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Monopoly corrupts. Absolute monopoly corrupts absolutely.





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A Letter in Reply to Mark Helprin

To the Editor:

In asserting that since a great idea lives forever, so should its copyright, Mark Helprin confuses real and intellectual property ("A Great Idea Lives Forever. Shouldn't Its Copyright?," opinion, May 20.) Information, as embodied in intangible or "intellectual property," cannot be owned, but can only be possessed or experienced, unlike tangible property, as John Perry Barlow pointed out in a 1996 essay. An ideal object, such as a book, music, or other article of property in which information is instantiated, can be owned. The information or expression (e.g., words, musical notations, pictures) contained within them, which conveys the message from the writer or producer to the reader or consumer, cannot be owned.

A tangible object is real property because it possesses three properties: it has a physical instantiation and boundaries, it can be physically possessed and used, and it can be alienated. Intangible or "intellectual property" fails the first and third criteria. An author who sells a copy of a manuscript, which is real property, still retains the ideas and word order within it even if he doesn't own them. He owns his manuscript, including the paper, ink, and cover, but does not own the words he writes and their arrangement.

He has two rights to his property, the ownership of his manuscript and to its first disposal. In a free society, he would not have the downstream right to prevent others from making copies of their own property, including copies of his work. He has two ways to prevent others from copying his work, either not publishing it or publishing it in a form that can't be copied, such as by encrypting it.

"Intellectual property" is applied to tangible property by giving a creator (or legal possessor) a state-granted monopoly to do certain things with it, such as making copies. This is accomplished by enjoining others from using their legally owned tangible property to do these things. The economists Fritz Machlup and Edith T. Penrose pointed out in a 1950 paper on the nineteenth-century patent system that the French legislature invented the term "intellectual property" and applied it to ideas that were patented to obfuscate the monopolistic origin of patents. "Intellectual property" is therefore better termed intellectual monopoly. Mr. Helprin is correct when he states that without government intervention, copyright holders would have no right to monopolize the production of copies of their protected works.

Thomas Jefferson recognized that the lack of "intellectual property" in nature (i.e., in a free market) benefited society, contrary to Mr. Helprin's belief that copyright is consistent with the "public good." The authors of the progress clause of the Constitution failed to understand that patents and copyrights impede intellectual progress, act as barriers to innovation and as rent-seeking devices, and imperil the liberties of innocent people using their own property. A creator's first mover advantage, combined with the ability to sell complementary services, enables him to reap the competitive rents that ensure the continuation of intellectual progress without intellectual monopoly.


Comments

Wow. That is so ... boring.

Everything you say, and none of it challenges the original article. The article claims that IP should be more like physical property, while your article says that it isn't.

What's the original author going to reply? That is should be.

You need a much stronger argument here. You need to hit the following points, at least:

- That man created wheels, fire, speech, and thousands upon thousands of things, all of which could have been patented, but weren't, because society doesn't exist unless progress is shared.

- That free speech is paramount, and telling someone what to write and what not to write, what to sing and what not to sing, is an abridgment of free speech. Why bring the government to come and force people not to speak and sing? Answer: because, for the benefit of society as a whole, authors and so on will contribute their works to the whole society, which they wouldn't do without incentives.

- Every work is based on every other work, yes, even Mark Helprin's (I read two of his novels). He uses ideas created by other, themes created by others, the printing press, the book binding, the font, the names of characters, and so onand so forth). Not every idea that pops into someone's head should be owned - because sooner or later, someone else will get the idea anyway. That's the way life works (and the number of simultaneously discovered ideas in the world is proof of that.

- And then, perhaps, what you said: that a person can own books and tapes and other items, but cannot own ideas. Once an idea is shared, it's shared. Unlike physical property.

Yehuda

Please, the proper word to describe it is...convuluted. Which is why David's letter is more likely to be printed and rightly so.

Helprin's article does imply that copyright should be more like real property, but notice he says that without government intervention that can't happen. Real property doesn't need government to exist, unlike intellectual property, which is a fancy term for government-granted monopoly, that prevents non-IP holders from doing certain things with their own copies of protected works. Helprin hasn't a clue that this is what IP really is about. My letter explains the difference between real property and "intellectual property."

I didn't have enough space to hit your other points, which are valid, except for the one about free speech. There is no such thing as "free speech," despite all the liberal legal and political malarky to the contrary. Justice Holmes, who was no advocate of laissez faire, pointed out that "free speech" doesn't give someone the right to shout "fire" in a crowded theater, because a ticket to view the show is for the purpose of viewing the show, not causing a riot on someone else's property. If you don't understand this point, try sneaking into someone's bedroom at 2 A.M. and exercising your right to "free speech." The suddenly wide awake homeowner might take issue with your right to "free speech," at least in that context.

Murray Rothbard penned one of the best discussions of the fallacy of free speech in his book _Power and Market_. Unfortunately, he fell into the copyright trap, but at least he got the patent argument right.

There are two kinds of property that are being confused:

  1. The intellectual property that is the intellectual work itself.
  2. The commercial property that is the transferable copyright to the IP.

Without copyright, we just have IP, i.e. no commercial property to be confused with it.

Thus,

  • Without copyright: You give your IP to someone, it's theirs.
  • With copyright: You give your IP to someone, it's still yours.

Helprin would like the commercial property to be permanent rather than to evaporate at a certain point, i.e. he would like the term of the privilege so further extended that it might as well be permanent.

Why?

Well, until the commercial property is as permanent as the intellectual property, it can always be argued as a separate (and thus separable) aspect.

Those who would really like to make the commercial privileges inherent to IP know that they can't do this until copyright is unlimited. Until that time they have to resort to egregious conflation and hope that everyone begins to believe published IP remains the property of a single commercial owner other than those members of the public who actually possess the property. In other words the mission is to make IP intrinsically rented - behaving completely unlike any other property.

Real property doesn't need government to exist, unlike intellectual property,

Good luck with your Somali real-estate venture.

Thomas Jefferson recognized that the lack of "intellectual property" in nature (i.e., in a free market) benefited society, contrary to Mr. Helprin's belief that copyright is consistent with the "public good."

Thomas Jefferson, a smart guy, never claimed that "nature" and "markets" had anything to do with each other. In fact, Jefferson's defense of French Revolutionary land confiscation and his argument that the dead have no "usafruct" are directly opposed to the idea that property exists outside of some notion of public good.

TJ was also a slaveowner. That's my gloss on his use of "nature." The term "nature" as used by philosophers going back at least to Hobbes meant many things, and was usually not what modern libertarians would recognize as a free market. Locke believed in copyright, but that concept doesn't come up in his view of nature. I don't think many libertarians endorse the Lockean proviso, which is part of his view of nature. Rothbard has his own view of the state of nature, which was libertarian, and one I'd endorse. His acceptance of copyright comes late in his work (in Power and Market, the sequel to Man, Economy, and State) and is not mentioned in M,E & S. I haven't read all of TJ by a long shot, but I'd bet you can find a discussion of nature in TJ that is roughly consistent with a free market, at least in rudimentary form, bearing in mind that he wasn't an economist.
Crosbie,

Let me try another angle in looking at IP. Consider the law of slavery, which deprives a slave of his liberty, while giving his owner the right to his labor services, to the lease of his services, and to his sale. The law of intellectual property deprives a non-rights holder of the right of using his property in certain ways, such as making and leasing or selling copies of it.

IP evolved from state grants of monopoly, then were legislated into law in 1624 (patents) and 1710 (copyrights). In the 18th century, the term IP was invented to hide the fact that its origin in state grants of monopoly. If only slave owners could have invented an IP equivalent of the word "slavery."

IP is not an intellectual work itself. It's a state grant of monopoly privilege, which violates the right of others to do certain things with their property. Tangible property is not "the transferable copyright to the IP."

The bottom line is that IP is not property.

TJ had many personal failings and was subject to the limitations of his time and class, but he did not subscribe to the idea that there was anything natural about any kind of property. TJ considered all forms of property rights, including IP, as creations of society and subject to evaluation in terms of result, not from any a priori notion of what property should be. Contrary to the 19th and 20th century ideological economists (marx, hayek, etc), TJ was primarily a humanist. So the proposition that real-estate is from God but IP is a mere governmental invention would have found a extremely unsympathetic audience in TJ.
I'm afraid your notion of "property" is too mystical for me. Isn't "title" a state granted monopoly whether it refers to an invention or a composition or a plot of land? How do these differ in kind? Do mortgages or debts of any kind exist without the underlying operation of a police force (known to some of us as "government")?
Good luck with your Somali real-estate venture.

Actually, I wrote a paper on Somalia around 2001 for a history list that is now defunct. Somalia uses a clan-based justice system and private property titles are fairly secure, outside of a few places like Mogadishu, or at least they were until the last two years. Even with the warlords fighting it out the last two years, they are looking to control small armies and swathes of infrastructure, not confiscate individual homesteads Bobby Mugabe-style.

And I hope some Kelo-influenced judge doesn't confiscate your property either, and that you continue to pay your property taxes each year.

My point was that private property evolved without an overarching state to determine the rules of property ownership and transfer. I know this boggles the mind of legal positivists, but that's too bad, they're wrong. As Bruce Benson pointed out in The Enterprise of Law, land titles emerged more or less in a state of nature anyway. Just as the wheel was invented without--would you believe--a patent. Even the first patent holder, a Florentine architect, invented his marble hoisting device without a patent.

So too the first parcel of property that was homesteaded was done so with nary a cop or tax collector in sight.

So too the first parcel of property that was homesteaded was done so with nary a cop or tax collector in sight.

Got an example of valuable real-estate that has not changed hands due to state violence?

As for somalia, what happens if you decide to "sell" "your" "property" to someone outside the clan or if the Ethiopian army or Al Queda disagree with the clan allocation or if you happen to be female and want to engage in real-estate purchase or ...

Without a stable state in Somalia there is no security of property. Without a fundamental recognition of human rights, what property rules exist are manifest injustice and brutality.

rootless,

Isn't "title" a state granted monopoly whether it refers to an invention or a composition or a plot of land? How do these differ in kind? Do mortgages or debts of any kind exist without the underlying operation of a police force (known to some of us as "government")?

A title is a private deed signifying ownership of property, either land or a tangible good. It has nothing to do with monopoly, which in any event can only come from the government. (Try naming one monopoly that doesn't involve an exclusive right to do something handed down by the government, like the delivery of certain types of first-class mail.)

Mortgages or debts can exist without a government police force. Governments do two things, some of which are consistent with liberty and a free market (e.g., constructing roads, running courts, policing neighborhoods and cities), and some of which aren't (e.g., busting drug dealers and people engaged in other victimless crimes). In a libertarian world, i.e., one without a state, the latter would cease to occur, and the former would be done privately, by profit making firms. See David Friedman, The Machinery of Freedom, Murray N. Rothbard, For a New Liberty, Bruce Benson, The Enteprise of Law, and check out the Journal of Libertarian Studies, online somewhere, for lots of articles, such as George Smith, "Justice Entrepreneurship," etc.

This is not a forum for a discussion of libertarianism or anarcho capitalism, so I won't sully it more with further comments on this. If you're interested check out the blog at the Mises Institute.

Got an example of valuable real-estate that has not changed hands due to state violence?

Yeah, 350 Fifth Ave. in Manhattan, the site of the Empire State Building. Remember, Manhattan was purchased, not stolen.

Apologies. Although I think your notion of property is wrong, I think that your arguments against IP make sense given your Burkean starting point. Since I consider all forms of property to be artificial and justifiable only by result, IP versus land doesn't persuade me.
"Without copyright, we just have IP, i.e. no commercial property to be confused with it."

No. Without copyright ther is no "Property" in "IP," only a creative expression.

You seem to be equivocating two properties of the word property, the one you can own and the one that denotes a quality of something.

The big problem is the use of the fairly new phrase "Intellectual property" rather than the older and more evocative "Author's Monopoly."

"Without copyright: You give your IP to someone, it's theirs. With copyright: You give your IP to someone, it's still yours."

This is a fundamental misrepresentation of Intellectual "Property." One of the fundamental differences between real property and IP is that when you sell or give away real property you no longer have it. With IP, you can sell or give it away as much as you like and you still "have it." The difference is one of exclusivity. Without copyright you cannot retain an exclusive monopoly to a creative work once you release it into the wild. Copyright grants you an exclusive monopoly to your IP.

scate, copyright is the thing that enables you to retain quasi-ownership of your IP even after you've sold it.

Without copyright, IP behaves as any other property.

Without copyright, when you give someone your original intellectual work you no longer have it (except for your ability to recreate it from memory), you no longer own it, and you no longer have any control over it.

Without copyright, when you give someone a copy of any of the intellectual works you possess, you no longer have that copy, you no longer own it, and you no longer have any control over it.

Similarly, without copyright, all the intellectual property you possess, whether the work you produce or that which you've purchased from another, remains wholly your intellectual property, that you have, that you own, and that you have full control over.

So, you are right, that it is copyright that makes IP behave differently from other forms of property. When you remove copyright, IP behaves as much as any other property.

Unfortunately, because copyright has been with us longer than the term 'Intellectual Property', many people believe that the monopolistic privileges of copyright are already subsumed into the definition of IP.

Au contraire. IP does not disappear when copyright does. IP is not the unethical suspension of the public's liberty; copyright is. Let's not be destroyers of property here.

Crosbie,

A creator still retains ownership of his physical property (e.g., a manuscript or copy of his book, etc.) after he sells a copy of it. Calling it quasi-ownership muddles this. There's nothing quasi about it. Without copyright, intellectual works are not IP.

A book or manuscript only becomes IP after the legislature passes an IP law giving an author the sole rights claimed under IP--by excluding non-rights holders from doing the things with their own copies that are proscribed by the IP law.

The Florentine architect's hoisting device that was the subject of the first patent became IP only after the law was passed. Before the law it was only a hoisting device, no IP about it. After the law it was a hoisting device and IP as well.

Bill,

A creator owns their manuscript AND their words upon it. This is their physical property and their intellectual property.

You do not need copyright to establish this.

  • No-one else has any right to seize or copy their manuscript nor to make and seize copies of the words upon it.

No-one else has any right to seize or copy their physical or intellectual property.

  • The creator can sell or give their physical and/or intellectual property to another.
  • They can sell or give copies of their physical and/or intellectual property to another.

It is only at this point, in order to create a monopoly for publishers with which to control the printing presses, that copyright steps in to suggest that perhaps the author/copyright holder should be able to prevent anyone to whom they give their IP from making further copies or derivatives.

That is the crime. The point at which artificial monopoly is created is the crime that should be undone.

Intellectual property is not theft, it is the suspension of the public's liberty to enjoy their own culture that is the crime of three centuries.

Emancipate the public, the true owners of published works. They are already demanding the restoration of their freedom to share and build upon their own culture. End the monopolies. Abolish copyright. But, do not dissolve intellectual property - its recognition and protection will become far more important, not less.

@ Crosbie

I'm not sure that we disagree that copyright is used to monopolize culture, but your descriptions and explanations are really convoluted if not plain wrong..

"Without copyright, IP behaves as any other property."

That is completely wrong. IP does not behave like real property with or with out copyright. Real property, unlike IP, is tangible. If you transfer real property, you have to surrender the physical, real property and you no longer have it to sell again. IP, the author's monopoly, is an expression which can be disseminated without depriving you of access to it. Copyright allows you to prevent others from disseminating that expression without your permission.

"End the monopolies. Abolish copyright. But, do not dissolve intellectual property - its recognition and protection will become far more important, not less."

WTF? Copyright, the government's grant of an author's monopoly, is the only thing that allows the expression of an idea to be treated in any way like "property." Without copyright, creative expressions are part of the commons which everybody is free to use and nobody can "own"--thus eliminating any "property" like right. People can keep their expressions to themselves under lock and key, but that is keeping something secret, not having a property right.

Your concluding statement is nonsensical.

Anonymous,

Property does not need to be tangible in order to behave like property.

To transfer one of the intellectual works that you own (from your intellectual property) you have to surrender the work from yourself to another, such that you no longer have it.

You can of course make a copy of any of the intellectual works (among your intellectual property) and this copy is also your intellectual property.

You can transfer this copy, and in order to do so you have to surrender this copy from yourself to another, such that you no longer have it.

It is possible that some of your intellectual property is so simple that it may be memorised and perfectly recalled, i.e. you may reproduce copies of the IP that you once had from memory. These copies are also your intellectual property - irrespective of whether you'd previously sold all previous originals or copies that you'd produced.

All the foregoing only makes sense in a world without copyright. If you've grown up with copyright, I appreciate it's difficult to comprehend how intellectual property behaves like physical property without it. My statements may well appear nonsensical, but the nonsense is actually copyright.

Copyright does not enable intellectual works to be treated like property, it actually interferes with that, and instead enables authors/copyright holders to retain control over use of their work even after it's been sold.

Fitch's account of intellectual property introduces unnecessary philosophical notions. The distinction that Michele Boldrin and David K. Levine makes between intellectual monopoly and real property is sufficient; the philosophical distinctions of Fitch add little to the discussion except for an equivocation on the meaning of "intellectual property" in two senses: a private ideational sense, and the tangible expression thereof.

Calling tangible property "intellectual property" if it embodies certain mental objects classified as "intellectual property" doesn't advance the essential point that copyright is a government grant prevent an owner from making copies of his property.

The introduction of the causal chain linking "intellectual property as private idea" to "intellectual property as the tangible embodiment of a private idea created and (presumably) owned by the ideator" is counterproductive.

But perhaps it is of interest as a philosophical digression on some hypothetical state of nature in the absence of copyright, in which philosophers posit a theory of the reification of mental property into physical property, along with a parallel theory of the transfer of rights to go with it.

Xlp Thlplylp,

I am indeed discussing intellectual property in the context of a hypothetical (though quite plausible) future in which copyright has been abolished.

For such a future it is indeed productive to define terms of reference, and it can, I suggest, be productive to start thinking in such terms today.

I hope you will agree that copyright is unnatural and far from a human right. Even so, I hope you can still agree that there are human rights to life, privacy, truth, and liberty that regulate our treatment of intellectual property as much as any property - physical or not.

In this age of information technology in which intellectual works find ever more fluid and harmonious expression in digital form, we still need to recognise their boundaries in terms of expression and possession, even if it becomes ever more plain that no boundaries can exist to govern their diffusion - apart from one: the private/public boundary.

This is evasive: the onus is to justify the equivocal use of the term intellectual property in a tangible and non-tangible sense.

The operational account of tangible property versus a government grant to a monopoly over the reproduction of tangible property is sufficient to distinguish tangible property from so-called intellectual property; it is more accurate to refer to intellectual monopoly instead of intellectual property.

Introducing a future theory of property in which mental objects are called "intellectual property" based on an analogies with tangible property is rife with difficulty. The difficulties are compounded when certain tangible property is also called intellectual property on account of its "intellectual" provenance. This equivocation is misleading.

Which analogy operates? Is the analogy that "I own my ideas in the sense that as long as I don't divulge them, they're mine;" or else it that "mental objects are physical, and I have the right to my own body, which is my property, so my ideas are my intellectual property." We aren't told. And it makes no difference as far as the operation distinction is concerned, so we need not bother.

The whole exercise is a bizarre and misleading philosophical digression which obfuscates the crucial and sufficient operational distinction between tangible property and intellectual monopoly.

"To transfer one of the intellectual works that you own (from your intellectual property) you have to surrender the work from yourself to another, such that you no longer have it."

You are fairly eloquent, but your statement is false. You do not "have to surrender" a creative work, only a copy. Perhaps you mean "transfer" copyright ownership? Even in that case you don't necessarily have to relinquish your copy or rights to ownership since you can transfer a portion of your ownership in the form of a license.

You may have some very profound ideas in your head but they seem to get completely lost when you translate this to a post here. I don't mean this as an attack on you, I only mean that what you write is factually incorrect in spite of your conviction otherwise and superficially lucid prose.

"You can of course make a copy of any of the intellectual works (among your intellectual property) and this copy is also your intellectual property."

Once again, you have to define the frame work in which you claim IP is "property."

"I hope you will agree that copyright is unnatural and far from a human right. Even so, I hope you can still agree that there are human rights to life, privacy, truth, and liberty that regulate our treatment of intellectual property as much as any property - physical or not."

Um, no. You claim that copyright is unnatural and in the same paragraph you seem to assert a basic human right to consider ideas "property." There is no basic human right to own intellectual property. In fact, there is no universal agreement on human rights, let alone a right to own IP.

You seem to be using the term "property" quite backwards. The only reason to assert the "property" concept for tangible or intangible things is in regards to ownership or controlling those things. If, for instance, one contends that nobody should be able to have an author's monopoly over a creative expression then one removes the concept of "property" from those ideas since they can not be owned under those circumstances. Without the concept of copyright and patents there is no such thing as "Intellectual Property," only creative expressions and ideas--which all people are free to use once they learn of them.

I really can't tell what you are trying to prove or argue or what you believe. You need to state your premises clearly then back them up. What you are doing now is arguing in incoherent circles.

Xlp, it is easiest to avoid confusion with contemporary and copyright warped notions of IP if you simply expunge from your readings of my words on IP all notion of copyright, and focus only upon the natural basis for property, i.e. those objects which a man produces or acquires and is able and inclined to control through force and will alone.

A physical work of art embodies intellectual work, and aspects of the intellectual work may be extracted from it (derivatives), these may be physical reproductions, digital recordings, etc. All of it belongs to the artist as their intellectual property - and remains theirs, like any property, for as long as they retain it. Obviously they can produce copies and derivatives until the cows come home, and they can produce copies from those copies, and copies of those derivatives, as can anyone else to whom any copies or derivatives have been given.

A handwritten manuscript may comprise the style and calligraphy of the author's handwriting, as well as the literary content of their prose. Once all work of the intellect is extracted, all that remains are carbon fibres and dried ink. Not everything can be easily copied or represented digitally. Perhaps the author perfumed their parchment with a thoughtful assortment of wild flowers? The aroma may not be amenable to analysis, but if the author had taken pains to describe their precise steps in producing their scent, perhaps a highly similar result could be obtained? That recipe is also an intellectual work that can be possessed and transferred as property. Either way, it doesn't matter whether it can be copied, captured, reproduced or not, if it is a work of the intellect realised, then it can be intellectual property, and belongs to the person who possesses it.

On the matter of the right to one's body (vis the human right to life), there are also original works that whilst not the product of one's intellect should probably still be termed intellectual property because they are apprehended by the intellect, whether via the body's senses or through thoughtful analysis. Our faces are our IP, but we tend to publish them (niqab notwithstanding). Our DNA is also our IP, and we are only just realising that there is an issue concerning whether there is implicit publication of it, or whether it is implicitly private - despite our tendency to leave traces of it everywhere we go.

Whilst IP is intangible, this doesn't mean it may not be manifest or encoded in physical form or medium. The physical manuscript can only be termed the author's intellectual property because it is the original realisation of their intellectual work, and the intellectual work cannot be removed from it. If the author writes their words upon a slate, and then wipes the slate clean, it is no longer an intellectual work, nor their IP, but a mere piece of stone that they own.

We express our intellect through physical effect, and we capture aspects of that intellectual expression through analysis and inspection of its physical form. Sometimes we can record it in a more abstract way, e.g. an ASCII text file instead of a handwritten manuscript.

However our thoughts are expressed or realised, wherever we record them, store them, or keep them, it's our IP. You can buy it and sell it, reproduce it, study it, learn from it, build upon it, lose it, or destroy it. Just because you can't touch it, doesn't mean it isn't property you can and should own and control.

Anonymous, my statement is not false:

"To transfer one of the intellectual works that you own (from your intellectual property) you have to surrender the work from yourself to another, such that you no longer have it."

If 'transfer' means to remove an object from one place and deposit it at another, then my statement is true. It is thus a tautologous statement, so I'm on pretty safe ground as far as its truth is concerned.

"If 'transfer' means to remove an object from one place and deposit it at another, then my statement is true. It is thus a tautologous statement, so I'm on pretty safe ground as far as its truth is concerned."

You'd be right if IP were like physical property and that IP was a physical thing that had to be relinquished in order to transfer it to someone, but it isn't. I'm "transferring" my "IP" to this blog right now but because IP is not a single physical instance I can both transfer it to the blog and still have it in my text editor. You are using physical metaphors where they are not merited. Your analogy is not analogous.

If you had written out your proposed stipulative definition out in your argument you'd be on firmer, though still flawed ground. But, what you wrote certainly wasn't a tautology. And if it was, it would definitionally be redundant and self-referential in nature, therefore not advancing your argument--hardly a point in your favor were it to be true. This is the first time I've seen some one actually brag that their argument is circular as supposed proof of the validity of their point.

"Just because you can't touch it, doesn't mean it isn't property you can and should own and control."

This is the very hear of copyright, the idea that you should, for a limited time, "own" the author's monopoly to a work you have created. And yet, with a remarkable talent for Orwellean doublespeak, you simultaneously advance the notion that copyright "Copyright does not enable intellectual works to be treated like property."

Fitch, if this tedious doctrine of "tangible" IP makes faces and DNA intellectual property, then it cannot be salvaged and I will not comment further on it.

Back to the subject of the post. Helprin wants future taxpayers to provide for his decendents in perpetuity, since they will be the ones who have to pay to enforce his would-be monopoly.

Anon,

Thank you for delivering your words to me.

I have now made a copy of your words by printing them onto a piece of paper.

Those words are now my intellectual property, and none may wrest them from me.

I may well make further copies of your words, and these copies are also my IP.

I may choose to sell those copies, should I find willing buyers.

And if anyone did buy the copies, they'd become their IP.

Of course, copyright law requires your permission during most of the above.

I look forward to a future in which we can all enjoy our intellectual property without being obliged to seek permission from each other.

Xlp,

So, who does own your face and DNA?

Whose property are they?

Is the likeness of your visage tangible or not?

Is the sequencing of your DNA tangible or not?

Are your thoughts not just as much a product of your DNA as your face is?

You are your DNA. Your DNA owns you. Your DNA owns your thoughts.

Your DNA is your intellectual property.

Who else would own up to it?

Crosbie,

Anonymous's arguments against IP are all sound and exceptionally well stated. Your printing his missive doesn't make it your intellectual property. When you print his e-mails, all you own are pieces of paper with ink marks on them. They are your tangible property, but they are not your intellectual property, nor are they anyone else's IP--because they are not IP at all. I think I'm also right in saying that a letter (or e-mai) can't be copyrighted under the law of copyright. (Where is William Patry when we need him?) If this is true, it can't be intellectual property under the law of IP.

You seem to think that IP is some sort of property-infused ideal type that has an intellectual component, like art or literature. An expression of an idea (which is what copyright protects) is not property. It can only be experienced; it cannot be owned, unlike the physical property in which it is embodied.

Anonymous's arguments against IP are all sound and exceptionally well stated.

Ditto for XLP. Sign them up for the blog!

Crosbie,

It seems that you don't use some words the way most of the world does. "Intellectual Property" is a figurative metaphor not a literal term. IP does not refer to a piece of real property infused with an intellectual expression. Printing an expression on to a physical object is not the definition of "Intellectual Property."

"I look forward to a future in which we can all enjoy our intellectual property without being obliged to seek permission from each other."

i.e., the end of copyright. The problem with your sentiment is that in such a scenario the metaphor of creative expression as "property" is no longer operative once you remove the artificial monopoly granted by government. In such a world you'd be able to use ideas and expressions freely but they'd no longer have any quality that would be analogous to "property" since no one would control or own the ideas and expressions.

It is not the experience of hearing or seeing a creative expression that can make it "property" but the ability to control what others may or may not do with that expression. Under your odd use of the term "Intellectual Property," each bird song is the IP of each bird.

If there is one theme in all of your posts it is equivocation of words like "property," "transfer," "own." You can't have a productive discussion if you are going to make up definitions for words and then argue that you are correct based on your own esoteric usage.

Your posts quite odd, it is like arguing with an eloquent 5-year-old who is very smart but doesn't quite know certain concepts and definitions.

Meanwhile, back to holding two contradictory thoughts at once:

"Your DNA owns you...Your DNA is your intellectual property."

Pick one, not both.

"Whose property are they?"

You are under the mistaken impression that if something exists then someone must own it. Who owns the Van Allen Belt? Who owns Plank's Constant? C,G,T and A? 1 and 0? The existence of something does not make it "property."

Anonymous, thanks for stepping in for me. However, in the case of this latest fatuity

"Your DNA owns you...Your DNA is your intellectual property."

I would pick neither. My DNA isn't a purposive agent with the ability to exclude others from owning me.

My DNA is not my intellectual property either. Whether it counts as my property is open to question. As far as conventional usage is concerned, I certainly do not hold the copyright to it. I've never seen it, and I assure you that I didn't think it up before I was conceived, nor was there any kind of quickening of the spirit, which probably would have fallen under the mysterious Fitchean process that somehow transmutes "ideational intellectal property" into "tangible intellectual property." That's assuming Fitch allows for the free-floating transfer of intellectual property in his sense (whatever it is) in the absence of an intellectual to conceive it.

I should say that if I were to contribute effectively to this blog, I would have to overcome the urge to respond to such weak arguments.

"I would pick neither. My DNA isn't a purposive agent with the ability to exclude others from owning me."

Indeed, it is a false dichotomy. I was so amused by the self-contradiction that I failed to think any further on the matter.

Bill,

Many apologies for demonstrably failing to make sound and exceptionally well stated arguments for what to my mind is an extremely simple concept, i.e. intellectual property (divorced from its constraint by copyright).

I can tell that this discussion isn't quite ready for the deeper philosophical issues of the human being's identity with the DNA that creates them, etc. I apologise for introducing unnecessary controversy. However, the matter of our rights to our own faces and DNA will become critical in the near future.

Anyway, back to pieces of paper with marks upon them.

Bill, you keep referring back to copyright as if that remains involved in the definition of intellectual property. Copyright is an artificial monopoly, a commercial privilege, sometimes misnamed under the umbrella term 'IP rights'; it governs what people may do with intellectual property, but it doesn't define IP. Works of the intellect don't all vanish in a puff of smoke post-copyright, nor do they cease being able to be treated as property, indeed, post-copyright, intellectual works thus unencumbered by privilege behave precisely like physical property, except that they are intangible - albeit imprinted upon a physical medium, or held electronically, etc.

If you send me a letter, whilst it was your physical and intellectual property, it is now my physical and intellectual property. Copyright might well attempt to prohibit me making copies of it, but then it might not, because as you acknowledge, copyright may not have jurisdiction over private correspondence. Either way, it's my IP, behind my barbed wire, and in the control of my private domain. This remains the case with or without copyright. Abolish copyright, and that letter is still my IP. You may well have kept a carbon copy - that copy is your IP. I own your letter and the words upon it. The truth of your authorship remains inviolate. You own your carbon copy and the words upon it. We each enjoy our own intellectual property - and without copyright, we can do what the heck we want with it without our liberty to do so being constrained by a law intended for the likes of Bill Caxton rather than Bill Gates.

"You keep using that word. I do not think it means, what you think it means." -Inigo Montoya
I think we all agree that Crosbie Fitch uses the term "intellectual property" differently from what we are used to.

We are, though, used to copyright.

If you think that without copyright, the term "intellectual property" becomes meaningless, then I don't understand how you can object to Crosbie Fitch redefining it. At least it still has some use that way.

In what practical manners does Crobie's world without copyright differ from your world without copyright?

If there is no difference, then it is senseless to argue about words and how they are used, so long as we *know* how the other is using them.

If there is, then it makes more sense to attack each other on the deficiencies of your respective envisioned worlds than on the words you use to describe them.

"If there is no difference, then it is senseless to argue about words and how they are used, so long as we *know* how the other is using them.

If there is, then it makes more sense to attack each other on the deficiencies of your respective envisioned worlds than on the words you use to describe them."

You might be right if we really could be sure what crosbie meant but the fact is that we can only divine what crosbie means by the words he or she uses. I disagree with your contention that we "*know*" what crosbie means in spite of the non-standard and equivocal use of various words and terms.

Even in those instances where it seems that crosbie may be invoking a common use-age of a word, crosbie still conflates many words making virtually impossible to actually know what he or she is saying.

Words matter. Usage matters. We can't have a discussion unless we are speaking the same language, even if we have to stipulate the definitions. Crosbie speaks an especially deceptive language because it appears on the surface to be English but it is really a Crosbian Dialect where common words may or may not be used backwards from the normal manner.


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