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Author Topic: Hardcore libertarians: explain your anti-IP-rights position to me.  (Read 5536 times)
toast
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June 23, 2011, 11:17:19 PM
 #1

Disclaimer: I'm generalizing the anti-IP-rights position to all hardcore libertarians because I've seen several who hold this position. If you believe anti-IP-right are not consistent with what it actually means to be a libertarian, then correct me. I still want to know what people who do hold this position think, though.

Suppose I am a master chef in a small village. My food preparation method is healthier and tastier than other alternatives. There is no way to reverse-engineer my food preparation method from the food I serve. I want to write a cookbook. It will take me 500 hours to write this cookbook, in which time I could just make more food to earn me some money. My secret recipes are so good that it is clear that society as a whole will be far better off if more chefs could utilize my techniques than if I spent the 500 hours cooking better meals for a small number of people. You would agree that it is better if this method was known to more people.

What incentive do I have to write this cookbook? If I try to publish even a single copy, any established book publisher with more efficient book-printing resources than I do will be able to prevent me from earning any money while earning a hefty profit themselves. The only possible solution I can think of is the idea of selling my final draft of the cookbook to a publisher - that is, selling the right to be the first person (besides myself) to see what I have written so that they can publish it. The publisher would only offer me prices comparable to what I could make with IP protection is if they were able to read it first, in which case I would have to have some contract protecting my IP rights with this company (but again, this requires a government to enforce this contract, which means IP is something the government has to recognize).

edit: Also, assume the IP protection I'm talking about is temporary (enough for what I make to make the time investment worth it), not something that would give me permanent control (maybe like music copyright, but shorter and without the draconic punishments from infringement).

(also, sorry for posting in the wrong forum, but I don't have privileges to post everywhere yet)
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June 23, 2011, 11:23:14 PM
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Why not go somewhere focused on the subject or read Kinesella's book http://www.againstmonopoly.org/index.php?perm=593056000000003082

http://www.againstmonopoly.org/index.php?perm=593056000000001487


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June 23, 2011, 11:25:50 PM
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I figured perhaps someone on this forum could give a concise tl;dr to highlight the main points. Obviously if I want an in-depth explanation and understanding I should turn to existing literature, and if I think it's interesting/relevant enough I certainly will.
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June 23, 2011, 11:25:54 PM
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I am one of the world's finest doctors who is considering retiring. If I continue working, I'll probably save three or four hundred lives. I've always wondered what it's like to kill someone with my bare hands though. I'm willing to forgo retiring if I get to kill someone. Society will be, overall, better off if I kill some random homeless guy. So why shouldn't I do that?

In short: Libertarians are not receptive to cost/benefit analysis questions with regard to rights. One of the major reasons they oppose IP is that they see it as fake 'rights' enforced only because of a cost/benefit analysis. By that logic, why shouldn't I have the right to steal $100,000 from Bill Gates? I need it a lot more than he does.

(I am not anti-IP, by the way. But I think I understand the Libertarian position.)

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June 23, 2011, 11:31:53 PM
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I am a doctor who is considering retiring. If I continue working, I'll probably save three or four hundred lives. I've always wondered what it's like to kill someone with my bare hands though. I'm willing to forgo retiring if I get to kill someone. Society will be, overall, better off if I kill some random homeless guy. So why shouldn't I do that?

In short: Libertarians are not receptive to cost/benefit analysis questions with regard to rights. One of the major reasons they oppose IP is that they see it as fake 'rights' enforced only because of a cost/benefit analysis. By that logic, why shouldn't I have the right to steal $100,000 from Bill Gates? I need it a lot more than he does.

(I am not anti-IP, by the way. But I think I understand the Libertarian position.)

Killing someone is a direct violation of the 'no violence' foundation that libertarians have. If you really wanted to masturbate all day instead of saving people's lives then go ahead.

But your main point is that the publisher's rights to make money by printing a book I wrote is more important to preserve than the healthier (and tastier!) lives people will enjoy if I find it worth my time to write this book. Basically, libertarianism is inherently non-utilitarian. Am I correct?
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June 23, 2011, 11:36:21 PM
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But your main point is that the publisher's rights to make money by printing a book I wrote is more important to preserve than the healthier (and tastier!) lives people will enjoy if I find it worth my time to write this book.
Yes. It is more important to have the massive long-term benefits of living in a society that can be relied upon to protect rights than the much smaller benefits of occasionally violating them.

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Basically, libertarianism is inherently non-utilitarian. Am I correct?
In a sense yes and in a sense no. Libertarians won't compromise their values for short term utilitarian benefits because they believe it's to everyone's long term benefit not to do so. To use this example, sooner or later people probably will figure out his secret recipe, and with no IP, once they do so, they can spread it far and wide.

(Again, I think IP rights are real rights that Libertarians should expect governments to protect like all other rights. So I am not explaining my own position.)

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June 23, 2011, 11:41:44 PM
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But what if anyone who discovers the recipe enjoys higher profits if the recipe is not publicly known? Then nobody will ever benefit from that knowledge except for the people lucky enough to discover the recipe, whereas if there were short- or medium-term IP protection laws, I would find it profitable to share my recipe with everyone sooner (more people enjoy its benefits for longer periods of time) AND after I have earned some money for my time and energy the recipes are now available for everyone to use (just like they would if some kind soul discovered the recipe and decided to give it away to everyone rather than profit from it). Having IP protection seems strictly better, under the assumption that IP laws are not extreme (like many are now).

Edit: At the very least, have NDA agreements be enforceable by law so I can go around and try to sell my book to different publishers without them printing what I show them without my permission.
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June 23, 2011, 11:45:12 PM
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But what if anyone who discovers the recipe enjoys higher profits if the recipe is not publicly known? Then nobody will ever benefit from that knowledge except for the people lucky enough to discover the recipe, whereas if there were short- or medium-term IP protection laws, I would find it profitable to share my recipe with everyone sooner (more people enjoy its benefits for longer periods of time) AND after I have earned some money for my time and energy the recipes are now available for everyone to use (just like they would if some kind soul discovered the recipe and decided to give it away to everyone rather than profit from it). Having IP protection seems strictly better, under the assumption that IP laws are not extreme (like many are now).
If you get sufficiently creative, you can probably create some bizarre implausible hypothetical where for that one thing we are better off with IP laws. However, Libertarians believe those laws violate rights and most of them also believe that they overall tend to discourage innovation. (I think they are wrong on both counts.)

Edit: I think that most Libertarians do believe that NDA agreements should be enforceable against parties, but not against non-parties. You would have to enter into an NDA to see a movie. And it would be almost impossible to protect anything that would necessarily be disclosed to the public. (For example, a patent on one-click ordering.) The way I try to ease Libertarians out of their anti-IP position is to describe to them all the other cases where we permit contracts to be enforced against third parties and argue that one person should not be allowed to benefit from a second person's violation of a contract at the expense of the beneficiary of that contract.

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June 23, 2011, 11:57:20 PM
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Libertarians believe those laws violate rights and most of them also believe that they overall tend to discourage innovation. (I think they are wrong on both counts.)

I am interested in hearing how IP laws discourage innovation. I can think of many real-world examples of how innovators would not have made any money (because let's face it, feeling good for making the world a better place is not sufficient reward for many) for significant time investments.
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June 24, 2011, 12:04:14 AM
 #10

there is no such thing as a totally unique idea, all ideas are formed from other ones that exist in the public space, IP laws prevent ideas from getting into the public space and thus restrict new ideas and innovation.

the original founding fathers were against it, but disney stretched it out from about 20 years originally to a lifetime to now almost indefinite...

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June 24, 2011, 12:14:07 AM
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there is no such thing as a totally unique idea, all ideas are formed from other ones that exist in the public space, IP laws prevent ideas from getting into the public space and thus restrict new ideas and innovation.

Wait, what? Why does the fact that all ideas are combinations of old ideas have anything to do with the fact that if people do not have incentive to come up with new ideas it is worse for society as a whole than if they did? To your second point: Isn't it better for ideas to temporarily benefit their creators than for them to not exist at all (remember, I'm assuming the IP laws would be reasonable, not like they are now).
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June 24, 2011, 12:20:02 AM
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imho, Larence Lessig's 'Free Culture' is a good listen if you're interested in the subject:  http://randomfoo.net/oscon/2002/lessig/

Personally, I like IP-Rights in the short term, but the current copyright system goes way too far.  Age+70 I think it is?
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June 24, 2011, 12:24:06 AM
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One of the major reasons they oppose IP is that they see it as fake 'rights' enforced only because of a cost/benefit analysis.

From what I have read, the main reason IP is opposed by libertarians is that they see it as conflicting with physical property rights.

The bottom line with libertarianism is minimizing conflict over scarce resources.  IP laws apparently increase the conflict over scarce resources and are therefore harmful laws.
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June 24, 2011, 12:25:02 AM
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Quote
Isn't it better for ideas to temporarily benefit their creators than for them to not exist at all (remember, I'm assuming the IP laws would be reasonable, not like they are now).

im not hardcore left,as you request, and i think we all agree that short term is fine. as also said by prev post its just gotten a little out of hand.


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June 24, 2011, 12:31:43 AM
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I have a vehement anti-IP position, but not the time to explain just now, sorry. Maybe later. It's based on fundamental properties of the universe (the nature of matter, energy and data) as well as long term social benefits.

If you feel like a read, here's an SF short story I wrote last year. It isn't primarily IP-rights related but does touch on that issue briefly.
  http://everist.org/texts/Fermis_Urbex_Paradox.txt

Oh, and yeah. Absolutely THE solution to the Fermi Paradox. Seriously. For anyone who cares about such things.


Ah, the unexpected things one comes across while dipping in and out to clock up login time before _really_ being allowed to post. </grumble>

Now, I must back to work.

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June 24, 2011, 12:51:26 AM
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I am interested in hearing how IP laws discourage innovation.
Do you mean how the actual IP laws countries have actually discourage innovation? Or do you mean a theoretical argument for why IP laws will always tend to discourage innovation? For the former, look at the issues with sampling in music, mashups in videos, and orphaned works in copyright generally.

Quote
I can think of many real-world examples of how innovators would not have made any money (because let's face it, feeling good for making the world a better place is not sufficient reward for many) for significant time investments.
Sure, and there are also many stories about how the guy who did the real, hard work lost out because someone else stretched a patent to cover his idea.

But, again, these arguments aren't really that persuasive to Libertarians. If they're not convinced that IP rights are 'real rights', they don't want the government enforcing them.

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June 24, 2011, 01:22:29 AM
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Do you mean how the actual IP laws countries have actually discourage innovation? Or do you mean a theoretical argument for why IP laws will always tend to discourage innovation? For the former, look at the issues with sampling in music, mashups in videos, and orphaned works in copyright generally.

I mean the theoretical argument for why IP laws will tend to discourage innovation. I can see pretty clearly why existing laws do that =]

Sure, and there are also many stories about how the guy who did the real, hard work lost out because someone else stretched a patent to cover his idea.

So this is a discussion of how to successfully implement IP law, not an argument against the idea of such a law.

Quote
But, again, these arguments aren't really that persuasive to Libertarians. If they're not convinced that IP rights are 'real rights', they don't want the government enforcing them.

This is why libertarianism seems dogmatic to me. In this case, stopping someone from printing a particular book and selling it (which they couldn't have done if the book was never written!) trumps enriching everyone's lives by rewarding the innovator for his useful new idea and encouraging people to come up with other useful ones. How can anyone subscribe to this ideology?
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June 24, 2011, 01:39:40 AM
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This is why libertarianism seems dogmatic to me. In this case, stopping someone from printing a particular book and selling it (which they couldn't have done if the book was never written!) trumps enriching everyone's lives by rewarding the innovator for his useful new idea and encouraging people to come up with other useful ones. How can anyone subscribe to this ideology?
First, let me repeat one more time that I disagree with Libertarianism's position on IP. But let me respond to your dogmatism argument:

Suppose there was a doctor who cured cancer. He knew the cure, but wasn't going to tell it to anyone unless he got compensation. And say he really wanted to have sex with your nine year old daughter. I hope you would consider any society that even considered trading him for the cure under those conditions to be unacceptable. Libertarians see these kinds of issues in those kinds of terms. He doesn't have a right to your daughter, period. It doesn't matter what society might gain, because your daughter is not society's to trade.

And I should add further that Libertarians genuinely believe that the long term benefits of having a society that reliably respects rights will outweigh all the small benefits of occasionally violating them. Yes, some development will be discouraged.

(I'm starting to feel I'm reaching the limit of my ability to defend a position I don't share. A real Libertarian might do a better job.)

To bring it on topic -- say we were to find something horribly wrong with BitCoin that made it much less useful but kept the value high. But say the early adopters held a patent and were too invested in the current hash chain to allow any fixes. IP could mean that we would have to wait 15 years to introduce a competing currency.

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June 24, 2011, 02:54:34 AM
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Thanks!

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June 24, 2011, 03:32:24 AM
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So-called "intellectual property" violates real property rights, plain and simple.

"We will not find a solution to political problems in cryptography, but we can win a major battle in the arms race and gain a new territory of freedom for several years.

Governments are good at cutting off the heads of a centrally controlled networks, but pure P2P networks are holding their own."
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