Super Abundant IP?Stephan Kinsella and the other Intellectual Communists claim that Intellectual Property (IP) is unnecessary because it is super-abundant, like a "magically reproducing lawnmower" in Kinsella's words.
It is agreed that there is no justification for property rights in super-abundant goods. The best (maybe only) example of a super-abundant good is atmospheric air. Here on the surface of the earth, we find ourselves with more than enough air for every person to breathe. Notice that people never attempt to buy and sell air to breathe. Every person already has all the air they need, delivered right to their faces.
Under water air is scarce. Notice that people do buy and sell air for breathing underwater, in the form of scuba tanks.
If IP is super abundant, why do people act as though it is scarce? In particular, why do people contract for the delivery of IP (movies, songs, software, video games)?
Contract Requires Property Rights
Kinsella contends that IP are creations of the coercive state, and would not exist in a libertarian world. It is agreed that property rights and voluntary contract are the basis for prosperous free society. It is a well-accepted principle of contract that one may only contract with that which is one's own property. I can offer to sell you my car, but I can't offer to sell you my neighbor's car, because I don't own it.
In a world without IP, how could we possibly contract for the intangible goods people want?By contracting for the physical containers? That's absurd. Yes, I understand that intangible goods require physical containers to be useful, just as many physical goods require physical containers to be useful. But people do not contract for the delivery of containers. We don't care about containers. We care about content. If the pattern of ideas on a DVD is not rightful property, then there is simply no basis to contemplate buying, selling or licensing such a pattern.
Boycotting PlagiaristsJeffrey Tucker and Stefan Molyneux have suggested boycott and ostracism as a response to plagiarism in a world without copyright. They believe that consumers will recognize that plagiarism is fraud, and refuse to deal with such a bad guy. They are correct that plagiarism is fraud, but only because a property right is at stake.
By definition, fraud is harming another person by inducing a reliance on a deception. I deceive you, you rely on the deception, and are harmed as a result.
Suppose you write a book, and I plagiarize it, offering it up as my own work. I have deceived you, because we had an understanding that I would not copy your work. You relied on my deception, because you trusted me. Under copyright law, I have harmed you because I interfered with your intellectual property.
But if there is no property right in the authorship, then who have I harmed? The true author? No, because I did not take or interfere with the author's property. Did I harm readers of the book? No, the content of the book is the same regardless. Are the readers harmed because they don't enjoy the benefit of the reputation of the true author? No, reputation is another form of intellectual property, and a rather tenuous one at that.
Absent copyright, plagiarism is not fraud.
Why would you ostracize a plagiarist, when the plagiarist has not violated anyone's property right?Is the plagiarist wrong simply because plagiarism is dishonest? No. Lying is only wrong when done to deprive another person of property. Deceiving a robber about the location of your valuables is virtuous.
Tucker and Molyneux are quite correct that the free market would punish plagiarists. This is simply an admission that people recognize the property rights violation that plagiarism is.
Stephan Kinsella, Jeffrey Tucker, Stefan Molyneux, or any other Intellectual Communists are invited to answer.