Re: Information & Power /Copyrights

Lee Daniel Crocker (
Fri, 7 May 1999 08:42:07 -0700 (PDT)

> Well, after looking back over the archives I can see that we aren't likely
> to come to a meeting of minds on this topic. I think that property rights
> are a necessary precondition of production and trade, and therefore that
> abolishing copyright would lead to a precipitous decline in the production
> of intellectual property. You apparently believe that abolishing copyright
> would actually lead to an increase in such production.

Yes, I too believe property rights are absolutely essential for production and trade. But the fundamental nature of "property" is something that can only be used by one person at a time. All physical property has that nature; trademarks have that nature; stories and songs do not. That's not an opinion, just a simple, objective fact of nature. Because of that fact, it is worth examining whether or not using the same social structure we use for excludable property makes sense for non-excludables. Most people merely assume it does--but that's just an assumption, and really needs to be examined more carefully.

> On the good side, at least this is a question of fact and not some
> unmeasurable philosophical issue. Unfortunately, what we really need to
> settle the issue is an example of an actual modern society without copyright
> laws. AFAIK there isn't any such place, so we are left with a distressing
> absence of data.

Our own society through most of its history is a good example. Copyrights and patents are a very recent innovation of the last century or two. Even as late as the 1800s, the US did not recognize foreign copyrights or patents (Charles Dickens' novels were often bootlegged in the states). Shakespeare, Milton, Chaucer; the great artists like Da Vinci and Rembrandt; composers Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven; all produced their works and earned their livings without benefit of copyright. Some countries even today still have no such laws (India being the prime example).

> Since you apparently don't accept the arguments from economic theory, or
> from historical precedent, I suppose we'll just have to continue to disagree
> until someone actually performs the experiment.

I gladly accept arguments from economics and history; please present one. The only arguments I ever hear are "Well, it's obvious that we must have..." or "There's no way to profit without...", both of which are merely argument by lack of imagination. The "historical" argument I most definitely do not accept is the meaningless "We've always done it this way...", especially when it's not even true.

Lee Daniel Crocker <> <>
"All inventions or works of authorship original to me, herein and past,
are placed irrevocably in the public domain, and may be used or modified
for any purpose, without permission, attribution, or notification."--LDC