How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love IP

Intellectual property rights are a cause of disagreement between Lysander Spooner, Stephan Kinsella, and Ayn Rand.

That’s the first sentence of a paper I’m grading for my business ethics class. It seems true (grammar aside). But it strikes me that this creates a problem for my anti-IP position.

After all, it’s an established philosophical principle that nothing nonexistent can cause something real. Yet intellectual property rights are the cause of a real disagreement. Therefore, intellectual property rights must exist. Damn.

Okay, back to grading.


22 Responses to How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love IP

  1. Alex J. May 11, 2010 at 10:10 am #

    Perhaps we can make use of a distinction between the idea of intellectual property rights and actual intellectual property rights?

  2. Alex J. May 11, 2010 at 10:11 am #

    Or, IP-the-claim vs. IP-the-just-claim.

  3. Alex J. May 11, 2010 at 10:12 am #

    Or perhaps I’m just being dense and ruining the joke. Sorry.

  4. Crosbie Fitch May 11, 2010 at 11:46 am #

    Matter and energy exists – irrespective of the fact that we can’t taste light or grip air.

    Property derives not from the tangibility of our possessions but from the fact that our natural right to privacy is delimited by a physical boundary – not an imaginary one. It is this physical boundary that makes our possessions our property (if we have not obtained them through violating the privacy of another). Just as the boundary delimits our tangible property so it delimits our intangible property. We have intellectual as well as material possessions. Indeed nearly every object in our possession has both an intellectual aspect and a material aspect, our senses perceive and apprehend both (the meaning of the words as well as the ink and paper).

    What is not natural is a state granted reproduction monopoly. It is a corruption of the term ‘property’ that insinuates the privilege of a monopoly into its meaning, as well as the natural monopoly of privacy.

    We can naturally exclude others from our possessions in our private domains, but we cannot naturally exclude others from their own possessions in theirs. For that we need an instrument of injustice such as copyright or patent and the power of the state to enforce it.

  5. E5 May 11, 2010 at 11:49 am #

    while the initial joke was only mildly funny, the attempts to logically analyze it (and in effect “kill the joke”) are hilariously tragic.

  6. Crosbie Fitch May 11, 2010 at 12:11 pm #

    What’s tragic is making a trivial joke out of what sounds like an insightful statement in an interesting paper by a promising author.

    • Neverfox May 11, 2010 at 2:51 pm #

      I really hope that’s just good solid sarcasm. My detector might be on the blink.

      • Crosbie Fitch May 11, 2010 at 5:36 pm #

        I can do smileys if it helps. 🙂

      • Stephan Kinsella May 13, 2010 at 4:36 pm #

        No. Crosbie has wacky views about IP. He says he agrees we should not have intellectual monopoly but that natural IP is fine; and by that, he apparently means, your ability to keep things secret if you own your head.

        • Crosbie Fitch May 13, 2010 at 5:46 pm #

          Hi Stephan!

          I’m pleased that my argument for natural IP has now ascended your grading ladder from its base of incoherent meaninglessness up a rung to wackiness. 😉

          My first comment is a better precis however.

          I remember once when someone almost had a doubt when I began to persuade him that his diary was his natural intellectual property, eh Sheldon? You shouldn’t be granted the privilege of a monopoly if you publish it, but you naturally have one if you don’t.

          I think I’ll ‘ave that banana now! 🙂

  7. Gray Woodland May 11, 2010 at 1:17 pm #

    Unicorns are a cause of disagreement between me and J. Random Mundane. I knew I was right all along!

    What would be really tragicomic, would be to degrade a serious point by forbidding it to be the occasion of honest mortal silliness. Without which, no humane view of the world may thrive.

    (‘Ave a banana!)

  8. Sheldon Richman May 11, 2010 at 1:43 pm #

    Professional philosophers think too much.

    • Brandon May 11, 2010 at 2:02 pm #

      They should be acting, without thinking about the consequences, like the rest of us dammit!

    • Danny May 11, 2010 at 2:45 pm #

      Think too much? But what would that mean? Is that a lifetime standard, a daily standard, or what? Is there a boundary beyond which one has thought too much? Or is there a vague predicate problem here? It would seem odd to think that it would merely be the quantity of thoughts that matter; I would guess that it has at least something to do with the level of analysis going on. If I had a lot of very mundane thoughts, I don’t think it would be likely that I’d be accused of thinking too much. And on the other hand, it wouldn’t be all that surprising if I were accused of thinking too much during a particularly intensive exploration of just a single train of thought. Perhaps, though, there are multiple determinants to thi–

      Why…why is everyone staring at me?

  9. Crosbie Fitch May 11, 2010 at 2:50 pm #

    The malapropism of ‘tragic’ is a minor comedy.

    What is really tragicomic is the growing awareness and inclination of many comedians to consider copyright’s application to the jokes they effectively publish in their stand-up routines, and to begrudge their use by other comedians. The term of ‘theft’ has now entered their vernacular. The corporation’s monopolist mentality is polluting our culture like an uncapped oil well.

  10. Roderick May 11, 2010 at 3:44 pm #

    Everyone who comments on my post is violating my intellectual property.

    • Miko May 12, 2010 at 1:12 am #

      So you’re also violating your own intellectual property, then?

      • Roderick May 13, 2010 at 11:31 am #

        Yes, but I periodically punish myself so it’s okay.

        • Charles H. May 13, 2010 at 1:09 pm #

          How Galambosian.

    • Stephan Kinsella May 13, 2010 at 4:40 pm #

      This reminds me of that hilarious comic i saw recently–Lucifer walks into a guy’s house to make a bargain for his soul, but the guy has a DRM type sign up that says by entering you agree not to bargain for the soul, and he traps Lucifer that way. But I cain’t find it. But it’s funny, it.

      • Roderick May 13, 2010 at 4:58 pm #

        They should sell hammers in packages, and when you open the package you learn that by breaking the seal you’ve agreed to whack yourself on the head with the hammer fifty times. Use only as directed, man.

  11. Matt Flipago May 20, 2010 at 1:59 am #

    Even more obscure if we were to all accept IP rights to be true by your argument, then the original basis for believing in intellectual property rights is no longer true. And thus we would all believe in something that is obviously not real. Thank God I understand logic or my head would explode by incomprehension of these conclusions. And since intellectual property rights do not exist, then they must not be a source of disagreement. Leading me to the conclusion that the government coercion to protect IP laws must be an illusion. If that’s the case, why even bother with the debate in the first place, because it has no real world implications. 🙂

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