Property Rights

Property Rights

The Didact, in his excellent Memorial Day wrapup for Monday, reminded me that I wanted to cover this commentary by Razorfist on Intellectual Property.

The Didact notes:

I used to be a libertardian, so I had a lot of sympathy for the idea of doing away with IP rights entirely, but I was never fully convinced by the arguments against IP. Looking at the arguments given by the Razorfist, he makes a very compelling case that the product of a man's mind is indeed his property. And I agree with him.

I do think that reasonable limits have to be set to such rights. A man has the right to profit from the products of his mind, but not forever and not at the expense of everyone else. That is why drug patents, for instance, are issued for 14 years. You and I can disagree on whether drug companies have a right to make "obscene" profits - I think that they do - but it is inarguable that the cost of creating new drugs is astonishingly high.

It costs up to 10 years and up to $1 BILLION to bring a new drug to market. Given those extreme costs, it is entirely justified for drug companies to make profits where and when they can.

It is NOT justified for drug companies to try to slap new restrictions and "off-patent" use cases onto existing drugs simply to manage access to those drugs after their patents expire.

In the end, a man should be able to choose whether he wants to release his work for profit or not.

While I've long agreed that large IP companies like DevilMouse have abused the copyright system well beyond recognition, I was never comfortable with removing patents or copyright outright as we know them now. Sure, if you don't want to license a design or wait until the patent expires, you have to reverse-engineer a different solution, or wait. That said, if the licensing fees are too exhorbitant, the odds are the product will fail, and if the problem was solved once, the odds improve that someone can find a second solution that's more effective and cheaper if you give them enough incentive to look for alternatives.

In the end though, it is a moral argument, as well as a matter of skin in the game. Even those who believe in the labor theory of value can concede that designing and developing an invention takes work. For risking and investing that time and resources, and succeeding in creating something worthwhile, the inventor deserves a reward - or at least a chance to be rewarded.

Update: - I forgot to add Bradford Walker's commentary on this video. It is something Razor overlooks - patent law only helps insofar as you have rule of law. Otherwise it's just another way for the government to favor or punish their friends and enemies.

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Ex nuke mechanic, jack of all trades.