Friday, February 4, 2011

Intellectual Property

Mises points out that copyright gives one a monopoly on one's creation, creating an opportunity for monopoly prices. But what does that mean in artistic production? Other than allowing for legal recourse against those who print and sell your works without your permission, it has little real effect on artistic production. But could it? The Mises Institute's position is against protecting intellectual property on the argument that ideas are not scarce. Ayn Rand's argument, to take up the complete opposite view, is that one should have intellectual property rights protection precisely because ideas are scarce. They are likely talking past each other a bit, since Rand is interested in the production of ideas, while MvI's position is that ideas, once produced, aren't scarce. They are also afraid that people will use IP to prevent people from being influenced. Are there any real examples of that? What are the arguments for and against?


  1. I think the benefits for art in removing IP is that it will allow more artists to build on the work of previous artists who copyright their work. For example, fan fictions allow for up and coming writers to promote their skill, but technically using character names is illegal under copyright laws. Sometimes, I even find myself liking the work of fans more than the original artists. Also, fan creations and copies give greater attention (which is scarce) to a particular work of art (after all, people are still more willing to pay more for an original than a copy).

    As for the argument that Austrians don't recognize the high costs involved in creation is simply untrue. All Austrians say is that it is not justifiable to create scarcity where none exists. We don't buy intellectual goods in some large vacuum. We buy them in units and we only purchase them in what they are contained in. For example, we don't buy the information in a book, but the physical materials that make the book. What we pay for at a concert is not the music but the seat we wish to occupy while listening.

    here are some articles which relate to this topic of IP and art. ]

    Hope this helps :D

  2. I didn't argue that Austrians don't recognize the high costs involved in creation. I simply argued that such a concern is primary for Rand and secondary for the LvMI anti-IP arguments relative to all of the arguments you raise. One could imagine IP laws that take into consideration all the things you raise, so the question is, why no IP rather than better IP laws? When you buy units of my book Diaphysics from the publisher who published my book, I get royalties (eventually). But if anyone could publish anything at any time, others could publish my book without paying me anything. They could even put their name on it. Rand would ask, why, under those conditions, publish anything, if it can be stolen and you can't have any legal recourse? Sure, there is reputation -- but you lose a chance for that if someone else puts their name on it. One may not be able to satisfy Rand with an answer :-) but there are plenty of people out there who could be satisfied. What answer would you give?