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"Intellectual Property" a Violation of Real Property

Unless you really want to believe in something you know is a lie you probably wont be inclined to believe people who express inconsistent ideas.

Free Software or Open Source Software have been typically attacked by people who do appear to believe quite strongly in property ownership. If you create something, they would argue, then you are entitled to control it. How else are you gonna get compensated for it?

I of course agree to this extent, but I don't quite agree with the typical progression of this argument which sees the fact that most Free Software is given away or distributed under terms which allow free copying and sharing to be an affront to this right to compensation.

Ignoring for the moment the fact that the software developer still gets to choose whether to distribute under those terms (something (s)he'd be able to do to a large extent even if copyright was abolished today), this argument fails to take into account the fundamental nature of software which excludes it from the possibility of being owned, unless you consider a program as one with the medium.

Software cannot exist on its own. It always needs a medium. Software are simply arrangements of ones and zeros represented one way or another by physical properties of a medium such as micro or nanoscopic dents in a compact disk. If you consider software as distinct from the storage media or memory in which it remains you're essentially using one medium, your brain, to conceptualize the arrangements within another. Without either the brain or the other mediums the software could not exist to begin with. How do you own something that doesn't really exist?

This leads us to an interesting point: pretending that ownership of software is possible and thus trying to enforce this ownership (as copyright and patent laws do) actually leads us to violations of actual physical property. If you claim that every arrangement of ones and zeros represented in any medium so long as it is the same arrangement as on your original medium (which you produced) is your own property then you're essentially claiming ownership of these media.

To simplify, if you claim to own a program you're actually claiming to fully or partially own the CDs, DVDs, hard drives of all the people who may have a copy of that program on them. Yet if these people acquired these storage mediums and devices themselves they already are their rightful owners. So in essence you are claiming ownership over something that isn't yours.

Software patents, and all patents for that matter, in that sense actually claim ownership of parts of your brain should you have "their" idea in your mind and use it. This doesn't make any sense. The only way anyone can have any claim over what you do with your property is if you directly agreed with that someone to use your property in such a way, but this isn't how copyright works nor what advocates of proprietary software have in mind.

Instead they assume that even people who never had any sort of an agreement with the actual developer are still bound by the terms of that (non-)agreement. If a person who got the copy from a developer gives it to someone else then that someone else can only have an agreement with that person, not with the developer. If that person broke the agreement not to copy, for instance, then that person alone should be liable for damages, not the one he gave a copy to. Yet copyright enforcement will assume legal prosecution of not only the other person, but everyone else who may have got a copy from him.

This is because copyright doesn't operate on agreements at all (despite how licenses are titled as "agreements"). Instead copyright licenses are merely government enforced monopolies granted to the "copyright holder" that overrides property rights of anyone whom may get the copy of the copyrighted work. Thus this form of "intellectual property" (or pretension of such) is actually a form of institutionalized property violations.

Advocates of proprietary software or even just advocates of copyright or "intellectual property" in general may find this idea unacceptable, but I would venture to guess pretty confidently that they're among those who'd rather believe a lie than be consistent (as mentioned at the beginning of the article). They're concerned for the money or some kind of power they've been able to derive from these monopoly grants.

Proprietary software advocates would probably be most concerned with money whereas ironically Free Software advocates, especially those who promote GNU General Public License (GPL), would be concerned with power.

Money

With regards to money the concern comes from the inability to imagine how could a software developer get paid to develop it. There have been many answers to this question by many Free Software advocates. To reiterate, most of the money is actually in custom coding anyway, as Richard Stallman would usually say, where you get paid to write something specific for someone specific rather than writing it in hopes of it being valuable enough for someone to pay you for it.

But in the latter case, what you can charge for is the first copy. It is after all only the copies on the mediums that you own that you can truly call your own. Thus the price of a first copy, if you value the software thus much and if you believe people are willing to pay, should be higher than it typically is. Don't count on volume sales, but rather on recouping the basic costs with the direct sales to the first few customers. If you want to make a fortune in a software business then, you better count on providing continuous value in addition to the software in form of related services (subscriptions).

Power

Free Software advocates typically rallying behind the GPL are concerned with power, albeit their intentions tend to be benevolent. They just never really came to grasp the fact that they're still operating on a paradigm that they'd otherwise be inclined to reject, which is the paradigm that ownership of ideas and for that matter software is possible. Thus they see it as ethical to fight proprietary software by simply establishing different kinds of monopolies.

GPL is still not fundamentally different from any other proprietary software license (EULAs as they're typically called) in that they are not so much agreements as much as monopoly grants by government under the copyright law operating under the "software can be owned" assumption.

Outside of this paradigm however, if I get emacs from somewhere other than Richard Stallman's GNU.org or FSF.org I actually shouldn't be bound to the terms of his GNU GPL, but rather to whichever terms the one I got it from chooses to set. If he fails to include the license then no terms apply. Of course, he would be in violation of the GPL as an agreement. The difference here is that I wouldn't be liable if I gave it to someone under terms other than GPL, because it wasn't me who had an agreement with Richard Stallman. Thus the leak is out and the only one to blame is the direct recipient from any of the Stallman's own mediums (such as GNU.org).

That's how it would work without the software-ownership paradigm and thus without copyright. Two practical results from this would not be far different from what they already are however. Software would still be all over file sharing sites, except it would be legal and ethically legitimate (as it already is). However what would be different are the contractually agreed to fines for the original-copy-receivers (since they are the only ones who were in the direct author-user agreement they're the only ones liable for these agreement-violating leaks). They would probably go quite high in order to disincentivize them from leaking their copies.

This would however have a side-effect of less people purchasing software under draconian and anti-sharing terms to begin with resulting in the flourishing of the Free Software industry, based on reasonable and unrestrictive user-author agreements and the ongoing value-adding service business model.

Conclusion:

Intellectual property is a lie, thus its enforcement by means of the copyright law is nothing more than institutionalized violation of real property rights by means of granting government enforced monopolies to authors. They are given the power to dictate how individuals who never entered any agreements with them and instead got it from someone else will use their own property (hard drives, DVD players and burners etc.).

Without this enforced violation of property restrictive software distribution agreements would be economically unsustainable paving the way for Free Software/Open Source to flourish to a far larger extent than it does today, increasing the overall value proposition of each software user and thus leaving far more software spending power for the service subscription business model as a way for software developers to make a living.
Intellectual property theft is still a serious threat, but it can be fought with knowledge. Perhaps one of the best ways to avoid intellectual property theft altogether is to study up on the issue by obtaining a Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity and information. Pursuing this degree online makes it easy to balance classes with just about any work schedule. Technology is showing no signs of slowing down, which means that intellectual property threats will always be present. Whether the goal is to be at an advantage when faced with future threats or just to obtain a career in the IT field, the degree is a valuable tool.

Follow up: Implications of rejecting "intellectual property".

Comments

Anonymous wrote:
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second say that software A goes on to be distributed to a million more people, do you have to come after me for that money, even though you have no chance of getting that money back.

That will depend on what agreement I had with you, wont it? If we agreed you'd give me $1000 if you break the agreement then I'd only get $1000. But we could've agreed you'll give me $7 per copy and you'd then owe me $7 million. You can't pay? Well then why did you leak the copy?

Now you're gonna blame those other people who had nothing to do with your agreement because you couldn't respect your own agreements? Way to go.

so basically any protection is essentially toothless, and relies on some kind of gentlemans agreement.
I assume if some one stole your car and sold it to their friend who knew it was stolen, you would be happy to let them keep it.

No, I would hold that someone who stole it responsible because he stole it! I would expect him to get my car back any way he can even if it meant buying it back from the one he sold it to.

That said, there's a difference between cars and software in that software is just copied whereas you cannot do that with a car. When somebody supposedly "steals" (IP lingo) a program I don't actually lose it. So I am not actually getting anything back to me because I already have it.

What I was talking about was simple contract enforcement however, which doesn't rely on the fact that software can be easily copied so much as the fact that we had an agreement.

As for it being toothless, that's a matter of contract enforcement which is a whole other topic and doesn't have anything to do with whether IP laws are good or bad idea. If you will there are such things as contract laws too which have the government enforce contracts. I personally don't believe only the government should have the right to provide that service, but that's another topic.

Anonymous wrote:
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third it makes the asumption that you can actuallly trace the person that removed the licence.

And copyright helps with that how exactly? Oh right, by allowing you to randomly target anyone. Cool. That's certainly justice at work.

its the same as making it a criminal offence to aid a abet, the same as banning the trade in blood diamonds. it isn't randomly targeting anyone, people aren't fooled into thinking theyre getting a legitimate product for free when they log on to the pirate bay.

Aiding and abetting would be if the person knew that by giving a copy another person would be violating an agreement and still actually sought to get it. But even then I'm not sure the responsibility would be on him in any part since it's the person actually holding a copy that is making that decision ultimately. Aiding and abetting stuff could just as well be bull. It wouldn't be the last nor first law to be based on stupidity. After all, what I'm doing here is questioning some of them, the IP laws.

It doesn't matter what someone knows when they log on to pirate bay. The question is not what they know, but what they actually did. Did they break any agreements? If not then that's it.

Also, please refer to this post above. You're thinking within the box of the current laws as if assuming it's all well and good instead of trying to think more fundamentally about human relationships, justice and what is it precisely that creates "legitimacy". If you think anything that law prescribes is what is "legitimate" then you better answer yourself a question of "what makes the law itself legitimate" and you'll get to nothing better than consent, consensus to all of which "agreement" is the basis. You might understand my point of view far better as well as why do I have grounds in questioning the law.

Anonymous wrote:
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the whole idea revolves around SAS, which doesn't work for everything, not even all software.
and this still doesn't resolve the problem of you not owning the software. you still wouldn't own the idea.

Define SAS.

Your sentences barely make sense here and you almost sound like a troll (especially by using my own arguments while arguing against them (wtf)).

Software As A Service (you complain to me for being pedantic).

Ah, well typically I've seen that abbreviated as SaaS, not SAS so I had no way of recognizing. Thanks.

Anonymous wrote:

my point is, is that you say you don't own something, because companies claim ownership over the idea, im saying even if you implement this idea you still won't own that something because the companies will still be able to claim they own the idea, unless you get the software from somebody who has already removed the licence agreements etc.

But I already explained the difference. These license agreements don't have to be removed. They would simply be considered differently. Without IP laws they would become one-on-one contracts so people who weren't in those contracts will cease to be liable.

Removal of IP laws changes a lot also in terms of repealing the idea that ideas can be owned and thus removing this conflict between "intellectual" and real property. No longer can then these companies use the law to prosecute people with whom they didn't have agreements, just because these people happen to have copies of same software. Instead all liability would shift to those who actually BROKE their own agreement to begin with.

Anonymous wrote:

At the end of the day I think you can own ideas, i know you dont, and i think your arguments for not being able to own ideas are flawed. I also think that if your /solutions/ were ever implemented it would be much worse then the current flawed system.

It's easy to say my arguments are flawed, but much harder to prove why. So far I think you failed with that.

At least you admit the current system is "flawed", whatever you mean by that. I explained why I think it's flawed.

Cheers

Re: "Intellectual Property" a Violation of Real Property

 

Just listened to this great talk by Jeffrey Tucker over at Mises.org

http://mises.org/media/4255

Cannot recommend it highly enough.

Re: "Intellectual Property" a Violation of Real Property

 

"I agree with the author that the GPL is not fundamentally different from proprietary software licences. It still asserts property in the software, and it still makes demands of people wishing to copy it."

wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong.

the gpl is nothing like a eula.

please read the gpl.

you can copy a gpl program as much as you want. you can share it as much as you want and you can change the code and use it all you want to your heart's content.

if you change the code and distribute that change then you have to have the source accessible to who receives your code. that's it.

tell me again how that is like a EULA this article hogwash and obviously the author has not studied the GPL.

Nobody said that GPL doesn't require less than an EULA and that it isn't far less restrictive. The terms are not in question. The one you quoted is right. It still makes demands of people wishing to copy it such as the demand to copy under the same terms as the GPL rather than some others. You didn't even dispute that, that is, you're attacking a straw man.

That said I don't see those demands per say as the problem. As explained in the article and discussed in comments the main problem is that it relies on copyright and thus imposes these terms even to parties who never agreed to it. For example you could download a program from GNU.org under GPL and thus agree to it (because you downloaded it from the site owned by the owner of the program, assuming) and then you violate that agreement and give the program to someone else under terms like the BSD terms.

If that someone proceeds to give the copy of it to someone else under any terms other than GPL, he too would according to copyright be considered liable (not only you) despite the fact that he wasn't the one that had an agreement with the owner of GNU.org because he didn't get the software from there, but from you. His agreement was with you (BSD one).

So long as GPL is a copyright license it will in that respect be no different than EULA's. They both rely on copyright law, which carries the assumption of "intellectual property".

As for me not studying GPL, I was obsessed by it some years ago and was a big advocate of FSF, GPLv3 etc.

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