Voluntaryism and Intellectual Property

Intellectual property is a hallmark of statist property rights norms. It is the idea that a person who puts an idea into a fixed medium, whether that’s paint on a canvas, music onto a computer, or schematics for a machine onto paper, has a right to use force against others to stop them from mimicking the same for a certain period.

Intellectual property cannot be maintained as is under the state with Voluntaryist norms because it fundamentally is a restriction on the independent property rights of others.

Put simply: if one person makes a drawing, and another copies that drawing independently using their wholly-owned, independent pencils and paper, then it is an initiation of force, and unethical, to forcefully stop the person from copying.

And this is because the act of stopping the copying is itself an infringement on the physical property rights of the other person.

Innovative actions in a free market must adjust to accommodate this property rights norm, and incentives must derive from means other than an arbitrary period of time for when force would be used against others for how they fashion their independently-owned property.

Some examples for shifting incentives already exist due to the ease of copying via the internet. For example, creators can get direct support of their work using monetized platforms like Patreon or Subscribestar. Certain platforms offer proximate protection, such as with the ICANN domain name registry for Websites and YouTube’s platform-proximate domain ownership for channels.

Musicians have accommodated changes in the ease of copying music by offering more unique experiences at live shows, from VIP hangouts to photo-ops.

The tort theory of contractual fraud may be ethically used against copiers who claim to be the original author or who, in providing a service or good, distort the truth of how they came to be a seller of the good or service.

In this manner, someone who is trying to support an original author but who is deceived into thinking that a copier is the author may have a right of claim against the copier who pretends to be the original author.

These are not the only manners in which market incentives may shift, but they are a starting point to thinking about how people in a free market may adjust in how they rewarded for their innovations.

The only way to see the fuller picture of how people will adjust is to have a truly free market in ideas, goods, and services.

If you’d like to learn more about Voluntaryist philosophy, pick up the book:




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