Friday, May 9, 2014

Tucker vs. Tucker: The Brain at War

Jeffrey Tucker is well-known for his views on intellectual property laws. He believes they should be abolished. Open source everything, he says. But what would happen if Tucker launched a business? Would he actually, in his own business, stick to his open source everything beliefs? This is no longer a theoretical question. Tucker has opened a business, We can now see what Tucker would do, when money is important. I present you with Tucker vs.Tucker:The Brain at War.

Let's start by looking at Tucker's views before his attempt at running his own business (All bold is mine)

On July 5, 2007 in Is Intellectual Property the Key to Success?, he wrote
let's say that the company creates a flavor called Peach Pizzazz, which is a great success, so it copyrights the recipe such that no one can publish it without the company's permission....

If you suggest to the founder and CEO that we should get rid of intellectual property law, you will elicit a sense of panic. "That would completely destroy my business!" How so? "Anyone could just come along and claim to be Georgia Cream, steal our recipe for Peach Pizzazz, duplicate our mixing technique, and then we'd be sunk."

Do you see what is happening here? A small change that would threaten the very life of the business is indirectly being credited, by implication, for being the very life of the business. If that were true, then it would not be business prowess that made this company, but government privilege, and that is emphatically not true in this case. The repeal of intellectual property legislation would do nothing to remove from the business its capacity to create, innovate, advertise, market, and distribute.
In a review of Against Intellectual Monopoly, he wrote:
IP is like a dam in the river of development, or perhaps very large boulders that impede the flow
During an interview of Stephan Kinsella, the debater, Tucker says:
 Of course, if you consistently enforced IP across the board, you could literally bring the whole world to a standstill, couldn't you?
And then we have this gem from Tucker in his article, If You Believe in IP, How Do You Teach Others?
Some Harvard professors are taking very seriously their "intellectual property rights" and have claimed copyright to the ideas that they spread in their classrooms. What prompted this was a website in which students posted their notes to help other students.

The professors have cracked down. It might have been enough to legislate against this behavior in particular. Instead, they wrapped their objection in the great fallacy of our age: the professor owns his ideas and they may not be spread without his permission...

There are two possible ways out of this problem in a digital age: open source or IP. The open-source model has been adopted by MIT, on the one hand, which has made its entire curriculum open source and freely available online. This is a fairly straightforward approach, which finally gets down to the reality that what MIT is charging for is not so much the education but the degree itself. Clarity at last.

Another approach is the one taken by Harvard and, most explicitly, by the University of Texas, which has suggested that professors make the following contract with students:

My lectures are protected by state common law and federal copyright law. They are my own original expression and I record them at the same time that I deliver them in order to secure protection. Whereas you are authorized to take notes in class thereby creating a derivative work from my lecture, the authorization extends only to making one set of notes for your own personal use and no other use. You are not authorized to record my lectures, to provide your notes to anyone else or to make any commercial use of them without express prior permission from me.
 You can make "no other use" of what you learn? Really? That sort of smashes the whole point of education, doesn't it?

The goal of the university is to spread knowledge, not to grant a one-time use for what you learn in the classroom. The aim of an individual student is to gain knowledge that is used in every possible way for a lifetime — and to pass the ideas on to others.

In fact, what the contract requires is impossible. It is not as if our bodies are equipped with hard drives that can be wiped clean after the semester is over. In any case, even if we were so equipped, that would defeat the whole point of taking classes and paying universities for offering them.
Now let us take a look at the new Tucker, as operator of The below comes from the Terms of Use agreement on the web site (My bold)
This Terms of Use Agreement (“Terms Agreement”) sets forth the terms of service that governs our relationship with all individuals and organizations who interact with By using or accessing, you agree to this Terms Agreement.....
 You agree to not repost or otherwise distribute content that is made exclusively available to members (such as Liberty Guides) to other third parties.
What? What exclusivity? What happened to open source? What happened to "the great fallacy of our age: the professor owns his ideas and they may not be spread without his permission....?"

How can Tucker hold a view that everything should be open sourced, yet he puts up a paywall at his site that prevents access to some material AND also prohibits redistribution?

What is going on here? Was Tucker ever serious about his anti-IP position? Has he changed his opinion? Shouldn't the bowtied Tucker followers be screaming at Tucker, "Tear down that wall, Jeff!"? Why are they silent? Why aren't his subscribers questioning this contradiction in Tucker's stance? Will anyone stand on principle at and what should that principle be? Why is there no debate about this in the chat rooms? Is there no one concerned about principle on this issue, which Tucker, in the past, has been so vocal about? Or are those who attempt to raise such questions being banned, by this supposed-advocate of open source and freedom?

I look forward to any Tucker response that provides insights into this seeming quandaries. If he doesn't IP protect any response, I will post it here at EPJ.


  1. By agreeing to the Terms of Use aren't you replicating the Rothbardian "contractual IP" position? I know you don't understand the Rothbardian position Mr. Wenzel but I think that contractually agreeing to not disseminate material is fundamentally different from a governmental enforcement of monopoly privilege.

    1. It seems to me that IP can only be enforced with contractual arrangements. But doesn't that work against the "thickest" position since all lifestyle and business model choices will necessarily be based upon the subjective values of voluntary communities with the only "political" value being enforcement of the NAP?

      Suppose community B across the mountain starts using a process which community A claims is its IP. Absent a contractual agreement, can community A invade community B and prohibit use of the process with violence?

    2. David Friedman made the point that private law societies will not necessarily be always considered libertarian and definitely, if they do consider themselves libertarian, can differ as to what is considered private property, e.g., on IP.

      So yes the situation you illustrate is possible and is a trait of a private law society with multiple providers.

      I personally believe that without the tax collection apparatus and given the relative ease with which information can be shared on the internet, providers which will attempt to enforce IP laws in a private law society will go bankrupt very quickly.

      On the other hand, Islamic providers which enforce "modesty laws" in the jurisdiction where Islam are prevalent are not Libertarian but any stretch of the term but they may be successful in their business model.


  2. The reason Tucker's followers aren't piping up about is because most of his hardcore followers are on-board with him in the business in some way or another (be it as a developer, mouthpiece, etc). Peruse the anarcho-capitalism subreddit some time and you see lots of these lefties-in-hiding making excuse after excuse for Tucker. That's not surprising since everything on Reddit seems to have a leftist tinge to it, though.

  3. I'm on the fence regarding IP, but I don't think Tucker is saying he'll send the government after you if you disseminate the information, but this:
    "If you violate the letter or spirit of this Terms Agreement, or otherwise create legal risk for us, we reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to terminate your membership to without refund or recourse."
    I don't think that the contract the user & Tucker are agreeing to conflict with his views on IP. He's not claiming protection from "federal copyright law" as in the Harvard example above.

    1. So are you saying Tucker is in favor of IP protection when it is enforced by the private sector?

    2. Please show me where Tucker says IP enforcement is fine in the private sector? How does this jive with his call for complete open source? If there is no scarcity of intellectual ideas, what is Tucker protecting, whether it be private sector protection or gvt. protection?

    3. Mr. Wenzel, I believe Mr. Tucker is saying he will cancel your account if he observes that you violated the contract you agreed to.

      Mr. Weil, I think Mr. Tucker's protecting whatever he wants to protect on his property, He's just not going to kill you for violating your contract with by distributing the information contained there (unless you were to agree to such terms).

      Again, I'm not certain I totally understand what Tucker's position is or what the Rothbardian position is. That's a shortcoming of mine that I intend to remedy and appreciate the debate you both are advancing.

    4. Jesus Christ wenzel. The terms of use agreement is a PRIVATE CONTRACT. Not a claim of IP.

      And unlike you, tucker doesn't claim to have any rights against a third party that obtains material that was given to him by a member that breaches the private contract.

      You called the third party a criminal in a sloppy post of yours then refused to answer what "crime" the third party committed in a "libertarian world" no less. You are so confused on this issue it's truly amazing for someone as bright as you.

    5. @AnonymousMay 9, 2014 at 4:45 PM

      So are you saying that Tucker is okay with protection of intellectual property via private contract? How does this square with his call for complete open sourcing?

    6. He is not claiming any IP has been created. What do you my understand about that? You are calling content IP but tucker is not. He is simply looking to restrict the dissemination of content through private contract. And you cannot force your term/definition of IP on him. That is intellectually dishonest. To tucker content does not equal IP. To you, content does equal IP.

      I have no comment on his call for open sourcing because I have not read/listened to anything beyond what you provided. I do not know the context of those statements.

      Why don't you be a big boy and answer the question about why you called the third party not under contract with you a criminal? How did he violate the NAP?

    7. You dodged the question regarding the third party here

    8. Wenzel, are you suggesting its a contradiction for someone like Kinsella or tucker to support open source while asking to be paid for a copy of their book in general?

      Or is it the specific language that tucker used when speaking about open source then asking for compensation?

      Either way it seems like a very weak argument to undermine TE anti IP stance

    9. What kind of clown are you? You are commenting without reading Tucker's comments on open source. And you find one post in which I do not mention third parties and consider this dodging the question. The question has been asked before and I have answered it:

      "If somebody steals your car and sells it to a third party. You certainly can't put the third party in jail, but you can get your car back. If a third party obtains, say, a book, from someone who has broken a contract not to distribute, you can't put them in jail, but you certainly can get your book back and notify them that they are not authorized to reprint."

    10. AnonymousMay 9, 2014 at 5:20 PM No I am not suggesting payment is a contradiction to open source. I am simply asking if Tucker is in favor of complete open source why does his terms of use not permit complete open source? That is a contradiction.

      As for the payment, that contradicts another part of Tucker-Kinsella, since they claim intellectual property is not scarce, if so, why is anyone paying for it?

    11. You are begging the question wenzel. Do you know what that means?

      Is a car property? Yes, Everyone recognizes that.

      Is a book property? Yes. The physical book is the property of the purchaser.

      Is the content of the book property? Well that's what the whole debate is about dumb dumb. You are simply asserting that it is and claiming yourself to be the victor.

      And again there is a giant difference between a car jacking ( involuntary) and a book sale (voluntary)

      How does your book sale to Bob give you any rights over Tom once he acquires Bob's book? (Answer as if Tom acquired to book legitimately then if he stole it from Bob, then as if Bon absent mindedly left it on a park bench and Tom found it hours later with no possible way of knowig it was bobs)

      There is nuance here wenzel.

    12. Why pay for it? I like having physical books that are not printed off my schools printer. I like supporting people who take the time to ponder these matters whether I agree with them or not. Got any more brain busters?

    13. Book sale , even subject to a contract, is a voluntary transaction. Please explain how a breach of a contract retroactively makes the sale of the book involuntary?

      Or are you seriously content equating a sale after a theft to a sale after a voluntary transaction? You are smarter than this wenzel

    14. And you simply asserted that the person can get their property back you did not answer how the third party is a criminal. Do I need I spoon feed this to you?

    15. If you sell bob a book subject to conditions, bob violates those conditions by selling it to Tom you claim to have rights against Tom and you call him a criminal.

      If you sell your car to bob subject to conditions, bob breaches and sells the car to Tom. Are you suggesting that you have rights against Tom? Seriously? Or does IP give you special powers?

    16. If someone steals your car and sells it, do you have the right to get it back? Or is this a case of property rights giving you "special powers"?

    17. AnonymousMay 9, 2014 at 5:43 PM

      I am not saying there is a breach of a contract retroactively, I am saying that if a third party obtains a book because there was a breach of contract, then I can contact that third party and ask them to return all copies that were obtained by a breach and further demand that no other copies be made. If after notice that the copy was obtained via a breach and the person continues to copy the book or refuses to return a copy obtained by a breach, then the person becomes a criminal. In the same way that a person who fails to return a stolen car would be considered a criminal.

    18. If someone steals your car and then sells it you obviously have the right to get it back from the third party (regardless if the third party was innocent or knew it was stolen).

      You are claiming that you have the right over the third party that obtains a book from a purchaser that was VOLUnTARILY sold to him. These are worlds apart?

      What gives you the right over the third party in the instance of the book? Is it the content contained in the book?

      What CRIME has the third party committed if he buys a book from bob ( who also obtained the book from you via voluntary sale)?

      If you call someone a criminal you should be able to say what crime he has committed? Especially in your circumstance that this is in a "libertarian world".

      How did the third party violate the nap?

    19. Again you are equivocating a stolen car to a voluntarily purchased book. Do you seriously not understand the difference! Or the importance?

      You are still the lawful owner of a car after it has been stolen. You are no longer the lawful owner of a book once you sold it, even if the secondary sale breached the conditions of the original sale.

      So either you are arguing that a breach of a contract associated with a voluntary sale retroactively changes the original sale to involuntary or somehow a breach of contract gives you rights over a third party not subject to the original sale and contract. How can you have rights over the third party if you VOLUNTARILY sold it to bob?

      It's astonishing you cannot get the difference between the two. You sold the book whereas the your car was stolen. It changes who is the rightful owner entirely. A thief is never a true owner. A purchaser in a voluntary exhange is. You can certainly claim to have rights over bob for breaching a contract, but that breach doesn't give you rights over Tom.

      Explain how Tom is not the rightful owner of the book in the circumstance where you voluntarily sold the book to bob and bob sold it to Tom? How do you have rights superior to Tom?

      Please don't tell me your contract between you and bob give you rights over Tom.

      Bob acquired it voluntarily and so did Tom. Your comparison to the car jacking is so obviously off base. It's in applicable.

      So this gets back to IP giving you "special powers" over secondary purchasers who buy from the original purchaser that obtained it via voluntary sale.

      I absolutely agree that the purchaser of a STOLEN car is a criminal if he refuses to return the car once he is made aware of the theft by the true owner.

      I am asking how Tom is a criminal by not returning/or reproducing the book after he voluntarily purchased it from bob who you VOLUNTARILY sold it to. Bob is a rightful owner.
      So for the 100th time, what crime did TOM commit? How is he possibly similar to the purchaser of a STOLEN car?

      This is basic stuff.

    20. Car jacker = never a rightful owner = no right to sell = if he does sell the phurchaser's rights are inferior to the original owner

      Bob = rightful owner of the book = has the right to sell = whoever purchases it from bob is the rightful owner.

      You are either claiming that the breach contract means that bob was never the rightful owner, or you are claiming that his breach of contract gives you the right to the book. But how can that be? If bob is the rightful owner he has every right to sell. If you agree with that, then you are saying that you have superior rights to the book than Tom. How!? Tom purchased it voluntarily from the owner. Are you suggesting your contract with bob is also applicable to Tom despite him not being a party to it?

    21. Robert - you do presuppose that a non-disclosure clause in contract is about property rights. It is not.

      The clauses of the contract which says "you cannot tell others what I'm going to tell you" do NOT create or exchange property rights, they place restrictions on a party's conduct. The recourse for failure to abide to these restrictions may be rescinding the rest of the contract (i.e. subscription termination, etc) OR some form of pre-agreed performance bond posted by the party getting the information - which acts as a penalty for disclosing this information.

      In NO WAY contracts between two parties result in any liabilities or obligations to those who are not party of the contract.

      Finally, breaking a contract IS NOT A CRIME. The crime is only the failure to restore the other party's property - either by rolling back the transactions or by abiding with terms of the contract dealing with failure to deliver (and/or decision of arbitration).

      Rolling back contractual obligations regarding disclosure of information to third parties is impossible; the loss is indefinite (and can therefore create infinite liability to the party who failed to protect the information), so the only sane option is to include appropriate provisions into the contract, ones which are known in advance.

      Now, I would really love to see any on-line service, any TV station, or any book seller adding "you keep what we show you to yourself, or you'll pay us $1million" - and the fools which would buy from them by having to sign under this. Right now NOBODY actually signs these contracts because copyright is "automatic".

    22. Starting to see your problem? You are going to violate tom's property rights.

      Also, what happens of bob does having never broken the contract and he gives the book to Dan, his grandson, in his will. Are you going to say that you have superior property rights than Dan? Are you going to say that Dan is subject to the contract that you and Bob signed!?

    23. I'm drunk and high recovering from surgery and dismantling your position. You desire to be mentioned in the same breath as Hoppe. How big of a clown are you ? Embarrassed yet?

    24. I'm guessing by your silence that you have finally realized how horribly wrong you are here. Better go back and revise that book you've been writing for 5 years. Can't wait to see what other basic errors you make.

    25. Or Wenzel doesn't think your comment is worth responding to.

    26. Haha, do you not see the difference either Banacek?

    27. Crickets. Wenzel it pwned

  4. IP is difficult to enforce without government force. Thus I find it difficult to oblige RW's position of Pro IP but Anti-Gov. However OpenSource licensing takes various positions of claiming the IP in order to make it freely available. The problem is seen as you have to claim the IP to make it freely available otherwise someone else may claim the IP and make it unavailable. That said I do not know if Tucker is doing this or not? The ToU makes it sound like you cannot use the IP but it would not be the first time I read a ToU that takes away while a later Creative Commons license gives it away. Many people who utilize CC would be more than happy if IP went away and CC could disappear. However, as it stands, law of the land has IP and the current method of making IP available is through CC and GPL.

    1. Why is it more difficult to enforce IP without the government than any other law? Shouldn't the creator of IP determine if he wants to spend the money for private sector enforcement or are you the grand arbiter on all such decisions?

    2. Your language, "the creator of IP", is slanted. You haven't demonstrated adequately that ideas can be property, much less that any idea proposed thus far ever was property or should be now regarded as property. It seems that you merely presuppose that ideas are property, make up some excuses for believing your own conclusion, and then use your assumption as a license "to enforce IP". (How the enforcement might be carried out, privately or by government, is not relevant here, but my suspicion is that government enforcement was established to circumvent natural law.)

      Another problem is your concept of creation, for it betrays an assumption that the present is all that exists, that the world is basically just a 3D structure changing over time. But what are the facts about space and time? If, in reality, there are future spatio-temporal coordinates contiguous with the present, i.e. if the future has the same or similar ontological status as the present, then your concepts of human creativeness and the role of a human as a "creator of IP" will need to be altered radically.

      It so happens that some reputable physicists do not accept presentism. One of them is Max Tegmark, though you might try to write him off as a kook due to his ideas of physical reality being a mathematical structure. Richard Feyman was another skeptic, as he hints in his book "QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter". There Feyman repeats several times over the idea that a positron, the antiparticle of an electron, is merely an electron moving backward in time. He adds that other fundamental particles, too, have their antiparticles which are moving backward in time. If Feyman's explanation is accurate, then how can it be that space in the present is not coextensive with space in the future through the dimension which we call time? Furthermore, if the future, or multiple futures, are already waiting for us, then what are we to make of the idea that people create ANYTHING?

      It's by the way that Feyman was the guy who became a kind of celebrity in the 1980s when he used a glass of ice water to demonstrate the low resiliency, at low temps, of the O-ring material used in the Space Shuttle's solid rocket boosters. He did important work also on the Manhattan Project and received a Nobel Prize in physics for his efforts to get the bugs out of QED, a "[relativistic] quantum field theory of the interactions of charged particles with the electromagnetic field", as Encyclopædia Britannica puts it.

      Get the book "QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter". It requires almost no mathematical knowledge to read it, even if you read the footnotes, and it only barely touches on relevant concepts such as complex numbers in order to explain the main points of QED.

  5., a.k.a. is a scam; it failed at and will eventually fade away once the original backers initial investments fail to bring about a return.

    That being said, all I can say is, when you play with other people's money, you play by their rules.

    Also, so how's that definitive statement on IP book coming?

    1. So it is okay to be morally bankrupt, if you are getting paid to do so? As for the book, it is coming. You will be unpleasantly surprised.

  6. Robert -- what is your position on IP? Do you support private enforcement? If so, how do you define IP? Thanks.

    1. I hold to the Rothbardian view on IP and of course I support private enforcement of that view.

  7. I like this blog, but you just do not even understand this issue at all.

  8. I'll ask again, can you differentiate contract law from IP?

  9. You hit the nail on the head. Mr. Tucker is a walking contradiction.

    On the one hand, all IP contracts are supposedly invalid. And on the other hand, not all IP contracts are supposedly invalid. He has his cake and eats it, too.

    All most "pro-IP" libertarians are saying that it is possible to have contracts on IP. That's all. They are -voluntary- agreements. It doesn't justify all modern state laws, but only a subset of them. If Mr. Tucker wants to enforce IP contracts, that's fine, but then he has to admit (as long as he wants to be consistent) that not all IP is wrong or immoral.

    1. Bingo! Great comment that concisely sums up the important points of IP and this situation.

  10. @Anon at 6.44 Tucker is not a walking contradiction. He's very consistent. It's all about number one.
    No wonder it's Liberty dot ME.

    The whole crowd - Cathy, Kinsella Tucker, even Long and company, are nothing more than the usual leftist thought enforcers.

    Don't pay them any attention. They're not going anywhere. The mood is swinging right, not just here, but all over the world.

    And the world reads and listens to LRC. Keep it up and don't give this crowd one second more of attention.

    This is a coordinated attack intended to silence genuine political dissent with labels. Shame on Roderick Long. I thought he was better than that.

    1. If he's consistent insofar as "looking out for number one," so to speak, it doesn't therefore follow that he isn't inconsistent elsewhere or in another way. To the extent that he both affirms and denies a positive, universal proposition (e.g., all IP contracts are bad) and a negative, particular proposition (e.g., some IP contracts are not bad), then he logically inconsistent and undeniably so.

  11. It seems to me that if I sell you a book on the condition that you not give it to a third party and you do, you owe me restitution.