Property




Home



Conversations


Thomas Jefferson (quote)

If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it.

Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it.

He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me.

That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density in any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation.

Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property.



Why is copyright law good, and patent law bad?

Copyright law is meant to stop anyone from duplicating creations. Creations which can easily be duplicated, like novels, are virtually impossible to be similarly written by two distinct people, at about the same time.

Patent law is meant to stop anyone (other than the so-called "inventor") from solving problems, just as the "inventor" of the idea did. If the "original inventor" would not publish his idea, there are high chances other people would reach the same idea because they have to give an answer to a specific problem, problem which has very strict conditions (and thus, has virtually a single solution).

Ideas are meant to be implemented, to use them to create something. There is no need to make public an idea. The only reason why ideas are patented is to force other people to pay to the "original inventor" instead of reaching them by themselves.



It's good for everyone when creations become freely available infrastructure on which other things can be built. That's called progress.

Perhaps, but a creator is under no obligation to give away its creations and nobody can't make creators to freely distribute their creations, though some people could steal them.



If you have a good idea, there's nothing wrong with charging people to share it with them.

No. This would give to that person monopoly over the idea. Nobody else (who may come up with the idea independently) can use the same idea. Nobody else can follow the same steps (or whatever steps may be necessary) to get to the same idea.



Why should intellectual property not be limited to ties of custom and interconnected business?

"Business" does not mean the ability of someone to create and the ability of someone to use the result of the creation without fair compensation. A business involves trade of benefit of use. If someone has benefits from the use of a creation then a trade occurs (work exchanged with money).

When people produce a creations, they attach to them certain terms of use – a contract. Potential users are under no obligation to enter into this contract. They can go to the competition. Their ability to duplicate, for example, commercial software is not competition but theft (except when someone re-creates its source-code). If someone uses the creation with disrespect to the terms of use, he becomes a criminal because he breaks a contract which he was under no obligation to enter in (as is in the case of patents).



Why should intellectual property not simply be rewarded with donations?

The free market is not a place where donations fly around. It is a place where business is done, a place where people trade goods for money.



People can duplicate digital works without limiting anyone else's access to the original work. Doesn't that show that digital works are not property?

The ability to duplicate digital works is not enough to destroy property. This shows the inability of producers of digital works to protect their works. The fact that they are unable to protect their works does not mean others can use it freely. For instance, a slave can't protect and use his work as it sees fit. This does not mean his work is not his property.



Example

Let's say someone has a device which can scan the inside of your house (or body, under clothes). The scanning is active, that is, the scanner bombards your house with some particles which are then reflected back to the scanner.

Would you not say this is an invasion of your property? If you say would no then the person who scans your property could simply enter in your house since there is no difference between his active scanning method (= the particles sent into your house) and the physical presence of the operator (= the particles which make the operator).



If there are an infinite number of apples around, nobody can say they own apples.

No. Let's replace the apples with the pebbles lying around (there is a virtually infinite number of pebbles around). If I pickup a pebble (which has no previous owner), I can claim it my property. It is in my possession and is my property. Each pebble is an object, a perfectly defined / limited object, not a concept (that is, something abstract).

If people take it away from me, I call them thief. They are, however, free to pickup their own pebble. They are not free to either take away my pebble or "clone" it, because I don't allow them to do that.

In the case of digital works, the author doesn't allow others to duplicate their "pebble". People are free to pickup their own "pebble", but no such pebble exists. Some people would say that the Internet is full of such pebbles. That is true, but these are copies which originate in the author's work. Since the author distributes copies of its work only with specific terms attached (the author forbids other people to duplicate the digital work), any copy of the work which is on the Internet is a breach of contract – theft.



Shouldn't creators just figure out how to sell their creations instead of forcing other people not to (re)sell or share those creations?

Of course I need a way to force people from reselling or sharing my creations. If an individual takes my car when I am not using it, I still call that theft and I take all precautions to make sure this does not happen. But if it does happen, I may feel inclined to blow the thief's head off for the simple reason he did not respect my property (regardless of the "economics" involved).

He, the thief, is the one who first showed no respect for my claims - my property. Therefore, I feel (and claim to be) entitled to defend my property by force.



Why do you support creations but not ideas to be regarded as property?

Being a sheep, disregarding the laws of Nature by saying one should not protect his claimed property by force, if the personification of evil.

Property is property because Nature designed people to survive, and people survive when they fight their way in life (not when they are sheep), when they fight for the resources they gather and for the creations they produce.

Life does not mean sharing one's property with everybody else, but means fighting to keep it for oneself and sharing it only with those entities and paths one considers worthy of drawing close to his understanding of efficient mechanisms that generate the highest amount of profit, be it material or immaterial.

The "right" solution emerges from the interaction of individuals. But interaction means both peace and war. Nature has no preference for either of them. Life is survival of the fittest, not of the strongest / weakest, smartest / dumbest, richest / poorest. The human definition of property is irrelevant.

If the definition of property requires me to pay to use the property, as claimed by its creator, I do not regard ideas as property (although I do give people credit for the ideas). In contrast, I regard creations as the property of their creators, and this means that I give them credit and I also pay what the author asks for usage; if I consider that the price is too high, I don't use the creation.

Why do I consider that ideas are not property? Because I would use ideas, without paying, regardless of the claims (and name calling) of their so called inventors. To give a logical reason: because the probability for someone to come up with the same idea is high, whereas the probability to write the same book (at about the same time) is practically zero. Therefore, I am not willing (in general) to pay for ideas made public.

I draw my line between property and non-property according to uniqueness. After all, people claim property according to the uniqueness of an object or creation (or even idea). If there would be an infinite supply of food, nobody would say "this is my food". But this uniqueness does not refer strictly to physical uniqueness, but also to the uniqueness of the context / mind which produced a creation. Uniqueness is the opposite of common. The smaller the probability to create the same product is, the more unique the creation is, and thus the stronger my feelings are to regard the product as property.



Can property be anything beyond claim?

Let's take a bear who controls an area which is very rich in food. Another bear comes on this land. The first bear starts making all sorts of sounds, saying he owns the land. This bear makes a claim. The second bear could walk away, thus respecting the claim of the first bear. But the second bear could also disregard the claims of the first bear, and go for the food. The first bear can now either ignore the intruder or could attack him - thus, enforcement.

So, what is property beyond this? Is there an absolute way to draw a line and say "this is what makes property"? I say no! You have claim, you have respect, and maybe you have enforcement. None of these things is an absolute landmark, but a law of Nature, a law which is relative to context. There are no other rules involved.



Say you come up with the greatest idea in the world, do a lot of expensive research, create a working prototype, and then someone reverse-engineers your product and sells it for a much lower cost (because they don't have to pay for the research). Isn't this enough reason to consider ideas as property?

The only problem is that the reality does not work like this.

Let's take the pharmaceutical industry. They do (a lot of) research on how to cure diseases. They patent the ideas they come up with during their research. Then, you have to buy these drugs at astronomical costs because nobody else can produce a similar drug (using their own research), since the method is patented.

On the other hand, if the first company would simply keep the method secret (and not use patents), anyone else could do research and come up with a similar drug. But you see, for patents to exist they must be published in plain sight (for everybody to see). This way, there would be competition, diversity and thus lower cost for consumers. This would also motivate companies to find cheap ways of creating drugs, in order to decrease the cost of their research (just in case some industrial espionage would make their method public).

Lastly, the truth is that research happens as a team effort, an effort of many companies and individuals, not just inside one company. How would you feel to give a patent on controlling the graviton to one company, when the greatest physicians of the world work on this from the beginning of physics?



What motivates people to respect the claims of other people, up to a point?

Cost! A fight between two individuals raises the costs of owning / stealing property. The laws of Life say that people have to minimize costs. Nature is dynamic, humans are rigid.

It is very difficult for people to renounce their own rules and understand that mere respect is all it is required for good interaction. No human law can replace that!



Defense has nothing, at all, to do with property. Property is imposition.

It may be right saying that defense has nothing with property. That is because defense is different than enforcement, and, as I explain below, enforcement is what shapes property.

It is only correct to say that there are only claims of property. A claim is an imposition because claims are passive forms of enforcement. A claim is made only when there is a need to "mark" the territory, with the intent to enforce the claim. A claim is passive enforcement of the marked territory. A claim is a statement of intent.

A firearm in a holster is a way of defining the rules, the territory. A firearm is a passive death threat, it's a statement of intent, the intent to enforce the claimed territory.

It would be incorrect to say that property is pure imposition. Imposition means nothing by itself. The underlying meaning of an imposition is: a claim of potential physical violence, enforcement of claim (/ of the imposition).

A rock claims nothing, impose nothing, defends and enforces nothing. A rock owns nothing since its only "behavior" is eternal passivity.

Property is enforcement of claims which arose from biological motives, motives which exist because certain actions (like marking the boundaries of resources, and acquiring resources) increase the chances of survival. The only way to increase the chances of survival is to fight for survival.

One million years ago, accurate to the second, pink unicorns were roaming the Earth. But at some point, one generation of pink unicorns decided to sit on their asses and wait for grass to fall from the sky into their mouths. But the context was not right for such an action. As a consequence, pink unicorns got extinct because grass did not fall from the sky. However, other creatures did not stand by, waiting. They fought for their survival. Some of them got extinct later for various reasons, some are still alive. None of them sat on their asses...



He says that property and, more generally morality, are at best social conventions which he describes like an anthropologist and whose existence he understands in terms of economics and history. He regards ascribing any meaning or absolute existence to them as mere superstition and disregards as meaningless any attempt to do so (because he does not know how to do it and renounced that line of thinking long ago). In contrast, I regard morality, and more specifically property, as facts of reality.

Reality certainly is. It is mere fact stripped of any human attributable properties.

But how do you prove the absolute of your system when your arguments are valid only inside the context you create, but aren't valid outside the system? Why aren't they valid outside? Because you are a human just as the other 6 billions who may or may not agree with your arguments.



I humans exist, then "human attributable properties" are part of reality.

You confuse cause and effect. Reality has no human attributable properties. Nature does "contain" humans and these humans have the "thought" that Reality happens to be like their brains think it is. It is obviously not so since humans can not make Reality have properties other than those it had before humans existed. The properties precede humans.



When the wolf can take part in argumentation, claiming that it has property, then it has property.

Clearly, a wolf would need not take part in any argumentation when it decides a human is its property and so eats the poor dude. Human-like reasoning has nothing to do with property. Property is instinct based decision. Outside such decisions there is no property because property is no gravity or something to act in the absence of living creatures.



Property brings with it rights.

Property brings no rights. Property is people's respect for one's claim / expectations (of property).

A right is a self assumed behavioral concept, whereas respect is the behavior of other people during the interaction with the dude who thinks he has rights.

A right has no relevance during the interaction with other people (since it's personal), so, why talk about rights when other people are involved? We could talk about respect.



In countries such as Zimbabwe where property can be arbitrarily taken away...

So, although property exists (as claimed), it is not respected. It has nothing to do with the "rights" of the owner for property. It just isn't respected (by some with fire power).



If property is good for automobiles and potatoes, should it not also be true, as X argues, of ideas as well?

In virtually every conversation about whether ideas are (or should be) property, the hidden objective of those who promote ideas as property is to have a monopolistic organization which enforces these "rights".

At best, in such conversations, the question should be "should people respect ideas as property?", although it's bizarre to involve people in a conversation to which they don't participate.

Therefore, the only valid question for someone without a hidden objective is "do you, personally, respect the claim that idea X is property?"



In fact, in a society where something X is property, there is incomprehensibly more wealth and creativity and advancing technology and advancing standard of living, than in societies where something X is not property.

Perhaps it's clearer to say: in fact, in a society where something X is RESPECTED AS property, there is incomprehensibly more wealth and creativity and advancing technology and advancing standard of living, than in societies where something X is not RESPECTED AS property.

So, a society where novels, songs, movies, software and other creations (and ideas) are RESPECTED AS property, are the only ones which have wealth.

There are two issues here:

1) One could say that even if property is not respected, but is imposed, like the current patent system, there is more wealth. That would be false because the wealth has been created *despite* the monopoly.

2) Small communities where everybody "shares" (and live happily ever after) are not places where property is respected... because property is in fact banned / shared.

In order for a society to be filthy rich it's not enough to have created property in the form of novels, songs, movies, software, but there must be these dudes with the ability to sell all that.

An interesting point would be Zimbabwe. There was an email about it, I think, some months ago from a dude who was saying that there was no property in Zimbabwe. The dude was wrong because there is in fact lots of property in Zimbabwe, but some criminals with fire power don't respect the claims for it, and as such people can't trade it. Hence, they starve with their property and all.







License | Contact