News & Analysis
Two Mighty Libertarian Brains to Debate Copyright and IP?
As for [Stephan] Kinsella's prediction that I won't debate him, I will walk through hell, if I have to, to debate him and chop up his defect laden anti-IP views. – Robert Wenzel
Dominant Social Theme: All Libertarians are cranks that hold the same rabid views.
Free-Market Analysis: Well, here we have an example of two "big brains" – respected free-market commentators – that have decidedly different opinions when it comes to intellectual property.
In fact, a feedbacker pointed out that we should have asked the free-market economist Robert Wenzel about his views on intellectual property when we interviewed him. His interview ran this past Sunday.
That same day, Mr. Wenzel posted a short rumination on his blog (Economic Policy Journal) that was aimed at making Stephen Kinsella look hypocritical. This debate between the two men is not just intellectual but is also becoming "personal."
Kinsella is perhaps the leading advocate for IP openness, making the observation that since no one is damaged (nothing is taken by force) when intellectual property is circulated, the idea of making such usage a civil or criminal offense (as has been done) is ludicrous.
Wenzel apparently holds to the view that intellectual property can indeed by owned and disputes Kinsella's alternative perspective. In his recent blog commentary he quoted part of an email sent to him by Kinsella, as follows:
I think we should both commit ahead of time to be respectful, sincere, and civil, and give each other adequate time. No ad hominem, no personal stuff--just an Austrian and libertarian-oriented focus on truth. I will not try to baffle you with legalistic bullshit just b/c I know the IP statutes better than you, for example. If you can agree to this, let's consider it.
Wenzel then wrote he had been made aware of a comment by Kinsella on his Facebook page:
What a clown. [A] ... prediction: he will not debate me. He will find a way ot [sic] weasel out of it, like a worm.
Wenzel believes Kinsella is acting hypocritically in requesting a "respectful and civil" debate while also calling him names. Kinsella has refused to apologize, however, and thus the stage is set for what would surely be a passionate debate about the merits of Kinsella's perspective regarding IP.
While the above may seem fairly parochial in the larger scheme of things, Kinsella's perspectives arouse emotion because copyright and patent law are among various fundamental issues of the 21st century aggravated by what we call the Internet Reformation.
It seems fairly well established, historically speaking (as we have reported), that copyright (especially) was invented to control information after the advent of the Gutenberg press. Likewise, the forceful attacks on sharing intellectual property in the Internet era are likely motivated by similar concerns.
Within this context, perhaps, Kinsella has the upper hand. Copyright is not at root a legal policy but a matter of elite control. Like so many things in this world, copyright and patent law were developed for reasons that had little to do with remuneration.
However, as we have noted before, the notion that one ought to receive compensation for intellectual property is deeply rooted in modern society. With this in mind, we've offered our own "third way" when it comes to dealing with intellectual property.
Those who believe in it ought to use their own resources to enforce it. No flying 50 FBI agents halfway around the world to arrest someone like Kim Dotcom on the suspicion of copyright infringement. If you are concerned that your property is being pilfered, then prosecute people on your own dime. Let people enforce civil law personally (and until recently copyright infringement was usually treated as a civil matter).
Conclusion: Wouldn't that put an end to some of these theoretical arguments?
Posted by taxesbyanyothername on 02/28/13 08:57 PM
You are absolutely right. People have to be educated to become that stupid.
Twain got it right, that is if he actually said it.
It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.
To me, the damping of creativity is not even the worst part of modern IP. If we let it, the ownership of genes will eventually enslave us all.
Posted by redickd on 02/28/13 11:17 AM
IP is a 'property rights' issue. The inventor/author owns the item/text he created and others can't 'take' it , by copying, without compensation, as determined by the owner. Don't confuse this with examples like an artist selling a painting, then claiming he can control its use or modification (he no longer owns it).
Also note that prop. rights (also for real estate, and all tangibles)are the foundation of a just and prosperous society, because they foster creativity.
Regards, Dave Click to view link
Reply from The Daily Bell
The trouble is that IP doesn't conform to natural law. It is impossible for the individual to police all the uses of his or her intellectual property without the aid - sooner or later - of state enforcement, either civil or criminal.
This means that the concept and application of copyright is inevitably an enforcer and supporter of Leviathan. Which is apparently why the elites invented it in the first place.
IP seen from this perspective fosters state authoritarianism, not creativity. Kim Dotcom found this out the hard way.
Posted by Hoss on 02/28/13 11:12 AM
Anyone who believes self-ownership evolved out of statism ought to try drowning a cat without wearing gloves. Even a cat knows better.
Posted by Hoss on 02/28/13 11:09 AM
Translation of Vandergelde: "We, the collective with the guns, own you. YOU are the domesticated animal."
Posted by provolone on 02/27/13 02:47 AM
People will continue to consume media in the way that is most convenient, regardless of the result of this debate, or any laws created by the state.
It is only a question of how many criminals we should create for the collective good. Once we arrive at an ideal quota, we can work from there.
Posted by taxesbyanyothername on 02/26/13 07:27 PM
Now I have looked up Kinsella. Another wonderful source of edification. Thanks StevenMarxdervelde.
Posted by StevenVandervelde on 02/26/13 06:36 PM
All property law should rightfully be a civil matter until it raises to the level of a crime by the use of force or fraud as with theft, arson, etc.
Intellectual property did evolve from state law, as did all property, if we take property to be an individual right instead of a group right as it was in ancient tribal societies. Individualism evolved out of statism.
Individualists see inalienable rights as a limitation on and an improvement of the ancient, collectivist notion of the state. The rule of law is the key, a key that many anarchists do not seem to grasp.
Law is universal or it is meaningless. The state imposed universality. Individualism, if we understand it as a voluntary way of life where force is only used in self-defense, was not possible until the promulgation of individual rights by the state. Tribalism and mob rule are the only alternatives to the rule of law, that we actually know about from experience. There are many historical examples of how the concept of property rights was perfected, up to the abolition of chattel slavery, because property is based on the idea that each individual rightfully owns himself.
All property rights are intellectual in that they involve an abstract relationship assigned to an object. The objects of intellectual property are more complex, harder to define, then concrete objects, the question of what, exactly, is owned. When seen in the broad historical view intellectual property is in its infancy.
Those who refuse to understand or accept its existence are in the position of primitive hunters who do not understand and refuse to accept the existence of ownership of domestic animals. To make a long story short most of the arguments against the existence of intellectual property could as easily be used to deny the validity of any species of property. Kinsella is a Luddite, and if you analyze his arguments you will find that he undermines the entire ethical basis of all individual rights.
Reply from The Daily Bell
You are like Ellen Brown who insists against all logic that money was a creation of the state when every other aspect of society was the creation of the marketplace.
Just as banks evolved out of Temples, according to Brown, so, according to you, "Individualism evolved out of statism."
You have no evidence for this, nor could you.
Human nature doesn't change that much. It is perfectly possible that individuation evolved within private and clan society in pre-Neolithic times.
It is perfectly possible that individualism was tolerated within larger social constructs. It is perfectly possible that some men and women lived apart from social constructs in solitary settings.
Within this context there would have been a clear delineation between "mine" and "yours."
As for the rule of law, in ancient societies - even quite "civilized" ones - legal enforcement surely did not extend around the world nor should it have.
Posted by taxesbyanyothername on 02/26/13 02:43 PM
Wenzel's take on IP is the only reason I don't read EPJ every day.
To the big money, government enforcement of IP is no different than all of the other laws and regulations hampering their competition. Without it the largest corporations would not even exist in their present form. Impediment to entering the marketplace and competing fairly, is the whole game of the ultra rich, there is nothing more to it than that.
Destroying lives to steal money, is far more profitable with the collusion of government. That way you don't have to pay your thugs. You just give campaign contributions to their directors, and they steal the pay from the same victims that you are stealing from.
Reply from The Daily Bell
He seems very passionate about it, which is strange given his many other lucid (orthodox) free-market viewpoints.
Posted by Hoss on 02/26/13 02:10 PM
Generally, any idea that requires men running around with guns violating peoples' primary rights needs to be reexamined on fundamental grounds. I have not seen a coherent argument in favor of it yet.
Reply from The Daily Bell
Good. Puts it in perspective ...
Posted by AnarchoLibertine on 02/26/13 01:27 PM
I've come to agree w/the anti-IP argument.
Property rights pertain to things in the PHYSICAL realm, not the realm of "ideas".
DB's "3rd-way" would seem an acceptable alternative--one which would prevail in a stateless society.
I wonder how differently people would view IP if it weren't govt. agents--operating under the color of 'law'--hunting down IP violators, but privately-hired mercenaries working for the entertainment industry?
Posted by NAPpy on 02/26/13 01:13 PM
Great article. While I'm personally against traditional IP, I'm practically content to let those in the idea business make money off of it, as long as it's on their own dime.
Posted by 1776 on 02/26/13 12:35 PM
Limitless Surveillance and the Death of Privacy: Inside the FISA/Echelon Spy Grid - Annie Machon
Click to view link
Posted by gabe on 02/26/13 11:28 AM
Yes thank you Daily Bell. I don't understand how any real libertarian could oppose your proposal. I can only guess, but it seems to me that Kinsella would fully agree with you while Wenzel would be experiencing cognitive dissonance because he seems very close minded on the topic.
Posted by kldimond on 02/26/13 11:15 AM
"Conclusion: Wouldn't that put an end to some of these theoretical arguments?"
Yes it would indeed. It disgusts me that IP should be in the realm of criminal law, especially when I think of the merciless (and I would argue genuinely criminal--anti-competitive, involuntary servitude, many et ceteras) treatment publishers of so many kinds--but especially in the entertainment/arts industry--impose on the real creators. (How's that for an unwieldy sentence? Oh well, no time, gotta run)
Turning IP trespass into a criminal offense has been done at the behest of the entertainment industry goons and barely if at all benefits the creatives.
Moreover, I'm sick to death of having to sit through--or figure out how to speed through, if it can be done--that stupid FBI warning in sixteen languages (yeah, I know I'm exaggerating, but that reflects how I feel about it)!
Posted by runderwo on 02/26/13 11:13 AM
Did Wenzel seek and obtain permission from Kinsella before copying and re-posting the aforementioned Facebook comment?
Posted by jhitt on 02/26/13 10:38 AM
To clarify, I do believe in Wenzel's sincerity; he's great on most everything. But not IP. And I'm afraid he occasionally displays a kind of fanboy aspect that reminds one of the Rand-cult.
The Daily Bell's solution is practical, and satisfying enough, but it is just a function of the contentiousness of the issue. Strictly, I must still concur with Kinsella.
Posted by jhitt on 02/26/13 10:26 AM
I myself have read enough ham-handed and personally charged comments by Wenzel against anti-IP people (and against others for completely trivial reasons) for me to know that he can just suck it up and take what he's already given plenty times over.
Kinsella is right anyway.
Posted by IndyLyn on 02/26/13 10:20 AM
YES DB, you are right on! Let folks take care of their own business. But since that would eliminate fed goons from a job... guess that won't be allowed to happen!!
Posted by 3rYthcDU on 02/26/13 09:23 AM
The bottom line is that digital reproduction has changed the equation. As the supply of something approaches infinity, the cost approaches zero. The content producers can sell 'ease of acquisition' perhaps, in that it is easier to download a PC game through Steam, for example, than from bittorrent. Charge too much though, and it's worth the time and effort to acquire it illegally.
I agree with the previous comment that it will be interesting to see how a pro IP libertarian approaches enforcement.
Posted by bionic mosquito on 02/26/13 09:02 AM
DB: Let people enforce civil law personally (and until recently copyright infringement was usually treated as a civil matter)….Wouldn't that put an end to some of these theoretical arguments?
BM: Agree. Private contracts, license agreements, joint ventures, etc.
I wonder what could possibly be taken as an exception by either side of this argument to this possibility. For the pro-IP libertarian, he certainly cannot be advocating government as the enforcement mechanism. For the anti-IP libertarian, he cannot be advocating government force to disallow such private contracts.
I cannot find one, but truly am curious as to what exception, if any, that might be taken by either side.