Speculation and Solutions

This is my reply to lolwut‘s fourth response.

I think that freedom is a very worthy goal precisely because its unique character allows every person to pursue his own vision of what is the desirable way to live; this is in contrast with other conceptions of the greatest good, which would inevitably impose one moral vision upon everyone’s lifestyle. I was much inspired by Nozick’s framework for utopia, which he elucidated in the final chapter of Anarchy, State, and Utopia: with the government confined only to the protection of individual rights and freedom thus increased to its greatest permissible degree, a system is provided for all individuals to freely form communities in accordance with their moral and ethical values (their own utopias), and also to freely enter and leave already existing communities. No community would be required to implement the stereotypical libertarian utopia (i.e., one in which each member lives under laissez-faire capitalism, owns two dozen automatic rifles, and may do drugs and visit prostitutes to his heart’s content); very restrictive communities, whose rules and values I would very likely strongly disagree with, would arise, and their existence would be permitted, subject only to the constraint that they do not violate rights. Freedom is permitted, but not enforced: nobody would be forced to start or join a community of gun-loving libertarian libertines-that is, that particular community’s values and lifestyle are not imposed on everybody, but only for those who wish to enter into it. (In a way, I think, my preference for permissive licenses over copyleft licenses reflects this view: the former permit freedom, while the latter enforce it.)

This is the liberal ideal: that any collective (be it communal, ethnic, religious, occupational, even artistic) or individual is accorded the freedom to live as they, he or she pleases. I agree that this is a laudable goal, but whether it’s at all practicable is at best questionable. Many peoples are not liberal, and most expect a government whose policies and pandects correspond to their values. For one example, most countries populated by devoutly Muslim majorities could not in literal good faith accept any legitimately liberal government. England and Germany enjoyed a sort of liberal democracy, but moronic marginal majorities in both nations (engendered by the dygenic effects of war, sloth and sociocultural decline) jubilantly embrace their police states. In a different example to which you can relate, I very much doubt that mainland China could ever adopt any form of liberalism, even if it shook off the CCP and Mao’s perdurable (if adulterated) legacy. This is incomparable to the prior examples, as most Chinese are secular and remarkably intelligent. However (notwithstanding exceptions such as HK), most Chinese are collectivist, cherish stability over freedom, and are more concerned with the curtailment of their peculiar corruption than with the niceties of codified liberty.

To encapsulate: I believe that liberty is a worthwhile for some, but I don’t expect everyone (or globally, most) to agree. It isn’t my summum bonum partially because I don’t have one, but also because I treasure other virtues moreso — for two examples, a commitment to truth and the cultivation of aesthetic excellence. Of course, none of these are at all mutually exclusive.

National liberalism appears to be quite a respectable ideology, and one with which I probably have more agreements than disagreements. I also lament how the meaning of the term liberal has strayed so far from its original, correct definition, and I applaud your correct designation of classical liberalism as actual liberalism.

To be fair, that’s largely the fault of clueless pseudo-conservatives and brainless nationalists. Despite the facades of their political parties, most progressives don’t claim to be liberal nowadays, and plenty of them openly detest liberals, even those of the left. I’ll repeat it ad infinitum if I must: progressives are not liberals. They were never liberals. They’ll feign a liberal posture when some repeal or permission benefits them, but they truly hate nearly all of our freedoms: of expression, of self-defense, of association, of privacy. The genuine progressive is a totalitarian more overbearing and relentless in its detestation of and oppugnancy against liberty than the most intractable jihadist. For nearly 80 years, the left was dominated largely by social liberals, but after a score of mainstream progressivism, most dumb conservatives can’t seem to fathom that they’re not grappling with liberals, but with progressives. Hence their risibly inept attempts to articulate our woes as “illiberal liberal democracy” and reliably perennial failure.

Variants of liberalism abound: national and provincial; classical and social; ethnic and individualist; capitalist and socialist; Christian, Deist, secular, etc. Progressivism is none of these. Progressivism is nothing more or less than an inhuman, unnatural, incoherent, post-Marxist ideology (at which Marx would’ve sneered) supported by weak, stupid, ugly people, which aims to undermine society, politics and culture for the benefit of moneyed interests that its adherents don’t understand. As flawed as it is, liberalism is a radical, modern departure from traditional human societies that offers tremendous potential to whoever can harness it responsibly. Progressivism is an enemy of civilization.

I will admit that the case of the Louisiana Purchase presented me with a somewhat difficult puzzle. My personal stance is that the Louisiana Purchase was constitutional because the Treaty Clause of the Constitution explicitly authorizes the president to make treaties with the consent of at least two-thirds of the Senate, and the Louisiana Purchase was, in fact, a treaty for which the specified majority vote from the Senate was received, but I know that you were focusing specifically on Jefferson’s strict interpretation of the Constitution. In this case I suppose Jefferson was technically incorrect, and his proposal of a constitutional amendment explicitly authorizing the purchase wasn’t necessary, but still I must commend him highly for staying true to his principles and hesitating over issues of constitutionality-such an important concern would have seemed very insignificant to any president since FDR (and probably also a few before him). Otherwise, however, we are in full agreement that the continual and very extensive expansion of the government from the Civil War onwards is deeply troubling, and the reasons you cite for this growth give me little hope for reversing it, or even of halting it. (Perhaps strict adherence to a constitution is viable in a non-Western country?)

The Purchase’s legality has been debated for nearly two centuries by constitutional scholars. I hardly expect to resolve that topic, but as you agree, he was right to seek and obtain senatorial sanction (which he practically didn’t need). As far as I’m concerned, the deterioration of the U.S. from a functioning representative democracy into unsustainable and abusive neo-feudalism is the merestone bearing its epitaph. If oligarchy is always inevitable, this country has proved it.

To answer your parenthesized question, I don’t know. No government known to me has observed its constitution faithfully. Japan used to be a stickler regarding abidance of its postwar constitution, but several events have indicated otherwise, such as Koizumi’s (largely unpopular) dispatch of troops to Iraq at the behest of the Pentagon, or the disbandment of nationalist groups who protested propagandistic North Korean pedagogues in certain municipalities after harrassment occurred.

Constitutionality requires the utmost discipline even in predictable circumstances. The only government that may be wholly faithful to its constitution is Iceland, but don’t quote me on that.

Moreover, one of the many failings of neoliberal economics (to which too many libertarians subscribe) is its obliviousness to the basic reality that private enterprise grows, consolidates and corrupts in a manner analogous to government, and so must be subject to regulation.

Here I’m inclined to assert that additional regulations on private enterprise are not necessary, because the laws securing individual rights, if they are vigorously enforced, are sufficient to restrain corporations and to punish them should they violate those rights. However, I should add here that if corporations lobby for legislation which infringes upon individual rights, then it’s perfectly consistent with my views for the government to impose additional restrictions on them which prohibit this, because in that case it is only acting legitimately in its function as the protector of individual rights.

This is clichéd, but anti-pollution laws benefit communities, then individuals. I’m not sure how you’d address this subject, but do you believe that everyone deserves a right to a salutary residential environment?

If we’re to avert most of these problems, we could simply interdict lobbies on behalf of collectives such as wealthy organizations…or entirely.

As for Nozick’s brief discussion of copyright in Anarchy, State, and Utopia, in my copy of the book (which is the first edition) it appears on page 141, and is offered as an example to demonstrate the lack of agreement about universal principles among libertarians, which in the absence of a state would render the punishment of offenders extremely contentious and confusing. His words run thus:

Consider for example, the issue of whether full-blooded copyright is legitimate. Some libertarians argue it isn’t legitimate, but claim that its effect can be obtained if authors and publishers include in the contract when they sell books a provision prohibiting its unauthorized printing, and then sue any book pirate for breach of contract; apparently they forget that some people sometimes lose books and others find them. Other libertarians disagree. Similarly for patents. If persons so close in general theory can disagree over a point so fundamental, two libertarian protective agencies might manage to do battle over it. One agency might attempt to enforce a prohibition upon a person’s publishing a particular book (because this violates the author’s property right) or reproducing a certain invention he has not invented independently, while the other agency fights this prohibition as a violation of individual rights.

Thank you for this, which I scarcely remember.

In addition, at the end of the third sentence of the above quote there is an endnote which reads,

For the first view see Rothbard, Man, Economy, and State, vol. 2 (Los Angeles: Nash, 1971), p. 654; for the second see, for example, Ayn Rand, Patents and Copyrights, in Capitalism: the Unknown Ideal (New York: New American Library, 1966), pp. 125–129.

According to its index, this is the only mention of copyright in Anarchy, State, and Utopia.

I could’ve sworn that Nozick expanded on the subject on ethical grounds, but I’m probably muddling this with something else — maybe another essay that he authored.

But I am: if you are referring here to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Civil Rights Act of 1968, and other subsequent federal anti-discrimination legislation, I fully believe that they are all illegitimate laws which plainly violate the right to freedom of association, and hence ought to be repealed immediately-and I say this as a racial minority. It truly bothers me that such absurdities ever managed to become law: not only do they reduce our freedom, but they also infringe a natural right, which is contrary to the whole point of government.

I’m very pleased to read this; we’re in full concordance on this point. Freedom of association is perhaps the most important right because it enables us to consort with others — be they homogenous or heterogenous — for the advancement and comfort of society without impediment.

“Whiteness” is a mutable and inexact concept, never so broadly appled as it is in the United States at present. Our federal government classes Arabs, Persians and Mestizos as swarthy as my ancestors a century ago (to some of whom they’re genetically cognate) as white. Fifty years ago, I wouldn’t be considered white by most people, even though I can pass for it at my lightest. I’ve been excluded in rather petty circumstances from groups, occasionally due to racist bias and presumption. These aren’t important incidents, but they do moot an important question: do I really want to be a part of a group that doesn’t want me? Freedom of association permits people, whether on reasonable bases or otherwise, to decide who belongs and who does not. Moreover, it forces the excluded to find their path elsewhere. This is neither a kind nor easy lesson, but it’s one that many people must learn.

I acknowledge that copyright enforcement in China of creative works of Chinese origin has likely increased in recent years, but in truth I cannot say that I’m comfortable accepting this change. I hope you can understand that, as a pure-blooded Chinese, I wish passionately to preserve the culture of my forebears, and to keep China largely free from foreign influences, whether Western or non-Western. This doesn’t mean that China should refrain from importing anything foreign: I would readily embrace, for example, the widespread use of modern Western medicine in China, but in regard to introducing Western (or otherwise non-Chinese) legal concepts and practices (e.g. copyright) into the country I remain far more hesitant. (Even in the case of medicine, I would still maintain that it is important to preserve the knowledge, and maybe also the practice, of traditional Chinese medicine; even if it doesn’t work, it still possesses great cultural value for all Chinese and is an irreplaceable part of our heritage.) I am simply wary of China mimicking the West to too great a degree, and thus losing too much of what makes it authentically Chinese.

In all sincerity, I think Chinese medicine is often far more effective and commendable than modern medicine, but that’s a subject for another time, and I’m already too discursive!

Frankly, I wouldn’t sweat it. China is one of the world’s great ethnocultural monoliths, as resistant to foreign influence and subversion as any known to me. Also, China is as collectively recollective as effective; the devastation wrought by the English, French and Dutch, then the Japanese when China was at its weakest hasn’t been forgotten in the slightest. At a time when self-styled international “authorities” urge globalism, China exploits its potential for trade….but declines the expectation for migratory freedom or perpetual indebtedness out of hand with an obstinacy unimaginable in the west. Best of all, most of what’s genuinely Chinese that was annihilated during the Cultural Revolution has been restored by Chinese authors, artisans, historians, physicians, musicians, architects, et al. China does struggle with serious problems pertaining to and resulting from widespread corruption, pollution and a dearth of certain natural resources, but I know of few peoples who’ve preserved their culture with such enduring or meticulous sedulity. You should be proud to be Chinese: our species’ largest family are endowed with incalculable talent, a nearly unrivaled collective intellect and more achievements than most. If anything, Hans may be our planet’s best hope for progress at a time when Western Civilization nears its twilight.

To me, an obvious solution for SubscribeStar and other similar sites is to introduce cryptocurrency payments instead of relying solely on PayPal and the large credit card processors, thereby freeing them from the whims of the censors and freedom-haters while simultaneously earning them a bit of credibility amongst cyberlibertarians and cypherpunks. Now that cryptocurrencies are more widespread and accessible than they have ever been, I would contend that this is a very feasible option.

Gab and other blacklisted sites are doing this. I suspect that as private censorship becomes unworkably and intolerably pervasive, an entirely separate cryptoeconomy will eventually emerge – an exciting prospect!

Regarding the legal punishment of plagiarists, one possible technique is the inclusion of an anti-plagiarism provision in an individual’s publishing or employment contract (if they are, e.g., an author or an academic), violations of which would constitute a breach of contract that could be pursued in court. However, I’m aware that this will likely not be a satisfactory answer for you, as it obviously cannot penalize instances of plagiarism in which no such contract exists (including possibly Besson’s case, which, if he had gone unpunished, would have been a great injustice), but it is at least a step towards decreasing our reliance on copyright law. Also, after carefully re-reading your statements concerning plagiarism in your previous reply, I realize that I misinterpreted you, and that you never actually stated that representing others’ ideas and public domain works as your own is not actual plagiarism; my apologies.

We’ve both misread each other slightly, which is easy to do.

Your proposition would only cover so many possibilities, but it’s a good start. At the conclusion of this post, I’ll propound my own.

I can’t fault you too heavily for supporting copyright for these reasons. In my previous responses I argued extensively against copyright being a natural right, but I readily acknowledge that, even without involving natural rights in any manner, ensuring proper attribution and compensation for artists is undoubtedly an important goal; I merely wish that we had used different means to pursue it, i.e., that we had never gotten the government involved in the matter and thereby caused it to overstep its proper function. (I also commend you for correctly realizing that digital piracy is not theft, but rather is, as you say, nothing more than unauthorized access and/or duplication.)

Whatever one’s stance on the validity of copyright, nobody can credibly claim that technology hasn’t rendered it unenforceable. When I was a kid in the mid-late ’80s, my friends and I used to scoff at the federal warnings preceding the features or episodes recorded to videocassettes. We weren’t copying them; our parents were.

That point regarding the actuality of piracy was first elaborated to me by either William Gibson or Masamune Shirow. Both of them characterized such access similarly — you take nothing away when you copy data.

I am glad to hear that you don’t regard all corporations (or their owners) as inherently evil because of the actions of a certain subset-the seventh footnote of the original essay was a jab directed specifically at those who do believe that all corporations, by their very nature, are evil, and when I was writing it I had in my mind an image of a typical immature progressive. I never denied that there are many malevolent corporations in the world which frequently attempt to erode our individual rights, but I admit that my phrasing of that footnote could conceivably be interpreted as such a denial.

I’m just as frustrated with conservatives who need to believe that most corporations seek to preserve the trust and liberty that empowers them as I’ve always been with Marxists who’re convinced that profit is evil.

To put the matter simply, I’m opposed not to corporations per se, but to most oligopolists.

These all touch upon the wider subject of intellectual property, so I will respond to them all at once. In regard to the claim of intellectual property being a natural right, I will say that I am skeptical, and lean more towards denial than acceptance; when my views concerning the proper function of government are also considered, I think that you can figure out whether or not I believe intellectual property should be secured by means of the law. However, as with copyright, I realize that many persons currently rely on patent and trademark law (among others) for their livelihoods, and hence I concede that, even though these other varieties of intellectual property law are very likely illegitimate, we cannot simply repeal them all at once without first having a suitable private substitute.

I’ll phrase this as sententiously as I can, so as not to wax redundant. In inspiration and realization alike, the labors and fruits of the mind are as substantial and valuable as any physical that have generated material product, be it one conceived therefrom or otherwise. Effort and afflatus alike were not meant to be dissipated wantonly, but harnessed to create something of value, and from the very fact of such value, I believe that he or those who’ve created have as natural a right as any to claim credit and gain whatever remuneration they may without undue infringement upon others. To me, a society where intellectual property isn’t avowed is at least as foreign as that in which slavery is legitimated.

I’m of a mixed mind about patents, but I don’t believe that trademarks should be legally recognized at all. We can discuss this further, if you like.

You mention the DMCA, which makes me curious of your position on it: do you believe that it should be kept unchanged, reformed, or repealed entirely? (I assume that you are reasonable enough to not pick the first option!) Of all the copyright laws in this country that are currently known to me, the DMCA is easily the one I most dislike, because it is the one primarily responsible for bringing serious copyright enforcement to the Internet, which is in direct opposition to my cyberlibertarian desire to keep the medium as free as possible; I especially despise the abuse of DMCA takedown notices as a tool for censorship. The outright repeal of the DMCA, along with the (admittedly highly improbable) dissolution of the MPAA and RIAA and the resulting cessation of all the litigation and lobbying they engage in, are to me the obvious first steps towards the eventual replacement and abolition of copyright in the U.S.

To epitomize my answer: reformed, then eventually repealed.

I blame claimants and sites alike for the censorial abuse of the DMCA; if the latter don’t know what constitutes fair use, they shouldn’t be in business. I haven’t sufficient time to instance or explain how ridiculously the DMCA’s defense of DRM penalizes education or independent research and development, but you’re probably well aware of this. Moreover, the act’s proscription of certain third-party products oddly contracts whole ranges of aftermarket sales, be they toner cartridges or certain types of remote controls. Ultimately, it’s an awful piece of legislation.

My solution for replacement of copyright would be a privatized, decentralized, globally accessible network of content registrars who are bonded or otherwise authorized by a local, provincial or national government by legal necessity. These registrars would be responsible for the receipt, storage and registry (in an online database) of creative works: manuscripts, blueprints, recordings, etc.

In exchange for an affordable fee, a registrar would deposit a copy of a submitted work to a secure server that he/she either provides or leases, catalog data representing the work (author’s name, date of creation, registration number/date, description) as an entry in the aforementioned database, and provide copies to officers of a criminal or civil court upon request, or to the author for another minor fee (covering costs of bandwidth or duplication and postage) upon request. Retiring registrars could bequeath or sell their businesses (database, servers, content, documentation) to others who seek to expand or start their own. Associations of registrars could promote their industry, while imposing compacts. One of these would be an agreement to refuse service to anyone conclusively guilty of plagiarism or other relevant misconduct or malversation.

Every registrar would either individually establish or abide by his/her association’s contract, which would forbid falsification or unauthorized transference of records or content, on pain of very steep civil penalties. Legislation that abrogates copyright would acknowledge the legal validity of these agents, and instead only outlaw unauthorized sales in limited circumstances. Consequently, people could freely and legally share content online while securing attribution if and whenever necessary.

This is imperfect and requires further deliberation, but I think it’s a pretty effective way to eliminate what we deplore while retaining what’s essential. If the limited involvement of government seems excessive, I can’t imagine an alternative for an industry that would be function in a quasi-legal capacity.

Copyright’s Conceptual Cul-de-sac

The following is my reply to Lolwut‘s Third Response.

Your comparison of communism and anarchy in this regard is likely accurate, but it only concerns the potential end-states into which they may transform; in terms of freedom the two systems themselves-that is, before a tyrannical ruler or state emerges-are as far apart from each other as can be. Also, it’s unfortunate for me to hear that freedom is not your greatest good; it has always been mine, subject to the sole-but crucial-constraint that individual rights are not violated.

Any politicized summum bonum should probably be an anathema to me. Politics are in my estimation a necessary evil, the forms of which are preferably governed and determined by ethnocultural morality and ethics. Further, morality in a strictly political context smacks of universalism, which I detest. My remonstrance to your eleutherophilia pertains less to its extremity and more to its disregard of extrapolitical factors.

I was very happy to read that you also champion freedom of expression, association, and self-defense, as well as advocate for non-interventionism; those are all principles which I believe in very passionately. Out of curiosity, of those ideologies known to you, which most closely corresponds to your beliefs?

Probably national liberalism. Alas, like contemporary “conservative” parties, most professed “national liberal” parties of the west are infested with craven white men who are terrified that televised progressives will call them racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. My political principles are predicated on the conciliation of ethnonationalism and “classical” (i.e. actual) liberalism, in consideration of the historic failures of both phenomena. In all verity, I don’t know that this is possible.

The reason I insist so strongly on limiting government to the protection of individual rights is because permitting government to do anything more, besides in the first place diminishing freedom without securing any additional rights, in the second place serves as a ready invitation for its growth as it claims that more and more good things must be done, that it is authorized to do them, and that ever more taxes must be collected, departments and agencies formed, and legislation passed in order to realize those ends, thereby reducing freedom even more and possibly also violating individual rights. The United States government was founded on very libertarian principles, but its natural inclination to expand its scope and authority, and our general willingness to allow this so long as it performs some good deeds along the way, has resulted in its growth into one of the most expansive and powerful governments on Earth which constantly attempts to undermine and circumvent the intent of, and protections of individual rights guaranteed by, the Constitution. At one point you write that you are someone who believes that his government is larger than it should be by orders of magnitude, which is a sentiment I also wholeheartedly agree with-don’t you think that its progression to its current enormous size could have been prevented, or at least greatly delayed, if only we had followed more closely the principles of the Constitution?

Sure, but if Jefferson’s interpretation of Constitutional dictate was strict, the Louisiana Purchase would’ve never happened. The nation itself would’ve been a fraction of its present size, and struggled to outgrow the limitations of its agrarian economy — if it survived long enough to do so.
Jerfferson’s characterization of tyranny as a conspicuously recrudescent phenomenon is one with which I wholeheartedly assent. The trouble with this country was its gainful, nearly exponential governmental expansion from the Civil War through the Second Gulf War. This occurred because western and central Europeans are technologically innovative, but also childishly amenable to the prospect of waging war against those who live differently than they do. Institutional greed and universalism have done nearly so much to realize tyranny as militant Marxism. Adherence to constitutional limitations simply wasn’t possible when white Americans were so disposed to defy it.

Here I’m reminded of a maxim stated by Hayek in his The Road to Serfdom: “We shall never prevent the abuse of power if we are not prepared to limit power in a way which occasionally may also prevent its use for desirable purposes.”

I could concur with this sentiment, but not necessarily the threshold by which we’d inhibit power. Moreover, one of the many failings of neoliberal economics (to which too many libertarians subscribe) is its obliviousness to the basic reality that private enterprise grows, consolidates and corrupts in a manner analogous to government, and so must be subject to regulation.

Referencing my copy of Anarchy, State, and Utopia, I can report that Nozick devotes only half a paragraph to the subject of copyright and does not even state his position on it, but merely mentions the disagreement between libertarians on the matter as an example in order to illustrate another point.

Feel free to post it. I seem to recall that the passage was implicitly denunciatory.

A cursory Web search on my part also doesn’t yield anything pertaining to his views on copyright; if you know of a book or essay in which he expresses those views, might you send it my way? I would be quite interested to read his thoughts on the topic.

Sure, but I can’t imagine when I’ll read him again. Other than Socratic Puzzles, most of Nozick’s subsequent work steps lightly on matters political.

Upon inspection, it appears that even the aim of the Copyright Act of 1790 was simply to promote the production of creative works rather than to secure/protect any natural right: the beginning of the act’s long title is An Act for the encouragement of learning, which is the exact same as that of the Statute of Anne; and Section 1 of the act, again like the Statue of Anne, only confers, but does not secure, any rights:

the author and authors of any map, chart, book or books already printed within these United States … shall have the sole right and liberty of printing, reprinting, publishing and vending such map, chart, book or books … And that the author and authors of any map, chart, book or books already made and composed, and not printed or published, or that shall hereafter be made and composed … shall have the sole right and liberty of printing, reprinting, publishing and vending such map, chart, book or books … (emphasis added)

Again, a natural right, by definition, is not conferred by a government. However, I don’t want to focus too much on analyzing the specifics of the phrasing of the act, because the more important thing, I think, is to address the example of the car I provided in my previous response. Of course the law handles even real and personal property differently, and hence to argue that copyright law ought to function the exact same as personal property law is nonsensical-but this was not the point I was trying to make. My point was that a natural right cannot automatically expire after a predetermined amount of time set by statute: they are held by me for as long as I am alive, and cannot be taken away by the government in such a fashion. Such is the case not only with my property rights in my car, but also my property rights in my house, as well as all my natural rights outside of my property rights, like my right to self-ownership, to freedom of speech, to self-defense, to freedom of association, to freedom of religion, etc.: assuming that no immoral act is committed to forfeit them, I hold these rights for the entirety of my life, and the law also reflects this. Yet copyright law lacks this essential characteristic which is present in the laws concerning all these other indisputable natural rights. (However, I admit that I could have mentioned these other natural rights in the previous response so as to clarify my point, rather than only offering the example of the car, which consequently led to this misunderstanding.)

Incidentally, copyright as bestowed in the United States is lifelong, occsionally encompassing the lifespan of the work’s heritor. If you’re so concerned about this, why aren’t you apoplectic that freedom of association has been steadily, amost entirely eroded since the mid-’60s?!

Returning again to the Copyright Act of 1790, even if you ignore the actual language of the act (which, as I showed earlier, indicates that it was passed merely to promote creative works, and not to secure any right), why would the Founding Fathers explicitly set the term of copyright to only 14 years instead of the life of the author if they believed that copyright was a natural right? They didn’t set any time limits to the individual rights guaranteed by, e.g., the Bill of Rights, because they must have understood that attempting to do so by statute would have been an absurdity, since those rights cannot just expire. In light of all this, I can only conclude that copyright is not an individual right, and also that copyright law in this country did not originate to protect/secure any individual right-in short, that (2) also holds true for the U.S.

Your argument that it doesn’t secure a natural right is tenable, but I dont’t expect a legal document to address the ethics or philosophy of its import. If anything, this highlights the shortcomings of copyright as an instrument to safeguard intellectual property, recognition of which should probably be codified in law — with respect to the technologies that presently render so many facets of copyright unenforceable.

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.

I don’t believe that this is a fair assertion: copyright is a distinct thing, with its own definition and accompanying set of laws that may be understood by themselves, without invoking the concepts of patents, trademarks, and intellectual property in general. We’ve certainly managed to have a long (and fruitful, I would say) discussion on copyright without venturing into the wider category of intellectual property.

It is inevitable. If you want to rescind copyright, you must replace it with something superior; in doing so, you must acknowledge the conditions and some insurance of intellectual property.

Regarding copyright in China, I’m well aware that legislation formally exists, but we all know that actual enforcement, aside from some exceptions in which the infringement was simply too conspicuous to ignore, is far more lax when compared to the U.S. or other parts of the West. For instance, could you imagine a small store here selling bootlegged DVDs and Blu-rays openly and for any significant length of time, even if all the DVDs and Blu-rays were of non-U.S. origin?

Yeah. I’ve patronized dozens of them, in Chinatowns and elsewhere. I have no problem with bootlegs or filesharing when the creators thereof are deceased, domestic distribution is nonexistent, or the work in question is out of print or otherwise unavailable.

Yet from my time in China-including even in Beijing and Shanghai-I can inform you that this is what daily occurs there, and it’s not widely considered disreputable. Those sellers, to me, had great freedom in this regard, and I hope that China will always retain this aspect of its culture. Perhaps things have recently begun to change, and enforcement is becoming more common, in which case I can only declare: Keep your foreign idea of copyright out of China, you Westerners!

Either you accept that China’s government partially and vigorously enforces copyright of works in which Chinese interests and profit are at stake, or you don’t. That’s no more my concern than Chinese vendors peddling classics by Hitchcock or Teshigahara, inter alia. In a low-trust, post-Marxist society, that’s just unavoidable — and it does more good than harm, especially when quality is maintained.
What does irk me are the notions that China could be unduly influenced by western conventions after 1951, or that the exogenous conception of copyright is in any way an inhibition to its adoption throughout east Asia. Come on.

I only cited Kickstarter and Patreon as examples to be followed in their payment schemes for artists, not in their terms of service. I know that these two platforms are very restrictive, but nevertheless there have been many projects realized and artists compensated through them, thus demonstrating that, at least on the financial side, their models work. All that remains now is for a competitor to imitate their proven payment systems while offering far freer terms of service; the more restrictive Kickstarter and Patreon become regarding what they permit, the larger this demand for a freer alternative grows. Already there is SubscribeStar, which has much looser content guidelines and hosts individuals who are very much critical of progressivism, like YouTube user Carl Benjamin (AKA Sargon of Akkad) and Paul Joseph Watson.

SubscribeStar is promising, but its troubles proceed from the simple reality that financial institutions are managed by paranoid, censorial people who hate freedom when it inconveniences them. Until they’re brought to heel (which isn’t possible under the present government wholly beholden to them), these models will always be vulnerable.
The other problem is that due to unregulated immigration, societal decay, widespread anomie and dysgenics across nearly all of its principal demographics, the United States is increasingly becoming a low-trust society — a trend that bodes poorly for any sort of accountability or reliable microeconomic profit.

When you say that abolishing copyright will legitimize plagiarism, I reply that far more is required to realize this: we would also need to change prevailing social attitudes concerning plagiarism, i.e., convince people that it’s somehow ethically and morally acceptable to plagiarize; simply repealing some laws will not lead to this.

My concerns don’t consider societal consensus so much as the occasional rogue plagiarist. Without copyright or some footling outlawry of plagiarism, how do we penalize such a person? That’s less a challenge than an honest question. If there’s a way, I want to know it!
Withal, I define plagiarism very narrowly. Obviously, I’m not at all opposed to people reusing ideas in new ways; plagiarism has to be very blatant for me to concede it.

Also, I don’t know why you state that representing another’s idea as your own or representing public domain works as your own is not actual plagiarism.

That’s because I didn’t. I simply stated that such plagiarism is nugatory. I don’t approve of it, but it’s not terribly significant.

If a friend verbally communicates to me the plot of a novel he has conceived but not yet written, and I thereupon write and publish my own novel based upon the plot, claiming that the whole thing is my original work, have I not committed plagiarism of his idea?

Yeah, and he should’ve kept his mouth shut! I can’t hope to protect unfinished, much less uninitiated works by ingenuous people! (Note that copyright is only enforceable for finished works.)

And if I compose my own original poetry and decide to compile it into a book, but also include in it a few of Shakespeare’s sonnets (which are in the public domain) and then claim that the whole collection was written by myself, have I not also committed plagiarism of his sonnets? (I gave my definition of plagiarism in the previous reply, and you didn’t object to it, which is why I wonder how you could deny that these two scenarios are actual plagiarism.)

Neither do I deny it, nor did I so much as suggest otherwise in my prior post.
To ingeminate: fair use does not cover actual plagiarism.

However, after some consideration, I agree with you that copyright law’s effectiveness in guaranteeing proper attribution is important, and that, under current conditions, this particular function of it should not be abolished until a superior private mechanism is developed to replace it. I acknowledge that many people currently rely on this law to secure recognition for their creative efforts, and it would be harsh to suddenly deprive them of something to which they’ve become so accustomed. I also admit that it would have been extraordinarily difficult for Carpenter and Castle to obtain an indemnity from Besson in the absence of copyright law-but I would only add that, even without that law, Besson would still have suffered damage to his respectability once his plagiarism was exposed.

I’ll grant that much of this is immaterial to this discussion, but French media outlets and his distributors support Besson after six allegations of rape — not in misandrist Sweden or the hysterical United States, but France, where such claims are highly suspect and only investigated when credible. (One example why is mentioned in the opening of my latest review.)
Once again, I’m genuinely interested in alternatives to copyright, but they must afford a means to punish shameless offenders, including those who enjoy biased institutional support.

The whole purpose of the original essay was to argue that permissive licenses (including the BSD licenses) are unconditionally freer than the GPL and other copyleft licenses, and also that the former provide us in the end with more freedom. Alas, not only do we disagree about copyright, but the essay failed even to convince you of this point, which was my motivation for writing the thing in the first place!

As much as I love BSD, I do prefer some of the GPL’s stipulations (you can guess which) absent in the BSD license.
At the outset, I probably should’ve clarified that my support for copyright is largely pragmatic, as a way to legally guarantee proper attribution and reasonably profitable conditions. I don’t expect piracy (digitally, this is not truly theft, but simply unauthorized access and/or duplication) to end, and I know that it often redounds to positive cultural effect. What I do want is some means of redress when actual plagiarism occurs, and insurance of attribution. Creative Commons licenses enable these to a degree, but they haven’t (yet?) the status of legal recognition afforded to copyright registration.

Regarding the subject of corporations, I admit that I can now at least understand the deep and often justified hostility that many non-progressives hold towards them. In particular, whenever they support legislation that reduces freedom and infringes upon individual rights for their own benefit, I turn on them as viciously as you or any other reasonable person does; and even when they don’t resort to the law, but, e.g., restrain free speech on their online platforms, I still lose much respect for them. The only thing I would caution you against is mistakenly perceiving as evil a genuinely harmless/neutral corporation (and I think you will agree that such corporations do exist), and especially against mistakenly perceiving as evil the truly rare (but still existent) corporation that actually upholds individual rights in both word and deed, like Defense Distributed and NearlyFreeSpeech.net.

The biggest problems in the public sector that we must oppose us aren’t corporations, per se, but most oligopolists. When I view one of BLM’s riots, I don’t think, “God, I hate all blacks;” neither do I think, “corporations are inherently evil” when I read about Bezos’s latest fraud or connivance. This doesn’t even apply to all oligarchs, a few of whom are benevolent. However, whether for lucre or power or ethnic advantage, one cannot deny that, in conspiracy with one another and many governments, many multinational corporations have contributed mightily to the soft tyranny that afflicts this country. At present, big pharma’s push to vaccinate everyone by dint of governmental ordinance is the most glaring example.

I only focused so heavily on the financial/promotional side of it in my previous reply because I was responding in turn to the emphasis you placed on that subject in your previous response (see the third block quotation in my previous reply), but I also recognize the importance of the attribution issue. Aside from this, however, I am glad to hear that you would be willing to discard copyright law if a private alternative were to arise that could fulfill its functions of compensating artists and guaranteeing them recognition. While I still hold the view that copyright ought to be abolished, after some consideration of your points I concede that it would be too callous to repeal all the laws outright when no true substitute for them yet exists: there are simply too many authors and artists-including very many decent, honest individuals-who have become dependent upon the current legal system of copyright for their income and artistic recognition. Had I been alive in 1790 I would have vigorously urged the Founding Fathers not to pass that year’s Copyright Act and instead seek a private means to promote creativity and ensure proper attribution, and my task would have been far easier because I would have needed only to argue from libertarian principles-viz., proposition (1)-and not have had to worry about endangering anyone’s livelihood or artistic reputation. Unfortunately, now that copyright law has existed in this country for 230 years, it has become so entrenched, and so many careers and industries depend on it, that I confess that we cannot simply uproot the whole system without major negative consequences.

What’s more, whatever supplants copyright has not only to be designed in order to overlook casual or sensible filesharing, but also to forestall any probability that private entities can popularize restrictive or abusive licensing.

I still wish to see the eventual abolition of copyright, because I still fully believe that it is not a legitimate function of government, but now I acknowledge that this should only be done once a suitable private substitute exists by which authors/artists can both make a living and receive their deserved attribution. I also fully agree with you that serious reform is needed to reverse the many abuses of copyright law by corporations; we can begin to implement those reforms immediately, and meanwhile we can also work diligently towards developing the private substitute(s) that ultimately will replace it. As more private alternatives inevitably arise in the future, I imagine that we may gradually reduce the scope of copyright, and hence gently wean people off the system, before finally getting rid of the thing altogether.

I’ve a certain confidence that this will happen, perhaps inadvertently, as some new online technology or application thereof comes to prominence.

Again I acknowledge the great value of creative works, but value itself does not elevate something to the status of a natural right. We should employ every private means and method to promote their production and secure attribution for their authors, and I’ve already conceded that we shouldn’t abolish copyright until an equivalent or superior replacement exists, but I have also shown earlier, both in this reply and the previous one, that copyright-even in the U.S.-originated merely as a tool to encourage creativity and innovation, and was not perceived as a natural right.

Before I forget to ask, do you believe that ownership of intellectual property should be legally acknowledged as a natural right? If so, our conundrum is: how do we legally address the validity of intellectual property without either copyright or (unenforceable) proscription of plagiarism? Again, I’m not certain that a solution for this problem yet exists.

Lastly, even if my views, as you say, aren’t concordant with the consensus of any broad majority, still you must admit that those specific communities I mentioned in the previous reply are, on the whole, significantly less favorable towards and concerned about copyright than the general population.

I agree, and can’t entirely begrudge them their opinion. Whether informed or ignorant on the subject, you kids have come of age in a time when a handful of corrupt corporations expect that people should be imprisoned or pauperized for doing what comes naturally on the Internet. It was always preposterous.

Many computer programmers release their source code under permissive or copyleft licenses rather than proprietizing it, few people on YouTube during its early (pre-2010) years cared about copyright (except to insult it when their videos got taken down because of DMCA abuse), and images and other media-including original content-are freely and often anonymously shared on imageboards. When the youtube-dl repository on GitHub was temporarily disabled at the behest of the RIAA and much backlash ensued, I slept well at night knowing that, after all these years, the Internet still hates the RIAA.

LOL: I’m using youtube-dl to download [content] as I type this! Really, the problem here is that the silents and boomers who run the RIAA, MPAA, and the publishers and distributors who they represent simply do not understand personal computing. These companies should’ve been selling music online as late as the mid-’90s, and movies by the mid-aughts, with the unspoken concession that piracy will cut into profits — but also help to publicize their products. Instead, they squandered that time in fits of litigiomaniacal lunacy, filing frivolous punitory suits that occasionally ruin lives, and harrassing smaller distributors who know how the world works. Of course, the DMCA is the fruit of this inanity.

Finally, if you want to know what kind of people the RIAA are, check out the skulduggery that its CEO, Mitch Glazier, committed when he was a Congressional staff attorney. A man who heads an organization purportedly dedicated “to protect intellectual property rights and the First Amendment rights of artists” essayed to defraud recording artists for the benefit of their labels. These people are swine.

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.

Of Copyright and Corporations

My initial arguments in address of Lolwut’s article, Why I Prefer Permissive Licenses to Copyleft:

The following is my response to his:

Regarding your first comment, again, I don’t believe that this is a sensible definition of liberty/freedom. Any definition of liberty/freedom that argues for more rules and restrictions should be highly suspect, because liberty/freedom is defined as the absence of restrictions.

No: freedom is an absence of restriction, in whatever context; political liberty is freedom from undue, despotic or oppressive constraint. Actual liberty can’t be established or sustained without rules and a measure (if only a soupcon) of order. The only alternative is anarchy, from which liberty never eventuates.

There are several arguments against copyright, libertarian and non-libertarian. The particular libertarian argument against copyright to which I subscribe can be summarized as follows:

1. The only legitimate function of government (and its laws) is the protection of individual rights.

I haven’t believed that since I was a Libertarian myself. For one looming counterexample, all of the greatest public works such as the Autobahn, the United States’ Interstate Highway System, and innumerable others throughout the developed world couldn’t be developed and executed by private enterprise — not because companies were technically unable to do so, but because the outlay necessitated in relation to potential profit (whenever any) simply made such propositions wholly impracticable. Obviously, private enterprise should and has been contracted in numerous and limited capacities to realize such projects, but only a national government can ably administer and fund them. For that matter, would we be communicating as we are if telecommunications had been left to the likes of AT&T and Bell, the Defense Department had never developed ARPANET, and the National Science Foundation Network and numerous conjoint governmental agencies hadn’t expanded its ambit globally? Dream on.

2. Copyright is not actually an individual right, but rather simply a legal invention/tool intended and designed to promote the production of creative works.

That’s incorrect. Copyright is a legal instrument intended to protect intellectual property for a specified span. To quote the Copyright Act of 1790, it’s intended to secure one’s “sole right and liberty of printing, reprinting, publishing and vending” so “to promote the progress of science and useful arts.” Surely you understand that profit is, though not the soul of craft or art itself, among the the principle inducements to human advancement?

3. Therefore, all copyright laws are illegitimate.

I can’t find any more legitimacy in your syllogism’s premises than in this deduction. Outside of China, copyright is a foundational requisite of civil law in every civilized country.

(1) is accepted by libertarians, or at least minarchists;

Since when? Prior to a lustrum ago, I never met a Libertarian who espoused this codswallop, itself thitherto a delusion exclusive to Marxists.

(2) is far more obvious, and is mostly contested by the large media companies who have a serious financial interest in justifying copyright as some sort of “natural right”.

No, the Founding Fathers and their British antecedents justified copyright as a means to defend certain natural rights. If you were familiar with the history of copyright over the past semicentury, you’d observe that corporations meditate only to expand and distort legislation pertaining to copyright for wrongful gain.

This is assuming, of course, that copyright even works as it was intended to — there are arguments even denying its effectiveness,

Which? In my experience, most rulings in civil courts regarding copyright claims tend to be just.

and asserting that more innovation and creative works would arise if copyright were either greatly weakened or altogether abolished.

I’ve read this incredibly jejune theory before, and can adduce sprawling instances to explode it. In the second half of the twentieth century, when industrial, erudite and popular arts flourished as never before or since in modernity throughout the developed world, copyright was sedulously and aggressively defended in thousands of high-profile civil cases from Topeka to Tokyo. Nota bene: in every robust and genuinely sophisticated entertainment industry (notably those of Austria, Korea, Italy, Japan, etc.), creative firms and figures alike judiciously exercise copyright to protect their fruits of afflatus and labor. Note that this hasn’t stopped anyone from quoting or otherwise incoporating the work of others into their own by reasonable means.

If you don’t participate, you wouldn’t know. That hypothetical kiddieshit applies primarily to software or liberal arts within limited partnerships. Moreover, how the shit is anybody advancing innovation by effectively legalizing plagiarism?

However, I don’t even rely on those here, and instead contend simply that protecting copyright is not a legitimate function of government, regardless of its actual benefits.

Would you propose an alternative?

This doesn’t mean that I don’t value creative works; it simply means that I oppose using the law and the government to promote their production, however good this may be, because I believe that using the government in such a fashion oversteps its proper function. We can certainly establish private organizations and institutions to promote innovation and creativity, and thereby assist artists in making a living, but I don’t believe we can legitimately use the government to accomplish this.

I agree that government shouldn’t ordinarily promote the production of art or entertainment, but that’s hardly the intent or function of copyright. I hold nearly 40 such registrations, but recieve no endorsement or subvention from government whatsoever.

Also, I don’t know why you mention plagiarism, because it is a distinct thing from copyright infringement, and could occur with or without the presence of copyright law.

Plagiarism of a copyrighted work constitutes copyright infingement; ergo, copyright is the only reliable means by which plagiarism may be prosecuted under civil law. This isn’t difficult.

I don’t think copyright infringement should be illegal, but I never stated that I condoned or was indifferent to plagiarism; I disapprove of it probably as much as you do.

How, then, would you contend with it?

My point in regard to the GPL was not that it is long by absolute standards, but that it is far, far longer than many permissive licenses. It’s true that greater detail/more words are required to cover the “circumstantial eventualities and niceties” you mention, but such things are only more likely to materialize with copyleft licenses precisely because those licenses included more conditions than permissive licenses in the first place — in other words, the copyleft licenses created their own problems, and consequently needed to add more detail/words to cover up the holes they had dug themselves. Perhaps some of the permissive licenses are too short and vague, but even if they were clarified and thus lengthened, I doubt that they would be longer than a typical copyleft license, simply because they have fewer conditions.

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 like Microsoft’s products for nostalgia reasons, and I greatly admire Bill Gates for his technical skill and knowledge, but this doesn’t mean that I agree with everything they do — in particular, I strongly disagree with the latter’s views concerning copyright. I may use Microsoft products, but this doesn’t mean I condone their licensing decisions — I put it on a scale with other things, and it simply turns out that other unrelated considerations (e.g. nostalgia) outweigh my objections to their licensing.

Withal, your use of their products is still tacit consent to their policies at a time when Microsoft and Apple rightly represent the worst that proprietary software vendors have to offer. By contrast, my use of FreeBSD and a majority of FOSS along with some proprietary software (icons of OS/2, DOOM2.WAD, numerous programs of DOS and Win32 via DOSBox and WINE) isn’t merely predicated on my partiality for the OS and all that subordinate software, which is undeniable. I also believe very strongly in FOSS as the only means by which freedom of use and dissemination can be sustained. However you may choose to present yourself, nobody can really believe the talk if you don’t walk the walk.

Besides, WINE exists.

I also never stated that the copylefters were hypocrites merely for using/consuming proprietary works made by other people; I called them hypocrites because they claim to defend freedom, yet don’t apply the freest licenses to their own works, with some of them also opposing copyright but still participating in that system by using copyleft. I may use Microsoft products, but when it comes to my own works, I always release under an extremely permissive license.

This may seem paradoxical to you, but they are defending freedom by preventing others from fettering it. As the authors of their respective or collective works, they have every moral right to do so. Legality proceeds from this premise.

I strongly despise the current abuse of copyright law by corporations;

So do I; their efforts to curtail fair use and application or personal, noncommercial dissemination of purchased copies are especially egregious. No sensible advocate of copyright supports that.

however, I don’t hate corporations themselves simply because they are corporations — this is nothing but a tired, whining attitude of teenage progressives.

Agreed, but progressives are their target demographics nowadays, they conduct themselves accordingly, and that’s why a majority of multinationals are so loathed by people of every political stripe, save perennially clueless Libertarians and Boomercons, and complicit politicians. Haven’t you noticed that most wealthy corporations — indeed, the vast majority of those listed in the Fortune 500 — support legislation and politicos who push every far-left agenda from transmania to Critical Race Theory? Has their expensive and systematic support for the gradual erosion of individual rights to free expression, self-defense, enterprise and association produced even a blip on your radar? Have you observed even the slightest symptoms of social disintegration due to open borders so that corporations can exploit more cheap labor and both wings of the uniparty can gull potential voters who aren’t yet acculturated? People hate corporations because they they’re as much a vehicle for progressivism as any post-Marxist NGO or neo-Bolshevik academic crank. Last year, hundreds of prominent corporations supported a black identity terrorist organization, for christ’s sake. Get with it.

Abolition of copyright at once solves the issue of abuse, which I think you will agree will be a good thing;

Not at all, when sensible reform can do likewise without depriving people of their legal protections. Can you understand that millions of individuals partially rely on copyright for their livelihood and artistic recognition?

I assume here that it will also make it more difficult for individuals to make a living from creative works and thus reduce the quantity of such works (though some opponents of copyright, like I said earlier, will dispute this), which is a bad thing,

Yeah, that would minimize, if not eliminate an entire sector of the economy and culture to satisfy the consummation of an extreme and otiose principle. Why, exactly?

but my libertarian principles preclude me from supporting the use of the government and the law even to promote something good, because this is outside the scope of its legitimate role.

Only a minority of Libertarians share this opinion, and not one Libertarian party worldwide espouses it. If you can’t avow the legitimacy of intellectual property and agree to its legal defense, your propositions pertaining to any proprietorship are in effect and essence, if not intent, those of Marx and his apologists, and they commend the same consequences: disenfranchisement and depredation by governmental neglect. That’s a retrograde aim in the worst way. Now, is this actually Libertarianism, or is it millennialism/zoomerism?