Here are some ethical conundra Ive been pondering. Thoughts?
1. Consider the following three cases:
a. I invite you to my house for dinner. When you arrive, I serve you a casserole made from (what I know to be) poisonous toadstools. You eat it, and consequently die.
b. We encounter each other in the forest. You mention that youre hungry. I point to (what I know to be) poisonous toadstools, and ask why you dont eat some of those. You say you cant tell which things of that sort are safe to eat and which arent. Oh, Im an expert, I assure you, and I can guarantee that those ones are safe. So you eat some, and consequently die.
c. I post a picture of (what I know to be) poisonous toadstools on my blog, and announce: Some people think these are poisonous, but in my opinion theyre perfectly safe. So when you come across some toadstools that match the picture I posted, you eat them, and consequently die.
Lets say (though of course you neednt) that I violate your rights in case (a), where I lead you to eat a poisonous substance without your knowledge, but not in case (c), where I merely exercise my right of free speech to state my opinion, and leave you to make your own judgment.
But what about case (b)? Does it involve a rights-violation or not? In other words, is it more like case (a), or more like case (c)?
On the one hand it seems more like (a), because Im offering you a kind of assurance. Yet its not exactly a contract; I receive no good or service in trade from you. And what about:
d) I tell you, Ive received a revelation from Zeus, and if you recite the following formula for 90 minutes a day, I can guarantee that youll get into heaven when you die. So you waste 90 minutes every day reciting my formula and when you die you go to hell like the stinker you are.
Have I violated your rights in case (d)? If not, how is case (b) different? (Do reasonable expectations as to what people are in a position to guarantee come into it?)
2. The usual libertarian explanation as to why its a rights-violation to yell fire! in a crowded theatre is that doing so violates the theatre owners property rights. Or, if the owner is the one doing the yelling, then her doing so violates her implicit contract with the customers.
But what if the theatre is unowned? What if its even a never-homesteaded natural structure some sort of narrow, thickly wooded canyon through which a bunch of (non-contractually-bound) people are travelling where yelling fire! would have the same destructive effects as in a theatre?
And is this like case (1b) above, or are they different?
3. For this one, assume IP is illegitimate. You write a novel, and Warner Bros. makes a movie out of it without your permission.
Is it wrong for you to sue the studio, because youd be practicing censorship? Or is it okay for you to sue them, because they sue people over IP all the time (and indeed will sue unauthorised distributors of this very movie), so youre just giving them a taste of their own medicine or liberating some illicitly held property?
And does it make a difference whether youre suing to demand a) money, b) an injunction to prohibit the film, or c) the films release under a Creative Commons license?