Copyright And The End Of Property Rights

from the why-copyright-is-not-property dept

Yes, we’ve had the debate over and over and over again during the years (so much so that I’m not even going to dig up the links) concerning whether or not copyright is like “property.” However, reading an article by Alex Cummings on “the end of ownership,” it really drives home why copyright can often be anti-property rights, in that it takes away the standard types of “rights” that people have in property they’ve purchased. Cummings’ piece focuses on the secondary market for copyright-covered content, and how the content industries have been trying for over a century to stamp such things out, but were long held back by important concepts like the first sale right. However, in an all digital world, they’re having a lot more luck in killing off secondary markets:

Congress declined to heed the industry’s cries in 1906, but the issue of how consumers may use copyrighted works has cropped up and again. In the 1930s some record companies placed labels on their discs that said they were for “home use only”—not for playing on the radio. The courts rejected this restriction and sided with broadcasters. In the early 1980s, the music industry successfully lobbied Congress to pass the Record Rental Amendment, ensuring that a Blockbuster-like store for renting music would never emerge.

And, of course, he discusses things like the ReDigi case, which basically said even if you purchased a digital item, you have no right to resell it. And the impact of all of this can be pretty broad, going well beyond just digital files, to a question of whether or not you’ll really be able to “own” anything you purchase, because companies are increasingly using copyright to stop your basic ownership rights:

Today, we see a renewed attack on the rights of consumers by big business. Overly zealous regulation means that consumers are essentially barred from “unlocking” a cell phone, or severing the device from its original wireless carrier. Critics warn that such restrictions not only limit the rights of consumers but threaten to stifle old-fashioned tinkering and innovation. It is as if Ford told customers that they can’t pop the hood of their car and mess around its inner workings (which is how the world got NASCAR, incidentally).

How far should a phone company’s power extend into our personal lives when we buy one of their products? When you buy a phone or an MP3, is it really yours—or has a company just loaned it to you with a laundry list of stipulations and provisos? The age of cloud computing is upon us, and soon most of our books, movies, and musics might have no material form. We may discover that buying something no longer means owning it in any meaningful sense—and our stuff isn’t really ours anymore.

When you begin to think about all of those things — many of which are already happening — you begin to see just how anti-property rights copyright can be at times. Some of this, you could argue, is copyright misuse — individuals and companies stretching the clear intent of copyright law to their own advantage — but some of it seems to be part of the design of copyright law: to restrict all sorts of things you can do with your own property. It’s difficult to see how strong supporters of property rights can also claim that copyright is good for property rights when you look at how many ways it seems to attack those basic concepts, and leads to a world where many of the things you “buy” you no longer own.

Filed Under: , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Copyright And The End Of Property Rights”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Anonymous Coward says:

and the only ones to blame are those that accept the lobbyists word, dismiss the word of everyone else and accept the ‘incentives’ given to those that are then persuaded to do what the industries want. yes, that’s right. the politicians that voted into office to do what is best for the people they represent, not for industries, nor for business. when the votes go more in favour of companies more often than not, rather than in favour of the people, it shows there is something else going on. we all know what that is, but no one seems to want to address that!!

Anonymous Coward says:

If I can’t really own it, I might as well not pay for it. I refuse to unlearn the principles of ownership that separated us from the Soviet Union. It’s like remnants of their old system are actively hijacking our system and are trying to revive their tyrannical failure of a system. They already have the same disregards towards due process, privacy, and criticism, and figured that ownership should be the next to go. Before you know it, we’ll all have to wait in line eight hours just to have ill-fitting Nike shoes and a week-old Big Mac.

anonymouse says:

Re: Re:

Agreed 100%…if i cannot own something then i am not going to pay money for it, that is basic economics, you have to sell something to someone to have the right to their money.

What could happen and what i think the copyright industry is afraid of is music becoming free yet again, like it was before the monopoly was granted to the Industry.

And for people saying music has never been free just remeber before recording of music people used to and still do use musical instruments to play for family and friends at parties and people used to play music for free and still do on the payvment, hopeing for donations from people passing by but not demanding it.

With digital media it is going to be hard for the industry to justify the prices they are askign for and the ridiculous prices for ebooks where 99% of the cost has been removed.

Greed is killing America at the movement , corruption in politics is very quickly destroying the economy, and copyright is going to go right down with them.

Don’t get me wrong, musicians will still make money, it will just not be from sales,The amount of money content creators make license fees is a drip in the water, the organizations controlling this money take almost everything from the creators.
Musicians make money from live shows and merchandise, although many studios are even taking that from them now.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Agreed 100%…if i cannot own something then i am not going to pay money for it, that is basic economics, you have to sell something to someone to have the right to their money.

How do you own an experience, asswipe? Does this mean you will never pay to go to the movie theater, a play, a concert or a sporting event. Ever go to an amusement park or get a massage? This is more of your lame justification to take something of value and give nothing in return, which is utterly shameful.

Anonymous Coward says:

Extrapolations Anyone?

This is probably alarmist, but just imagine this mindset in the future when 3D printers are common.

Now, anything you print on your own printer, with your own printing materials, is not yours.

It’s all just licensed, and the license can be revoked at any time.

Now your car, your house, whatever, is not yours.

The only thing you can “own” is land. They won’t be able to 3D print that. At least, not here on earth.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Extrapolations Anyone?

Same with your car. Don’t register it or pay the yearly tax and see what happens next time you drive it on the road.

Actually, the car isn’t an example of this. You can certainly own an unregistered car without fear. You just can’t take it on a public road — so the whole thing is more about the use of the roads than about car ownership itself.

Anonymous Coward says:

Cutural Impact

The harder it is to share culture the more fragmented society becomes, as culture is the shared myths and legends that underpin communication. Radio and the television were responsible for flattening language, and cultural variation within countries.
Successful DRM, alo0ng with a wider range of material being available, will reverse this process, as subgroups become defined by the type of culture they buy in common. Without an ability to freely share, the cultural boundaries will become harder, as their will be little or no leakage across the boundaries.

jupiterkansas (profile) says:

Re: Cutural Impact

This is a good point but I think the reverse is also true – sharing freely can also create diversity by allowing disparate peoples to find a common interest and build thriving sub-cultures.

Fortunately, we don’t have successful DRM, and there’s never been a time where culture has been more freely shared around the world. If I have a weird special interest, I can find others that share that interest, even if nobody I personally know shares that interest. This also runs counter to the flattening that radio and television has caused.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Cutural Impact

Being able to freely share is the main way that sub-cultures understand each other. If its free you can at least sample enough to gain an understanding of a sub culture. The special interests are a bonus, but broader cultural sharing, like manga helps to bridge between cultures. The more difficult this sort of sharing is made, the less differing cultures understand each other.
In western cultures, many black people choose to follow a very different cultural norms that their neighbors, and the problems this causes has been partially ameliorated by the music etc. that crosses the divide. Without this crossover, black culture would appear much more threatening.

Tim Griffiths (profile) says:

Re: Re: Cutural Impact

Diversity doesn’t have to mean fragmentation and unity does not have to mean a mono culture. It’s simply a case of the ability to share with each other and to have a common heritage.

A microcosm of this for example is the festival I played the other week. It’s a three day punk/ska festival put on by a friend of mine but there’s actually a rather diverse range of bands, lots of different types of punk, lots of different type of sk, lots of reggae and dub based stuff along with acoustic that anything from punk to folk to country.

The reason that happens, the reason that works, is that even things that you’d think are incredibly drivers, incredibly technical almost metal like punk being seen as part of a larger subculture with a laid back reggae/dub band is their strange common history and the places that they cross over, ska punk bands ect it’s a wonderful mix of different and ideas and it would be awfully boring if the scene broke it self down into just individual niche’s with out that common understanding.

That’s what I’m afraid of if we keep going down this road. That flow of culture ideas and cross over that produces more of itself is going to become increasely stagnated as people find it hard to introduce and be introduced to things outside of their tastes.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Cutural Impact

Not if appliances replace general purpose computers, and everything is packed into a single chip. If for instance MP3 and similar players had had 3G technology available, along with the CPU power to implement encryption, they could possibly have implemented successful DRM, along with cloud storage backup. Under those conditions it becomes possible to keep the protection going from end to end, and limit the files to the player and cloud backup.
It would be harder to do now, because people have becomes used to, and expect DRM free music.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Cutural Impact

That assumes that either analog recording devices or computers that domestic users can install any software they like on are readily available. The trend is definitely towards locked down devices, which could effectively reduce sharing to a dissident sub-culture, like the old bulletin board days.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Cutural Impact

the “analog hole” can just be the wires to a speaker / circuit board of a monitor, and the recording device the wires of a microphone / circuit board of a camera. telephones/videophones will never disappear; recording devices will always exist. Someone with a soldering iron will always find a way to make it work.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Cutural Impact

That assumes that either analog recording devices or computers that domestic users can install any software they like on are readily available.

No, it doesn’t. As the above AC said, it assumes that soldering irons exist.

The trend is definitely towards locked down devices, which could effectively reduce sharing to a dissident sub-culture, like the old bulletin board days.

That’s not how piracy works. How it really works is that one skilled pirate siphons off the data going to the display and speakers, copies the data to their computer, converts that to an unencumbered video file format, then shares it exactly the same way he shares a ripped DVD.

It only takes one.

sheenyglass (profile) says:

Its a good point. Although, there is a parallel in the history of real property law – the “fee tail”.

The fee tail was a real property interest held over from feudal times that was used to essentially keep land in the hands of an aristocratic family in order to maintain the irdynasty. The way it did this was to severely restrict what property rights one could transfer – each heir had a life estate, and on their death title would automatically pass to the next lineal heir of the original grantor. So the most you could sell was the right to use the property until you died.

The result was locking large swaths of land into an unproductive feudal/agrarian paradigm. For that reason, this was never implemented in the US to my knowledge and it’s abolishment in Britain was an important reform. Basically, we’ve realized that for property rights to function effectively in a market economy, there have to be limitations on what you can control after you’ve transferred something to someone else.

One of the major problems with “intellectual property” is that there are very few checks on it comparable to those that evolved for real and personal property (adverse possession is another great example).

Ed C. says:

Re: Re:

Thank you. I never knew the name for the concept of “hereditary property”, and it definitely cast the issues of copyright lasting generations into an interesting light. I’ve had the lingering impression that “intellectual property” was being used by publishers to warp copyright into a scheme of creating new “property” out of thin air, making themselves lord and master over its domain.

sheenyglass (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

No problem, glad you found it useful. As a sidenote, its often referred to as “entailed” property in literature, especially when Agatha Christie is explaining the motive for the murder of a lord by his long lost father’s brother’s nephew’s cousin’s former roommate.

Also I agree with you completely about the dangers of copyright subjecting our cultural life to a feudal tyrant.

The Real Michael says:

“When you buy a phone or an MP3, is it really yours?or has a company just loaned it to you with a laundry list of stipulations and provisos? The age of cloud computing is upon us, and soon most of our books, movies, and musics might have no material form. We may discover that buying something no longer means owning it in any meaningful sense?and our stuff isn’t really ours anymore.”

Hence why video game companies are also trying to do away with physical copies, because then they could maintain control after the initial purchase.

Corporates seem to hate the transferring of ownership which occurs once somebody gives them money, thus exposing a general contempt for the rights of the general public. They want for us to swallow the notion that we’re paying for temporary licenses rather than ownership.

If it ever devolves to the point where they no longer offer physical products, or ones which require online permission, they will never see another penny from me.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Agreed, though I get the feeling most of them wouldn’t care for the terms…

‘Oh, so I’m just licensing it, and not buying. In that case, knock 75% off the price, I’m not paying full price for something I don’t own afterwards.’

‘Since I’m licensing it, and therefor paying for access to the content, not the content itself, I fully expect you to replace it should I lose it at any point.’

(Regarding music, and just to twist the knife in the RIAA’s guts)
‘Since this is a license, and one of the main reasons I’m paying money for this song/album is to show my support for the artist, I fully expect you to pay ‘licensing’ rates to the artist, not ‘sale’, as paying them with ‘sale’ rates means it’s not in fact a license.’

Ninja (profile) says:

If it’s physical and you bought it is yours and you can do with it whatever you want. There should be no dispute here.

However in the digital realm it’s complicated. When you buy a CD it has been proven that very little go to the artist so basically you are paying for the material and the distribution. That said, it makes sense for you to pay for the a SERVICE that provides the digital content (ie: Netflix, The Pirate Bay – if it was paid) which replaces the distribution. You know, because there are costs associated to providing that service.

“But what about the artists?!” one might ask. It’s also known that Shakespeare (if memory serves) earned money from the performances of his stuff and by owning part of the theater in which those performances took place thus taking advantage of his own presence to make money, not the works themselves. The digital world poses some challenges to this model as the performances can be recorded. However I have yet to know somebody that won’t go crazy in expectation when their favorite performer comes to town. Techdirt has written ad nausean that there are other ways of monetizing any “intellectual” work and selling your own presence is one of the many. Building a fan base that throws money at you (patronize in a sense) is another.

The obvious conclusion is that intangible assets that can be copied to infinity should be free for private copying and rented for commercial purposes (very narrowly defined). There are nuances but generally for the entertainment part this is especially true.

The most prolific trolls will argue that why then we shouldn’t copy money. In a sense, the lack of a solid basis to support the value of the money makes it become useless and this is the main problem with stock markets. They ignore the physical parity much like intellectual property ignores there’s no physical asset tied to the digital goods other than the equipment they are currently written into. When you earn your wages the value of that money lies within your productive hours but those too are intangible. Ultimately the entire system needs to be rethought. But if we go with this simple truth, the artists should earn as much as the time they invested in their creation and these earnings should cease as soon as it became ready. This is also not the ideal scenario thus making the monetization of other aspects necessary.

The whole discussion is not an easy one and there will be no solution that will be optimal for all the sides. Still I’m sure there’s a middle ground that can be reached if sanity prevails…

Sry about my lack of cohesion.. I just threw a lot of thoughts in this comment ;/

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Copyright is not why people buy works from artists, they do so because they like the artists work and wish to support them in the production of more work. However they discover artists whose work they like by trying their work for free, or for a very low cost, or more rarely on the recommendation of a friend.

Tim Griffiths (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

The issue here is simple, the last 100 years have been really fucking weird in terms of how we consume culture. It became largely a mass market commodity and a physical one at that.

Lets talk about music, as it’s the most obvious and easiest to explain example. Most of us alive today think of a “song” in a fundamentally different way than people before us. A song has become a recording and a recording was, until lately, a physical object. In short a single tangible embodiment of two previously distinct aspects, a record of song (music notation say) and it’s performance.

That new idea quantified music and we became used to paying for a distinct ‘chunk’ of something as a result. We liked a song, we brought the song because that was the only way we’d have access to it as ‘the song’ rather than a ‘live’ version we’d pay to go see or music notation we’d pay to play ourselves.

In other words this new idea in culture was gated because it was tied to physical production. So what happens when we move past the physicality? We have to deal with this strange new idea of a ‘song’ outside of the physical body that idea was born with and it’s returned us to a very simple idea.

If songs are not longer a physical gated product then they can become output of a person again. If you don’t have to pay to access the content you still need to pay if you want that content created. This is in short patronage.

It was an idea that was previously bound up in selling individual physicality of individual songs or albums and all the problems today can come down to how the record industry misunderstood that while we had to buy the songs in the past to access that was never the sum total of why. In the new age in which that ‘had to’ is done away with only the other ‘why’ which remains is the support of the artist.

What we are seeing is a shift in how we consume and buy culture to reflect that. It’s a strange new and wonderful form of vastly egalitarian patronage. This decentralised support no longer requires a centralised gate keeping industry. Labels as they are are dead, we just have to hope they don’t decide to take every one else with them in their utter mad scramble to avoid the inevitable.

out_of_the_blue says:

(Sigh.) You've NEVER "owned" someone else's intellectual property.

Sheesh. Yet another false premise, It’s no wonder you’re SO deluded about copyright: your sense of entitlement makes you think you own a song for 99 cents!

But you live in a complex world, kids, where intellectual property is real enough to be easily distinguished in both common law and statute. — You little pirates actually DO know, and delight in the stealing, until you get caught!

Anyhoo, I’ll point out yet again that you simply need to adjust your notions: you DON’T own any part of someone else’s work, whether physical or intellectual, and you DON’T have any right to enjoy content without paying for the privilege.

‘copyright can often be anti-property rights, in that it takes away the standard types of “rights” that people have in property they’ve purchased.’ — See what you did, there? You can’t even write without quoting “rights”, because those you imagine you have in the content are not real, while those the creator has in his intellectual property ARE in common law and statute.

“Cummings’ piece focuses on the secondary market for copyright-covered content,” — DOUBLY STUPID: YOU HAVE NO RIGHTS IN THE CONTENT AS SUCH, ONLY IN THE MEDIA OR GADGETS.

At best, this piece merely points out increasing corporate control which is enabled by technology. And… yawn.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: (Sigh.) You've NEVER "owned" someone else's intellectual property.

your sense of entitlement makes you think you own a song for 99 cents!

The irony, it blinds me! Sure, it’s not a sense of entitlement to want to control what a person can do with something they paid for. You are NOT entitled to any sort of control to a song I paid for. Regardless of who created it.

you DON’T own any part of someone else’s work

Yes you do. If you paid for said work you do.

you DON’T have any right to enjoy content without paying for the privilege

This has absolutely nothing to do with the article. I’ve paid to have a determined digital content then I have the right to sell it to somebody else (I am considering it will be deleted afterwards if we are talking about IP in the same sense as real property). NOBODY has to pay you for the “used” song. And honestly, considering we pay levies for blank media then I can enjoy whatever I want, it has been paid already.

because those you imagine you have in the content are not real, while those the creator has in his intellectual property ARE in common law and statute.

His rights are as real as your damned creator concerning the digital content. The fact that your rotten masters went through all sorts of douchebaggery to stack the deck for the COPYRIGHT HOLDERS (not the creators) and left the other side, the customers, in some limbo does not mean these customers should not have rights over what they purchased.

You are a despicable piece of entitled shit.

Anonymous Howard (profile) says:

Re: Re: (Sigh.) You've NEVER "owned" someone else's intellectual property.

IMHO Intellectual Property is an artificial thing.

Let’s take an example:
You see/buy a piece of furniture. Someone had it, now you own it, and you can do what you will with it.
Yes, that’s include copying it, selling it (even for profit), renting it etc.

A table is not considered IP (you could argue that the design is, but fuck you), so people see no problem with replicating it.

Then we came to this: music, movies, other intangible things are became so easily reproductible, that their creators whined until an artificial thing called “IP” created. Which is basically says you own the idea behind a tangible product, and others can’t “take it away” without your consent. Which is ridiculous.

Imagine the following:
You craft a table, with your specific design. Your neighbor sees it, and he craft his own table, which is similar to yours. Is that bad, illegal or frowned upon? No, because he used his own materials, did the hard work of creating it. He practically used “your idea”, but did the replication himself.

Now substitute “table” with a plastic disk and “design” with music, and see how our world upturns.

Owning ideas is BS. If you can’t do something useful and profitable with your idea, then don’t whine when others do.

The content industry’s problem is that they still think replicating something and selling it is what should be profitable.
If you could copy a furniture with 2 clicks of a mouse, every carpenter would starve, or would have to adapt to the new tech, because replication would not be profitable anymore. Creating custom furniture (As a software developer, I don’t give a damn about someone copying our product. The real value is the service we provide to our customer: new features they ask for). Providing easy access and support for furniture. Whatever you want. (and honestly, it’s not OUR job to find out how YOU will profit from your work. Nobody is entitled to profit just because he did something.)

Dean William Barnes (profile) says:

Re: (Sigh.) You've NEVER "owned" someone else's intellectual property.

Wow. You need to come back down to earth. Because someone feels entitled to something that they purchased does automatically identify that person as a pirate. As for artistic creations becoming intellectual property that remains the property of its creator, remember that this IP concept is only a recent creation. At one time, copies of artistic works WERE commissioned from an artist and became the property of the benefactor, to be traded or sold at the new owners whim. SO contrary to your statement, people who feel an entitlement to copies of artistic creations have quite a number of years of history behind them. It is certainly true that the digital age has clouded the issues. I think progress has been made in the creation of this IP concept, but it has gone too far the other way and there needs to be a balance. Those important benefactors are still needed and I can certainly see the frustration and the need to rebel by those who would otherwise be law abiding citizens. So come down to earth and understand the problem before you comment. It makes you look childish and ignorant. I don’t think you are. But then I am not everyone.

Karl (profile) says:

Re: (Sigh.) You've NEVER "owned" someone else's intellectual property.

your sense of entitlement makes you think you own a song for 99 cents!

Copyright allows the rights holder to determine what consumers can do with their own property after they have legally bought it on an open market.

And you think consumers are the ones with a sense of “entitlement?”

intellectual property is real enough to be easily distinguished in both common law and statute.

It bears repeating – once again – that there is no common law copyright. There never was.

You need to get this idea out of your head, because it’s absolutely, 100% wrong.

you DON’T own any part of someone else’s work, whether physical or intellectual,

Nobody owns the “intellectual” part of someone else’s work, not even the artist.

They are granted statutory monopoly rights over certain parts of their “intellectual” output – expression, in the case of copyright.

But that monopoly is not absolute, nor does it cover all parts of “intellectual” output. You can’t copyright anything other than expression. You have a First Amendment right to fair use of a work. You have a property right to do as you please with your possessions, such as reselling them.

There’s an old saying: “your rights end at the tip of my nose.” Copyright doesn’t follow that saying. It is nothing other than an infringement on the free speech and property rights of the public.

If you want a picture of copyright, imagine a fist hitting the public’s nose ? forever.

Greevar (profile) says:

Re: (Sigh.) You've NEVER "owned" someone else's intellectual property.

I’ll say this once and for all: You don’t own what you create.

You never have and you never will. Copyright grants the right to determine how a work is distributed and by what terms, but it does not make the works yours. Those works were made from the raw materials of your host culture. It belongs to everyone and can never be the exclusive property of any person. So, it makes no sense whatsoever that you act so indignant against people that supposedly are violating the “property” of the creators. Not getting paid for copies? Well, why don’t you just get people to pay for the time invested in creating directly? Nobody can “steal” your time and will to create.

It is of the utmost arrogance to demand tribute from the public for the remixed content. No, you have no logical (emphasis on logical) right to demand people pay you for access to their own culture. As an artist, one exchanges the service of creating new content for pay, but not for the subsequent copies.

As I have said many times, selling content is like building a house on a state park that is built with materials derived from the local area and renting the place for private profit. As with culture, you have taken something that belongs to everyone and claimed it for your own use to leverage for personal gain.

“…you DON’T have any right to enjoy content without paying for the privilege.”

I sure do have the right! It’s my culture and I have every right to it. If you wanted to be paid, you should have solicited us before you published it. You should have sold the labor you put into it so that you get paid for something you made since you certainly should not be able to sell our own culture to us simply because you unjustly claim it is yours by right of remixing.

It’s you people that are the parasites. You are the ones that take that which is not yours, claim it as your property, and coerce us to pay you for what is our own common wealth.

ottermaton (profile) says:

Re: (Sigh.) You've NEVER "owned" someone else's intellectual property.

I don’t have to go any further than the subject line to prove that your entire tirade is full of shit. I’ll try to make this as simple as possible:

“Intellectual” and “property” are two words than can not go together. Period. It’s easy enough to prove. OOTB, I have an idea of making a flying car fueled by pixie dust and rainbows.

Now, since I’ve “given” you my idea, I want you to give it back. It’s my “property”. Give it back, damn you!

See, if were actual property you could. Since it’s not you can’t. Thus, no property.

Game. Set. Match.

Greevar (profile) says:

Re: Re: (Sigh.) You've NEVER "owned" someone else's intellectual property.

I just think of this when I hear the mention of IP:

“If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of everyone, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density at any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation. Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property.” – Thomas Jefferson

arkiel (profile) says:

My biggest problem with the collapse of property rights into licensture (right now) is that the licensee’s rights can be revoked by the licensor for no reason whatsoever. Over on Steam, we’ve been putting a lot of discussion into whether the TOS contemplates terminating all extant licenses should the service be terminated…

The reason the above is my biggest problem with licensure is that people are going to treat the things they buy like property regardless of the bullshit a company’s lawyers has cooked up.

Also, You say “end of property rights,” and I think “end of moral obligation to buy my goods, commence moral obligation to pirate my goods.”

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re:

That. I tend to see online games for instance as some sort of “rental”. I may pay to play but nowadays I REFUSE to buy digital goods because they are not mine. I have no problem with paying for the maintenance of the service (servers, connection) when needed but buy and not own in a manner that you can use? No thanks. World of Warcraft was the last I ever paid for the privilege of not owning something de facto.

big al says:

free legal digital music....all you want!!!!

anyone with a hd radio has all the “free” digital music in the world…..nothing changed when FM radio went to a digital
signal…. same songs, same stations , same dj’s…

to make a point just because the word “digital” appears does not change the rights of a person to own paid for goods…

i buy it … i own it… or they keep it !!!!!

Greevar (profile) says:

Re: free legal digital music....all you want!!!!

Digital as in files capable of being transmitted over the internet, not digital radio. Radio is a one-way street. The internet is much more than that. You can’t share on the radio. They transmit and you passively observe. The internet is an active medium. Others publish, you observe and you publish while others observe.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

In all fairness, I’ve directly spoken with my congress-critter. The subjects he votes for/against and feels strongly about, I honestly don’t really worry about. That isn’t to say I don’t plead my case with him on something I feel strongly about (SOPA/PIPA/Patriot Act/etc). The major issue is that when push comes to shove, each person has their area of expertise. I’m certainly not informed about ObamaCare, and in all honesty doesn’t effect me as a network/systems administrator to give my whole devotion to a cause in which I can’t argue for or against. What “grinds my gears” is when the specially selected individuals of the Intelligence Committee for which I couldn’t have a say in, votes to violate the constitutional rights of every American, and only a select few can vote them out of office.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Yet they keep getting re-elected. Here’s a thought: Maybe you piracy apologists and chronic malcontents aren’t the majority. Or if you are, perhaps you are too fucking lazy to vote. But if you look at these legislators that are regularly subject to criticism here in Techdirtbag Nation, you’ll notice that they are pretty much all multi-term incumbents. Does that say anything to you numb nuts?

Steve R. (profile) says:

The Concept of Sale is Being Eliminated

Normally when you buy a product, you acquire the property right to use that product. Now the “sellers” claim that you are only “leasing” that product and if you violate the “Terms of Service” that they can take an adverse action against you. But it only gets worse, these companies are begging to obtain the police powers of the State to criminalize and enforce a violation of the “Terms of Service”

Anonymous Coward says:

Here is the irony, if people actually owned their digital goods and watermarks were used to identify transactions and prove ownership a lot of people would actually take care to not mess with it, as things stand watermarking is only used to create liability and thus everyone try their best to actually get rid of it.

Oh irony, all those bad things the industry doesn’t like are the things that actually could help them.

Deprive everybody else of rights and soon nobody will respect those who hold any “rights”.

Personally I don’t care, legally or illegally, if I paid for I will use it as I see fit, not as I was told.

Charlie says:


I bought a laptop a couple of days ago. Setting it up, I read part of the end user license agreement. Part of it said (paraphrasing) that I could only sell my laptop with the (included and preinstalled) Acer software on it if I notified Acer in writing first. No, I don’t need permission. But I need to notify them? In writing?

Dear Acer, I just sold your piece of shit computer to some dumb c*** who thought it was worth more than a used condom. Just letting you know, as per the EULA.

Anonymous Coward says:

Ironically, the only reason I JB’d my iPhone was to get VLC, which happily today is going to be available on the App Store. Of course being the “Pirate” that I am, I also purchased from Cyndia, iFile, so I could easily transfer video’s to my device. I swear that Copyright companies have no idea what they are doing. If they simply let people own things, I’m almost positive that piracy would decrease dramatically. When Valve talked about starting up a used game store, I thought we might have actually broke the barrier but sadly I’m sure it was publishers that fought tooth and nail to stop it.(link) The end result of course is more of the same.

wwwarea says:

When information is property - the right way

Don’t forget the right to do whatever you want with something you found on the Internet and downloaded it for free, especially if it was released for free without restrictions. Just saying. 😛

Of course, information isn’t (Might be under Law) property of one main group, the single information of being shared isn’t. But it can be property of each of your own copy, like say you had an idea (Even if you got it from somewhere else), you own that single copy but only that copy in your head and more if you created copies of it in your head. If someone else copies it, they also own that copy but you your self still owns the one in your own head, not the others. I think the same goes for digital too, free or not. And of course, people who copy for free or not would legitimately own that copy because they didn’t “remove” anything away. Of course, I might of got a lot of information about something like this from this article from Nina Paley I think.

So yeah, legally or not, Intellectual Property can pretty much violate any property right.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Why don’t you explain it asshole? Are you saying the property of monopolies need not be respected? If that is the case, you believe it’s OK to steal power from the electric company, gas from the local natural gas monopoly, etc.

So lets hear it, unless you are just another mindless parrot screeching in the background.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

THe correct anology would be if I used solar panels to make my own electricity instead of paying for what the electric company produced.

I respect the property rioghts of monopoly holders, but that dfoesn’r mean I respect the monopoly myself.

Monopoly in this case is being able to stop others from producing their own instances of a thing with their own materials while property is having right to dictate only in regards to your own materials

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...