Monday, December 7, 2020

Ask Bob Dylan If He Is In Favor of IP

The Universal Music Publishing Group announced that it had signed a landmark deal to purchase Bob Dylan’s entire songwriting catalog — including world-changing classics like “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “The Times They Are A-Changin’” and “Like a Rolling Stone” — in what may be the biggest acquisition ever of the music publishing rights of a single act, reports The New York Times.

It is estimated the purchase price was more than $300 million.

In other words, if the anti-IP crowd had their way, Dylan would have lost out on $300 million because well "He could still listen to the music."

-RW

25 comments:

  1. Not sure if RW realizes that this pro-IP argument is complete and utter nonsense. "If we weren't prohibiting serfs from selling their own produce the feudal lord wouldn't be able to afford his castle!"

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  2. So if borrowed a copy of my brother's “The Times They Are A-Changing’ CD and made a copy I would be committing theft? That's what it ultimately comes down to. Am I violator of IP?

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    1. If you sold it fer money. yea.

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    2. Different kind of theft. Copying is not depriving someone of their assest.

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    3. Whether my brother sells me a copy of his CD for $0 or $1M is the action not the same? Ownership of the copied CD is changing hands. My brother certainly doesn't own the IP of Bob Dylan, nor does he claim to. So is he violating the private property of Bob Dylan, or now, Universal Music?

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    4. The pro-IP people would argue that your brother bought the license to use the CD, mirroring ownership in all respects except to sell copies of it. It's like a person having a "life estate" in land, where they live on the property until they die, using it in most respects as would an owner---except someone else (the grantor of the life estate) actually owns it. The person enjoying the life estate would be prohibited from destroying the land or using it in ways that stripped it of value. I think they'd have to pay property taxes too.

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    5. Thanks for that example, Sui. Playing the devil's advocate, I would argue from your example that the owner is parting with his estate for the duration of the tenant's life, whereas Universal Music at no point relinquishes ownership with the hardware on which their "IP" is stored.

      I find it difficult to understand why I am beholden to a record company, with respect to their claims of IP, when I transact with a store or copy my brother's CD, and cannot grasp how legal speak, in the front-insert booklet, constitutes a contract. Should my brother lose his CD and an opportunist find it & thereafter print millions of copies into the black market, be contractually responsible for unlicensed distribution of IP?

      Should passerbys be beholden to IP claims by a street performer simply because he stakes a claim to the IP of his act prior to the performance? Why can't I just make the claim in the comment section of his blog that the ideas expressed by me in the comments section are not intended for unlicensed circulation? Maybe RW has made a claim elsewhere on the blog that claims ownership of all the ideas expressed by him or others in the comments section.

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    6. I know, Maximus. It's crazy, and there are many examples of what an artificial, expedient, pragmatic construct IP is, with little consistency to it. I've read my Kinsella, and even then I've equivocated on the subject. I'm mostly against it though. The Utilitarians and Pragmatists argue "but without IP, no one will create, innovate, sacrifice their own effort or funds to bring forth a finished product if they can't be enriched at the exclusion of others for a guaranteed period of time. What about the positive externalities?!" But I'm not so convinced there aren't other avenues to enrichment, that a little imagination can't produce many examples of. And consistency in the application of property-ownership and the NAP appeals to me greatly, as opposed to the "whatever works best" rationale of utilitarianism.

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    7. Maximus, to answer your original question, there is no theft here. Theft requires that A takes something from B so that B no longer has it. If your brother consented to your taking of his CD, then your copying of the songs is not "theft," as once you return the CD to him, he still has the songs. Likewise, whichever company claims to "own" the "IP" for the songs still has the songs. There is no theft. That's the difference between ideas and physical objects. An infinite number of people can all use an idea at the same time, so there cannot be conflict or theft, so we don't need a property-rights regime, whereas only one person can use a physical object at any one time, so conflict can arise, and thus we need a property-rights regime to sort things out.

      What most people mean when they claim "theft" of IP is that they earned less revenues from customers than they would have otherwise. But they do not have a property right in their customers' wallets, so there cannot be any "theft" re lower revenues.

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  3. IP is socialization of security costs. Protect your own damn secrets.

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  4. I'm not sure that Dylan making money from a state-created privilege is an argument in favor of IP. It's about as compelling an argument as saying that if the anti-war crowd had their way, then the defense contractors would have lost out on billions of dollars of profits.

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  5. Robert, are you endorsing the state to enforce IP law?

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  6. I'm fairly ambivalent about the IP debate at this time. However, at the exact moment that I have a business opportunity relying on IP laws, I'll be a steadfast defender of those laws.

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  7. If Dylan leaves the US permanently, look out.

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  8. When value was lodged only in physical things (livestock, tools, jewelry, dwellings, food), then a test of whether the creator or current owner has been deprived of an item made sense.

    Within the last few centuries information has become valuable enough and the division of labor proceeded enough that some specialize in producing information, for example, sheet music starting in the 19th century, music recordings in the 20th century. Instead of mixing one's labor with physical materials--wood, stone, earth, plants--one mixed one's labor with nothing and still produced valuable things.

    It is easy to make economic arguments for IP, for example, without IP the sheet music will be easily duplicated and the free market price will drop to near its cost with no return to the creator, providing no profit from his creations.

    It is harder to make ethical arguments for IP, though an ethical legal system should adapt to this new conduit of value, just as it began to adapt and create property rights in the electromagnetic spectrum in the 1920's before the government socialized this domain. Starting with the situation of the copied DVD approaches the question backward, already assuming that the answer will fit right into the notions of physical property. There does not have to be a single libertarian answer to how IP should be handled in a society, and letting a legal system of private judges try different possible approaches with, one would hope, an emergent answer might be the best we can do.

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    1. Not a bad answer. It (the question) is worthy of its own branch of economics and / or libertarian theory.

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    2. In a NAP-based society, "IP protection" would be a clear violation of the NAP. The issue has nothing to do with modern technology, but with the purpose of property rights, which is not to guarantee anyone revenues or profits, but to minimize conflict. Since there can only be conflict over physical resources, and "IP" is not a physical resource, ergo, there cannot be property rights in "IP."

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    3. It is presumptuous to say the NAP must apply only to physical things. In the case of IP the adjustment might be small and not open the door to arbitrary declarations of other things as property, such as allowing an IP owner to obtain an injunction against someone duplicating it. That will not satisfy the NAPster, I'm sure, but it's possible that the NAP is not the most fundamental basis for a free society, but property is. Wenzel would likely agree.

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    4. Property rights are enforced through the use of physical force against someone's body or other objects (hence "enforcement"), and within a NAP-based framework, the use of physical force is only legitimate if someone else has first initiated physical force. If I copy your work using my own physical materials, then I am not initiating any physical force against you. Accordingly, if you were to try to enforce your "IP" against me, then you would be the one initiating force, not me.

      Yes, if your society were not based around the NAP, then the property-rights regime could be very different. I don't know how that could be justified, and what definition of "property" you would use, but that's for others to argue.

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  9. "Since there can only be conflict over physical resources, and "IP" is not a physical resource, ergo, there cannot be property rights in "IP.""
    Circular reasoning, much?
    To say ideas have no value is preposterous.

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    1. Absolutely, ideas have value. To think that government regulations (third party) are required to ensure value is preposterous.

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  10. Where is the circularity? If property rights have a purpose, and that purpose requires certain factors to be present, and IP lacks those factors, then IP doesn't fit into a property-rights regime.

    Where did I say that ideas have no value? That is completely irrelevant to the question of whether something can be property from a NAP perspective.

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  11. OK, say you own a house. I say "Hey, nice house. I'm gonna take a gun and force you out". You say, "No way, I've got a deed, sanctioned by the state". That's your defense.
    OK, I have an invention, which offers value to users. You say: "Hey, nice gizmo. I'm gonna build lots of them and make a boat load of $$$". I say: "No, I've got a patent, issued by the state".
    Please state the difference.

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    1. It's hard to accept the abstraction that knowledge is a property right deserving of state protection. In a way, it seems at odds with progress and the advance of civilization, to hold that "leaks" of knowledge are legally actionable.
      If I tell the world my "secrets" by, for instance, performing my song in public, or putting my painting on display in a gallery, or selling my invention, etc....have I not let the cat out of the bag? Sure, I can sell it directly to customers on condition they sign a non-disclosure agreement or some such contract, but now we're in the realm of Contract Law, not Property Law, the violation and remedies which can only occur between the signatories/participants to the contract---unlike Property Law breaches which would apply to the public at large (e.g. trespass; conversion).
      But there's the crux hey?---people are saying it SHOULD be a property-rights violation, not a contract-law violation. To that I would mention yet another man-made construct: The Economic Loss Doctrine, which holds that a mere contract-law violation with mere economic damage and no tort damages, cannot masquerade as a tort claim in order to get at the promised land of tort damages (compensatory damages, special damages, general damages, punitive damages).
      So using one of the examples someone illustrated above: If I find an abandoned music CD and copy it and start selling CDs for a profit---I have not breached a contract with the original seller of the CD. Maybe to protect this from happening, the original seller includes a provision in the agreement with the original buyer, whereby the buyer agrees to take any and all measures to prevent the CD from being duplicated by anybody, and agreeing to protect and indemnify the seller from any harm should that occur.
      And if everyone who buys a CD or painting or invention has to sign an indemnification agreement, then we're back at square one, discouraging creators and innovators from being productive, because no buyer is going to sign such an agreement.
      I dunno...thinking aloud here...Stream-of-consciousness thing...

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    2. Capn Mike, if your question is what happens when the state sets the rules, then that's not a very interesting question. I was originally making the point that if a society operated under the NAP, then IP would not be recognized as a legitimate form of property. Thus, in a NAP-based society, your house would be recognized as property that you could legitimately defend or seek restitution for, but your ideas would not.

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