For Timmy’s sake…

…and for the sake of his blog, I have responded to Ian B of Counting Cats here rather than at Tim’s place. The summary for those new to the problem: What started off as a broadly economic and policy based discussion on IP law turned into a rather more moral rights argument. This is Ian’s latest comment from the original thread. Ian’s stuff is in italics and indented. Where Ian is quoting me or others, the original text is also in red.

Okay, the commies are massing haha! As usual. I will answer the pertinent points rather than per person; a collectivist approach will probably be beter understood anyway by the Red Guards here. :)

k.

“Nope. It’s a property right.” [this was by Ian, I am quoting him.]

I would like you to back this up.

It’s a definition of property. That is what a property right is. I cannot put it any other way. It’s like asking “back up your assertion that Tim Worstall is a human being”. All I can say is, “Tim Worstall is a human being.”

No, sorry, insufficient. That gets you trapped in a loop of asking what property is, and why IP qualifies. After all, you can define property without necessarily asserting property rights, too.

Following this logic, Paul Lockett weighs in with the commonplace misuse of the word “monopoly” by communists. And also objects to “communist”. I’ll take the latter first; a person who believes in communalised, rather than individual, property is by definition a communist. Not necessarily a Marxist of course; but a communist. Many people are IP communists. Many others are land communists. And so on.

More communist stuff. Give it a rest. Your definition isn’t even accurate, but since it doesn’t effect any of the substantial points, I’ll willing to run with it for the time being.

Now, is the word “monopoly” appropriate here? Depends on your personal taste. But, if IP is “monopoly” then so is land ownership; the landowner monopolises his land. So is owning your toothbrush; you are monopolising your toothbrush and- as with this “IP monopoly”- in each case the State will use force to defend your monopoly.

Not all property rights rely on the State to be enforced. Ian makes this point a lot, and as he’s criticized anarchism before (particularly anarcho capitalism) I don’t blame him. It’s true that in this sense all property is a monopoly. But it is a highly defined monopoly. A toothbrush in my ownership is limited to that one unit of toothbrush. It does not prevent third parties from manufacturing similar toothbrushes, selling toothbrushes, and any other of the myraid of acts that are considered actionable under patent law, were I to hold a patent in toothbrushes. More importantly, the edges of what these acts are are not in fact determined and easy to recognize, as they are with most corporeal property. Rather, they are constantly expanding, through a variety of means. As their reach is unlimited, but conventional property rights very limited, it is true to say that intellectual property provides a monopoly of an incomparable nature to corporeal property.

Moreover, as the patterns of interference caused by intellectual property are infinitely greater than those caused by corporeal property, the tendency to violate the liberty of others in an unjust way is also infinitely greater. The law of equal liberty does not bode will with unlimited rights to control the corporeal property of others.

Hence, Mr CL’s claim-

Intellectual property is not comparable to corporeal property, as IP necessarily requires massive state action to enforce against the property and free expression of all other people in ways any other form of property does not.

-is false. All property requires similar “massive State action”; as we see in cases of trespass, or looting. In each case, if mass violation of property rights occurs, the State either ends up using massive (often deadly) force, or the property right cannot be enforced and widespread violation results.

So, the accusations that IP is qualitatively different to other property rights are false.

I just reaffirmed my claim above. This goes into an argument about anarchism vs statism which is actually not at all relevant to the issue of hand: the moral basis of IP rights.

We say property rights, for the most part, not because property rights are sacred or more important than free speech, but because they work.

Yes, all rights are ultimately justified on some Utilitarian basis, however much some may like to claim to be able to pluck them from a Platonic Plane. Specifically, as capitalists we prefer a rights framework to ensure the existence of a market and thus production. That is, they allow a trading system between strangers; the basis of any free market.

On its own, this statement is true. Especially the first sentence, which I quite like. let’s see where it goes…

By the way, it is likely that Mickey Mouse et al will never come out of copyright because the swine at Disney have lobbied for extensions faster than they have run out so far.

So? What is this desperate need people have for Mickey Mouse? If you don’t want to pay for Mickey, draw your own mouse. What do you need theirs for? And this is where the whole argument gets both curious and revealing. It is claimed above that copyrights “infringe others’ rights”. But how? All you’re denied is Mickey Mouse. There are an infinitude of other possible cartoon mice, or cartoon characters. Nobody is being prevented creating any number of new mice.

Well, firstly, the point here was about the Rule of Law, and crony capitalism. Both of these were ignored. Secondly, as to what Ian says, I am having trouble finding what his point is, or the relevance. It seems to be “Under a copyright regime, Mickey mouse is copyrighted, go make your own”. And this is designed to even touch on the matter of the moral basis of copyright… how?

One can argue that for patents, one man’s patent on a telephone prevents anyone else making telephones (since the laws of physics limit the number of unique inventions). Not so cartoon mice; there cannot be a shortage, or any infringement of others’ freedoms of action at all.

Indeed you can, and I will, argue this for telephones. The patent has universally (in the jurisdiction of the relevant legal system) dictated a use of private property- wire copper, plastic, whatever- in the name of a private interest, the patent holder. This is clearly a rights violation. But the same applies to creative works covered by copyright also. They require resources- printing machines, paper, computers, whatever is relevant to the medium at hand.

And yet, the IP brigade are most furious at copyrights. “How dare they extend copyright on Mickey Mouse?” they squeak! This is the bottom line of it. Such people are those with no capacity to create new works and thus enrich the marketplace; the best they can do is the feeble collage of “mashups” and “mixtapes”; this is the height of their capacity.

A strawman based on no research. Go ask Cory Doctorow about it. He’s on twitter, and easy to get in touch of. How about Dan Bull? He’s pretty good. Anyway, we’re dealing with subjective tastes.

They cannot create IP-free works because they cannot create, period. So they want the illusion of creation, by appropriating the works of others. This is the driving force behind the anger at IP. This, and the simple desire for plunder- the oldest economy mankind knows is to take. It precedes trade. You take from the environment, and you plunder your neighbours in murderous raids. That is what we had before markets were invented. That is the instinct here.

Plundering based on a crony capitalist “right” which, once again, you have refused to give substantive moral basis to. You have assumed the existence of IP as a moral right throughout this whole thing. It is not a self supporting position, it requires a moral basis. I suggest you give more consideration to this. In fact, I’ll give you some help: Try the works of Lysander Spooner, Ayn Rand, and Nozick. That’s just within your own personal libertarian belief system- you can find much more sophisticated pro-IP ideas if you cast your net wider.

I’ll just repeat again; liberals and libertarians support markets. That’s the basis of our system. If you want a market, you have to have that artifical creation, property rights. It took us 99% of human history before we invented them. They were the way out of a prior existence of eternal plunder. That’s the choice. Stick with markets, or go back to plunder.

I prefer the markets, myself.

That’s right. I do.

Which is exactly why I am against Intellectual Property as a moral concept. By allowing unnatural “property” rights to be legislated for, and routinely enforced to the detriment of the many, intellectual property acts as an artificial rent on producers, in favour of the real parasites.

 

 

(I am of course, entirely open to public policy discussions on the matter. That’s for another time, maybe.)

23 23 23 23 23 23

Today’s my 23rd birthday, so here’s a list of things I care about related to December 14th:

1903: The Wright Brothers manage to fly for 3 seconds.

1946: The UN created its New York HQ.

1950: The UN creates UNHCR, the refugee agency.

1964: Heart of Atlanta Motel  v US case is decided. A boost for civil rights in the US. Rand Paul fans and Walter Block drink themselves into a depressed stupor.

2008: Dubya got shoes thrown at him. Dodges like a ninja.

 

And of course, being a Gorillaz fan, the number 23 is basically like number 9 to a Lennon fan.

FAO: Freemen on the land

When I ask for evidence supporting your claim, what I want is, say, binding legal sources that suggest your theories actually do describe the operation of the law as it stands. I have asked a number of your adherents for such, and yet the response is always the same.

Here’s me at Captain Ranty’s

Can you, or can you not, present evidence of the applicability of Freeman legal theories to the English legal system?

The response from CR:

Nope.

I don’t need to. I only need to prove that the courts lack legitimacy. Now I can.

I don’t need anything other than that.

Your move.

CR.

So, uh, apparently the burden of proof does not rest with Freemen. Right.

And on twitter, I was told:

Hard to face, but your LLM is just legal brainwashing funded by the Rockefellers to undermine the Magna Carta 1215 & bill of Rights

And now, via a commenter at Wh00ps:

Just because some one does not complete a course or gain a ‘Degree’ in LAW doesn’t mean they have no understanding of the LAW or may not comment on the LAW as many ‘would be’ lawyers and libertarians claim. As I understand things the Common Law, the ancient charters and the Constitution were created to defend the rights and Freedoms of ‘all’ the people of these islands, statutes especially over the past 100 years are created only to remove property and wealth from the people, to trample over their rights and force them to be governed by an unelected foreign power.
I’ve no doubt you will put me right when you have gained the Law Degree.

I hate to break it to you guys, but: If you’re gonna make a claim as to how the English legal system operates, it’s up to you to demonstrate it. Stop trying to divert attention to your legal ignorance, stop trying to pass the burden of proof onto others, and if you seriously think you have a legal claim to, I dunno, withdraw from statute or whatever it is you want, go and make your case, properly.  Because right now, you’re taking the exact same course regular old conspiracy theorists do.

Plea bargaining as legitimized extortion

Confessions were once considered to be, in law, the highest form of evidence. For quite a long time, it was considered implausible that one would confess to a crime they did not commit. Nowadays, not just in light of the naturally unreliable nature of evidence gathered through torture, but through unfair police practices, this is no longer believed- in fact the Police and Criminal Evidence Act has provisions ensuring that evidence gathered through “oppressive” means is to be excluded from court.

But oppressive means of interrogation- the main concern of the PACE provisions- are not the only source of unreliable suspect testimony. Sometimes, the legal system has its own incentives to produce bad evidence. A particularly sad case is this one from Virginia, which I find via Radley Balko’s twitter.

 

They believed that their son was innocent but were afraid that Virginia’s penal system would grab hold of him and never let go.

So Cherri Dulaney and Edgar Coker Sr. told 15-year-old Edgar Jr. to plead guilty to raping a 14-year-old friend. Their court-appointed attorney told them that was better than risking adult charges and a lengthy prison term.

Two months after their decision, in November 2007, the girl admitted that she had lied.

What we’re seeing here is what the legal profession may refer to as “plea bargaining”- which usually manifests itself in the act of persuading a suspect to give a guilty plea to charges lesser than they would otherwise stand trial for. In such a case, it’s a guaranteed lower sentence in exchange for the risk of a greater one. Although somewhat frowned upon under English law, it’s a widely used practice in the US. However, as the case of Coke Jr shows, it allows for the innocent to face guilt for something they didn’t commit, regardless of their innocence- accept the plea bargain, and they get a lower sentence. Refuse, and there is probably sufficient “evidence” to convict regardless. For this reason, I would refer to it not as “plea bargaining”, but as “bribery and intimidation”; or maybe a form of legal extortion. Either way, for the innocent, they are handed a situation in which heads they lose, tails, they’ll probably lose worse.

 

While looking up the US practice of plea bargaining, I found a somewhat shocking piece of Federal statute (11(c)(1)(B)) that states that in some circumstances, means that despite an agreement on the part of the defense to consent to a plea bargain, the defendant can find himself facing a full length sentence contrary to the agreement, but also without the ability to take back his guilty plea. Such a morally dubious practice, you would hope, was beyond the limits of any institution claiming to support justice and the rule of law, right? Sadly not.

 

Coke Jr is still in prison. A victim of the legal system, he is unable as of yet to get a retrial, or a successful appeal. The Rule of Law needs more than mere procedure and box ticking before locking up an innocent man and patting itself on the back; it needs to be able to adapt to amend its own mistakes. But plea bargaining doesn’t facilitate this to any great degree- it may, at best, take a criminal off the streets for a lesser period than justice demands; at worst, it creates new victims like Coke Jr.

 

Oh, one final thing: Now that we know Coke Jr’s “victim” was telling porkies, and that he ended up in jail regardless… aren’t you glad rape doesn’t have the death penalty?

 

PLZ HALP

For the assessment of my theoretical perspectives module, I need to take two academic articles and do a comparative analysis of them.

I’m looking to consider two articles on the ethical/philosophical basis of intellectual property rights. Now, ideally I’d like one that is opposed to the concept, and one that supports it. What would be even better is if each article reaches their conclusion through different means; eg, natural rights vs utilitarianism.

I have a couple of ideas for what the anti IP piece could be; Stephan Kinsella’s Against Intellectual Property, or Tom Palmer’s Are Patents and Copyright Morally Justified?

My request is this: Does anyone know of a good suggestion for a pro-IP, utilitarian based piece of writing to which I can do a comparative analysis?

 

Thanks!

No. Wrong.

The reddit thread has some bloody brilliant responses.

Pew Research FAIL

I have a page on this blog showing my results from a number of political spectrum style quizzes. I was going to update it with this one from Pew Research, the only research foundation named after the sound of a laser gun, but after around 5 questions realized it probably wouldn’t be worth my while filling out the other 15. But it’s a lazy Tuesday with nowhere to go, so I did. My results are below, but first, I want to talk about the quiz itself. The basic flaw of the whole quiz (or, rather, a survey- but it does attempt to give you a place on a spectrum of sorts at the end, and so in effect is a political spectrum quiz) is that it reduces complex political issues into two black or white statements, each of which clearly are supposed to represent the American conventional two sided approach to politics. The most egregious few are below.

3. The government should do more to help needy Americans, even if it means going deeper into debt vs The government today can’t afford to do much more to help the needy

Not an either or. An alternative, and more effective method to aiding the needy would be to abolish those government maintained privileges that ensure a gradual distribution of wealth upwards. At most, a welfare state is a concession that allows the continued distribution to remain manageable.

4. Religion is a very important part of my life vs Religion is not that important to me

Are we to genuinely believe that this question has any real effect on one’s political stance? Sure, this quiz is heavily American, and according to stereotype the Republicans are Christian nut jobs and the Democrats Godless Atheist heathens. But if you’re trying to make a serious political quiz, does this question really have any use at all? This is just one of a few questions that suggests the quiz wants to extrapolate information about your political views from much more personal information- another one asks if you are happy with your financial situation or not. What the crap, guys?

10. Business corporations make too much profit vs Most corporations make a fair and reasonable amount of profit

Much criticism of big business is made purely on the basis of how much money they are making. Less is made of how they make money. Ultimately, it’s futile to purely think in terms of the former. There is no such thing as “too much” profit; only an open market can determine at any given time how much a certain good or value is worth. There are just immoral ways of making profit. And of course, the main beneficiaries of these immoral methods are the biggest business corporations. The question as it is framed fails to get down to any real issue, preferring instead to concentrate on a popular but meaningless talking point.

 15. Government regulation of business is necessary to protect the public interest vs Government regulation of business usually does more harm than good

 This presupposes the old “nasty old businessmen” vs “honest caring politicians” line, as well as a lot about the aims of regulation (not to mention its real effects, intentions aside). The answer in red is undoubtedly true; but not in the way most people would expect it to be. Rather than being based on any sort of capitalistic “business is a persecuted minority” mentality, the real reason for being opposed to regulation of business is that it tends to move costs from the established, powerful businesses to everyone else- increasing the former’s economic power and undermining opportunities for the rest.

20. Homosexuality should be accepted by society vs Homosexuality should be discouraged by society

I just want to know why we’re still arguing this one. Seriously, why? It is not my business who you fuck, unless you are trying to fuck me.

Although not every one of the 20 questions is bunkum, the quiz as a whole can only possibly make sense- or even be answered- by those who have accepted the mainstream political landscape hook, line, and sinker. The number that have is growing ever smaller.

Ok, so time for the results. The quiz puts you into one of the following categories:

  •   Staunch Conservatives
  •   Main Street Republicans
  •   Libertarians
  •   Disaffecteds
  •   Post-Moderns
  •   New Coalition Democrats
  •   Hard-Pressed Democrats
  •   Solid Liberals

I was placed in “Disaffecteds”, which makes 11% of the (American) population. Disaffecteds are described as:

What They Believe
  • Highly critical of both government and business
  • Sympathetic to the poor and supportive of social welfare programs
  • Concerned about immigration
  • Majority believes the country can’t solve many of its important problems
  • Religious and socially conservative
Who They Are
  • Most financially stressed of the groups: nearly half describe their household as “struggling”
  • 71% have experienced unemployment in their household in the past 12 months
  • About two-thirds have only a high school education or less
  • Compared with the national average of 33%, more are parents (44%)
  • 26% have a U.S. passport — well below the national average
  • 23% follow NASCAR racing

The first section scores 1/5. The second barely describes my situation at all. Not impressive in the slightest.

 

Conclusion: A quiz designed purely at those already supporting the Status Quo. Does nothing for anyone with any form of radical ideas at all. Based just as much on stereotypes as it is ideas. Suggested action: Flush it into the Houses of Parliament’s sewers with the rest of the stupid crap it carries.

 

 

test test test

please ignore


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