Thursday, November 19, 2009

Two Arguments against Intellectual Property Rights

Recently in a discussion the topic of Intellectual Property (IP) came up. Both of us admitted that IP rights should be abolished. The interesting part is that we have reached this conclusion trough two completely different paths.

I have reached the conclusion that IP rights are detrimental due to social concerns. I believe that a just, happy and stable society can only be reached if the differences between groups of society are not too large. (Example: Having a stock trader make an average salary of $15,000 an hour and a tomato grower earn the same amount in one year, and a poor Indian making this in fifteen years will not lead to a stable sustainable society.) We have to work together to find the best solutions for humanity. (Examples: We should find the best solution for everyone regarding CO2 emissions. Finding the solution that is best for some is not a good solution. The proposed trading of carbon derivatives will serve the US but be detrimental for poor countries that will have to shoulder the pollution. We should build the best washing machine possible, one that last 50 years, is efficient, etc. instead of throw-away washing machines that are designed to fail after 2 years with built-in obsolescence. We need to find the best solution for food production using the best seeds and the best methodologies for soil treatment to create a sustainable supply of high quality food for all humans.) The only way we can find the best solution for all of mankind we need to work together. We must avoid competition. Competition in the design and manufacturing process just means you hold back the best solution for gaining and holding a competitive advantage, in order to make profit. IP rights and patents are solely tools to avoid that the best solutions for mankind are used for mankind. IP rights and patents are just tools to optimize profits for a single individual or corporation. We must share information, solutions, design and ideas freely to be able to jointly come up with the best solutions for all individuals of this planet. IP rights are in strict contradiction to this goal. Not to mention that today IP rights and patents are resulting in ridiculous exaggerations such as companies patenting life (Monsanto trying to patent pigs) and companies going into government-owned seed banks and patenting all the current and historic seeds just because they are the first to apply for the patent. Imagine someone invents an engine that provides 10-fold mileage. An oil company would quickly buy up this patent and then hide the engine design forever to assure that the product does not reach the market. IP rights and patents make us secretive and make us work against each other instead of together. They create greed. The benefits are reaped by a few instead of by mankind. All of this drives us into a world where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer and hence as a result the social imbalance gets bigger worldwide causing social friction and injustice. The key point is that we need all the information available to mankind to find the best solutions benefiting all of mankind, and hence all information must be free and public.

As a side point I can also mention that IP rights, IP attorneys, patent offices, IP law suits are not intrinsically productive. They generate no true value for mankind. Imagine mankind as one, imagine all 7 trillion individuals are one "virtual" person. If we are just "one", it would make no sense to waste our time and energy with defining, registering, managing and protecting IP rights. What we need is One-ness Thinking, asking ourselves what is best for us with all of mankind seen as one.

My friend reached the same conclusion, that IP rights should be abolished and that they would not be used by a mature society. He has reached this conclusion from a stand-point as libertarian. It goes against the liberties of the individual and physical property rights. IP rights and patents only increase government regulation and decrease the liberties of the individual. It is no longer a free market. Patents create monopolies. The government has a monopoly on granting IP rights and patents. And the patent receiver has a monopoly on the item on which the property was granted. All of this is in contra of the free market as promoted by the Austrian School of economists. My friend referred me to a podcast by Stephan Kinsella entitled "The Intellectual Property Racket". The article "The Fallacy of Intellectual Property" speaks about the same issues and rejects IP rights with the same argumentation.

Again as a side-point, my friend loves to bring up Linux and Wikipedia as examples of the power of the free market. Freedom has lead to the creation of the best-of-breed on-line encyclopedia, not IP rights. I can also say it was a "social" endeavor: by the people for the people, a solution for the benefit of all, not just for the profit of a few.

One-ness Thinking and Libertarianism both are valid arguments against IP rights.

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