Prolixity on Proprietorship

Continuing from Responses to Criticisms of Why I Prefer Permissive Licenses to Copyleft

Regarding anarchy, it’s true that very oppressive authorities, whether it be a single person or a group of persons, can arise from it, and political liberty for all under that authority thereby decreases greatly or even vanishes-but when this has happened, it is no longer anarchy.

In this way, anarchy is conformable to communism: both are undesirable because communism’s social order and anarchism’s absence thereof are effectively written invitations to whichever sociopathic demagogue is sufficiently motivated, charismatic and fit to convoke a mob or cadre to seize and brutally retain imperium. The stereotypical suburban Marxist’s puling remonstrance of “But real communism has never been tried!” is perhaps the most maddeningly inscient shibboleth known to me, because it has, again and again.

Anarchy itself, during its existence, before something else replaces it, is undoubtedly the freest form of human existence because, quite simply, there are by definition no authorities making rules, i.e., there are no restrictions, either in the form of law or arbitrary will. The cavemen who inhabited the Earth during the early days of the human race, before the existence of states and governments, were some of the freest individuals who ever lived, and this is because they lived in anarchy.

This is why freedom is not my summum bonum, and why I champion it in specific contexts. I value my liberties tremendously, but every functional society must balance liberty and order in accordance with myriad integral factors to operate properly.

Regarding your response to (1), firstly, I am glad to hear that you were once a libertarian. (Why are you no longer one?)

Autodidacticly, I learned a lot about human nature, markets, macroeconomics, contemporary geopolitics, the consequences of consolidated interests in commerce and finance, ethnocentric imperatives, and the reductive failings of globalism. I still espouse many libertarian principles such as freedoms of expression, association and self-defense, as well as non-interventionism, but no ideology known to me corresponds satisfactorily to reality.

Secondly, I acknowledge that government has funded and executed some good things which would never have been realized without it, but still I maintain that its purpose is not to undertake public works; instead, it is merely a tool whereby individuals secure their rights against violations by other individuals. Such public works require taxation for their funding, and hence diminish the freedom an individual possesses over his earnings without contributing anything to the protection of his rights, the last item being the sole legitimate purpose of government and the motivation for its invention.

If only governments can execute the majority of public works, then only governments should do so. To suggest otherwise is as antic as to propound that governments should train and deploy personnel to do so entirely rather than commission private firms to contribute to each specialized task thereto. The promises of technology and telesis can’t and won’t be restrained by ideological strictures better suited to Greek antiquity.

As for libertarians who accepted (1), the most prominent example is probably Robert Nozick, who in the 1970s presented a defense of the minimal state in Anarchy, State, and Utopia; no doubt many others were convinced of the view by that influential book. Herbert Spencer argued similarly in the 1880s in The Man Versus the State, so this is obviously not an idea merely of the last few years.

I haven’t read Anarchy, State, and Utopia since the ’90s, but I remember that it was a pretty well-founded diversion from Lockean theory and critique of Marxism on partially psychological grounds. Withal, I can’t agree with his (almost entirely a priori) opinions on copyright any more than I can his recommendation of ethical vegetarianism — largely because his hypotheses prescind so much actuality.

Your two separate responses to (2) are quite unfortunate. When I was writing the syllogism I assumed that you would accept (2) and only contest (1) (and we would then debate from there), because I believed that you were also aware that copyright originated as a method simply to promote the production of creative works: the beginning of the long title of the 1710 Statue of Anne is An Act for the Encouragement of Learning, and its first paragraph declares that it was passed to prevent unauthorized copying of the books/writings of an author because such copying causes them very great detriment and too often [ruins] them and their families, and also for the encouragement of learned men to compose and write useful books-nowhere is there any mention of securing a natural right. The beginning of its second paragraph merely confers, but does not secure, any rights (the author of any book or books already printed … shall have the sole right and liberty of printing such book and books for the term of one and twenty years). But an individual/natural right is not conferred by a government: we possess them prior to and regardless of any legislation.

Well, you’re right about the the Statute of Anne; I probably muddled its preamble with that of the Copyright Act 1842, so I sit corrected. However, the aforementioned Copyright Act of 1790 exhaustively addresses this point, and is still the law of the land.

Additionally, prior to the Statue of Anne copyright was nothing more than a system of government-granted privileges, printing licenses, and even censorship. The notion that copyright law actually protects any intrinsic right was only (erroneously) tacked on later.

That’s partly true; the Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers were granted their royal charter over 150 years after the guild was founded. Their monopoly was heinous, but to arrogate the cynicism and failings of their enterprise to copyright legislation from the late 18th century onward is preposterous.

An individual/natural right cannot expire (barring any immoral act on the individual’s part), but the term of copyright protection in the U.S., even today, is not perpetual; it’s been extended by arbitrary amounts over the years by the government.

Those spans are cumulative in relation to inheritance, not arbitrary.

It would be absurd to imagine my property rights in my car automatically expiring after a set number of years enumerated by statute, and its ownership thereafter passing to the public, because my property rights to the car, once I have acquired it (and assuming I acquired it morally, and do not thereafter commit an immoral act and thereby forfeit them), are natural rights that cannot be taken away or limited by a government-but this is precisely the legal situation with copyright.

Why would intellectual property be subjected to the same laws as automobiles when they’re heterogeneous? That’s not logical. We don’t apply the same laws to realty and movables.

I don’t want to get involved in a discussion about intellectual property in general, because that phrase also includes other concepts like patents and trademarks in which I am far less interested and about which I am far less informed, but in regard to copyright, at least, I deny that it is a natural right. The law surrounding it did not originate to secure/protect any individual right, and even today its functioning is unlike that of any other type of property law.

A debate concerning copyright in which the subject of intellectual property is overlooked is as workable as a contestation pertaining to macroevolution that omits any mention of morphology. If you can’t defend your opposition to a phenomenon that you don’t understand, you’ve no ethical place to adjudge it.

However, I admit that I could have been clearer in my phrasing of (2), and perhaps expressed it thus: 2. Copyright originated simply as a legal invention/tool intended and designed to promote the production of creative works, and hence is not actually an individual right.

In the United States, this is not so.

I was quite delighted when you mentioned China in your response to (3). I’ve traveled to that country a few times, and when I was there I noticed the almost complete lack of enforcement of copyright, yet nobody would seriously maintain that China today is devoid, or even suffers from a scarcity, of cultural/creative works. I was struck by the freedom the Chinese had in this regard: piracy and bootlegging is very common, and not only is practical enforcement lacking, but social acceptance of those things is also widespread. Very frankly, with respect to copyright I believe China got it right, and the West got it wrong. (I admit, though, that there’s also an element of ethnic pride: I am actually pure-blooded Chinese, and I take a devilish delight in seeing vigorously pro-copyright Westerners squeal whenever my fellow Chinese completely disregard this foreign concept.)

You’ve so much to learn about Chinese double standards! The CCP enacted copyright legislation over thirty years ago, which is invoked jealously, vigorously and tendentiously in China regarding works by Chinese nationals, the businesses that employ them or productions that involve Chinese finance or subvention. For one example, the CCP was prompt to aid the MPAA (who they usually ignore) in curbing piracy of Mission Impossible 3 because its production in Shanghai and distribution there was enormously lucrative. Those billions of bootlegged CDs, VCDs and DVDs all originate from foreign production and distribution. Crack and pirate twenty freshly pressed China Blue discs in Beijing or Shanghai, and you’ll risk a prison sentence.

When you ask me to propose an alternative to copyright law, I reply that an alternative solution need not first exist to abolish copyright, since, again, copyright law is not a legitimate function of government.

Untold trillions of dollars in revenue and the security of hundreds of thousands of careers suggest otherwise.

We don’t need to first have a viable substitute if the original thing shouldn’t even exist in the first place. Nevertheless, if assisting artists in making a living is a goal, then we could establish more sites/institutions like, e.g., Kickstarter and Patreon, implement a system of voluntary collective licensing, encourage private arts patronage, or establish an online payment system to support artists directly.

This notion that the U.S. Copyright Office is as illegitimate as the Federal Reserve isn’t terribly cogent. Proposition for repeal of a system that requires reform, yet works relatively well without any succedaneum in mind is almost a schizoid gesture.
As for Kickstarter or Patreon, how can anybody rely on a service that can and will boot you for even the slightest ridicule or violation of progressive orthodoxy? If people like Sam Hyde or Glenn Greenwald can be banned for staging jokes that allegedly evicerate Black Bodies, or attempting to annihilate civilization by ruminating on how war is bad, I can’t accept these platforms as an alternative to trade.

I continue to be puzzled by your insertion of the topic of plagiarism into this discussion. Plagiarism is representing another’s work or ideas as your own, and thus taking for yourself the credit deserved by someone else; copyright infringement is the violation of someone’s rights granted-not secured/protected-by copyright law, and typically includes things like unauthorized copying, modification, and distribution. (If these are not the definitions of these words you have in mind, then please explain your understanding of these concepts; I don’t want our debate here to be caused by a mere discrepancy of definitions.) Again, they are separate acts, even if they may sometimes occur together.

Once, and only once more will I expound on this point. Registration of copyright is the surest means by which attribution may be guaranteed. Indeed, our judiciary has decreed that it’s the single most important article of attributive evidence representing intellectual property, and ordinarily the only one recognized by a civil court. Plagiarism is not a crime; copyright infringement and torts in address of plagiarized works are legally actionable.

Your statement that Plagiarism of a copyrighted work constitutes copyright infringement is also not true in every context: the author of the work could have given permission (e.g. with a permissive license) to the plagiarizer to use it,

If the holder of a copyright permits somebody to use the work in part or whole, plagiarism isn’t relevant unless the license in question stipulates ascription. If people don’t care that their work is cribbed, I don’t mind either.

or the plagiarizer’s use could have constituted fair use, and thus there is plagiarism of a copyrighted work without copyright infringement.

Fair use is defined primarily by its “purpose and character.” That sanctions applications as index, research, commentary, parody, critique, citation…not simple plagiarism.

At one point you equate copyright abolition with effectively legalizing plagiarism, but plagiarism is already legal-both in the two scenarios just described, as well as in the case of someone representing another’s idea (which is not protected by copyright law) as his own and in the case of him representing public domain works as his own.

Your scenarios don’t describe relevant plagiarism in the first instance or actual plagiarism in the second. If course, I concur that criminalization of plagiarism is as footling as unenforceable a notion, but I never meant to advance it, mistyping “legalizing” rather than “legitimizing” (in reference to its non-legal definition). My mistake.

When you ask how I would contend with plagiarism without copyright law, I reply that there already exist many mechanisms to discourage and punish it, and which have nothing at all to do with that law: those who plagiarize are met with opprobrium and lose much of their respectability, and may also face formal penalties from their school or workplace.

Luc Besson hs skirted plagiarism for years by reworking stories by the likes of Cassavetes or Moebius and Jodorowsky, et al. In 2016, John Carpenter, Nick Castle and Studio Canal successfully sued Besson because a feature that he wrote and produced, Lockout, is a bald-faced ripoff of Escape from New York — easily the most blatant, though hardly the first. Litigation in regard to plagiarism is rightly rare, and as justifiably difficult to substantiate, so I knew this was by no means barratry even before I watched the offending flick (which is garbage, like all of Besson’s productions, though Guy Pierce is as terrific as usual in it).
Besson is perenially shameless. He won’t step down from his senior position at EuropaCorp; he’s a darling of media outlets for his ethnicity and success in peddling idiotic movies to a stultified populace. Even online, either his employees or fans have scrubbed his Wikipedia profile of multiple plagiarism suits against him, as well as some among the several accusations of rape, from which he was acquitted last year. Without copyright protection in France and the EU, and Canal’s phalanx of lawyers, exactly how would Carpenter and Castle obtain indemnity for a plagiaristic imitation of a superior picture produced 40 years ago?

If you believe that this is insufficient, then it is also possible to pass legislation specifically prohibiting plagiarism, but that would be an entirely different matter which has nothing to do with our present conversation concerning copyright. Again I emphasize that I disapprove of plagiarism, but am simply confused as to its supposed relevance to copyright.

I’ve nothing left to communicate in pertinence to this subject.

So? Length doesn’t necessarily constitute verbiage, which is defined conditionally. I haven’t read the GPL in toto for years, but I don’t recall in it any superfluity.

I don’t really know what else to tell you here that I have not already stated in the Longer and More Complex Licenses section of the essay. At this point I suppose that all I can do is urge you to read it again.

Length simply does not stymie comprehension or accessibility unless the body in question is prevaricated to obfuscate. Our exchange is longer than most of those licenses!

I commend you for using FreeBSD, which I know is licensed under permissive terms.

Note that the BSD and GPL licenses are each freer and more restrictive than one another in different ways, and so are severally suited for different projects. They’re both excellent instruments, but neither is for everyone.

In the course of writing the original essay I learned that the most widely used BSD variants (viz., FreeBSD, OpenBSD, and NetBSD) are all permissively licensed, and consequently I even considered using (or at least trying out) one of them myself. I admit that I am genuinely interested; if it will also put a stop to your pestering me on the matter, then perhaps I will look into BSD after all!

Oh, I don’t need to pester anyone to convince them to use the best publicly available operating systems in the world!
I have nothing against most Linux distributions — faith, I used Debian for over sixteen years — so if you’re accustomed to Windows, you may find Arch or Ubuntu more inviting. However, for anyone who really wants to engage and exploit their hardware fully and enjoy a superior POSIX OS, I can’t think of a better alternative to the BSDs. They fulfill the promise of UNIX for everyone.

This may seem paradoxical to you, but they are defending freedom by preventing others from fettering it.

It’s highly paradoxical and counterintuitive, because by applying such licenses to their work they invariably fetter it. Again, I can only point to the A Strange Definition of Freedom and Misplaced Attention and Concerns sections of the essay and suggest re-reading.

I agree, it is paradoxical and counterintuitive, but it’s also true: from their restraints eventuates more freedom, and in more propitious conditions.

I’m not bothered when a corporation, for instance, slaps pride flags everywhere on their products or postures in their advertising/social media about how inclusive and diverse they are, because their intent there is simply to appeal to a certain demographic and thus increase sales-I really doubt that they actually believe in that nonsense.

Sure. Over the past fifty years, the commercial exploitation of counterculture didn’t leap far from Vanishing Point to commercials advertising Old Navy in which ineptly animated, black lesbian social workers unite the world by demolishing border walls and rebuilding the rubble into multicultural community centers, or whatever. That their executives are willing to collude in efforts to curb individual rights by supporting progressive politicians who’ll pass anything that they slap on their desk is a huge problem.

Of course I am troubled and greatly detest, for example, the censorship of Google and Twitter, but my hostility in those cases is limited only to the specific corporations partaking in it;

Granted, but everybody hates them for that and more. Nobody denies that Silicon Valley’s businesses are the worst, but when Wal-Mart perpetuates retail blight by bribing state and local politicians to expand their local monopolies, then supports candidates who’ll sign whatever they’re told as taxes and spending alike are raised so that previously employed people need EBT (which is famously factored into Wal-Mart’s gross earnings year after year) to patronize only Wal-Mart, the distinction between free enterprise and oligarchy becomes painfully clear.

I don’t automatically hate every corporation because of the actions of a few. You should consider each corporation separately, and judge their actions accurately, putting the latter on a scale from the harmless (including fake appeals to progressives in their advertising to increase sales) to the troubling (private censorship on their platforms or firing an employee for not being sufficiently progressive) to the truly inexcusable (supporting legislation, as you claim, pushing a far-left agenda, with such legislation actually passing because of their support),

I do, but when multiple corporations connive to these ends, I regard them collectively. In case you haven’t noticed, most politicos of the United States’ federal and state governments are nothing more than prostitutes for multinationals, Israel, Saudi Arabia, China, etc. Of course, this country is a century into its degradation, but that’s not how a republic is supposed to operate.

rather than reflexively perceiving every corporation as evil (like a true teenage progressive) because certain ones have acted in such a manner.

Speaking of reflexive images, this of the adolescent leftist who gets his talking points from Sanders/AOC/BLM/academic cranks is accurate, but it reads like clueless Boomerism when we’re talking about the actual iniquities that so many corporations perpetrate. When you characterize somebody bitching about how Amazon circumvents income taxes entirely as a hypocritical, latte-sipping Occupy drone, you may as well be screaming that a commentator who dared to notice The Holy Land’s latest massacre or scam is anti-Semitic (whatever the fuck that means this week).

These are somewhat related, so I will address them all at once. First, the entire reason I subscribe to the extreme and otiose principle of limiting the role of government solely to the protection of individual rights is because anything more than this reduces freedom; in fact, even the passing and enforcement of any laws to protect individual rights decreases freedom-recall what I said earlier about anarchy-but this is nevertheless justified because it is an effective means to secure those rights, which ought to be inviolable. Of course I recognize that abolishing copyright will render it more difficult, at least for some time, for many artists to profit from their work and therefore make a living, but I advocate for it because I believe that the benefits will outweigh the costs: with all copyright laws repealed, we can by definition attain maximum freedom in this sphere while simultaneously leaving no natural rights unprotected (recall also that I deny that copyright is a natural right), which is a very great benefit indeed. (However, I admit that I could have been clearer about this point in my previous reply.)

Eventually and ineluctably, copyright will be supplanted by a superior alternative. That’ll sway me — not an unrealistically rigid expectation that government be restricted to a capacity that suited societies two millennia ago. I type this as someone who believes that his government is larger than it should be by orders of magnitude.

Second, you seem to me to assume that abolishing copyright will lead to a permanent reduction in creative/artistic output,

That’s really of no concern to me. If anything, the world needs less output and more reflection.

and that artists/authors will never again enjoy the same level of financial incentive currently offered by copyright.

I wouldn’t know, but your reduction of this matter to its purely pecuniary or productive facets doesn’t account for concerns regarding attribution or permission. Creative Commons licenses address some of those questions very well, but not all of them. Again, without an alternative, I’m not receptive to this idea.

You should realize that copyright law is only one among many methods to assist artists and promote creative works,

Most contemporary copyright legislation is focused first on security, then (when at all) on promotion. Any pretense that these are as concerned as the Statute of Anne for the pauperization of 18th-century British authors, engravers, typecasters, etc. isn’t terribly germane.

and it is certainly not a sacred or ingenious one (passing laws prohibiting something does not require any extraordinary talent); it’s simply a state-granted monopoly, and should not be perceived as a thing special and irreplaceable. It’s unfortunate that a group of legislators in Britain a few hundred years ago saw the need to involve the law and the government in order to promote the production of creative works rather than devising a private means to accomplish that aim, and it is even more unfortunate that the practice thereafter spread to other countries and became so entrenched culturally that many, at least in the West, cannot imagine ever abolishing it. Perhaps its disappearance, in addition to the great increase in freedom which would result, would also spur an enterprising person or group of persons to devise their own clever-and private-system to compensate artists and thus fill the gap left by copyright, with the profits to be received from the market offering them the incentive for their undertaking.

If this is only a matter of money to you, and you can’t fathom the personal and artistic merits of intellectual property as they pertain to recognition and dignity, I can’t elucidate this point any more explicitly.

Even if you don’t accept (1), and even if you also don’t accept the theory that copyright is actually a hindrance to creativity, might you accept that abolishing copyright, though it may bring a short-term reduction in creative works, will result in the long term in a return to current levels of production as more private substitutes surely arise in its place?

No. I don’t know or care about theoretical quanta of production. If a private replacement should arise that’s superior, I’ll gladly adopt it.

Certainly if there is a chance that we can abolish copyright and hence increase freedom, while also maintaining in the long run the current cultural output and the size of its accompanying market, that we should take it? (Of course, I myself do accept (1), but I direct the foregoing specifically to you.)

Yeah, if you stop preceding the horse with its cart. If lolberts want to abrogate copyright, the first step isn’t by convincing people with dialectic or rhetoric, but by inventing and cultivating something better than either copyright or Larry Lessig’s articles.

In short, this is simply an expression of the attitude, common to many libertarians, that we ought to seek a non-governmental solution to our problems rather than relying on the government to pass ever more laws regulating our behavior and inevitably reducing our freedom. Today we have more tools and methods to support artists and foster creative output, and, indeed, already some private solutions and systems have appeared-e.g., Kickstarter and Patreon-that were not possible just a few decades ago. Copyright law daily appears less essential for promoting creativity.

If you want to discourage and eventually rescind copyright, you’ll need a secure, decentralized, public register of works, and payment processors far freer than Kickstarter or Patreon. If you’re to endorse private enterprise and freedom, don’t cite sites that’ll ban its patrons for ridiculing fat, parasitic single moms.

Also, do not compare me to Marx or his followers.

When somebody opines that we need to annul property of any sort in the name of freedom, I can’t help but think of The Communist Manifesto.

I very strongly believe in property rights as natural rights, but exclude copyright because its nature is fundamentally different from all tangible goods.

Why? MP3s and FLACs differ materially from tangible CDs, but both can be either freely or commercially available, and copied in a variety of ways. MP4s and AVIs share these commonalities with DVDs and Blu-rays. Immateriality is picayune when intellectual property has been exhaustively proven to meet every criteria of value.

As I stated earlier, even the copyright law which you defend does not function like property law for physical objects, but instead reflects its origins as a temporary legal monopoly on copying conferred by the government.

Yet nobody takes that aspect of it seriously anymore. Most advocates of copyright aren’t Lars Ulrich testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee back in 2000. They just want to make a living and enjoy some recognition for their work, and copyright enables them to do so. Many, if not most of them, including myself, abhor the distortion of copyright law by corporate lobbies to inhibit reasonable (esp. private) distribution.

Finally, my beliefs are indeed libertarianism; specifically, they’re a mixture of minarchism and cyberlibertarianism. My views concerning copyright, I think, are less a product of my age than of my primary interests (computers and the Internet), and of the communities to which I gravitate as a result of those interests: the computer, software, imageboard, and other Internet-based communities have a long cultural tradition of skepticism of, disregard for, and even outright opposition to copyright, as you are probably aware. One of the most basic operations of the computer is copying data, so when copyright laws restrict such a fundamental thing as that, we feel that it’s very stifling and even absurd, and believe that a weakening or removal of such restrictions is progress towards more freedom, not retrograde motion. It’s clear that you are a film enthusiast, so I can at least understand your support of copyright as being a product of that particular community’s values.

After cassettes and optical discs, I’ve been using computers to share text, documents, games and audio since the early ’90s, and videos spanning from silly clips to features and series since the mid-aughts both online and off with media. Nobody tells me what to do with my files any more than they do in pertinence to my books, tapes or discs. I’ve probably read two dozen threads on /a/, /biz/, /tv/, /vr/ and /pol/ centered around disputes regarding copyright, and while nobody believes that freely sharing files is in any way intrinsically wrong, neither are your views concordant with the consensus of any broad majority.

What’s more, I’ve abominated the MPAA since before you were born. When Jack Valenti publicly slipped into one of his paranoid paroxyms, yattering about how “culture stagnates when movies fall into the public domain,” I hated that fart with such lividity that I was almost convinced I could induce his next CVA with the power of my mind. For whom do you think he was employed? Larry Fessenden? Misapplication of and barratry to enforce copyright is a purely corporate problem. Until copyright is superseded by something better, what we need is reform to counter corporate abuse of copyright — starting with their impingement on fair use.

Finally, there is no real or great “film community” in America — just a few corporations and a smattering of smaller studios employing (mostly aging) talent and a horde of prostitutes posturing as such. There are small, mostly ephemeral societies of independents, but they usually either quit early or join the Hollywood bilge. If you want to see cohesive and dynamic filmic communities, look to Japan, Austria, Korea, Denmark, China, silly India….even deteriorated, Americanized France has a film community, though the directorial successors to their new wave are mostly progressive hacks and decerebrate epigones. North America hasn’t had a genuine film community since the mid-’90s.

Author: rbuchanan

I'm an author, lexicographer, cacophonist, ailurophile, bibliophile, cinephile, logophile, inveterate aggregator, dedicated middlebrow, incontestable babe, borderline narcissist, weirdly semi-Mediterranean Native American, and alliterative anastrophe addict. My personality type is superlative INTJ.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *