Schulman: “If you copy my novel, I’ll kill you”

by Stephan Kinsella on June 6, 2012

From a facebook discussion, IP libertarian and novelist J. Neil Schulman says to me:

You and your ilk have a problem with me and L Neil Smith that won’t disappear with the death of the State copyright laws. Make copies of our creative works without our permission and we’ll kill you. “Seno Akta Gamat!” [from The Fifth Element: "Never without my permission!"]

This is even more explicit than his previous, more subtle suggestion along these lines, in his logorights article:

anyone who attempts to violate my property rights in this logos should expect to hear from the legal firm of Smith & Wesson.

As I wrote in The Great IP Debate of 1983:

while Schulman, as an anarchist, to his credit admits that if it could be shown that his version of IP could be enforced only by state law, he would abandon it, he ends his speech with a very unlibertarian threat of murder: to sic the firm of “Smith and Wesson” on those who use the ideas they have learned from him.

And now he is saying he would just murder people who copied his novel without his permission. Ho-kayyyy. Need anything else be said about the lunacy to which the IP mentality leads?

Update: To his credit, Schulman has retracted his comment, after a long facebook discussion:

Stephan Kinsella: I didn’t mean it. It was wrong for me to say it. Of course I wouldn’t kill someone for a copy violation. I’ve never killed anyone and I pray to God that I’m never put into an actual situation where I have to use deadly force against an attacker.

I apologize.

This said, you make me seething mad and that’s why I wrote such emotional rot. The way you toss around the word fascist at lights in the world such as Ayn Rand and Brad Linaweaver is awful.

I think your principles are truly fucked up and I will continue to argue against them. Just more civilly.

Neil

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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Crosbie Fitch June 6, 2012 at 5:07 pm

The first issue is the notion that thieves can be summarily executed. Perhaps not all anarchists place property above human life, but it is worrying that so many do.

The second issue is the notion that novelists are born with the power to prevent those to whom they sell copies of their novels from making their own copies or derivative works. Novelists may well be born with the exclusive right to their writings, to prevent burglars copying their manuscript as much as stealing it, but they are not born with the power granted by the Statute of Anne 1709 nor its reincarnation as the US Copyright act of 1790.

Those interested in sanctioning the death penalty against copyright infringers should conclude that novelists would be greatly discouraged from writing anything for fear of unwittingly/unconsciously copying the work of a novelist they had once read. Instead of dying to write, they’d be writing to die. See http://falkvinge.net/2011/06/01/insane-repulsive-grandmother-of-eight-sentenced-to-three-years-jail-for-sharing-music/ and http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20120420/02334518572/men-work-musician-found-dead-ridiculous-copyright-ruling-against-band-blamed.shtml

The movie “In Bruges” provides an allegorical lesson for copyright extremists willing to reinforce their privilege with the ultimate sanction.

Roderick T. Long June 6, 2012 at 5:15 pm

Even if IP were legitimate, death would be a bit disproportionate penalty, no?

In any case, what an author “creates” is actually a discovery — the discovery that words can be arranged in just this way with just these effects. The possibility of arranging words that way always existed; the author didn’t produce it. What the author produced is the particular bits of ink and paper they’ve arranged that way — which of course is their property, and is not imperiled by anyone else’s copying it. But the abstract pattern is something the author discovered, in just the same way that someone discovered the principle of the lever. And once you see me use a lever, and so you too now have that information, if I then forbid you to use that knowledge to move your own rocks around, I’m aggressing.

Intellectual “property” amounts to the threat: “don’t use the knowledge in your own head to rearrange your own property as you see fit, or I’ll assault you.”

Oliver Braithwaite June 6, 2012 at 5:33 pm

J. Neil Schulman is NOT a libertarian. All libertarians now understand that copyright is completely illegitimate as Baldrin and Levine have explained in their academic treatise, “Against Intelectual Monopoly”: http://www.amazon.com/Against-Intellectual-Monopoly-Michele-Boldrin/dp/0521879280 as has Kinsella, in “Against Intelectual Property”: http://mises.org/books/against.pdf . You cant have it both ways. You cannot be against the violence of the State, but be for the artificial monopolies that it creates out of nothing. Im afraid that this author is either joking or he simply cannot face a world without the State to protect his vested interests. Either way the word ‘Libertarian’ cannot be associated with this man.

Kevin Carson June 6, 2012 at 5:54 pm

He’ll crawl through the series of tubes to the server farm hosting every single torrent site where his books are available for download, kill everybody with blustering bravado, and then crawl through the Intertubes into every single hard drive that contains a copy. Hey, if Santy Claus can visit every house in the world once a year…

Kevin Carson June 6, 2012 at 5:56 pm

Wait… Is it possible to kill someone by making them roll their eyes too hard?

Peter Surda June 6, 2012 at 6:15 pm

With fundamentalists it’s always about stirring up passion and emotions. That’s because of cognitive dissonance. Logic is abandoned. Instead there are metaphors.

Mike Gogulski June 6, 2012 at 6:31 pm

Oh, please, let me be the first Neil kills. It was I, after all, who forced Neil’s nearly-dead hand into the internet age by putting a review copy of Alongside Night on Bittorrent 3 years ago. Noor Mehta and Aaron Kinney can bear witness to my crime.

Kevin Carson June 6, 2012 at 6:37 pm

Oh, Mike. Your life isn’t worth a plug nickel now. I may as well go ahead and order the flowers for your funeral.

Mike Gogulski June 6, 2012 at 6:40 pm

Intercourse, the flowers! Hookers and cocaine!

BlackBloc June 6, 2012 at 6:47 pm

I’m tempted to copy his book and then pointedly stick it into some hidden folder on my laptop and then refuse to read it, just to spite him.

Mike Gogulski June 6, 2012 at 6:50 pm

.jpg or it never happened.

SomethingSea June 7, 2012 at 1:27 am

What Happened To “Alongside Night”?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vs2Zzt8cNds

Paul Bonneau June 6, 2012 at 10:54 pm

Neil, you can kill someone for copying your stuff. I have no problem with it as long as you pull the trigger yourself, and don’t use the state to do it for you.

However you might reflect a bit before pulling that trigger. It could be that you’d become a pariah, and no one would associate with you. But hey, it’s your call.

A.X. Perez June 6, 2012 at 11:23 pm

If you use my ideas without my permission you are stealing from me or enslaving me. Both are acts of violence. It may seem trivial because “it’s only a few words,” That is the same as holding a gun to someone and saying “It’s only a few dollars.” or raping a person and saying “it will be over soon.” To the rapist and thief of course the victim’s attempt to kill the criminal in self defense is an over reaction. Mr. Shulman is being quite generous by warning you of what he will do
if you try to steal from him instead of simply letting your death be a warning to other plagiaris.

jack June 7, 2012 at 5:26 pm

> If you use my ideas without my permission you are stealing from me or enslaving me

Say what? How am I stealing from you? Do you end up with any less of “your ideas?”

How am I “enslaving” you? Is there anything you could do before that you cannot do now? Are you compelled to do something you wouldn’t want to do? You seem to treat words as Humpty-Dumpty did… Oops… did I just steal from Mr Carroll /s

spiritsplice June 15, 2012 at 10:33 am

I contend that they are not *your* ideas. Prove this is untrue *without* resorting to a piece of real and tangible property to make your case.

Crosbie Fitch June 15, 2012 at 4:35 pm

You have to deconstruct the English language’s use of possession.

Your story.
Your hat.
Your child.
Your master.
Your life.
Your mistake.

Possession can indicate authorship, ownership, parenthood, subjugation, consciousness, culpability, etc.

The fact that Fred had a particular idea is perpetual. How long he keeps this idea to himself is up to him, but once he confides it to Jim, it becomes the property of Jim AS WELL (unless Fred can demonstrate he has forgotten the idea). Even though the idea as property belongs as much to Jim as to Fred, it remains Fred’s idea in the English possessive sense of authorship. In terms of ownership, the idea is jointly held by both. It takes the granting of a privilege to enable Fred to pretend exclusive ownership (contrary to nature).

Rudd-O June 7, 2012 at 1:54 pm

If you use my ideas without my permission you are stealing from me or enslaving me. Both are acts of violence.

Violence of the imaginary kind, of course. Namely, that you have imagined a violent act where there is none. I don’t need to ask you for permission to use my brain, my hands, my mouth, my eyes, or my things. And if you attempt to use force to stop me, then that is an act of violence of the real non-imagined kind.

Crosbie Fitch June 8, 2012 at 7:27 pm

The first issue is the notion that thieves can be summarily executed. Perhaps not all anarchists place property above human life, but it is worrying that so many do.

The second issue is the notion that novelists are born with the power to prevent those to whom they sell copies of their novels from making their own copies or derivative works. Novelists may well be born with the exclusive right to their writings, to prevent burglars copying their manuscript as much as stealing it, but they are not born with the power granted by the Statute of Anne 1709 nor its reincarnation as the US Copyright act of 1790.

Those interested in sanctioning the death penalty against copyright infringers should conclude that novelists would be greatly discouraged from writing anything for fear of unwittingly/unconsciously copying the work of a novelist they had once read. Instead of dying to write, they’d be writing to die. See http//falkvinge.net/2011/06/01/insane-repulsive-grandmother-of-eight-sentenced-to-three-years-jail-for-sharing-music/ and http//www.techdirt.com/articles/20120420/02334518572/men-work-musician-found-dead-ridiculous-copyright-ruling-against-band-blamed.shtml

The movie “In Bruges” provides an allegorical lesson for copyright extremists willing to reinforce their privilege with the ultimate sanction.

Carston June 12, 2012 at 4:54 pm

Neil c’mon, If it doesn’t have mass, its not real property, therefore not subject to property rights. You cannot own that which cannot be touched.

Stephan Kinsella June 13, 2012 at 8:07 am

I’ve added an update to the post to note that Neil has retracted his claim.

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