Coercion = Intellectual Property Rights?

Paul Hughes (planetp@aci.net)
Sat, 19 Dec 1998 00:08:35 -0800

Ok, perhaps I haven't thought about this issue deeply enough, so I'm bringing it to this forum for some elucidation. Something has always bothered me about intellectual property rights, as the notion of owning an "idea" or "meme" strikes me as absurd. This list and extropians in particular have gone to great lengths to defend the notion that government enforcement equates to coercion. However, it seems to be those same extropians who seem to defend the notion of property rights and the necessary legal
(i.e. government) restrictions and enforcement necessary to
maintain it. I'll *try* to argue my point that defending and enforcing intellectual property rights can itself be a most pernicious from of coercion.

I want to say up front, that I understand and empathize with an intellectual or creative individual wanting to receive just compensation for their own creation. Despite that, I can't help but reach some contradictory conclusions about my own feelings and those of other extropians who have strong and apparent contradictory feelings themselves.


What would people think if I decided to copyright the english language? People might immediately say, but you didn't invent it so you have no right to it either. Ok, what if I decided to copyright the word "organic" after my multi-billion dollar company of the same name? I didn't invent the word "organic" either, yet companies are doing this all the time. Lets say that my last name is McDonald, and that I can trace back my lineage to that name further than the original owner of the Multi-billion dollar fast food chain. And I decided to open a small business online called "McDonald's Electronics". No doubt, I will be sued by the fast food chain, and loose in a court of law and then forced by the strong arm of government to change the name of my business. Can somebody here tell me how this is *not* state-sponsored coercion? Is this not coercion to prohibit me from using my own name and proud lineage, because somebody else happened to get the government to prohibit anybody else from using that name before I did? How is this not coercion? This type of nonsense happens all the time. What about the guy who opened a couple of vegetarian restaurants called McDharma's? This wasn't even the same name, but alas he was prohibited from ever using it again. How is this not coercion?

Ok, so far I have focused on simple trademark law as opposed to intellectual protection of entire works of art or literature. The question is, where do we draw the line? At 10 words, at 100 words at 1000 words? And if we were to establish this N number of words as the minimum words to consider it unique, who not N-1 or N+1? Sounds pretty arbitrary to me. Are we as extropians hypocrites in advocating #5 of the Extropian Principles 3.0:

(5. Open Society Supporting social orders that foster freedom
of speech, freedom
of action, and experimentation. Opposing authoritarian social control and favoring the rule of law and decentralization of power. Preferring bargaining over battling, and exchange over compulsion. Openness to improvement rather than a static utopia.)

while conveniently ignoring the non-technological enforcement of copyright law? Again, in my bones I can't help but feel that defending strong protection of intellectual property (without taking personal responsibility for its protection) is very contradictory to the spirit of what brought me to extropianism in the first place.

What am I suggesting? Well, as extropians embracing technological solutions over governmental ones, I propose that it is more in line with the individualistic self-direction principles that if your creative work means that much to you, then it is *you* who must take responsibility to protect your work from theft or fraud and not resorting to the strong arm of government to do it for you. And if someone manages to bypass your copyright protection encryption, then it is your responsibility to strengthen your encryption.

By the way, nobody invented my genes either, yet companies are already staking claim to that too. If that is not theft, then what is? My body is mine and so our my genes. If I want to use the contents of my genes to create a new miracle drug, then that is my right and nobody has the right to use government coerced fantastical notions of "property" to have sole province over my works. At the very least, since everyone has those genes, then everyone has ownership of them.

Ok, bring on the arguments, but please no flames! Lets keep this civil. :-)

Paul Hughes