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Author Topic: Do libertarians support the idea of information as property?  (Read 5900 times)
bitplane
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July 02, 2011, 12:04:00 AM
 #1

As per the subject, do the hard-core libertarians here support intellectual property? Are copyrights, patents, trademarks, trade secrets, personality rights and other notions of information as property justified, given that they are essentially state-sponsored monopolies, regulations that infringe on people's freedoms of expression, trade and action, often by use of force.

However, without copyright we wouldn't have free software or huge investments in proprietary software, without patents all inventions would be secret, without trademarks there would be no high quality brands due to market saturation by counterfeiting, and so on and so on.

So which information should be protected by regulation and/or treated as property, and why?
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qbg
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July 02, 2011, 12:10:05 AM
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However, without copyright we wouldn't have free software or huge investments in proprietary software
This is very debatable. Free software licenses, as a general rule, try to emulate a world without copyright. Given the amount of free software in existence, it seems unlikely that lack of copyright would greatly diminish the amount of it written.

As for proprietary software, a significant amount of it is written for in-house purposes, and therefore would not likely disappear in a world without copyright -- at best it would just be replace by other software.
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July 02, 2011, 12:14:25 AM
 #3

I doubt anybody wishes to purchase counterfeit products. Nobody likes being lied to. This whole trademark debate can be thrown under a true law called fraud.

In addition, to say trade secrets would be forever hidden is to say that somebody that has a Bitcoin will forever hold it.
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July 02, 2011, 12:15:54 AM
 #4

So which information should be protected by regulation and/or treated as property, and why?

Information is not property.

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July 02, 2011, 12:24:50 AM
 #5

So which information should be protected by regulation and/or treated as property, and why?

Information is not property.
Why not? What necessary characteristics does information lack?
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July 02, 2011, 12:25:59 AM
 #6

So which information should be protected by regulation and/or treated as property, and why?

Information is not property.
Why not? What necessary characteristics does information lack?
Scarcity and enforceability (without holding people's REAL property hostage).
myrkul
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July 02, 2011, 12:27:24 AM
 #7

So which information should be protected by regulation and/or treated as property, and why?

Information is not property.
Why not? What necessary characteristics does information lack?
Scarcity and enforceability (without holding people's property hostage).
What he said. Wink

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qbg
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July 02, 2011, 12:33:16 AM
 #8

So which information should be protected by regulation and/or treated as property, and why?

Information is not property.
Why not? What necessary characteristics does information lack?
Scarcity and enforceability (without holding people's REAL property hostage).
Reasonable enough.
bitplane
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July 02, 2011, 12:33:52 AM
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This is very debatable. Free software licenses, as a general rule, try to emulate a world without copyright. Given the amount of free software in existence, it seems unlikely that lack of copyright would greatly diminish the amount of it written.
Yeah controversial statement I agree, but Stallman's GNU project did build a lot of the free software we use. I tend to write open source software which can be locked up as proprietary myself, my favourite licenses being MIT or WTFPL. However, I do think we'd see a hell of a lot of copyleft code being locked up as proprietary if there were no copyrights on software, and copyleft does help protect user-freedoms.

Having said that, even as a developer I don't have any strong feelings either way myself. If copyright was abolished I'd still be paid for doing an honest day of work, though the people who employ me might have less to spend.
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July 02, 2011, 12:39:15 AM
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This is very debatable. Free software licenses, as a general rule, try to emulate a world without copyright. Given the amount of free software in existence, it seems unlikely that lack of copyright would greatly diminish the amount of it written.
Yeah controversial statement I agree, but Stallman's GNU project did build a lot of the free software we use. I tend to write open source software which can be locked up as proprietary myself, my favourite licenses being MIT or WTFPL. However, I do think we'd see a hell of a lot of copyleft code being locked up as proprietary if there were no copyrights on software, and copyleft does help protect user-freedoms.
The vanilla GPL allows for the code to be locked as long as it is not distributed, so I don't think it would be that different in a world without copyright.
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July 02, 2011, 12:41:08 AM
 #11

I doubt anybody wishes to purchase counterfeit products. Nobody likes being lied to. This whole trademark debate can be thrown under a true law called fraud.

What makes fraud a true law? If I choose to make a product that is identical to someone else's but make no claims that it is an original, only people who sold it under false pretences would be committing fraud. Without trademarks or design protection I would be free to make identical copies from inferior materials and sell them, people could then claim that they don't know whether they're original or not.

In addition, to say trade secrets would be forever hidden is to say that somebody that has a Bitcoin will forever hold it.
Not hidden away forever, just protected by the courts from industrial espionage. Consider that someone pays your staff to leak designs that you have invested heavily in, you can't prove who did it, there is no contract in place between me and you, and there's no protection or ownership of information. When your product is being brought to market by my company before you've even announced it, what can you do?
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July 02, 2011, 12:44:24 AM
 #12

I doubt anybody wishes to purchase counterfeit products. Nobody likes being lied to. This whole trademark debate can be thrown under a true law called fraud.

What makes fraud a true law? If I choose to make a product that is identical to someone else's but make no claims that it is an original, only people who sold it under false pretences would be committing fraud. Without trademarks or design protection I would be free to make identical copies from inferior materials and sell them, people could then claim that they don't know whether they're original or not.
Well, that's when the original company starts to sell certificates of authenticity. I see nothing wrong with making an identical as long as you claim its not from another company than your own. It's their property.

In addition, to say trade secrets would be forever hidden is to say that somebody that has a Bitcoin will forever hold it.
Not hidden away forever, just protected by the courts from industrial espionage. Consider that someone pays your staff to leak designs that you have invested heavily in, you can't prove who did it, there is no contract in place between me and you, and there's no protection or ownership of information. When your product is being brought to market by my company before you've even announced it, what can you do?
Adapt.

...and you can hold the people who leak secrets accountable by putting everbodys employment in that department on the line or being innovative with tracking. (Hidden numbers in the documents, etc.)
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July 02, 2011, 12:47:51 AM
 #13

The vanilla GPL allows for the code to be locked as long as it is not distributed, so I don't think it would be that different in a world without copyright.
The vanilla GPL wasn't made for a world of software-as-a-service, which is why the AGPL was written to fix this modern loophole. In the era of the vanilla GPL, software was actually distributed to end users. If copyright was abolished we'd still see locked down versions of free software desktop apps, and sites hosting AGPL software without the source code.
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July 02, 2011, 12:50:02 AM
 #14

Best GPL: http://bittalk.tv/WYWPL
qbg
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July 02, 2011, 01:03:02 AM
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I doubt anybody wishes to purchase counterfeit products. Nobody likes being lied to. This whole trademark debate can be thrown under a true law called fraud.

What makes fraud a true law? If I choose to make a product that is identical to someone else's but make no claims that it is an original, only people who sold it under false pretences would be committing fraud. Without trademarks or design protection I would be free to make identical copies from inferior materials and sell them, people could then claim that they don't know whether they're original or not.
Well, that's when the original company starts to sell certificates of authenticity. I see nothing wrong with making an identical as long as you claim its not from another company than your own. It's their property.
Now only if we had some way to hash physical objects, then we could use encryption to make unforgable certificates of authenticity...

EDIT:
The vanilla GPL allows for the code to be locked as long as it is not distributed, so I don't think it would be that different in a world without copyright.
The vanilla GPL wasn't made for a world of software-as-a-service, which is why the AGPL was written to fix this modern loophole. In the era of the vanilla GPL, software was actually distributed to end users. If copyright was abolished we'd still see locked down versions of free software desktop apps, and sites hosting AGPL software without the source code.
Though, in a world without copyright, one leak of the source would be sufficient.
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July 02, 2011, 01:06:02 AM
 #16

I doubt anybody wishes to purchase counterfeit products. Nobody likes being lied to. This whole trademark debate can be thrown under a true law called fraud.

What makes fraud a true law? If I choose to make a product that is identical to someone else's but make no claims that it is an original, only people who sold it under false pretences would be committing fraud. Without trademarks or design protection I would be free to make identical copies from inferior materials and sell them, people could then claim that they don't know whether they're original or not.
Well, that's when the original company starts to sell certificates of authenticity. I see nothing wrong with making an identical as long as you claim its not from another company than your own. It's their property.
Now only if we had some way to hash physical objects, then we could use encryption to make unforgable certificates of authenticity...

And forgery is a type of fraud. The people who bought the fake ones would have a case against the company who sold them.

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July 02, 2011, 01:17:00 AM
 #17

As per the subject, do the hard-core libertarians here support intellectual property? Are copyrights, patents, trademarks, trade secrets, personality rights and other notions of information as property justified, given that they are essentially state-sponsored monopolies, regulations that infringe on people's freedoms of expression, trade and action, often by use of force.

However, without copyright we wouldn't have free software or huge investments in proprietary software, without patents all inventions would be secret, without trademarks there would be no high quality brands due to market saturation by counterfeiting, and so on and so on.

So which information should be protected by regulation and/or treated as property, and why?
Libertarians are heavily divided over this issue. There are basically three schools of thought:

1) Information wants to be free. Intellectual property is an oxymoron, a fiction that can only be sustained by government fiat. Contracts that purport to restrict information are invalid and unenforceable, akin to slavery.

2) Intellectual property is just as real as physical property. Your idea is yours. Governments should enforce intellectual property rights laws substantially similar to the copyright and patent laws we have today. (With some people having exceptions for particular things, like some agree with patent but not copyright, some would exempt software from patents, and so on.)

3) Intellectual property rights are contractually-acquired rights. For example, when you buy a book, you could agree not to make copies of it. To, say, buy or rent a DVD, you might have to agree not to distribute it. Libertarian societies could have intellectual property, but always formed by contracts and not anything like our intellectual property laws today.

My own view is complicated to explain, but it's somewhere between 2 and 3. At root, intellectual property should arise out of contracts, but the government has no choice but to pass a number of laws to control how this will work because otherwise it will be impossible to fairly enforce those contracts.

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myrkul
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July 02, 2011, 01:20:41 AM
 #18

Libertarians are heavily divided over this issue. There are basically three schools of thought:

Allow me to add a fourth:

If Intellectual property is to be treated as property, let it be treated as property. When I buy the book, I buy the data in it, too. I can do whatever I want with my property, digital or physical.

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July 02, 2011, 01:27:52 AM
 #19

Libertarians are heavily divided over this issue. There are basically three schools of thought:

Allow me to add a fourth:

If Intellectual property is to be treated as property, let it be treated as property. When I buy the book, I buy the data in it, too. I can do whatever I want with my property, digital or physical.
I think that is 1, just phrased differently. Well, let's see:

Suppose I break into your house and take pictures of a manuscript you were working on. Then I email the digital pictures to Fred, saying "Here is a valuable manuscript I 'stole' from myrkul. If Fred publishes your manuscript knowing I stole it (but not conspiring with me), and you lose a publishing contract because of it, can you sue Fred? (Because of his use of stolen information, even though no physical object was stolen.)

If you say "yes", then you have a fourth, because you really do treat information as property (though it's actually then more like 2). If you say "no", then this is 1, just phrased differently, since you refuse to treat stolen information as stolen property.

Quote
When I buy the book, I buy the data in it, too. I can do whatever I want with my property, digital or physical.
Well, what if in order to buy the book you have to sign a contract that says you won't copy or distribute it? Is that okay? If no, then this is 1. If yes, then this is 3.

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July 02, 2011, 01:52:33 AM
 #20

If information is revealed out of breach of contract, one should not punish the ones who have received the information by memory erasure or the ceasing of their current property. Only the breacher of the contract should be held liable.
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