Kinsella, “Law and Intellectual Property in a Stateless Society”

by Stephan Kinsella on March 1, 2013

My article “Law and Intellectual Property in a Stateless Society,” has just been published in Libertarian Papers vol. 5 (1) (2013), pp 1-44. This is my first publication in the journal I started in 2009. It is also the most comprehensive piece I’ve done on IP since Against Intellectual Property. It incorporates a lot of the material from AIP and integrates a lot of things I’ve written in the 12 or so years since that piece was published.

This article was originally going to be part of a symposium in the Griffith Law Review (Australia), edited by Gary Chartier, on “Law and Anarchy: Legal Order and the Idea of a Stateless Society.” Among the other authors were to be Tom Bell, Walter Block, Peter Leeson, Roderick Long, Ed Stringham, Charles Johnson, and Bruce Benson. Amazing that Chartier was able to get a mainstream law review to consider such a radical subject, and to include such radical authors.

But my participation was not to be.

The journal first insisted that we assign our copyright to it. Bell and I both refused. I insisted on a CC-BY license, and the GLR agreed to accept this option.

Next, however, came a barrage of reports from referees who  seemed baffled by my principled IP-abolitionist stance. Both wanted me to make pointless changes, to water my thesis down, or to adopt an essentially utilitarian-empirical approach. I refused to do this; my paper was out. I am sorry that, like me, several other potential authors encountered problems related to the symposium. But I appreciate Chartier’s hard work in putting this together. I’m glad that pieces by such authors as Bell, Long, and Benson will still be appearing.

The Abstract is below.

Abstract: An ethic of self-ownership combined with Lockean homesteading of external resources provides a plausible grounding both for anarchist opposition to the state and for an attractive anarchist legal order. Such an ethic can be understood as specifying that each person prima facie has the right to control his or her own body; and that Lockean homesteading, under which the owner of any scarce resource is its first user (or his contractual transferee), should provide the basis for property rights in such previously unowned goods. Given these rules, monopoly privileges like patent and copyright (intellectual property, or IP) cannot be justified, as they infringe on self-ownership-based body-rights and/or property rights in external resources. In this article, I explain why IP rights are inconsistent with the moral grounds for a stateless society’s legal order, and speculate about the practices or laws that might prevail in the absence of IP in such a system.

Update: Print version available from


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