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Cogito ergo sum

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Is Intellectual Property a legitimate concept?

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  • Originally posted by Sparko View Post
    Since I never said anything about trying to deceive anyone, I can only assume this is a red herring that you are using to avoid the issue.

    To me the creator has rights to his creation. Whether that creation is a hammer, a song, or a formula for a soft drink. Without his idea and expression of it, the creation would not even exist to be copied. I also believe that a person has a right to try to benefit from their labor, whether that labor is building a unique item, or writing a unique song. If anyone can just take that labor and use it for themselves without compensation to the creator, then that is basically slavery. If I build a widget that nobody has ever thought of before, and you have more money than me and can make 1 million widgets where I can only make 100, you basically stole my labor and my widget and turned me into a slave. Sure I still have my 100 widgets, but where I might have been able to sell each one for a nice profit, you flooding the market with 1 million widgets cuts the price of MY creation down to just pennies and my 100 widgets are essentially worthless. I created something and you benefited from me.

    The next time I come up with a widget, why even bother making it? I know it will just be stolen by you and cut me out of making a living on it. So I won't make any more widgets. I will either just sit on my butt, or steal someone else's widgets. Pretty soon you have a world where nobody is making anything new. They just want to leech off of everyone else's ideas. And nobody creates anything.

    It is basically socialism, not libertarianism at all. The whole society just falls apart in a type of welfare state, where nothing gets done.

    I don't want to live in such a world. And the only reason you do is because you want "free stuff" that you don't have to invent or pay for. That is real theft and deception. Darth E is correct, we have IP laws to protect us from parasites.

    Don't be a parasite.
    A most excellent post. I didn't want to use the s-word though I thought it. You weren't so reticent.
    The State. Ideas so good they have to be mandatory.

    sigpic

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    • Originally posted by Sparko View Post
      Since I never said anything about trying to deceive anyone, I can only assume this is a red herring that you are using to avoid the issue.
      I am bringing the issue of deception into this because there is a difference between IP violations strictly speaking and fraud. You have been conflating between the two and I am trying to explain why that is not appropriate. If you wish to move on, please by all means do so.

      To me the creator has rights to his creation. Whether that creation is a hammer, a song, or a formula for a soft drink. Without his idea and expression of it, the creation would not even exist to be copied. I also believe that a person has a right to try to benefit from their labor, whether that labor is building a unique item, or writing a unique song. If anyone can just take that labor and use it for themselves without compensation to the creator, then that is basically slavery. If I build a widget that nobody has ever thought of before, and you have more money than me and can make 1 million widgets where I can only make 100, you basically stole my labor and my widget and turned me into a slave. Sure I still have my 100 widgets, but where I might have been able to sell each one for a nice profit, you flooding the market with 1 million widgets cuts the price of MY creation down to just pennies and my 100 widgets are essentially worthless. I created something and you benefited from me.

      The next time I come up with a widget, why even bother making it? I know it will just be stolen by you and cut me out of making a living on it. So I won't make any more widgets. I will either just sit on my butt, or steal someone else's widgets. Pretty soon you have a world where nobody is making anything new. They just want to leech off of everyone else's ideas. And nobody creates anything.
      This is a dandy illustration but in the real world it is and would be much more nuanced. First of all, as Joel points out where does this leave innovation on your product? If the person who took your idea implemented it of higher quality, or slightly changed it but nevertheless improved it, would he be stealing it? Would not competition of different manufacturers of the same idea lead to lower prices, better quality and faster improvements? It's not like the resources aren't scarce anymore. Second, what if the reason the person who took your idea succeeds is precisely because he has more resources and better quality than you? If you made a drug for HIV would you not be happy if it can get to more people in a purer state? Alternatively, what if your 100 copies are of superior quality? It is not unimaginable that a small but committed or even large crowd would ultimately choose your product over the other guy's if it were higher quality. Of course, there are countless other nuances and alternatives to the example you gave I see no reason to assume the worst here.

      It is basically socialism, not libertarianism at all. The whole society just falls apart in a type of welfare state, where nothing gets done.
      Because it's not like you still need capital and labor to produce the invention and for countless inventions people won't want or be able to make it themselves making a market still present for the goods.

      I don't want to live in such a world. And the only reason you do is because you want "free stuff" that you don't have to invent or pay for. That is real theft and deception. Darth E is correct, we have IP laws to protect us from parasites.

      Don't be a parasite.
      Personal attacks and psychologizing have no place here. In my post that was quoted at the beginning of this thread I explicitly stated that although I reject IP I do follow the law (and have incentive to - vinyl records - another example showing that the issue is more nuanced than your paragraphs above make it out to be), and I probably would in general if not in whole continue to do so if IP were repealed. I am, however, against the restrictions on individuals, businesses, and economies IP creates and find the concept to be unfounded from a philosophical standpoint.

      Comment


      • Originally posted by GioD View Post
        I am, however, against the restrictions on individuals, businesses, and economies IP creates and find the concept to be unfounded from a philosophical standpoint.
        Would you mind fleshing this out?



        Sparko, I'm curious where you draw the line on IP, and perhaps property rights in general. Is there a statute of limitations on private access? Is there a minimum to how much someone else can modify your idea before they're allowed to call it their own?
        I'm not here anymore.

        Comment


        • Originally posted by GioD View Post
          This is a dandy illustration but in the real world it is and would be much more nuanced. First of all, as Joel points out where does this leave innovation on your product? If the person who took your idea implemented it of higher quality, or slightly changed it but nevertheless improved it, would he be stealing it?
          We do that now. But you have to reverse engineer a product and not merely copy it first.

          Would not competition of different manufacturers of the same idea lead to lower prices, better quality and faster improvements? It's not like the resources aren't scarce anymore.
          Not in your world. because anyone can just copy the improvement and you will not be able to make profit on your improved invention. Your IP free world would only work in a society that had no need for money, basically the Star Trek universe with replicators.

          Second, what if the reason the person who took your idea succeeds is precisely because he has more resources and better quality than you? If you made a drug for HIV would you not be happy if it can get to more people in a purer state? Alternatively, what if your 100 copies are of superior quality? It is not unimaginable that a small but committed or even large crowd would ultimately choose your product over the other guy's if it were higher quality. Of course, there are countless other nuances and alternatives to the example you gave I see no reason to assume the worst here.
          There is nothing stopping someone from making something and giving it away now if they want. You don't HAVE to enforce your IP. Or you could keep your rights and allow people to copy it, but only under certain conditions (perhaps to prevent someone from misusing your invention) - in an IP free world there is no such choice or protection.




          Because it's not like you still need capital and labor to produce the invention and for countless inventions people won't want or be able to make it themselves making a market still present for the goods.
          yourself. If nobody can make any money selling their inventions, then they cannot afford to hire labor and banks will not lend them capital to throw away on something that can't sell. The entire economy would collapse.


          Personal attacks and psychologizing have no place here. In my post that was quoted at the beginning of this thread I explicitly stated that although I reject IP I do follow the law (and have incentive to - vinyl records - another example showing that the issue is more nuanced than your paragraphs above make it out to be), and I probably would in general if not in whole continue to do so if IP were repealed. I am, however, against the restrictions on individuals, businesses, and economies IP creates and find the concept to be unfounded from a philosophical standpoint.
          I completely agree that our system of IP needs overhauling and is misused on many levels. This is generally the fault of greedy lawyers. An example would be making copies of movies and music that you paid for in one format (blueray or CD for example) and wanting to rip it to a digital format to store on another device (like your computer or phone). As long as you have paid for the item already and only want to use it for personal use, there should be no restrictions on making backups or other format copies. To add such idiotic restrictions is pure greed. But what we have is better than NO IP rights at all.

          Comment


          • Originally posted by Carrikature View Post
            Would you mind fleshing this out?



            Sparko, I'm curious where you draw the line on IP, and perhaps property rights in general. Is there a statute of limitations on private access? Is there a minimum to how much someone else can modify your idea before they're allowed to call it their own?
            I don't think you should be able to have protection on an IDEA, just a specific implementation of it. Using our hammer example, I can come up with the concept of joining two pieces of wood together by using a stick of metal and a bludgeoning device but I have no exclusive right to that idea. If I invent a device that uses that concept, then I have the rights to that product. But not other implementations. Someone else might come up with using a rock to hit a nail. or someone else might invent a screwdriver and screws, or a pneumatic punch to drive the nails. They each have rights to their own invention. As far as modifying an existing design, it would depend on the complexity of the design. If they had to use my invention to create theirs, then they should have to pay me a royalty (example would be creating a color TV if I invented a black and white one. The basic design and function would be based on my invention and design and they could not create their color tv unless they first knew exactly how my TV worked and used that as a starting point, complete with circuits). If it is something they can just reverse-engineer without stealing my design (like looking at a hammer and then saying "hey, lets add a claw to the other end to put the nails out") then more power to them. If the people who invented the color TV did not have to know anything about my black and white TV and just replicated the function on their own using their own design and circuits, then I would have no rights in the new invention because merely the idea of watching pictures broadcast to a receiver is not patentable.

            Comment


            • Originally posted by Sparko View Post
              Not in your world. because anyone can just copy the improvement and you will not be able to make profit on your improved invention.
              You keep making this claim, but it's just not true, as I keep pointing out.
              And continue to give more reasons and examples. Here's some more:

              It turns out in the real world that "first-mover advantage" is huge. The person inventing the widget (or the improvement) has a huge advantage from being initially the only one to know the idea. I understand that this advantage is known and studied theoretically in game theory. Being the first one with the new product on sale is very profitable. It takes time and money for the competition to reverse engineer the product. And efforts at reverse engineering and copying are typically taken only on those products that are known to be successful and profitable (by virtue of their having already sold a lot and been profitable). The first mover naturally has a short-term monopoly, even without a legal monopoly. And then the first mover is also more experienced than those who follow. The first mover gets the first chance to gain reputation and consumer loyalty. And the businessman who keeps innovating, without IP, can stay one step ahead of the competition and keep out-competing them.

              Here's another way: The person who discovers the improved widget and knows that it will make the old widget obsolete could short-sell the old widget and then simply release the plans for the improved widget to the public.

              Here's another way: The person who discovers the improved widget can go to the maker of the original widget (or some other manufacturer) and sell them the opportunity to be the first-mover making the improved widgets. (This is useful for the inventor who doesn't have the resources to be the first mover himself.)

              And there is lots of empirical evidence that there is a significant first-mover advantage in pharmaceuticals, motion pictures, books, music, etc. Studies of firms have also shown that only a minority of innovative businessmen think IP protections are helpful, and that they much more value secrecy, being the first mover, and sales of complementary goods.

              If nobody can make any money selling their inventions, then they cannot afford to hire labor and banks will not lend them capital to throw away on something that can't sell. The entire economy would collapse.
              This doesn't make any sense. Like saying that nobody drives in city X because there's too much traffic.
              Or more directly, it's like saying nobody will grow grain because nobody can make any money selling it because everybody does (or because anyone can). Anybody can grow grain, yet labor and capital is in fact invested (profitably) in growing grain. The economy did not collapse because of the widespread copying of the ideas and innovations of agriculture. Quite the opposite.

              Comment


              • Originally posted by Joel View Post
                You keep making this claim, but it's just not true, as I keep pointing out.
                And continue to give more reasons and examples. Here's some more:

                It turns out in the real world that "first-mover advantage" is huge. The person inventing the widget (or the improvement) has a huge advantage from being initially the only one to know the idea. I understand that this advantage is known and studied theoretically in game theory. Being the first one with the new product on sale is very profitable. It takes time and money for the competition to reverse engineer the product. And efforts at reverse engineering and copying are typically taken only on those products that are known to be successful and profitable (by virtue of their having already sold a lot and been profitable). The first mover naturally has a short-term monopoly, even without a legal monopoly. And then the first mover is also more experienced than those who follow. The first mover gets the first chance to gain reputation and consumer loyalty. And the businessman who keeps innovating, without IP, can stay one step ahead of the competition and keep out-competing them.

                Here's another way: The person who discovers the improved widget and knows that it will make the old widget obsolete could short-sell the old widget and then simply release the plans for the improved widget to the public.
                Why would the public buy the widget? They could just copy it.

                Here's another way: The person who discovers the improved widget can go to the maker of the original widget (or some other manufacturer) and sell them the opportunity to be the first-mover making the improved widgets. (This is useful for the inventor who doesn't have the resources to be the first mover himself.)
                Again, why would the original inventor pay the new guy if he can just copy it for free?


                This doesn't make any sense. Like saying that nobody drives in city X because there's too much traffic.
                Or more directly, it's like saying nobody will grow grain because nobody can make any money selling it because everybody does (or because anyone can). Anybody can grow grain, yet labor and capital is in fact invested (profitably) in growing grain. The economy did not collapse because of the widespread copying of the ideas and innovations of agriculture. Quite the opposite.
                Grain is a commodity used in the production of goods. The value is in the quantity available to supply the material for those goods. Yet each of those goods are protected by the rights of the people who create the snack cakes, flour, etc.

                Comment


                • Originally posted by Sparko View Post
                  We do that now. But you have to reverse engineer a product and not merely copy it first.
                  From what I know of patent law (which I admit is not a lot) there are ways currently patents are used to restrict innovation as well as direct copying, but they may be rarer than I think and maybe moderate reform (see below) would work better in the end.

                  Not in your world. because anyone can just copy the improvement and you will not be able to make profit on your improved invention. Your IP free world would only work in a society that had no need for money, basically the Star Trek universe with replicators.

                  yourself. If nobody can make any money selling their inventions, then they cannot afford to hire labor and banks will not lend them capital to throw away on something that can't sell. The entire economy would collapse.
                  The improvements I described went beyond IP and required a certain amount of investment in terms of capital, management and labor. The fact of the matter is, even it the ideas are free to copy not everyone will do so because they can only invest their time and money in so many things and getting the item pre-made would be superior - a market for the goods would still exist. Ancient farmers and fishermen didn't patent their methods or inventions but there was still a market for their goods, because even with the know-how and tools free to be copied not everyone wanted to invest their time doing their own farming and fishing. As for quality, not every company would have the money or time to make it all of the same quality, so a broad range of types would become available.

                  I completely agree that our system of IP needs overhauling and is misused on many levels. This is generally the fault of greedy lawyers. An example would be making copies of movies and music that you paid for in one format (blueray or CD for example) and wanting to rip it to a digital format to store on another device (like your computer or phone). As long as you have paid for the item already and only want to use it for personal use, there should be no restrictions on making backups or other format copies. To add such idiotic restrictions is pure greed. But what we have is better than NO IP rights at all.
                  Maybe you're right. Although I reject the philosophical foundations for ANY IP, perhaps from a purely pragmatic or economic POV moderate change in the system (or gradual abolishment of IP) is superior. I'll have to mull over the practical side of it more.

                  Comment


                  • Originally posted by Carrikature View Post
                    Would you mind fleshing this out?
                    Basically I think current IP law does not allow competition between businesses to fully apply (at least for a period of time) and therefore businesses cannot compete freely on many new inventions and one who makes or would make the best quality product for the lowest price cannot rise to the top as one would expect in truly free conditions. Correspondingly I believe this raises the price without maximizing quality for the product in a manner that harms consumers, while the lowered degree of competition does not allow the economy to grow as fully as possible over the invention. I am also against the penalties individuals can suffer by pirating digital media, although I do not personally do this or think it is a wise idea.

                    Comment


                    • Originally posted by Sparko View Post
                      Why would the public buy the widget? They could just copy it.
                      Why would anyone buy grain, since they can just copy it, by growing it themselves?
                      Both the grain and the widget require capital investment, know-how, resources, labor, time, etc. to copy (i.e., produce). People don't produce everything for themselves because they see the added value of division of labor.

                      You may then say, okay, that's true for manufactured goods, but what about things that are easily and quickly copied by anyone, like an mp3?
                      Yes, there is a difference there, and because of that I think it is easier to argue against patents than to argue against copyright (in the scope of the utilitarian argument).
                      However, even there we find that lots of people still do purchase books, music, movies, etc, even though people can find these things for free online. I remember seeing a study even showing that those whose illegal music collections are the largest are also the people who purchase the most music. I've read about evidence that small-time publishers sell more books if they also make their works available for free online than otherwise (the latter tend to remain in obscurity).

                      Note also that lots of people place a value on getting the book/game/music early. People pre-order. This again is the first-mover advantage. Sure, someone can wait until it is widely available online (which may not happen for less successful works), but people can similarly wait until the product on the shelf drops in price, which drop always seems to happen (or get cheaper used, or for rent). But people do pay extra to get it earlier (otherwise sellers wouldn't price high at first and then drop price later). Movies also capture more first-mover advantage by first showing in theaters.

                      Again, why would the original inventor pay the new guy if he can just copy it for free?
                      Besides the point that he can't produce widgets with zero cost, in this example the producer is paying the inventor primarily for his silence--to not go tell all the other producers. So that the first-mover advantage is bigger.

                      Depending on the nature of the innovation the inventor may be able to keep the secret a secret from the producer, and thus the producer pays the inventor to reveal the secret to the producer. But in that particular case I mainly had in mind the idea of the producer paying for silence.

                      Grain is a commodity used in the production of goods. The value is in the quantity available to supply the material for those goods. Yet each of those goods are protected by the rights of the people who create the snack cakes, flour, etc.
                      My argument didn't depend on whether the good is a consumer good or only a factor of production of other goods (i.e. "captial good").
                      If you think it does matter, we could use a different example, say, loaves of bread, which anyone is free to make, yet people still invest resources in making bread. (Anyone can make flour too.) But it doesn't matter whether the good is a consumer good or capital good. In both cases people in fact still invest in producing things in the face of unhampered competition.

                      It's also not the case that "each of those goods" is under IP. I'd say a small proportion of goods are under patents or copyright. Even those snack cakes you mention I doubt are usually patented. Most name-brand food products in the store also have a virtually identical 'generic' version.

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