Saturday, 4 July 2015

Butler Schaffer, "A Libertarian Critique of Intellectual Property" (2014)

This is an extended essay published by the libertarian-slanted (Ludwig von) Mises Institute, located in Alabama. Schaffer is an Associate Professor at the Southwestern University School of Law. In 2013, the Institute awarded Schaffer $10,000 for his "lifetime defence of liberty."

Schaffer's argument is not as radical as it might sound. He is not an anarchist. His criticism of intellectual property laws is that they provide incorporated bodies ('artificial' persons recognized by law) with the power to limit, control, and profit from ideas that would better benefit society as part of the creative, communicative commons. He does not suggest that property should be abolished, but that ownership of property should be limited to 'natural' persons, for information that they choose not to send forth into the community. He does raise the prospect, though, that in reality no ideas are built truly independently of the knowledge of others, thus implying that intellectual property laws should be rendered null and void.

QUOTATIONS, AND NOTES by Gregory Klages:
"...only human beings—“persons”—should be respected as property owners; that treating corporations, political institutions, and other abstractions as artificial “persons” represents a source of conflict we ought to reject."

"...the state becomes seen for what it is: an organizational tool of violence that is able to accomplish its purposes only through the willingness of its victims to accord it legitimacy. Such a practice allows lifeless fictions to transcend — and thus demean — the importance of individual human beings."

"...the essence of ownership is found in the capacity to control some resource in furtherance of one’s purposes, such a claim is lost once a product has been released to the public. The situation is similar to that of a person owning oxygen that is contained in a tank, but loses a claim to any quantity that might be released — by a leaky valve — into the air."

"True to their coercive and looting nature, governments have gone so far as to take from the 'public domain' words that belong to no one, and conferred a monopoly copyright upon various institutional interests. The word 'Olympics,' for instance, has been in common usage since at least the eighth century B.C. By political fiat, the International Olympic Committee now enjoys ownership of that word as a state-protected trademark."

"Is the creative process encouraged or hindered by this system of state-conferred monopolies? Creativity—like learning in general — is fostered by cross-fertilization and synthesis."

"The proposition that knowledge and ideas can be made the exclusive property of one who discovers or expresses what was previously unknown, is contrary to the nature of the intelligent mind, whose content is assembled from a mixture of the experiences of others and oneself. Even the language with which one formulates and communicates his or her understanding to others, has been provided by predecessors."

"If we truly believe that the creative process requires the state to grant to inventors and discoverers an immunity from having their works adopted by others, will we insist that modern producers either compensate the descendants of earlier creators for their preliminary work or, in the alternative, abandon their claims to rewards for their “originality”?"

"...the patenting process, as with government regulation generally, is an expensive and time-consuming undertaking that tends to increase industrial concentration."

"The current political mantra, “too big to fail,” is a product of the dysfunctional nature of size when an organization faces energized competition to which it must adapt if it is to survive."

"The state’s creation of patent and copyright interests doesn’t, by itself, prevent innovation by others, but it does erect hurdles that often discourage research…"

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