Category Archives: Ethics

Internet Piracy: A Sure Bet

I just read a fascinating article at the New York Times on the inevitability of internet piracy by Nick Bilton.  Granted, it’s a few months old, but I couldn’t help but be amazed by the candidness of Bilton in reporting the simple fact that internet piracy is absolutely here to stay.

I couldn’t help but be encouraged.

On the issue of intellectual property in the domain of the Internet, the free market is winning against crony capitalism and government authoritarianism.  Individuals everywhere are receiving the benefit.  The losers are, of course, the production companies and the MPAA, who would love to remain forever rich based on the monopolistic privileges granted to them under copyright law.

Quite frankly, defenders of intellectual property have absolutely no response to this alleged “crisis” of the lack of intellectual property enforcement.  It is not going anywhere.   If you want to stop it at this point, you would probably have to ban the Internet.  Instead of continuing to come up with failed enforcement mechanisms, it will be exciting to see a day when the state finally retreats from its defense of special interests and recognizes that the pirates have won a complete and total victory.

Furthermore, as Bilton points out, this piracy will very soon be carried over into the 3D printing world when 3D printers will become as much a part of every home as laptop computers, televisions, and iPads.  Millions of individuals will have the ability to simply download a file for a design they want to create, probably through some sort of bitTorrent program, and then print out whatever the heck they want within the comfort of their own home.

Statists and sophists will decry such “piracy” as an evil and a scourge upon society.

Those of us who understand how free markets actually work will know better.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that 3D-printing used in this fashion will make millions of people better off.  Simply put, through the power of piracy and the ability to copy designs, individuals will be able to provide things for themselves in their own homes that today we must go to a store to buy.   Think of all the business potential!  The innovation!  The spontaneous order!

The market is beautiful because it is peaceful, dynamic, competitive, and orderly all in one.  Copyright turns actors in the free market into mortal enemies, constantly looking out for those who would seek to steal their super special idea that they presume no one has heard of before.  As Isaac Moorehouse put it, it’s one of the most childish things I’ve ever heard of.

Sorry, this link is broken!  But PSY still made lots of money by ignoring copyright violations!  :)

PSY made millions on “Gangnam Style” by ignoring copyright violations.

The great thing is that the market is already realizing that this is the wave of the future…and adjusting to it.  For example, PSY literally ignored violations of the copyright on his song, “Gangnam Style.”  As a result, he made $8.1 million dollars and his video is now the most viewed video on YouTube with over 1 billion views.  Jeffrey Tucker details this fascinating reality in his article, “How the State Will Die.”

Meanwhile, Robert Neuwirth details the significance of the informal economy (known as System D)–which mainly consists of street vendors, small shops, and actors who are not subject to formal state regulation.  This is probably the closest thing to free market capitalism that we have in the world today…and it is rampant with this concept of “piracy.”   But this System D informal market works and it’s humming along beautifully.  It’s a blossoming flower of spontaneous order.  Even more than that, Neuwirth reveals that American businesses actually want to see their products pirated in System D so that they know they’re doing something right.

Everywhere, the market is already winning due to piracy.  Government regulation would try to stifle and prevent this, and in some cases it has, but the long run looks good for piracy, and consequently, for the free market.

This is what detractors of intellectual property have been saying for a long time.  Intellectual property law is a stale artifact of government intervention.  It stifles innovation and serves the special interests of crony capitalism.  But, by it’s very nature, it is incapable of keeping up with the forces of the free market.

The good news is that, unless you want to ban the Internet and 3-D printing…

…the pirates will always win.

Your move, IP advocates.

Let’s reflect on the lessons here. In our time, the state’s regulatory apparatus, not just in intellectual property, but in every area of life, has set up an untenable situation for nearly everyone. Even those who imagined that they would benefit from it are not doing so to the extent they believed. That is because the march of history does not stop in the face of even the largest attempts at enforcement. The market will prevail — which is just another way of saying that human action will prevail over the coercive machinery of the government — in the long run. – Jeffrey Tucker, “How the State Will Die”

A Quick Survey on Abortion

I am very curious about something.  I’ve been thinking about a couple of conversations that I’ve had with individuals over the course of the past year with regard to the issue of abortion.  I am curious to see patterns of thought with regard to this issue.  I have some suspicions, but I want to broach the question to a broader audience (the readers on this blog).

Also, an important caveat: assume that the mother’s life is not threatened by carrying the pregnancy to term.  I should have clarified this in question #2, but I did not.

I realize that this is completely unscientific and non-representative.  I also realize I can’t confirm if each individual votes in all three polls.  That’s fine.  I just want to get a general idea regarding how people perceive the abortion issue from a moral and political perspective.

Some Resources on Intellectual Property

Thank you to everyone that participated in the poll.   I got 42 responses and out of those 42, here’s how it broke down:

15 (35.71%) of the respondents believe that violating someone else’s intellectual property (i.e. copying a song without the copyright holder’s permission) is theft.

20 (47.62%) of the respondents believe that it is not theft.

7 (16.67%) of the respondents are not sure.

First of all, I was pleased that the plurality supported the idea that copying a song without the copyright holder’s permission is not theft.  This is actually my position.   I do not believe that intellectual property is an actual property right, but rather a social construct that governments use to protect inefficiencies in the market and discourage innovation.

I’m sure that the 35.71% of you that accept intellectual property as a justifiable aspect of law have your own reasons for doing so.  However, I encourage you to consider some of the following resources that I am going to post in order to at least give advocates of my position a fair hearing.  I also want to encourage those of you who are not sure about IP to look at these resources as well.

I would encourage you to watch the video below, entitled “Everything is a Remix.”  Technically, this is part 3 in the series, but it’s the first one I saw when I was very seriously considering a switch from the pro-IP position.  The great thing about this video is that it demonstrates that almost every aspect of our creativity is based on copying some other idea.  There’s practically nothing that we can do or create that is entirely unique to ourselves.  Sure, we can develop a new manufacturing method, engine, or piece of art that we think no one else has thought of before, and for that, we should be able to market and profit for the products of our ideas if they are really worthwhile.  But this video (for me at least) challenges the notion that it is possible to own an idea, which is at the core of IP law.

In addition the above video, I would encourage you to read an amazing article by Stephen Kinsella that was published by the Freeman entitled “How Intellectual Property Hampers the Free Market.”  I actually just stumbled upon it for the first time only a few days after I put up the poll.

Lastly, I personally love pretty much anything that Jeffrey Tucker has to say on the topic of intellectual property.  I first heard Tucker speak at a FEE seminar about the topic of emulation and about why emulation is one of the most important driving forces in a truly free market (very similar to the gist of the “Everything is a Remix” above).  It really got me started on my re-thinking of intellectual property.  If you want to listen to an excellent lecture by Tucker specifically on the topic of intellectual property, there’s a great one uploaded on YouTube here.  If you’re more of the reading type, Tucker has posted many articles on the subject of IP, but a good one to start can be found here at the Mises Institute.