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June 20, 2011

A Defense of Intellectual Property part 1

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 10:55 PM

This post is in direct response to the following post: If you want a tl/dr for the post – “But beyond that, no defender of intellectual property has made a cogent philosophical defense of their system.  Even if you were to concede that economic benefits flow from IP protections (and I would argue that, empirically, they do not), it is indefensible as imposed by government onto a society that has not freely chosen it.”

I wish the author would give us even one example of a study showing economic benefit to anyone giving away copyrighted works for free, because I can’t come up with a way to study this topic with any kind of control for quality of the copyrighted work. The essence, the penumbra, of all IP laws is that the work is unique! There is no way to tell if a particular work would do better if given away for free because you only have one chance to release a work. Radiohead released a CD online and asked people to pay whatever they wanted for it ( That was successful, but would those fans have paid more on net if there was a set monopoly price? Isn’t a monopoly price optimal? Furthermore, what if Radiohead had tried this strategy with one of their earlier, widely considered better, albums? Not to mention the timing of the release when particular copyright fighting was at a head.Another example/issue of claimed success is with the book Little Brother by Cory Doctorow. He offers free downloads of his book on his website and does a great job of explaining why he does this: There are three main things about this that I want to highlight.

The first is that the publisher would sue the crap out of anyone that printed out the book, bound it, and tried to sell it alongside the “original”. So the publisher “buys” the “copyright” and agrees to sell the book as well as share the profits with the original content creator. Sounds exactly, dead-on like the “intellectual troll” from our author friend’s post. Something isn’t right about that case. There are patent trolls, but the contractual relationship here seems way more like an agent one than a troll one.

Second, the author of the book, Mr. Doctorow, writes a blog ( – it’s really fantastic), was a former member of the EFF, and basically lives his life advocating creative commons designations for copyrightable material. He has many followers, and probably benefits greatly economically by putting his money where his mouth is and allowing his book to be downloaded.  His site has a donation page – how many other authors do you think that would work for? The point is that his content (broadly defined as his blog, books, and papers) is superior and on the cutting edge of his field. Maybe his book just sold well because it was a good book.

Finally, and most importantly, Creative Commons is a form of Intellectual Property law. The author retains the right under certain circumstances to send takedown notices under the DMCA,  seize “illegal” copies of the work, and require citations. Copyleft is also similarly based on IP law. By suggesting that creating commons and copyleft are “one of the most positive developments to come out of the internet age” (from our original author’s blog post), the author is defending IP laws!

For my opinion about the EFF – read the first post in this blog.

I know it seems harsh to completely go after a simple blog post, but I agree with most of that blog, and I really want the author to try again with this one.

1 Comment

  1. “Very good post. I think this is one of the most helpful blog posts to date.Thank you.

    Comment by Australian Finance — May 31, 2012 @ 5:54 AM

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