A proposal for Intellectual Property Rights

The Social Justice Imperative , as in the case for “Fair trade” products.


The socio-morality solution to IP ownership.

Property ownership has always been a tenuous concept. Historically, ownership has relied in personal force for its maintenance. In modern times people have relied upon governing structures to protect property rights in the interest of keeping order and fostering the stability needed for growth. In fact, property rights are still only protected by force. The difference being that legal force has replaced physical force. Because those without property have always outnumbered those with property, there has never been a strong societal support of property rights.

 This proposal attempts to motivate society as a whole to give recognition for the right of ownership of Intellectual Property, on the basis of Social Justice, which is a universally supported concept.

 A resolution to the dilemma of the ownership of Intellectual Property, would be to compel the recognition of the inventor or creator of a concept, by anyone who chooses to use the IP. In the case of goods, which use the IP for eventual resale to the market, there would be a readable label attached to the good, which would recognize the inventor and the amount the manufacturer paid for the use of the IP in that specific item.

 This theory contends that while many people may bend or ignore inconvenient laws, society as a whole understands and respects natural laws to ownership. When a manufacturer or producer is required to post the value he assigns to an integral part of his product, then that value must be reflected in the amount paid to the owner of the Intellectual Property, which allowed the production. If the IP is assigned a very low or zero value, it automatically reflects upon the end value of the product. Any producer assigning a low value to the IP and a high value to the end product will be seen as a thief or piker. Over the broad spectrum of the market, the products of such a person would be avoided.

 Obviously, there will be difficulties with such labeling in the case of highly complex products which incorporate many processes and multiple IP instances. However, a formula can be created which ranks the utility value of specific parts of  a product. A cell phone with an attractive case might be appealing to the market, but would be quite useless without the tiny circuits inside. The manufacture himself in touting claims for the superiority of his product would be motivated to assign higher values to those aspects which differentiated his product.

 While this may appear cumbersome, it is now quite feasible given the available computing power and supply chain management.


Thoughts on nonexclusive rights.

 While there cannot be any moral justification for compelling owners of Intellectual Property to share that property, a solution resides in declaring that IP may not be sold to an exclusive purchaser. Rather, it can only be licensed into the market, and if it is so licensed, the IP must be open to all potential users on the basis detailed above.


2 responses to “A proposal for Intellectual Property Rights

  1. Creators have absolute control over their own work so long as they do not publish it. Once a creator allows other people to see, hear or read their work, the work becomes part of shared culture, and the only way the creator can control published work is through coersive means. Publication places creative work into the public domain.

    The public domain has been limited by law around the world since the imposition of eighteenth century’s Statute of Ann. In spite of the name, copyright is not right, but rather an artificial monopoly placed on creative works by the state. This state imposed cultural control prevents society from making free use of our shared culture. If copyright law prevents a writer from quoting a culturally relevent snatch of a popular song in her novel until a century after the song writer is dead, a great many cultural works will cease to be relevant, and worse, be lost to the sum of human endeavor. Even when copyright terms were limited to a few decades after publication, an alarming amount of creative work was lost.

    A major fallacy sold by copyright maximalists is the equasion of Intellectual Property with physical property. This simply doesn’t work. If I build a table, and sell that table, every time the consumer who bought the table eats dinner at that table, I am not entitled to additional payment. Every time a second person joins the consumer for dinner, I am not entitled to an additional payment. If the consumer decides to sell that table to a third party, I am not entitled to an additional payment….

    The solution to Intellectual Property rights is far simpler: copyright laws needs to be abolished. I suspect the same is true of all so-called “Intellectual Property” law.

    • @Laurel; Thank you for a very well reasoned rebutal.
      However, let me offer you another side.
      Imagine that we have “John” (the carpenter who built the table). John went through an apprenticeship of four years and then continued in the trade for another fifteen years, constantly learning new skills and inventing new processes. Is John’s ability not Intellectual Property? Would it be reasonable to say that since John is still ‘just a carpenter’, he should therefore not be entitled to any more money?
      In my view, there is “Sweat Equity” in mental work as well as anything else.
      If there is no reward or premium for innovation and excellence, then there is no motivation.

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