Re: Intellectual property

Michael Lorrey (
Mon, 24 Mar 1997 10:30:18 -0500

> by Benjamin Tucker
> The laws of Patent and Copyright are the means by which the State, that
> greatest of criminal and tyranical monopolies, grants special monopolistic
> privileges to a few at the expense of the many by protecting inventors and
> authors against competition for a period long enough to enable them to
> extort from the people a reward enormously in excess of the labour measure
> of their services. The abolition of these monopolies would fill their
> beneficiaries with a wholesome fear of competition which would cause them to
> be satisfied with pay for their services equal to that which other labourers
> get for theirs, and to secure it by placing their products and works on the
> market at the outset at prices so low that their lines of business would be
> no more tempting to competitors than any other lines.

If inventors produced intellectual property at the same rate as a
production worker produced cars, we would obviously need to make this
comparison. Unfortunately, inventions are rare beasts, coming few and
far between, after much research, thought, and study. The writer has
obviously never invented a thing, or he would realize that while the
breakthrough "Eureka" may be momentary, there is a long series of hours,
days, and weeks spent preparing the mind to make such acheivements. If
we account for these, we would see that, while the inventor still may be
highly paid for his or her invention, it would still be in line with
other professionals like doctors, lawyers, engineers. That inventors are
few and far between, and their inventions even rarer, if we assume a
free market based on relative scarcity, inventions are fairly
compensated for. For example: There have been approximately 5.5 million
inventions patented in the US in it entire history (mostly during
periods when patent rights are vigorously enforced, hint hint) while
laborers have worked approximately 25 x 10^13 hours in US history. This
means that in fair market value, the average invention is equal to 4.55
million man hours of physical labor in relative scarcity. If we value
the average man hour at as little as $1.00 per hour (which was typical
for the turn of the century, never mind that 2/3 of all workers have
lived since that time) we see that the fair market value for an average
invention is $4.55 million dollars.

Any responses to this quoting communist rhetoric and I will puke.

> The Patent and Copyright monopolies are a species of property rights which
> depend for their legitimacy on the subtle notion of "property in ideas". The
> defenders of such property set up an analogy between the production of
> material things and the production of abstractions, and on the strength of
> it declare that the manufacturer of mental products, no less than the
> manufacturer of material products, is a labourer worthy of his hire. So far,
> so good. But, to make out their case, they are obliged to go further, and to
> claim, in violation of their own analogy, that the labourer who creates
> mental products, unlike the labourer who creates material products, is
> entitled to exemption from competition. Because the Lord, in his wisdom, or
> the Devil, in his malice, has so arranged matters that the inventor and the
> author produce naturally at a disadvantage, man, in his might, proposes to
> supply the devine or diabloic deficiency by an artificial arrangement that
> shall not only destroy this disadvantage, but actually give the inventor and
> author an advantage that no labourer enjoys, - an advantage, moreover, which
> in practice, goes, not to the inventor and the author, but to the promoter
> and the publisher and the monopolist.

The fallacy in this argument is that someone who simply copies another's
invention is worthy of being called "competition" rather than being
called what he is: a theif.

That the majority of profit for an invention tends to go to the
promoter, publisher, or monopolist rather than the inventor is merely
indication of the corrupting influence such disparate levels of
preexisting power do to equal human rights, and why such legal remedies
for the average person is needed. If this were not the case, over 90% of
inventions would not occur, as they are invented by people with little
personal means. They sacrifice the majority of potential profits because
the are not able to accept the attendant risk involved, and sell out to
attain greater security, but that is a different issue not germain to
this argument excpet for this point.
> Convincing as the argument for property in ideas may seem at first hearing,
> if you think about it long enough, you will begin to be supicious. The first
> thing, perhaps, to arouse your suspicion will be the fact that none of the
> champions of such property propose the punishment of those who violate it,
> contenting themselves with subjecting the offenders to the risk of damage
> suits, and that nearly all of them are willing that even the risk of suit
> shall disappear when the proprietor has enjoyed his right for a certain
> number of years. Now, if, as the French writer, Alphonse Karr, remarked,
> property in ideas is a property like any other property, then its violation,
> like the violation of any other property, deserves criminal punishment, and
> its life, like that of any other property, should be secure in right against
> the lapse of time. And, this not being claimed by the upholders of property
> in ideas, the suspicion arises that such a lack of the courage of their
> conviction may be due to an instinctive feeling that they are wrong.

Here is another broken logic chain. Here the anarchist writer is quoting
a statist frenchman, advocating government solution. If we are to follow
the writers prior arguments, we would use labor law as a basis, and see
that all labor disputes are civil matters, where fines and compensation
are the norm, much like intellectual proporty disputes.

That workers earn pensions that pay after they retire from labor
indicates that even laborers earn a royalty on their work (while they
are partial contributors, their employer tends to pay the most).

As for the expiration of patent rights, I as this: parental rights
expire after 17 years, jsut as patent rights did prior to the GATT
treaty. As to my original arguments, creative capabilities, and the
recognised rights that protect them, of any kind, are irrevocably bound
up in each other. That the founders recognised this connection is
inherent in the regs stating such equal dates of expiry.

> I take it that, if it were possible, and if it had always been possible, for
> an unlimited number of individuals to use to an unlimited extent and in an
> unlimited number of places the same concrete things at the same time, there
> never would have been any such thing as the institution of property. Under
> those circumstances the idea of property would never have entered the human
> mind, or, at any rate, if it had, would have been summarily dismissed as too
> gross an absurdity to be seriously entertained for a moment. Had it been
> possible for the concrete creation or adaptation resulting from the efforts
> of a single individual to be used contemporaneously by all individuals,
> including the creator or adapter, the realization, or impending realization,
> of this possiblity, far from being seized upon as an excuse for a law to
> prevent the use of this concrete thing without the consent of its creator or
> adapter, and far from being guarded against as an injury to one, would have
> been welcomed as a blessing to all,- in short, would have been viewed as a
> most fortunate element in the nature of things. The raison d'etre of
> property is found in the very fact that there is no such possiblity,- in the
> fact that it is impossible in the nature of things for concrete objects to
> be used in different places at the same time. This fact existing, no person
> can remove from another's possession and take to his use another's concrete
> creation without thereby depriving that other of all opportunity to use that
> which he created, and for this reason it became socially necessary, since
> successful society rests on individual initiative, to protect the individual
> creator in the use of his concrete creations by forbidding others to use
> them without his consent. In other words, it became necessary to institute
> property in concrete things.

THis argument is to assume that there is only one plow in the entire
world, and one car, one ship, one computer, etc. That copies of products
can be produced and sold is indication of the fallacy of these claims.
WHat the writer is trying to do is equate ALL property under the
restrictions inherent on one form of property known as REAL ESTATE,
because real estate cannot be reproduced, it can only be divided, it
cannot be multiplied, at least on this planet. This is the central
fallacy of this entire argument, and voids it. These arguments on the
part of the writer are extremely entropian.

> Perpetual property in ideas, then, which is the logical outcome of any
> theory of property in abstract things, would, had it been in force in the
> lifetime of James Watt, have made his direct heirs the owners of at least
> nine-tenths of the now existing wealth of the world; and had it been in
> force in the lifetime of the inventor of the Roman alphabet, nearly all the
> highly civilized peoples of the earth would be today the virtual slaves of
> that inventor's heirs, which is but another way of saying that, instead of
> becoming highly civilized, they would have remained in the state of
> semi-barbarism. It seems to me that these two statements, which in my view
> are incontrovertible, are in themselves sufficient to condemn property in
> ideas forever.

Of course, and this is why there are no perpetual intellectual property
laws, much as parents cannot have perpetual rule over their children.