A decade ago, it was DMCA. It passed.
A couple of years ago, they had something whose name I forget. It got shut down. Maybe.
Last year, we had ACTA. It passed.
This year, we had SOPA/PIPA.
These laws don’t come around by themselves, folks. The same proposals keep appearing until they’re passed for a reason: these trends are systematically produced. Both out of our society’s system of thought (culture), and our society’s system of action (government) – and thus, both must be fixed before this problem disintegrates.
I have already commented at length on how this culture’s interpretation of intellectual property and the mere existence of the concept that you can “plagiarize” destroys civilization at the most basic levels.
I have also briefly discussed the most basic and inevitable long-term tr/end of democratic government, namely that it destroys culture and always replaces effective rules with ones less so.
Here are two longer commentaries on the second piece.
David Friedman: “Market Failure” – why all the criticisms of free markets are the exception on markets, and the norm in states.
Patri Friedman: “Seasteading” – how government works today, and how it can be made vastly more efficient.
IP is not an issue I can really question – I have never believed that ideas can be owned. It has never made particular sense to me either. A bookstore or a library has always been praised by the people around me as the most holy place I could visit ever since I was a child, because it was free knowledge and I could learn as I pleased. However, many of them would turn around and tell me that I shouldn’t download files from the internet (which completely ignores how the technicals of data transfer works, but regardless). This made no sense to me. The theory has been that if you go to a bookstore and read that author’s book or read a bit before buying it – or hell, go ahead and read the whole thing – so that you want to buy the book. Indeed, even if you could not read it prior to buying it, you could not have known whether or not you wanted it unless you had heard about it. Almost all of the time, as the structure of human society goes, will be by “hearsay”. It will not be directly from the producer, and this has not been the case for as long as human interaction has existed.
If you don’t believe me, try extending the interpretation back into the time where people actually needed to go to markets to buy things. Would you actually have the time to stop by every single stall in town to figure out what you wanted to buy and who from? If you were a trader, how would you know where in the world to get connections? Or hell, just look in your own life. How many people you interact with and trust are simply because some contract somewhere, or one of your friends informed you, that this other person you’re interacting with is any good?
And in any case, it’d be pretty horrible if all you could ever hear about a product before buying it was straight from the producer. Pure advertising would be the sum total of your interaction with other people.
Books are essentially the same as files on a computer, except that files on the computer are even better – while the cost of production of a book is somewhat considerable, the cost of production of a file is zero. The common argument is that the initial cost of production would be a lot of work… i.e. how many millions of dollars went into making that movie, and you just “stole” it “like that”. This however does not state anything new. How many things did the author of that book give up in his life, how many professions and hobbies did he not pursue, how many lives did he not pursue, in order to write his story and get it out to you, all in hopes of you understanding his message and maybe supporting him financially? He has accepted that price, that he cannot simply charge absolutely everyone for just taking a peek at his ideas, because he believes that the cost is worth the benefit.
Time and time again throughout history, it has been observed that true value in ideas works perfectly fine without the traditional transaction model. Today, we observe artists putting songs and developers putting games out for free, in a “pay what you want” model. Games in particular now are progressively moving towards a freemium model, where you play as you please and then pay for extra stuff later – if you want to. There is no hoarding for these people, and often they earn much more than they would otherwise. The donation style songs mentioned, for instance, can often receive millions of dollars in a single day.
Indeed, one era of history had piracy so rampant, so much that the creators encouraged it, so much that the creators were famous and lived very well off, so much the works are still hailed today as the foundations of an entire field of study:
Indeed, virtually all of the big names of classical music — Bach, Vivaldi, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, Brahms, Berlioz — composed without copyright and were not dismayed when their works were performed without their participation or consent. Composers through the Romantic era would often borrow passages from their peers and predecessors and develop creative orchestrations and variations thereof. This was not considered to be theft but rather the ultimate compliment: a demonstration that a composer had been able to cultivate a musical idea that could now thrive independently of his efforts.
– Gennady Stolyarov II, Mises Institute, “Writers Can Prosper Without Intellectual Property“
But today, more and more people support IP, ostensibly because it “hurts the artists”. Completely ignoring how the publishing industry and its control over regulations and the state have never given artists a fair deal and never will given this system, it’s a one sided act. So you desire to force people to pay for your ideas – but you do not wish to pay for others, “at least until you have had the chance to ascertain their value”? Well… thats what others want to do too. And in the end, it really works out better for both you and them, if you let that happen. There are numerous studies on things from movie downloads to reverse engineering complicated medical patents that show copying costs people approximately the same or in some cases significantly more than it would if they had done things through the official legitimate means. Switzerland, for example, used at least one of these statistics to allow downloads for personal use because overall, they help the economy.
This entire argument rests on the assumption that libraries, bookstores, and similar places are havens of knowledge which the pious can visit and learn from. If you do not believe this, then all of it falls apart.
I assume that you believe knowledge is something to be respected and that it is a tool to help your fellow human beings – and the only way to help them is to give the tool to them. If it is a philosophy like what I discuss here, then it is to give them a better life framework. If it is music or art, it is to soothe or inspire them. If it is a methodology or technology, it is to enhance their abilities to achieve their goals. Yes, they most certainly can just run off with it and not pay the proper respects to either you or the “original” creator.
But they should, in an ideal system. And the most optimal way to achieve an ideal system where people themselves hold themselves to high standards, is to always and everywhere have high expectations of everyone.
I could make a complete case for IP being ridiculous from ground up, but again, it’s not an area I’m familiar with, and really isn’t one I am particularly interested in. I have stretched past the limits of my desire to explore this topic simply by writing this long single argument.
What does matter is what everyone else is going to do [about what they claim they believe].
And some law or protest or whatever isn’t ever going to change any of that.
[Edit: Now have a literal “It’s Never Over”.]