IP rights discussion

Just hoping to get some other points of view.

The Slashdot crowd and similar people like to call IP Imaginary Property to try to point out that there is no such thing and therefore it shouldn’t be treated like property. They like to point out that copying some music or a movie or software isn’t like stealing because the person who it was copied from has not lost their original

Well, playing devil’s advocate…

Money is effectively a fiction. It’s just a number in a computer database. When your employer pays you they don’t send physical money to the bank. They just tell the bank to subtract from their account number and add to your account number. It’s all virtual.

The point I’m trying to make is, we treat money exactly like the content creators wish we would treat IP. Money is virtual. I could adjust those numbers in the bank’s computer all I want. I could add more. It only works because we all agree it would be a bad thing if it didn’t work like that. We all agree (or I think we all agree) that duplicating money would be bad even though in actuality no one would lose any money if we allowed duplication.

So, why should IP be different? Why is it not okay to copy money but it IS okay to copy IP? Both money and IP represent labor…

I can think of a few differences. You can duplicate IP forever with no ill effects to anyone but possibly the creators or the people that funded them where as duplicating money forever would effect everyone. That’s a valid distinction but it doesn’t quite enough for the difference in thinking.

I guess my main point is it seems like most people approach it in the sense that IP is not like real property and copying is not stealing. It’s almost as though they see this ability to copy as something new and the push to stop the copying is something new. I think the money analogy points out that it’s not something new. We all agree copying money is bad so there is something that is effectively imaginary property that we all agree is bad to copy. I’m not sure we’d call it stealing. I guess we’d all it counterfitting although that doesn’t fit the copying IP stuff unless you try to sell it.

Basically I’m just thinking out loud. If you have some thoughts please share them.

  • Intellectual property is something that can be owned as easily as tangible personal property. A great idea is no less deserving of remuneration than any money, financial or capital market type of instrument (futures, bonds, hedge funds, etc). To the layman a great idea is arguably more tangible in that it is easier to grasp as a concept.

    It’s entirely fanciful and naive to call IP “imaginary property”. If everything in that realm has to be free and open source, then why are you drawing the line there? Isn’t that a bit arbitrary? Would you give 10% of your salary to the Mozilla Foundation? 30%? 100%? If you’re willing to develop, work on, something for free, then why not give away your entire salary?

    The foundation of IP is to reward someone’s good idea or hard work to encourage them to carry on, thereby enriching our collective knowledge.

    I think what it comes down to is ownership choice. I understand someone may be more magnanimous so they would like to offer their work under the various “free” licenses like GPL and Community Commons. But if others wish to profit off their work in a different manner, shouldn’t we allow them to? Isn’t imposing our will on someone with a more traditional business model be as villianous as the RIAA imposing their will on us by sending the houndogs after Napster downloaders? Yes, perhaps their business model is outdated. Yes, they could make just as much money from concert tickets or merchandise. Maybe the RIAA are scumbags and bullies. But two wrongs do not make one right and that doesn’t excuse us violating their rights of ownership. Is it something clearly against the law? Shouldn’t we all be good citizens? On the other hand if the law is clearly insane, e.g. not allowing us to copy tracks off CDs to put on our personal media players – entirely for personal use – well then I guess I’d “break” the law. Again though where do you draw the line of when to break and when not to?

    Anyway, please excuse my long and rambly comment 🙂 I too was simply thinking aloud.

    IP law and the way it is presented to society has got to be one of my favourite ranting topics. Ever watched that episode of South Park called “Christian Rock” (I think?) Where Cartman forms a Christian rock band and the rest of the gang get caught for downloading songs of the net?

  • xabi

    I guess I do not totally agree with your claim that in actuality no one would lose any money if money was duplicated.

    The price of a good can be thought of as either a) the simple money figure or b) the percentage of the total money supply that this good is worth. When the money supply in a country goes up, the prices of goods goes up (i.e. we get inflation). So if we duplicate money from person A and give it to person B (here I am assuming that in duplication, there is some redistribution, as in when copying a CD/game/etc.), then the money supply will go up. We should therefore expect the prices of goods to go up as well. However, person A loses because the $100 that he had before (and still has) does not buy him as many goods as before.

    Hope that’s clear. I agree with your points on IP though 🙂

  • That’s a semantic argument.

    The value of the money might go down but the money itself does not. We ban copying money because the value goes down if we allowed copying even though no one would lose any actual money .

    Similar arguments might be able to be made for IP. I’m only pointing out that money is something effectively “imaginary” for which we pass laws on what people can do with it. The “all IP should be free or unencumbered” crowd seems to think this idea that there should be laws that control something imaginary or virtual is ridiculous. I’m just pointing out we already have laws around virtual / imaginary stuff, ones even they would probably generally agree with.

  • theBishop
    “IP” is invalid

    There is no such thing as “Intellectual Property”. There are copyrights, patents, and trademarks, but not “Intellectual Property”. These issues must be debated separately.

    Your post is concerned with copyright specifically. And I generally agree with your points. While copyright infringement is certainly not “stealing” in the physical sense, the modern, information-based economy demands that creators determine the means by which their work is distributed.

  • kyteroo
    Intellectual Property term and Law textbooks

    Dear theBishop,

    If their is no such thing as “Intellectual Property” then all the law schools in the United States are liars. And, the legal textbook that I had in school with the title “Intellectual Property” was invisible or a complete lie. Now, one could argue, that property, being that it is without brain, can not be intellectual, but that would be silly.

    Concerning the blog post:

    I do agree with you on all your points.

    Personally, I would love to see the age where we can legally make our 1 back-up copy of the legal dvds (that the feds say we can make but in reality can’t) we own without being sued. Currently, software that works to make backups do not work on copyright protected dvds unless you get the one brand from China that works only when it wants too. I would also love to see the age where dvds never go out of print so that we wouldn’t have to worry about having a backup or not.

  • anonymouse
    the simplest solution is…

    to answer WHY is piracy so rampant! Somebody earlier asked that making 1 copy for personal use is OK and should be legal but making multiple copies should not.

    Why would someone make multiple copies?

    Well, atleast in most other ‘high piracy’ countries outside of the US and it’s ‘sphere of influence’, it is the cost of the software that pushes most people to buy pirated. And, correct me if I’m wrong, but people make multiple copies of software / music / movies / whatever to sell it cheaper than the rip-off price officially asked for – the seller is happy because he makes money without much initial investment, the buyer is happy because she gets an affordable bargain.

    If I understand Capitalism and Market forces correctly, to get a prospect to buy, my product must be either cheaper or better or both. So, then to make people buy from the originator (& not the copier) of the product, the originator must price the product enticingly. Because, with digital products, the copy is as good as the original, quality is not a differentiator. Only price remains as a key motivator to make a prospect buy from one and not the other.

    Or, of course, you go back to what was done historically, use your money and clout, gang up with other peers of your class, pressure the government and TRY to stamp the cheap-selling vermin out of existence.

    History bears witness, that that has never succeeded anywhere on a permanent basis.

    So… undercut the market and stamp out piracy!

  • anonymousTroy
    I’d just

    ignore the slashdot idiots. The current opt-in IP system is well-entrenched — its in the friggin’ Constitution FFS — and shows no sign of weakening.

    As an IP creator I try to keep my IP karma good by not ripping off things that I can & should buy . . . the answer to your question is the Golden Rule . . . treat others as we would like to be treated.

    “Both money and IP represent labor”

    Actually, the economic definitions here are useful and interesting in their own right. Money, technically, is not wealth, rather it is a claim on wealth.

    Wealth can be defined as physical goods that satisfy human needs and wants.

    IMO, IP falls into a subclass of wealth similar to capital goods — capital goods are things like tools that aid in the production of goods — so IP items are the capital components of music singles, game SKUs, etc. but are not consumed in this production of these consumer goods.

    Fundamentally, it simply comes down to the moral judgement that each individual should have the exclusive rights to the fruits of their labor.

    This right cannot be eternal, however, or we would become prisoners of the past. Walt Disney made his money ripping off 18th and 19th century fairy tales, and the Beatles needed to work through many covers until they found the creative chops to strike out on their own.

  • IP

    It’s easy to say there is no such thing as Intellectual Property…until YOURS gets stolen.  I had that experience just last week.  A product that I sell (a downloadable, digital product) was stolen and posted for free on Warez sites.  That is a product that I SELL.  Thankfully, my entire livelihood wasn’t resting on that product. 

  • I don’t think that IP is the same thing as tangible property. Nor do I think that we can apply the laws of stealing directly to IPs. However, I do believe that IP is certainly a real thing and the rights of creators do need to be protected.

    I’m not sure what the best way to do this is, though an important step is of course making legal distribution easier (ie, I watch Hulu far more than I watch TV. I enjoy that I can watch a show from my computer when I want, and the companies are still getting paid. I could watch it commercial free if I downloaded it, but I like supporting companies that are doing something for me).

  • Ford Ranger Forum

    I see good and bad behavior on the trains in Tokyo all the time. Even my little kid has experienced this, but she deals with it by throwing her cookies at the bad guys. Anyway, I suppose observing a healthy mix of good and bad is normal whenever you are exposed to large numbers of people filtering through relatively narrow arteries anywhere in the world on any form of transportation. In fact, I have some pretty obnoxious stories from commuting to work on the Long Island Expressway in New York, Rt. 128 in Boston, and Rt. 101 in Silicon Valley. People can be quite aggressive in their cars back in the U.S., but I no longer have to deal with that. So, here’s my good/bad commute story for the day right here in Tokyo this morning

  • I agree Angela, also some flash component from my website was stolen and my work hasn’t been rewarded. Also my website has some great free products but not all my flashcomponents website are free.