Against Monopoly

defending the right to innovate

Monopoly corrupts. Absolute monopoly corrupts absolutely.

Copyright Notice: We don't think much of copyright, so you can do what you want with the content on this blog. Of course we are hungry for publicity, so we would be pleased if you avoided plagiarism and gave us credit for what we have written. We encourage you not to impose copyright restrictions on your "derivative" works, but we won't try to stop you. For the legally or statist minded, you can consider yourself subject to a Creative Commons Attribution License.


Dissecting Boldrin and Levine: An Alternate View of Intellectual Property: More

Some thoughts:

The real justification for IP protection is not practical, but moral: stealing another's work is THEFT, and theft is wrong.

***If you believe that copyright is justified by appeal to some moral principle we cannot argue as we are not moral philosophers. The U.S. Constitution agrees with us however: the only justification is that it increases innovation and creation. The issue of theft is a red herring. Copying is not stealing. Why is it self-evident that because I have created a unique work I should have the right to tell other people what to do with it? Why do I have a right to tell other people from whom they may buy things?

B&L list numerous examples of works that brought their authors remunerative return in the absence of copyright laws...but [in the absence of copyright] struggling writers would be pushed from barely eking out an existence into giving up writing...

***Is it true that "struggling writers" will be pushed from barely eking out an existence? Do we care? After all if people do not care much for these works, then nobody will much care if they aren't created. More to the point, "struggling writers" do not benefit a great deal from copyright, and do not face much threat from "piracy". The technology that makes it easy to copy also creates great opportunities for "struggling writers" and the internet has been a boon for nascent creators of music and comic strips.

[In the discussion of the amount of money that would be earned by J. K. Rowling without copyright] one might ask, [what] is the relevance of the fact that Rowling worked as a "part-time French teacher"?

***The relevance is that there is no economic reason to pay her more than necessary to convince her to devote her time to writing books rather than her best alternative activity.

Many software writers choose to make their work available for free. So what? I don't belong to the cadre who claim that such a choice is subversive in some way, but this is not the equivalent of saying, "Therefore nobody should be paid for copies of their work whether they want to be or not."

***The point of course is that software writers earn money by giving software away for free. We are not opposed to software writers earning a living; in fact we are strongly in favor of it.

The actual worth of a work can be calculated as the sum of what each person on earth would willingly pay for a copy, if it could be obtained in no other way...

***This argument is pure theory, and unfortunately defective theory. For most reasonable specifications of production technologies, adding up the total contribution of each individual results in a number larger than the social total. A simple example suffices: there are two of us. There is a book that cannot be produced without both of our contributions. The book is worth $100. By the calculation above I have created a value of $100 which is what everyone in the world is willing to pay for something that will not exist without my effort. Ditto for you. So apparently the total payments for a book worth $100 are to be $200. Good work if you can get it. This is a very common confusion among non-economists. Fortunately from an economic perspective it is not necessary to pay everyone the total social value of everything that could not be accomplished without their contribution; it is necessary only to pay them the marginal cost of their effort (their "opportunity cost").

Full disclosure: I am a software author, whose work is available online for a price. It would be possible for any number of clever people to hack my program's security, and thus I have a personal reason for resenting any suggestion that the law should encourage such behavior. I can't help but wonder whether most opposition to IP protection comes from people who have produced nothing of value and who feel entitled to steal from anybody who has. That kind of attitude represents, to my mind, the decay of society, the equivalent of governments believing they are entitled to tax without limit from the productive because of the alleged "need" of recipients for the stolen loot.

***I also am a software author whose work is available online for a price. A number of clever people have hacked my program and made improvements, and I am very grateful to them for doing so.


I came up with an idea a few years ago that would help the current IP problem. When I say IP, I do mean both copyrights and patents. Let pretend that IP is property. Lets have IP property tax. Now, I generally vote republican, so I dislike the idea of new taxes, and new complicated laws and branches of government to deal with. To keep auditors at bay, I propose that the owner of the IP be able to state the value of their IP. They would then be taxed at some fixed rate. The feedback loop that would keep them from stating too low of a value is that the stated value is the sale price for the IP entering the public domain. If some genius comes up with a patent to make everyone's life better, they can say it is worth millions, but they better get their idea to market so society can take advantage of it. Or they can sit on it, and society can take advantage of the taxes. Or someone who can actually execute on the idea can pay the inventor for their genius and get to work bettering society. If the inventor was already working on bringing the idea to market, they would still be able to continue since their IP is public domain, not transferred. Either way IP would work for society again.

Rolling this out would also address orphaned works. If there is no stated value for the IP, it defaults to the public domain.

Since I generally vote republican, I would prefer that corporate and personal taxes for the following year are reduced by whatever the IP tax nets in the previous year. But this is such a mess, that I would be willing to see a net increase in taxes.

Dan Wheeler,

Electrical Engineer

Now, I generally vote republican, so I dislike the idea of new taxes, and new complicated laws and branches of government to deal with.


Since I generally vote republican, I would prefer that corporate and personal taxes for the following year (...)


Do your viewpoints seriously derive from which of two political parties you voted for? My parents voted republican, so I vote republican. I vote republican, so these are my views.

Perhaps you think saying which of two parties you voted for helps define your standpoint? In that case, let me tell you that a lot of other people generally vote republican too and most of them have views that differ from yours.

In my arrogant opinion, saying which political party you voted for doesn't really add anything at all.

In fact, voting itself probably doesn't add anything. You might as well forgo the whole republican / democrat thing altogether.

Dan, it's a good idea and would be an improvement. However, it more plainly reveals that even the existing system simply expends effort for no net gain. All those administrative costs and inefficiencies in a system that creates nothing except work for its administrators, and a net loss in liberty given the unnecessary constraint over inventors, entrepreneurs, and innovative businesses - a consequent reduction in the exploitation of human knowledge.

It would be far more energy efficient and more conducive to technological progressive simply to abolish patents (with or without your reformation) and focus on protecting inventors' exclusive right to their designs. And that's their NATURAL exclusive right, not the privilege of a monopoly that is subsequently granted to them and termed an exclusive right.

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