Friday, January 23, 2009

Discussion of copyright law with Stephen Colbert

Mises Economics Blog has declared a war against Intellectual Property (IP) rights as non-rights and immoral utilitarian invention of totalitarian statists. For instance. Or this.

OK, lots of long words there — the thesis is: you can’t have a right to an idea. It’s non-scarce. Period. And all the claims that lack of IP will stifle intellectual creativity are disproved by successes in such industries as fashion or book industry still reprinting Dickens. And even if that were true that the intellectual creativity would be stifled, one still cannot violate people’s rights to their own property for the utilitarian reasons (that’s what socialism does — and… you know… bad!).

If you say you own an idea, what does this mean? You wrote a poem, and I memorized it. Do you own the memorized poem as it exists in my brain? If you do, you own my brain, which is impossible (unless we live in the Soviet Union, North Korea or France). So, how can you own an idea?

Or do you mean, perhaps, that your poem exists objectively, outside our minds, as some kind of Platonic abstract idea, which I always access in order to be conscious of this idea and think it? I.e., the idea is a resource which you own. Well, buddy, here is news — you can’t have rights to a non-scarce resource.

That’s basically their argument.

I personally am still researching the subject. (Well, when I say “researching”…) I have to say, I don’t completely understand the utilitarian part of it, even though I agree that it shouldn’t matter from ethical point of view.

In any event — a funny interview:

A bit disorganized and also utilitarian in his thinking (he seems liberal based on his gasoline comment, so I wouldn’t be surprised), but I think the point with e-Bay made some sense.

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