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.


Cory Doctorow on Bit Copying

I was talking with Kevin Carson about the problems with the "contractual" model of IP "that so many people grab at in desperation" (for more on this see here and here). Carson said:
As Cory Doctorow put it, a computer is a machine for copying bits. If you put a cultural artifact into bits, it's going to get copied. And anybody whose business model depends on stopping people from copying bits is f*cked, plain and simple. As horrifyingly accurate a prediction as Stallman's "Right to Read" is of the copyfascists ideal world, I think it's about as plausible a threat as Khrushchev's plan to catch up with the West by 1970.
See A very long talk with Cory Doctorow, part 1; also Cory Doctorow, Microsoft Research DRM talk and Copying Is What Bits Are For.

[SK crosspost]


I read the "very long talk" all the way up to the point that the obnoxious, insulting author of the piece (my opinion) insulted two of the greatest authors of science fiction, Heinlein and Herbert. If the author has no better appreciation for great science fiction than that, then everything else the author says involving Doctorow is completely irrelevant.
I love the fact that the word "copyfascist" has caught on.


Contract fails to substitute for copyright not because it cannot constrain 3rd parties, but because it can only exchange property, it cannot alienate someone from their liberty to reproduce it.

I can loan you a CD, but (without copyright) I cannot get you to surrender your liberty to copy it - even if you wanted to.

Crosbie, if I lend you a CD, why couldn't I require I would only do so if you promise not to copy it?
A promise would alienate me from my liberty, so no can do.

We can agree to exchange property, but we can't agree to bind ourselves to the performance or non-performance of certain actions in the future.

We can make exchanges contingent upon future events, but we need to supply the property to be exchanged up front.

We can put a loaned CD and $505 into a pot, and say that if X happens you get both, whereas if X doesn't happen you get a CD+$5 and I get $500. X could be you finding evidence that I have copied the CD.

However, you can't loan me a CD for $5 and say I owe you $500 if during the loan you discover evidence that I've made copies.

See Murray N. Rothbard: Property Rights and the Theory of Contracts.


Of course, if you failed to make the promise, then I will not provide you with the CD. Your need for unfettered liberty is greater than the risk I wish to take.

Anon, people remain free to make promises, it's just that it would not be ethical for the state to bind people to them (to prosecute them for not keeping them).

People have plenty of incentive to keep their promises in the form of maintaining their reputation and trustworthiness.


Fundamentally, all contracts are promises and all promises are contracts. In terms of civil law, contract law is probably the most "pristine" and highest held of civil laws, and enforcement tends to be generally objective. It matters not the nature of the "promise" or "contract." Contracts are held in such high regard that they are one of the few non-controversial areas of law (relatively speaking). The reasons are self-evident, as well as having been discussed over and over again.

And before you start getting into contracts that violate other laws, that has already been litigated and is done and over with. Though contract law is held in high esteem and overturning a properly written contract is nearly impossible, contracts must bow to criminal law. So, you cannot indenture yourself (become a slave) to someone. You cannot sell one of your kidneys or a liver via contract (though you may give a kidney away of your free will). Essentially, no contract that violates a criminal law and most civil laws is enforceable.

Violation of imaginary "natural rights" is not typically considered a reason to not enforce a valid contract.

Anon. Haven't you ever paused to wonder why the law is the way it is? Why can't you be a slave, why not sell a liver, etc.?

Underneath law, you'll find the protection of the individual's natural rights.

Some may well prefer they were consigned as imaginary creatures to mythological oblivion, but it is dangerous to lose sight of the very real, very natural laws underpinning the legislature.

When the legislature diverges too far from natural law, perhaps to harness people in favour of corporations, you get civil unrest.

Belligerent defense of 'the law', in contempt for natural law, isn't constructive.

I don't think the law matters nearly as much as the mentality of the people. Even if it was possible to recreate intellectual monopoly in contracts, with more and more ideas available on the market without such restrictions, anyone selling only on the condition of monopoly would be ridiculed and perhaps even prosecuted under anti-trust laws.

In fact, the government routinely looks at patent holders for anti-trust behavior, and does prosecutes under anti-trust laws.

You also mention whether "it is possible" to create intellectual monopoly in contracts. Of course it is. It is done all the time. In fact, I believe it is quite common to do so.

Submit Comment

Blog Post


Email (optional):

Your Humanity:

Prove you are human by retyping the anti-spam code.
For example if the code is unodosthreefour,
type 1234 in the textbox below.

Anti-spam Code



Most Recent Comments

IIPA thinks open source equals piracy rerwerwerwer

IIPA thinks open source equals piracy Thank you for this great

Questions and Challenges For Defenders of the Current Copyright Regime Eu acho que os direitos autorais da invenção ou projeto devem ser

IIPA thinks open source equals piracy https://essaywritingsolutions.co.uk/

Your Compulsory Assignment for Tonight rerrerrr

IIPA thinks open source equals piracy rwerwewre

An analysis of patent trolls by a trademark lawyer

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