Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The SOPA Strike: A Better Way

Many web operators are going on strike today in what will be largest online protest in history.

The strike is over the looming SOPA & PIPA bills sitting in Congress. The bills provide for draconian ways in which the government would be able to shutdown web sites that it deemed were violating copyright laws.

Those of you that are long term readers, and who have been following my debate with Stephen Kinsella and Jeff Tucker, know that I am actually in favor of the protection of originally developed intellectual property. However, SOPA and PIPA are proposed government regulations that go far beyond protection of IP.

The regulations in the act are clearly designed to be abused by the government to censor parts of the internet and require organizations such as Facebook and Google to become content policemen.

Mac Slavo writes:
The scariest part of the that due process would have been eliminated (just like in the NDAA), forcing internet providers, search engines and ad networks to simply shut down a web site(s) based on just the complaintant's accusations, leaving those web site owners who were shut down to deal with the fallout with costly legal expenses and lengthy court battles..Even more alarming is the ability, under legislation such as SOPA, of the government to control the flow of information across major internet providers. Articles or videos criticizing political figures or policies could easily be targeted, as they were in October of this year when the government moved to shut down rogue publishers of critical content.
The strike will bring more attention to the evils of SOPA and PIPA, but the strike will only hurt those who are innocent bystanders and likely future potential victims if the Acts are passed into law.

The real evil bastards behind this legislation are the motion picture industry and the record industry.  The government, as per usual, is just doing the dirty work for a special interest group and at the same time using the cover of the motion picture and record industry to expand its control over news and information.

Again, the strike brings much needed attention to the evils of SOPA and PIPA, but the way to stop the evil bastards behind this legislation is to stop going to movies and stop buying songs and records.

In other words, a much more effective way of going after the evil bastards is to stop going to movies and buying records until the 1. Motion Picture Association of  America and the Record Association of America stop supporting and promoting the legislation. and 2. the MPAA and RAA close down their massive Washington D.C. offices and fire all lobbyists they retain.

Further, I would support going to any independent films being screened that are productions of non-MPAA producers and where the independent filmaker denounces on screen at the start of each film SOPA, PIPA, MPAA and RAA. And only at theaters that run at the same time as the previews, a clip explaining the evils of SOPA, PIPA, MPAA and RAA.

Today's strike will bring attention to the situation, but we then need to hit the bastards that are behind this evil legislation  in the pocket book. Boycott all movies of MPAA members!!

UPDATE: Here are the six members of MPAA:

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Paramount Pictures Corporation
Sony Pictures Entertainment, Inc.
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Universal City Studios LLC
Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.


  1. Robert, could you explain your support for IP protection?

  2. I have been promising a book on my view, for sometime.

    I am happy to report that it is very near complete and should be published within 4 to 6 weeks.

    1. can't wait!

      (I didn't know you were an author - have you got any other books I'm unaware of?)

    2. From the little I've seen you reference the issue, it sounds like we agree in large part.

      The IP issue is the only major disagreement I have with the crowd.

    3. I wasn't aware the Mises Institute opposed IP law. I agree that's a black mark on an otherwise fabulous institution.
      For goodness sake, this is a textbook example of the legitimate role of government--to protect private property. People spend priceless hours using their minds to create new and unique product designs, production design techniques or original artistic compositions, and the person creating this piece of intellectual property is no less the owner of the value consumers in a free market subsequently pay in exchange for his invention than the invention itself.

      I haven't read the bill but am highly, highly suspect of it's intentions, to say nothing of the usual consequences of govbernment regulation as compared to the intentions of the legislation.

      IP laws we have on the books are sufficient, we don't need another law. Just enforce what's there are already.

  3. There's no way you can be for both austrian free market economics and IP law.

    1. Sure you can. Austrian econ is a value free science, and there are many different interpretations of the doctrine itself. Back when it was a dominant paradigm (pre-1930) there were a few Austrian economists that were even socialists.

      Austrian econ is not some monolith of single thought. You have different sects, with Misesians, Hayekians, Kirznerites, Rothbardians, Hoppeans, all talking it out, trying to get their points in. IP is one of the major debates within Austrian circles now. I believe the Anti-IP'ers are winning in terms strength of argument and numbers of followers, but that doesn't mean pro-IP'ers, like Wenzel, are quitting.

    2. you pay lip service to a 'free market' yet you eat those words by supporting the censorship and monopoly of ideas and invention. We're supposed to be against wasted and misalocated capital and resources yet billions is wasted on patent and copyright wars every year. We're supposed to be for free competition yet all these laws do is allow companies to shut down their competition.

      IP law has no place in austrian economic theory. Its actually the opposite, its government interference of the free market and promotes the misalocation of wealth and resources that could be better spent on more productive things.

    3. "I believe the Anti-IP'ers are winning in terms strength of argument and numbers of followers..."

      I disagree. Their arguments boil down to hand-waving and conjecture. The anti-IP crowd though really loses on moral grounds. They want to make having a monopoly on physical property a moral right and then by sleight-of-hand attack IP on utilitarian grounds. Their arguments against IP are built on moral quicksand so they must ultimately lose the debate.

    4. How do the anti-IP crowd lose on moral grounds? One cannot own an idea, an arrangement of words on a page or the melody to a song. Government granted monopolies are always immoral. Imprisoning somebody for producing something just because somebody else won the race to the patent office is the height of immorality.

    5. Just a note to you guys arguing about this, but when you speak of IP having a place in "Austrian economic theory," it really shows a lack of understanding of Austrian economics. Austrian economic theory deals with interventionism as well, so even if you consider IP interventionism, there's no reason it can't be analyzed by Austrian economics. This is an argument concerning libertarianism, not economics.

  4. What is unnerving is how long this legislation entertained serious consideration in our legislature. It should have been kindly rejected out of hand at the very outset.

    Our cultural awareness of the rule of law and property rights is now a story of tragedy and farce.

  5. Personally, I side with Kinsella/Tucker, but that's a separate issue.

    My problem with the "blackout" is that is penalizes users and in no way forces either the government or the entities in sponsorship of this legislation to take any notice. It's like refusing to sell gasoline as a protest against rising oil prices.

    My other issue is the absolute naivety of the "blackouters" and their child-like devotion to the imaginary power of "democracy."

    This is their logic"

    1. We'll black out your favorite website "in protest."

    2. You'll get upset and engage your representative.

    3. If enought of "you" protest, Congress will have to listen and kill these icky laws.

    4. Success, democracy is great!

    These are the same people that couldn't prevent the invasion of Iraq, the passing of the Patriot Act, refused to endorse TARP, and make up the OWS crowd (government is the problem so let's have more government). What makes them think they'll be successful this time?

  6. Robert, could you link to debates between you and kinsellla?

    1. Kinsella will run all over him on this issue.

  7. Robert, will your book be available online through the Creative Commons License 3.0?

  8. "Those of you that are long term readers, and who have been following my debate with Stephen Kinsella and Jeff Tucker, know that I am actually in favor of the protection of originally developed intellectual property."

    I didn't know that, and because I do now, you have just lost a reader. Good bye.

    1. Wow,

      Apparently Major "Freedom" only likes to read blogs that align 100% with his views. Heaven forbid you challenge yourself once in awhile to see what other points of view are. Even for the sake of debate.

    2. How silly. Such indignation in defense of the belief that robbing people of the value of their commercial ideas is ok. The anti-IP agenda is misguided, antithetical to freedom, and morally repugnant. Not to mention it does a great disservice to the otherwise really great work by Mises Institute.

    3. @Major_Freedom

      What an immature response.

      Not only am I in agreement with Kinsella's principled view on IP but I also think given modern IP enforcement infringes on others property rights and free speech (see PIPA, SOPA, ACTA, ICE domain name seizures etc) there is a solid utilitarian argument to make against IP also.

      That said I'd never choose to ignore RW or any other libertarian who disagrees with me in some areas, doing so will ensure you become ignorant.

    4. Oh, come on MF. I think Wenzel's contributions far outweigh his position on IP. I disagree with Bob on a lot of things, but that doesn't mean that I won't still support his work, I just won't support his pro-IP stance.

  9. Paul gives new life to an old issue: gold standard...

  10. @Anon 5:59 - "There's no way you can be for both austrian free market economics and IP law."

    I disagree. There's no way you can be pro-freedom and be anti-IP. Kinsella is way wrong on this matter. Rothbard defined property as mixing land and labor. IP is mixes "land" ie resources and labor. IP deserves similar protection as does the monopoly use of physical property.

    The challenge with IP is to devise a fair and effective method of enforcement that doesn't cause more harm than good and this is where the gov fails. But protecting IP is morally correct.

    I think it's funny to see the anti-IP anarcho-capitalist people like Kinsella trot out utilitarian argument after another attacking IP then turn around and defend on moral grounds the monopoly right to real land.

    1. You have no understanding of either IP law, Rothbard, or kinsella's arguement.

      IP = government protected legal monopoly of an idea. IP is anti-free markets, anti-competition, anti-freedom.

      You have no right to an income or profit that an 'idea' may be worth and you have no right to sue and steal that income from another individual for putting that idea to a more profitable use.

      Also, labor is not property.

    2. Kinsella's stance is not utilitarian. Have you actually read his essay on the subject, Against Intellectual Property?

      And as much as I love Rothbard, the definition of property as mixing land and labor falls short.

    3. I agree completely . Kinsella's arguments match those of socialists sometimes almost word for word.

      There is no magical quantum-mechanical property that endows physical matter with the ability to be owned. Property rights are human constructs that allow us to deal peacefully with each other relative to control of entities. Socialists who at least understand the theories behind socialism will argue that assertion of property rights is assertion of force much like the anti-IP crowd argues. They claim partial ownership of the entire universe just because they exist. The anti-IP crowd claims they have automatic ownership rights of IP creations that may have taken someone years to create. I don't see a basic difference between the two sides.

      The anti-IP crowd also claims copying IP isn't theft since the original owner still has a "copy." Trespassing isn't theft either since it doesn't remove the property from its owner. However, we recognize the rights of a property owner to assert control over his property even if that property isn't being stolen.

      I also agree with you that the anti-IP crowd inconsistently utilize utilitarian arguments with regard to IP. They will often use the "best benefit to mankind" arguments much like a city that exerts eminent domain to raze houses and build casinos. Those socialist arguments don't fly, IMHO. If you have property rights, the exercise of those rights is about individual liberty, not about how that property is best used for "mankind."

    4. "There is no magical quantum-mechanical property that endows physical matter with the ability to be owned."

      Actually, there is. It is called no-cloning theorem which says that quantum state cannot be copied. Which means that quantum state (which defines matter) is scarce - unlike classical information which can be copied indefinitely and is not scarce at all.

      Property in classical information is nonsense, it is trying to impose artificial scarcity where none exists in reality.

      The whole idea of "Intellectual Property" is fundamentally rooted in the profoundly Marxist notion that labor creates value, so the creators of information "deserve" to be compensated. It *is* logically incompatible with Austrian economics.

  11. This is the one area I strongly disagree with RW. Kinsella makes a much more persuasive argument in my opinion.

  12. Have to say I am anti IP. That said, I see limited benefit to the black out. Certainly it would bring attention to SOPA to at least a few people and provides an concrete example of what it would be like if these sites were shut down. Concrete examples are always better than abstract ramblings. But mostly I was struck by Mr. Wenzel's suggestion that the true solution lies in not going to movies or buying songs. I got a big belly laugh out of that. But I have the feeling he wasn't kidding.

  13. P.S I don't know If this was a blogger update or something you did Robert, but thank God we can finally reply to individual comments directly.

  14. Jesus annoys me when people allow one issue to destroy a perfectly good and productive relationship...discourse.

    I see both sides of the IP topic, like so many topics. But I'm hardly ready to divorce myself from Wenzel over one freaking topic. Come on, Major_Freedom.

  15. First, everyone needs to stop using the word intellectual property because the debate is over patent and copyright systems alone; besides it is a rhetorical tool intended to create the assumption that ideas are property in order to limit opposition to policy/utilitarian debates.

    Often patents and copyrights are justified based on utilitarian economics. In that case it is clear that (1) without the monopoly reward of patent and copyright we would have less innovation, however (2) the increase in freedom to imitate and improve upon existing ideas would increase innovation and (3) businesses could save all the resources they currently waste on creating and litigating patents and copyrights. Utilitarians ask whether this is a net benefit and whether improvements can be made by changing the duration or scope of patents and copyrights.

    But if we don't care which way is more utilitarian, then we need a moral theory of property to justify patent and copyright. I actually did read Kinsella's book and I just read RW's dispute with Kinsella and Tucker. Robert, I'm sorry to say that they have a good theory to stand on and you haven't yet offered one nor attempted to disprove theirs. All you have done is try to make them look like hypocrites and call your efforts "academic."

    Their theory is that scarcity is an essential component of property, therefore ideas are not property because they are not scarce. This theory must not be muddled by conflating property with contract; ideas CAN be protected by contract, but this is not what the copyright and patent system does. Contracts create obligations among the parties to the contract, but patents and copyrights create obligations among everyone in the country (and treaties expand these obligations to other countries).

    Everyone agrees we can contract for ideas, but what theory can be devised to justify ideas as property? Right of first possession and labor theory both have serious limitations in upholding intellectual property. Even more difficult, how long should they remain property, since a perpetual right is unworkable? How do we decide who owns what ideas, and which ideas are capable of ownership, and how much they are worth in case they are stolen? Are there rights to self-help, for example, if RW goes and prints Mises: The Last Knight of Liberalism and starts selling them, can the Mises Institute use force against RW to stop him, can it seize his books? Should the Wright Brothers have been able to run around and smash up everyone's plane who didn't pay patent royalties? If there is no self-helt, the government courts will be the sole enforcer of patents and copyrights so they must have jurisdiction over EVERYONE, which appears inconsistent with RW's view of a voluntary society.

    Maybe RW's book will address all these issues.

  16. "The government, as per usual, is just doing the dirty work for a special interest group and at the same time using the cover of the motion picture and record industry to expand its control over news and information."

    This statement, more than any other, hits the nail squarely on the head. The government could give a flying crap less about someone copying something and sharing it with friends. it's just the result of the relentless march of innovation and new technology. Soon the whole issue will be meaningless - like arguing if cassettes will replace 8 track tapes.

    The real issue, make no mistake, is about getting control of the internet. The PTB are fully aware that it is the single most dangerous threat to their continued control and existence. If they could, they would drive a stake through its heart today. But, short of that, they want absolute control over its content.

    The free, open, instantaneous, transfer of ideas will prove to be the greatest change agent in the history of the world. No more secrets, no more back room deals, no more good old boy's clubs, no more pitting one side against the other to advance your own hidden agenda, no more war - its hard to fight someone when you find you actually have a lot in common... The vary idea makes the elite's skin crawl. They will do anything to get this passed or something far worse. Ultimately they will probably use their "death by a thousand cuts" strategy, which is responsible for the sorry state of affairs we are currently experiencing.

    Be aware - ever vigilant - your future hangs in the balance.

    I, am Spartacus

  17. "Intellectual property" is nothing more than a cover story for one group of people ordering another, ultimately at gunpoint, how they are to utilize their own REAL property if they are to avoid extortion, kidnapping, and/or summary execution.

  18. An idea is something that somebody labored over (mentally) to create. Don't we all agree that you should own the fruits of your labor? The tricky part comes into play when two people simultaneously come up with the same idea, but one develops on it first (i.e. invents a new widget) and the other doesn't get a chance to because of IP laws.

    If IP laws were in place when the wheel was invented, can you imagine how much that would have hampered the development of society?

    1. "Don't we all agree that you should own the fruits of your labor?"

      Yep, you can have sole possession of information you created as long as you don't communicate it to anybody else.

      "Owning fruits" is not the same as being entitled to compensation for public disclosure of your proprietary information. If you want to do business in selling information, it's up to you to find ways (such as embodiment into physical things, digital rights management, etc) and *pay* for them if you want to exclude others from use of your information.

      IP laws is nothing more than socializing expenses for excluding others from free access while privatizing gains resulting from such exclusion.

  19. FWIW Boldrin's and Levine's fine book, "Against Intellectual Property" is available online.