There is No Such Thing as "Intellectual Property"


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The lecture I gave in the session together with Michele Boldrin at the European Liberty Conference in Milan on October 12th 2010

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There is No Such Thing as "Intellectual Property"

  1. 1. There is no Such Thing as “Intellectual Property” Gregory Engels, Co-Chairman Pirate Parties International International Liberty Conference, Milan 11-12 October 2010
  2. 2. Some Rights Reserved • Copyright 2010 by Gregory Engels, Pirate Parties International. Except where otherwise noted, this work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0 License
  3. 3. “Even the good become pirates in a world where the rules seem absurd.” Lawrence Lessing - Remix
  4. 4. Pirate Parties International • Founded April 2010 in Brussels • 22 Pirate Parties from 4 continents • rapidly growing
  5. 5. Gregory Engels • Co-Chairman of Pirate Party International • Geek • Live in Germany
  6. 6. Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 17  1. Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others. 2. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property
  7. 7. But, Article 17 do not apply to “Intellectual Property”
  8. 8. If “intellectual property” was the same or just a form of property, it would be matched by the article 17 of UDHR and the article 27.2 would not be necessary
  9. 9. Article 27  1. Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits. 2. Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.
  10. 10. Property is... • … the right to control the tenure • … the right to exploit the property object • … the right to destroy it • … the right to modify it • … the obligation not to use it harmful • … assured by law • … marketable • … everlasting
  11. 11. Property Principles
  12. 12. Occupation Principle “There is, however, no such thing as private ownership established by nature, but property becomes private either through long occupancy (as in the case of those who long ago settled in unoccupied territory) or through conquest (is in the case of those who took it in war) or by due process of law, bargain, or purchase, or by allotment.” • There are goods out there • They turn into Property by conquest (occupation) Cicero: De officiis, I, 21 - 44BC
  13. 13. Labour Principle “As much land as a man tills, plants, improves, cultivates, and can use the product of, so much is his property. He by his labour does, as it were, inclose it from the common.” • Everyone is entitled to use the goods of nature • Property emerges through labour • Limited in the capability of consumption • Tied to the Lock’s freedom principle John Locke: Two Treatises of Government, II, 32 - 1689
  14. 14. Labour ex nihilo? • Common theme: • one creates something “out of himself” • his creation is his property • This lead to a fundamental question: • can one create something ex nihilo, out of himself? • or is all he can is to adopt and modify what is already there? • Condorcet vs. Fichte
  15. 15. The Labour principle by itself is absolutely not sufficient to define Property
  16. 16. Categorical Imperative “Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.” • Property is a relation between things, not humans • The limitation of someone's rights needs his agreement • The property emerges in the state through unified will of everyone Immanuel Kant: Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals, 1785
  17. 17. Scarcity Principle • based on Kant’s rationality doctrine • the use of something by a person / for a task, limit the usage by another person / task • scarce goods have a price greater then zero, if the price would be zero, more would • The scarcity leads to necessity of property to be consumed than there is. regulate conflicts around scarce goods
  18. 18. Property examples
  19. 19. Property - a mobile thing? • Through occupation - possible. There are ownerless things in nature, that can be declared property • Through labour - possible. It is possible to apply labour to things and in some case it lead to their creation (i.e. a quarry) • Through Scarcity - possible. Movable things have usually a local, temporal and quantitative scarcity
  20. 20. Property - breathing air • Through occupation - possible. There is ownerless breathing air in nature, it can be declared property • Through labour - possible. It is possible to apply labour to air (i.e. to store it). But: can the labour be reversed? Otherwise - occupation through breathing. • Through Scarcity - not possible. Air is (yet) plenty available. If it get scarce, it could be turned into property “Now a nose full of Perri Air” President Skroob (“Spaceballs” 1987)
  21. 21. Property - land • Through occupation - possible. There is land out there, it can be declared property or conquered • Through labour - partially possible. Cultivation and construction creates property. It is not possible to own untouched land. • Through Scarcity - possible. Land (especially locally) is scarce
  22. 22. “Intellectual Property”
  23. 23. “Intellectual Property” • Through occupation - perhaps possible. Depends on the premise of information that is contained in nature • Through labour - possible, but inconsistent. Same as above; Multiple acquisitions through parallel discoveries possible • Through Scarcity - not possible. Information is not scarce
  24. 24. Classical Theories on “Intellectual Property”
  25. 25. The Theory of “Intellectual Property” • Application of Locke’s Labour theory to written works (Locke himself never used the therm “intellectual property) • An author is a owner of his own labour and therefor is the fruit of his labour (the creation) also his property • This was criticized by Kant
  26. 26. Conclusions • The Scarcity theory is the only one that hold ground • We must accept the nature of information • The propaganda term “Intellectual Property” is not to be used • The question of Authorship is not explained by a mere dismissal of “intellectual property”
  27. 27. Material used • Andi Popp - “Warum Eigentum nicht geistig sein kann?” Presentation at the OpenMind 2010 conference • - A “fair use” of the famous Loch Ness Monster hoax photograph • Cicero by Bertel Thorvaldsen 1800 - public domain • John Locke by Herman Verelst (died 1690) - copyright estinguished • Immanuel Kant - stamp for 250 years of birth. - public domain • Empty shelves - photo by Zabowski CC-BY-ND • Thereasure hunt manilla (’59 Cadillac) - photo by Leap Kye CC-BY-ND • Crooked "Private Property" Sign - photo by Jordan Meeter CC-BY-SA • Christopher Schirner - photo of Gregory Engels CC-BY-SA
  28. 28. Sources and Links • Pirate Party International: • Universal Declaration on Human Rights • Cicero: • John Locke: The_Second_Treatise_of_Government:_An_Essay_Concerning_the_True_Origin,_Extent,_and_End_ of_Civil_Government • Immanuel Kant: • Immanuel Kant: Von der Unrechtmäßigkeit des Büchernachdrucks • Johann Gottlieb Fichte: Beweis der Unrechtmäßigkeit des Büchernachdrucks.
  29. 29. Contact Gregory.Engels [௹] follow me on Twitter: