Or suppose that you take a big gamble by investing your life savings, and the savings of thousands of other investors, in order to develop and manufacture a valuable new product which you believe will surely be sought after by millions of people all over the world.
Let’s say that through decades of hard work and many millions, perhaps even billions, of dollars your company finally discovered a medicinal cure for every kind of cancer and you want to bring your discovery to the market, recoup your huge investment in research and development and then earn a well deserved profit to compensate for all your risks and efforts.
It’s a no-brainer, right?
Few of us would go out on a limb and take the necessary risks to write new books, invent new products, or seek new medical cures if there were no legal means by which to exclusively own and protect the value of our hard won intellectual accomplishments, at least upon reasonable conditions and for a reasonable time.
Intellectual property is one of the cornerstones of modern civilization.
But there are lots of people amongst us, including a sizeable percentage of libertarians it seems, who sincerely believe that once your valuable intellectual property – your product or discovery -- is revealed to the public it becomes fair game for intellectual trolls, none of whom contributed or risked anything whatsoever into the process of creation and discovery of your works, to simply take it, copy it, manufacture it, and market it entirely for themselves and for their own profits without compensating you a nickel.
These “libertarians” argue incredulously, on the pages of RRND no less, that intellectual property protection is incompatible with liberty and freedom.
Why, they reason for example, should an author have the right to prevent a troll from using his own separate publishing resources, i.e., his own property, to print up and sell his own copies of your book? The author (you) shouldn’t be allowed to interfere with the troll’s private property, right? After all, it’s his printing press, his paper, his ink, etc. The troll should be able to profit from your book and you should be prevented from doing anything about it.
Why, they reason, should you, an inventor, have the right to prevent a troll from using his own property to produce and sell exact copies of your product? The inventor shouldn’t be allowed to tell a troll that he can’t use his own property, his own factory, his own supplies and materials any way he likes, right?
Why should the discoverer of a cure, who spent perhaps $billions just to get it approved by the FDA, have the legal right to prevent a troll from using his own resources to replicate and sell it at a much cheaper price because he has no investment whatsoever in the rigorous development and validation process of that cure?
Once such an idea, product or cure is reveled and released into the public domain, it immediately belongs to everyone, right? Anyone should be able to use your patented or copyrighted ideas – your intellectual property -- in any way they please, right? In fact there should be no such thing as patents or copyrights, right?
Wrong on all counts, I say.
Property includes intellectual property and there should be a legal means for owners to protect and exclusively profit from it upon reasonable conditions and for a reasonable period of time.
Intellectual property trolls who set about to profit unfairly from the patented or copyrighted property of others are no better than common thieves. They are either communists or socialists at heart which translates into thieves.
The originators of valuable new ideas, products, cures and other intellectual property have no moral, ethical, or legal obligation to simply turn their hard work and investments over to the intellectually lazy trolls who can hugely profit from them without taking any financial risks or making any original efforts.
But Rad Geek, one of several purported “libertarians,” who authors Rad Geek People’s Daily, according to several articles referenced in RRND, insists that Patents Kill.
“Intellectual property” restrictions are government-granted monopolies, he writes, …“which have nothing, actually, to do with property rights; … what they do is seize ordinary people’s property and hold it hostage to the license-holders’ demands for ransom ... they kill new products because they invade other people’s real property — meaning pens, paper, scanners, computers, DVD players, and so on — in the attempt to lock down ideas — which are, by nature, non-rivalrous (sic) resources; this amounts to nothing less than a systematic and ruthless intellectual enclosure movement against what is and ought to be the common property of all humanity.
Mr. Geek sounds a lot like a communist to me – not much at all like a libertarian. This is the same kind of drivel we got from Mr. Marx and Mr. Lenin about private property.
Does the libertarian movement support a communist wing?
“Patents kill people,” Geek continues, because: “the pharmaceutical cartel can call up the armed bully-boys of almost every government in the world in order to enforce artificially high prices for their top money-makers; and that means that State violence is being used to prevent affordable, life-saving drugs from reaching the desperately poor of the world.”
“[Patent holders] … have no right to do that, and [they] sure don’t have the right to do it at the expense of innocent people’s lives. A free society needs a free culture. Patents kill and freedom save[s] people’s lives. This is as simple as it gets.”
“We are talking about grave and gathering threats to people’s lives here; can we get a little righteous indignation, please? Can we get a little principled radicalism instead of oh-so-moderate calls for “balance”?”
“The good news is that if you and a few million of your fellow citizens die in a global bird flu pandemic, you can rest assured that you will have caused a ‘PR disaster’ for the intellectual protectionists. They apparently aren’t going to suffer any moral qualms if they consign millions, especially among the world’s most vulnerable people, to their deaths in the pursuit of monopoly profits. But it may be bad for their business image. I am sure this would comfort you; If not for the fact that you were dead.”
“If we really care about “saving the world’s children from preventable deaths” and ‘realizing the promise of an AIDS-free generation,’ we must end this murderous collusion between state and corporate power … We must smash the state and its deadly contradictions,” declares Mr. Geek.
Now, this is certainly a novel argument to say the least, (except, of course to mind of a communist).
The holders of drug patents, claims Mr. Geek, are killing people because they are reluctant to allow trolls to copy their formulas for free so they, the trolls, can sell the cures at much cheaper prices and still make humongous profits for themselves without having to invest a penny in any R&D or FDA validation procedures.
If you don’t give me your cure for free, or at a substantial financial loss to you, and I subsequently die, then you are a murderer, claims Mr. Geek. Next, I suppose we’ll have Mr. Geek calling drug manufacturers murders for not discovering cures in the first place. Their failure to discover and distribute cures for free renders them murderers.
By the same token, if you don’t use up all your own financial resources to help feed all the starving urchins in Africa, and some of them starve to death, well, then, you are a murderer, according to Mr. Geek’s moral and ethical code.
Can intellectual property rights be abused? Well, of course, I can think of some extreme examples, just as I can about abuses of tangible property rights. An owner of all the fresh water on a life boat adrift at sea with several other thirsty passengers aboard comes to mind. But such examples are surely not indictments against the concept of private property whether intellectual or otherwise.
Property includes intellectual property.