≡ Menu

Amend the LP Platform to Abolish IP!

Cobbled together from some Facebook posts calling for the Libertarian Party Platform to be amended to include calls to abolish intellectual property law, in particular, patent and copyright:

[Update: Tom Knapp informed me that this almost happened earlier this year:

the Libertarian Party’s 2020 platform committee recommended the addition of new plank 2.15, “Intellectual Property,” to the platform. The proposed plank read as follows:
“As we oppose all government intervention in marketplaces, we favor the repeal of intellectual property laws. Disputes between inventors, creators, authors, artists, businesses and other such entities should be resolved without government intervention.”
Unfortunately, the 2020 Libertarian National Convention was interrupted/delayed by a full day of mutiny against the party, then voted to adjourn without considering the committee’s recommendations instead of doing its fucking job.
Google took me to this: Report of the Platform Committee to the delegates of the Libertarian National Convention of 2020, which proposes the addition of new Plank 2.15:
2.XX Intellectual Property
As we oppose all government intervention in marketplaces, we favor the repeal of intellectual property laws. Disputes between inventors, creators, authors, artists, businesses and other such entities should be resolved without government intervention.
The Report provides the reasoning:
Rationale for Proposal 19
No matter what position any person takes on intellectual property, it is nearly universally acknowledged that the government’s handling of this has been stifling and ham-handed. There are better free market solutions that can be allowed to flourish if the government would stay out. The market has already pioneered the way with the creation of items such as creative commons licensing.
This is utterly heroic. I suspect this is the handiwork of Caryn Ann Harlos, the Committed Chair. I sincerely hope that this is taken up again at the next convention.

[Update: See also It’s A Fucking Disgrace that the Libertarian Party Platform Does Not Condemn “Intellectual Property” (Patent and Copyright)]

From Aug. 3, 2018:

As noted recently, I’ve just joined the Libertarian Party, after more than 35 years of being a small-l libertarian. As noted there, my main goal is to persuade the party to adopt a clear platform plank calling for abolition of patent and copyright law. As I have in the past.

Intellectual property law is 100%, clearly and undeniably unlibertarian. Among destructive and evil state policies, it ranks among the worst, which are (in no particular order): 1. war; 2. the Fed/central banking/fiat money; 3. government schools; 4. taxation; 5. the drug war; 6. intellectual property — in particular, the federal patent and copyright laws (see “Where does IP Rank Among the Worst State Laws?”). Now not all libertarians are anarchists, and thus not all agree that war and taxation are always and completely wrong. And not all are Austrians, so some are not completely opposed to central banking. I’m not aware of many libertarian arguments for government schools, and there are just zero arguments for the drug war. Of all the libertarian stances, the drug war is simply not debatable. If there is a litmus test, it is the drug war. All libertarians must be completely and utterly opposed to the inhumane and evil prohibition of drugs. [If idiot Trump had come out for marijuana legalization at the federal level, he might have beaten Biden.]

And patent and copyright law also. There might be some argument for taxation or even war (especially among minarchists), but just as there is no libertarian argument at all for outlawing drugs, there is no argument at all for patent or copyright. They are as blatantly and clearly immoral and unlibertarian as the drug war is. And in one respect IP law is even worse than other state laws and policies: unlike war, taxation, drug laws, and so on, intellectual property pretends to be a type of “property right”, and thus is far more insidious.

This is why it confuses and seduces some libertarians into thinking there is a role for IP law in a free society, when it is as contrary to human freedom and property rights as the drug war is. And possibly even more destructive, since it hampers innovation and the free communication of thought and ideas, and thus impedes human progress. Patent law is a war on innovation, and literally kills people. Copyright law is a war on speech and thought, distorts culture, stifles free speech, and threatens freedom on the Internet, one of the most important weapons against state tyranny in human history.

When Harry Browne ran on the LP ticket, as I recall, he would repeatedly, emphatically call for an end to the “insane war on drugs”! Yes. And we libertarians should also call for an end to the insane patent and copyright war on innovation, competition, property rights, artistic freedom, freedom of speech and freedom of the press!! Down with the insane IP War on thought and innovation!! [For those libertarians not clear on why IP is so horrific, there are tons of resources easily available for you to consult — see http://c4sif.org/resources/ ]

***

And yet. And yet… if you take a look at the LP Platform, though it champions free markets and freedom of expression and the press, there is no mention at all of intellectual property law, of patent or copyright law. The Libertarian Party, under the “Personal Liberty” section of its most recent Platform, has the courage to declaim: “We oppose the administration of the death penalty by the state.” (Sec. 1.8) Likewise, Sec. 1.9 opposes laws that criminalize: gambling, the use of drugs for medicinal or recreational purposes, and consensual transactions involving sexual services, e.g. prostitution. The LP Platform is clearly not averse to naming specific laws that we hold to be unlibertarian and unjust. The Platform is not just some broad statement of principles that is too abstract to mention specific categories of laws or state actions that we libertarians oppose, that we want reformed or abolished. Thus, there is no effing excuse not to condemn patent and copyright law in the Platform.

To-wit, Section 1, on Personal Liberty, calls for “full freedom of expression” and communication, and opposes “government censorship”—yet no mention is made of copyright law, which clearly censors speech and the press (and is thus unconstitutional). The very roots of copyright law lie in state control of the printing press (see Karl Fogel, The Surprising History of Copyright and The Promise of a Post-Copyright World).

Section 2, on Economic Liberty, calls for “A free and competitive market ” and for respect for property rights, but it does not condemn patent law, which is an egregious restriction property rights and on market competition, with its roots in protectionism (see the Statute of Monopolies of 1623; and Rothbard on Mercantilism and State “Patents of Monopoly”). Sec. 2.1 rightly condemns eminent domain, civil asset forfeiture, governmental limits on profits, governmental production mandates, and governmental controls on prices of goods and services, but not a word is said about patent law, which is arguably worse than all of these. Section 2.8 champions free markets—and yet patent law’s very purpose is to limit competition and is utterly incompatible with private property and free markets. On this, see also Hoppe on Intellectual Property; and Hoppe Interview on Anarchy and Intellectual Property:

I agree with my friend Kinsella, that the idea of intellectual property rights is not just wrong and confused but dangerous. And I have already touched upon why this is so. Ideas – recipes, formulas, statements, arguments, algorithms, theorems, melodies, patterns, rhythms, images, etc. – are certainly goods (insofar as they are good, not bad, recipes, etc.), but they are not scarce goods. Once thought and expressed, they are free, inexhaustible goods. I whistle a melody or write down a poem, you hear the melody or read the poem and reproduce or copy it. In doing so you have not taken anything away from me. I can whistle and write as before. In fact, the entire world can copy me and yet nothing is taken from me. (If I didn’t want anyone to copy my ideas I only have to keep them to myself and never express them.)

Now imagine I had been granted a property right in my melody or poem such that I could prohibit you from copying it or demanding a royalty from you if you do. First: Doesn’t that imply, absurdly, that I, in turn, must pay royalties to the person (or his heirs) who invented whistling and writing, and further on to those, who invented sound-making and language, and so on? Second: In preventing you from or making you pay for whistling my melody or reciting my poem, I am actually made a (partial) owner of you: of your physical body, your vocal chords, your paper, your pencil, etc. because you did not use anything but your own property when you copied me. If you can no longer copy me, then, this means that I, the intellectual property owner, have expropriated you and your “real” property. Which shows: intellectual property rights and real property rights are incompatible, and the promotion of intellectual property must be seen as a most dangerous attack on the idea of “real” property (in scarce goods).

Therefore, I call on the LP to amend its Platform immediately to clearly and explicitly condemn federal patent and copyright law and to call for the abolition of both. [I also call on the LP Mises Caucus to push for this, as they are ideally suited to do so, being Austrian and solid on IP, unlike too many other “libertarians”.] As a suggestion, I propose amending Section 1.2, and either 2.1 or 2.8, as follows (with the proposed amended language surrounded *by asterisks* (and bolded here)):

1.2 Expression and Communication We support full freedom of expression and oppose government censorship, regulation or control of communications media and technology, *and oppose copyright law.* We favor the freedom to engage in or abstain from any religious activities that do not violate the rights of others. We oppose government actions which either aid or attack any religion.

2.1 Property and Contract As respect for property rights is fundamental to maintaining a free and prosperous society, it follows that the freedom to contract to obtain, retain, profit from, manage, or dispose of one’s property must also be upheld. Libertarians would free property owners from government restrictions on their rights to control and enjoy their property, as long as their choices do not harm or infringe on the rights of others. Eminent domain, civil asset forfeiture, governmental limits on profits, governmental production mandates, *patent law*, and governmental controls on prices of goods and services (including wages, rents, and interest) are abridgments of such fundamental rights. For voluntary dealings among private entities, parties should be free to choose with whom they trade and set whatever trade terms are mutually agreeable.

2.8 Marketplace Freedom Libertarians support free markets *and competition*. We defend the right of individuals to form corporations, cooperatives and other types of entities based on voluntary association. *We oppose all forms of protectionism including tariffs and patent law.* We oppose all forms of government subsidies and bailouts to business, labor, or any other special interest. Government should not compete with private enterprise.

Yours sincerely, Stephan Kinsella, LP member since 2018

p.s.: While we’re at it, the LP Platform should also condemn antitrust law.

Share
{ 1 comment… add one }

CC0
To the extent possible under law, Stephan Kinsella has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to C4SIF. This work is published from: United States. In the event the CC0 license is unenforceable a  Creative Commons License Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License is hereby granted.