Libertarianism

Force Isn't the Only Wrong

The erroneous belief that only rights violations may be condemned leads too easily to the corollary error that if some conduct is wrong, it must somehow be a rights violation.

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That's a no-no
Ahd Photography / Foter.com / CC BY-NC

More than a few libertarians appear to hold the view that only rights violations are wrong, bad, and deserving of moral condemnation. If an act does not entail the initiation of force, so goes this attitude, we can have nothing critical to say about it.

On its face, this is strange. If you observe an adult being rude to his elderly mother, it is surely reasonable for you to be appalled, even though the offender did not use force. And, being appalled, you may be justified under the circumstances in responding, such as by cancelling a social engagement or telling others of his obnoxious behavior. One can reasonably say that this person's mother is owed better treatment, without the word owed implying legal, that is, coercive, enforceability. (Words can have different senses, of course.) Therefore, the rude son may be judged culpable.

This example may be uncontroversial, but observe the attitude in another context. I recently argued that "intellectual property" (IP) can't really be property (as can land, cars, and socks) and that it is, rather, a government grant of monopoly power over expressions of ideas, which perforce limits other people in the use of their property, while creating scarcities where there would have been none.

The article brought vigorous critical responses, one of which informed me that if I don't believe that expressions of ideas can be owned, I would have no right to object if someone were to plagiarize or adulterate my written work.

Before diving in, I'd like to draw attention to the strange habit IP proponents have of bringing up plagiarism (or adulteration) as soon as the legitimacy of copyright is challenged. This is strange because so-called copyright infringement per se differs in a crucial respect from plagiarism. The publishing industry doesn't strenuously lobby the government for fortified copyright laws because it is worried I will publish Atlas Shrugged with my name on the cover. (Who'd buy it?) On the contrary, it worries that I (or someone else) will publish the novel with Ayn Rand's name on the cover. Copyright and plagiarism must be considered apart from each other.

Be that as it may, the premise of my critic's claim—that I cannot logically object to plagiarism or adulteration because I don't believe expressions of ideas can be owned—must be that the only legitimate ground for objection would be that these activities are property violations. So if they are not property violations, there is no basis to complain.

With all due respect, this is ridiculous. One who rejects the legitimacy of intellectual property can still have perfectly good moral grounds for objecting to the plagiarist's or adulterator's misconduct. Libertarians ought to think long and hard before buying the idea that rights violations are the only species of wrongful conduct.

If someone attaches his name to something I wrote, the plagiarist's declaration that he is not a thief (because expressions of ideas cannot be owned) is hardly germane. I would not accuse him of being a thief. Rather, I'd accuse him of being a fake—of pretending to have accomplished something he in fact did not accomplish. Likewise, the adulterator is not a thief, but a fraud who misrepresents what he sells. Both are to be held in contempt for they have violated Kant's maxim to treat each person "never merely as a means to an end, but always at the same time as an end." Their assertions that they are not thieves are as relevant as a burglar's assertion that he is not a murderer.

Slight digression: Metaphor pervades all language. When one says that a copyright infringer "stole" from an author or publisher, one cannot mean this literally (no pun intended), for what was actually stolen? We can easily imagine an "infringement" that entails no physical violation whatsoever. IP has the impossible premise that an author or publisher owns a Platonic form of a work, which is embodied in, yet transcends, every physical instantiation of that work, even those owned by other people. In other words, you can buy a book, but you cannot buy the book. The anti-IP response is that abstractions cannot be owned.

The upshot is that a rejecter of IP may justly take offense at the plagiarism or adulteration of his work and expose the fakes and scoundrels. "The same mechanisms that make copying easy make plagiarism very difficult," Karl Fogel writes in "The Surprising History of Copyright and The Promise of a Post-Copyright World."

I should add that customers may justly claim they are victims of fraud. On what grounds? On the same grounds that any fraud victim has: The buyers were tricked into entering transactions on terms other than those they would have agreed to. The remedy might come through a class-action suit, the award being a refund plus costs. (Context is crucial. Someone who buys a $10 Rolex on the streets of Manhattan probably cannot credibly claim that he thought he was buying a genuine Rolex.)

What I'm arguing for is a commonsense category of noninvasive moral offenses, wrongful acts that do not involve force. Since force plays no part, the remedies must not entail force (state-backed or otherwise) either. But forced-backed remedies are not the only—or even the best — remedies available. Nonviolent responses, including boycotts, shunning, and gossip (PDF), can be highly effective.

Libertarians ought to beware of embracing such a narrow view of morality that only forceful invasions of persons and property are deserving of moral outrage and response. Think of all the cruel ways people can treat others without lifting a hand. Are we to remain silent in the face of such abuse?

The erroneous belief that only conduct for which a coercive response is appropriate—that is, rights violations—may be condemned leads too easily to the corollary error that if some conduct is deserving of condemnation, it must somehow be a rights violation. The initiation of force is not the only bad thing in the world.

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  1. If you observe an adult being rude to his elderly mother, it is surely reasonable for you to be appalled, even though the offender did not use force.

    You don’t know my elderly mother; nor have you heard the temper tantums I’ve heard for as long as I can remember. She would deserve having one of her children tell her rather rudely to shut her goddamn fucking mouth.

    1. On the other hand, my mother is the sort of person who can tell you you’re a deeply horrible person and do it so nicely you’ll thank her for it.

    2. Rudeness to your elderly mother can be resolved as wrong within the context of the non-agression principle because it can be seen as an implicit threat of aggression. It’s a mild threat, and it brings in all the confusion and nuance surrounding the way people communicate their intentions, but it’s ultimately that threat that we find intuitively repulsive.

      1. Really? It’s literally an implicit threat of aggression? Even when, for example, I’m crippled and on my deathbed, and my aged mother, devastated at the idea that she will outlive the darling child on whom she lavished so much care, and I take the opportunity to tell her that I’m finally getting off my chest how much I hated her pot roast, which I had to eat Every Bloody Sunday Night when I was growing up, and that any child who had to endure such abuse would be justified in hating his parents, which I do, and that she should just get her ugly face out of there and sod off? That’s an implicit threat of violence? (Well, I suppose that I *could* miraculously recover and go punch her in the face, but am I really threatening that, rather than just being a shockingly ungrateful asshole who deserves to have no one come to his funeral unless to piss on the grave?)

        1. my aged mother, devastated at the idea that she will outlive the darling child on whom she lavished so much care, comes to see me on my deathbed,

        2. DOn’t you know there are kids in Somalia who would give their left arm to have a pot roast every sunday night, you ingrate?

          -jcr

      2. Do the original temper tantrums not violate the non-aggression principle?

    3. But I can still conclude that you’re an asshole that I don’t want to associate with. And relay the reasons to other people as long as I accurately describe your behavior, I am not libeling you.

    4. I agree with Ted on this. The morality of behaviors is contextual. You cannot judge most behaviors without knowing the essentials of the situation.

      Richman’s example is weak, here.

  2. He seems to know that he is talking about most of the time.

    http://www.AnonPlanet.tk

  3. So, let’s say that I’m a small-town guy with a gift for writing. I’ve written a couple of novels and I have managed to get them placed in a local book store. I haven’t had any success getting the large publishers with access to national chains to notice my work.

    Then along comes a guy from the big city. He buys my books in the local store and heads home. Because he is a known writer with connections to the big publishers, they publish his new novels to wide critical acclaim,earning millions for him and themselves. Since there is no protection of intellectual property, I have no recourse against him or his publishers. Nice. I’ll just rely on public scorn to exact my revenge.

    1. This is part of my objection as well. It could just as easily happen between countries, where the likelihood of plagiarism detection is low. If some dude in South Africa has his novel taken and republished in Canada, it’s likely he might never even hear of it unless it became a bestseller. Are only bestselling authors entitled to enjoy the profits of their work?

      1. If the dude in South Africa was not selling his novel in Canada, what does he lose if someone else does it?

        Yet, if someone else does it with his name attached, he actually gains from the increase in fame and demand for his works.

        In the 1800s, the U.S. did not enforce the copyright of foreign authors, and many pirated editions were sold in the U.S.A. Authors responded by releasing authorized editions in the U.S.A., so that readers could know that they got a high quality edition and that the author was compensated for their work.

        Publishing a fake authorized edition would be fraud, and could be punished, while dismantling the copyright monopoly.

        1. Publishing a fake authorized edition would be fraud, and could be punished, while dismantling the copyright monopoly.

          No grounds for that being fraud if there’s no ownership of the work.

        2. It still took a lot of time and effort, some of which likely did not pay off, in order to publish “authorized” versions.

          So law should only cover those failed versions since the original publisher/author did not make money but the pirate did.

    2. if your books had been published, you would have copyright protection. For the other guy to take your work and rewrite it as his would violate that.

      1. if your books had been published, you would have copyright protection. For the other guy to take your work and rewrite it as his would violate that.

        wareagle, I thought we were debating the morality of copyright protection and not the legality? You certainly aren’t claiming if it’s the law it’s moral?

    3. Of course he had to sign a contract stating he wouldn’t represent your book as his own. Standard book purchase contract, it’s on the front of all of them.

      1. This sort of contractual stipulation exists in an IP universe. Take away copyright protection and the publisher might not feel the need to include this clause in a contract.

    4. The main reason I call myself a libertarian is because I intuitively feel that a person owns product of their labor, which is pretty much the same thing as saying a person is responsible for the outcome of their actions (both the good and the bad). If libertarianism is anti-IP at a fundamental level, like Sheldon wants it to be, then maybe I’m not a libertarian. How about “Responsibitarian”?

      1. because I intuitively feel that a person owns product of their labor

        Well intuition can be wrong, and in this case it’s the same mistake that Adam Smith made, which Karl Marx took as the basis for this philosophy. If you work for someone else, then you do not own the product of your labor.

        Let’s take pro-IP to it’s logical conclusion. All language and words are the product of some person’s labor. If you don’t have express permission from the creator of those words, then you have stolen their IP.

        Think about real property. You don’t need to know who is the owner of some property for the claim to be legitimately made that you’ve stolen something that is not yours (e.g. no written permission).

        Therefore, you cannot be using language to even argue your position, because by doing so you’d be contradicting yourself.

        1. Rubbish. Let’s take anti-IP to it’s logical conclusion. I can steal your money any time I want. It’s only an abstract concept, since the only property you can own is physical. And if I work for someone else I DO own the product of my labor, but I EXCHANGE it for something else I value. I don’t see Smith as the one making the mistake here.

          The original inventor(s) of the alphabet and the English language would have a claim on their work, but you as a derivative user would not. See how easy that was to avoid? Now coming up with a unique ordering of words that especially conveys a new idea is temporarily protected precisely because it is novel.

          1. No, see continued response below. It is NOT the physicality of something but the rivalrous quality that makes something real property.

            Because even physicality cannot determine rivalry. If you have a replicator, then you can go ahead and make copies of physical objects without violating anyone’s self-ownership.

            On the other hand, something virtual can be rivalrous. As in encryption, or some unique ID or something virtual, but tied to a physically rivalrous thing (like a person).

            1. Goalposts go whooooosh! Now physical no longer defines property. OK, now it’s “scarcity.” But what is scarce? Is iridium scarce? In fact, from a purely quantitative perspective NO precious metal is scarce when looked at from the perspective of the entire solar system. No element (maybe helium 3) is scarce, so none of the constituents that go into the products we make are scarce at the large scale.

              How does money define rivalry? The fed has no trouble printing more, virtually I might add. Yay, we’re all rich!!!

              So we agree that other constraints define scarcity. Energy is scarce (at least with the econuts in the way). More importantly, labor is scarce, which brings us right back to the idea of protecting the fruits of one’s labor, i.e. IP.

              1. I NEVER said physicality determines property. In fact I’ve emphasized rivalry above and below.

                If we were not forced to use Fed money (through legal tender laws and the rest, taxes, etc), then what’s the problem? Of course, the Fed would cease to be effective then, but the point is that replication itself is not any violation of rights (all of which must be derived from self-ownership)

                In fact in a free society, anyone could issue their own money. And anyone would be free to inflate it. And it would up to each one of us to decide which to use.

                1. You’re simply advocating for anarchy. And I’m not using that as a derogatory term even though I don’t agree with it. Replication directly leads to rivalry. You spend 10 years inventing a new widget. It makes orgasms last longer and taste like mango. You sell it in the free marketplace for $10/ea. Someone else comes along and copies your orgasmotron and sells it for $5. You go out of business. Pretty clear rivalry there, which is your definition of property.

                  If anyone is free to issue and inflate their own money, then how is that not fraud? I pay you 10 SkippyBucks for your ogasmotron. Then I immediately go print 10TT SkippyBucks. When you try to redeem your SB’s I tell you they’re worth exactly one breath. You go away. I then destroy 10TT SB’s. Rinse and repeat.

                  Wife: What are you doing?
                  Me: Arguing with someone who doesn’t believe in IP.
                  Wife: Oh, that’s just someone who doesn’t have any IP.

                  1. I love that your entire assumption rest on the idea that anybody can just go buy a widget, figure out how it works and then mass produce it for cheaper than the original producer.

                    That’s some sound logic right there.

              2. Is iridium scarce?

                Yes, because it’s hard to come by. That’s what scarce means.

          2. The original inventor(s) of the alphabet and the English language would have a claim on their work, but you as a derivative user would not. See how easy that was to avoid? Now coming up with a unique ordering of words that especially conveys a new idea is temporarily protected precisely because it is novel.

            Except IP implies derivative work as still stolen work. How can you say you didn’t steal the original inventors work when the very basis, every single piece of your novel–the words, is made by someone else?

            Why is a single created word by someone not yours, but somehow a string of words become yours? And who determines the length of the string? 2 or 3 words strung together does not give you ownership, but somehow 100 words (that don’t belong to you) do? At what word length N does this magical assignment of ownership occur? And why N? Why not N-1?

            And you say “temporarily protected”? Why? Real property does not expire. Real property has exclusive ownership in perpetuity

            1. Nonsense. Using the letter “a” is so derivative it’s not even work. If I use a cog and improve upon it my work is derivative of the initial idea of a cog, but I’ve come up with a better cog. I have protection for my improved cog. Or if I take that cog and use it in a new engine, then I have a claim on the new engine. I still have to respect your rights for the cog, but that hardly constrains me.

              My ordering of words is unique, that is the novel idea.

              How did you acquire that “real” property? What gave you the right to that piece of land? It’s an entirely arbitrary assignment of ownership. What entitles you to call that plot yours just based on the idea that at one point in the past someone else said, “This is mine.” Because others agreed?

              Ownership of real property expires. You don’t have a will, but you have heirs. What happens to that plot of land you have? For that matter, what is an “heir” at all? Why does having some genetic similarity factor into ownership?

              1. Nonsense. Using the letter “a” is so derivative it’s not even work. If I use a cog and improve upon it my work is derivative of the initial idea of a cog, but I’ve come up with a better cog.

                If you are advocating for words or ideas as property, how can you say even claim derivative work as not theft, when derivative work entirely depends on first taking someone that is NOT yours? It’s completely logically inconsistent.

                How did you acquire that “real” property? What gave you the right to that piece of land? It’s an entirely arbitrary assignment of ownership. What entitles you to call that plot yours just based on the idea that at one point in the past someone else said, “This is mine.” Because others agreed?

                Property rights or ownership comes about by a system that allows all the parties involved to preserve their self-ownership. And it is NOT arbitrary at all. In fact there is only one way to satisfy this fundamental predicate:
                – first appropriator of an unowned thing found in nature e.g. first settler on new land, first person to grab an apple of a tree on unowned land, etc.
                – transfer of ownership through voluntary exchange

                1. Ownership of real property expires. You don’t have a will, but you have heirs. What happens to that plot of land you have? For that matter, what is an “heir” at all? Why does having some genetic similarity factor into ownership?

                  Why should it expire? If ownership expires why shouldn’t you then loose ownership over your own body at some point in time? The pro-IP position in arguing for expiration of ownership is essentially arguing against itself. Somehow it’s called theft if done within 20 years (for patents), but after 20 years, it’s not theft anymore? Why N and not N-1?

                  If someone did NOT pass on their property or create a will, heirs are assumed to get it NOT because of genetic similarity, but because of being the first settlers or first appropriators of property that become unowned after the original owner died without transferring it.

                  1. Why don’t you own land after you die? It’s still “rivalrous.” Perhaps the sinple fact that you have no agency after you die matters. Nah. What’s special about being a first settler? Couldn’t I set foot on a piece of land independently (your invention claim)? Why N and not N+1? It’s ironic that you use the word “appropriate” to describe how the land came to be owned. One might call that word “theft” in other circumstances.

                    The pro-IP position does not argue for or against expiration of ownership. The pro-IP position argues for ownership in the first place. We can debate how long that ownership exists, which frankly is true of all property.

                  2. heirs are assumed to get it NOT because of genetic similarity, but because of being the first settlers or first appropriators of property that become unowned after the original owner died without transferring it.

                    On what possible basis? Let’s say my neighbor, a hermit, dies in his home, and I’m the one who discovers the body. He has no will. He has a relative in a neighboring state. I’ve just walked into unowned property. Shouldn’t I be entitled to claim it over somebody who isn’t even aware of the existence of the property? How does his relative have any claim at being the first appropriator or settler of that property?

                2. If you are advocating for words or ideas as property, how can you say even claim derivative work as not theft, when derivative work entirely depends on first taking someone that is NOT yours? It’s completely logically inconsistent.

                  Because I build on existing work and I credit the inventor in the process. If I site a work in a paper I’m not stealing that work, I’m crediting the author of that work. You seem desperate to claim someone must own the letter “a” because it was invented at some point. We are presented with three problems. One the inventors are unknown. Two, they are long dead. Three, we have no evidence that they wished to protect their work. That’s hardly “logically inconsistent.”

                  Property rights or ownership comes about by a system that allows all the parties involved to preserve their self-ownership. And it is NOT arbitrary at all. In fact there is only one way to satisfy this fundamental predicate:
                  – first appropriator of an unowned thing found in nature e.g. first settler on new land, first person to grab an apple of a tree on unowned land, etc.
                  – transfer of ownership through voluntary exchange

                  There’s that first appropriator thing again. OK, so a European settler comes along and steals “appropriates” a piece of land from some natives. Five generations later it’s been passed along his lines and sold around in free exchange. What do we do? The indians should own it, but who? Is it right to steal it back?

            2. (cont.)

              IP is temporarily protected because that’s the best compromise we have. If it weren’t then you would have a couple of things happening. First, any privately funded research would no longer be published and everything would become a trade secret. Second, there would be far less research since that is a very real cost and it is much cheaper to copy than invent in most cases. There would still be some because some research is so advantageous that you can truly harvest the first mover advantage, but that would be far less than what we have now.

              1. It’s ironic that you use utilitarian arguments to justify something that you would otherwise consider theft fundamentally

                1. I didn’t claim that it was necessarily my optimum compromise. I was speaking in practical terms. The point is that I still have the option to trade secret my invention, but if there’s no IP protection then I will do so much more frequently. You’re confusing a description of what would happen as an endorsement. Hardly a convincing case of utilitarianism.

          3. Let’s take anti-IP to it’s logical conclusion. I can steal your money any time I want. It’s only an abstract concept, since the only property you can own is physical.

            You hit an interesting nail on the head, not because it bolsters your point (it does not), but because it exposes money for the lie it is.

            Those greenbacks you hold? Sure, the paper is your property, and its theft is wrong. But the numbers printed on them are subject to the whims of others, especially the issuer (the Federal Reserve) and the implicit backer (the U.S. Government).

            In reality, you own nothing of real value. It’s not specie, it’s not even backed by a commodity, it is literally an abstract medium of exchange whose value is entirely dependent on the willingness of others to accept it. You are being “stolen” from every day, in the form of inflation, government debt, counterfeiting, etc.

            Now, if you transfer physical currency like paper bills and metal coins to a bank, then they associate some numbers with your name. But they are only responsible for translating those numbers back into currency under the terms of the arrangements you make with them.

            You no longer own it, and if someone subtracts those numbers against your will, you only have recourse up to the extent that the bank has agreed to provide it.

            So, time to take your argument back to the drawing board, because all IP is bullshit, even money.

            1. That deed you have to your property is bullshit then. And that is all that defines your ownership. Nothing is “backed” by anything. It’s all all based on agreed upon rules of exchange. All you’ve argued is that all ownership except perhaps of your own body is bullshit.

              Try again.

              1. It’s all all based on agreed upon rules of exchange.

                You just restated my point as though it was a refutation.

                1. So you don’t believe in any property at all. OK, we agree to disagree.

                  1. I don’t need your agreement to own the things I own, and you don’t need my agreement to own the things I own. If I transfer something to you, it becomes yours and is no longer mine. These things are true of physical property, but not of “intellectual” property.

                    Fake things do not become real simply because they are blessed by a government.

                    1. Obvious correction: you don’t need my agreement to own the things you own.

                    2. I don’t need your agreement to own the things I own

                      So if I walk onto your property and claim it is mine, what will you use to adjudicate the disagreement if not your government-issued deed? Seems like you do need my agreement. If I don’t recognize your deed we’re right back to square one. You could shoot me, I suppose. But I could also shoot you, and without some words on a piece of paper defining some imaginary line and attaching those boundaries to you, the validity of my doing so is on equal footing with the validity of your doing so.

                    3. (This is also why anarchy is theoretically incapable of working unless everyone is an anarchist)

                    4. Well what makes the deed legitimate in the first place?

                      You want to argue for giving fake things the power of state-sanctioned violence behind them, you better have a damn good reason to do so.

        2. The anti-IP position goes back to a fundamental definition of property something rivalrous. And rivalry (sometimes inaccurately called scarcity) as the determination of real property goes back to something even more fundamental: self-ownership.

          1. Hardly an answer to my points, but I’ll bite. Are you claiming that there is no scarcity of ideas at any level? That’s a bold (and empirically incorrect) statement.

            The anti-IP position is really nothing more than theft, Marxist, or Anarchist (or some combination).

            1. Not scarcity, but rivalry.

              But why would scarcity of ideas be the determination of ownership? How can you prove that you are the only one in the universe who could have thought of something? Are you saying know two people can come up with the same idea?

              The pro-IP position implies ownership of someone else’s mind in claiming ownership over information, since ownership implies exclusive control.

              The usage of information (but not necessarily the information itself), btw can still be rivalrous, if representative of or tied to something rivalrous.

              Like user names, say “JohnDoe”. The string “JohnDoe” itself is not rivalrous. It cannnot be owned. Anyone can freely use the string “JohnDoe” as a username on his own computer without affecting anyone else. But on the same computer, or computer network, where the system built uses it to represent a single user, then JohnDoe + network becomes rivalrous.

              1. I prove it by getting it out there first. If you want to debate first to file and first to invent, that’s a separate topic.

                The anti-IP position advocates for theft. The pro-IP position doesn’t own anyone else’s mind. That’s just bullshit. You are free to think what you want, but you are not free to steal in the process. That’s no different than saying that the “pro-property” position advocates for controlling one’s mind and body because it prevents you from trespassing.

                OK, so using JohnDoe on a network is rivalrous, but printing a duplicate work in the same marketplace isn’t rivalrous. Riiiight. You have a gas station. I set up a competing gas station next door. I’m rivalrous. Can you restrict me now?

                1. What the patent and copyright laws acknowledge is the paramount role of mental effort in the production of material values; these laws protect the mind’s contribution in its purest form: the origination of an idea. The subject of patents and copyrights is intellectual property.

                  “An idea as such cannot be protected until it has been given a material form. An invention has to be embodied in a physical model before it can be patented; a story has to be written or printed. But what the patent or copyright protects is not the physical object as such, but the idea which it embodies. By forbidding an unauthorized reproduction of the object, the law declares, in effect, that the physical labor of copying is not the source of the object’s value, that that value is created by the originator of the idea and may not be used without his consent; thus the law establishes the property right of a mind to that which it has brought into existence.

                  (cont.)

                  1. It is important to note, in this connection, that a discovery cannot be patented, only an invention. A scientific or philosophical discovery, which identifies a law of nature, a principle or a fact of reality not previously known, cannot be the exclusive property of the discoverer because: (a) he did not create it, and (b) if he cares to make his discovery public, claiming it to be true, he cannot demand that men continue to pursue or practice falsehoods except by his permission. He can copyright the book in which he presents his discovery and he can demand that his authorship of the discovery be acknowledged, that no other man appropriate or plagiarize the credit for it?but he cannot copyright theoretical knowledge. Patents and copyrights pertain only to the practical application of knowledge, to the creation of a specific object which did not exist in nature?an object which, in the case of patents, may never have existed without its particular originator; and in the case of copyrights, would never have existed.

                    The government does not “grant” a patent or copyright, in the sense of a gift, privilege, or favor; the government merely secures it?i.e., the government certifies the origination of an idea and protects its owner’s exclusive right of use and disposal.

                    Ayn Rand
                    “Patents and Copyrights,”
                    Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, 130

                    1. Good reference, M.

                      Too many think Rand was only about anti-statism. But her strongest and most original thinking was about morality and applying morality toward protecting all aspects for our lives.

                    2. Yeah she was an amazing hypocrite when it came to justifying her copyrights.

                    3. How ironic. Someone violates Ayn Rand’s copyright in order to cite her as an authority for the idea that IP is property in a literal, not just metaphorical, sense.

                    4. Citing a work doesn’t violate copyright. Non sequitur.

                    5. “How ironic. Someone violates Ayn Rand’s copyright in order to cite her as an authority for the idea that IP is property in a literal, not just metaphorical, sense.”

                      Not “ironic” at all. Citing brief excerpts of copyrighted works is not a violation of the author’s rights. It’s called “fair use” and it’s been an accepted practice among authors and journalists and reviewers and everyone else for centuries. In fact, the bulk of Reason.com’s material is cited excerpts written by someone else. Not that Reason.com, in general, supports the concept of coyright (its “?2012 Reason Foundation” disclaimer notwithstanding).

                    6. So how do those who insist that IP is property in anything other than a metaphorical, analogical sense justify “fair use”? Do property rights allow me to take just a little bit of the milk out of your refrigerator, or borrow your lawn mower without your permission for just a few minutes while you’re at work and won’t even miss it?

                    7. +1 to Seamus, that is.

                      For the others, citing a work is not the same as providing an excerpt. Excerpts are allowed by Fair Use, though exactly how much can be legally excerpted has long been a matter of debate. It is also not a defense under all copyright regimes.

                    8. @M. Samuels

                      Ayn Rand still has not justified how she’s able to use someone else’s inventions–words–without their permission. As she says, natural discoveries cannot be owned, only inventions. Words do not occur on their own in nature. They are all inventions, no matter how small. Where’s her license then to use someone else’s inventions?

                2. OK, so using JohnDoe on a network is rivalrous, but printing a duplicate work in the same marketplace isn’t rivalrous. Riiiight. You have a gas station. I set up a competing gas station next door. I’m rivalrous. Can you restrict me now?

                  You completely misunderstand the definition of rivalrous. It does NOT mean to compete with. It means an inherent mutual exclusion, such that when one person uses a good, another cannot.

                  Setting up a competing gas station next door is not rivalrous. But the property of the gas station itself is. That is, the land, the things equipment on there. So if you attempt to set up your gas station on the same piece of land as someone else’s, you would violating the other person’s self ownership, for the only way to do so is to physical force his person.

                  1. If someone buys gas at my station, then I get their money and you don’t. Pretty exclusive to me. Certainly it’s as exclusive as me saying you can’t use my idea. And since that is your only definition of property…

                3. IP law tells the whole universe what ideas they can use.

                  it doesnt protect originators, its hunts violators. its a proactive statist way to handle things. none shall escape sauron’s eye.

                  You might think noone is having their rights limited. Check that against what happens between 2nd and 3rd parties. 2nd bought the IP, lets 3rd copy it, then along comes 1st party and says hey you cant do that.

                  either IP law is renting, or IP law is immoral. it sells but denies disposal of said property.

                  so then you gotta ask, why not call it renting?

                  the more statist and totalitarian a corporation gets the more they think this way. you have apple locking its phone because it wants to force ppl to use a sold product after the fashion the seller intends.

                  did you sell it or not?

                  thus we see the blurred line between slavery and freedom. to never own objects that are necessary to participate in society.

        3. “Well intuition can be wrong, and in this case it’s the same mistake that Adam Smith made, which Karl Marx took as the basis for this philosophy.”

          Well, I just want to say that mine isn’t a labor theory of value in that sense. For those two, it was the quantity of labor that determined the quantity of value. I’m not claiming that. Value is the intersection of the supply and demand curves. Some labor is more valuable than others. But nothing has value unless labor is applied to it in some way.

        4. “Let’s take pro-IP to it’s logical conclusion. All language and words are the product of some person’s labor. If you don’t have express permission from the creator of those words, then you have stolen their IP.”

          This is more analogous to picking a grain of sand off the beach. The owner of the beach owns the grain of sand but he doesn’t care that I take it because it’s trivial.

          1. How many grains do I have to take before it becomes theft?

          2. But pirates aren’t even stealing grains of sand: they’re replicating them using property they already own (electrons on their computer/tablet in most cases).

        5. So I need written permission to own smething?

      2. “If libertarianism is anti-IP at a fundamental level, like Sheldon wants it to be, then maybe I’m not a libertarian.”

        Try “capitalist.” No need to reinvent the wheel.

        1. The free exchange of goods and ideas is a state of nature, and that which does not exist is trivially not natural. If artificial things must exist in order for “capitalism” to be, then it is just as flawed as communism in that reality will always prevail despite the intentions of those who would deny it.

          1. I don’t even know what that means.

            1. It is an appeal to empiricism. If a capitalism is a superior system, then it is so because it aligns with reality. If it fails to align with reality, then it is not at all superior.

            2. He’s deliberately being opaque so that you can’t own his idea.

          2. If artificial things must exist in order for “capitalism” to be, then it is just as flawed as communism

            Courts and property deeds are artificial. They do not exist in nature. You don’t have capitalism without them – even anarcho-capitalism requires private arbitrators and a system of property registration. (Mind you, the first person who comes along and says “fuck you” to your arbitrator and says your private property registrar is invalid shortly before smashing you over the head and taking your stuff anyway pretty much collapses your system and there isn’t shit you can do about it, but that’s tangential to your point).

            1. Courts and property deeds are artificial.

              And people exchanged goods and services before they existed.

              You don’t have capitalism without them

              I can enforce my property rights without the assistance of a government. That you can just as easily trample my rights in the same manner does not negate what I said.

              In theory, governments can exist for any purpose, such as for the preservation of private property, but in practice they will always serve the interests of those who run them.

              If they are somehow still necessary, then we have crossed the bridge from ideological to utilitarian argumentation and so must change our reasoning accordingly.

              Intellectual “property” is equally rooted in utilitarian arguments.

      3. Responsibitarian…you’ve just coined a gem my friend.
        Register that shit before someone jacks it.

        1. I’m not worried.

    5. So, let’s say that I’m a small-town guy with a gift for writing. I’m standing in line at Walmart when the cashier goes on break and I have to switch to another line with more customers. I have no recourse against him or his employer.

    6. Did you read his article?

      This is strange because so-called copyright infringement per se differs in a crucial respect from plagiarism. The publishing industry doesn’t strenuously lobby the government for fortified copyright laws because it is worried I will publish Atlas Shrugged with my name on the cover. (Who’d buy it?) On the contrary, it worries that I (or someone else) will publish the novel with Ayn Rand’s name on the cover. Copyright and plagiarism must be considered apart from each other.

      You do have recourse. It’s called fraud. On the other hand if the guy published your books with your name, then you would not.

      I should add that customers may justly claim they are victims of fraud. On what grounds? On the same grounds that any fraud victim has: The buyers were tricked into entering transactions on terms other than those they would have agreed to. The remedy might come through a class-action suit, the award being a refund plus costs.

      1. Incidentally, authors do have recourse under such circumstances. In the 1800s, when copyright enforcement was lax in the United States and often did not apply at all to foreign authors, authors frequently released authorized editions so that customers would be assured of their quality and assured that the real author would be paid.

        In the meantime, people who could not afford an authorized edition were still able to partake in culture and educate themselves, and the widespread availability of these works increased demand for the authorized editions, and also for speaking engagements and other perquisites of authorship.

      2. The only problem is that Richman’s own logic defies itself. You can’t possibly misrepresent words if they have no valid point of origin. Implicit in Richman’s argument is that, in fact, “intellectual property” does exist – otherwise the consumer would have no claim of misrepresentation by being presented a work without reference to its true originator. He just doesn’t think intellectual property deserves legal protection.

    7. Reddit would eat that guy alive. He wouldn’t be able to leave his house.

    8. I’m assuming your closing sentence is sarcasm, otherwise it completely changes the meaning of your post.

      I’ve written a couple of novels and I have managed to get them placed in a local book store.

      Under what terms? Since you did not specify them, I’m going to assume that you’ve had your books placed on store shelves, and you wanted people to be able to walk in, pick up a book, take it the counter, pay for it, and leave.

      You want to benefit from the simple exchange of your goods for their currency, that’s fine. But at the moment of purchase, it becomes their property, not yours.

      Because he is a known writer with connections to the big publishers, they publish his new novels to wide critical acclaim,earning millions for him and themselves.

      Of which you own not a dime. They took their time, their materials, and their names, and created a product, then sold it in a market of their choosing. Their success is due to their own actions, not yours.

      Nice. I’ll just rely on public scorn to exact my revenge.

      You are not owed someone else’s money simply because they gave it to someone else for a book full of words you originally wrote. If scorn does not avail you, then perhaps it’s because you sold an inferior product to begin with.

      If you think this is unjust, then you need to license your works before you sell the physical copies.

      1. If you think this is unjust, then you need to license your works before you sell the physical copies.

        That’s the entire point. The “license” you speak of is intellectual property rights in action. Without IP laws, this is meaningless. In this hypothetical I did license the works for publication. A much larger rival publisher appropriated those works without license.

        Your initial response is “tough, you sold a copy so it doesn’t belong to you”. Then you follow with “you should have licensed it”. There is no license possible in this “IP-free” world we are discussing.

        1. What part of the author, seller, and purchaser relationship involves the government?

          Licensing of works is a contract matter, and since the government is not a party, it does not get to dictate terms. The role of the government is in the enforcement of contracts after the fact.

          Statutory law regulating intellectual “property” is an infringement of physical property rights.

          1. The role of the government is in the enforcement of contracts after the fact.

            You can’t contract for exclusivity of property that doesn’t exist or for rights you don’t possess. If intellectual property doesn’t exist then the government would have an obligation to void that contract.

            1. You can contract for whatever someone else is willing to sign. You’ve stretched your point beyond breaking. The government does not have to pass a law about every damn thing. Contracts can exist that have neither precedent nor prior approval.

        2. Houghton Mifflin v. Noram Publishing Inc., Houghton Mifflin v. Stackpole and Sons

    9. Re: Cyto,

      Then along comes a guy from the big city. He buys my books in the local store and heads home. Because he is a known writer with connections to the big publishers,

      Mr. Richman already made the distinction between IP-copyright and plagiarism. I don’t understand why IP people keep making his case that every time IP is criticized, it is because one is in favor of publishing works under a different name than the author’s.

      1. I know he made a distinction, I just can’t see how it’s important.

      2. He said plagiarism is different and doesn’t happen because people scorn plagiarism. That is the the point of my post. Without IP laws, public scorn is the only protection. In an asymmetric battle such as this hypothetical, public scorn is likely of little consequence.

        The example is presented as a simple extension of the “information wants to be free” idea of IP law. Feel free to add anything needed to make it clear that Bubba from the stix has created some work of great value but has not been able to reach a large market. Some other person appropriates his work as their own and succeeds in marketing it with great success and rich rewards. Add whatever details you feel are needed to make it clear that Bubba has done everything in his power to protect and market his work.

        Because a book is easy to visualize and is pure IP it makes a good example. You could equally make an example that involves Bubba inventing a new cancer cure or a new lower receiver for an automatic weapon and having that work usurped by another, with no recourse. The point for discussion is “is this fair and just? Is this how we wish to organize our society?”

        1. Technically, if Bubba did everything in his power to protect his ownership, then every copy would come with a contract requiring you to agree not to reproduce the work, and to pass on that restriction to anyone to whom you hand your copy the work.

          At which point he has recourse under contract law if someone does copy it.

          1. I think you hit the nail on the head.

            The (c) symbol is an invocation of an explicit legal contract that precludes reproduction without permission.

            All the other rhetorical posturing is irrelevant.

          2. Technically, if Bubba did everything in his power to protect his ownership, then every copy would come with a contract requiring you to agree not to reproduce the work, and to pass on that restriction to anyone to whom you hand your copy the work.

            Which would be an invalid contract that no court would enforce, since you can’t create restrictions on non-existent rights or property. Implicit in the concept of this contract is the idea that intellectual property does, in fact, exist.

    10. With our 24/7 news and the internet, you don’t think that the small town author would come out ahead in this scenario? you don’t think the famous author would lose credibility and likely his livelihood?

      On the contrary, if he stole the work outright he would lose his audience quickly, and the fame would improve the lesser known author’s chances.

      If the famous author simply stole some ideas and reworked them, he would probably get credit for his work – but the lesser known author would likely also benefit from greater public attention.

      At present, the first case already happens, sometimes accidentally and sometimes on purpose – and the result is usually that the lesser known author gets attention and extra sales, though readers frequently decide that their work was inferior in several ways.

      In the latter case, I have heard of several instances of outright theft in the case of short works such as songs, but the thief managed to copyright the work before the original author did. In this case, the author was unable to legally make use of their own work. Is that really a better outcome?

      1. Rework it. Famous author is 70 and knows he has 3 years or less to live due to liver cancer. His kids and grandkids are important to him, so his gambit is designed to benefit them. He makes many millions from his gambit. Even add in a couple of movie deals. He’s not worried about his reputation.

        Our small town author has recently had a heart attack and threw a clot to his brain. He’s still kicking, and will live a long life, but his days of being a gifted writer are now over. There is no redemption for either party in the aftermath.

        Is it just that our usurper should reap all the rewards?

      2. On the song topic: Back around 1980 when the song “Gloria” by Laura Branigan was topping the charts my spanish class took a field trip to see a couple of central american rock/pop bands. One of the bands gave us a speech about how their song “Gloria” had been stolen and they were fighting (unsuccessfully) to recoup their rights. I think they said that they owned the rights in Latin America.

        They then played their version of the song – in Spanish. It was the identical song, just in spanish. I have to admit that their Spanish lyrics made much, much more sense than the English lyric and fit the meter much better. Despite hiring IP lawyers here in the US and having a published recording in Latin America predating the Branigan song they were unsuccessful – to the degree that there is no mention of any controversy on Branigan’s Wikipedia page.

        A nice analog of the asymmetric situation I was positing.

        There is a Wikipedia page that shows an alternate lineage for the song – originating in Italy and being reworked from a love song to the upbeat pop tune – so their claim may or may not actually hold any water.

    11. Even without any copyright, you would be a victim of fraud and could expect to collect that way, at least if the publisher is not in some hostile country that won’t enforce the judgment.

  4. Me thinks Sheldon doth protest too much.

    1. He’s twisting himself in knots trying to resolve his anti-IP position with the fact that he doesn’t want people plagiarizing his work.

      1. Logic worthy of the Chief Justice of the Supreme court. What happens if the book is published with no author? Is that fraud? I’m not claiming any single person wrote it, so I’m not making any false claims.

        Any money is a purely abstract concept. Much of it never exists in physical form (not counting the energy required for data storage). Is it OK to take someone else’s digital money as a result?

        It’s a bullshit argument, and he knows he dug himself a deep hole.

      2. Richman premises are off I think. The moral question is whether you are faking reality. If you try to make others think you had an idea that you heard from someone else or wrote a book that someone else wrote or made some money that you stole, you are faking reality. You are also declaring that what some else thinks of you is more important that reality, so you sacrifice the reality of your existence to someone else. You depend upon their ongoing naivete or stupidity to protect you from the truth. So you have to protect the fake world by making up more lies to cover yourself.

        Some lies–stealing other people’s work that they make a living from or stealing other people’s money warrants government action to defend the owners. Fraud is also force because you are taking something from someone, that if they knew the truth, you would have essentially had to take it by force to have gotten. If the person knew you spun the odometer back (faked the reality of the actual miles) on the used car you bought from him, you would have only gotten the extra $1000 for the car by force, for example.

        1. “If the person knew you spun the odometer back (faked the reality of the actual miles) on the used car you bought from him, you would have only gotten the extra $1000 for the car by force, for example.”

          Should be:
          If the person knew you spun the odometer back (faked the reality of the actual miles) on the used car you SOLD him, you would have only gotten the extra $1000 for the car by force, for example.

        2. “Some lies … warrant[] government action”

          Did you establish a consequence for those lies that the other person agreed to?

          If so, then sure, the government can enforce those consequences up to the level that was agreed upon.

          Otherwise, you are initiating force by proxy.

          1. Did you establish a consequence for those lies that the other person agreed to?

            Unless you’re an anarchist, this is also known as “the law” and “government”. You don’t have to establish a contract stipulating that you would prefer not to have your leg broken in order to call the police and have someone arrested for breaking your leg.

            More to the point, you can’t contract for non-existent rights or property, so if intellectual property really is the fiction you claim it to be, you couldn’t write an enforceable contract to protect it.

            1. My leg was not fictitious before you broke it, and it did not become so after you did.

              The police employ real physical violence to achieve their ends.

              You want to tell me that you breaking my actual, physical leg and me copying your book rise to the same level of justification for such violence?

  5. If you observe an adult being rude to his elderly mother, it is surely reasonable for you to be appalled, even though the offender did not use force. And, being appalled, you may be justified under the circumstances in responding, such as by cancelling a social engagement or telling others of his obnoxious behavior.

    I am having a hard time seeing why this would be any of my concern. There are myriad possible reasons for such behavior, and it is not the plafe of a third party to become involved absent a request from one of the parties.

    1. The only appropriate response to this situation is to be rude to the rude adult and, with her permission, to make out with his elderly mother in front of him. Unless she’s homely, in which case you buy her an ice cream cone.

      1. On the contrary, presuming that it is real rudeness (and not an in-joke between the adult child and their mother, for example), shunning is also quite appropriate. Do you really want to be around such a person?

        1. I’m sure the random stranger who I encountered being rude to his mother would be every bit as disheartened by the deprivation of my company as the thief of my CAD files knocking off my product would be.

  6. Has this been posted before?

    “Covered California’s ‘Richard Simmons twerk-a-thon’ tries to reach uninsured millenials

    “Would you believe that YouTube comments are disabled on Covered California’s six-hour #GetCovered telethon? Would you believe Covered California held a six-hour telethon? A lot of us missed the live-streamed event yesterday, but Greta Van Susteren showed the highlights Friday night, which included exercise guru Richard Simmons and a contortionist apparently working without a script or direction of any kind.”

    http://twitchy.com/2014/01/17/…..illenials/

    1. Oh. My. God. If anyone was still unconvinced about Simmons’s sexuality before this, it has been resolved in the most nauseating way possible.

    2. I’m not clicking that. I value what’s left of my sanity.

  7. So, let’s say that I’m a small-town guy with a gift for writing. I’ve written a couple of novels and I have managed to get them placed in a local book store.

    And you write them out by hand, like a monk, and personally deliver them to the store one at a time? Your business plan needs work.

    1. Copyrighting one’s work is as simple as writing that it is copyrighted on the work. If you don’t do that, you are assumed to be allowing anyone to copy it. It ain’t rocket surgery.

      1. Actually you don’t even need to do that. Legally speaking copyright is automatically assigned. You cannot even escape or disavow copyright. Putting something in the public domain means the copyright owner has simply given the permission for anyone to copy it.

        1. Is there some way in which placing a work into the public domain, in countries which permit it (like the US), does not constitute a complete and irrevocable disavowal of all copyrights to that work?

          1. Look into Creative Commons and Copyleft.

            Copyleft is often used for open source software, and makes use of copyright laws to require those adding to the code to allow others to use their code in turn.

            Creative Commons has a number of licenses available with various restrictions, such as a work being allowed to be used only for noncommercial purposes unless a separate licensing agreement is reached. I generally either explicitly put my works into the public domain or – more for the sake of would-be users who need to be reassured than anything else – release it under a Creative Commons Attribution Only license, which allows the work to be used in any way so long as the author is credited.

      2. Copyrighting one’s work is as simple as writing that it is copyrighted on the work.

        Which only works in a legal scheme that recognizes intellectual property.

  8. I’m sure this has been posted here sometime, but it’s the first I’ve heard of it…

    http://www.theguardian.com/boo…..en-stewart

    1984 remade as a romance movie starring Kristen Stewart. Ft. Meade must be collectively wetting their panties in anticipation. In the sequel, does Julia leave Winston for his big brother?

    1. Wasn’t that called v for vendetta?

    2. Screenwriter sits in room with producer, reviewing first draft of “1984” script.

      “Its good, its good; I like it. Few changes. 1 – get rid of the political jibjab. 2 – lets spice up the love angle a little bit, and 3 – I know the ’80s thing is in vogue, but I don’t recall all the jumpsuits and widescreen TVs… needs more of a *period* feel, you know? ‘Jams’, ripped O.P. t-shirts, Vans sneakers… you know, the fun stuff. Run with that.”

  9. 1984 remade as a romance movie starring Kristen Stewart.

    “We here in the Ministry of Love take our responsibilities seriously. Don’t mope around the house all by your lonesome; make that call. Many eligible mates are waiting eagerly to hear from you. Don’t hesitate. Make 1984 the year your wonderful new life begins.”

    1. “The State was so enticing as it bared its fangs…she thought, why not?”

      Wait, wrong novel.

  10. One point and some questions: I’m glad you bring up the issue of fraud. For a long time, the basic libertarian principle was that initiating either force or fraud was wrong. NIFF was the acronym. Today, NIFF seems to have morphed into NAP, or nonaggression principle, and most people talk only about force while ignoring fraud (unless they’re applying purity tests to determine who’s the more libertarian, a sort of pseudo intellectual version of King of the Hill).

    Questions: Is there anything due to the victim of plagiarism, any form of restitution, or is the original author not considered a victim? Are shunning and ridicule the only forms of punishment to be used against a plagiarist?

    1. Per Sheldon’s article:

      Copyright and plagiarism must be considered apart from each other.
      ….

      I should add that customers may justly claim they are victims of fraud. On what grounds? On the same grounds that any fraud victim has: The buyers were tricked into entering transactions on terms other than those they would have agreed to. The remedy might come through a class-action suit, the award being a refund plus costs.

    2. Fraud is a form of force and I don’t know any libertarian who separate the two. The NAP means voluntary exchange. Voluntary exchange means I agree to trade you X for Y. But what if Y turns out not to be Y (i.e. fake)? That means you have just stolen X from me, for I have only voluntarily agreed to give you X for Y, but you have taken X from me without giving me the real Y.

    3. Fraud is basically a form of theft. Lies facilitating a transaction other than the one I agreed to.

  11. The initiation of force is not the only bad thing in the world.

    Does he mean that I can’t apply the NAP to every one of life’s social issues? This can’t be good for dogmatists.

  12. Great. That fucking scumbag Rogers is on Meet the Press accusing Snowden of being a Russian agent.

    Mike Rogers: dupe, or Traitor?

    1. Snowden is losing much of my sympathy by releasing info about our spying outside of our borders.

      That’s what they are supposed to do and we give them enough money they should do it well.

      I was totally in his corner when he was exposing what they were doing against us. Now that he is exposing what they are doing for us is giving me pause.

      1. Isn’t that why we have a CIA?*

        *SLD – neither should exist.

  13. Feinstein sounds like a senile, rambling octogenarian.

    Both of those shitbags have harmed this country more than Snowden. Can we hang them?

    1. Yes. Thanks for making the questions easy ones.

  14. This entire article is based on a straw-man argument. In general, libertarians do not believe “only rights violations are wrong, bad, and deserving of moral condemnation”. Rather, they believe that only rights violations are deserving of *government intervention*. Private morality is a separate realm.

    1. I don’t think he’s saying libertarians in general think this way, but certainly there is a tendency with some liberty-minded people to look at the proscription against force and conclude that the NAP is the beginning and end of morality. I think it’s an issue worth addressing.

      1. The only people who consider the “Non-Aggression Principle” to be sacrosanct are anarchists.
        Sadly, their misconstruction is derived from the sole Ayn Rand dissertation on government, which is vague at best.
        Perhaps Sheldon is just coping with the incongruities of NAP and looking for some alternatives.

        1. Sadly, their misconstruction is derived from the sole Ayn Rand dissertation on government, which is vague at best.

          Rand wasn’t an anarchist by any stretch of the imagination, and in any case, anarchist philosophy predates her work by about 2 centuries.

    2. The strawmen are very much alive upthread from you. Maybe it’s just the example he picked, but we’ve got people mentionning how someone being rude to their mother to be:

      – An implicit threat of aggression.
      – None of your business to even care about

      Which are exactly the two positions he was decrying.

  15. Some libertarians believe a lack of alt-text is wrong.

    1. Some libertarians believe that the photographer felt bad for Sweater Boy and gave his cousin a job, apparently.

  16. Sheldon Richman is my new libertarian hero.

  17. The publishing industry doesn’t strenuously lobby the government for fortified copyright laws because it is worried I will publish Atlas Shrugged with my name on the cover. (Who’d buy it?) On the contrary, it worries that I (or someone else) will publish the novel with Ayn Rand’s name on the cover. Copyright and plagiarism must be considered apart from each other.

    Why, no, you disingenuous Trotksyite, the concern isn’t that someone will publish my book under his name, it’s that another publisher will publish it (or portions of it) under my name, without telling me, and keep all of the profit for themselves. That is stealing the product of my labor, which is about as anti-libertarian as I would think you could get.

    A more apt analogy would be if I reprinted your articles (with your byline of course) on other websites, without your permission or knowledge, and didn’t pay you a red cent. But I would like to congratulate you on a damn fine straw man, Richman.

    1. Yeah, that’s the point.
      Copyright violation is distinct from plagiarism. And it’s perfectly consistent to do away with copyright and still not allow plagiarism.

      1. Both are theft. Plagiarism just adds (arguably) fraud to the list. Neither are Libertarian as neither respect property rights.

        1. Copying is not theft. Copying something doesn’t actually take it from you. If it’s fraud it’s fraud against the customer anyway, not the originator of the work.

          1. Copying is theft. I invest 10 years to come up with a new cog. That’s my labor. You come along and copy the design and sell it for less denying me my competitive advantage in the merketplace. That’s the theft.

            1. You still have your cog. What was stolen?

            2. So if I copy Skippy’s Awesome Cog for myself to use, I’ve stolen from you? Even though I had to figure out how you made the cog, get the materials, and use my labor to make the copy, I still owe you something?

              Or how about I came up with Nate’s Awesome Cog all on my own (you know, since you can’t possibly be the only person out of 7Billion to have an idea), I can’t make and use it for myself because you got Uncle Sugar to enforce your monopoly first?

              1. “Even though I had to figure out how you made the cog, get the materials, and use my labor to make the copy, I still owe you something?”

                A car thief could make a similar argument. He labored. He had to break into the car and hotwire the ignition. That doesn’t make it his, though, because the original owner already had the rightful claim.

              2. “Or how about I came up with Nate’s Awesome Cog all on my own, since you can’t possibly be the only person out of 7Billion to have an idea), I can’t make and use it for myself because you got Uncle Sugar to enforce your monopoly first?”

                Then you didn’t copy it and all’s well. Just because the authorities might have trouble working out how you came into possession of something doesn’t mean it should be a free-for-all. He’s talking about the morality of the thing, not the logistics of how you might enforce or not enforce rightful ownership.

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  19. Start working at home with GOOGLE!YAHOO. ABCNEWS AND MORE GLOBAL SITES… It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this – 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link, …. http://www.Max47.com

  20. Libertarians do not support fraud. I call straw man.

  21. Sheldon, that’s some twisted, self-deceiving, rationalization, right there. You are splitting some serious hairs, my friend.

    IP, patents, copyrights, trademarks, brand names… It all stems from the same source…that a person can own an idea. You don’t get to choose between them. If one is right, all are right and vice versa. (To what extent, is yet another question.)

    Legally speaking, I’m undecided on this. Do you have the right to profit from an original idea? That is the crux of the entire argument and I am unconvinced by either argument. I see both sides.

    Your non-legal argument is bogus, as slut-shaming me is not force. Oooh…Sheldon called be a bad person…whoopty fucking shit. You can initiate no force against me and therefore your rebuke will only modify my behavior if I choose to care what you think of me.

    FORCE, is all that really matters.

    1. Trademarks and brand names are guarantors of authenticity, a sort of protection against fraud, and in this sense are different from copyright and patent law.

      In the infamous Disney example, I would protect Mickey Mouse et al as trademarks, while allowing their early works to fall into the public domain so long as other publishers made clear that these are no longer Disney properties, and that these characters could not be used as the basis for new works by any company other than the trademark owner – except of course for parodies where no reasonable purchaser would expect to be purchasing a genuine Disney product.

  22. Is it just me or does anyone else just want to grab, and break self righteous finger waving dudes finger ?

  23. I don’t think most libertarians believe that the initiation of force is the only wrong, but maybe they believe that it’s the only thing that people can objectively agree is a universal wrong. Other wrongs would be a bit more fluid in response to some sort of general cultural consensus at the particular time and place.

  24. Libertarianism is the exercise of finding exemptions to the nonagression principle for whenever libertarians decide they need something.

    1. My brother used to have a hamster. Or maybe it was gerbil. I can’t remember.

    2. Munster mandingo veritable comprehensive immaculate is unworthy dachshund child soaker. With neutrinos!

      1. Not gonna lie, I laughed really hard at this.

  25. Libertarianism is the exercise of finding exemptions to the nonagression principle for whenever libertarians decide they need something.

    Purple flying pianos replenish the eerie skies of bite spoon radiation.

  26. Thanks to Mr. Richman for this. More such definition needs to be fleshed out. Nice contribution.

    My Rule Number One is “Do not violate the person or property of others.” This efficient encapsulation (God, I wish I learned it this way as a kid) covers virtually all real crimes, i.e., all the major stuff. The rule is incredibly easy to follow, day in and day out. (Not a bad way top keep law enforcement out of your life, either). And I find the concept and phrasing at least as good as “live and let live.”

    Still, that does not capture enough of the self-imposed “rules” most people use to conduct themselves with other humans, the vast majority of the time. Just observe neighbors or friends or co-workers. At the next level is common civility and respect for people. Be polite; and when others are not polite, even give them a little slack. The jerk in that car might be someone’s Mom having a bad day; that could be me someday. Don’t call people names in the online comment section. And so on.

    I have not found a similarly efficient phrasing to capture and summarize this “level-two” set of rules. But to me, morality, as Mr. Richman proposes, and perhaps libertarianism, could benefit from not only a focus on, but also an attempt to encapsulate in simple and effective phrasing, that next level of rules for human interaction.

    1. Your “level two” set of “rules” aren’t enforceable, and hence aren’t “rules”, so they vary over time and place and need no distinctive name. You could call them “social order” or something, which perfectly captures their arbitrariness and vagueness. Religion is comprised of this “level two” set of rules, so that’s also a good alternative.

  27. The subtitle of this article is:

    The erroneous belief that only rights violations may be condemned leads too easily to the corollary error that if some conduct is wrong, it must somehow be a rights violation.

    And, then he says:

    On its face, this is strange. If you observe an adult being rude to his elderly mother, it is surely reasonable for you to be appalled, even though the offender did not use force.

    I would classify this as the erroneous belief that anything you find icky or bad may be condemned, leading too easily to the corollary error that if some conduct is wrong, then it must somehow be icky or bad.

    The truth makes so guarantee that all the outcomes come our rosy and wonderful, or that all of your emotions are confirmed and consistent with it.

    Essentially, Sheldon Richman doesn’t like the NAP because he thinks that it limits his ability of assigning wrongness as generally as he would like. And, why does he propose this? Emotional pleading about being rude to moms, and “a commonsense category of noninvasive moral offenses,” i.e., things that are wrong just because he knows they are, duh!

    Sorry, but being a dick doesn’t necessarily equal being morally wrong. If, by labeling it bad, you just mean that it offends your subjective preferences, then, sorry the world isn’t nice and tidy for you. However, if you want to get into the realm of seriousness, “I don’t like it so it must be wrong” is a very weak argument.

    1. So there’s no possibility of something being wrong but not warranting force as a response? At all? Or is it just that you don’t like the example?

      1. So there’s no possibility of something being wrong but not warranting force as a response? At all?

        Whether or not “Force is the only wrong” has nothing to do with response to the wrong, i.e., whether and what kind of force should be used, if any, to wrong.

        Or is it just that you don’t like the example?

        The example does stink, but I object to the article for the reasons I stated, which are not in the set of your either-or proposition.

  28. This article is based on the premise that Libertarians do this? Please give me a break.

  29. Maybe I missed it, but I don’t see where Richman explains his own hypocrisy. He uses copyright now and has for years, but no one forces him to. He voluntarily participates in a system he supposedly decries. Why should everyone do as he says but not as he does? How can he claim any authority (logical, moral, or ideological) on this topic when his own behavior directly contradicts the position he advocates?

    It’s clear that libertarian opinion and thought is divided on this subject. The sad part is that Richman’s view is taken as THE libertarian view elsewhere.

    1. If Sheldon Richman’a articles are not his property, then what exactly is he getting paid for? It would seem tat the only ting he is selling is labor.

      1. He doesn’t even print his words on a dead tree that he could at least claim as his property. So he’s literally getting paid for what is, in his philosophical view, nothing.

        1. He’s getting paid to produce original articles. Once those original articles are produced, they’re no longer economically scarce–anyone could memorize the sentences, write them down, save them to a hard drive, or otherwise reproduce them. But SR was paid to string words together in a particular and original order. That’s not “nothing.”

          Ownership of property is a separate issue from creation: the owner of a good (in this case, electrons that we use to replicate articles or books) has complete control of the services derived from that good. So we may own the copies of the webpages we download from Reason even though we’re not the creators of the media. And Richman may be the creator of this article, but it’s wrong to call him the “owner” of every copy of it, as anyone could save and thus own a copy of the article.

  30. “The upshot is that a rejecter of IP may justly take offense at the plagiarism or adulteration of his work and expose the fakes and scoundrels.”

    Which assumes the original author has the time and resources to track the frauds down and expose them absent the backing of law. It also assumes that anyone will care. What probably happens is that even if the originator exposes the fraud, after a few cases it will become a case “everybody does it”. The people most likely on the short end are individual author, inventors and creators who don’t have 5he means of running shaming campaigns.

    While IP is problematic in many aspects, the anti-IP are trying to solve minor injustices by causing major ones in the name of obsessive-compulsive quest for an platonic ideal.

    1. right, cuz victims of intellectual fraud deserve a better deal than victims of property fraud (who rarely get their stuff back).

      1. Uh, you said “get their stuff back” so I presume you meant property theft, not fraud.

        So, then, are you actually arguing that you think that IP shouldn’t exist because someone stole your CDs 10 years ago and the stupid cops haven’t gotten them back for you yet? Cause it sure sounds like it.

        Sounds kind of like logic by FUCK YOU TOO, which never did much for me.

  31. I have written two novels, both of which have been ripped digitally and downloaded by others for free. The time I spent writing them, the craft of doing so, apparently adds no value to mere words under anti-IP philosophy.

    1. I’m an author as well and a die-hard opponent of IP, which is a state monopoly intended to create artificial scarcity where there is none absent state intervention, particularly in the era of the internet.

      The bone of contention that I’ve seen over and over is that artists can’t be properly compensated without IP. Either large publishers will steal their works without compensation or those same works will be pirated. These complaints are the result of the outmoded model of publishing that’s been falling apart since the web first emerged–the internet is a giant copying machine that reduces or eliminates economic scarcity in all media, and now the business model of 20th-century publishing is no longer viable. The state may continue to go after pirates for the next century, but it’s not going to change the fact that the scarcity of books, music, and even comic books has been dramatically reduced by emergent online media. For better or worse, the IP monopoly doesn’t have much power these days and will have less in the future.

      I suspect that artist compensation will shift toward a more modern version of the Renaissance model: artists receive an up-front payment, possibly crowdsourced or from patrons who like having a court artist on their payroll. One thing’s for certain, though: the business model based on economically scarce physical media will continue to die a rapid death, and traditional publishing will die with or without the state’s support.

  32. So what is the stance of the pro-IP people about resale shops like half-price or cd warehouse. Or garage sales for that matter?

    1. Probably the same as it would be for retail shops, unless you rip the cover of your Danielle Steel novels and try to pass it off as an original work at your garage sale.

    2. That when you bought the hardcopy, you bought rights to the hardcopy, you did not buy rights to reproduce the work.

      Again, it seems like the anti-IPers have a need to overthink the issue. It is messy, but it is not that complicated.

  33. You’re talking about two kinds of morality Richman, objective and subjective.

  34. More than a few libertarians appear to hold the view that only rights violations are wrong, bad, and deserving of moral condemnation. If an act does not entail the initiation of force, so goes this attitude, we can have nothing critical to say about it.

    We can have nothing critical say about it as libertarians, because it’s outside libertarianism’s scope. Using it to answer questions like “should I speak up if I see someone being rude to their mom?” is like asking your accountant “should I get this birthday present for my mom?” The accountant only deals in financial questions, and can only tell you if you can afford it or not. Libertarianism only deals in rights questions, and can only tell you if they’re being violated or not.

    Start trying to use intellectual tools for jobs they’re not meant for, and soon you get wacky stuff like Ayn Rand telling people they have to like tap dancing and can’t like Beethoven, or Nick Gillespie publishing articles about beatniks in Reason instead of in a poetry magazine.

  35. Libertarianism is a political philosophy, not a moral one, although it is based in the basic moral tenet of self ownership. Libertarianism is not about what you should or should not “condemn”. To suppose otherwise is to join the left in their condemnation of libertarianism as “selfish” and to join the right in their condemnation of it as “immoral” or amoral.

  36. IP rights are like term limits. The idea is a contrivance in that it is not in the constitution, but it makes sense.

    Likewise, protection for intellectual property is extra-market, but makes a lot of sense.

    I do object to up to 75 years for written material and music. The money’s been made long before the end of the reserve.

    Just as minimum wage stops businesses from hiring, so companies having to give their ideas away with only an initial moment of return will stifle economic, creative, and technological progress.

  37. I am on the fence on this IP / anti-IP debate.

    However, previously in the comments thread, someone remarked about being entitled to compensation for his/her labor in developing an idea. To which I have to ask, barring a prior contract to produce something, why?

    Barring a contract / agreement for labor (e.g.: employment), if someone produces something, material or otherwise, they assume the risk of the product not selling and, thereby, not being compensated for their time and materials. They are certainly not entitled to compel or force someone else to buy it from them. Therefore, they are not entitled to be compensated for their labor.

    Why would developing ideas be any different?

    1/2

  38. Regarding patents, let’s assume that two different people on opposite sides of the country develop the same basic idea for a new widget. They developed their designs completely independent and ignorant of each other, but still arrive at nearly identical widgets (close enough that, for all intents and purposes… at least at the Patent Office… they are the same thing).

    Why should one get his idea protected for exclusive use and the other be excluded simply because one of them filed/patented first? Why shouldn’t the other guy also be able to benefit from his idea and R&D? After all, he did not “steal” the idea. It was his own idea regardless of the fact that someone else had the same/similar idea and arrived at the same design.

    2/2

  39. “What I’m arguing for is a commonsense category of noninvasive moral offenses, wrongful acts that do not involve force. Since force plays no part, the remedies must not entail force (state-backed or otherwise) either.”

    I agree completely. In the first example of the adult being rude to his elderly mother, the adult shows himself, and if not I’d hope the mother writes all about his treatment to all her friends and family. Or better, videotape him and put it on a shaming website.

    I love recording technology. It causes people to behave better, knowing they may be exposed. That’s especially important for our government “servants” who aren’t acting like servants.

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