Why Intellectual Property Is More Important Than Physical Property

Why Intellectual Property is More Important Than Physical PropertyIn this article I will briefly address these four issues:

1. Why the State is the wrong system to protect intellectual property (IP)
2. Why IP is more important than physical property
3. Why the arguments against IP protection are immoral
4. The good news for people who completely disagree with me

1. You won’t find me defending the State as a moral and efficient means to accomplish anything. A State operates on coercion and therefore nothing it does can be moral.

In the case of it’s so-called protection of IP it operates on rules not agreed to by all parties which is a very low technology, to say least. Trademarks and patents offer protection only to the first person to file papers with the State and permit no recognition of other people who developed similar or identical IP completely independently of the first guy to file papers. Further, if the holder of a patent or trademark doesn’t vigorously defend his claim in court (i.e. enrich the legal lobby and the State) he loses all claim to his property.

The State leaves no room for the owners of IP to protect their property in different ways according to their own desires. IP rules are arbitrary, mandatory and coercive – pretty much like everything else the State does.

2. Before we get to all the arguments used by communists, some anarcho-capitalists, and assorted others to claim IP is not property and therefore must not be protected, I’d like to establish, by way of analogy, the supreme value of intellectual property.

Suppose tomorrow we awoke and all over the world every item of physical property was gone. No houses, no bulldozers, no medicine, no vehicles, no books, no computers, no clothing – every form of physical property was gone. The world would be in the condition it was one million years ago. How long would it take humankind to rebuild itself to where we are now?

The good news would be that people who knew how to farm food, grow cotton, make clothes, make tools, mine minerals, build airplanes and so on would all be alive. Those people could go to work doing whatever they could to rebuild. They could also teach others to carry on their work. How long would it take to rebuild to where we are now? Two centuries? Four centuries? We are four centuries past the year 1613 so how long would it take to get to that level of technology with every person alive today working on the issue? Not long in relative terms, thanks to having all the IP.

OK, now let’s suppose we awake tomorrow and all of the physical property is perfectly intact but our minds have all been wiped clean of our knowledge – our intellectual property. So we have the same IQ but are living in the intellectual property condition of one million years ago. How long would it take to harness the power of fire? Last time around that took over 400,000 years. How long to realize knowable, measurable laws operate in the universe? That took until 1687 – most of a million years. How long until we recognize that diseases are caused by germs not by evil spirits? That took until Pasteur. Vacuum tubes? Transistors? Integrated circuits? How long would it take to discover that the ring of sharp metal totems on your kitchen table has one object that, when placed into the steering column of that strange metal cave in your driveway and then twisted causes the engine to roar to life? By the time that little mystery got solved there would be nothing left of the car. The physical property would rot waiting for our IP to catch up.

Any rational, objective examination of the relative value of physical property and intellectual property must arrive at the conclusion that IP is orders of magnitude more valuable to each individual and to humankind collectively. By extension, the people who create IP sometimes have the ability to create massively more value than those who create physical property.

3. So here’s why attacking or not protecting IP is immoral. Firstly, I use this definition of immoral: the use of coercion. That means any attempt to intentionally interfere with the property of another person.

I can hear a rebuttal. “But that IP is not his property in the first place so I’m not interfering with property when I take it without paying because it isn’t even property.” Uh-huh. And did the guy you took it from agree with that definition?

Suppose a man named John uses his brain, his experience, his creativity and his hands on a piano to create a new song. Let’s say he calls the song Let It Be. John wants to make his living writing, performing and selling his music, so he makes an mp3 file and sells it to individuals for 99 cents. The sale does not include worldwide distribution rights, re-sale rights, reproduction rights or any right other than the buyer listening to the song on his own equipment. (In a Contractual Republic all of these terms can be accommodated, under the State system it is very difficult and perhaps impossible.)

Along comes Karl the Anarcho-capitalist, Syndicalist, Marxist, Voluntaryist of some particular blend and he spontaneously and arbitrarily declares one or more of the following:

– you can’t own anything ethereal
– if there isn’t scarcity it is not property
– if you can’t completely defend your claim of rights they are null and void
– if it uses anything that occurs in Nature you can’t own it
– money should not exist and neither should payment of money

Therefore Karl takes John’s song without paying him anything and further damages John by duplicating and freely distributing John’s song into the marketplace where John was expecting to be able to sell the song to many people for 99 cents each. John starves and dies.

There is a fundamental problem with what Karl is doing. But first, although 100,000 words could be written about each of the above points, allow me to offer equally brief counterpoints.

– My life is ethereal. Do I get to own that? Or do you control it, Karl?
– Helium is not scarce. Can I own a tank of helium I worked to collect, Karl?
– So if you successfully rape me it’s OK because I did not provide adequate defense?
– So my gold diamond ring is yours to take, Karl?
– Anything can be money. A chicken. A painting. Gold. Should I not be paid in any way?

All of the sophistry aside, there is one fundamental problem with the viewpoint of the folks who wish to offer no recognition or protection of IP. In a Free (i.e. non-coercive) society there must be agreement between any people who trade. Unilateral terms and conditions cannot be imposed upon any party. If unwanted terms are imposed on either party it meets the definition of coercion and therefor is a breach of Freedom.

If John chooses to sell Let It Be one time for 99 cents and that releases it into the world for unlimited copying and distribution with no further financial benefit to John, then that is his prerogative. That’s moral and non-coercive. Karl taking John’s song and then distributing it without John’s permission – and against his explicit terms – is coercive and immoral.

In fact, John can set any crazy-ass terms he wants. The buyer can agree or disagree; buy or not buy. There is zero coercion in that. It is no more moral for Karl to pay 99 cents then make up his own terms and definitions for the transaction than it would be for John to break into Karl’s home, take whatever money and goods he pleased but leave a copy of the song as full compensation. No mutual agreement on the terms = coercion.

The great check and balance in a Free society – a Contractual Republic – is that every transaction is done under mutually agreed terms. This is the vital choke-point of non-Freedom. Once we engineer ways (yes, using IP) to protect the property of every individual at all times we will have achieved for the first time in humankind’s long, tragic history, a condition of Freedom for everyone in society.

Property protection is the indispensable condition of Freedom. Property plunder is the road to the coercive decay of human progress and civility.

4. So here is the good news for all the people who are certain I am completely mistaken and that taking other people’s IP – because it really isn’t property – is the true path to paradise. In a society of Contractual Republics you are free to organize your republic as you see fit. While all Contractual Republics operate on at least one principle of non-use and non-support of coercion, there is nothing preventing everyone in a republic from agreeing that their IP is not property and can be used without restriction by all others in that republic. In fact, they could also agree to not use any form of money.

In this way, people can organize themselves into whatever Contractual Republics they think will allow them to live their lives with the Freedom to operate in the manner they choose without fear of coercion from inside or outside of their community. Even people who want vague, shifting laws made by corrupt senators, congressmen, members of parliament, etc., can have those laws imposed on them by force as long as they agree to that by contract. Statist can be dictated to. Syndicalists can own nothing and work for the collective. And true Capitalists can work to better their own lives by bettering the lives of others in their republic and those outside their republic who happen to agree with their terms and definitions. Everyone gets what he wants. (Or perhaps what he thinks he wants until he realizes it won’t actually provide a decent existence.)

A Contractual Republic is a vast network of every individual’s property protection. It permits everyone to live in the condition of Freedom. And, yes, the concept itself is Intellectual Property.



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42 Responses to Why Intellectual Property Is More Important Than Physical Property

  1. peter miller July 30, 2013 at 8:12 PM #

    its well written mate, but i disagree with your conclusion. but just for the sake of clarification – in the contractual republic your propose, what would be the punishment for breaking a law that you are not aware exists? for example what would be the punishment for:
    – trespassing in an apparently unowned run-down building which turns out to be owned
    – using a website where payment is contractually required by the creator but no barriers or warnings exist on the website?
    – downloading a song or ebook which have no embedded copyright notices or requirements


    • Pete Sisco July 31, 2013 at 2:43 AM #

      1. In a Contractual Republic there is no “law” or laws. There is only one agreed upon principle, the non-use and non-support of coercion. So it is not necessary to define thousands (millions?) of laws. So there is no ‘trespassing’ but there is the issue of using coercion.

      2. Coercion is the attempted, intentional interference with another’s property. Stated another way, it is the attempted use of another’s property under terms to which the owner did not agree.

      3. In your example – a person always, always knows when he is on his OWN property. He also always knows when he is not on his OWN property. He might not know who owns the property he is on but he can be certain to the limits of empiricism that it is not HIS property. He knows HE does not own the song he just downloaded. So the defense of “I didn’t know” is preposterous. (“Oh, is this your bank vault and gold? I had no idea it wasn’t mine!”)

      4. Let me ask you this. Do you agree that a songwriter owns the song he created? Or do you believe that IP is free for anyone to take without permission after somebody else works to produce it?

      • peter miller July 31, 2013 at 8:39 AM #

        please answer my question first. how about the second example i gave?

        • Pete Sisco July 31, 2013 at 9:00 AM #

          You should be able to figure out the answer. Do YOU own the website you are downloading from? If not, you better make sure you aren’t taking something you don’t have permission to take.

          So. . . do you believe a writer of a song owns that song?

          • peter miller July 31, 2013 at 9:39 PM #

            i did not say “download”. i said “using a website” – in other words, “browsing” as i am doing right now on the petesisco.com website. could you answer this question please?

            • Pete Sisco August 1, 2013 at 2:27 AM #

              Are you really struggling with the issue of the morality of reading a website that was put up to be read? It’s moral.

              So. . . do you believe a writer of a song owns that song?

              • peter miller August 1, 2013 at 10:04 AM #

                you don’t understand. the website is pay-to-access but there is no login required. also there are no notices to warn users that they will incur payment fees by browsing the site. if the admin finds that you have browsed the website without paying him then he will file suit against you to claim the fees for browsing the site. there are no warnings or barriers but this is the will of the admin.

                will such an admin win his lawsuits in your contractual republic? and if so then why?

                • Pete Sisco August 1, 2013 at 10:12 AM #

                  You pay for access. But no login. No warning that you’ll pay. But you do not pay. Then you get sued. Wow.

                  No idea what would happen Peter. Hope that doesn’t come up in a future Contractual Republic.

                  So. . . do you believe a writer of a song owns that song?

                  • peter miller August 1, 2013 at 8:53 PM #

                    “Hope that doesn’t come up in a future Contractual Republic.” is just dodging my question. how would you rule if you were on the jury?

                    • Pete Sisco August 2, 2013 at 4:06 AM #

                      Speaking of question dodging,…do you believe a writer of a song owns that song?

  2. Bishal July 31, 2013 at 5:36 PM #

    Intellectual property is a piece of shit if you cannot combine it with physical property. Intellectual property is more important because of music industry! How about not going after big-multinational publishing or marketing company or waiting for your godfather and rather posting your art on youtube or other internet networks. And if people like you, go and start performing called live shows.

    • Pete Sisco August 1, 2013 at 2:30 AM #

      I’m having trouble understanding your point. Music industry? Godfather? Live shows? What are you saying? Are you saying you own all of John Lennon’s work and he has no rights to it? (Some people do claim that.)

      • Bishal August 1, 2013 at 3:13 AM #

        Since you are talking about real private property is less important to IP, so i am just pointing that if you cannot combine your thoughts or intellectual creation to something tangible like PP, its just cannot take a form which means IP is not important than physical property. I think John Lennon never expected to create a song and live from that song forever.

        • Pete Sisco August 1, 2013 at 10:15 AM #

          Regardless of what YOU think Lennon believed, in your philosophy does the writer of a song or book own his work? Or is it free for everyone to use as soon as it is disclosed. If so, what artist or innovator would want to voluntarily live in a such a society where his work is not compensated under his terms?

  3. peter miller August 2, 2013 at 8:05 AM #

    dude i asked a simple question 5 times now and you are not willing to give me a straight answer:

    1. would be the punishment for using a website where payment is contractually required by the creator but no barriers or warnings exist on the website?

    2. please answer my question first. how about the second example i gave?

    3. i did not say “download”. i said “using a website” – in other words, “browsing” as i am doing right now on the petesisco.com website. could you answer this question please?

    4. will such an admin win his lawsuits in your contractual republic?

    5. [you’re] just dodging my question. how would you rule if you were on the jury?

    if you actually answer my question then we can move on and answer your questions to me. but until you do so i am just going to assume that the conclusions you have drawn are too inconvenient to you for you to admit. the term “cognitive dissonance” comes to mind…

    • Pete Sisco August 2, 2013 at 8:38 AM #

      Your question is silly. In a Contractual Republic people operate via explicit agreements. There are no websites with unstated terms and conditions that deliberately trap people into doing something unintentional so they can be sued later. Why would a web owner do that? To defraud people? Fraud is coercion and carries sanctions in a CR.

      It’s a simple concept, don’t take things that aren’t yours unless you meet the terms of the owner. Most children can get that concept –

        if it isn’t yours don’t take it


      Peter, you and I have corresponded on another website and I happen to know you disagree with the entire premise of people even owning their IP. Or that IP is even property. All copyrighted and trademarked music, movies and software is yours to download freeee if you can find a way to do it. I call that the same as shoplifting. You don’t. An entire generation who ‘shoplifts’ online is in search of an academic argument to morally justify taking something of value without paying the producer. You and I aren’t going to come to agreement on that issue.

      So look at Point #4 in my article. You and your friends are free to organize your Contractual Republic where you can convince writers, musicians, artists, software developers, medical researchers and other innovators that they should live in your republic where they have no rights to what they produce and anyone can use it freely. Maybe some will like that idea. Maybe not.

      I’ll be over in my republic where those things are protected and the producers get paid according to THEIR terms and conditions and not according to yours.

      What could be more rational than that?

      • peter miller August 2, 2013 at 10:18 PM #

        here is my interpretation of your answer, please correct me if i am wrong:

        it is the responsibility of the site admin to put up terms and conditions on his website if he wants visitors to pay for browsing his site. if he does not put up the terms of payment then he has no right to charge visitors for browsing his site, since this would be entrapment.

        • Pete Sisco August 3, 2013 at 1:40 AM #

          If you say so. In your Contractual Republic you can make up all the rules of website operation and the people who want to participate in your republic will freely and voluntarily do so. If your republic operates on attractive principles other people will want to trade with you. If you’re lucky millions of IP innovators will agree that you get to define the terms and conditions for their IP.

          Other Contractual Republics will allow the creators to trade under terms and conditions they set themselves according to market conditions and their own priorities. I’m guessing more people would prefer to control their own property rather than have it controlled by you.

          The beauty of a free market system in Contractual Republics is we both get to try our ideas and see which one receives more market support.

          I’d ask you if you want free markets and individual Freedom but I don’t expect you to answer a direct question.

  4. peter miller August 4, 2013 at 8:09 AM #

    please stop being so passive aggressive. i’m trying to figure out where YOU stand on this issue. once i have gotten to the bottom of YOUR ideology then we can move onto mine, but until then please stop with the insults and lets try and have a civil conversation eh?

    ok so here is a scenario which YOU consider acceptable:

    it is the responsibility of the site admin to put up terms and conditions on his website if he wants visitors to pay for browsing his site. if he does not put up the terms of payment then he has no right to charge visitors for browsing his site, since this would be entrapment.

    i’m not sure if you realize this, but when you browse a website your computer actually puts the images from that website into your computer’s cache – ie it is not possible to browse a website without downloading the sections of that website which you wish to view. so we can substitute “browse his site” for “download his data”, because they are LITERALLY the same thing, and this give the following statement, which you have admitted that you implicitly agree with:

    it is the responsibility of the site admin to put up terms and conditions on his website if he wants visitors to pay for [downloading his data]. if he does not put up the terms of payment then he has no right to charge visitors for [downloading his data], since this would be entrapment.

    so in other words, to prosecute someone for downloading data which has no associated copyright notices, is entrapment, and is therefore immoral.

    ok, now that you have implicitly agreed that downloading someone else’s ip is not immoral, feel free to ask me questions. please number them so that i can respond to them more easily.

    • Pete Sisco August 4, 2013 at 11:48 AM #

      1. Re: “…now that you have implicitly agreed that downloading someone else’s ip is not immoral…” No. I did not agree to that. I explicitly said the opposite.

      2. I know how websites work.

      3. As I already said, in a Contractual Republic people interact by contract – hence the name. So there are no situations – including on CR websites – where people are tricked into trading property unwittingly under terms to which they are oblivious. That would be fraud and coercion. CR’s are all about eliminating coercion.

      4. I get the impression you expect 7-billion people to go along with your concept of “Peter doesn’t have to pay for anybody’s Intellectual Property.” I think very few will agree to that but, again, the good news in a CR you would be free to operate in your republic under those explicit terms and everyone who agreed with it would trade with you.

      5. 7-billion people won’t agree on any single issue, I would guess – other than that they don’t want to be harmed by anyone else. So many different republics will exist allowing various philosophies to operate as they like. (capitalists/communists/Christians/Muslims/Athiests/anarchists/etc.) The only thing resisted will be the use of coercion. So the guys who want, say, everyone in the world to be Baptists will use guns and tanks to make that happen – coercion – will be ostracized from every other republic and therefore in a pretty dire situation. Unless you plan to take the IP of people unwilling to give it to you you’ll be fine. But if you coercively take IP that the innovators did not contractually agree to give you, then you’ll have a problem because every product and service available outside your republic will be unavailable to you.

      6. Respect property and everybody can trade with you. Coerce property and nobody can trade with you. So don’t unilaterally take property you don’t own. Easy.

      • peter miller August 5, 2013 at 1:12 AM #

        ok… none of those were questions…

        do you realize that both 1 and 3 cannot be true simultaneously? you say it is immoral to coerce someone into downloading data (3), but then you also say that when people ARE coerced into downloading data that the one who is coerced is being immoral (1).

        • Pete Sisco August 5, 2013 at 2:57 AM #

          1. It’s getting pretty obvious you want to quibble rather than understand. Isn’t that the definition of a troll?

          2. There is no contradiction between my points #1 and 3. I said ‘in a Contractual Republic’ for #3. Are we in one now? No. My points are mutually consistent.

          3. Why don’t you just stop shoplifting music and movies and give up looking for a tortured philosophy that justifies your theft? Pay for what you use.

          • peter miller August 5, 2013 at 9:45 AM #

            1. its getting pretty obvious that your argument relies on emotion, not logic (i respond to ad hominem in kind)

            2. please explain how your contractual republic makes it ok to coerce someone into downloading data. because if you can’t then you must admit that downloading data when there are no warnings is morally ok.

            3. emotional cries for pity are not going to sway me. the day you give me a definition of theft which we can both agree upon will be the day that i start listening to you. but so far you have given me this: “theft – using my property under terms not agreed to by me.” and as i’m sure you agree, this is clearly no definition of theft at all. please come up with another one that at least you would agree with.

            • Pete Sisco August 5, 2013 at 10:03 AM #

              I don’t think it’s possible to have a rational, productive discourse with you, Peter.

              But you’ll always be free to start a republic where people who want their life’s work plundered without payment can join with you so you get something for nothing. Good luck with that.

              I’m too busy for any more of this nonsense. Bye.

              • peter miller August 5, 2013 at 10:08 PM #

                i’m already free to download data from websites which do not say anything about copyright. and so far you have given me zero reason not to. infact you have agreed that to prosecute someone who does as i do is entrapment and therefore immoral.

                i can’t see how a contractual republic would change this, but as always, i’m keen to hear if you can come up with any valid reasons against my points.

  5. Kevin
    September 20, 2013 at 1:54 PM #

    Great stuff for thought, but I have a question. In a contractual republic, wouldn’t IP be a choice? So, if I believe that there is no benefit to IP, I can allow my inventions and creations to be taken and used by anyone who might be able to improve them, while someone else may sign contracts to make sure nobody touches what they consider theirs?

    In other words, in a contractual republic, wouldn’t the best ideas surrounding IP win out? It could turn out that most people do better without signing contracts around their IP. Or maybe there are creative ways to make contracts where improvements to things are not stifled like they are in today’s coercive system (see the pharmaceutical industry for an example of IP laws killing progress).

    Let’s take the music industry now. Back in the napster days, musicians were going crazy because people were getting their music for free. Some of the musicians wanted the long arm of the law to do something to stop people from downloading. And the Feds arrested some 12-year old girl and all the file sharers went into hiding. But, Apple came up with a solution that works fairly well, where people could easily buy individual songs, and the artist gets paid.

    And of course there are still millions who get free music via torrents.

    But people are also paying more for concerts these days. People will always pay for quality. And in fact, the band Radiohead released their album to the public for free, and just said if you like it, please donate. They made more from that album that they ever did selling previous ones!

    Perhaps in a contractual republic, there would be even better solutions here- and IP as we know it would no longer be an issue.
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    • Pete Sisco September 20, 2013 at 2:29 PM #

      You bring us some important issues.

      1. The way IP is protected (and I use that term loosely) in our society is by a monolithic, monopolistic State system that is often like using a cannon to kill ants. So I’m not going to defend the system we use now.

      2. That said, a person owns his life and what he creates with his life. A songwriter is a good example. When a woman writes a song she owns the song and in a Contractual Republic people can only morally (i.e. non-coercively) use her property under terms and conditions to which she agrees. Those terms are up to her and the buyer. (And lessee might be a better term. You lease Stairway to Heaven from Led Zeppelin for 99 cents – you do not “buy” it from them and you certainly do not get worldwide distribution rights for that 99 cents.) Yes, she might have good, selfish reasons to say, “Anybody can use this song for any purpose and I need not receive any money.” But that’s up to her – it’s not up to “The Law” and it’s not up to some teenager in Sweden who makes up his own unilateral terms for downloading and using her property.

      3. Like many things in our coercive social system, technology to protect IP is mostly stagnant. In a Free society new technologies and contracts would flourish that both protect IP in a manner welcome by producers and satisfying the market desires of consumers.

      I also discuss these issues in this post: http://www.petesisco.com/why-intellectual-property-is-more-important-than-physical-property/

  6. Spagaletto October 14, 2014 at 2:20 PM #

    How does IP work in a contractual republic? If I borrow a book that my friend purchased (and therefore I’m not in a contract), and then make a copy of it, how does the author get compensated for what I stole?

    • Pete Sisco October 14, 2014 at 2:56 PM #

      1. We can assume that every book would contain a notice of what the author and other producers want from readers. In a low technology marketplace the person who makes a copy could easily comply with a micro-payment or run all the risks of not complying and perhaps being discovered in the future. Remember, every person in the marketplace would have a financial incentive to detect contract violators. Deceiving the book’s author is not the only hurdle.

      2. Perhaps in a higher technology market the scanning technologies would automatically determine the book’s author and the terms and conditions of making copies and instantly make a micro-payment, thereby keeping the new reader’s reputation intact.

      In a global marketplace that assigns very high value to each person’s history of honoring contracts, the emerging technologies will be certain to incorporate features that protect everyone’s reputation. Eventually, honesty and integrity are built into every transaction as a matter of fundamental design.

      • Spagaletto October 14, 2014 at 3:00 PM #

        But since I borrowed the book from my friend, I am not under any contract — only the purchaser is under contract.

        How does the author use the law to get restitution if I did not violate any contract when I made the copies?

        • Pete Sisco October 14, 2014 at 3:09 PM #

          1. There are no laws in a Contractual Republic. There are only voluntary agreements.

          2. The front page of the book contains the contract. “If you make a copy of a friend’s copy pay me $0.10 at this address.” This offer of sale can be accepted or rejected. That’s where you decide whether to enter into this agreement or steal from the author. Stealing runs some high risks, especially if it takes 10 years and $10,000 to discover what you did.

          • Spagaletto October 14, 2014 at 3:52 PM #

            Ok, got it, thanks.

  7. Virgil October 14, 2014 at 4:07 PM #

    Peter, ideas are not property. If they were you would be violating your own position with every word you create, because those ‘organizations of letters’ are not your own.

    Who did you pay when you used the first word, “Why”, in the title of this article?

    If you say, “Well, Virgil, no one has made a contract demanding payment for use of the word, “why”, therefore I’m not violating IP”, then I have to ask, is something property before or only after a contract is established?

    You might own the medium in which you used the word “why”, e.g., your computer, or your piece of paper and pencil, but not the organization of the ideas which gave the word “why”.

    Every thought you have is borrowing, without permission, from someone else whom you did not pay. The creation of your article violates the premise that ideas are property.

    • Pete Sisco October 14, 2014 at 4:29 PM #

      Thanks for the comment, Virgil.

      1. I actually do pay for my antecedents. It’s just a voluntary thing I do. I have a fund set aside and perhaps someday their Contractual Estates will benefit from it. (It’s not much money.)

      2. When you say “Ideas are not property” it’s just a unilateral assertion on your behalf. Others should not be forced to live by your definition. Nor by mine. And some people might disagree with you and say, “Well, when you use my idea I want to get paid.” In that case you can honor their terms or reject them.

      3. In a Contractual Republic there will be people who say, “Music, books and movies are just phoney IP and they aren’t real property so I’m going to take them without paying anybody because they can’t own something that I say is not real property.” Those people who expect to get IP for free will form their own Republics and trade with each other. (Since those who want payment will not trade with them.) So the folks who want their books, music and movies free will have to work with writers, musicians, actors, directors, etc who are willing to create without payment. In fact, they’ll have to find millions of people to perform thousands of jobs without payment because they all believe that IP does not really exist as property with value. They are free to do this and everyone will be happy with their choices.

      It’s a big world with many beliefs and we need a way for the Muslims, Catholics, Atheists, Capitalist, Communists and Nihilists to all get along in harmony by living the life they choose with their own, particular, not-necessarily-empirically-valid beliefs. A system of Contractual Republics does this without trying to force all people to hold the same definitions, beliefs and priorities.

      Can you think of one other social system that can say the same?

      • Virgil October 21, 2014 at 3:18 PM #

        Hi Peter,

        You say, “Can you think of one other social system that can say the same?” – Yes. A voluntary society that honors property rights and lives by not aggressing against either. The closest example, though by no means even close to pure, was pre-copyright laws and pre-Constitution in the United States.

        Contractual Republics is also a “not-necessarily-emperically-valid-belief-system”. Can one empirically prove that it is? (Can one even empirically prove that statement?)

        You made the claim that non-IP is “immoral”. For something to be moral there must be an objective standard on which to make such a propositional truth claim. Based on what do you claim it’s immoral? It’s wrong to violate someone’s property? Everyone’s property, or just some? What is property? To claim immoral, we must be calling to a higher standard, an objective standard. A consistent standard. For example, one foot is always twelve inches, and one pound always sixteen ounces. Likewise, it is either always wrong to agrees against someone’s property, or it is not. Yet, in your worldview, there is a logical contradiction because it’s okay for some people’s unquestionable property to be aggressed against (the use of coercion in a very negative sense), while other’s arguable property cannot.

        “Virgil!,” you say, “what are you talking about?”

        While driving down the road, owned by you, with whom I contracted, and agreed that whatever I saw on your road was for viewing pleasure only, I saw a wooden three-legged stool, as your sign read. Went home, saw some aluminum in my shed’s corner. After, cutting, straightening, and moulding, I developed a better four-legged aluminum stool. While over at my house for coffee one morning, you sit down on my property, and say, “you stole my property!” I say, “Nonsense. I simply used my property the way I wanted. The next day I receive a subpoena to attend a contractually agreed upon adjudication center to determine damages I should pay for stealing your property.

        How absurd of a situation, yet this goes on every day in this country, regarding IP in very select areas of life.

        I know a guy who was sued by an artist for remaking a song to use on his own property, and who wasn’t even selling it. While at the same time, a double standard is seen on TV every night when a chop shop takes a car, remakes it, AND sells it for profit without paying the car manufacturer. Why is this okay? Because it’s his property, and he can do with his property what he wants. (I can hear you now, “well, if the auto manufacturer had a contract…)

        What then is “property”? It is ownership.

        And in the same way that you cannot own the word “Why”, used in the title of your article, neither can you own any other idea. You can voluntarily contract with someone not to share the idea(s) in your mind. You can keep the idea secret inside your mind, but you still don’t own it because someone else may also have the same idea. Nor do ideas, and this is most important, nor do ideas all of the sudden become property because one creates a contract.

        You like to use art as an analogy (music, books, movies), which I can relate to being a former professional orchestra musician, and photographer. Your use of art, though, is the logical fallacy called bifurcation. You have set up a false dichotomy when arguing it’s either one pays for art or one steals it. This has occurred because you are limiting the possible transactions to current federal copyright laws, which only cover certain successfully-lobbied-industries.

        Personally, people hire me to photograph ‘x’. I exchange, at a mutually agreeable price, my skill-set for cash; then they purchase images, in either digital or paper format, on mutually agreeable terms. What they purchase they now own. It’s now their piece of paper, and it’s up to them what they do with their own property. They can burn it, copy it, recreate it in a different format, etc. It’s their property, and I cannot control what another does with his property; by doing so, I would be violating their property rights. I could create a voluntary contract which states the terms of the use of that property, and they would have to agree to such nonsense, but even in so doing the items do not become property because of the contract. It was already my property when I bought a blank piece of photo paper, and it became their property when I sold it to them. The contract is irrelevant with regard to whether or not it is property.

        You also redefine terms, “music, books, movies”, engaging in equivocation. A person’s movies, books, and movies are his. But that’s not what you’re arguing. You’re saying the ideas of a piece of music, book, or movie are property. You do not believe this yourself, though, and I will prove it with your John Lennon analogy:

        In your world, John Lennon owns the idea of ‘Let It Be’, yet if that were really true you would also have to argue John stole the opening C-major chord, which he did not pay for; nor did he give any attribution to the one who came up with the idea of combining the notes C-E-G to form a major triad.
        Why would it be okay with you to allow musicians to take other people’s IP for their own use and profit, but it’s not okay for someone else?

        “Property protection is the indispensable condition of Freedom. Property plunder is the road to the coercive decay of human progress and civility.” This is another example of the logical fallacy of equivocation. You would like to use the word ‘property’ in the objective sense, ownership, on the one hand, but really, your using it as ‘idea property,’ redefining it in a subjective form.

        All of the arguing can be distilled to show the absurdity of IP in the following. Every word and every chord one uses is the idea of someone else. If one really believes IP is property, and believes non-IP is immoral, he should stop talking, stop thinking, stop playing, stop composing, and stop writing, because those can’t be done without first taking from someone else.

        • Pete Sisco December 20, 2014 at 8:49 AM #

          Sorry for the late reply to this.

          Your various arguments point to how poorly IP is protected with our current social technology. You raise some valid points. Where we disagree, I think, is that you are proposing a free for all of IP plunder and I am proposing new, more flexible and more comprehensive ways to protect IP.

          The biggest flaw in the argument of the “take whatever you want” camp of IP deniers (and I’m not saying you are pone of them) is that the producers are never asked if they agree with the various definitions, terms and conditions that are unilaterally applied.

          I can redefine rape so that I can have sex with anyone I want any time I want – but if the other party does not agree with my definition then why should it apply?

  8. Tom Robertson October 15, 2014 at 11:06 AM #

    Pete, I may have missed it, but did you say how IP would be enforced? In the CR that you’d live in, what are the consequences of stealing IP?

    • Pete Sisco October 15, 2014 at 2:05 PM #

      Hi Tom. It’s explained in the book, but basically the network operates by not trading with people who use coercion. So when a person is identified as stealing from Tom, he immediately discovers he cannot buy bread or electricity or phone service or fuel for his car until restitution has been made to you.

      This is a 100% voluntary system and people can choose to live any way they like as long as it does not involve coercing others. Once they use coercion they are out of the system until they make restitution.

      Some people might elect to live in their own “full coercion” network but they would have to find others who enjoy being stolen from and controlled. Good luck to them, but they are free to live that way if they want to.

      • Tom Robertson October 15, 2014 at 5:07 PM #

        I’m skeptical that solidarity would effectively enforce violations. To use the same incident for more than one point regarding IP, I did business with someone I knew to be rather shaky. I counted on the fact that we had mutual friends who also did business with him to “keep him in line.” But according to our explicit agreement, he cheated me. He had given me many ideas, which I used to make far more than he had cheated me out of. I talked to him many times to try to get what he had cheated me out of, but, when he made any attempt to justify it, I think he at least implied that he had it due him because of the ideas he had given me, or at least that tempered my sense of injustice, since I agreed that he had given me valuable ideas, although we had never put a price on them and he had volunteered them. But I don’t want to trust solidarity to keep anyone from cheating me.

  9. Pete Sisco October 15, 2014 at 5:24 PM #

    I understand.

    1. We have a multi-trillion dollar coercive social system in place right now and it did not protect you either. So that’s food for thought.

    2. Do you think he’d have paid you if his car stopped working and he couldn’t buy electricity?

    3. What I’m saying is a Contractual Republic has contract compliance built into every transaction that every person makes. People who honor their agreements never experience the slightest inconvenience and the cost to maintain the system is trivial (as compared to the current system which demands 50% of your lifetime production)

    4. In any case, those who are not convinced of the efficacy of any Contractual Republic would be free to live in any coercive system of their choosing, provided they can find enough people willing to be net losers financially and willing to have their personal choices dictated by the 51%. (I think this would be easy in the early days because so may people are satisfied with the current social system. Over time, their numbers would diminish as they saw a parallel system where people prosper without the expense and personal restrictions.)
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  10. Tom Robertson October 18, 2014 at 12:37 AM #

    How would contract compliance be built into every transaction?

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