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Against Monopoly

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Monopoly corrupts. Absolute monopoly corrupts absolutely.





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Professors Claiming Copyright Over Their Lectures: or, The Increasingly Evident Injustice of IP

See the great post from Mike Masnick, Professors Claiming Copyright Over Their Lectures, about the ridiculous case of some Harvard Professors claiming copyright in their lectures, jeopardizing the rights of students to take notes (this is so opposite the approach of the heroic MIT). I mused in an email, "what idiot can ever think this is libertarian," and my compadre Manuel Lora replied, "it's tricky. We've been told that we should get the fruits of our labor for hundreds of years. IP opposition goes against the grain."

Great point. I think this has been a "dark horse" issue for so long for a few reasons. First, most non-libertarians are so statist and legislation-accepting, that they accept the common wisdom. Second, IP law is so arcane and convoluted that it's not understood well by most non-specialist libertarians--so they sort of just assume it's part of property law but just some boring, specialized area. The few libertarians who try to justify it on principle, like Rand or Galambos or Schulman, are so overboard or passionate that libertarians who only casually look at this assume they are right.

And a third reason is that until the digital, Internet revolution the abuse and injustice has been more limited and less visible. But I think with the increasingly visible examples of increasingly unjust applications, principled libertarians can see more and more easily that IP is poppycock. So that when they hear nonsense like "two copyrights" and just envisions students being sued for ... taking notes, they know it's all baloney.

We just need to persuade them it's not fixable--it's inherently screwed up. It can't be fixed. It has to go.

[Mises post; SK post]


Comments

It gets even more ridiculous. I am a student at the federal medical school, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, where all professors are federal employees. Nevertheless, we have many professors who've been so brainwashed by the prevailing paradigm that they decline to give students the Powerpoint files associated with their lectures. This, despite the fact that their Powerpoints are obviously in the public domain and that they, by virtue of receiving a paycheck, have been fairly compensated for the work of producing the lectures.
To above commenter:

Drop the term "FOIA" on them and that should bring them back to reality.

BTW, it is not that the professors are brainwashed. It is that no one has taken them aside and explained the significance of their being federal employees. There is no "But I am a doctor" exception to copyright law.

The professors' lectures are indeed the professors' intellectual property. I'm a libertarian who has often argued the principle behind this.

All that needs to be recognised to remedy the mess caused by copyright is that: 1) Delivering the lectures to the recipients in the lecture hall, clearly constitutes delivery of the professor's IP - as much as the recipients are able to receive and choose to record. 2) No-one should be granted an unnatural reproduction monopoly over their lectures.

So, just abolish copyright. There's nothing unethical or unnatural about IP, only the 18th century reproduction monopolies that have been nefariously granted.


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