), is deeply authoritarian and wrong.

  2. I enjoyed this, and am grateful that you didn’t make the mistake of telling us what kind of music you’d be making. I remember DK’s post on this topic made reference to James and Morcheeba, which turned me right off. How a blogger can want such a radical change in the nature of the state yet possess such MOR music taste is just baffling 😉

    I have an untested hypothesis that some of the people who rail against copyright don’t really want it abolished, but are driven into anti-copyright fundamentalism by overzealous policing & policymaking. The history of music is one of technological development & increased democratisation, and copyright is certainly a part of that noble history; it has helped make music available to greater numbers of people whilst preserving an income stream for artists.

    However, I do think that copyright might need updating to reflect new technological developments. I don’t know if you saw the story last week about Google acquiescing to pressure to shut down a load of MP3 music blogs. Most of those sites weren’t giving people full albums, but 2 or 3 MP3s to give a taster of what an artist’s album is like. They were almost entirely labours of love made by music fans to publicise, in the best way they could, the music they loved. Some of them were even given the bloody MP3s by the artist’s PR folks! Now they’ve been deleted entirely, and for no other reason than the industry decided to wave its copyright willy in the face of a timorous service provider. Also, as I articulated on my own blog earlier today, I welcome the fact that the internet’s made it impossible for a record company to prohibit the release of someone’s music.

    Anyway, returning to the point I thought I was going to make when I started writing this: ain’t got no beef with copyright, but it wouldn’t hurt to change up a bit.

    • Seems to me that the obvious problem there is a question of what exactly is copyrighted. Since music is typically sold (in hard copy, anyway) as albums, one might assume it was the album as an entity that was protected.

      But in fact, each track holds a separate copyright. The fact that tracks are sold individually (as on iTunes for example) bears this out. So making those mp3s of single tracks available for free (without permission from the rights-holder, obviously) is still breaking the contract. I appreciate that these blogs were labours of love by fans, but really, they should have asked. If the artists really thought the bloggers were doing them a favour, they’d give their permission. If the artists refused permission, it would be because they truly believed this would deprive them of sales, which is something the loving fans really ought to respect.

    • Mind you, I agree entirely with you that Google should not have deleted those blogs. Unless, of course, the Blogger terms of agreement involve promising not to violate anyone’s copyright…

    • Which, in fact, the Blogger terms of service do involve. See: http://www.blogger.com/content.g

      Copyright: It is our policy to respond to clear notices of alleged copyright infringement. More information about our copyright procedures can be found here. Also, please don’t provide links to sites where your readers can illegally download other people’s content.

      Following further to here: http://www.google.com/blogger_dmca.html

      Regardless of whether we may be liable for such infringement under local country law or United States law, our response to these notices may include removing or disabling access to material claimed to be the subject of infringing activity and/or terminating subscribers. If we remove or disable access in response to such a notice, we will make a good-faith attempt to contact the owner or administrator of the affected site or content so that they may make a counter notification. We may also document notices of alleged infringement on which we act. Please note that in addition to being forwarded to the person who provided the allegedly infringing content, a copy of this legal notice may be sent to a third-party which may publish and/or annotate it.


      The administrator of an affected site or the provider of affected content may make a counter notification pursuant to sections 512(g)(2) and (3) of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. When we receive a counter notification, we may reinstate the material in question.

      To file a counter notification with us, you must provide a written communication (by fax or regular mail — not by email, except by prior agreement) that sets forth the items specified below. Please note that you will be liable for damages (including costs and attorneys’ fees) if you materially misrepresent that a product or activity is not infringing the copyrights of others. Accordingly, if you are not sure whether certain material infringes the copyrights of others, we suggest that you first contact an attorney.

      So basically, users of Blogger are agreeing not to infringe other people’s copyright subject to deletion, but they have right of counter-argument if they believe they’ve committed no infringement. Since one clicks ‘agree’ to these terms when one creates a Blogger blog, these bloggers can’t really argue that Google has done anything unjust.

      • Certainly, Google/Blogger has stuck to its own rules. The argument isn’t really about some procedural infringement, but whether the artist/record label should be complaining in the first place.

        In the indierockswamps I frequent, it’s often commonplace for an artist’s website to host a few MP3s from their albums under the impression that it’s best to try before you buy. Now, let’s say that some MP3 blogger has decided that the best track from that album actually hasn’t been publicised by said artist/label, and decides to air it on their own blog.

        Certainly, there’s a copyright infringement there, but the labels really should consider whether said infringement is genuinely damaging to them, or whether it might actually help, when taken in the context of the music blogosphere, promoting that artist.

        Basically, I don’t believe that MP3 blogs pose any threat to a record’s profitability. That calls into question the agressive acts by record labels, and begs us to ask whether reform of copyright might be necessary.

        • but the labels really should consider whether said infringement is genuinely damaging to them, or whether it might actually help, when taken in the context of the music blogosphere, promoting that artist.

          Absolutely. I think this should be up to the discretion of the artist/label, rather than Google or the state.

          • I think this should be up to the discretion of the artist/label, rather than Google or the state.

            Yes to an extent. The extent being that it’s Google’s playground, their rules. If you don’t like it, you can set up your blog elsewhere.

            But, according to the Google statement, they received DMCA takedown requests for the blogs concerned (even one they admit they deleted without warning the user). And you can only issue a DMCA takedown request if you are the copyright owner or an agent thereof.

            Therefore the problem appears to be in the inflexibility of the method the labels have chosen for enforcing their rights, mostly through the IPFI although sometimes directly.

            The state here has provided a mechanism for the enforcement of contractual (or licence) and copyright rights, which the label or their agents have chosen to enforce. While Neil’s point about whether this is actually beneficial for the artist (and, to extend that, even if it is marginally beneficial for the average artist, is it economically efficient) is entirely valid, this is more of an argument for flexibility (and against the IPFI / RIAA / MPAA collectives) than against the actions Google took.

          • Actually the whole problem with the Google/Blogger takedowns was that a number of the blogs DID have the permission of the rights holders to host 2 or 3 specified MP3’s but that 3rd party enforcers (not the rights holders) will issue DMCA takedown notices to any blog that links to MP3 files hoping to catch a few real infringers, at the expense of the law abiding public.

          • Yes; true. Someone mentioned this earlier on the thread, and I think you’re both right on this. After all, we don’t lock up everybody with movable property in the hope of catching a few thieves.

          • Again, I think this is basically fair. And of course, Google must abide by the terms of its own contracts, too. If they say DMCA takedown requests can only be issued by the rights-holder or an agent thereof, and if they say they will give right of reply to the taken-down user, they should.

            Must point out, though, that I don’t remember seeing Google state they would give warning first; only that the user has the right to counter-claim.

          • No, the DMCA says that takedown requests can only be issued but the rights-holder or an agent.

            The notification to the complained-of isn’t mandatory, hence (for good reason) it isn’t part of Google’s Ts&Cs. But it is part of their procedure and they did apologise to the one person they failed to notify. I don’t recall reading whether that apology resulted in their blog coming back up though …

  3. Brilliant. But there is a little something missing. The buyer who has agreed not to copy may still have the thing stolen from him. This only has to happen once, then copies can be made. So copyright isn’t a complete protection either. The market is – as always – providing the answer for us. CDs are produced en mass and sold to retailers (artist gets money). Retailers shift those CDs pretty quick, regardless of copyright, they also employ copy protection. So in the real world it’s really a mix of copyright; which needed necessarily be enforced to be effective, provided we understand we are not supposed to copy; and market innovations designed to make it difficult to break copyright, brought about independent of any other authority.

    That’s CDs for you, but this can’t work for pharmaceuticals, because as you’ve noted TIME is of the essence. Unless you have World Government to enforce very long term copyright, globally; drugs will be copied, if not in the producing country, then somewhere which has more lax laws (China). The solution in that case is not to produce therapies commercially, but to rely on charities.

    I tell you that Devil’s Kitchen really has married up, hasn’t he?

    • M’kay, so, the problem with pharmaceuticals is that you can’t use the pre-order, pre-sell model (as it’s highly unethical as well as withholding people’s paid-for property), nor can you use the single-sale model, not because you wouldn’t find a buyer (I’m sure you would if it were a life-saving drug) but because that, too, would be unethical.

      So we’re in a different qualitative sphere here. People can live without CDs, but not without life-saving drugs. We still encounter the problem that producing such a drug is expensive, and few people will bother to do it at a financial loss to themselves. Perhaps this is where sales in bulk can help us; we could large quantities of our drug to medical providers within, say, the first year, during which time other people will figure out how to copy it and sell it for less. But medical providers will probably not buy in bulk, simply because they may not have that many patients who need the drug, and of course drugs go off (unlike CDs).

      So we’re back to your charities model, really, because the cost of drugs is so astronomical that the likelihood of recovering those costs without lengthy and global patents (the ability to enforce which is doubtful) is more or less nil, let alone the likelihood of making a profit. This basically means we’re marking out pharmaceuticals as an industry that, to be truly ethical, can only operate at a financial loss. To do otherwise is to deny people, especially poor people, life-saving drugs.

      I can imagine lots of procedural difficulties with this, though. Charities are unlikely to raise enough money from voluntary donations to develop and test new drugs, so we might require some kind of ‘compulsory donation’ (that term makes my brain hurt), and since the only entity with the power to compel like that is the government, this would essentially put pharmaceutical charities under the control of the government. Governments, as we know, are politicised and highly responsive to public opinion and lobbying, and these would put pressure on the government to put pressure on the charities to develop drugs for particular conditions – probably, those conditions whose sufferers had the most powerful lobby or the most public sympathy. (This would probably disadvantage the sufferers of rare conditions, but since that’s true in the profit-model too, we must simply sigh and get on with it.) Government is also under pressure to reduce costs, so there’s an incentive there for them to restrict the pay of the scientists to a publicly-acceptable level. (Of course, since there are no pharmaceutical corporations any more, the scientists have to accept this, because there’s nowhere else they can get a job.) We’d like to believe that a publicly-acceptable level would be quite high – after all, these people are saving lives! – but given the bitching one hears about GPs earning £150,000, I find this unlikely. And since this kind of science is hard, and the training for it is expensive, only the most selflessly dedicated people will enter the profession, and selfless dedication is entirely unrelated to genius, talent, and innovation.

      In short, we have just created NHS-Pharma. It’s entirely up to you whether you think this is good or bad.

      PS. Thanks for the compliment! Although obviously I think DK is pretty awesome.

      • You are far too pessimistic! You and I will give to charities, and as libertarians we are supposed to believe this will happen much more often, but importantly, people will pay a lot of money for their own healthcare, so there’s money to be had. I assume that health providers will spend money on research, research which suits the kind of treatments they would like to have available to them, furthermore that they would cooperate with other providers and perhaps agree how much they should donate. Beyond this the social pressure to donate would be huge. And no patent doesn’t mean no commercial businesses, it just means that some things can’t be produced commercially and need support. Yes the ethical issue is important because doctors tend to prescribe drugs where vitamins will do etc, the medical lobby think the answer is to extend patents to vitamin combinations! But when people are skeptical that anything can be achieved without IP, I always point to theoretical physics (the degree to which it has been state funded I don’t know, but it needn’t be), the breakthroughs of quantum mechanics would have been impossible without the sharing of information, and the very lucrative applications of that technology came so much later that the people involved in the theory most certainly could not benefit. I can’t predict what mix of commercial/non-commercial development would emerge, but I do think that IP, even copyright, to some degree ought to minimised both from the point of view of individual rights (if there’s too much patent there’s less freedom to continue to innovate, even if your ideas were not inspired by the patent holder) and also because it will produce better outcomes. And of course the music industry is the finest example of where voluntary agreements have overcome the constraints of copyright law: with artists agreeing to allow copying/remixing of each others music provided “royalties” are paid. Imagine how difficult it would be to innovate in the music industry were this not the case.

        • PS: Yes of course DK is lovely. I want to stroke him.

          • …second thoughts, if I were a provider, I’d perhaps ask people to pay a percentage over-and-above the price of their treatment which would go towards research. Voluntary of course, like a tip. But social pressure and desire to reward health providers would be very strong in that situation. You may say there’s a free-rider problem, but quote from Yaron Brook, Ayn Rand institute, “the free-rider problem is not a problem, so what if someone gets something for free, I’ll pay because I want it, it’s a positive externality” (he does make some good points).

          • The free-rider problem is only a problem when there are more free riders than paid raiders. Then the bus goes bust.

          • Or, alternately, when there are so many free riders that the cost to paid riders becomes ridiculously huge – viz. the American health insurance system. If the cost of a thing is x, for every person that pays zero for it, every person who pays will be paying x + y, y being a proportion of what’s necessary to offset the x that the free rider didn’t pay.

            If free riders are few and paid riders are many, then y is small and not really a problem. As the number of free riders approaches 50%, y approaches x. Do we really want to encourage behaviour which requires some people to pay nearly double for a thing and others to pay nothing? When the number of free riders breaches 50%, we have surely got an unfair burden on the paid riders, as y is now greater than x. Yes/no?

          • Baffling me with science now. And you’ve started talking like a government. Doesn’t matter, as much as people will pay there will be research. And I trust the market to find the best way 😉

          • you’ve started talking like a government

            I find it helps me discover the weaknesses in my own beliefs to take on a second, statist personality and argue with myself. If I throw every statist objection I can think of at my own non-statist theories and still believe I’m right, then I cling to that like a barnacle, secure that no illiberal sophist will dislodge me.

            Unfortunately sometimes that spills onto other people’s arguments too, in which case I can only say, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa! I trust the market to find the best way, too. We just need to free it!

          • Now you’re talking inna ladino. I think it’s important that all libertarian conversations end with one or both accusing the other of statism. It’s just the natural way of things. 😉

          • I think it’s important that all libertarian conversations end with one or both accusing the other of statism.

            Oh you think so, do you? How dare you try and tell me what to do. This is perfect evidence of how authoritarian you really are underneath, you crypto-statist in libertarian’s clothing.

          • That’s the stuff!

          • …I mean to say: It’s not like health insurance, the cost to payers is chosen by the payers, not the demands of the “free riders”. Research costs don’t go up with the number of free riders. Free riders won’t create a burden, it’s people paying for something they themselves want. Providers could always deny the latest treatments to people who won’t pay extra for research, but that might be easier said than done in many cases. You’ve assumed a z? An externally determined overall cost of research which must be paid; but there’s no such thing, so x is not fixed/imposed either, and y doesn’t exist at all in this case. There’s a great piece from Rothbard railing against symbolic logic, here: Praxeology. It’s virtually my religion now.

            As an aside, I hate 99% of all insurance, I want to pay up front for just about everything. I blame over-insurance for cartelisation of US medicine. And of course for perverse incentives for people to burn down their own kitchen, rob their own business, etc. If you call that free-riding then I don’t call it a positive externality! The YB quote does not apply in that context.

            PS: You don’t have reply notifications on this thing?

          • For the record, I nearly failed symbolic logic when I did it at uni. Finding it deeply tedious bullshit not worth learning runs in the family, apparently.

            I don’t have a problem with insurance per se; it makes sense from the customers’ and insurers’ point of view to pool the risk of truly catastrophic stuff, e.g. house fires. Health insurance in the US was more or less invented during the New Deal as a kind of seriously dodgy economic stimulus. And as we know, it’s practically impossible to disinvent stuff, especially mind-bogglingly stupid stuff the state has decided to nurture and protect. *sigh*

            Re PS: Apparently not. Will look into it now.

          • Yes, insurance is for major cock-ups. I think they like it in for healthcare (etc) because it prevents us from scrutinising the itemised costs. You can still just about pay up front, but the costs are relatively punitive. They expect insurance.

          • Hmm. WordPress doesn’t want to let me do that if they’re not hosting me – which they’re not. I will consult my resident expert when he gets home.

        • True, I was being very pessimistic. Perhaps your sunnier outlook is the more correct one. :-)

          Vis a vis theoretical physics – I dunno. How many people are theoretical physicists in their spare time, versus how many are paid by companies, universities, or patrons to be theoretical physicists? Because it strikes me that lots of people would be happy to waive patents/copyrights if they would still have an income. Those who are dependent for their living on making money from their creations, however, would almost certainly suffer. Again, I’m not necessarily against this; I’m not even really saying that innovation would suffer, either. It might flourish, for all I know. But we should recognise that if doing a thing becomes less profitable, fewer people will do that thing, unless there are those willing to pay them to do it without expecting any gain.

          • Would it be less profitable? I don’t know. I don’t know where the money’s coming from at the moment, but I do know that currently you can’t have a career in theoretical physics unless you work on string theory, which is a false/failed theory. Theoretical types need the freedom to follow their beliefs/instincts methinks. And the more abstract the work, the more the people involved tend to be happy to work for peanuts. There’s a guy in Russia who cracked the Poincare Conjecture (for fun) refusing a million quid prize for doing so and opting to live with his mother! We barely need to feed these people!

          • Ha! Yes, these intellectually-obsessive types are great value for money. So you’re probably right about the profitability/lack thereof.

            unless you work on string theory, which is a false/failed theory

            Is it? I was not aware of that. Who falsified it, and how? Linkies, s’il vous plait!

          • There are a number of claims that string theory is not falsifiable hence it doesn’t fit Popperian rules to be a theory.

            m-Brane theory is also a meta-theory to string theory (m = 1) …

            Dunno where Ghandi is coming from. Apart from the Inner Temple, of course.

          • Quantum theory is at fault in my opinion, as opposed to quantum mechanics, IE: there is no real quantum theory, just some maths.

            It’s not officially falsified, but here’s something for contrarians:
            The Trouble With Physics

      • Hmm, I’ve not been using your comment threads very skillfully, to many indents.

      • And I’m included the wrong link from my name, bedtime methinks. Zzzzzz.

  4. Was going to make Gandhi’s point almost to the letter regarding CD’s; whats to stop someone extraneous to the deal from making a copy? I would say that in your thought experiment only the original buyer consciously uploading the album and flaunting the sale can be effectively prosecuted.

    Here’s a thought (as DK will no doubt tell you if you ask I’ve been vocal about a third way around this problem which demonstrates an extreme on-the-fence, intellectual laziness attitude in discussion on LPUK’s approach to this problem); if libertarians are first and foremost concerned with protection and championship of natural rights (freedoms from, so to speak) how should we react to third party enforcement over property rights with copyright laws, a right from which all others flow from?

    Not as clear cut I know but a valid surmise though no?

    • To clarify whilst reading Nozick’s synthesis on how a police force could/would come about whether you adopt an entirely anarchistic/libertarian society or whether you move from a feudal/authoritarian one the outcome normally rests on a need to balance competing interests with an arbitration device such as “laws” agreed to by everyone (or not, but implemented nonetheless to get a particular result, i.e. preservation of some degree of freedom). I think we have been approaching a consensus view on IP for centuries, only lately settling in a rut caused by an overpowerful system of crony corporatism, where it is cheaper to buy political pull at the expense (and stagnation) of innovation.

      My view is that the present system of patent and IP laws pass on the attributable costs of upholding them to the consumer, not the holder of said patent/IP; I’m (very slowly and more cogently) trying to express that maybe there should be a way of turfing the responsibility back onto the property holders back a little; I advocate a value tax on IP which fixes a cost to licencing to this IP for third party “users” – set the licencing too high, you pay a higher IPVT to support the justice system in pursuing action again third parties, lower the IP licencing costs and you pay less (also a caveat: IPVT is not dependent on the volume of licencing sold to third parties or your own manufacture – only the value you have placed on protecting your property. That way a small inventor could potentially make money from licencing in excess of the outlay of IPVT.


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