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Intellectual property rights
Submitted by Tom Burroughes on Fri, 2012-04-20 08:40
As I expected, the issue of intellectual property rights gets objectivists, and others in the the broad free market/classical liberal school really fired up. In my piece about natural rights, I briefly mentioned it, and it had the predictable effect. http://www.solopassion.com/nod...
I think this is a massively important issue to get right, precisely because it involves people who on 90 per cent of other issues are in the trenches, fighting the same side. And as an Objectivist pal of mine said to me once, ultimately, all property is intellectual in one sense.
For instance, here is what I was going to say in response to Shayne and others, but here it is here:
"Shayne, your locus of interference point is one point of the issue that really matters, because for some classical liberals, the only real defence of property rights they give is the "non-initiation-of-force" principle, which relates to the "physical property is scarce, so we have to resolve boundary disputes", version."
But remember that for Rand, and those in that broad tradition including Locke, Rothbard, Spooner , and so on, it was the need to have secure protection for the things/inventions/creations that one has produced by mental/physical effort that is the key for justifying IP. (The objectivist writer Greg Perkins gives such a defence. http://www.philosophyinaction....)
And the reason for such protection is that property is central to the means by which man can survive and flourish. It is not just about resolving boundary disputes, but about LIFE.
However, I do think the independent inventor issue is a very difficult one for the defence of patents, which is why I would like to see Michael's comments on it. After all, taking up the point made by Greg Perkins, if I have the right to produce and create to sustain my life, the fact that the things I devise might have been invented also by someone else, hundreds of miles away, say, is irrelevant. I am not taking from him because - and this is the kicker - ideas are not diminished when they are held in the heads of more than one person. Quite the opposite.
Now IP defenders will say, "Well, the guy should have checked the patent records first, just as if a property developer in the condo business should have checked the title deeds". But is that really going to work? For example, a key definition of a patentable invention is that it should be "non-obvious", but I read about how a lot of actually pretty obvious stuff can get patented, or at least people attempt to do so. And in the software business, it appears that a lot of very similar things are patented, and in vast numbers, all the time. Keeping track of this is a serious headache and one key requirement for a good, coherent legal system is that it should be easy to understand, not a bewildering mass.
Now I think I'd like to see this issue resolved, or debated out, because it is a real bugbear for me and I don't see an easy way out yet.
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