Re: intellectual theft*

From: Pat Fallon (
Date: Sun Aug 13 2000 - 21:02:55 MDT

[Non-member submission]

Zero Powers wrote:

> >From: "Josephine Smith" <>
> >If you abandon the concept of *fair* and the rather flaccid view of *well,
> >that's just the way things are....." and instead ask "What are the
> >consequences of this state of affairs and how can things be made better?"
> >you may well improve a situation.
> Agreed. Many people reflexively assume that it is "fair" to allow content
> providers to monopolize their creations, yet at the same time exploit them
> for perpetual financial gain. Is it "fair" for me to be able to write a
> song in half an hour, and reap royalty payments from it for the rest of my
> life, while the next guy spends half a year building a house and sells it
> for a one time payment, never to see another dime from his investment?

Good point. Suppose a rock band, Aaron and the Analogs, decides not to release

a CD, but instead play exclusively live, and stipulate that no one may bring
any recording equipment in to the concert. They check everyone entering for
recording equipment. To the extent they can deter pirating, they are
monetarily rewarded for every note they play. But they must build a following
club by club, with no broadcast airplay, if they want to discourage free

Another group, Diaz and the Digitals, record a CD at home, and send out their
hot single to every radio station they can think of. Some listeners tape the
song and burn their own copies without paying them. A small percentage of
listeners like the song enough to seek out the CD and buy it or tickets to
their live shows. It's marketing.

How musicians market their music is their business. The 'publicness' of a
good, which allows free-ridership, is not
an inherent characteristic but a function of the manner it is produced,
marketed, or even of the relevant unit in which the
information is imbedded.

Further, costs of exclusion are involved in the production of many goods. For
the owner of a movie theater, these exclusion costs include paying for walls,
ticket windows, ushers. These serve to exclude or fence out 'freeriders'. Now
they could set up projectors and show the movies on screens in the open, and
then attempt to prevent casual passerbys from watching. The method of marketing

their product is their choice. In the case where their marketing decision
results in the publicness of a good, it seems to me to be grossly unjust to ask

the government to force all who might potentially see the show without paying
to kick in some bucks, whether they DO in fact see the show or not. Or to force

passerbys to don glasses that prevent them from viewing the movie. Yet the
proponents of property rights in ideas choose such a method when they attempt
to get every person purchasing a blank tape to pay a royalty to a third party.
Alternatively, as with DAT tape recorders, their proposals sought to ban or
cripple entire technologies. This method, done in the name of preventing
technologies which are capable of recording publicized (broadcast) music
without loss of fidelity, would make mere ownership of tangible property (DAT
recorder) a crime. I view proposals for such an implementation of property
rights in ideas, which wipe out other areas of property rights altogether, as

I don't support the ownership of ideas. You can imbed your idea in tangible
physical objects and try to exercise control over that object with contracts,
etc. If we privatize the enforcement of contracts, let those who want to "own"

ideas pay for the enforcement of that contract. Market forces will probably
lead the computer programmer to tie a perceived value to the registration of
their program (cheap upgrades, technical support, etc.); rather than paying for

a protection agency that tries to police the digital information realm. But
they would be welcome to try to enforce a contract against copying a program
that the purchaser would sign when he buys the product. I just wouldn't
subscribe to a protection agency that used some of my
subscription fee to police copyright protection.

Pat Fallon

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