Thoughts on the Great IP DebateSubmitted by Marc Clair on Fri, 04/12/2013 - 06:02
Hi all, I put together my early thoughts on the intellectual property debate going on. Posting them here in the hope of keeping what I'm finding to be one of the most fascinating debates among libertarians going!
by Marc Clair | Lions of Liberty | April 12, 2013
The Libertarian Internet Geek Community, of which I consider myself a card-carrying member, has been embroiled in heated debate over the last few weeks on the subject of intellectual property. This debate was sparked by Robert Wenzel’s challenges on his blog at Economic Policy Journal to what many had presumed was the libertarian consensus on intellectual property. This “consensus” view – the one most associated libertarian patent attorney Stephan Kinsella – is that the very concept of “intellectual property” is fraudulent and a creation of the State, and serves only to stifle freedom and creativity in the marketplace.
This view is so prevalent that until very recently one would be hard pressed to find much opposition to it within the libertarian movement. In fact, we ourselves criticized Ron and Rand Paul’s “Technology Revolution Manifesto” for it’s support of IP.
Kinsella presents this view of intellectual property as a creation of the State; an artificial construct that would not exist in a free market system. I believe this is the main reason for libertarian opposition to the concept of intellectual property – becaise it is framed in the context of the State, and associated with all of the terrible things that the State and crony capitalist firms have done in the name of IP. From the evil censorship laws proposed in CISPA and SOPA to major corporations like Apple using IP laws to shut down competition through “patent trolling”, the State and it’s crony partners in crime have used intellectual property as a cover for all sorts of nasty, anti-liberty maneuvers.
Wenzel however presents a different view of intellectual property. Wenzel holds the view held by Murray Rothbard as we discussed in this week’s edition of our weekly feature, Mondays with Murray. Rothbard essentially believed that intellectual property could have a legitimate function in the market place through the use of copyrights. Copyrights essentially allow the producer of an idea – a song, a book, a formula,etc. - to attach a condition on the sale of that idea that it will not be shared by the purchaser. This is essentially a contract between the seller and buyer about the use of the idea. However, Rothard was opposed to the idea of patents, which attempt to stymie competition by using force to prevent anyone who independently discovers or invents something from using or selling that idea or invention on the market place.
It’s clear the issue isn’t a simple one, and if you’re like me you still haven’t made up your mind on this one. So I will attempt to cut through the clutter and break down what I see as the most important questions that must be sorted out in order for libertarians to form a strong opinion on intellectual property.