Against Monopoly

defending the right to innovate

Monopoly corrupts. Absolute monopoly corrupts absolutely.

Copyright Notice: We don't think much of copyright, so you can do what you want with the content on this blog. Of course we are hungry for publicity, so we would be pleased if you avoided plagiarism and gave us credit for what we have written. We encourage you not to impose copyright restrictions on your "derivative" works, but we won't try to stop you. For the legally or statist minded, you can consider yourself subject to a Creative Commons Attribution License.

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Woman Sells Her Own Property, Goes to Jail

An "illegal" Mexican immigrant, Adriana Torres-Flores, whose children were born in the U.S., spent several days in an Arkansas jail without food, water and a bathroom, and with a shoe for a pillow. The bailiff forgot about her over the weekend. Her crime? Selling her own property in the form of "pirated" DVDs and CDs. Here is the horrible story.

One of the untold (or too little told) stories about the monopoly formerly known as intellectual property is the assault on liberty (or "civil liberties," for those who think that liberty comes from or is guaranteed by the State) that comes with it.

Fed up with the State already? Here's an intellectual antidote. It's not subtitled "The Libertarian Manifesto" for nothing.

The Effect of Illegal File Sharing on CD Sales

Tyler Cowen has some links at Marginal Revolution.com to an article by Felix Oberholzer-Gee and Koleman Strumpf and a reply by Stan Liebowitz, who is critical of their research.

Here is Liebowitz's homepage, which has the reply. He has a link to copyright issues.

He also has a spreadsheet allowing you to play God with copyright. What are the underlying assumptions he uses? Are they sound (in the sense that logicians use the term--i.e., empirically true and logically valid)?

The Center for the Analysis of Property Rights and Innovation, which is located in the School of Management, at the University of Texas at Dallas, where he teaches, is pro-copyright. But that means anti-property rights, as I understand the term.

Do You Need Permission to Quote Yourself?

I just stumbled on this quote from an essay I wrote a few years ago. The quote is the sum total of my contribution to libertarian thought.

The page says the text may be copied and used consistent with their permissions. I'm guessing they won't be quoting anything from these precincts on copyright.

What's Up with the Google Cartoon Guy?

The Google cartoon guy, whose name I forget, honored the 161st birthday of Alexander Graham Bell today. Why? Now that we know that he didn't invent the telephone and that he was a thief and a plagiarist, what's the point?

A Trademark Brouhaha

Citizens United, a Washington District of Crime outfit, sent a "cease-and-desist" letter to Citizens United Not Timid trying to intimidate it and to get it to stop using Citizens United in its name. Its letter contains a not-so-vailed threat of legal action.

Michael D. Becker, the lawyer for Citizens United Not Timid, responded with this cutting-edge analysis of their complaint. Mr. Becker would no doubt disavow this, but the letter speaks not only for itself, but for all victims of trade mark bullies.

These links can be found at its website.

David Rosen mentions the group in this article.

Thanks to Mark Brady for the scoop and the links.

Modern-Day Guilds: Government-Created Monopolies

The Feb. 25 issue of Forbes magazine has an interesting article on the causes and consequences of occupational licensure, "The New Unions".

Licensing laws injure the poor more than anyone (as if you didn't know). In at least one state, you have to be licensed to be a shampoo assistant.

Money fact: estimated annual cost to the U.S. economy: $100 billion.

Depressing fact: occupational licensing is growing.

Next up: tougher state- (and federally-?) mandated requirements for mortgage brokers.

An interior design professor-cum-rent seeker's campaign for monopolistic restrictions in that industry highlights the political process behind licensing. Don't dare call yourself an interior designer if you're merely an interior decorator.

Adam Smith, call your office.

Trademark Rent Seeker Will Have to Get a Real Job

A federal appeals court upheld a lower court's 2006 ruling that a corporate consultant, who thought up American Express's "My Life, My Card" slogan, has no trademark rights in it. His claim is akin to an ad agency's marketing concept. Ad agencies get paid for their marketing and advertising work. So can this guy.

Here is the story.

"The Ugly Reality of the Pharma Business"

Fred Hassan, boss (can't resist calling the CEO of a drug firm a boss) of troubled drug manufacturer Schering-Plough, is profiled in the Feb. 11 issue of Forbes, "Fix It, Fred".

According to the article, "Schering's case reveals the ugly reality of the pharma business. Lacking genuinely new medicines or definitive proof that their costly, patented drugs work better than cheap ones, producers are forced to turn minor marketing advantages into billion-dollar oppotunities. Hassan's great at this."

Schering had a problem with trial data from a study of arteries in 2006; last year an outside investigator called it "a mess."

Tell it to the cholesterol skeptics.

When Hassan was hired, the problems were so bad he brought in a compliance officer, who hired 100 (count 'em) compliance managers. No wonder they want their patent monopolies.

What's Intellectual Property Got to Do with It?

Gary Taubes, author of the acclaimed book Good Calories, Bad Calories, has a thought-provoking revisionist op-ed in the New York Times, "What's Cholesterol Got to Do with It?", in which he argues that the medical-scientific establishment has gone down a dead end path in developing ill-conceived and ineffective therapeutic agents for heart disease, at least to the extent that it is thought to be caused by "bad" cholesterol.

He points to studies questioning the scientific verity that cholesterol is even a disease-causing factor in the first place. It seems that the medical establishment has focused wrongly on the cholesterol cargo, which is easier for doctors to measure, and overlooked the lipoprotein vehicle, which carries the cholesterol, and which might be the real bad guy.

Meanwhile the drug companies have gotten rich off their patent-protected statin drugs, which might be useless, at least for many people.

My question, not considered by Gary Taubes (there's no reason why he should here), is: to what extent has the patent regime deflected scientific research away from more promising scientific paradigms and research programs on the one hand, and from more effective medicines and alternative treatments on the other? Just in case you can't get enough of this stuff, here's a link to The International Network of Cholesterol Skeptics.

Bon apetit.

William Patry on the Natural Rights Issue

Copyright lawyer and blogger William Patry tackles "The Natural Rights Issue" as it relates to copyright in a January 18 post:

Claims that copyright involves human rights or is a property right are based on the theory that copyright is also a natural right -- a right that exists independent of legislative enactment, even if there are legislative enactments.

This is the theory alright, but it was blown out of the water in a notable essay by Tom G. Palmer, "Are Patents and Copyrights Morally Justified? the Philosophy of Property Rights and Ideal Objects". Howard B. Abrams had already proved that copyright was not part of the commom law in his 1983 Wayne Law Review essay, "The Historic Foundation of American Copyright Law: Exploding the Myth of Common Law Copyright."

In the United States, copyright is not a natural right, since the Supreme Court has said so twice, first in 1834 in Wheaton v. Peters, and then in 1932 in Fox Film Corp. v. Doyal.

Mark Brady e-mails me that what the SCOTUS rules doesn't make it right or wrong, even if they are correct on a particular issue. He asks if Patry is "implying that slaves didn't have natural rights until the Thirteenth Amendment?" and notes the "huge difference between natural rights that transcend constitutional and statute law and those particular natural rights that the Supreme Court in its infinite wisdom chooses to recognize at any given point in time."

The problem here is that William Patry seems to imply that natural rights are what the SCOTUS says. But government-granted monopolies (such as copyright) are hardly consistent with the natural right to use one's own property in the first place, and were in violation of such rights long before the SCOTUS--which itself is a government monopoly--came into existence.

He continues:

Yet, rhetoric based on a natural rights basis for copyright are behind all the claims that those who use copyrighted works without permission are thieves or pirates. If copyright is instead a limited privilege that parcels out limited control to copyright owners, one might view issues differently.

Copyright violates the natural rights of non-rights holders to use their property in non-invasive ways, such as making and/or selling copies of their own tangible property. The thieves and pirates are the copyright owners themselves, and their legislative and judicial branch enablers and executive branch enforcers. The "limited privilege" they are granted by the State is a monopoly that runs roughshod over the rights of other people. So yes, we do view issues differently, and in a very different way from how Mr. Patry does.

He closes with a sendup of Tom Bell's book:

Professor Tom Bell has a draft of a book that takes on these issues and many others, called "Intellectual Privilege: Copyright, Common Law, and the Common Good," available here. There is a lot of good thinking and research, and I encourage others to read it.

Well, there's something we can agree on!

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Most Recent Comments

Questions and Challenges For Defenders of the Current Copyright Regime It is one of the finest websites I have stumbled upon. It is not only well developed, but has good

Killing people with patents I'm not really commenting the post, but rather asking if this blog is going to make a comeback

The right to rub smooth using a hardened steel tool with ridges Finally got around to looking at the comments, sorry for delay... Replying to Stephan: I'm sorry

Let's See: Pallas, Pan, Patents, Persephone, Perses, Poseidon, Prometheus... Seems like a kinda bizarre proposal to me. We just need to abolish the patent system, not replace

The right to rub smooth using a hardened steel tool with ridges I'm a bit confused by this--even if "hired to invent" went away, that would just change the default

Do we need a law? @ Alexander Baker: So basically, if I copy parts of 'Titus Andronicus' to a webpage without

Do we need a law? The issue is whether the crime is punished not who punishes it. If somebody robs our house we do

Do we need a law? 1. Plagiarism most certainly is illegal, it is called "copyright infringement". One very famous

Yet another proof of the inutility of copyright. The 9/11 Commission report cost $15,000,000 to produce, not counting the salaries of the authors.

WKRP In Cincinnati - Requiem For A Masterpiece P.S. The link to Amazon's WKRP product page:

WKRP In Cincinnati - Requiem For A Masterpiece Hopefully some very good news. Shout! Factory is releasing the entire series of WKRP in Cincinnati,

What's copywritable? Go fish in court. @ Anonymous: You misunderstood my intent. I was actually trying to point out a huge but basic

Rights Violations Aren't the Only Bads I hear that nonsense from pro-IP people all the

Intellectual Property Fosters Corporate Concentration Yeah, I see the discouragement of working on a patented device all the time. Great examples

Music without copyright Hundreds of businessmen are looking for premium quality article distribution services that can be

Les patent trolls ne sont pas toujours des officines

Les patent trolls ne sont pas toujours des officines

Patent Lawyers Who Don't Toe the Line Should Be Punished! Moreover "the single most destructive force to innovation is patents". We'd like to unite with you

Bonfire of the Missalettes!

Does the decline in total factor productivity explain the drop in innovation? So, if our patent system was "broken," TFP of durable goods should have dropped. Conversely, since