Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Intellectual Property is Neither

Isn't the idea of "intellectual property" strange?

Some would argue that intellectual property rights should be the equivalent of real property rights.

In the natural world, you don't even get to keep your own skin - it's taken from you when you die and returns to the earth. In truth, you own absolutely nothing. It's not even possible for you to own anything, not really.

Ownership, and more specifically the notion of individual property ownership of any kind (be it real property or even intellectual property), is merely a useful myth created in law so that people have certain kinds of incentives to create and work. To another way of thinking the idea of ownership is a cultural construct - an idea to which certain human societies adhere.

Some societies find these ideas useful, some but not all.

The question is not whether "intellectual property" rights should be the legal equivalent of real property rights - the real question is: why should we have any property rights in the first place?

The foundational assertions that form our society and its laws will become increasingly relevant as the world becomes more overpopulated, work more automated, and money less evenly distributed. When people get hungry and the elite want to argue about property rights, they will find that a stone to the head trumps a finely crafted legal argument.