History

Steam Engine Time Delay

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Over at mises.org, Michele Boldrin and David K. Levine challenge the standard story of James Watt and the steam engine. Their conclusion:

wattengine

In most histories, James Watt is a heroic inventor, responsible for the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. The facts suggest an alternative interpretation. Watt is one of many clever inventors working to improve steam power in the second half of the eighteenth century. After getting one step ahead of the pack, he remained ahead not by superior innovation, but by superior exploitation of the legal system….

[T]he granting of the 1769 and especially of the 1775 patents likely delayed the mass adoption of the steam engine: innovation was stifled until his patents expired; and few steam engines were built during the period of Watt's legal monopoly. From the number of innovations that occurred immediately after the expiration of the patent, it appears that Watt's competitors simply waited until then before releasing their own innovations. This should not surprise us: new steam engines, no matter how much better than Watt's, had to use the idea of a separate condenser. Because the 1775 patent provided Boulton and Watt with a monopoly over that idea, plentiful other improvements of great social and economic value could not be implemented. By the same token, until 1794 Boulton and Watt's engines were less efficient they could have been because the Pickard's patent prevented anyone else from using, and improving, the idea of combining a crank with a flywheel.

Also, we see that Watt's inventive skills were badly allocated: we find him spending more time engaged in legal action to establish and preserve his monopoly than he did in the actual improvement and production of his engine.

The article is excerpted from Boldrin and Levine's book Against Intellectual Monopoly, which you can read for free on their website.

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  1. IP is one of the very few things I differ with mises.org on.

  2. I think IP should be privatized and more flexable but it COULD exist in a stateless society.

  3. The article is excerpted from Boldrin and Levne’s book Against Intellectual Monopoly, which you can read for free on their website.

    Now that’s consistency.

  4. FrBunny, not only that but just about everything on mises.org is released under a Creative Commons Attribution license.

  5. Reason #1775 to do away with IP

    But if you can’t live in a world without patents, at least give them a reasonable shelf life like 7-10 years.

  6. The same is true of the automobile industry. The early patents set back automobile development by several decades.

    Henry Ford was so bitter about the damage patents did to the autoindustry that he bankrolled Curtis’ legal challenge to the Wright brothers’ aircraft patents. That the challenge was successful, incidentally, is one of the major reasons why the aviation technology advanced so quickly.

  7. This is the first time I have ever seen Pizza Hut advertise on reason.com Is Pizza Hut anti-IP?

  8. Patents should last forever. However, patents should be taxed at market value like a house.

  9. IP may be second only to abortion in as the topic that makes so many libertarians furious with other libertarians.

  10. And third is ridiculing Santorum’s kid.

  11. As much as I dislike the current patent environment, the “conclusion” cited seems to make the claim that Watt’s early patent blocked others from combining his innovations with their own. Patents don’t do that…though some inventors may have waited for expiration in order to avoid paying royalties.

    A patent comes with a requirement that you license (with royalties) it to others, thus allowing them to improve on your invention.

  12. I’m conflicted here. I understand the concept of the hinderence to innovation. But shouldn’t the person have a least a little time to recoup the time and money spent coming up with the idea? I thought that was the purpose to begin with for patents. Why shouldn’t I own my idea or creation and have it protected like any other? Because of this conflict I just can’t really argue either way like I can on most things.

  13. “IP may be second only to abortion in as the topic that makes so many libertarians furious with other libertarians.”

    Yes, I agree with you on that. I think most outside the libertarian community are not even aware there are libertarians who oppose abortion.

  14. But if you can’t live in a world without patents, at least give them a reasonable shelf life like 7-10 years.

    I’d even say the original 14 is OK. But the article does point out the difficulty when combining multiple inventions to make something comes into play.

  15. Interesting. This guy invented a ‘safe saw’ which stops when a human hand touches the blade. Manufacturers are reluctant to use it in their lower cost saws because of extra cost and market positioning. Stephen Gass is also a patent attorney and so he’s spending a lot of time lobbying congress to force manufacturers to incorporate his technology in all saws sold in the U.S. It’s all about safety, you know.

    I totally lost respect for the guy when I found this out.

  16. Fine – but without the ability to file a patent and make money off it, would James Watt have even bothered to invent the condenser that everyone else’s steam engine used?

    “Wah wah wah we could introduce innovations faster without patents!” Maybe, but who would bother? Owner/operators only.

    We already experienced a time without intellectual property. It was called the Middle Ages. And while the Middle Ages were not a completely backward time as imagined by the public and were marked by the gradual introduction of many important technological innovations in agriculture, mining, metallurgy, transport and power generation, just about all innovation came from owner/operators or their equivalent, and the pace of innovation and adoption of new technologies was brutally slow, despite the really high marginal utility that even the smallest advance brought under those conditions.

  17. Don’t be silly. The ad combine saw the word “intellectual,” and decided that Pizza Hut — the thinking man’s pizza — would be a good match.

  18. Oh stupid tags

  19. Thanks reinmoose

    /sarcasm

  20. Ayn Rand: “But the ‘P’ in ‘IP’ stands for property! That means we get to bash people over the head with the power of the state, and pretend to be libertarian doing it!”

    Face it guys, at best intellectual property is a necessary evil, a useful compromise with the state.

  21. @*#(*&%#)(*@#$

  22. Great, juuust great.

  23. Mike-

    You are so right. I can work myself up into a fine lather on this subject-and I have on many sides (imo, there are usually more than just 2 sides to a story) of this issue.

  24. Reinmoose did it. *points*

  25. looks like fun!

  26. Reinmoose, are you Neo or something? That’s pretty impressive.

    Now bend the spoon.

  27. I closed my tag – I swear. I don’t know what happened
    this is clearly Reason’s website’s fault

  28. A patent comes with a requirement that you license (with royalties) it to others, thus allowing them to improve on your invention.

    Not so much. A patent does not require you to do a damn thing with your idea. It simply grants you exclusive rights over the invention for the term of the patent, in exchange fow which you tell everybody else how you did it.

    Lots of fun games you can play with patents and good lawyers.

  29. There were GOOD things about the time delay. think of all the eminent domain that was delayed by government not being able to give away rights of way sooner.

    I’m straining here, of course.

  30. patents should be taxed at market value like a house.

    How do you know the market value of a house that is not being sold? What is the “market value” of a patent?

  31. that last post was not me

  32. I just killed the comment that set off all that tag weirdness. Sorry, Reinmoose.

  33. “Fine – but without the ability to file a patent and make money off it, would James Watt have even bothered to invent the condenser that everyone else’s steam engine used?

    “Wah wah wah we could introduce innovations faster without patents!” Maybe, but who would bother? Owner/operators only.

    We already experienced a time without intellectual property. It was called the Middle Ages. And while the Middle Ages were not a completely backward time as imagined by the public and were marked by the gradual introduction of many important technological innovations in agriculture, mining, metallurgy, transport and power generation, just about all innovation came from owner/operators or their equivalent, and the pace of innovation and adoption of new technologies was brutally slow, despite the really high marginal utility that even the smallest advance brought under those conditions.”

    This is laughably absurd, and wrong on almost every count. All empirical evidence shows that innovation increases dramatically in the absence of IP laws, as every market actor is trying to gain an advantage over or keep up with their competition.

  34. Edison was another one whose inventive output was more than matched by his litigiousness.

  35. we could introduce innovations faster without patents!” Maybe, but who would bother?

    A couple hundred thousand other people who are interested and can make a slight improvement.

  36. The patent court in the US has been cutting waaaaay back on patents in recent years, as has the patent office.

    Read all about it at my blog:

    http://fedcirpatentcaseblurbs.blogspot.com/

  37. Thanks Jesse – it’s much more tolerable this way

  38. I’ll reinsert my cleverness without real tags

    “I think most outside the libertarian community are not even aware (that) there are libertarians *DELETED*who oppose abortion.*/DELETED*”

    There, fixed that for you

  39. Propiedad Intelectual es loco.

  40. Feh, I’m no longer feeling this thread.

  41. The subject of monetary consideration for an idea has come up in my own life and I’ve come to the general conclusion that while being compensated in accordance to the value of the idea might be nice, that’s just not a realistic expectation in an idea marketplace or the way the world has ever worked.

    It obviously can and has been accomplished, but as mentioned here, it requires an awful lot of help that inevitably hinders the idea’s wider dissemination. I think resentment over others making money off your idea is the path to madness. I feel fortunate to stumble upon it in the first place.

  42. Feh, I’m no longer feeling this thread.

    The thread thanks you.

  43. Colonel_Angus, oddly enough, the URL you gave was blocked (I am at work right now) and the reason given was “WEAPONS”. What does this site have to do with weapns????????

  44. IP rights are magic. They transform libertariants into anti-originalists, maybe even living document types….

    Right above the part about maintaining a navy. art. 1 sec 8

    “To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries”

    And I’d like to call BS on this statement:

    “All empirical evidence shows that innovation increases dramatically in the absence of IP laws”

    For lack of a better way of figuring it. Is there a country that doesn’t enforce IP rights that is has been on the leading edge of technology in the last 200 years? I can’t think of one.

  45. Dakota, many (but not all) libertarians do not believe in ANY governmental authority. But even such people would prefer the U.S. follow the Constitution as written than have Living Document types rewrite it.

  46. if the government had created this “invention” then everybody could use it.

    why is not anybody talking about that bird murderer from usairways?

  47. Colonel_Angus, oddly enough, the URL you gave was blocked (I am at work right now) and the reason given was “WEAPONS”. What does this site have to do with weapns????????

    Another part of the site is about “historical black-powder firearms”; the entire site may be blocked because of that section.

  48. ‘”I think most outside the libertarian community are not even aware (that) there are libertarians *DELETED*who oppose abortion.*/DELETED*”

    ‘There, fixed that for you’

    Cruel, but accurate.

  49. “IP rights are magic.”

    This is the only accurate sentence in your post.

  50. Now bend the spoon.

    There is no spoon.

  51. WTF, are you telling me libertarians are split on Patents and IP? this honestly comes as a surprise to me. Maybe ive been under a rock, but why isn’t this a simple property right? who gives a crap about the government encouraging this and that? It belongs to the guy who invented it! It’s insane that they expire at all before the death of the inventor!

  52. Although I feel using force on someone for copying an idea is wrong, the authors have a sensible reform. This is to put the burden of proof on the inventor to demonstrate that they require a patent of however many years to recover their costs. If they can’t prove this they don’t get the patent. I think this would eliminate many of the particularly unsavoury aspects of patent law such as patent trolling.

  53. if Lesbian until graduation is still around, was wondering – what happens after? are you Bi? hot? available?

  54. “Maybe ive been under a rock, but why isn’t this a simple property right?”

    Well The argument is whether something like an idea can reasonably be considered “property.” I think the sheer difficulty in enforcing property rights on something like an “idea” without severely restricting the rights of others makes it a fairly open ended question of how to deal with it.

  55. I just came up with an idea for cold fusion. So did Head, while trying to score with Lesbian Until Graduation. Our methods are different. Why can we patent two ways to do the same thing, and prevent others from doing that process using governmental force, even if they independently come up with one of our processes?

    Maybe I’m a little drugged up and unclear, but doesn’t that strike anyone else as strange?

  56. Episarch. I think the idea is more that with IP rights someone else couldn’t simply take your cold fusion device apart, figure out how it works, and start manufacturing knock-offs. Unless they altered the design in a way that improved it.

    The problem is that development of new technologies often takes years of research. If others can copy your designs, it makes it unprofitable to bother.

    Actually, green libertarians ought to be enthusiastic about this. Patents provide government-sponsored incentives to exploit the earth with dangerous new technologies.
    If you can just breed Monsanto roundup-ready rice on your own, then monsanto won’t bother making it. Etc.

  57. “Well The argument is whether something like an idea can reasonably be considered “property.” I think the sheer difficulty in enforcing property rights on something like an “idea” without severely restricting the rights of others makes it a fairly open ended question of how to deal with it.”

    Wait, so because a right might be difficult to enforce, it isn’t real? And how exactly is it difficult to enforce? certainly no more than my ownership of my car – ie. you steal it, I report it to the police and they take a report…

  58. Lesbian Until…

    Nevermind that Episiarch guy, I’m into it. Are you in nyc? don’t be shy…

  59. Baked Penguin,
    I was gonna say Edison was a pure asshole to Tesla.
    IP is not really “property.” It is just another of what the cherished Founders had wrong… along with public schooling, etc.
    It’s like “justice,” and our whole injustice system that most libertarians put up with, but that our handy-dandy government makes ???, well, sausage.

    Then there is our “standing army”….

    Step away from the dark side. Come on over to the peaceful anarchist side.

  60. Ruthless – Edison was an asshole to many who did not deserve it. As far as the anarchist thing goes, if I thought it could work without killing more than governments do, I’d be there.

  61. Baked,
    For you and others, tune into The Santa Fe Institute.
    There you will learn that anarchy is not to be feared.
    For obvious reasons, pro-government types will conflate chaos and violence with anarchy.
    The Santa Fe Institute shows how complexity is the operative word for peace arising spontaneously.
    (Without a standing army.)

  62. In a perfect world, no one could take apart that cold fusion device and figure out how it works besides the inventor, so everyone could know that if Episiarch starts making a cold fusion device three months after mine comes on the market, he had developed the process independently. That said, it’s pretty much impossible to have that reality. Hence, the necessity of IP (although I think the current system is insane).

  63. David E.,
    Please name one time period in some place where there was no government at all, and it led to the spontaneous arising of peace.

  64. economist,
    2017.
    Somewhere in the western hemisphere.

    As if it made any difference.
    “Past results are no guarantee of future performance.”

  65. my finance professor and I had the same argument about past result and future performance – he retorted with – if we don’t have the past, we don’t have much…

  66. The Santa Fe Institute shows how complexity is the operative word for peace arising spontaneously.

    This must be the general form of the thought: “To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail”.

    The Santa Fe Institute suggesting that complexity is the solution to the problem of governance is somewhat like the Ford Motor Company suggesting that what you need to solve your transportation problems is a nice new car from Ford.

    Whether that car turns out to be a Pinto or a Mustang is something else again.

  67. David E.,
    I’m not sure what you’re getting at.

  68. if Episiarch starts making a cold fusion device three months after mine comes on the market, he had developed the process independently

    Of course I did! What are you implying? Industrial espionage is a serious charge, economist. I’m going to speak to my lawyers about a libel suit. How dare you!

  69. economist,
    See this book:
    Complexity: The Emerging Science at the Edge of Order and Chaos (Paperback)
    by M. Mitchell Waldrop (Author)

    Elemenope,
    Thanks for referring to me as the “man with a hammer.”
    At my age, I was beginning to think I only “had a hammer.”

    Smackee!
    Help!
    These fuckers are picking on me!

  70. “Past results are no guarantee of future performance.”

    Perhaps not a guarantee, but you can’t deny looking at the past can be a pretty good indicator of the future, at least for certain things. See: Science

  71. Perhaps not a guarantee, but you can’t deny looking at the past can be a pretty good indicator of the future, at least for certain things. See: Science

    And just hope like hell that the rules are uniformly the same in the future as in the past.

  72. At my age, I was beginning to think I only “had a hammer.”

    LOL!

  73. IP should expire (we don’t need Michael Jackson owning the Beatles’ albums 30 years late), but we need some kind of IP rights or there will be nothing but monopolies exploiting their entry barriers and stealing ideas. Yes, it’s less efficient in some ways, but that’s true of most any private property (public transportation vs. owning your own car, etc.).

    Want to know what a world without IP looks like? It’s Microsoft. Wordperfect, Lotus 1-2-3, Netscape… all reverse-engineered and shoved down the OS marketing channel.

    Small tech companies are often built around a single idea. Without IP companies like Google would not exist.

  74. Small tech companies are often built around a single idea. Without IP companies like Google would not exist.

    While I agree with that first sentence, the second sentence is very poor evidence for it. Google’s search algorithms, infrastructure, and other “intellectual nuggets” that they depend upon for operation are trade secrets, not patent public goods.

  75. “Stephen Gass is also a patent attorney and so he’s spending a lot of time lobbying congress to force manufacturers to incorporate his technology in all saws sold in the U.S. ”

    I wonder if that’s the same Glassy Steve who made up stories over at The New Republic before Kirchick filled that role. I also wonder if it is wise for Reason to cite the LvMI in light of the way its Founder was shamelessly treated by Nick and Matt regarding the Ron Paul newsletter calumny.

    MisesDOTorg is a website run by real libertarians, unlike the Kochsuckers who run this one.

  76. … because only manufacturers should make money, not inventors.

  77. MisesDOTorg is a website run by real libertarians, unlike the Kochsuckers who run this one.

    Until about five minutes ago, I had never bothered to look up all this Kochtopus bullshit I occasionally see mentioned here and there in the comments section.

    Man, what a waste of five minutes.

    It might help, I don’t know, the party, the movement, or whatever, if it didn’t continuously wallow in personality-driven ego bitch slap fights.

    Just a thought from a guy who couldn’t care less who was more right oh so many years ago.

  78. Creamy Goodness

    … because only manufacturers should make money, not inventors.

    Most convincing comment of the thread, IMO. I’m for IP, albeit something more sensible than we have now.

  79. Kochtopus is also a terribly unfunny name. That is, unless someone were to draw a picture of a Kochtopus tentacle raping Murray Rothbard, then it would be hilarious, because 8 Kochs are funnier than just 1.

  80. “Maybe ive been under a rock, but why isn’t this a simple property right? who gives a crap about the government encouraging this and that? It belongs to the guy who invented it!”
    –domoarrigato

    No. The physical objects in his possession belong to him. The physical objects in my possession belong to me, and they are mine to arrange in any configuration I see fit. Anyone who tells me I cannot arrange my tangible property in a certain configuration because the state has given him a monopoly on that configuration is a thieving thug. And anyone who tells me I cannot copy a file on a hard drive that I own, or copy a CD or DVD that I paid for and own, is likewise a robber.

    Intellectual property is not property at all.

    Intellectual property is theft.

  81. IP is one of the very few things I differ with mises.org on.

    Because their argument against IP fails… how?

  82. The physical objects in my possession belong to me, and they are mine to arrange in any configuration I see fit.

    Negative. There are all sorts of configurations of your property which you may not choose. For example, you may not strip mine your mountaintop and cause a landslide to rumble through your neighbor’s property.

  83. Negative. There are all sorts of configurations of your property which you may not choose. For example, you may not strip mine your mountaintop and cause a landslide to rumble through your neighbor’s property.

    You can as long as your neighbor is NOT affected. As long as you do not affect someone else’s right to his private property and life, you CAN choose any configurations you see fit for your property – that is how PRODUCTION comes to be.

  84. Has the weekend open thread tradition died?

    I read someplace not all that long ago (maybe a K M-W article or the thread below it?) about the patent system being not-so-bad, giving the inventor some incentive to publish their invention and gain some income from it but aftet 17 years, IIRC, the idea goes into the public domain. My gushey friendly side finds that a decent compromise. However, I (my keep out government side) do like the persuasive arguments of others upthread, especially those that allude to the more efficient producers of products using these good ideas are the ones who should reap most of the rewards.

    The facts of steam engine story sounds almost identical to the story of how television was delayed in the USA, substuting widgets in the story of course. But, the television story is usually painted as the big “evil” companies (RCA, Westinghouse, etc.) crushing Farnsworth(?) by refusing to license his ideas and “waiting him out” until his patents expired. Never mind that it took decades for broadcast television to ever turn a true profit (if it ever did so).

    As far as the inventor geting rewarded, all sorts of firms have staff that do nothing but invent things, like 3M does. A good steady paycheck as long as you are cranking out viable product ideas is a pretty fine reward.

    That copyright mess? Not such a fan of the current system.

  85. Want to know what a world without IP looks like? It’s Linux.

    FTFY.

    And yes, without IP Microsoft Windows would look a lot more like Linux. Im trying to figure out how that is a bad thing. 🙂

  86. lmnop,

    It might help, I don’t know, the party, the movement, or whatever, if it didn’t continuously wallow in personality-driven ego bitch slap fights.

    While you are absolutely right, I dare you to name a party that doesnt do this.

  87. robc,

    Linux blows, UNIX rulez!

    vi all the way too.

  88. Did somebody say PARTY? I will be ready after my morning nap.

  89. vi all the way too

    Duh.

    Im teaching an Intro to Unix course sometime in the next month. That is always fun. Especially the vi bit.

    “Yeah, the arrow keys work, but only losers use those”

  90. I think the sheer difficulty in enforcing property rights on something like an “idea” without severely restricting the rights of others makes it a fairly open ended question of how to deal with it.

    The funny thing about hearing this abysmal argument offered by libertarians is that it’s basically the same argument offered by leftists about real property and tangible chattels:

    “Well, you need the state to set property lines and protect your property from theft so all property is an invention of the state! Nyah nyah nyah nah nah!”

    We should be able by now to easily conceptualize the idea that there are property rights that should exist and that a legitimate state acknowledges that and seeks to make that “ought” into an “is”. And that involving the state in the protection of what is rightfully your property does not corrupt the moral justice of the original claim.

    My thoughts and my labor are my own, and I should be able to set the terms of how I will employ my thoughts and labor with my fellow men. I wouldn’t labor for you unless you agreed to pay me, and a just state would defend me from being forced to labor without compensation, from being defrauded of the proceeds of my labor, and from having the proceeds of my labor violently taken away. The defense of intellectual property by the state simply extends this protection to my thoughts as well as my physical labor, and allows me to negotiate the terms under which my thoughts will be used the same way as I can negotiate terms for my physical labor.

    If the fact that my intellectual property couldn’t be protected without a state is an argument against IP, then the fact that my physical property couldn’t be protected without a state is an argument against real property and chattel.

  91. As far as a world with limited IP, the old days of hotrodding and car customization are a good example too.

    Lots of the streamlining ideas from the west coast found their way into production line cars, but the guys doing the pioneer work were making cars that sold for many times what the base car they modified was ever worth.

    I say the old days because now the feds have gotten their fingers all over that too, so have the lawyers, with even (now deceased) Boyd Coddington getting hit with Ship of Theseus fraud charges and Jesse James getting fined for his motorcycles failing Californis clean air standards.

    On balance the government seems to hinder innovation more than any other player in our society.

  92. Fluffy,

    The distinction is that once you have a thought, I am not allowed to think anymore. If I have the same thought, why am I not allowed to use it.

    Real property doesnt work that way. If I buy a piece of land, you can still buy land.

    I think copyright is clearer than patents, but the same logic applies. My computer has bits. I own them. Why can I not arrange them in any order I want? Because you happened to arrange the bits in that order first? Really, that is your argument?

  93. All empirical evidence shows that innovation increases dramatically in the absence of IP laws, as every market actor is trying to gain an advantage over or keep up with their competition.

    No, it doesn’t.

    The empirical evidence shows that in situations without IP innovation slows because ideas are withheld from the market,a premium is placed on secrecy, and ideas that would be expensive to develop aren’t pursued because of the impossibility of securing any adequate return.

    If you want to prove otherwise, you have to provide me with examples of rapid innovation in contexts without any IP whatsoever. I will not accept as evidence something like open source software, which basically consists of a bunch of hobbyists innovating for fun and not demanding compensation for it, but doing so within the context of a broader economy that has already experienced and continues to experience the benefits of IP laws. The fact that you can successfully have hothouse examples of non-IP development within the modern economy no more convinces me of your anti-IP position than the presence of a small successful hippie commune in modern California would convince me of the soundness of Marxism.

  94. The distinction is that once you have a thought, I am not allowed to think anymore. If I have the same thought, why am I not allowed to use it.

    Real property doesnt work that way. If I buy a piece of land, you can still buy land.

    Not the same piece of land.

  95. Fluffy,

    Not the same piece of land.

    My copy of your music isnt the same bits.

    My copy of your invention isnt the same piece of metal.

    You can make your land look just like mine (trademarks excepted – but once again, an IP issue).

    Interestingly, recipes arent covered under IP. A published recipe is copyrighted, but nothing can stop another restaurant from deconstructing your recipe and duplicating it. Why the distinction?

  96. Fluffy,

    We have IP now, pretty extensive IMO and we still have a high level of innovation that is kept as trade secrets rather than being published or patented to eventually make their way into the general market.

    Japan made a rapid rise in technology by largely ignoring US patent and copyright protections on all sorts of things. Might have been more rapid if they did not have so many protectionist barriers to outside business.

  97. robc,

    Your 9:18 comment is a good example of how an efficient manufacturer can take the same idea and profit from it while the inventor, though innovative but maybe not efficient, could sink.

  98. My computer has bits. I own them. Why can I not arrange them in any order I want? Because you happened to arrange the bits in that order first? Really, that is your argument?

    Yes.

    If you truly simultaneously developed the idea independently, my Platonic Form version of IP would grant you the right to employ that idea without violating my IP.

    But how often is that the case? You can supply thought-experiment theoretical examples of it, but most of the time the “arrangement of bits” would not happen if you weren’t copying it from someone else. Make up your own arrangement of bits.

    I think even the most aggressive anti-IP person would agree that you certainly shouldn’t have the moral right to kidnap me and force me to produce ideas for you, and that you shouldn’t be allowed to promise to pay me to develop ideas and then defraud me out of payment after I do so. So on some level you have to acknowledge that my thoughts bear a decided resemblance to physical labor. While my thoughts are still in my head, everyone agrees that I own them and call sell them. It’s only once the ideas are “out there” that you think you should be able to take them without compensating me. I just think that the same rules should apply to my thoughts whether they’re still in my head or out of them, the same way the same rules should apply to my labor whether I’ve performed it yet or not.

  99. Couple of corrections from quick google search. A list of ingredients is not copyrightable, but if “substantial literary expression” is attached, then it is.

    So, the write-up describing the recipe is copyrightable.

    Also, in theory a recipe is patentable, but a different combination of food items is almost always considered to be obvious and not patented. Plus, generally considered not worth the effort.

  100. Wow, Stream engines are like So cool!

    RT
    http://www.anonweb.pro.tc

  101. Intellectual property has served a purpose, as in it provides an increased incentive for investment.

    I reckon in the future it’ll become increasingly irrelevant or rather impossible to inforce for more and more areas of technology in the same was it currently is in information technology and media.

    rapid prototyping/additive manufacture which the ultimate aim is open source hardware which could do for manufacturing similar things in manufacturing

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_source_hardware

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RepRap_Project

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rapid_prototyping

    To quote Marx “you need to invent the steam engine to end slavery”

    it’s technological innovation more than politics that will take humanity to a more stateless society

    Pharmaceuticals is a difficult one but I think the current system sort of works in that the IP time limit provides enough incentive for investment, then generics can kick in after time. I’d say there’s a strong case for lowering the time limit.

  102. Fluffy,

    You dont sell your thoughts, you sell a product of your thoughts. That is what I am buying. At that point I OWN the product you sold me. You dont want me copying it, dont sell it to me.

    I am stealing nothing from you. You have everything you had before I made the copy. Including your thoughts.

    Now, where I can see some protection is in fraud. If I copy your idea and try to claim it as my thought, that would be fraud.

  103. MM,

    I really don’t get the Marx quote, other than it being as utterly wrong as everything else he ever stated.

  104. robc,

    I can not believe that we have left Apple out of this discussion for this long. They use the Fluffy argument extended to absurdity. Their “look and feel” lawsuits should be more famos than they are.

  105. While you are absolutely right, I dare you to name a party that doesnt do this.

    Of course I can’t. My thing is the tragedy of a smallish party being destroyed by it; large parties survive this sort of thing by being large enough to absorb internal contradictions. Big tent, and all of that. This, on the other hand, is really the People’s Front of Judaea against the Judaean People’s Front.

    “He who thinks a great deal is not suited to be a party man: he thinks his way through the party and out the other side too soon.”

  106. I really don’t get the Marx quote, other than it being as utterly wrong as everything else he ever stated.

    Considering that the Austrians ended up borrowing a great number of his insights, that’s an odd statement. (Man is the creative/productive animal, etc..)

    And what he’s saying is pretty obvious, isn’t it? Slavery was an effective system of labor until a *more* effective one came along. Technological development requires free people thinking and innovating freely, whereas labor just requires hands and feet, free or not. What Marx was essentially arguing was that it is invention that allows the free society to ultimately outperform the slave one.

    And that seems pretty self-evidently true.

  107. “if the government had created this “invention” then everybody could use it”

    In the EU you get government funding for research and a can apply for patents

    “Want to know what a world without IP looks like? It’s Linux”

    just wondering if you could put a patent on a mathematical formula?
    Like every time you use E=hf you have to give a check to Plank
    I suppose a piece of source code is just a mathematical formula

    “We already experienced a time without intellectual property. It was called the Middle Ages.”

    The scientific method was invented during the middle ages particularly by Abu Muhammad Ibn Hazm

    http://www.islamic-study.org/scientific_method.htm

    No intellectual property existed

    Its has been argued that it was Islamic banking laws that prevented its continuation into an industrial revolution. There is no incentive to invest as no profits can be made on lending.

  108. “I really don’t get the Marx quote, other than it being as utterly wrong as everything else he ever stated”

    I think Marx was a little misunderstood in some respects. Marx said that there were stages of humanity

    feudalism
    capitalism
    socialism
    communism

    Marx was certainly not an anti capitlaist but saw it as a stage of human evolution. Capitalism as he saw it existed when he was alive. Democracy as we now know it certainly was not. It could be argued that “the Dictatorship of the Proletariat” that is just democracy in the current sense of the word. Indeed Marx dismissed J.S.Mill’s ideas as obvious. So you could describe indeed the current situation in the West as socialism in the Marx sense which will lead to communism.

    Marx’s envisioned communism as a stateless society with enough material abundance that property was not an issue.

    Marx actually believed that revolution was pointless until capitalism had gone its course and made sufficient technological progress. It was actually Leninism (Lenin disagreed with this view) that people now associate as Marxism.

    I must admit that I’ve never supported any political movement after Marx that has been associated with his name or claims to be communists. Also a great deal of what Marx said was bullshit.

    But I do agree with the idea that the only way to make a stateless society is via technological innovation.

    I think advances in genetic engineering, Rapid prototyping, information technology, alternative energy generation etc will lead to the reduction of the state in the next few centuries.

  109. LMNOP,

    And what he’s saying is pretty obvious, isn’t it? Slavery was an effective system of labor until a *more* effective one came along.

    Cute. So we still have slavery around the world, other than in Europe and most of North America to this day, even after the sun has risen and set on the old steam engine. Its successors are much more efficient and we still have slavery.

    In Europe, Denmark did not end slavery until 1848. England ended it throughout its empire in 1807 due to the abolitionist movement, not due to steam engines tilling gardens.

    In the USA, mechanical power for cotton processing only increased the market for slaves to do the manual labor that the machines could not do.

    Perhaps the steam engine could be credited with moving the Union Troops into the south to wage war that had the unintended benefit of ending slavery by Constitutional Amendment after the areas in rebellion were occupied and told to ratify the amendment?

  110. @Guy Montag

    I think its just a metaphor mate

    as in technology improves peoples lives an increases rights.

    Anarcho-capitalist feminists say that the greatest thing to bring about womens rights was the invention of the washing machine.

  111. MM,

    I agree that the advance of technology does make the lives of people better, but that Marx thing was just too far out there even for a metaphore.

  112. MM,

    So, you are sort of in the camp that the Leftists misrepresented Marx and in doing it so loudly and frequently that the true message of Marx has been obscured?

  113. @Guy

    Yeah basically with the caveat that also alot of what he said was bollocks aswell.
    He lived in Britain and at the time democracy had done some amazing things, such as ending slavery, but was still basically unrepresentative of the majority of the population. So his distain for democracy was probably more for the system in the UK at the time. Maybee seeing the Northern states of the USA which were more advanced at the time would have changed things
    There is some famous quote of Marx which he said at the end of his life on the Paris commune which was “if that’s communism” I’m not a communist”

  114. MM,

    Wasn’t Marx “booted out” of the emerging communist circles (during one of their ‘Internationals’) when he scolded them about their approach.

  115. Cute. So we still have slavery around the world, other than in Europe and most of North America to this day, even after the sun has risen and set on the old steam engine. Its successors are much more efficient and we still have slavery.

    The easy counter-argument here is that technological implementation requires infrastructure investment, which stable regimes can provide and unstable ones cannot. So, the countries stable enough to take advantage of technological innovation ditched slavery pretty quickly, while others were mired in the old way of doing things even though the technology technically existed.

  116. just wondering if you could put a patent on a mathematical formula?

    This was going to exactly be my question for Fluffy. Can you patent the Pythagorean Theorem? Green’s Theorem? How about Newton patenting calculus? Would such an action be a positive or a negative?

    I maintain that it is immoral to use government force to prevent people from reproducing (an action) that which they can see and understand, as long as they are not stealing anything physical.

    This is what happens when I oversleep and miss my tennis clinic. I end up involved in an IP argument.

  117. “So, the countries stable enough to take advantage of technological innovation ditched slavery pretty quickly, while others were mired in the old way of doing things even though the technology technically existed”

    Suppose it depends on your definition of slavery and thats a biggy eh?
    were citizens of the USSR slaves?
    I’d say yeah

    @guy think so or maybee Banukim

  118. So, I am watching an old movie on TCM, The Big Clock. It is very much like No Way Out, just a different setting.

  119. Was unaware that this movie existed until today. Wish I had known about it before.

  120. Wait, so because a right might be difficult to enforce, it isn’t real?

    No, the difficulty in enforcing property rights on an idea (without trampling on rights of others), also calls into question whether an idea constitutes property.

    As robc said, if you make a recording of your band playing a song, it’s not difficult at all to enforce property rights on that recording; it’s yours. It is extremely difficult, however, to enforce those rights to any and all subsequent copies of that recording made by other people without trampling on those people’s rights.

    Our current situation is just to go ahead and trample on those people’s rights anyway since they don’t donate large sums of cash to political parties. Hence the conflict.

  121. Guy: Yeah, The Big Clock is very good. No Way Out (the movie, not the awful Phil Collins song) was explicitly based on the same book that inspired it. Being pro-IP, of course, the filmmakers purchased the rights.

  122. Pickard’s patent prevented anyone else from using, and improving, the idea of combining a crank with a flywheel.

    I don’t know the history of the law, but if this statement is true, obviously the law has changed considerably. Had it not changed, Chevy could have never built a V-8 because Ford would have asserted it’s patent rights to an engine with 8 cylinders.

    For that matter, if this statement remained true until the automobile age it would have meant that whoever invented the internal combustion engine could have stopped anyone else from building one.

  123. we find him spending more time engaged in legal action to establish and preserve his monopoly than he did in the actual improvement and production of his engine.

    Yeah, that happened to the guy who invented power steering too. Detroit just kept trying to invent around him using expired patents and other shenanigans. If we’d just allowed him to be screwed out of his idea, well, American cars would have had power steering before WW II. Look at all the benefits to the rest of us!

    And let’s not even talk about the weedeater. The guy who invented that got nothing but a piece of paper from the patent office (or so the story goes).

  124. TWC,

    USA patents are only good for 17 years and non-renewable. So adjust all of your impressions from forever to a much shorter period.

    Now, for the Packard thing to be true, if Packard patented and produced a superior system then continually improved and patented the improvements, they would stay a few years ahead of everybody else until something completly different and better came along.

    The Cotton Ginn (sp?) was patented too, but very easy to reproduce and Whitney (so the story goes) did not make much off of it.

  125. JW,

    Ah, very interesting.

  126. Suppose it depends on your definition of slavery and that’s a biggy eh?

    Actually about two months ago, a few others and I had this argument on a thread.

    Slavery is a specific condition typified by, among other things, a lack of wages, a lack of freedom, and a corruption of blood (it is a heritable condition).

    The USSR did many horrible things to its workers, but slavery is another thing again. Not all oppression is slavery.

  127. lmnop,

    I dont think that corruption of blood is a requirement.

  128. No. The physical objects in his possession belong to him. The physical objects in my possession belong to me, and they are mine to arrange in any configuration I see fit. Anyone who tells me I cannot arrange my tangible property in a certain configuration because the state has given him a monopoly on that configuration is a thieving thug

    But as a practical matter, IP enforcement generally doesn’t work that way. If you build that cold fusion power plant in your backyard, either by independent development, or by reverse engineering someone else’s design nobody’s going to bother you (in the patent office anyway, the zoning board might, but that’s a whole separate issue). Likewise if you sew a Gucci knockoff handbag and just wind up toting it around yourself, no one will pay you no nevermind.

    It’s only if you try to trade for these items, or give them away for free, will the IP enforcement kick in.

    There is, however, a broad category where ‘microenforcement’ is the rule rather than the exception – when you perform music or a play, in general you are required to pay royalties to the writer no matter how de minimus your production is. The part of the law always rubbed me the wrong way. At the very least, in the event of copyright reform anytime in this century these copyrights should be the first ones whose terms get shortenned

  129. I would agree with robc, slavery doesn’t have to be inheritable. It doesn’t even have to extend to the slaves entire life.

  130. What about indentured servitude? Is it OK to bargain away a period of your life (say 7 years) for consideration? In some way that just seems like a contract to me…

  131. -“Who was the guy who invented the steam engine?”

    -“Watt.”

    -“I said, who was the guy who invented the steam engine?”

    -“Watt.”

    -“It’s a simple question, dumbass, I asked who-”

    -“And I said ‘Watt.'”

    -“So, tell me, wise guy, who-”

    -“Watt.”

    [etc.]

  132. It seems the concept of “fair use” needs to be clarified for both patents and copyright.

    The current reading of fair use is, clearly, unfair.

  133. “By selling himself for a slave, he abdicates his liberty; he foregoes any future use of it beyond that single act. He therefore defeats, in his own case, the very purpose which is the justification of allowing him to dispose of himself…. The principle of freedom cannot require that he should be free not to be free. It is not freedom to be allowed to alienate his freedom”

    I’m not sure I buy this…

  134. MNG,

    To me, it is the other way around.

    I can’t purchase the right to limit your freedom, even if you want to sell it to me.

    Because, limiting your freedom is a violation of your rights, and not valid whether I paid for it or not.

    At each point after I pay you, you still have the right to refuse me my power over you.

  135. Say Watt one more time. Say Watt again, I dare you, I double dare you motherfucker, say Watt one more goddamn time!

  136. Joule’s, no disrepect, but I’m a racecar in the red. I’m not threatening you, I’m just sayin’ it’s bad to have a racecar in the red.

  137. Can’t a labor contract be written where all of a person’s labor is purchased for a period of time, similar to some athletes and actors?

    Also, an airline “owns” all of a pilot’s flight time (was 1000 or 1200 hrs./yr last I checked) because ALL of their flight time, including private time, is included in their maximum monthly and annual allowed time.

  138. But they are getting paid in the amount they bargained for.

  139. Guy,

    Technically, that is how it is done these days. When I signed on to MGM I actually had to sign a contract more or less. And I live in a “fire your ass for whatever reason we feel like” state.

  140. Wow, all I got from Rock Star was a free copy of the game I was in.

  141. Speaking of the steam engine, where is my flying car?*

    *Obligatory flying car query.

  142. I’m conflicted here. I understand the concept of the hinderence to innovation. But shouldn’t the person have a least a little time to recoup the time and money spent coming up with the idea? I thought that was the purpose to begin with for patents. Why shouldn’t I own my idea or creation and have it protected like any other? Because of this conflict I just can’t really argue either way like I can on most things.

    I fully support IP rights.

    If manufacturers want to make stuff that incorporates someone else’s patents, they can pay royalties.

    By the same token, until 1794 Boulton and Watt’s engines were less efficient they could have been because the Pickard’s patent prevented anyone else from using, and improving, the idea of combining a crank with a flywheel.

    They could have paid Pickard royalties so they could use his design, but they chose not to.

  143. Michael E.,

    Good point.

    But, there are certainly fair uses of IP that should not require payment of royalties.

    No?

  144. Could this explain why the Mises Institute prints books without having permission from the owners? I wonder if they are fine with others treating the books they own the copyright for in the same manner.

  145. DW,

    Do you have an example? I don’t normally read that site so I am just asking from curiosity.

  146. The first attribute of property is that it has boundaries and can be enclosed. You can put a rock in a box, put a deadbolt on your door, and a fence around your land. But how do you enclose an idea? The answer is that it is impossible to enclose an idea that has been disclosed. Your only choose not to disclose, but most ideas have no value if kept secret. Thus disclosed ideas cannot be property. Even if you tell no one your idea, someone else can independently discover it.

    When the idea is in your head, it is your property. But when the idea is in another person’s head, it is NOT your property, it is theirs. That doesn’t mean you can’t profit on your idea. You just can’t claim it as your exclusive property and throw people in jail for duplicating it.

  147. On IP
    a good friend of mine who writes software for the field of material science wrote this

    “We believe that open societies, where knowledge is shared and discussed, promote innovation and justice, freedom and intelligence, and ultimately better individuals and stronger economies. From Galileu, Descartes and Newton, to Darwin, Faraday and Einstein, the development of Science has been always based in the open discussion, in the unrestricted exchange of information. Unfortunately, recent changes in the trends governing intellectual and industrial knowledge have modified considerably this panorama, and knowledge is becoming more and more something that can be owned and restricted from the general public.”

    http://www.gamgi.org/project/scientific_mission.html

    you’ve gotta admire the sentiment

  148. “Could this explain why the Mises Institute prints books without having permission from the owners?”

    A million monkees at a million typewriters

    I personally claim the intellectual properties on

    “you, my friend, blow Charles de Gaulle’s goat”

    In theory any time someone uses this expression I should get a check

    but I’m easy

  149. The first attribute of property is that it has boundaries and can be enclosed.

    Says who?

    You put entirely much stock in the external physical object as property.

    I own myself first. The only reason I could possibly own an external thing is because I own myself, and own the right to commit my labor to a project or to withhold it.

    Property is a conceptual relationship between myself and a product of my effort. That conceptual relationship can exist just as well for an idea as it can for a box of crap. If my relationship to an idea I generated is just too intangible for you to imagine it to be property, well – there’s nothing tangible that says I own anything; there’s only a relationship we conceptualize and describe and accept because it’s just.

    When the idea is in your head, it is your property. But when the idea is in another person’s head, it is NOT your property, it is theirs.

    You may as well say that you own your own labor while it’s still a potentiality locked up inside you, but once you commit it to an object you don’t own it anymore.

    “Hey, your labor was your own until you used it to dig this ore over here. Now it belongs to the state, bitch!”

  150. Lysander Spooner, the 19th century intellectual forerunner of Murray Rothbard, considered government a band of thieves, killers, and knaves. He also thought intellectual property (inventions and compositions) should last forever, be enforced by the legal system, and even be inheritable.

    No wonder libertarians disagree on the issue….

  151. How about Newton patenting calculus? Would such an action be a positive or a negative?

    It doesn’t matter if it’s a positive or a negative. All that matters is whether it’s just.

    Since I’m not Leibniz, it’s a pretty straightforward and undeniable fact that I was never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever going to invent calculus on my own. The only way calculus was ever going to exist for me is if Newton invented it for me. That means that for me to deny that Newton owns calculus and not me – for me to let him invent it and then for me just to take it, and say “Thanks, bitch! Sucker!” – would be a monstrous injustice.

    “Hey, if you take calculus away from Newton, he doesn’t have any less property than he did before!” That’s not the point. Him having less isn’t the point. The point is that I have more. I have value, generated by Newton, that I took from him without giving him something in return.

    “Hey, it’s hard to enforce Newton’s property right! It’s really easy to steal calculus!” That’s not the point either. The point is whether I acknowledge that the right exists. To acknowledge that the right exists, all that is necessary is for me to acknowledge that he made it and I didn’t. I am about as likely to invent a new branch of mathematics as a fucking chimpanzee is to invent a rocket ship.

  152. Speaking of the steam engine, where is my flying car?

    man I think back to the future II really skewed my expectations of the 21st century

    There’s not alot I wouldn’t do for a flying skateboard

  153. @flying cars

    “Dietrich said he had already received 40 orders, despite an expected retail price of $200,000 (?132,000)”

    Ferrari 430 – ?138,625 – ?172,625
    Flying car ?132,000

    I would probably go with the flying car

  154. MM,

    If it is not Hemi powered it is just not a proper flying car to me.

  155. USA patents are only good for 17 years and non-renewable. So adjust all of your impressions from forever to a much shorter period.

    Thanks Guy.

    So, did Ford have the only flathead vee-8 for 17 years? Don’t make me look it up. 🙂

    And did no other car manufacturer besides GM have an overhead valve straight six?

    In that same vein….

    It seems that putting a crank and a flywheel together could not have been patentable except if it were put together in precisely the same way as Watt’s were.

  156. “Hey, it’s hard to enforce Newton’s property right! It’s really easy to steal calculus!”

    Pretty easy to hijack a copy of MS Office, too.

  157. So, did Ford have the only flathead vee-8 for 17 years? Don’t make me look it up. 🙂

    And did no other car manufacturer besides GM have an overhead valve straight six?

    Not sure what the deal is there. MOPAR seems to own the term “HEMI” and the original Hemi, hemispherical combustion chamber with 180 degree opposing valves, geometry was all theirs for ever, but a modern Hemi is a poly chamber just like everybody else. I am wanting to think Trademark here, but easily could be wrong.

    MOPAR did have “flat head” engines too but I do not remember them being marketed in that way. They were Wedge, Hemi and other. That leads me to believe we are talking about Trademark/Copyrights and not patents.

    Jacking in an overhead cam does not seem to be anything unique in mechanics, but I might not know the history of that.

    Someone mentioned power steering earlier. Today I am not seeing how hydrolic assisted mechanicals with proportioning valves would be anything unique when applied to a vehicle either.

    I shall fall back to my default and blame government 😉

  158. They were Wedge, Hemi and other.

    They have marketed Wedge, Hemi and other.

  159. Says who?

    Sorry, I was arguing from an anarcho-philosophical viewpoint. I do not use government as the starting point for deciding what rights are. The only reason we even think of ideas as property is because we have a government that says they are. Take away that government and intellectual property becomes very ephemeral.

    If you take IP off the table, every other form of property has boundaries. Without the boundaries there cannot be exclusivity, which is the entire point of property. It is impossible to make ideas exclusive without resorting to coercion.

    “Tilling the soil” on a idea does not confer ownership, any more than breathing gives you ownership of the air. If you want to own some air, you need to be able to bound it. Put it in a bottle, perhaps. Same with the idea. Without a fence there can be no gate to keep people out.

    There is no instance of patents or copyrights occuring naturally in history. In every case they came about through the action of government.

  160. from LMNOP: “It might help, I don’t know, the party, the movement, or whatever, if it didn’t continuously wallow in personality-driven ego bitch slap fights.”

    I don’t know if that’s what happened. What I DO know is that Ron Paul was smeared with the help of Reason in order to harm Rockwell. That was a betrayal of the countries most prominent Libertarian, libertarian principles in general and just basic journalistic ethics.

    There is NO evidence that Lew Rockwell wrote ANY of those newsletters, but their is plenty of evidence that neither Matt or Nick had even read them before publicly condemning them and the author(s) as well as Paul for not “outing” whoever wrote them. They didn’t have time to read them, as was proven by Justin Raimondo. They just relied on Kirchick’s slanted interpretations and out-of-context quotes.

    This is a big fucking deal because it shows that Gillespie, Welch, and Weigel are not even good journalists, much less good libertarians. They are the ones who have harmed the movement by becoming the tools of enemies of freedom. Kirchick’s smears deserved to be condemned by Reason, but they were echoed instead.

    There is no evidence that Rockwell did anything to merit such treatment. That someone would be willing to risk taking down the entire Paul campaign in order to get to Rockwell is as despicable as it is unlibertarian. That the Reason staff would let themselves be used in such a way for such ends is unforgivable.

  161. I do know the patent on the Hemi is expired. But, Ford had a Hemi too. I think it was the 429. Lessee, 427 was the Cobra motor, 428 was…..hmmmm. Nah, it was the Ford 429 that was the hemi.

  162. Meant to say that the Ford Hemi was available only a few years after the Chrysler Hemi. Nowhere near 17 years apart. More like four or five. tops.

  163. It doesn’t matter if it’s a positive or a negative. All that matters is whether it’s just.

    Fine. Men are from Mars, women are from Venus. I’m patenting that. Wait, some asshole already did? I’m not allowed to think that because he did? Would you like to police my ideas some more?

    Here’s another: Fluffy is a nerd. Yeah, I said it. Wait–joe already thought that, and patented it? I’m screwed. I don’t get to think that.

    At what point does IP cease to be thought control?

  164. ? Michele Boldrin and David K. Levine 2008

    This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements, no reproduction of any part may take place without
    the written permission of Cambridge University Press.

    It’s always amusing when opponents of intellectual property ensure that their own property is duly protected. It rather diminishes their argument, wouldn’t you say?

    Here’s another example, just for laughs:

    ?2009 Reason Magazine. All Rights Reserved.

    Heh.

  165. I have value, generated by Newton, that I took from him without giving him something in return.

    Wrong, when you use The Calculus, you generate value. You didnt take anything from him. He can use the calculus to generate value, as can you.

    Plus, he “stole” it from Leibnitz anyway. 🙂

  166. Even the founders didnt think IP was real property. If it was, they wouldnt have had to make a special exception for it in the constitution.

    Also, if it was real property, it wouldnt be “for limited times”. They clearly saw they were making an exception from natural law.

    Oh, and something that pisses me off – copyright infringement is not piracy. It is illegal, but it is no way similar to piracy or theft – it is infringement.

  167. This tu quoque stuff is getting tedious. Boldrin and Levine have made their book available for free on their website, Ed. Yes, it’s also under copyright. As long as copyright protection exists, you’re going to have a hard time getting a major publisher to issue a book without it.

    Opinion at Reason about IP, unlike opinion among Boldrin and Levine about IP, isn’t unanimous. So hypocrisy isn’t really an issue with us. But you’ll notice that we post all our stuff online for free, too.

  168. Hypocrisy is the fundamental constant of the human condition. We make *way* too big a deal about it.

  169. Opinion at Reason about IP, unlike opinion among Boldrin and Levine about IP, isn’t unanimous.

    Oh, you say that now, but just look at the unanimous sandbagging of Ron Paul that reason did! BARGLE GARG BLECH WEIGEL NEWSLETTERS I’M HAVING A STROKE CALL 911

  170. It is impossible to make ideas exclusive without resorting to coercion.

    So what?

    As far as I am concerned, that’s precisely what a right is – something it’s morally permissible to use violence to protect.

    You try to take my life? I can morally kill you fucking dead.

    You try to enslave me? I can morally kill you fucking dead.

    I can morally coerce you to not do those things.

    What protects your “bounded” property, if I decide to seize it? Violence. Morally permissible violence.

    There is no instance of patents or copyrights occuring naturally in history. In every case they came about through the action of government.

    There is no instance of any right whatsoever existing without the deployment of violence to defend it. Life, liberty, property, “consent” – if I can defend all of these things with violence and remain morally in the right, I can delegate that task to another. If enough of us delegate that task to one agency, that agency is “the state”. The fact that the state is enforcing my intellectual property right is not an argument for or against it. If the right is genuine, I can justly delegate the state to deploy violence and coercion to defend it.

  171. There is a perspective on property rights that claims they come about when a person mixes labor with property.

    Given Fluffy’s arguments (a well articulated case for IP), I wonder how this works with the mixing of labor with ideas.

    If I do not mix any of my own ideas with your ideas, they are still your ideas-because you the idea first and somehow communicated it to me.

    From Fluffy’s argument, it would follow that the mixing of labor with ideas confers ownership upon the person only if both are generated by that person (or that person has permission to use the idea).

    If, on the other hand, I am mixing my intellectual labor with yours to come up with something new, then, it seems, the product of mixing my labor AND my ideas with you idea confers property rights for me on the product of that mixing.

    Just riffing here.

  172. Well, riffing, and not spelling.

    change “you” to “your” and add “had” as appropriate.

  173. “As long as copyright protection exists, you’re going to have a hard time getting a major publisher to issue a book without it.”

    What’s stopping them? They are under no legal obligation to register their books. This sounds like the bogus “level playing field” argument to me. Are you saying that publishers (or any other investors in art or industry, for that matter) would as readily accept the financial risks of publishing a book (or developing a new engine, or buying shares in a movie deal) without a legal framework of copyright (or patent) protection? I’d like to see some evidence of that.* Indeed, mankind was stagnant for millennia until the concept of property rights finally took hold. We have the past 200 years as irrefutable proof.

    *I’m referring, of course, to the business dealings among free people.

  174. ed,

    As you probably know, copyright does not require you to “register” anything. The statement is just a formality. I am sure that the author’s had to go to a fair amount of effort to get permission to make the thing free on-line.

  175. NM,

    There is a difference with registering copyright. If you dont register, you can only recover actual damages. If you register it, you can also get money just for infringement, even with no monetary damages.

  176. IANAL so dont take my last post as being 100% accurate or anything, but it covers the general idea, IIRC.

  177. As far as I am concerned, that’s precisely what a right is – something it’s morally permissible to use violence to protect.

    Coercion is the initiation of force. The only way to enforce IP is to strike first. Someone built a steam engine with separate condensor and is using it to pump water out of their basement? Kill the bastard! Then claim you were being intellectually mugged!

    IP laws prevent people from acting on ideas. Moreover, they prevent people from acting on ideas on their own property in the privacy of their own workshop. Enforcing IP requires you to trespass. That is not defense, that is offense.

    What protects your “bounded” property, if I decide to seize it? Violence. Morally permissible violence.

    That is not the initiation of force, it is the reaction to force. Defense, not offense. You are justified in using violence to prevent someone from destroying your steam engine, but likewise they are justified in using violence to prevent you from destroying theirs. Just because they used your idea to build it is irrelevant.

    There is no instance of any right whatsoever existing without the deployment of violence to defend it.

    Sure there is! You are confusing intiation with reaction again. If you are a caveman who creates a flint tool, that tool is your property. As long as you hold it in your hand, it takes the initiation of force to remove it from you. But the claim of IP is that you are justified in initiating force to remove a tool from the hands of another, if you were the caveman who invented that tool.

    Side note: If you abandon the tool, it is no longer you property, but there is a very fuzzy line between temporarily laying the tool aside and abandoning it. That’s why we have legal systems to determine such things.

    But none of this means you will be unable to profit from you idea! It just means the idea is not your exclusive property. There are other ways of preventing competition than using the state to grant you a monopoly. For example, license your invention to others under a non-disclosure agreement. It’s not a perfect solution, but it is morally superior to using a police truncheon to enforce monopoly privilege.

  178. “We already experienced a time without intellectual property. It was called the Middle Ages. And while the Middle Ages were not a completely backward time as imagined by the public and were marked by the gradual introduction of many important technological innovations in agriculture, mining, metallurgy, transport and power generation, just about all innovation came from owner/operators or their equivalent, and the pace of innovation and adoption of new technologies was brutally slow, despite the really high marginal utility that even the smallest advance brought under those conditions.”

    Nor was there IP when Homer wrote the Illiad, when Aeschylus and Sophocles were inventing and perfecting tragedy, when Euclid wrote his ‘Elements’, nor when Prolemy wrote his ‘Almagest’.

    In fact, the vast majority of the great books of western civilization were written in the absence of IP laws.

    “If you want to prove otherwise, you have to provide me with examples of rapid innovation in contexts without any IP whatsoever. I will not accept as evidence something like open source software, which basically consists of a bunch of hobbyists innovating for fun and not demanding compensation for it, but doing so within the context of a broader economy that has already experienced and continues to experience the benefits of IP laws.”

    One could reverse that logic just as easily: without the open source movement to do much of the groundwork, commercial software development would be many years behind it’s present position.

    And open source isn’t a bunch of hobbyists. Richard Stallman is not remotely a hobbyist. His Emacs app is used by the vast majority of commercial programmers.

  179. IP is like carbon credit cap-and-trade. It’s creating an artificial scarcity. It’s every bit as evil as the government-granted monopolies (such as the East India Company)under the mercantilist system. Every bit as economically bogus as subsidies for new industries.

  180. Brandybuck –

    A person who didn’t believe in property rights in general would say that if you employ violence to protect your real property or chattels or to retrieve them from someone who has taken them, you’re initiating force.

    If you go looking for someone who has stolen all your possessions while you weren’t looking [so the argument would go] you’re initiating force because that person hasn’t used any force on you. And we’d get the treacle-tear-stained lefty argument, “You’re making things as important as people! Wah!”

    For this reason, I am not impressed by an argument that seeks to persuade me that when I take action to defend an IP right I am “initiating” force.

    I have always believed that theft and fraud count as force-initiations – despite the apparent absence of, you know, actual force – because they achieve the results of coercion by other means. In other words, since it’s wrong to enslave someone to make them produce for you, it’s also wrong to just keep quiet about your intent to enslave, wait for someone to produce it, and then sneak up and take it. And it’s wrong to promise to trade them something else of value for what they’ve produced and then renege. If it would have required force to get me to produce something for you if I had known your full intentions, your actions have the character of force.

    If I want to get Metallica to play at my house but I don’t want to pay them, I can achieve this by several different means. I can send out slavers to catch them and bring them back to my house. Or I can wait until they have produced a new track, break into their studio, and take it. Or I can just wait for that track to be on the internet and copy it. These different types of means vary in their violence and their seriousness, so they are different levels of injustice – but the end I have in mind is the same.

  181. Oh, yeah, and while we are on the patents:

    1. pharmaceuticals are the part of the economy doing the best, at least as far as native US industry goes — it is also where patent protection has been the strongest and most certain for some time now. Coincidence? Maybe, maybe not.

    2. What really should have been blogged here is the recent decision in In Re Bilski. That decision takes a ginormous bite out of the reach of the patent system. And you probably didn’t hear about it, did ya? You were too busy boohoohooing to get the “good” news.

  182. However, I (my keep out government side) do like the persuasive arguments of others upthread, especially those that allude to the more efficient producers of products using these good ideas are the ones who should reap most of the rewards.

    Which they can, under the patent system, via licensing deals freely entered into with the patent holder.

    The Fluffster @ 9:15 am sets as cogent an argument for IP as I have seen. It can be sharpened even more by noting the (very great) similarities between IP and other intangible property, and IP and real property (real property rights are, when you get down to it, intangible property rights).

    I maintain that it is immoral to use government force to prevent people from reproducing (an action) that which they can see and understand, as long as they are not stealing anything physical.

    Would this extend to government force preventing people from reproducing my action of living on my land? As long as they are not harvesting my crops or mining my diamonds, I don’t see how they are taking anything physical by doing so.

    How about Newton patenting calculus?

    Technically, it would be a copyright, not a patent, but whatever.

    As long as the copyright expired, sure, why not?

  183. There is a perspective on property rights that claims they come about when a person mixes labor with property.

    Given Fluffy’s arguments (a well articulated case for IP), I wonder how this works with the mixing of labor with ideas.

    Well, once you acknowledge that labor is not purely physical labor, but can include mental effort, I don’t think it really changes the outcome.

    Let’s say I have a shovel, that I made myself (mixing my labor with raw materials) so it is my shovel. You take it without my consent and use it to dig up a diamond. I have a partial claim to that diamond, yes?

    Let’s say I have an idea, that I thought up myself, so it is my idea. You take it without my consent, and use it to make a better gizmo. Why wouldn’t I have a partial claim to that gizmo?

  184. RC Dean.

    It seems like you have just made an argument for the concept of public property, since most labor is built upon the labor of others, then I have a partial claim to any product that depends upon, even in the smallest way, my previous labor.

    If you drive to work on a road that my grandfather built, do I deserve a small slice of your pay?

  185. As long as the copyright expired, sure, why not?

    If IP is property, why would it expire? The deed for my yard doesnt have an expiration date. I think this is strong evidence that IP isnt property.

  186. I think this is strong evidence that IP isnt property.

    Why should a copyright expire? Why should I have to donate the rights to a book I’ve created to the general public instead of passing it down to my children and grandchildren?

    Or maybe we ought to just change real property laws so that when you expire so does your deed.

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