Intellectual Property is Pure Cronyism

Brad Matthews entrepreneurship category

IP is not legitimate property. Nor is the concept compatible with peace or freedom.

Property rights tell us who has the right to control the use of a particular scarce good. If we could create whatever we wanted out of thin air, we would not need property rights. If I took your drink you could simply summon a new one, no problem.

We do not live in such a world, thus we have property rights. They allow us to govern the use of our own physical goods.

Property rights do not apply to digital or replicable works that can be copied without being taken. If someone duplicates an eBook, article, idea or video file you created, they aren’t taking anything away from you. You still have your copy. IP does not meet the definition of ‘property’ given the lack of scarcity, hence why the new, separate term had to be created. Yet it serves only cronyists at the expense of everyone else.

If you want to learn more about the case against IP, Stephan Kinsella expands on it in Against Intellectual Property.

Intellectual property is legalised thuggery

My revulsion toward IP is a result of the authoritarian inclination protectionist creators and lawyers have. They seek to use the law to restrict and exclude people from using ‘their’ ideas or material. They’re using enforcers to stop people using ideas or non-scarce materials they created. This prevents those people from subsequent derivative creations using their own physical property. Culture, civilisation and the modern world is built upon doing just that. The biggest irony is that pro-IP types probably complain about millennial entitlement, yet they’re perversely entitled children themselves. Simply creating something does not entitle you to profit from it.

Intellectual property limits competition

If someone can’t re-design your product and improve on it, you’ve got an effective monopoly. Without competition there is less incentive to innovate. This makes it more lucrative for monopoly holders to simply continue creating a mediocre and gradually stagnating product. Yet it wouldn’t have a fraction of its market-share if competitors could enter and improve on it. But it isn’t just about market-share and the businesses that lose out by being denied permission to compete. The consumer loses too. They’re stuck with the same stale product long-term instead of the rapidly improving series of products they would have had if government weren’t granting a monopoly.

Some of the most innovative and ever changing industries are those with no IP protection: fashion design, food recipes and sport manoeuvres for example. It’s probably why they evolve at the rate they do. Prosperity and an abundance of options don’t come from preventing people from using their own property however they see fit. It comes from the freedom to create, copy, share and also build on what already exists.


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