Free Information vs Information Protectionism

Morris, Mitchell
Thu, 24 May 2001 10:03:51 -0400

> From: Francois-Rene Rideau []
> On Wed, May 23, 2001 at 03:31:55PM -0400, Morris, Mitchell wrote:
> > Do I have sole ownership of a thing by the act of creation,
> Yes, you own the act, and can either act it or withhold it,
> at your sole desire (unless you promise something about it earlier).
> However, you might not have any ownership on its results.
> You have the right to benefit from them, but this right is not
> ownership lest it be exclusive, which, according to natural law,
> is only the case when physical resources are involved.

So, you're claiming that you have an a priori natural right to the results
of my efforts? I'm confused, then, what you can claim that I have natural
rights over. Surely I'm the only person who can decide how to dispose of
things that I create. If I agree to create a thing for you, then that's
certainly a different case, but what about the general case where I create a
thing for my own benefit, or (more specifically) because it will have enough
exchange value once created to incent me to create it.

I presume from your statement "However, you might not have any ownership on
its result." that you believe that there are conditions such that I can
create something over which I have no ownership rights a priori. I will
further presume that you claim the distinction is the physical/logical one,
such that I'm entitled to own any physical artifacts I create but not
nonphysical ones. I fail to see why you draw this distinction except that it
advantages you personally, and is not a necessary concomitant to the
remainder of your philosophy (at least as much as I've read so far).

> > (3) Assuming that my creation's value is determined by what 
> other people
> > will exchange for it, how are you not affecting me when you 
> dilute the
> > exchange value of my thing by giving away copies?
> I may dilute the value, but it's GOOD. That's what progress 
> is all about:
> diluting value by increasing utility.

You are depriving me of exchange value, by duplicating a thing which you had
no right to duplicate (my premise, which you have not yet invalidated). I
fail to see why your unilaterally taking control of the results of my work
is a "GOOD" thing. You are certainly free to build your own, through your
own efforts, and exchange it for whatever you feel is appropriate (less than
me, more than me, absolutely free). Where I disagree is that you can decide
that I should have given it away for free in the first place and
unilaterally "correct that oversight" without my consent.

By analogy (suspect, as analogies always are), if I (a starving artist)
create a statue of surpassing beauty which other people would trade food
with me to get a copy under mutually agreeable terms (no duplication, for
example), and you (a wealthy industrialist) trade once with me, decide to
forgo the agreement we had reached, then duplicate the statue (because the
material costs are negligible to you) have you not also destroyed my
exchange value? Are you claiming that the reason this is an ethical activity
is because it costs you very little to destroy the exchange value of my
work? That is, there are a set of activities that are ethical if you're
"rich enough"? That seems very ... situational.

> > Under what conditions are
> > you not depriving me of the value of my creation?
> Under the condition that no one owes you any value, but yourself
> (insert proper Heinlein quote from 
> in here).
> If you want to get more value, be more useful to your customers.
> Don't stop inventing, but go on. That's the driving force 
> behind progress.

I don't claim you owe me anything because I'm a breathing (assumably)
sentient being, so Mr.Heinlein's well-known anti-socialistic tendencies
aren't directly applicable, and I think you know that. Nor do I claim that
you owe me eternally because I made a thing. I claim you owe me because you
agreed to owe me when we made our mutually-agreeable exchange.

> > Is there any other name for this act than "theft"?
> Progress. For instance, read in chapter 10 on Competition
> how innovative techniques in producing goods and services
> first benefit the inventor, as a just reward, then slowly
> permeate to the whole society, as a shared progress,
> by the means of competition.
> All that naturally, without any protectionism involved.

Where is the "slowly permeate" part of you cranking out nth-generation
copies of materials to which you were originally granted access under the
condition you weren't going to duplicate it? Where is the "just reward" to
the inventor? Can I take that "just reward" to my local greengrocer and
exchange it for bread and milk?

I'll ask again, because I feel very strongly about this, where is the
penalty to you for lying when you exchanged goods with me under
mutually-agreeable terms? We can hardly have a society free of coercion if
you're going to claim that it's ethical to contract for nonphysical goods
and then

> > (4) How does the physical or non-physical nature of my 
> creation affect this
> > process?
> Darn. I should translate my "Manifesto of Free Information" 
> into english.

I look forward to it, at your convenience of course.

> It's affected by the fact that "property" in the sense "right 
> to benefit
> from" is not naturally exclusive, with non-physical creation, 
> and hence
> does not naturally coincide with "right to exclude other people from".
> More; to exclude other people from using an idea or any 
> non-physical thing,
> you have to actually invade their privacy, prevent their lawful
> exchange of services, and destroy utility.

I will post a bookmark here and say that "if you're allowed to define terms
to mean what you wish, then any reasonable argument is over at that point",
so I will reserve the right to disagree that "property" means "right to
benefit from" and not "right to exclude other people from" until I see the
rest of your argument.

> If you think it's wrong to duplicate data, you should be 
> writing software
> in a language based on linear logic, reversible computation 
> or otherwise
> quantum physics, where bits are never duplicated. Just like 
> the language
> Clean, only with all types tagged "unique". Then, for any use of the
> classical duplication operator, you'd require proper 
> licensing agreements,
> levy a tax, and pay royalties. Then go within one's mind and cut any
> neurons that duplicate or amplify a signal.

Or, I could assume that, when I first traded you a copy of the material and
said "you agree not to duplicate this" that you weren't lying. If it turns
out that you defrauded me by licensing my property and then violating the
terms of the license intentionally, then I'll be delighted to pursue my
avenues of recourse, whether they include courts (in a law-and-order
society), or a pound of flesh (in a more tooth-and-claw one). No mental
reordering required, just the expectation that you be honest.

I-think-we're-still-talking-past-each-other-ly y'rs