Intellectual Property – Proper Government or Tyranny

JC debates Johnny Hardy – author of LDS Liberty article Our Right to Intellectual Property – about whether Intellectual Property falls under the proper role of government.  Johnny makes the case that IP can fall under the proper role of government based upon contract law.  JC makes the case that government protection of IP is the improper use of force as all inspiration comes from Heavenly Father.  Vote for who made a better case based upon eternal principles below.

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24 Responses to Intellectual Property – Proper Government or Tyranny

  1. Hello!

    Thanks as always for taking time to enlighten us. I have learned so much from listening and look forward to learning so much more.
    I just listened to the debate and I must say that I side more with Johnny Hardy. But having said that I need to add that I felt like they were talking about two different subjects. I felt like (and I could be totally wrong) JC was talking just about ideas or truth, and Johnny was talking about the product of your ideas, doing something or producing something with it. Johnny made a good point that not all ideas are truth, and he used a good example, Harry Potter, nothing could be farther from God. But, it is the property of those that produced those movies. Johnny also brought up the points I would have asked JC, for example the point that if all ideas come from God then all property does too and we have no right to the protection of our property, because nothing is ours. On the other hand JC had some good points as well. If I was to try and protect and sell the right or ability to repent saying it was my idea of medicine for people to feel better about themselves, then yes that would be wrong of me. But I wouldn’t be producing anything it would just be an idea.
    Well I hope that all made sense. Good job, both JC and Johnny made me think about things, but on two different subjects.

    JC- I was just wondering something. Do you copy or share music and DVD’s, is that why you didn’t like Johnny’s opinion? I felt like you were trying to say it was okay to do those things. But maybe I misunderstood you. It was just a thought. :)

    • JC Bollers says:

      No I do not copy and sell or share DVD’s. I actually did not want to discuss the subject in teh first place on LDS Liberty. I didn’t want the article published, mainly because I don’t think that the subject should be a leading thrust for LDS Liberty right now and because I didn’t think that Johnny’s line of reasoning or use of scriptures was sound. I don’t remember if it was mentioned, but Johhny does make a living from patents, and that should be said before Ideas are discussed. I have no problem with people copying and redistributing my stuff…which has happened with LDS Liberty’s material in the past. It’s actually helped us when people do that.

      • Johnny Hardy says:

        Actually, I don’t make a living from patents. I work for a company that has patents, but some of my managers have told me our company rarely, if ever, sues when they see another company uses one of our patented ideas. Also, I would like to point out (as I did in my article) that I don’t agree with all of current US patent law–there are some parts that violate principle, and I’d like to see the law to change to correspond to these.

        I plan to write a second article about copyrights and patents, pointing out more problems with current patent law, and also explaining protection of novel ideas through contract without calling them “property”. I think too many people got caught up on the semantics of defining “property”, where that’s not really relevant to my argument. My argument is protection of novel ideas through contract.

        JC, you say you don’t “copy or sell or share DVDs”, but do you download or stream movies and music online from sources that post them without permission from the copyright owner? If so, it’s really ironic that you think I’m biased based on my work, when I can argue that you’re just as biased based on your behaviors.

        • JC Bollers says:

          I don’t make my living from streaming movies. That’s a conflict of interest.

          All I’m saying is that people’s biases should be advertised up-front. I’m open about my bias. I HAVE a bias.

          Also, unbeknownst to the owner of those movies, I actually end up going to see half of them in the theater anyway. Avatar and Thor are good examples of that.

  2. Jon says:

    It was nice to hear this debate we’ve been going back and forth on it on the article for quite some time. It was unfortunate that JC wasn’t at his best, especially since all these points were already debated in the comments of the article. But JC did bring up some good points.

    First off, I don’t think our rights come from God since God must adhere to these same laws, so these laws are universal in nature that even God is restricted to. This is the God that I was raised up to believe in Mormonism, not a God that creates the rights, but that adhere’s to them.

    Second, Johnny goes into the fallacy of appeal to authority. Prophets and apostles have been wrong before so Johnny must present an argument that shows why he agrees with them but just saying that “the prophet says so” isn’t an argument and doesn’t belong in a debate because it is a well known fallacy. If we are to say that so and so says this therefore it is true then there is no debate there is no truth, there is only belief. I believe in a God of logic and reason (this same God that I was brought up to believe in) and as such, if we start off with correct axioms then we should be able to “discover” the truths of God and rights. God reasoned with Joseph, let us reason with him. The apostles and prophets have given no good logical argument for their position neither have they said they have received revelation on the topic. If this is ever debated with Johnny again I think this point should be left out.

    It is not deceitful to copy music or videos. It is well known that it is possible, if someone creates music and they don’t want it copied then they should control the distribution of said material.

    The whole idea of copyrights and patents makes no sense. Can we imagine where we would be today if in order to use the wheel we had to pay someone’s descendants for the use of the idea of the wheel? That would be crazy and insane. Can you imagine if every time you listened to Bach you would need to pay his descendants (does he have descendants?). That would be crazy.

    Lastly, no one is directly harmed when you copy music or videos or ideas. Just as if someone opens an ice cream shop and then someone decides to open another one across the street should the first person have the right to sue the person across the street for creating an ice cream shop across from him which cost the first person business? No. Neither is using someone’s idea about the wheel to create a car harming the person that created the wheel. Yes, there is indirect harm but no direct harm. Patents and copyrights are clearly contrary to natural law.

    It was nice to hear that Johnny is a fellow engineer. I work in the software industry now since I left engineering.

  3. Jon says:

    Also, there is a difference between legitimate contracts and promises. Contracts need properties to be exchanged. If IP and copyright aren’t property then the contract isn’t legitimate and it is only a promise. So the contract argument is mute if IP isn’t property. So the core discussion should be on what is property and we should confine the debate to that and nothing else.

    Should people keep their promises? Sure. Can the law have a reach to promises? No. This is discussed in more detail in the book “The Ethics of Liberty” by Murray Rothbard.

    Also, talking about deceit and fraud. Is not the person that is selling the idea the true liar? Are they not saying that they own something that can’t be owned? So the person that is buying it is the true victim since they were defrauded into believing they can own something.

    Thanks to Johnny for getting me to think more about this subject. I was thinking about this when I was getting into the software world and how I should treat the copy rights on the code I create. I am now convinced more than ever that I cannot sue someone for using the code I wrote for their own purposes. Of course, if they used that code and said they wrote it then I could sue, but I probably wouldn’t.

  4. Andrea says:

    I’d have to side with Johnny on this one. As much as i’d like to justify copying CDs, I know it is not my property or right to do so. Johnny’s argument made made complete sense and it has definitely made me realize I need to do a better job at respecting other’s fruit of labors aka property.

  5. andrew says:

    I think when one understands the law of consecration then there will be no need to have this.

  6. Jon says:

    @andrew,

    The law of consecration entails property rights. So, yes, property rights will still need to be understood.

  7. JC Bollers says:

    Jeremy cut off the debate before I was able to ask Johny all my questions. On top of that, 1/3 of the debate is missing. We had a more free-form back and forth, both of us scored blows, but it was not included in the episode. …If I felt that this was a really central issue right now that that most people could easily understand that could achieve the most good with the least amount of effort, then I would probably insists on a re-shoot, but as it is I’m just glad to put it behind us. One thing that I did not ask/point out is that with patents and their period of 20 years, the whole IP institution shows that there is no principle behind it at all. If something is my property, then I should be able to shoot you to protect it before or after a 20-year period. What is the operative correct principle behind it, I say none.

    • Jon says:

      I don’t think the argument holds that just because it is only for 20 years makes it not property but it definitely leads one to ask what is the correct principle, like what you said in your comment.

      It reminds me of my search on how much the government can tax a person. What is the principle. This leads to the realization that the principle is “Thou shalt not steal.” Or, in other words, we are but slaves to the state, being farmed.

      I wish a better debate would have been had, it is unfortunate that what was put out didn’t turn out very well. I think the main point of what would make the debate matter is just that it makes people think deeper and think what is the core issues behind different laws and practices.

  8. Richie says:

    I really liked Johnny’s argument about how protecting IP relates to contracts. I don’t see how anyone who believes in capitalism could see it any other way. Someone develops something and requires you to enter into a contract in order to use it. You don’t have to use it, only if you do you must agree to certain terms. Would JC say that people should be stopped from being able to voluntarily entering into contracts? This to me sounds like the clearest violation of rights. He never really responded to the issue of contracts, wondering what he would say to that. Also, he never responded to what Johnny said about all IP being truth. So Twilight is founded on truth? I certainly hope that the movie “The Notebook” isn’t an inspired piece of work.

    • JC Bollers says:

      Richie,

      Whether or not an idea can be owned and the subject of contracts are two very separate things. If something is property, it is property whether or not a contract is present. A contract can be in relation to anything whether or not it is property. If you think that I would STOP people from entering into contracts, then you haven’t listened to previous episodes of LDS Liberty extolling the virtues of contracts. Whether something is property or not, people can form contracts with each other. Johnny doesn’t need IP to exists in truth for him to get what he wants via the mechanism of contracts. The whole reason that I took the time to combat the false idea in the first place is because if some practice however righteous, carries as its justification a word that like property, then it’s a dangerous pandora’s box. The word “property” means that contract or no, if you try to steal from me, I can shoot you to defend myself and property…..CONTRACT OR NO CONTRACT. Words mean things, which is why if his previous article were to have carried the title “keeping trade secrets with contracts ” I would have been all for it. There is a very finely defined but important difference there, that I hope you can see.

      • Johnny Hardy says:

        JC: “The word “property” means that contract or no, if you try to steal from me, I can shoot you to defend myself and property…..CONTRACT OR NO CONTRACT.”

        Actually, this same logic applies to ideas. If someone tries to take your credit card info, email password, or privacy by force, you can certainly use force to defend yourself.

        There are certain parts of the Patriot Act that illustrated this with an abuse by government–where they can monitor people’s phone calls, voice mails, and emails by force–this is taking (or copying without permission) an idea by force, which is wrong.

        Note that the current prophets have defined “stealing” essentially as taking by force and no “loss of possession” is required (see chapter 31 of Gospel Principles, where stealing isdefined). Now, people do have different meanings for words, but from this perspective, taking ideas by force can be called “theft”. Whether or not you want to call it “theft” is a semantics argument, but regardless taking an idea by force is a violation of rights. Hopefully JC at least agrees with that.

        • JC Bollers says:

          “Actually, this same logic applies to ideas. If someone tries to take your credit card info, email password, or privacy by force, you can certainly use force to defend yourself.”

          Privacy is a different issue my friend. Listen to the show that I’m going to post today that addresses that.

  9. Jon says:

    There’s a lot more nuance to this discussion.

    You can see the discussion over here that talks about all the nuances. If you really want to learn about it then you should study actual intellectual thought on the topic. The podcast barely even scratched the surface. Really, it was probably more damaging to release the podcast than to have the article written.

    http://www.ldsliberty.org/our-right-to-intellectual-property-through-contract-2/

    Let me know if you are interesting in learning more about IP and I can give some sources for true study on the topic.

    I really don’t know why people think we should be paying for the wheel still, because that is what we are saying when we say that IP is true property. All IP is is a government backed monopoly.

    • JC Bollers says:

      John, I agree that it was probably more damaging to release the podcast than the article, unless my side of the debate were better argued, and I think that a lot of the better arguments came out in the post recording discussion. Johnny and I spoke for an hour after the show was done, but none of those nuggets came out in the product. ..The more I think about it, the more I want to do it again.

      • Jon says:

        Or release an unedited edition?

        In the comments on the article we argue about the difference between contracts and promises too. One can use force to enforce contracts but not promises.

        There is a lot of interesting nuances to the debate on IP and what it all means, pretty complex.

        I was thinking, if nothing else, for those of us debating the topic it has been a great opportunity refine logic skills and get the old noggin working!

        • JC Bollers says:

          I am releasing an extended back and forth between me and Jeremy in order to close the subject. I don’t know if you guys will be pleased with it. I tried to discuss fundamentals with Jeremy.

          • Jon says:

            @JC,

            Cool, I’ll be excited to hear it. I was thinking about it today and was thinking, you know, it would probably be better to just write an article on it and then a year later do a podcast on it with Jeremy. That way there are no hard feelings and it seems more professional. When it is just you and Jeremy it seems to go really well. With Johnny there it didn’t go so well.

            I’m learning about the classical education method and how we really haven’t learned how to think and debate very well in this society. I’m reading Charlotte Mason’s sixth book on education and sometimes reading it is like “huh?” Hopefully my kids will be able to be smarter than I am after we teach them so they grow up understanding better and having an open and critical mind. I think that is a huge problem in our society, people not having open and critical minds.

            Of course, not being able to think properly also has to do with the violence in our society that happens at a young age against our youth. Traumatic experiences lead to brain damaging the people, which could be caused from family life, church, school, friends, neighbors, etc. Would you guys be up for doing a podcast on this? I think that has far greater implications than arguing over presidential candidates etc. Once we can get it so people don’t spank or yell at their kids anymore then we can start seeing a more loving society. Just an idea.

  10. Aaron says:

    Great posting! There are a few points for which I would like to offer amendments. I submit this issue IS important, because of the Saviour’s injunction to “be ye therefore perfect…”, and there are certainly many members of our faith that do not rightly understand principles of property or all of the implications of a sound or unsound understanding of property. From this misunderstanding stems support of bad legislation, etc..

    Ideas, again, cannot be property (the concept of a wheel), but the physical manifestation of the idea (the wheel itself). Again, the idea of a wizard named Harry Potter cannot rightly be property, for the idea is just that: a thought, fully formed and contained within someone’s mind. For how can any man have say over what ideas man uses from his mind? Those who have seen the movies and/or read the books can certainly picture the character as he is described in their mind. The PHYSICAL prints of the movie Harry Potter (all physical goods) on the other hand are truly property on all counts. They can be stolen, misused, borrowed, sold, etc.. Johnny was absolutely right in comparing DVDs to rental cars, but for the wrong reason.

    With rental cars, DVDs and indeed all property, therein lay several, separable rights associated with each physical good. The owner(s) have the right to use their property as they will, including buying and selling. Johnny was again correct in identifying the existence of a contract when goods changed hands or when a transaction occurs, but there is nothing in the world as an “implied contract.” Either there is one, or there isn’t. Fortunately for all owners of property, they can indeed pick and choose which rights are in-or disincluded with each transaction. For the rental car owner, he can choose not include the right to smoke in the vehicle with the purchase agreement, or he may allow it. He may require the renter to purchase insurance from him, or allow the customers to carry their own. In short, he separates and fully utilises each right he possesses in that car to the fullest.

    Returning briefly to DVDs, the companies that produce the films obviously choose not to include the right of distribution in the purchase of a copy of their movie. Their profits would vaporise almost in an instant, otherwise. But aside from profits, the owners of the original movie print (or digital copy) certainly have the prerogative to sell, lease, or lend each separable right associated with their property. It is listed quite clearly on each purchased copy of a movie that customers are NOT purchasing the right to distribute the film, but to lend, sell, exhibit, etc..

    Touching on ideas once more, there should be no prohibition of the use of an idea (Harry Potter fan fiction, for example), but the violation or assumption of certain rights not purchased. Copying music and movies is actually fraud (or deceit, as attributed to an apostle in this podcast), since the unauthorised distributor is acting as if he possessed the rights for his actions when he in fact he was not granted those rights. Its all in the separability of rights, folks! But great episode.

    • Jon says:

      Copying music and movies is actually fraud

      No, that is not fraud. The fraud is putting that clause in the contract to begin with. If I copy music or a movie it is on my computer or other device and the electrons are owned by me. I can then return the DVD which is still owned by the original person. I have not stolen anything because the original device was returned and not damaged. Once again, it is fraud to say that a person cannot own their own property.

      We must also remember that there is a difference between a promise and a contract. A promise can be broken without it being just that the law come down against that person. A contract can be broken with it being just that the law come down against that person.

  11. JC says:

    Listening to it, I’ve found things that I could have said better, but I hope that I’ve nevertheless frame an argument better.

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