Against Monopoly

defending the right to innovate

Monopoly corrupts. Absolute monopoly corrupts absolutely.

Copyright Notice: We don't think much of copyright, so you can do what you want with the content on this blog. Of course we are hungry for publicity, so we would be pleased if you avoided plagiarism and gave us credit for what we have written. We encourage you not to impose copyright restrictions on your "derivative" works, but we won't try to stop you. For the legally or statist minded, you can consider yourself subject to a Creative Commons Attribution License.

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Helpless Mainstreamers Grappling with Intellectual Property

A recent CNET video on "Intellectual property rights vs. journalism" shows a Stanford University's Innovation Journalism conference on June 7, with a panel discussion by various mainstreamers discussing the quesion "Is intellectual property protection a threat to journalism?" The lack of libertarian principle and sound economics has these commentators floundering as they discuss various cases where IP infringes free speech and freedom of the press. Lacking any principled approach they retreat to legal positivism, talking about how the Constitution protects both freedom of the press and speech as well as IP rights, so some "balance" must be made. Without Austrian economics and libertarian principle, even well-intentioned people, who sense that something is wrong, are helpless before the state's propaganda and onslaught of legal positivism.

Terence Kealey: "Science is a Private Good--Or: Why Government Science is Wasteful"

Terence KealeyI recently attended at the Fifth Annual Meeting of the Property and Freedom Society in Bodrum, Turkey (see my Bodrum Days and Nights: The Fifth Annual Meeting of the Property and Freedom Society: A Partial Report). I delivered a speech entitled "Ideas are Free: The Case Against Intellectual Property." The speech following mine was by one Terence Kealey, a biochemist at the University of Buckingham and author of Sex, Science and Profits and The Economic Laws of Scientific Research. Kealey is a fantastic speaker and his fascinating, riveting talk, "Science is a Private Good - Or: Why Government Science is Wasteful" (video; audio), perfectly complemented my anti-IP talk-in fact his book Sex, Science and Profits has a chapter calling for the abolition of patents. (The other PFS speeches (see the Program) are being uploaded and will be linked here.)

Kinsella: Ideas are Free: The Case Against Intellectual Property: or, How Libertarians Went Wrong

Earlier this month, I spoke at the Fifth Annual Meeting of the Property and Freedom Society in Bodrum, Turkey (see my Bodrum Days and Nights: The Fifth Annual Meeting of the Property and Freedom Society: A Partial Report). My topic was "Ideas are Free: The Case Against Intellectual Property," though a better title might be something like "Ideas Are Not Property: The Libertarian IP Mistake and the Structure of Human Action." It is now available in audio and video. The other speeches (see the Program) are being uploaded and will be linked here.

PFS 2010 - Stephan Kinsella, Ideas are Free: The Case Against Intellectual Property Rights from Sean Gabb on Vimeo.

Letter to MacBreak's Scott Bourne about Open Source and the Free Market

Dear Mr. Bourne,

I've been enjoying your commentary on various Twit network podcasts for a while now. On the recent MacBreak Weekly, I found your exchange with Merlin Mann about open source interesting. I detect a whiff of libertarianism in your remark about the force of the state being used to enforce taxes--which I appreciate, as I'm a libertarian myself. I'm also a patent attorney and have written extensively about why patent and copyright law are anti-free market and unlibertarian (my reasons may be found at The Case Against IP: A Concise Guide, available at http://www.stephankinsella.com/publications/#IP).

You are right, in a way, that the free market will come into play here--but the power of patent and copyright holders is not a free market power. It is an artificial and unjust monopoly given to them by the state, which they then use in the courts to get the force of the state (as with tax collection) to extort money from third parties. So, given this monopoly power, yes, the free market will temper somewhat how much they can extort from people, but still, it's unjust and greatly distorts the market. It also leads to hostility against the free market when people wrongly identify this state monopoly granting practice as part of the free market.

That said, I agree with you that there is no "religious" reason for a given individual or firm to use open source over non-open -- whatever works better and is the better deal for you, of course. And in fact the "open source" model is not without problems: it also relies on copyright, and has insidious aspects -- that's one reason I, as an anti-copyright type, prefer public domain or creative commons attribution only instead of the share-alike/GNU type model (which I explain in Copyright is very sticky!, Eben Moglen and Leftist Opposition to Intellectual Property, and Leftist Attacks on the Google Book Settlement).

Roderick Long Finally Realizes IP is Unjustified

Well, back in 1995, that is :) See his post Bye-Bye for IP, an excellent short critique of "intellectual property." As I noted in the comments, I think I tied him in coming to my senses about IP: I believe my first published piece against IP was in 1995 as well in the IOS Journal. There may have been something earlier; I'm not sure. I may have presented something a bit earlier at some Federalist Society meetings in Philadelphia; the next thing I can find that I published was in 1998 for the Pennsylvania Bar Association Intellectual Property Newsletter (later republished in a Federalist Society online forum).

The 1995 publication followed on the heels of my taking the patent bar exam in 1994. I had been thinking about IP for a long time, since 1987 or so at least, because Rand's defense of IP had always bugged me. I started thinking about it harder in 1992 or so, when I started practicing IP law.

Good times.

Fund raising for feature documentary - Who Owns You?

As I noted previously, I was interviewed recently for a promising new documentary by lawyer-philosopher David Koepsell and filmmaker Taylor Roesch, "Who Owns You?" (Here's the first trailer, on Vimeo.) Here's an email I just received from Taylor:
Hello Family and Friends,

As you may or may not know, for the last eight months, I have been filming a documentary on the subject of human gene patenting with David Koepsell, philosopher and author of the book Who Owns You? The Corporate Gold Rush to Patent Our Genes. We have made great progress since last October, filming numerous interviews with genetic counselors, patent attorneys, and the one and only James Watson. Currently, we have over 35 hours of footage and expect to film another 35 hours this summer. Below is a link to the trailer for the documentary:

Who Owns You? - Trailer

Our film has nicely dove-tailed with the recent court case between the Myriad Genetics, patent holder of genes BRCA1 and BRCA2 (which contribute to breast cancer), and the ACLU as well as numerous individuals and clinical organizations. At the beginning of April, the honorable Judge Sweets of the Federal District Court in New York, ruled in favor of the ACLU, making Myriad's patents invalid. Initially, this was great news! Not only had the ACLU won this case, but my film had an ending. My celebration was premature because Myriad has decided to appeal the decision. The case is currently in the Appellate Court and both sides intend on taking it to the US Supreme Court. It will be years before a final decision is reached. If we can spotlight this issue in the public square, it will help build public support for the lower court's decision, and perhaps the Appellate Court and Supreme Court will uphold the recent ruling.

But there is more at stake than this one case, over 20% of the human genome has been patented. While the ACLU case highlights this problem, there are still many questions about whether it will invalidate all of these sorts of gene patents.

We have some great people willing to help us as you can see from our trailer but there are still a lot of costs involved in finishing the film. We need additional funds to conduct more interviews in Chicago, Washington DC, Berkeley CA, and The Netherlands. After we finish filming this summer, post production will begin and a final product should be ready by December 2010. We have financed much of the work ourselves, but we will need at least $3,000.00 to complete this important film. Any money you can contribute will go a long way to getting this documentary done and this issue heard. Please feel free to send this email along to anyone you think might be interested in helping us out.

Below is a link to our Kickstarter website where you can easily donate to our project:

Your Genes Have Been Patented - A Feature Documentary titled Who Owns You?

Thank you very much,

Taylor Roesch (757) 817-5052 TaylorRoesch@gmail.com

Who Owns You? - A Documentary - Trailer

Here's the first trailer for a promising new documentary by lawyer-philosopher David Koepsell and filmmaker Taylor Roesch (I was interviewed for it as mentioned here). Vimeo;

Who Owns You? - A Documentary - Trailer from Taylor Roesch on Vimeo.

Over the last 20 years, the United States Patent and Trademark Office has been issuing patents to universities and private companies on raw human genes. One company or university is given a legal monopoly over a molecule that is inside every human being and many other animals. This documentary explores the legal, ethical, and clinical ramifications of human gene patenting.


Taylor Roesch taylorroesch.com

David Koepsell davidkoepsell.com

Music by: Carter Mahnke

The Ethical Case Against Intellectual Property, by David Koepsell

ACTA Treaty Draft Text Released

And, in the words of Groundhog Day's Ned Ryerson, "It's a doosy".

As noted previously (see Stop the ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement)), this treaty was being negotiated in secret and is an attempt to extend the reach of the west's horrible and draconian IP (patent and copyright) regimes to other countries. As I noted, the

ACTA is also similar to another arcane law, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which, under the guise of protecting "property rights," snuck in provisions that criminalize even the mere possession of technology that can be used to circumvent digital protection systems (see, e.g., my post TI Uses Copyright Law to Attack TI Calculator Enthusiasts). Likewise, under the guise or protecting property rights in inventions and artistic works (patent and copyright), it "seeks to provide legal authority for the surveillance of Internet file transfers and searches of personal property". As one group notes, "ACTA goes way, way beyond the TRIPS (the copyright/patent/trademark stuff in the World Trade Organization agreement), creating an entirely new realm of liability for people who provide services on the net". More invasion of personal liberty and property rights in the name of false, artificial property rights.

The draft text has now been released, under pressure from the European Parliament (see Declan McCullagh's post, ACTA treaty aims to deputize ISPs on copyrights; see aslo Michael Geist's analysis of the draft text). As I suspected, the text (available here) reveals, as McCullagh notes, that ACTA "seek[s] to export controversial chunks of U.S. copyright law to the rest of the world," such as the DMCA's "'anti-circumvention' section, which makes it illegal to bypass copy protection even to back up a Blu-Ray disc" (see, e.g., my post TI Uses Copyright Law to Attack TI Calculator Enthusiasts). This is a horrible US law that was snuck in the DMCA that may now become part of other countries' laws. It prohibits not only copyright infringement but also makes it illegal to sell devices that could be used to circumvent encryption of DRM'd information.

Now, the DMCA also contained a "safe harbor" for ISPs that probably would not pass now (since it gave ISPs an exemption for liability that turned out to be broader than initially realized when the DMCA was enacted in the 1990s). I was concerned that ACTA would contain the anti-circumvention provisions but not the ISP safe-harbor rules--but some version of this does, at least, seem to be contemplated in the ACTA text (see pp. 20-21).

In any case, this horrible treaty needs to be stopped.

Movie: Patent Absurdity: how software patents broke the system

A new documentary is out, Patent Absurdity: how software patents broke the system:
Patent Absurdity explores the case of software patents and the history of judicial activism that led to their rise, and the harm being done to software developers and the wider economy. The film is based on a series of interviews conducted during the Supreme Court's review of in re Bilski a case that could have profound implications for the patenting of software. The Court's decision is due soon...

With interviews from Eben Moglen, Dan Bricklin, Karen Sandler, Richard Stallman and others...

I discuss Bilski in Supreme Skepticism Toward Method Patents and The Arbitrariness of Patent Law, and Moglen and Stallman in Leftist Attacks on the Google Book Settlement and Eben Moglen and Leftist Opposition to Intellectual Property. The film is worth watching.

But interestingly, the site for a film about patent absurdity contains this notice: "Movie copyright © 2010 Luca Lucarini."

Consistency FAIL!

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Most Recent Comments

IIPA thinks open source equals piracy rerwerwerwer

IIPA thinks open source equals piracy Thank you for this great

Questions and Challenges For Defenders of the Current Copyright Regime Eu acho que os direitos autorais da invenção ou projeto devem ser

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Your Compulsory Assignment for Tonight rerrerrr

IIPA thinks open source equals piracy rwerwewre

An analysis of patent trolls by a trademark lawyer

Questions and Challenges For Defenders of the Current Copyright Regime It is one of the finest websites I have stumbled upon. It is not only well developed, but has good

Killing people with patents I'm not really commenting the post, but rather asking if this blog is going to make a comeback

The right to rub smooth using a hardened steel tool with ridges Finally got around to looking at the comments, sorry for delay... Replying to Stephan: I'm sorry

Let's See: Pallas, Pan, Patents, Persephone, Perses, Poseidon, Prometheus... Seems like a kinda bizarre proposal to me. We just need to abolish the patent system, not replace

The right to rub smooth using a hardened steel tool with ridges I'm a bit confused by this--even if "hired to invent" went away, that would just change the default

Do we need a law? @ Alexander Baker: So basically, if I copy parts of 'Titus Andronicus' to a webpage without

Do we need a law? The issue is whether the crime is punished not who punishes it. If somebody robs our house we do

Do we need a law? 1. Plagiarism most certainly is illegal, it is called "copyright infringement". One very famous

Yet another proof of the inutility of copyright. The 9/11 Commission report cost $15,000,000 to produce, not counting the salaries of the authors.

WKRP In Cincinnati - Requiem For A Masterpiece P.S. The link to Amazon's WKRP product page:

WKRP In Cincinnati - Requiem For A Masterpiece Hopefully some very good news. Shout! Factory is releasing the entire series of WKRP in Cincinnati,

What's copywritable? Go fish in court. @ Anonymous: You misunderstood my intent. I was actually trying to point out a huge but basic

Rights Violations Aren't the Only Bads I hear that nonsense from pro-IP people all the