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Mike Masnick of TechDirt, generally pro-civil liberties and generally skeptical of copyright but not an abolitionist, just put up a podcast episode he appeared on discussing free speech versus copyright and the censorship copyright law causes. This was an episode of the podcast “Sidebar by Courthouse News” called Copyright Conundrum, and re-podcast on Techdirt by Masnick. The shownotes: [continue reading…]


Patents, Pharma, Government: The Unholy Alliance

Patents, Pharma, Government: The Unholy Alliance,” Brownstone Institute (April1, 2024)



Jesus. Another confused self-proclaimed advocate of liberty advocating statist censorship in the name of intellectual property,1 just like other so-called libertarians have advocated restricting free trade for the same reasons.2

Adam Mossoff, “Congress Should Protect the Rights of American Creators with Site-Blocking Legislation” (Feb. 14, 2023). Look how many time he equates IP with normal property rights,3 and invokes the “fruits of their productive labors” misleading metaphor. Thanks, Locke, for the huge mistake.4 And also, he says:

“Unfortunately, a subset of libertarians—who advocate for anarchism in the physical world and in the digital domain of the internet—have created confusion about the protection of copyrighted works on the internet.

[footnote] Some of the more prominent libertarian critics of intellectual property, including Murray Rothbard, Jeffrey Tucker, Stephan Kinsella, and Wendy McElroy, are self-described anarchists or “anarcho-capitalists,” which is a theory in libertarianism that markets can and should replace government in providing police, military, courts, and prisons, etc. See Libertarian Perspectives on Intellectual Property … (“Anarcho-capitalists oppose the existence of even a minimal state.”).”

First, you do not have to be an anarchist to oppose IP and the case against IP made by me, an anarchist and the most prominent anti-IP libertarian, does not depend on anarchist arguments. In fact, many Objectivists are now anti-IP.5 Second, Rothbard was not anti-IP. Third, we have not created confusion, we have tried to open people’s eyes to the rights-holocaust supported by IP fascists like Mossoff.

I guess we need to now add Heritage to the list of institutions that are horrible on IP, like Cato, the Federalist Society, Independent Institute, and others.6

  1. Others include Reason’s moron writer Cathy Young. See, e.g., Reason: Copyright Should Last Half A CenturyLibraries: Prepare to burn foreign books, courtesy copyright law; COICA: More Copyright-Backed Censorship on the Way?; “SOPA, Piracy, Censorship and the End of the Internet? Kinsella and Stefan Molyneux on Freedomain Radio”; Copyright and Free Trade; Patents and Censorship”; Copyright Censorship versus Free Speech and Human Rights; Excessive Fines and the Eighth Amendment.” []
  2. Such as Richard Epstein, Doug Bandow, Michael Krauss, and now, embarrassingly and pathetically, David Henderson. See Cato Tugs Stray Back Onto the Reservation; Pilon on Patents; Cato on Drug Reimportation; Cato Tugs Stray Back Onto the Reservation; and Other Posts; Intellectual Property and Think Tank Corruption. And let’s not forget William Shughart writing in favor of IP for the Independent Institute. See Independent Institute on The “Benefits” of Intellectual Property Protection. []
  3. I criticize this, e.g., in “Against Intellectual Property After Twenty Years: Looking Back and Looking Forward,” Part. IV.I, in Legal Foundations of a Free Society (Houston, Texas: Papinian Press, 2023). []
  4. Locke’s Big Mistake: How the Labor Theory of Property Ruined Political Theory: Transcript. []
  5. An Objectivist Recants on IP; Yet another Randian recants on IP; “The Death Throes of Pro-IP Libertarianism.” []
  6. See More defenses of IP by the Federalist Society; Independent Institute on The “Benefits” of Intellectual Property Protection; others here.  []

Intellectual Property Discussion with Mark Skousen

At Tom Woods’s wedding reception in June 2022, in Jacksonville, Florida, I ran into Mark Skousen and we ended up having a discussion about intellectual property, which we continued later in an email discussion. Gene Epstein was also included since Mark had also made some comments about IP in the aftermath of my Soho Forum debate with Richard Epstein in Nov. 2021 (which Gene Epstein hosts).

I thought my comments to Mark about IP might be of interest to some readers, to show how I sometimes respond to common queries about and arguments in favor of IP, so below I reprint a lightly edited and somewhat cleaned up version of our (casual, informal) interchange (reprinted with Mark and Gene’s permission, ‘natch). [continue reading…]


Munger on Property Rights in Words and Information

Duke economist Michael Munger had some comments about copyright and intellectual property (IP) and fraud, plagiarism, and related topics, in a recent AIER column, “Property in Words: Not Even Under Suspicion,” AIER (Jan. 14, 2024). He basically seems to be skeptical of the idea of copyright, based on his skepticism of words as property, but he never quite comes out and says so. In the end he comes out against dishonesty and plagiarism, but the analysis is somewhat all over the map and makes various misstatements about the nature of IP law and property rights.

In general, the IP topic and property rights in general is so rife with confusion that almost every analysis is always somewhat … off. In part, this is because people are confused due to Locke’s mistake of basing his property arguments on the labor theory of property,1 and in part because of confusion about how to separate or combine legal/normative/prescriptive and economic/factual/descriptive analysis. And any terms are used with somewhat different meanings, across domains of inquiry, that equivocation often creeps in. [continue reading…]

  1. See KOL037 | Locke’s Big Mistake: How the Labor Theory of Property Ruined Political Theory. []

A friend asked me for my comments about a video with the clickbaity title “Harvard Economist Reveals Shocking SECRET About China In 2023“—in particular, regarding the third section, “Fierce Competition,” about how China handles IP vs. the U.S. My brief, dashed off response is below:

Well, the title of this video makes it look click-baity. I think he is confused. Here are my thoughts just from quickly watching the first few minutes of that section. [continue reading…]


Patents Kill: Apple Watch Blocked from Blood Oxygen Monitoring

For the latest in my “patents kill” series…

Apple to halt sales of some Apple Watches in US.

“The decision to take one of its most popular products off the shelf follows an ongoing dispute with medical device maker Masimo over its blood oxygen feature. Apple has routinely marketed its smartwatch as a life-saving device, which has helped launch the Apple Watch into the stratosphere, making it the most popular watch sold around the world. But its skirmish with Masimo threatens to undermine that.”

As I wrote to some friends: this is an example of how IP can kill. I mean sure, Apple ” can afford it” but … can everyone? Can Apple afford all of such things, at the margin? What about the chilling effect. So if a given watch doesn’t have an O2 monitor, out of millions of users, how many deaths might this cause? 1? 2? A half? It’s not zero. IP kills.


Andreas Von Gunten, Intellectual Property is Common Property: Arguments for the Abolition of Private Intellectual Property Rights (Zurich: buch & netz, 2015).


Defenders of intellectual property rights argue that these rights are justified because creators and inventors deserve compensation for their labour, because their ideas and expressions are their personal property and because the total amount of creative work and innovation increases when inventors and creators have a prospect of generating high income through the exploitation of their monopoly rights. This view is not only widely accepted by the general public, but also enforced through a very effective international legal framework. And it is endorsed by most academic researchers and commentators in this field. In this essay, I will show that the classical arguments for the justification of private intellectual property rights can be contested, and that there are many good reasons to abolish intellectual property rights completely in favour of an intellectual commons where every person is allowed to use every cultural expression and invention in whatever way he wishes. I will first give a short overview of the classical arguments for the justification of intellectual property as they are usually stated. We will then discuss the question of whether the creator or inventor deserves his de jure monopoly, by using John Christman’s categories of income and control rights to analyse property rights. The aim here is to show that it does not make sense to create control rights for abstract objects, as they are not scarce, and that there is no logical connection between the surplus which may be generated through income rights and the labour which has been put into a cultural artefact or an invention, and therefore it is not justified to grant monopoly rights on the basis of Lockean natural rights arguments for self-ownership and the just appropriation of worldly resources. As it is possible to reject Christman’s property rights categories, I will then go on to show on the basis of Richard Dawkins’ postulation of the ‘meme’ and Ludwik Fleck’s theory of the ‘thought collective’ that creative processes should be interpreted as interpersonal or collective processes, and therefore it is not justified to grant intellectual property rights to individuals on the basis of the idea that the individual who has put labour into the creative work or the invention should be the one to whom the contents of the work belong exclusively. As it is still possible to postulate the utilitarian argument that intellectual property rights are just because they increase the amount of creative works and inventions, I will argue in the last chapter that, from a libertarian as well as from an egalitarian point of view, the justification of intellectual monopoly rights on utilitarian grounds cannot be maintained. Therefore it is time to abolish the current global intellectual property law regime in favour of an intellectual commons for the good of all human beings and societies.

Have not read yet, but from the abstract, this book seems like it might have some promise. Oddly, the book it nowhere cites me though at least it cites Boldrin & Levine, and Tom Palmer.

That said, it refers to IP as “common property,” which it is not; there are no property rights at all in nonscarce things like information or ideas. The issue is not whether IP “is property” or not, or what kind of property it is1 (which is exactly why IP proponents classify it as “intellectual” property—a type of property, but a unique one);2 it is whether IP laws are justified or not. They are not. There are reasons why. It remains to be seen whether the author really understands why. Stay tuned…

  1. See “What Libertarianism Is,” in Legal Foundations of a Free Society, at Appendix I; see also Legal Foundations of a Free Society, p. 421. []
  2. See Legal Foundations of a Free Society, p. 427–30 & 427 n.77; 444 at n.11.  []

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.