Free Information vs Information Protectionism

Paul Foley
28 May 2001 15:01:30 +1200

On Mon, 28 May 2001 02:35:36 +0200, Francois-Rene Rideau wrote:

> I'll argue that you only immediately own
> the marginal result of your marginal labour.
> Whose marginal labour is copying a floppy? The one who copies.
> Hence, unless specified in some previous contract, the copy is his.

In case it's not obvious by now: my whole position revolves around the
assignment of (potential) value.  Copying a floppy is of very little
value.  The data you're copying may be of high value.  Thus, by
copying that floppy, you have had little effect on the assignment of
value -- the majority of the value still belongs to the software's
author, not the disk's copier.

>> Do you admit that some "labour" has occurred?  The only result is that 
>> pattern of bits in the computer!
> Yes, but if I somehow get ahold of a copy and duplicate it
> with my own computer on my own disk with electricty I paid for,
> the new copy is mine, because it was the product of my labour.

You own the copy, but still not the data, because it's *not* a product 
of your labour.

> Similarly, when some company first launches ship to trade with India,
> one particular result is that some goods are exchanged, at a profit;
> another more general is that trade happens between Europe and India,
> that didn't exist before.
> Does the company of Indies own the more general result,
> or only the particular one? Why?

They aren't owed a monopoly on "trade with India"; that's an "idea",
which I've already dismissed any claim to (and, in any case,
individual Indians are free to trade with whomever they wish).  But
for anyone else to trade with India, they'll either have to buy space
on the existing ship, or build or buy their own ship.

>> From a normative point of view, IP infringes on the liberty of other people.

All property rights infringe on the liberty of other people to some
degree.  Disallowing those rights is a greater infringement.

>> From a utilitarian point of view, IP isn't efficient.

I'd claim just the opposite -- copyright is the most efficient means
to get software, etc., created; it allows the cost to be spread out
over all users, etc.  The value must be returned to the one whose
effort created it, and you can't achieve that without copyright.

You don't have to agree with me; you can be wrong if you want.

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