Comment: Many thanks for this post and

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Many thanks for this post and

Many thanks for this post and your entire blog post. (I think I remember reading this blog not long ago on another subject and enjoying how you covered the topic.) I've been interested in this subject lately and listened to the K/W debate. I found it difficult both because I don't use anarchy as my starting place in such discussions and because...well the "debaters" acted like toddlers fighting over a melting pop-sickle.

In an attempt to understand the debate, I'm going to try to apply what I think I understand as the basis of the argument made by folks who are against IP legal protections. (I'm just trying to learn so grains of salt and all that.)

As I understand it, the Austrian delineation of whether a right to private property should be granted/enforced by government or private enforcement rests on whether that property is scarce. The scarcity label is bestowed for things that are both not available to anyone, anytime and to things that are diminished as used by more people. It also seem to be a given that the label is used in general, common circumstances, not for outliers. So we would not call "air" scarce, despite the fact that I could be diving at 120 feet with a buddy, whose regulator fails, turning the air in my tank into a thing not available to everyone in the circumstance and quite rivalrous -- one of us may well not make it back to the surface where "air" is not scarce.

So, I'm left contending with a foundational definition of scarcity that assumes a general, common circumstance. Not so foundational -- I'm thinking. It doesn't work at the edges; it's not a hold-fast definition; it's conditional.

I get that conditional is squish and we libertarians bend over backward to lick our privates to avoid them. Alas, that's where we're at in this debate.

The air in my tank at 120 feet below is scarce and rivalrous. It's a firm, Austrian property right.

I'm only going to proceed with my thought experiment for copyright as it's what I deal with in my work. So certainly the words I use to create a novel are available to everyone, anytime. The raw materials are not scarce. However being as an average novel has between 80,000 and 120,000 words, my particular arrangement of those common words is highly scarce; a million monkeys typing for a billions years won't produce my novel. The product I produce is more rare than land or a car or a chair. The marketplace I sell to values it, as evidence by my publisher's six-figure check. (The author's marketplace is not readers, but publishers.) So my novel meets one of the two criteria for being labeled scarce and justifying legal protection.

Using my product is in no way rivalrous. If you read one of my novels, it does not diminish the ability of anyone else to read my novel (given mass printings and/or widely available downloads).

But what if someone plagiarizes my novel and sells it has his own? Does this diminish your ability to read my novel?

I can't see how it doesn't. The plagiarist has put the two of us in a zero sum game. His novel or mine? No reader is going to read both. You read his plagiarism of my novel and you won't read mine. And vise versa. Mr. Plagiarist has made it so that my output is diminished as more people read his version.

Ah, but you'll argue that the idea and arrangement of these 100,000 words that compose my/his novel are not diminished for the reader. A million readers can read and hold the story in their heads simultaneously. But a bunch of those readers will have been misled. They'll love Mr. P's book and be eagerly awaiting his next. They won't be looking for mine. Reader's utility in my storytelling ability, my patterns of string words together is diminished as the cheater's work is consumed by more people.

Anyway, that's my attempt to reason from my thinking, and I'm looking for folks to challenge me here and poke holes as I really want to understand this stuff.