Free Information vs Information Protectionism

Kyle Lahnakoski
Sun, 27 May 2001 01:20:44 -0400

Paul Foley wrote:

> Property rights are not based on such mutual agreement in general; I
> don't have to make separate agreements with every person on Earth in
> order to own..oh, say, my shoes, do I?  That's clearly impossible.  So
> you're left with two choices: either I can own things without having
> to make contracts with everyone individually, or I can't own anything
> at all.  If I can own things, then what you call "the public force"
> must be available to me to protect those things (AFAIC, that is it's
> sole raison d'Ítre!).  If I can't own things, neither can I build
> walls, post guards, etc. [where would I place them?  I can't own the
> land they'd be built on.  Also, in this case, the "public force" must
> surely be available to others to prevent me doing so, since that would
> monopolize the use of land to which they have at least as great a
> claim as I!]

You are right here; the public force is used to enforce the rules of
society, whether they are contract law or copyright/patent law.  Society
decides what laws are to be agreed on and enforced.

I think we all agree that YOU SHALL NOT STEAL:
Society also agrees that you can not take things that have Utility to
another.  Society has mechanisms to enforce this premise and contracts
with everyone are not needed.  We see that physical objects are
different than information with respect to Utility.
I think we all agree that YOU SHALL NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS:
Contract law, and societies mechanisms to enforce contract law, exists
because society believes that fraud is a bad thing during contract
negotiations, implied or otherwise.

This debate is about the existence of copyright/patent law.  And not
over the existence of law.

If an inventor writes some code, or makes a piece of art, its $Value$ is
determined by society's laws.  Obviously the value of an invention is
less in a state that has no copyright/patent law.  You can not argue
that this value is "taken away" from the inventor because the inventor
did not make the value; value can not exist without appropriate societal
law.  The inventor made utility.  Utility is not affected by law.  Laws
may exist that attach a price to utility (like killing an enemy with a
gun), but the utility still exists.

It seems logical to me that we only implement laws that are beneficial
to society.  It is debatable that copyright/patent law is one of them. 
Personally, I believe copyright law extends for far too long and patent
law should not exist altogether.  

My concern with patent law comes from it arbitrary partition between
"invention" and "obvious".  Given a particular context (not including
retrospection), all invention is obvious.  Is an invention not obvious
to the inventor?  I do not believe that value should be given to the
inventor just because of her luck to be in the right context for

Context is the breeder of invention, not people.  My statement is
supported by the fact that the poor, and third world nations do not
generate an equal number of patents as do the rich.  I refuse to believe
that these rich are smarter, but rather, they are in a better context to
breed invention.  The utility of an invention should be benefit enough.

My jury is still out on copyright law.  I know I do not agree with the
long terms.  I do believe that art should build on art, and therefore
copyright should not extend so far as to inhibit the use of art in the
creation of more art.  Specifically: if the total effort of creating a
work is twice that of copying an existing work, then no royalties should
be paid for the existing work.

Kyle Lahnakoski                                  Arcavia Software Ltd.
(416) 892-7784