Intellectual Property

Making Sense of Intellectual Property Law

A new book tries to bring some balance back to copyright policy.


Copyright Unbalanced: From Incentive to Excess, edited by Jerry Brito, Mercatus Center, 137 pp., $12.95

The United States Constitution grants Congress the power "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." Today intellectual property law arguably does not serve that purpose, morphing instead into a tool to secure the incomes of lobbyists, lawyers, and powerful special interests. The successive retroactive extensions of copyrights, for example, make a mockery of the phrase "for limited Times" and surely don't create incentives to create what was already created. And it hardly promotes the Progress of Science and useful Arts to suppress technological innovations, as Congress did when it tried to ban the VCR in the 1980s. It failed to block that development, but it succeeded in hampering DVD technology in the 1990s and in prohibiting outright technologies that might be used to circumvent technical protection mechanisms on copyrighted material, even if the technology can also be used in perfectly legal ways.

In Copyright Unbalanced, legal scholar Jerry Brito of the Mercatus Center—full disclosure: he and I used to be colleagues at the Cato Intitute—has gathered together a number of lawyers, economists, entrepreneurs, and technology wonks to make the case(s) for throttling back what copyright law has become. It's a stimulating little collection that should get wide attention.

The volume is directed primarily at "conservatives and libertarians," urging them to "be skeptical of the copyright system that has developed over the last century." As it happens, copyrights and patents (generically known as "intellectual property," although that term also covers some rather different legal instruments, such as trademarks, bailments, and trade secrets) generally find both their strongest supporters and their strongest detractors among libertarian free-market enthusiasts. Brito contrasts the brilliant libertarian lawyer Lysander Spooner as holding down one extreme pro-copyright end of the continuum with my humble self as holding down the other. (I am extremely skeptical of patents and copyrights, and I did my bit some decades ago to revive the traditional classical liberal skepticism towards the economic/legal and moral justifications of those institutions.)

Libertarians believe that legal protections of property rights are necessary to realize liberty, since they delineate the ways in which we are free to act and the ways in which our actions would impinge on the rights, and thus the liberties, of others. Well-defined, legally secure systems of property replace conflict over scarce resources with trade and peaceful cooperation. They work well when we're talking about parcels of land, subsurface veins of metals, flows of water, and other scarce resources, for such systems generate "compossible" claims, meaning that my free exercise of my rights is compatible with your free exercise of yours; you can dance in your house and I can read in mine.

The simultaneous realization of liberty and exclusive property rights breaks down when it comes to "ideal objects," such as songs, poems, and images, for when someone asserts a right over a song, it means a right to control my own body if I choose to sing it. As Thomas Jefferson put it, "If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea….He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me." The copyright holder's right over a song limits the rights of action over their own voices of everyone else on the planet, without their agreement.

Combined with the state's proactive powers of enforcement, that presents serious threats to freedom of expression, as the hugely controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) demonstrated. In one chapter of Brito's book, David Post of Temple University Law School vividly describes the bill's dangers to freedom of expression and the rule of law, by vesting in copyright holders the power to "disappear" websites, to shut down bank accounts upon mere written notice, and to force foreign entrepreneurs to submit to the jurisdiction of the US government, which imposes criminal penalties for what is not illegal in other countries.

Two more of the book's contributors, columnist Reihan Salam and digital entrepreneur Patrick Ruffini, highlight SOPA's anticompetitive dangers. In another chapter, Yale Law School lecturer Christina Mulligan piles on with a description of the threats copyright poses to freedom of expression even without SOPA—by, say, requiring Youtube and other Internet services to take down content merely upon being given written notice, not evidence or proof or a court order, that posted content infringes intellectual property. (Mulligan's negative appraisal of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which she states "fails to protect free expression and has been routinely abused by copyright holders and other parties,"  is at odds with David Post's praise for the DMCA, whose  "notice-and-takedown scheme has worked quite well, removing immense quantities of infringing material from distribution over the Internet while imposing few burdens on user expression or the free flow of information.")

From the perspective of economic analysis, the most interesting contribution is a chapter by Eli Dourado, a Ph.D. student in economics at George Mason University. Dourado's essay on the "new economics of weak copyright enforcement" shows how charging different prices to different customers can be a profitable strategy for producers of public goods. The seemingly inefficient New York Times paywall is easily circumvented, for example, but it distinguishes those who will pay to get access without having to undertake extra steps from those who prefer to undertake the extra steps. The minor losses to digital ad revenue are more than made up for by increases in subscription revenues.

Another former colleague, Chapman University law professor Tom Bell, concludes the book with "Five Reforms for Copyright." I found a couple of them implausible, notably his call for reinstating the 1790 Copyright Act, which only covered maps, charts, and books. But Bell's ideas are well worth considering as the current system becomes more unwieldy and threatens the rule of law and freedom of expression.

Even copyright's most ardent advocates acknowledge that there must be some limits to a person's ability to restrict, or to demand benefits from, other people's use of the works he or she produced. Copyright Unbalanced is a good place to start to sort out where those limits should be.

NEXT: Sen. Graham Wants to Delay Brennan Nomination Proceedings

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  1. The book is copyrighted. I wonder why?

    1. Yes because availing yourself of any form of copyright protection deprives you of the ability to make any critique whatsoever of the current copyright system.

      Joe, even by your low standards, that is completely fucking idiotic.

      1. You could almost say he’s short on standards.

      2. That’s almost like saying people who don’t vote have no right to complain.

        1. No actually it would be like saying people who do vote have no right to argue that the franchise should be limited.

          1. It’s more like saying that a person who says “who needs voting?” and then goes on to vote in the next election should be treated with skepticism.

            1. joe’s so fucking stupid that he failed a survey.

              1. That’s because you have to be “this tall” to successfully complete the survey.

                *points to line painted on sign*

            2. No it shouldn’t. Whether they actually vote themselves or not says nothing about the logical validity of their argument. To say otherwise is to say that the value of the argument is dependent upon the virtues of the person making it, which is the textbook definition of the ad hominem fallacy. You actually seem to believe that ad hominem attacks are good logic rather than a fallacy.

              1. You actually seem to believe that ad hominem attacks are good logic rather than a fallacy.

                I’ve never met a loony lefty who didn’t.

                Remember that with this crowd the validity of an argument is determined by the source, not the content. This is because these people are too fucking stupid to apply any critical analysis to the argument itself, so they are reduced to evaluating (or attacking) the source.

                1. Your experience matches mine sarcasmic. Joe just made a classic ad hominem fallacy and seems to be proud of himself for doing it.

                  1. Your experience matches mine sarcasmic.

                    The other favorite tactic I see with these morons is switching the burden of proof. As in “Refute my assertion! Refute it! Ha! I win!”

                    1. Their other tactic is a general appeal to authority in the form of saying something to the effect of “you can’t really believe that” in their most smug tone. See for example Piers Morgan when confronted with the facts the loosening gun laws is associated with lowering the rates of gun violence.

              2. It doesn’t automatically invalidate their argument, but if a person says “voting is useless” and proceeds to vote, or says “beer is poison” and then immediately shotguns a Schlitz, you have to wonder whether their original statement represents their true belief.

                And where is this nonsense when Reason churns out articles on liberal hypocrisy? Wait, I forgot, you don’t care if people’s actions match their advocacy, right?

      3. I agree that your interpretation of my statement is idiotic.

        If the book argues that copyright laws are unnecessary, and is published with the protections of copyright law, that doesn’t strike you as at all contradictory?

        1. No. Your idiotic statement strikes me as what it is, idiotic ad homonym attack. Whether or not they actually avail themselves of the benefit says nothing about the validity of their arguments that the benefit shouldn’t exist.

          It would be like saying anyone who has ever collected unemployment benefits or benefited from a rise in the minimum wage can no longer make a valid argument against unemployment benefits or the minimum wage, which is come to think of it, the kind of ignorant argument you would make.

          Sorry Joe you are still a stupid hack. You really seem to be incapable of learning or getting any smarter.

          1. “ad hominem”

            A homonym is a word that sounds like, or almost like, another word, like “homonym” and “hominem”.

            1. And ad houyhnhnm is an attack on a person’s horsehood, rather than the substance of his argument.

            2. Homina, homina. homina, homina…

              /Jackie Gleason

          2. Well, the obvious flaw is that someone availing themselves of an existing property framework while advocating another might use the existing, flawed one instead of using no framework at all. Kind of like how communists in the U.S. still buy and sell things, rather than wait for the government to redistribute them.

            In addition, regardless of the author’s position, the publisher certainly isn’t in the business of publishing works without copyright protection.

            I would assume, for instance, that the publisher of Abbie Hoffman’s Steal this Book didn’t, in fact, want people to steal it. Nor, I suspect, did Hoffman.


              1. It’s a similar situation, yes. Another example is public education. While I firmly believe that a free market in education would be greatly superior to the current system (this includes many private schools, which are screwed up by the government involvement in education as well), that doesn’t mean I don’t send my kids to school at all.

            2. Considering that copyright was never meant to be a property right, well, it is inherently flawed. The copyright holders (increasingly not the creators) maintain that copyright itself guarantees revenue (it doesn’t), that all infringement is criminal, or should be (it isn’t and shouldn’t) and that copyright is about something on the order of a hat or pair of shoes. “Owning” it is not what the Founders intended. Copyright was about a limited monopoly on what people could do with your creation. It wasn’t about “owning” anything.

              And until we get back to sanity (“for a limited time” doesn’t not mean forever minus a day), the system is going to stay broken (and benefit those who use legislation and bought politicians to stifle creativity and squeeze protection money out of the masses.)

              Nothing created in our lifetimes will ever reach the Public Domain. The Founders never intended that.

        2. If joe argues with a normal sized person and gets upset, does he strike them in the shins?

          joe’s so fucking stupid that he climbed a chain link fence to see what was on the other side.

        3. If the book argues that copyright laws are unnecessary…

          Now you’re really making yourself look like an ass. You are obviously commenting on something you didn’t even read. What a moron. Unless you’re one of those stupids who interprets “copyright laws have gotten a bit absurd and should be examined” as “copyright laws are bad and should be abolished.”

          Either way you’re a fucking dolt, displaying your stupidity with the vigor of a bird trying to attract a mate.

        4. Re: The Dehydrated,

          If the book argues that copyright laws are unnecessary, and is published with the protections of copyright law, that doesn’t strike you as at all contradictory?

          No, because the publisher has to copyright it as a matter of law.

          I am against registration laws for firearms but I still have to register mine if I don’t want trouble with the law. I am against taxation yet I still file my taxes. I am against thievery yet I would still give my wallet to the nice gentleman with the gun that is pointed at me. Just because I acquiesce, does not mean the action is given my moral approval.

          Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.

          Your contention, by the way, indicates you lack enough sophistication to argue correctly.

        5. Everyone getting bogged down in the idiocy of old joe’s sad sack attempt at making a charge of hypocrisy have overlooked the fact that, based on this review, there is no evidence whatsoever that the book even makes the argument on which his attack, however juvenile and vacuous, is based. The review specifically mentions that one of the essays contained in the book advocates reverting to the Copyright Act of 1790 which includes… wait for it… maps, charts and books.

          1. And apparently I should have scrolled down to read sarcasmic’s post which said the exact same thing.

    2. Because you’re a fucking moron?


    4. Re: The Dehydrated,

      The book is copyrighted. I wonder why?

      Your sense of wonder is charming. Like a child’s.

  2. Even copyright’s most ardent advocates acknowledge that there must be some limits to a person’s ability to restrict, or to demand benefits from, other people’s use of the works he or she produced.

    I assume you mean the most ardent advocates from the pool of libertarians. Otherwise, that statement I doubt is true.

    1. Yeah, a good friend of mine, who’s pretty libertarian on almost all major issues, has a weird hang-up about this.

      He thinks anyone should be able to patent/copyright anything

      When I took it reductio ad absurdum, he took it ever further. “If Apple had thought to patent the idea of a rectangle as the general shape for a phone, it doesn’t matter if everyone else was using it first; if they didn’t patent/copyright it, then that’s their loss.”

      I took it further and asked if we should all be paying royalties forever to the decendents of Ug, who invented fire. “If he had patented fire, then yes, we should.”

      1. I’m going to download a Michael Bay movie in your friend’s honor.

      2. I guess one way to defeat a reductio ad absurdam argument is to deny the absurdity.

        1. Nuh uh.

      3. You should ask him how he’s able to communicate at all. Since copyright asserts ownership on words and since words were all invented by someone, and if he believes in property rights, then he should not be able to speak or write without first getting the permission of those original owners

      4. Actually reductio ad absurdum is a good way to test something. Not in being declaring the result absurd but following it to its logical conclusion while still being consistent to principle

        So for your friends example, he basically admits to state sanctioned theft, given that he recognizes prior art and thus a previous creator, yet uses the state to assert ownership over something he knows the patent holder didn’t originate. But this is incompatible with any consistent view of property rights or even a pro-IP view. He’s stating that the first to register with the state is the real owner, but would he reconcile building something then someone else registering what you built in their name first? Or what happens if you anticipate someone else building it in the future and pre-file? (which unfortunately happens today for patents)

        As for the fire example, see my permissions for words/language usage above

  3. The cake idea of intellectual property is a lie.

    1. IP = intellectual privilege, or maybe it’s porridge.

  4. I’ll just drop this here.

    “War is peace. Ignorance is strength. Copyright term extension spurs creativity.”

    1. Disney, a company built almost entirely on reinterpretation of works in the public domain, now wants to make sure nothing again ever goes into the public domain.

      1. There’s no doubt that Disney created a lot of value along the way. But like any declining empire, it spends most of it’s time trying to milk it’s glory days.

        1. Actually Disney has had a lot of good new ideas in the last few decades, including betting on Pixar.

          1. My impression is that was their only good idea in the last decade. And the bet was simply to distribute their films.

            1. seriously? the marvel acquisition paid off straight away and the lucasfilms acquisition is money in the bank.

        2. I don’t know about that.

          Once Upon a Time is one of the 2 or 3 best television shows I have ever watched, Phinneas and Ferb is routinely brilliant, and Pixar has yet to put out anything that isn’t at the least very good.

          Corporate Disney may be overly bureaucratic and reliant on government handouts (including eternal copyright protection) but there is still a lot of top notch creativity in their system.

          1. I’m no expert on Disney and I don’t know Once Upon a Time, but a show like Phinneas and Ferb was about backing some creative outside talent who pitched a show. That sort of animation is basically free these days. So yes they get credit for that, but mostly it’s riding on momentum of having a distribution network.

            Creativity in the system would be putting together a large project in-house, a really good project like Pixar used to do. Disney hasn’t been capable of this for a long time, and Pixar no longer seems to be interested it either since they merged with Disney. Cars 2 and even Toy Story 3, really just about riding it out for the easy money. Nothing wrong with easy money but the lack of innovation catches up in the long run.

            1. You really should watch Once Upon a Time, it is the best thing on TV right now.

              The basic idea is that all of the Fairy tales we take for granted (and most of the classic Disney characters) are real and come from a parallel dimension. The Evil Queen from Snow White places a curse on the whole kingdom transporting them to our world where they have no memories of who they are and are forced to live boring mundane lives in a little town in Maine called StoryBrook. With the Queen lording over them as the towns mayor

              They then interweave the characters backstories from the enchanted forest with their lives in this world splitting episodes between each time period.

              1. Thanks, I’ve got a 6-year-old so we can check it out together.

                1. Uh, no you can’t.

                  It is on Network TV so there won’t be any Game of Thrones type sex scenes but it is decidedly NOT a kids show.

                  1. Look, if it doesn’t have Emilia Clarke getting banged like a cheap screen door in a hurricane, I’m not interested.

            2. Personally, I thought Toy Story 3 was the best of the series.

          2. Pixar has yet to put out anything that isn’t at the least very good.

            *cough*Cars 2*cough*

            1. The only Pixar flick I haven’t watched, even when it came on Dish.

    2. The purpose of government is to prevent people from engaging in productive economic activity. This is how the government grows the economy.

      1. Naw, that’s just a side effect. If the politicians could engage in crony capitilasm without preventing people from engaging in productive economic activity I’m sure they’d prefer it, to assuage their conscience if nothing else. Oh who am I kidding.

  5. Copyright needs to be more like patents. The holder of the copyright should have to take some positive action to assert the copyright. The copyright needs to have a rational limit (one or two decades). And the copyright holder should have to pay an escalating fee to renew the copyright when the limit expires. It’s OK with me if Disney wants to pay a hundred million dollars to extend the copyright on Mickey Mouse for a hundred years past its first publication. But most copyright holders will stop renewing after a couple of cycles if the fee escalates fast enough.

    1. And I don’t give a shit how much Disney pays to extend the copyright; fair use is fair use, and that covers parodies involving characters still under copyright.

      1. Good, because my anatomically accurate kinnath inaction figures are about to hit the street.

        1. Does that come with the little wheel barrow for hauling around the important bits.

          1. Your cranium isn’t THAT big.

          2. Of course, and the gut spills over the sides of the wheelbarrow and drags on the ground, just like in real life.

            1. And you’re much closer to the truth than Almanian was.

    2. Copyright needs to be more like patents.

      I would say they should be more like trademarks. As long as I don’t represent that the work is mine, I should be able to do what I want with it. For instance: If I have a copy of JK Rowlings Harry Potter I should be able to print as many copies as I want; and sell them. As long as I don’t try to pass off the work as my own.

      1. We have a fundamental disagreement. I believe that the person that generated a creative work should have a period, of limited duration, where they should have exclusive rights to copy and distribute that creative work.

        The current law makes that “limited duration” roughly a fucking century.

        1. Well you make reasonable utilitarian argument, but from a deontological standpoint it still begs the question: why X amount of years?

          If you truly own something, shouldn’t you own it forever? A real right is a binary thing and not subject to some sort of arbitrary duration

          And if you agree, then it gets into the problem I mentioned above

          1. When the original length was 14 years, it never transferred ownership to anyone else when copyright expired. It merely removed the temporary monopoly on distribution and duplication.

            In other words, you still own the work… you just don’t get to tell people not to share. You could derive from your original work a totally new thing and copyright that if you wished. Of course with corporations “owning” copyrights “life + 90 years” or whatever it is now is laughable. Do corporations die? Not likely unfortunately.

            You see the dilemma of course.

    3. I like your idea of an escalating fee.

  6. I think a reasonable compromise would be to go back to 14 year copyrights.

  7. The simultaneous realization of liberty and exclusive property rights breaks down when it comes to “ideal objects,” such as songs, poems, and images, for when someone asserts a right over a song, it means a right to control my own body if I choose to sing it.

    This kind of bullshit doesn’t help the discussion in any way.

    If a song is under copyright, it means you can’t distribute (words on paper, or audio recordings) of that song without permission from the copyright holder. It also means you can’t make a derivative work and distribute it without permission.

    But you can sing it anywhere, anytime you like.

    1. Can you sing it on a stage to people who purchased tickets?

      1. That’s an interesting question. Cover bands play other people’s music every day of the weeks somewhere or other. But I do believe it gets way more complicated if you are broadcasting the performance.

        1. You apparently do not know much about the Music Industry.

          No, cover bands may not sing others songs without paying for the right to do so.

          Generally speaking this is handled by the venue having to pay the performance royalties to both the writer/composer of the song as well as the original performers (in the event they are a cover band, an original band with their own style merely singing a song written by someone else they would only have to pay the writer & composer).

          Technically if you sing a song in your own home you should be paying the writer and composer a royalty as well, however given the practical impossibility no one bothers trying to enforce that.

          1. I are an engineer. I am pretty familiar with copyright covering printed reference materials and patents.

            Musical performance is outside my area of expertise.

            Technically if you sing a song in your own home you should be paying the writer and composer a royalty as well

            I do find that hard to believe.

          2. Performing rights are the right to perform music in public. It is part of copyright law and demands payment to the music’s composer/lyricist and publisher (with the royalties generally split 50/50 between the two). Public performance means that a musician or group who is not the copyright holder is performing a piece of music live, as opposed to the playback of a pre-recorded song. Performances are considered “public” if they take place in a public place and the audience is outside of a normal circle of friends and family, including concerts, nightclubs, restaurants etc. Public performance also includes broadcast and cable television, radio, and any other transmitted performance of a live song.

            As much as anyone can trust wikipedia.

            So it would be a copyright violation to walk down a public street whistling a tune.

            1. But you can sing in the shower to your hearts content. Unless you like to shower in public spaces, I suppose.


                Holy fuck. You need a license to play musac to someone who is on hold.

                Is there anything that we may do in this free society of ours without first asking permission?

                1. Yeah. Pretty much any public performance. A restaurant can’t play CDs without paying. And ASCAP has lots of agents that go around finding the non-compliant.


                    The Copyright Act grants specific exclusive rights to the owners of copyrighted works. Among the rights conferred upon the composer of a musical work is the authority to “perform the work publicly.” This right is implicated when small businesses, including bars, cafes, and restaurants broadcast background music from either the radio, television or from recordings such as compact discs.

                    While the general provisions of the Copyright Act require that these businesses obtain licenses to play background music, there are exemptions, which were expanded when Title II of the “Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act” was signed into law.
                    These exemptions allow bars, cafes, and restaurants, to play the radio and show
                    television programing, but do not authorize the playing of recorded music. Research does not uncover any other provisions that would definitively immunize public
                    performances of audio tapes and musical CDs in small business establishments from possible liability for copyright infringement.

                    Fuck Congress.

                  2. Can a restaurant play Pandora One? Or Spotify Premium?

                    1. My understanding is that Pandora and Spotify pay fees just like radio stations. There was much wailing and nashing of teeth the last time the rates were set for “Internet music channels”.

                    2. My understanding is that Pandora and Spotify pay fees just like radio stations. There was much wailing and nashing of teeth the last time the rates were set for “Internet music channels”.

                      Right, but the standard model for Pandora assumes (I think) that you at best may use the stream for a three-hour party with 30 guests or so, not in perpetuity in a high-traffic area to thousands of people like in a restaurant. I mean, if I am listening to Pandora and singing along to it in front of thousands of people on stage, am I violating copyright?

                    3. Ask ProLib, he seems to be starting a new career in this area 😉

                    4. What does the end user license agreement say when you sign up with Pandora?

                  3. Nick Fury: Agent of ASCAP was the worst spin off comic ever.

        2. I’m pretty sure that cover bands are walking a legal tightrope where they could technically be sued, but it’s rarely worth the bother. Blood from a turnip and all that.
          On the other hand tribute bands get sued all the time. Especially when they are good.

          1. A lot of the time, it is the venue that has a blanket ASCAP/BMI coverage. They pay so the band doesn’t have too.

            1. That rings a bell.

      2. Can you sing it on a stage to people who purchased tickets?

        No, and most times you cannot even play the original recording without paying.

        1. But you can if you parody it. (Weird Al never has to give any songwriters/performers money, he just does to be nice.)

          The Supreme Court upheld that parody is a Free Speech right (Luke Skywalker v Acuff Music)….

      3. At some point you are going to have to give up your dream of a one-man off-Broadway show. It’s for the best.

        1. Come on! I can sing! I can play the harmonica and guitar! I can juggle! The only thing that’s holding me back is my two left feet! I can learn! Really! I can learn!

          1. That’s what I’m saying, I’ve got two right feet. We put together a two-man show and go straight to Broadway. Also we save money on shoes.

    2. Question: Do your parents own a copyright in you? After all, you are a tangible work created by their joint expression of an idea.

      1. Clearly excluded from current copyright laws which cover words, images, and music.

        A more appropriate question would be whether or not they could patent my genome.

        1. No, I don’t think so. I’m not talking about the functionality of your mind and body, I’m talking about your appearance.

          1. I am not an image.

            1. Rendered in tangible form. Or are you suggesting that sculpture isn’t subject to copyright?


                Under US copyright law only works of architecture – not outdoor sculptures – that are ‘ordinarily visible from a public place’ can be reproduced in two dimensions without the permission of the copyright owner. In other words, the owner of copyright in a building in the public environment cannot prevent the ‘making, distributing, or public display of pictures, paintings, photographs, or other pictorial representations’ of their architectural work; though they can prevent the making of three-dimensional reproductions.

                So it is a copyright violation to make a three-dimensional model of a building and also a copyright violation to take a photograph of a sculpture. And strumming a guitar in a public park is a copyright violation as well.

                The law may have become just a wee bit bloated.

                1. You’d better audit your use of you to make sure you don’t owe Mom and Dad any licensing fees.

            2. Genesis 1:27
              I suppose God holds the copyright

              1. Don’t be silly. That would be true of everything, right? God has granted us a perpetual license to His works.

                1. That’s why He sent His only begotten Son to be elected president.

      2. Your kids: you didn’t build that.

      3. I thought I was created by fucking. The idea behind it isn’t terribly relevant.

        1. If you review copyright case law, you’ll find that the idea need not be anything original or terribly important. For instance, pornographic images are fully protected under copyright law.

          1. Even worse there was some schmuch a couple of years ago who “patented” the business innovation of having a restaurant that served standard commercial breakfast cereals (Sugar Pops, Lucky Charms, Frosted Flakes, etc) and then proceeded to sue any other restaurant he could find anywhere in the country which featured said cereals on their menu.

            1. That patent was overturned.

              1. The PTO is a joke. The patents they grant often violate even the most basic requirements for patents. It’s like prior art and nonobviousness are things that happen to other people.

                1. There was a time when the operating rules where to let patents go through and let the courts sort it out. That has changed and patents are harder to get now (I say this having experienced many telecons with patent examiners that were looking for the flimsiest excuse to disallow claims).

                  1. Yes, that was some serious bullshit.

                    Another area of ridiculousness is business process patents.

                    1. Well, the Supreme Court had the opportunity to throw those out in Bilski v. Kappos. But they somehow managed to fuck that one up. Go figure. Incidentally, this is one of the few cases in which I’ve ever agreed with Breyer (just throw the damned things out).

      4. Do your parents own a copyright in you? After all, you are a tangible work created by their joint expression of an idea.

        Aren’t you wages as a minor completely forfeit to your parents if they want to take them?

        1. Sure, because you create derivative works every time you move. Which is a right strictly limited to the author.

          1. fucking lawyers 😉

            1. Hey, I don’t write the laws.

              1. But you profit from them (which probably ain’t a bad gig I suppose).

                  1. Pro Libertate promises to cry all the way to the bank.

  8. The worst thing is that these copyright holders can use public resources to protect their racket, for free.

  9. I recently acquired a windfall of over a hundred radio broadcast sampler cds and demos, mostly from the late 80s and pre-Nirvana early 90s. I am wondering if I can get any money for them. Some of them smell like cat pee.

    1. From what I’ve seen watching Pawn Stars and the like, those things are much more common than you might realize. Think about how many radio stations and other promotional outlets received one. Supply is high and demand is low. Good luck!

    2. I think most of that stuff is technically owned by the record companies and it not to be sold ever.

      But I have seen plenty of that stuff in used record stores, so I don’t think it is too vigorously enforced.

      1. Dunno, might be a first sale doctrine situation, depending on how he acquired them.

        1. I assume that demos were provided “free of charge” to radios for subsequent playing on the radio with an explicit license that the demo media could not be sold.

          1. Probably something like that, but I don’t know how formal they make it. I’d imagine their bigger concern would be with duplication, though locking up the demos themselves would make sense.

          2. I think that is it. I own a few recordings with “Property of [whatever record company], may not be sold or trtansferred” stamped on them. I think it was pretty routine for radio stations to sell or give them away anyway as the labels never came to collect their property.

            1. I don’t give a shit about any of that stuff. The only thing that makes sense is that the possessor of the media can do what they want with it.

    3. Reminds me, I knew DJ at a local radio station back in the 70s (friend’s older brother) who told me they used to have epic record smashing parties.

      1. You’re right- I should probably bring them to Comiskey Field and have other people bring in their shitty CDs, then put them all in a big pile and put dynamite under them. And charge only ten cents for beers.

  10. Here’s an idea to balance out Citizen’s United without overturning it: If corporations are people and people create more people, then copyrights and patents are their ‘children’. After 18 years of ‘maturation’ these creations are no longer the property of anyone. Goodbye class warfare.

  11. As Thomas Jefferson put it, “If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea…. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me.”

    He who receives an idea from a copyright holder will have to pay RENT to the copyright holder even when the process does not involve any physical property of the copyright holder.

    Copyright is nothing more than the undue transfer of title from a property holder to someone else that claims to be the “originator.” That’s called theft, which is why only government protects it (government being a criminal enterprise in itself.)

    Government steals physical property, grants monopoly rights on “ideas” to prefered customers. That’s how it works.


      1. How so? Aren’t songs and books just physical manifestations of ideas?

        1. Copyright covers a specific expression of an idea. It does not cover ideas. That’s why there are a million silly love songs.

          1. You’d think that people would have had enough…

            I’ll get my coat

  12. The volume is directed primarily at “conservatives and libertarians,” urging them to “be skeptical of the copyright system that has developed over the last century.”

    In that case, I don’t need to read it – thanks to my voluntaryst/non-aggression principles and knowledge of economics, I am already QUITE SKEPTICAL of IP, the copyright system as known and any such notion that deems ideas as “property.”

    Libertarians believe that legal protections of property rights are necessary to realize liberty, since they delineate the ways in which we are free to act and the ways in which our actions would impinge on the rights, and thus the liberties, of others.

    Only insofar as property rights are clearly defined. IP only serves to muddle such definition; in fact this fuzziness gives dishonest governments [sorry for the redundancy] justification to steal from true property holders in order to benefit a few well-connected customers.

    1. Physical property is no less a legal construct than intellectual property.

      1. I think you missed the “clearly defined” part.

      2. The difference being that physical property can be bounded and enclosed. This allows me to protect it without resorting to the government protection agencies. If there were no government I could still sit on my front porch with a shotgun and prevent trespassing. The government is there not to declare that the property exists, but to provide a convenience in protecting it.

        Ditto for a gold coin I can hold in my hand. I can hold it tight in my hand and the only way you can take it from me against my will is through violence or threat of violence.

        The same cannot be said of intellectual property. I cannot enclose it, I cannot put a boundary around it. It doesn’t matter how much legal philosophy I shout to the world, there is no way I can physically protect my ideas, because they are not physical. I can’t put them in a box, build a fence around them, hang a no trespassing sign on them, etc. How can I prevent someone from playing the music I “own”? If I sell someone a book, how can I prevent them from making a copy of it?

        Given that the government has a monopoly on the legal system, then *title* to my property can only be granted by the government. But the title is not the property, and putting a legal title on an idea does not mean it magically becomes property.

        1. Do you ever wonder if Tony gets paid for saying stupid things?

      3. Intellectual property doesn’t exist. It is solely ripped out of the ether for the purposes of forcing near perpetual copyright and marching armies of litigious lawyers down people’s throats.

        Physical property is pretty much the exact opposite of that. That’s why I hate the term “Intellectual Property.”

        I don’t believe in imaginary property. Never have.

  13. Now that makes a lot of sense dude.

  14. I think I’ll stick with Kinsella.

  15. Remember though, people are fundamentally nice sohbet

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