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Laws that grant monopoly rights on intellectual creations, such as patents and copyrights

Intellectual property (IP) is a category of property that includes intangible creations of the human intellect, and primarily encompasses copyrights, patents and trademarks. It also includes other types of legal rights, such as trade secrets, publicity rights, moral rights and rights against unfair competition. Artistic works like music and literature, as well as some discoveries, inventions, words, phrases, symbols and designs, can all be protected as intellectual property. It was not until the 19th century that the term "intellectual property" began to be used, and not until the late 20th century that it became commonplace in the majority of the world.


Benjamin Ricketson Tucker, Part 2, by Wendy McElroy, Freedom Daily, Sep 2007
Biographical essay on Benjamin Tucker from the first issue of Liberty until his death
In only one area did Tucker flatly reject [Lysander] Spooner: intellectual property. Copyright and patents was one of several lengthy debates that Tucker conducted in Liberty, which became a testing ground for shaping radical individualist theory. Tucker rejected ownership in ideas except as it arose from an explicit contract between individuals; later libertarians called this concept "free-market copyright and patents."
Benjamin Tucker's Liberty, by Carl Watner, Reason, Apr 1979
Examines several of the themes discussed by Tucker in Liberty, e.g., anarchism, natural rights, monopoly, and how his views changed throughout the years
Spooner held that scientists and inventors should have a right of perpetual property in their discoveries and inventions, but Tucker could find
no more justification for the claim of the discoverer of an idea to exclusive use of it than there would have been for a claim on the part of the man who first struck oil to ownership of the entire oil region or petroleum product ... From the justice and social necessity of property in concrete things, we have erroneously assumed the justice and social necessity of property in abstract things, that is, of property in ideas ...
Intellectual Property Fosters Corporate Concentration, by Sheldon Richman, The Goal Is Freedom, 10 Jan 2014
After describing and providing references on the case against IP laws, reviews Butler Shaffer's monograph "A Libertarian Critique of Intellectual Property" (2013), particularly the point that "IP tends to concentrate wealth in large business firms"
["Rights"] in ideas—patents and copyrights—were government monopoly grants ... if Jones (having committed no trespass) observes Smith's invention or artistic creation, Jones could be legally stopped from using his own physical property in conjunction with ideas obtained through that observation. That sure looks as though IP bestows on Smith purported rights over Jones's tangible property and even Jones himself. One might ask, Isn't the idea Smith's? But I can't see how an idea in Jones's mind can possibly belong to Smith, even if Smith in some sense had "it" first—unless Smith owns Jones ...
Intersecting Currents of Change, by Kevin Carson, 1 Jul 2013
Discusses how different forces, such as technogical change, counteract the hierarchies of corporations and states
The forces of hierarchy and authority are doing their best to co-opt this change where they can't suppress it, using "intellectual property" and other state-enforced monopolies to enclose technologies ... The U.S. supports so-called "Free Trade" accords whose main provisions are intellectual protectionism (the WIPO World Copyright Treaty, the Uruguay Round TRIPS accord, and more recent treaties further strengthening them) so that information — the natural marginal reproduction cost of which is zero — can be enclosed as a source of enormous rents by Microsoft, Disney et. al.
Related Topics: Europe, Technology
Let's Make 2014 the Year of Freedom for Low-Wage Workers, by Sheldon Richman, 2 Jan 2014
Examines various hindrances to economic independence, in particular occupational licensing, but also zoning, intellectual property, taxes and regulations
We should all resolve to make 2014 the year that we secure our freedom from government ... Licensing is one way that freedom is limited on behalf of special interests ... Another way that government thwarts independence is through "intellectual property"; individuals wishing to develop, manufacture, and sell a product can never be sure that they won't be sued for patent infringement. Claiming ownership of ideas is dubious in itself; in practice it permits one person to control the noninvasive productive activities of others.
Lysander Spooner, Part 2, by Wendy McElroy, Freedom Daily, Nov 2005
Lengthy biographical and bibliographical essay; this second part is from 1852 to Spooner's death, examining An Essay on the Trial by Jury, the No Treason essays and his subsequent influence
The main disagreement Tucker had with Spooner concerned intellectual property, that is, copyright and patent. Tucker considered Spooner's lengthy, though never-completed, "Law of Intellectual Property; or an Essay on the Right of Authors and Inventors to a Perpetual Property in Their Ideas" (1855) to be "fundamentally foolish." ... [Spooner] wrote, "So absolute is the author's right of dominion over his ideas that he may forbid their being communicated even by human voice if he so pleases." Tucker believed intellectual property could be properly secured only through contract ...
The Many Monopolies, by Charles W. Johnson, 24 Aug 2011
Describes four ways in which markets are distorted by government interventions, explains Benjamin Tucker's "Four Monopolies", examines five present-day monopolies and discusses Tucker's libertarian views
Since copying an idea does not deprive the inventor of [it], or any tangible property she had before, "intellectual property" meant only a legal monopoly against competitors who could imitate or duplicate the monopolists' products at lower cost. "Intellectual property" (IP) has grown vigorously since 1888, as media, technology, and scientific innovation made control over the information economy a linchpin of corporate power. Monopoly profits on IP are the effective business model of Fortune 500 companies ... which demand virtually unlimited legal power to insulate themselves from competition.
Monopoly and Aggression, by Sheldon Richman, The Goal Is Freedom, 19 Dec 2014
Argues that monopoly and aggression are intimately related and that intellectual property laws are currently the main monopolistic interventions
Monopoly-building interventions take forms other than outright franchises and licenses ... Intellectual-property laws — patents, copyrights, and the like — have a similar effect by hampering competition through prohibitions on the use of knowledge and forms that people possess mentally. The creation of an artificial property right through patents is practically indistinguishable from a franchise or license. Its harm to consumers is the same ... So-called intellectual property is the dominant engine of monopoly in modern economies. Fortunately, cheap technology makes enforcement increasingly difficult ...
Ownership and Ideas, by Sheldon Richman, The Goal Is Freedom, 12 Sep 2014
Critiques some statements made by Murray Rothbard, in For a New Liberty (1973), about ownership of created products and the appropriateness of others copying such products
[Rothbard] rejected patents ... However ..., he argued that the copyright principle is applicable to inventions as well as to literary and artistic works ... This ... seems peculiar because, like today's patent law, it would permit inventors to dictate to others ... how they may act with respect to their own physical property ... For example, if I saw a wheelbarrow, for which the inventor had claimed to reserve the right to reproduce, I would be legally prohibited from fashioning my own wood and metal into that form and from selling it to someone else without the inventor's permission.
Pharmaceutical Prices, Patents, and the FDA, by Timothy D. Terrell, 17 Aug 2015
Comments on a Jeffrey Sachs' article criticizing Gilead Sciences for its pricing (far above production costs) of a hepatitis C medication
There are clearly some problems stemming from the intellectual property rules here. The government will prosecute any firm that competes with Gilead in the production of the particular chemical formula Gilead has acquired. Sachs is right, then, that IP is relevant here. But rather than see IP as part of the problem, he defends patents as basically beneficial and proposes using them as a way for a government to beat a company's prices down. In contrast to the widespread notion of most of the public and most policy commentators, it is not at all clear that patents are essential to drug innovation.
Related Topics: Health, Socialism
Rights Violations Aren't the Only Bads, by Sheldon Richman, The Goal Is Freedom, 17 Jan 2014
Discusses criticism of Richman's article "Intellectual Property Fosters Corporate Concentration" (10 Jan 2014) in the larger context of rights violations
I recently argued that "intellectual property" (IP) can't really be property (as can land, cars, and socks) and that it is, rather, a government grant of monopoly power over expressions of ideas, which perforce limits other people in the use of their property, while creating scarcities where there would have been none ... One who rejects the legitimacy of [IP] can still have perfectly good moral grounds for objecting to the plagiarist's or adulterator's misconduct ... If someone attaches his name to something I wrote, ... I'd accuse him of being a fake—of pretending to have accomplished something he in fact did not accomplish.
Related Topics: Ethics, Libertarianism
Socialized Medicine in a Wealthy Country, by Lew Rockwell, Mises Daily, 2 Dec 2006
Discusses the view of socialized medicine held by left-socialists, examining the problems that existed in Soviet-controlled countries as well as current U.S. problems, and urges a "complete separation of health and state"
[I]nnovations in official and alternative treatments are very seriously shackled by the FDA, an institution that ... constructs its approval process to favor only the largest pharmaceutical companies ... In this context, too, we need to raise the subject of medical patents, which are nothing but government privileges given to an innovative company to prolong the period of profits that come from being the first firm to gain approval for the drug ... The high profits flowing to pharmaceutical companies from patents, combined with increasing government subsidies, have led to an untenable situation.
Some reflections on Georgism, by Tibor Machan, Rational Review, 29 Jul 2004
Argues against the Henry George idea that since land was not made by any individual, nobody can claim ownership rights over it
Consider that poets, novelists, theoreticians, songwriters, inventors, carpenters and so forth all create what they do by relying extensively on materials they have not created -- and sometimes on materials no one has created. Indeed, none of us has fully created ourselves, nor our own ideas -- certainly not ex nihilo! ... nothing is simply made by anyone but transformed in line with some idea, even musical notes or stories in books. All these come from ideas, sentences, descriptions, etc., which the composer or author had found, as it were, lying about and then proceeded to change and rearrange.
Related Topics: Henry George, Property Rights
Sweatshops the "Best Available Alternative"? But Who Decides What Alternatives are Available?, by Kevin Carson, 20 May 2013
Criticizes Benjamin Powell's defense, in a Forbes article, of Bangladesh garment sweatshops
Thanks to international trademark and patent law, Nike and a few other companies are the only game in town when it comes to hiring people to make shoes. They can take Nike's price or leave it. But there's lots of competing sweatshops ... And the same "intellectual property" gives them oligopoly pricing power in the United States to sell the sneakers at a retail price thousands of percent above the actual cost of production ... So-called "intellectual property" is not legitimate property at all, but a state-enforced monopoly every bit as protectionist as the industrial tariffs of a century ago.
Related Topic: Bangladesh


John Gilmore on inflight activism, spam and sarongs, by John Gilmore, Mikael Pawlo, GrepLaw, 18 Aug 2004
Topics discussed include: terrorism, the drug war, encryption, censorship, spam, the end-to-end principle, the right to travel, anonymity, secret FAA/TSA rules, blogs, copy protection, free software and the EFF
# ... [H]ow shall intellectual property holders commercially survive in an environment where perfect copies are a part of everyday life?
... The way I found to make money from unlimited cheap/free distribution of perfect copies was to go with the flow rather than fighting it. Encourage the world to distribute your work to every person on earth; then every person on earth becomes your potential customer. Build a commercial relationship with people who depend on your work; they won't care if the rest of the world can have it, as long as they get your attention so it meets THEIR needs.
South Park Libertarians, by Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Nick Gillespie, Jesse Walker, Reason, Dec 2006
Transcript of conversation with Trey Parker and Matt Stone, at Reason's August 2006 conference, in Amsterdam, on the future of free expression and free markets in Europe; includes lengthy introduction
Reason: When it looked like Comedy Central wasn't going to rerun the Mary episode, people were still able to download it illegally online. Did you see that as a victory for free speech, or did you think, "My God, these people are stealing our intellectual property"?
Stone: We're always in favor of people downloading. Always.
Reason: Why?
Stone: It's how a lot of people see the show. And it's never hurt us. We've done nothing but been successful with the show. How could you ever get mad about somebody who wants to see your stuff?
Parker: We worked really hard making that show, and the reason you do it is because you want people to see it.

Cartoons and Comic Strips

Bipedalism, by Thaves, Frank and Ernest, 12 Jan 2015
Does "worldly goods" include intellectual property?, by Thaves, Frank and Ernest, 25 Apr 2015
Due to copyright violation ..., by Parker and Hart, The Wizard of Id, 12 Jun 2015
I'm all for copyright protection ..., by Thaves, Frank and Ernest, 28 Sep 2017


Charles "Rad Geek" Johnson chats it up with MHD about Agorism, by Charles W. Johnson, The Motorhome Diaries
Johnson explains agorism and counter-economics, including an example relating to intellectual property (at 1:20)
Related Topic: Agorism

Copyright is Brain Damage, by Nina Paley, 21 Oct 2015
Presentation given at TEDxMaastricht; describes the copyright issues Paley had with Sita Sings the Blues, how some information can come in to someone's mind but it can't come out and what she is doing for her new feature film

The introductory paragraph uses material from the Wikipedia article "Intellectual property" as of 31 Oct 2018, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.