Another debate on IPR abolition, May 2011

Below is a continuation of my debate with some libertarians who are anti-IP. Specifically with Say Peng, a friend in Singapore. Posting his comments with his permission.

Say: Nonoy, do you agree that ownership of property can only be physical ownership; if you do, then since ideas are intangible, how does one own them?

Nonoy: Say, I already said above, ideas are ownable. I own a blog, it’s intangible. Would anyone say now that I cannot own it? If they persist so, then who owns Government? UN? the socialists? Follow up question: do the anti-IP libertarians consider molecules as intangible? Scientists and inventors create and invent new molecules or compound of molecules.

Say: I believe Blogger, which is currently owned by Google, “owns” your blog. A blog is a type of service, which explains its intangibility; it is a service which result from the workings of physical computers and whatnot. So the people who owns the computers sustaining the blog are its original “owners”. And because you are using a service, you do not own anything.

Molecules are tangible, obviously. Scientists who create new molecules own the molecules that they have in their possession, but not the concept or idea of the molecule; which means, for example, if I invent a new chemical compound called Sodium Trioxide, I do not own the chemical formula NaO3, but only own the NaO3 molecules that I have in my possession.

Nonoy: Google owns blogger, true. Google owns and controls my blog, adds or removes content, allows or disallows reader comments, false. It is that private ownership of something that allows people to be creative. The Philippine govt, the Philippine “collective”, owns the portal, What do I care about it? That portal has little or no creativity, only press releases of the national bureaucracy.

Now to molecules, it’s good that you admit that molecules are tangibles. But such molecular inventions are governed by IPR, that’s why new drug molecules are patented. The pharma or biotech companies have their own trademarks, another form of IPR. So what’s wrong with granting patents to a new drug molecule that was invented by scientists? What’s wrong with granting a trademark to companies? Why insist on the abolition of IPR?

Say: ‎”Google owns and controls my blog, adds or removes content, allows or disallows reader comments, false.” This is only false if you’ve entered into a contract with Google forbidding so. Otherwise, Google holds exclusive control over the blog.

It’s not the drug molecules that are patented; it’s the chemical formulas of the drug molecules that are patented. What’s wrong with it is that nonviolent people who use the same chemical formulas to create the drug molecules with their own chemical and technological tools are met with by violent intervention from the State. Just imagine: If the person who invented sulphuric acid had patented its chemical formula, that would mean that anyone (from chemistry students in schools to industrial scientists in chemical companies) who created the chemical, using their own stuff, would be penalized. That’s what wrong.

Nonoy: Google, fb, yahoo, twitter, etc. have their own terms and conditions. Once you click “I accept”, that is the contract between you and them. By having its own IPR, by having its own trademark, google, fb, youtube, yahoo, etc., they become very innovative, very efficient, and we are reaping their efficiency, like these free fb accounts. Isn’t it wonderful how the IP system that protects them causes them to become efficient? About drug molecules, wrong. Check my earlier paper, “IPR and medicines part 8“, I enumerated there some molecules that are patented — abiraterone acetate, azazitidine, befetinib, cixutumumab, docetaxel liposomal, enzastaurin, intetumumab, ixabepilone, lenalidomide, nimotuzumab… these are not chemical formulas, they are drug molecules. So to treat just one disease, prostate cancer, I mentioned there 101 new molecules under various R&D stages. Anyone and everyone can create his/her own drug molecule, no copying needed, so long as they have the scientific capability and financial resources. What’s worng with that system? Why insist on the abolition of the IP system that encourages more and more people and companies to become inventive and innovative?

Say: I never read the terms and conditions set by Google and Hotmail. I honestly doubt anyone reads them. But yeah, it’s a contractual agreement.

Drug molecules are chemical molecules, and how would one patent them if not by patenting their chemical formulas? There is nothing wrong with people creating their own drug molecules, but what if I want to produce the drug molecule that you invented instead? In order to do so, I have to use the drug’s chemical formula, which is an intangible concept which you therefore cannot own, and my own chemicals and machinery. I have taken nothing from you by force; yet you would, by enforcing IPR, set the State’s violent mechanism upon me and prevent me from doing what I want, nonviolently, with my own properties. How does this system protect my propertarian liberty?

Nonoy: To treat breast cancer, there are probably more than 2,000 different drug molecules that have been invented — off patent and have hundreds of various generic brands already; patented and marketed, and patented but still not marketed, in various R&D stages. If you insist to use the drug molecule that I invented, no problem, just buy my drug, period. If you think my price is very high or the effectiveness of my drug is suspect, then just go to another manufacturer and buy his drug using a different molecule. But if you insist to really use my drug molecule, the raw materials I got, say, from innards of cows or pigs, then just innovate a little, get raw materials from innards of chicken or ducks or tilapia, and produce your own molecule. The IP system really encourages endless, limitless innovation and imagination. Why insist on abolishing the system?

Say: ‎”If you insist to use the drug molecule that I invented, no problem, just buy my drug, period.”

It’s not about buying your drug, which means buying ownership of a physical item; but about “buying” the chemical formula of the drug which is non-physical and therefore cannot be owned, sold, and bought.

I don’t really know if the IP system promotes innovation; there are disputations regarding it and I haven’t made up my mind. But I am against it currently because of its immorality; it is in conflict with tangible property rights.

Nonoy: “I don’t really know if the IP system promotes innovation.” — I already explained it above: millions of patented seeds, with tens of thousands of rice seeds alone; dozens and dozens of cartoon characters aside from Mickey Mouse; thousands of drug molecules invented on each of major diseases (prostate C, breast C, colon C, hypertension, cardiovascular, stroke, etc.). Millions of songs copyrighted, millions of books copyrighted. And see the important trademarks — google, fb, youtube, yahoo, live, twitter, wordpress, baidu, naver, etc. — and all the efficiencies and free social networking and search engines they give us for free.

Further continuation of my debate with a young Singaporean libertarian, Say Peng.

Say:‎ Where is the evidence to prove a causal relationship between IPR and the creation of all that you listed above? That is to say, how do you know that all the above inventions and innovations wouldn’t happen in a non-IPR world? This issue is still disputed, as I’ve point out.

To give you a counter-example, about the time of the Renaissance, where copyright laws were non-existent or weak, nevertheless, this did not stop artistic and literary creations and innovations. Shakespeare, Milton, Chaucer did not stop writing because of weak or non-existent copyright laws, did they?

Nonoy: Proof? All those big and monster companies in music and movie, agri-business and biotech, books and magazine publishing, automobile, pharma, etc., are in developed economies where the rule of law, where IPR is strictly protected. Are thosehuge companies found in the Philippines, Indonesia, Myanmar, Vietnam, Somalia, etc. where counterfeits, fakes and copying are rampant? I dont think so. People will still write books, invent new products, with or without IPR protection. It’s just that there are more innovators, more inventors, in countries where IPR is strictly protected than in countries where IPR is a joke or not strictly protected.

Say: Indeed, you realize that the media and printing businesses today are dominated by the few “big and monster” conglomerates and corporations–oligopolies who finance the politicians within government to push the IPR agenda so that they may continue to keep out potential competition and dominate the industry.

You list 5 countries where those huge companies do not operate in, not realizing their absence in those countries are due to different reasons….

Look at the origins of intellectual property rights. They were grants for monopoly privileges–the monopoly of intangible ideas and concepts–by the monarchical government, which, when enforced, entails exacting force against nonviolent people doing peaceful things with their own property.

Nonoy: Supposing IPRs will be granted by an industry association, to be respected by industry players. Govt is out. Still an unacceptable situation?

Say: It’s acceptable only if it is voluntary, which includes the choice to opt out and not suffer any violent retaliation for nonviolent behavior.

So I do see a possibility of an “intellectual property” social contract, in which it becomes common practice through habit not to copy wholesale the conceptual designs and whatnot of others, and that anyone who violates this social contract will be ostracized and no one would want to do business with him, and so he will be compelled to respect the IP social contract. All that can happen without the initiation of force from the state that current IPR laws entails.

Nonoy: New trend: libertatrians and anarchists’ main enemy is supposed to be the state. Now, private capitalists, private individuals and inventors who want protection of their own invention are the big enemy of libertarians and anarchists?

Say: The enemy is the state that initiates violence upon peaceful people. The moral state, which is a state funded voluntarily if I may add, will defend the physical property of people against theft, but not a kind of property that does not exist physically in the material reality but as mental projections from our minds.

Nonoy: If I am a rock star, I composed several good rock songs. I want my songs to be protected from some copycatters who they record my songs and do concerts from them with zero recognition of me and get all the money and fame. Now I am an enemy of the libertarians? Why don;t you compose your own rock songs too, instead of spending your energy attacking me for seeking protection of my own invention, my own song compositions?

Say: You will be an enemy, if you want to unleash state violence on peaceful people. But the thing is, you will get some recognition, if the people who copied your music go famous. I have many such examples, from the era of Mozart to Madonna. You won’t get as much attention as them, but there will be recognition. Their fame is after all based more on their interpretation and performance of your lyrics than on the lyrics themselves.

I could compose my own songs, but I might not want to. I just want to copy others. I might be deemed a lazy freeloader within the industry, but I haven’t used force against you.

Nonoy: People who do nothing but copy my good rock songs and make money from them with zero recognition of me are “peaceful people”? Now the world is upside down. If you’re too lazy to compose your own songs and just copy my songs for your own enjoyment, fine. But if you copy my songs to do concerts, to record songs under your name, it’s ok? Upside down world indeed.

Say: You won’t get zero recognition, as I have said; but even if you get no recognition, the people who have copied and performed your songs are still peaceful nonviolent people. Such acts might be immoral and unprofessional according to your ethics, but it does not warrant the state’s violent retaliation.

Nonoy: I already qualified above, supposing an industry association will grant the IPR, not the state. No IP system is good for lazy and non-innovative people, you just copy, it’s moral and legal, life is good.

Say: And I have already replied to your point about such a potential IPR system above. The key issue is that one must be free to opt out of it and that the industry association cannot initiate physical force to enforce IPR.

Nonoy: No need for physical force. A country’s music industry will grant IPR to rock band A, Then rock bands B and C do nothing but copy the songs of A, do concerts on them, make product endorsements from the songs of A, make lots of money. Pure lazy but good marketing guys. The no IP system will expand their rank. But while there is IP system, the music industry association can blacklist rock bands B and C, tell corporate sponsors not to get their services or they won’t get the services of any other music groups in the industry. Just to punish the lazy and non-innovators.

Say: Such an IP system I can endorse.

Nonoy: Then IPR is good. It’s just the mechanics how it can be implemented. IPR system will encourage more inventors, more composers, more innovators. The lazy are penalized by exclusivity, so instead of being a lazy copycatter, people would rather become innovators and inventors too.

Say: ‎”IPR system will encourage more inventors, more composers, more innovators.”
I very much doubt so. Just ask any writer, musician, artist, inventor: What motivates you to create what you create? I don’t think their answer would be “IPR!”

But I do agree with you that the nonviolent excluding process is a good way to discourage copycats.

Nonoy: People invent or compose something because they want to be creative, to produce something original. IPR system protects them from being copied by others who do nothing but copy the works of the successful composers and inventors. IPR discourages the lazy.

Say: When you the “IPR system protects…”, as long as it does not include the initiation of physical force, there is nothing above I disagree with.

Nonoy: ok, case close 🙂

Say: Indeed. We’ve come a long way. I presume you’ve now rejected the current statist IPR system and embraced a nonviolent form of IPR?

Nonoy: In the absence of private sector-granted IPR, I have to support the state-granted IPR system. My interest is protection of invention and composition by their authors if they seek it, not protecting the state itself. Ultimately, industry associations themselves should issue (or reject) IPR applications, and f___ the state.

Say: Do you not think that the means to attain your ends of “protection of invention and composition by their authors if they seek it” should be peaceful and nonviolent? Or do you think that the ends justify the means?

Nonoy: The end does not justify the means. The latter is incidental and can be replaced.

Say: You are now advocating a violent means to achieve your ends of the “protection of invention and composition by their authors if they seek it”. Shouldn’t you change it?

Nonoy: That’s false accusation. What sentence, what paragraph, did I say that I “advocate violent means”? Is it plain paranoia?

Say: Here: “In the absence of private sector-granted IPR, I have to support the state-granted IPR system.”

Nonoy: One rule of paranoia says: If you dont like what your opponent says, concoct stories and imaginations. Like he advocates violence, he is going to kill you, he will steal your girlfriend…

Say: I gave evidence, a quotation of yours, to back my statement about your advocacy of using state violence to achieve IPR ends. Perhaps you should clarify my confusion (if it exists) rather than invoke paranoia on my part.

Nonoy: I gave zero statement, zero sentence, that I advocate violence to protect IPR. What’s next, that I advocate raising taxes, creating new govt. bureaucracies, new UN offices, to protect IPR? Concoction and imagination is endless.

Say: To prove that you did advocate state violence to enforce IPR, I shall quote you again: “In the absence of private sector-granted IPR, I have to support the state-granted IPR system.” A state-granted IPR system is a system enforced by state violence.

Nonoy: I am a rock star, I produced good music. Rock bands B and C do nothing but copy my songs, do concerts, do product endorsements, make lots of money by stealing my songs without permission. I go to the IPO or other govt agencies in charge of IPR in music, they send a letter to rock bands B and C to discontinue their stealing as they can compose their own songs. Some libertarians now say that I am advocating violence. Weird world.

Say: In the first place, it is not the theft of a physical item, and rock bands B and C did not use physical force against you when they copied your songs. Their copying of your songs, regardless of whether you think is moral or otherwise, was a nonviolent act–which does not merit violent retaliation from the state, which you euphemistically describe as “I go to the IPO or other govt agencies in charge of IPR in music, they send a letter to rock bands B and C”–the paper threat backed by the violence mechanism of the state is what it is.

Don’t be so glib about state violence. It’s not just “they send a letter”…

Nonoy: Stealing song composition for big money is ok, is alright, the song composer should not even complain. Wow. Robbery morality = libertarianism?

Say: Sure, the composer should complain, but he should not unleash state violence upon the copycat. Because, and I keep repeating this over and over again, the copycat has not initiate violence against the composer; the composer has not lost any of his physical property. The copycat took the composer’s idea. It does not mean the composer has lost the idea to the copycat. Both of them now hold the same idea in their minds. It is not robbery since nothing has been robbed; no one party has lost property to another party. You are basically saying that ideas can be stolen. (And since you apparently love sarcasm…) Wow, isn’t a miraculous kind of robbery in which previously one person owns something, and after the robbery, two persons own it. Really brilliant kind of robbery.

Nonoy: I am a univ. student taking up BS Music, or BS molecular biology. My goal is to produce lots of good music or lots of good drug molecules someday. In short, my entire career, my future, is to produce ideas. Now some liibertarians and anarchists say that other people can steal my ideas anytime, anywhere, it’s perfectly ok, and I have no right to complain whatsoever. Good message. I can never be an anarchist. An anarchist even views the miniarchists as advocating violence. Absolute truth belongs only to anarchists, great.

Lesson: dogmatic anarchists — I think they’re few — believe that only them are correct; anyone who disagrees with them are lovers of state violence and are advocating violence.

On another note, another friend in facebook, Sebastian, posted in my wall the book, Bourbon for Breakfast: Living Outside the Statist Quo, by Jeffrey Tucker of the Mises Institute, Alabama, USA. Sebastian wrote a short note, Some more thoughts for you to disagree with over IP protection 😉

I thanked him for that link. I told him that I already mentioned this book inPart 4 of this discussion series. I noted how the arguments of the socialists and some libertarians on IP are so similar.

Sebastian replied, “I don’t think socialists would describe IP laws as monopolies granted by and in connivance with the state, would they? As I understand it, this is not an attack on property itself, there is a big philosophical difference between physical and intellectual property. You should also discuss this book on your blog:

I replied, “Yes, socialists consider IPR like patents as monopolies granted by the state. See how the left formulate their campaign against drug patents, “Patients over patents”.

I saw that book earlier, especially the part on “simultaneous invention”. The authors are wrong, there is NO conflict in simultaneous invention. 101 different new drug molecules being developed just to treat prostate cancer, excluding old drugs that are still patented or off-patent already. There are endless possibilities and opportunities to inventors and innovators, thanks to the IPR system.


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