Innovation Is Hard

I’ve read two articles in the last 24 hours that seem profoundly important. Both of them suggest that we are a somewhat lazy species—we aren’t really interested in putting in the hard work to change the world. The first article entitled Infinite Stupidity, by the great evolutionary biologist, Mark Pagel. Read the whole piece, but here is his thesis.

A tiny number of ideas can go a long way, as we’ve seen. And the Internet makes that more and more likely. What’s happening is that we might, in fact, be at a time in our history where we’re being domesticated by these great big societal things, such as Facebook and the Internet. We’re being domesticated by them, because fewer and fewer and fewer of us have to be innovators to get by. And so, in the cold calculus of evolution by natural selection, at no greater time in history than ever before, copiers are probably doing better than innovators. Because innovation is extraordinarily hard. My worry is that we could be moving in that direction, towards becoming more and more sort of docile copiers.

If only a few people in the society have to be innovators and their innovations flow more from ideas than massive factories or deployed capital, then maybe we should be a little more protective of intellectual property. I’ve been having a battle with the Copyleft mob on Twitter (@JTTaplin) over an interview of the doyenne of copying as art, Nina Paley. 

“Intellectual disobedience is civil disobedience plus intellectual property,” Paley explained. “A lot of people infringe copyright and they’re apologetic … If you know as much about the law as, unfortunately, I do, I cannot claim ignorance and I cannot claim fair use … I know that I’m infringing copyright and I don’t apologize for it.”

Ms. Paley cannot claim fair use, because she copies whole sections of other artists work to construct her “original” work. I may have been a little rough with Paley over what she claims to be art, but the main point is that to call this act of theft “civil disobedience” is an insult to Thoreau, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King. What human right is Paley asserting with her civil disobedience? The right to steal other artists work? I don’t get it.

That brings me to the second article, written by one of my favorite writers, John Ralston Saul. Saul is wondering why so little has been accomplished in the half century of the environmental movement. And like Pagel, he reaches the conclusion that we would rather let someone else do the hard work.

We believe we live in an era of facts and of proofs. Yet what we don’t feel able to take on has little to do with those facts and proofs. It has everything to do with a failure of imagination.

The first error has to do with misunderstanding the nature of power. The environmental era mirrors almost exactly that of the rise of the NGOs. Why? The central characteristic of the globalist era is that we came to believe the power of the citizenry had been weakened by the power of economics. We gradually accepted that the power of national politics was therefore limited. It followed that the power to ignore the public good was international and amorphous in the sense that it had to do with broad economic assumptions. In that case, the best way to fight back was also international. And since there were no international representative legislative institutions devoted to the public good, well then, we would devote ourselves to creating institutions that would set the global agenda, our contemporary NGO army.

These new institutions would not have actual power – the power to act. But they would speak for us all, for the shared public good. And those devoted to the international economic interests would have to listen. We convinced ourselves that the persistent sound would be too loud to be ignored by those with power.

Except they didn’t listen to these NGOs. And they didn’t – don’t – have to listen. After all, economics is power. Real power. The NGOs – the new institutions of the public good – have only influence. Influence can have periodic successes. But this is a weak hand to play if you have other options. Imagine if the tens of millions of hours devoted to influencing power and opposing power had been devoted to taking power. Imagine if the millions of NGO members had joined political parties and virtually taken them over. That is how change is actually made – through political parties, elections, governments and laws.

 Think about the Occupy Movement last year. What if all that energy had gone into taking over local Democratic Parties and reinvigorating them with young voters? What if all the culture-jammers who got so upset about SOPA had actually gotten involved politically? But it’s so much easier to sign an online petition.
Pagel may be right that we are engaged in a devolutionary infinite stupidity. But ultimately Saul has the more important point. Economics is power and the only way to counter the control of the 1% over government is to engage in electoral politics. If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.
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81 Responses to Innovation Is Hard

  1. alex says:

    jon, have you read jane jacobs’ “the coming dark age” before? seems like that lady was quite prescient about our capacity to forget what we’ve learned and hunker down in the muck of superstition and ignorance…

  2. len says:

    The tool shapes the hand that uses it. Old news.

    Right click your mouse over a web page (assuming you have a mouse with a right click). Do you see a command called “View Source”?

    The rapid emergence and deployment of the web was largely made possible by that command.

    We worked our butts off to ensure there was a way to get information out there in a form that it couldn’t be put behind a wall irretrievably not to damage the information ecosystems but to ensure they could breathe and breed. Our examples were the NASA Mariner data tapes that died in wet basements because we no longer had the machines that could play them.

    Integration was a hard problem then. Long life cycle information was a hard problem. Now they are trivial… and burning down the corn fields.

    Almost everything we have to do now involves reconstructing those garden walls and reopening the basements to protect information from breathing and breeding. It wasn’t that we didn’t know. It was that some vainly hoped the collateral damage was acceptable. And that is what artists and art are: collateral.

    No free lunch. No matter how you organize if you operate in proximate space, elites and owners will emerge to ensure the docility of the little people. And most of us are… little people, so if we look at the calls to join this or that movement we can be pretty sure that at the end of it, there will simply be new bosses.

    And that is why we don’t care. We don’t have to. That IS the virtue of selfishness.

  3. richard says:

    “Ms. Paley cannot claim fair use, because she copies whole sections of other artists work to construct her ‘original’ work.”

    I’m sorry, but the only possible explanation for this statement is that you have never actually seen any of Nina Paley’s work. I do not say this as verbal abuse or an attempt to impugn your opinion; I say this because your statement is simply factually incorrect. You’re attacking a Nina Paley who exists only in your imagination. As the saying goes, you’re entitled to your own opinion but you aren’t entitled to your own facts.

    The entirety of Sita Sings the Blues is available to view here, for anyone who wishes to see the work of an artist before mischaracterizing her career:

  4. Jon Taplin says:

    Many of the images and all of the music in Sita Sings the Blues are “appropriated” from other sources and then animated. Whether she paid for any of the material is between her and the original creators.

  5. richard says:

    A clarification is needed here. Are you asserting that the use of recognizable likenesses of Rama, Sita, Ravana, et al as drawn by Nina Paley are by definition “appropriated” from their original context in religious iconography…or are you saying that Nina Paley doesn’t draw her work and simply animates drawings that she’s stolen from visual artists without attribution? If the latter, citation please? I’ve followed the progress of Sita for many years now and I’ve never once before seen it claimed that Paley didn’t do the art.

    And again: have you actually watched Sita Sings the Blues yourself — or are you simply assuming, based on her interviews and articles, that what she does is nothing more than sampling or remixing the work of others?

  6. Jon Taplin says:

    I watched the whole movie two years ago when Public Knowledge gave her an award for her stance on IP policy. I watched some of it again just now. I still find it amazingly pretentious.

  7. Fentex says:

    I still find it amazingly pretentious.

    This does not answer the direct and easily comprehended question of whether or not you are accusing Nina Paley of copying images instead of drawing them herself.

    It instead suggests you are claiming that creating art that references iconography is unworthy appropriation of others work, which seems a preposterous position for anyone who has worked in the arts to take.

  8. Fentex says:

    I think Ralston is mistaken and much environmental agitation has been a success for I recall the effort to replace fluorocarbons and have seen the recovery of rivers, the fading of smog and the establishment of recycling interests.

    And yet I know where I live rivers are under new pressures from intensified farming.

    Our problem with the environment is not that we don’t succeed in treating it better but that we have a constant drive for more that turns any protection of a resource into a more efficient exploitation.

  9. richard says:

    Well that definitely proves you watched the film with a completely open mind, in no way predisposed to dislike it automatically because of your disdain for her views. Glad we got that cleared up.

    However, if you’ve actually seen the film in its entirety, that just makes it all the more baffling that you mischaracterize it so thoroughly. Do you assume many visuals were appropriated because they use so many different visual styles? Are you aware that talented visual artists are capable of creating pictures in more than one style? Oh, but if you accept that premise, how do we reconcile this with your assertion that Nina Paley has no talent? Clearly the images must all be appropriated! Problem solved…so long as we ignore all the preparatory work and sketches and character designs and all the other work by Paley’s hand before and since that looks a lot like the visuals in this film. If you’re in possession of documents that prove her a fraud I can’t imagine why you’re keeping them secret.

    As to all of the music being “appropriated,” I’m a little confused there as well. If a filmmaker enters into a contract with a composer for her film score, has that music been “appropriated”? Until the End of the World is one of my favorite films; by your definition, did Wenders appropriate the title song for the film from U2? When the lovely and much missed Solveig Dommartin sings along with “Summer Kisses, Winter Tears” is she appropriating from Elvis Presley? Or is Julee Cruise? What about Graeme Revell, who played the same role in that film that Todd Michaelsen did for Paley?

    But then we come to the question of the songs by Annette Henshaw. If you truly watched the film, you saw a lucid explanation of why they’re part of the story and, in fact, are necessary to story. Paley did have to go through protracted negotiations for the right to use them in the film, and these negotiations are amply documented online. She certainly didn’t claim them as her own work, or resell them under false pretenses, or remix or mash them up or anything else that would correspond to any definition of “appropriation” I can find.

    You’re entitled to find the film pretentious, or boring, or silly — and you’re entitled to feel exactly the same about Nina Paley. But if you just make stuff up, factual things that can be refuted by anyone with an Internet connection, you can expect someone will do so. My advice to you is, stop digging the hole deeper.

  10. Karl Fogel says:

    You wrote

    “Many of the images and all of the music in Sita Sings the Blues are ‘appropriated’ from other sources”

    There’s plenty of original music in “Sita Sings the Blues”, and it’s freely licensed too, so you can share it. You can even buy the soundtrack CD from our store — and the musicians get a cut if you do (not a huge amount of money, I hasten to add, but then that’s the norm in record sales under restrictive copyright too; percentage-wise we’re actually a better deal). Here’s the link:

    As other commenters have pointed out, there’s plenty of original animation too. Not that copying would imply bad art, or that derivation is somehow the opposite of creativity anyway.

    It’s fine if you don’t like the movie, but that’s no reason to spread easily-disprovable misinformation about it.

    Re Mark Pagel’s alleged insight: “…at no greater time in history than ever before, copiers are probably doing better than innovators…” That’s a strange statement, and I know of know basis for it in biological history. An important lesson of evolution by natural selection is that most innovations fail. Whether Pagel’s odd reasoning can be applied to human art is a separate question. Should Giuseppe Verdi have paid royalties to Shakespeare’s estate for the opera “Otello”? Do you think “Otello” is a lesser opera because its plot and characters are not original?

    Why do you valorize innovation so much? I don’t think either artists or audiences are generally seeking “innovation”. They’re seeking art.

  11. Karl Fogel says:

    (Sorry: “know” should be “no” up there — I can’t edit the comment, but please feel free to if you want and delete this followup.)

  12. JTMcPhee says:

    “Innovation” is one of those New People Shibboleths, like “free market economy,” that seems to exist mostly as a reification and deification of principles (I use the word advisedly) that lead to or justify accumulations of money and clout.

    A new class of antibiotics, that leapfrogs the inevitable, inexorable genetic self-advancing anti-antibiotic responses of the current crops of pathogens and maybe holds at bay for a little while longer the advent of bigger and better plagues, might be considered an “innovation,” but so would the research that would try to turn that set of molecules into weapons, or animal feed “improvements” (to be “introduced” and hyper-marketed and profited from (including the “profit” that gushes from a zillion externalities) just ahead of the interventions of The Damned Regulators.

    “What’s good for General Bullmoose is good for everyone else.” The thing about General Bullshit is that you can always define your sets and parameters and “goodness” in a way that comes out with a less obnoxious but even more noxious money-“triumph” for some little set of rent-seekers. And of course in the Moral Universe as designed by cripples like Krauthammer and Donald Trump, the Right Result always involves a negative-sum game masquerading as something less toxic. It ain’t like a mean-ass reactionary like Al Capp did not find moral shortcomings and malice and hazards in the Marketworld, even:

  13. len says:

    Semi-critical analysis of L’il Abner looking for its moral basis is like looking for the life saving features of a car lighter, JTMC.

    And we are not hillbilly rednecks. We are Appalachian-Americans. :)

    (appropriated from a card found on Facebook).

    Metadata standards. Innovate opportunities. OTW, all you’ll be doing is paying lawyers to apply laws that corroding faster than the checks can be written.

  14. Gwenn says:

    Mark Pagel is deeply mistaken. Copying has always been essential to the creation of culture–at least as essential as innovating because it creates the conditions in which innovation can happen. He (and you?) need to read Susan Blackmore’s book The Meme Machine.

  15. Nick says:

    Copyleft is a share-alike licence for software that relies on Copyright and make the source code available. It started to emerge in 1976 and was then expanded on by Richard Stallman in 1988. It is not a “mob.” Please educate yourself on this if you are to be taken seriously on this topic. We prefer the term copyfighters. I and most other commenters of this post are copyfighters. Right now I am copyfighting. We fight for the right to copy by advocating copyright policy reform that is more in line to accepted social norms, where “limited time” and “for the public benefit” really mean what they say in the Constitution.

    Taplin, to assume any output by artists who are supporters of copyright reform are misappropriating or plagiarizing content from other sources is intellectually weak on your part.

  16. Gwenn says:

    Also, I’m watching Pagel’s video (the one you linked to) and it’s funny to me how people who embrace copyright are among the “docile copiers” that Pagel seems to be referring to. After all, copyrighters are just doing what everyone else is doing, not thinking about the ramifications of IP law and certainly not trying to innovate but instead simply accepting traditional modes of thought as correct!

  17. Alex Bowles says:

    @Karl Fogel In looking for a biological basis for Pagel’s remarks, you may have missed the point of his piece which has to do with the way that ideas evolve independently from biology – and at an astonishingly faster rate – while influencing the biological realm through our participation in it.

    In essence, humans are the point of intersection between two distinct evolutionary domains that don’t operate under similar conditions. As humans, as you know, have recently created the Internet; a globe-spanning network with billions of nodes already active, and many more coming online in very short order. It is, in essence, a giant copy machine that is quickly permeating the lives of everyone with relatively uninterrupted access to electricity.

    Because this systems creates so little friction, a little goes a long way in terms of groundbreaking developments. At the same time, it doesn’t impose reciprocal relationships. This makes the ability to recover the costs of creative work much harder. It also complicates efforts to build the hedges that allow for riskier, more speculative efforts. In this regard, prevailing conditions are tending towards a situation that gives copiers much while asking very little in return.

    @Gwenn “All artists copy” is an incredibly simplistic argument. I mean, it’s true on one level. But it obscures the more relevant truth that not all artists rely on equal amounts of source material copied from others. Nor does is account for the difference between what they start with and what they finish with. Consider, for instance, what Jimi Hendrix did with the Blues. Now consider taking an unlicensed performance by Hendrix and looping it into the soundtrack for a Chevy Malibu. Not the same thing, regardless of how “artistic” the director of that spot thinks he’s being.

  18. Gwenn says:

    It’s not just artists who copy. We all do. It’s how all culture (art, technology, religion, language…) becomes valuable and then eventually evolves. A fuller explanation:

  19. Alex Bowles says:

    @Gwenn No argument there. Copying is, quite literally, in our DNA. Replication, after all, is how DNA works. It’s what we do naturally and we’re insanely good at it. That capacity has been essential to our development as a species. Indeed (and this is per Pengel) it may well be the thing that separates us from all other species.

    This is basic stuff. What’s not so basic is creating something worth copying. So while it’s true that everyone copies, it is not true that everyone originates, at least not to any significant degree. And while it’s also true that every originator uses some pre-existing material, it’s not true that all originators rely on what they begin with equally, or that they adapt their source material to more or less the same degree.

    In other words, even while acknowledging the essential role played by copying in all creative work, it remains possible to identify a full spectrum of original contributions, from so-slight-as-to-be-barely-noticeable to so-transformative-it-alters-the-trajectory-of-the-art-itself.

    As you approach the latter end of the spectrum, the work gets harder, the risks get bigger, the demand for rare talent gets greater, and the number of people willing and able to do it and support it becomes vanishingly small. A lot of that reluctance is because none of these people, no matter how disciplined, capable, confident, or accomplished really know what they’re doing – at least not when they start. They are figuring it out as they go, and doing so without the benefit of clear references or well established pathways.

    Not because they want to, but because they have to, since whatever it is they feel possessed by isn’t something with any clear precedents. So they originate.

  20. len says:

    My problem with Gwenn and others is the failure to call for responsible copying. Even SharePoint can send an email when an action is taken on a resource.

    If we had a way to notify and request, we’d have a way to use copying responsibly. Instead the technologists recruit the artists to do the dirty work of promoting frames such as the so-called censorship code instead of talking about how we could responsibly implement it.

    And that is why we cannot get out of the chinese finger puzzle.

  21. Gwenn says:

    @Alex: I think that everyone who believes in copyright automatically underemphasizes the importance of copying in culture-making. Your argument seems to acknowledge the importance of copying, but ultimately you say of innovators that “these people, no matter how disciplined, capable, confident, or accomplished really know what they’re doing – at least not when they start.”

    And I see what you’re saying–innovation does feel lonely sometimes–but it really isn’t. Every car manufacturer isn’t starting again with the wheel. On some level they do know what they’re doing, because of everyone who’s come before. I think the “lonely genius” is an appealing character, but not a reality.

    And all of this isn’t me saying that innovators shouldn’t be compensated–far from it! I just don’t believe that copyright is the way to do it. Believing in copyright is being one of the docile followers that Pagel bemoans.

    @Len: Hi, I’m Gwenn, the person you’re including in your sweeping generalizations! :) And I’m here to tell you that I do like people taking responsibility for their actions as well as creating a culture where doing just that is valued. I do not, however, like technologies forcing people to take responsibility. That sort of thing gets out of hand pretty quickly and doesn’t make culture the better for it.

  22. len says:

    A witlessly fielded technology also gets out of hand pretty quickly, Gwenn, and people do get hurt. Yours is also a sweeping generalization and it suits a point of view that what can be copied will be. The US Constitution allows for that within bounds that have been interpreted.

    I admire the techniques applied to create Sita Sings The Blues. I don’t think it art for the centuries nor has it actually innovated the crafts practiced. It is fun. Pop art. Innovative? Not really but I don’t think that actually matters here. IMO, Jon’s sources go overboard on that point. The Beatles and The Beach Boys ripped Chuck Berry licks straight off the vinyl and used them in new songs. We’ve had that debate here in this forum for a few years now and most of us know where quotation starts and ends and copyright violations do the same.

    A stop light at an intersection forces you to take responsibility by making it clear what the right choice is and when to make it. There is a difference between censorship and using technology to ensure technology is applied within the bounds of the law. Trying to set a frame for one as the other is misdirection in the simple case and egregious falsehood in another. I expect the courts to sort this out better as they have in the past. Meanwhile technologists who do take responsibility will be working on helping the digital technologies work to enable opportunities to innovate within the legal framework.

  23. John Papola says:

    Both of them suggest that we are a lazy species—we aren’t really interested in putting in the hard work to change the world.

    Is there any statement that can more easily and obviously refuted by simply looking out the window? Seriously. Look at what humans have do to change the world, for both good and ill. Give me a break.

    And thank GOD “so little” has been accomplished by the “environmental movement”. The world has gotten dramatically cleaner, safer and healthier for hundreds of millions of people despite the efforts of the anti-humanity, regressive “environmental movement” which treats humans as if we’re a parasite making mother Gaia scream in pain. It’s a movement that ignores the nature of reality as one of constant dynamism and enormous change. It’s a movement of stasis and against human progress even as it steals the language of progress for its retro-grade agenda.

    We should seek institutions that at all times to capture externalized costs like pollution and force those doing the externalizing to pay for and repair the damage they do. But we should not act as if humans and their creations are somehow not part of the “environment” or that there is so purpose for the earth without humans (or with dramatically fewer humans) on it.

    Sadly, the “environmental movement” has caused enough damage to innovation and dynamism that a fair measure of our current stagnation has it to thank… A good measure of the rest of our stagnation can likely be attributed to creative lock-down being inflicted by so-called “intellectual property rights”. When some corporation can acquire a monopoly grant from the government for Basmati rice or the human genome, it should be a stark reminder that the state is NOT on the side of the public good.

    And sorry, Big Media… you should use strong encryption and trade secrets and different business models like vertical integration to make a living… NOT monopoly grants for the government. Cry me a river. We’re headed to a world where no collection of words can be uttered without some corporation claiming “rights” to them by way of the state. We’re headed towards a world where the likelihood of being sued by some mega-firm, empowered by the state, prevents anyone from ever trying anything.

    IP has become the equivalent of mediaeval shoemaker trade guilds who would burn down the home of any creative young man who could figure out a way to make a better shoe. It is the saboteur of innovation today far more often than the inciting agent.

  24. John Papola says:

    PS… I will acknowledge that lots of activity on behalf of improving environmental quality has been healthy and good and has gone towards capturing those externalized costs. I’m not against such activity at all. Cleaning up rivers by forcing a polluting to do so on behalf of those downstream is an unqualified good thing. I’m against the “movement” ideology that treats humanity itself and our creations as pestilence. I’m against the Paul Ehrlichs and John Holdrens of the world with their eugenics-like ideas about population control and sterilization as if we are locusts to be contained.

    As for Erin Brockovich… you go girl. That’s the good stuff.

  25. Nick says:

    @John Papola
    Hi John. You mention of mediaeval shoemaker trade guilds who would burn down the homes innovators reminds me of this great post about 17th century button makers.

  26. Rick Turner says:

    One of the strangest experiences for me was working for a major guitar manufacturer (whose name I’ll not mention) as the head of the West Coast R&D division and having worthy ideas shot down…ideas like a digital modeling guitar amp…my chief electronics designer demonstrated a “Marshall stack” in an IBM desk top computer in 1989. We could have been first on the market by several years, but no, the concept was shot down, while the company went out and bought…and in a Bain-like manner, destroyed a number of small innovative companies.

    The corporate culture was poisonous to idea development, though lip service was paid to the concept, and the CEO and marketing director liked to tell people that we were deep into R&D. The production environment was also poisonous to new thought or new materials; I was told that carbon fiber could not be bonded to wood, for instance, by the production manager. When I told him that megabuck racing yachts were being made from mahogany and carbon fiber, he had nothing to say. When I presented a new design for acoustic guitar amplification, I was asked to make something that looked like what the biggest Japanese acoustic-electric guitar company was doing because it looked cool and it was what the kids were buying this year. That was called “market driven”…which I took to mean “next year, we’re going to copy what our competition came out with last year…”

    Two companies that are able to keep R&D and innovation happening are Bose and, of course, Apple Computers. The fire in the belly of the founders is alive and well at both companies, and that is the key.

  27. Nick says:

    @Rick Turner
    Wow Rick, I know exactly who you are talking about. There is a community that still uses one of the products who company was purchased by this company and we just love railing about how stupid they are to this day. Our product was mode obsolete in 1998 when the company was purchase, all R&D and product development ceased. Many of us are still using this old technology because we are not completely satisfied by what is available today. You have to wonder if they were just after patents which still I have not seen them use in their own products or as patent trolls. But I am sure you loved it last year, as we all did, when a certain US govt body went after this company. Who know karma wood 😉 come back to get them? We sure did.

  28. Rick Turner says:

    The first wood bust may have been legit; the second one is utter bullshit. They didn’t have anything that every other guitar company in America has…loads of raw Indian rosewood fingerboards. There was a coding error on the import forms…the US thought that the fingerboard blanks should have been worked more in India (yeah, outsourcing…), and then there’s that utterly absurd clause in the Lacey act requiring the US government to uphold laws of foreign countries…that are not understood nor interpreted correctly. The Indian government signed off on the correctness of the fingerboards, but US Fish and Wildlife got it wrong. I suspect that both cases were instigated by some disgruntled ex-employee with a brother in law or cousin or some such in just the right department to call down the heat on it all. The folks who brokered getting that wood in India are friends of mine. It was all totally legit.

  29. Alex Bowles says:

    @John Papola Provided you not (ahem) lazy, it’s possible to reconcile the demonstrably lazy, greedy, and fearful nature of people with everything they’ve accomplished by recognizing that dire need drove many of our most impressive advances (necessity being the mother of invention, and all that).

    Which brings me to this not unrelated remark by Winston Churchill “You can always count on the Americans to do the right thing – after they’ve tried everything else.”

  30. len says:

    I note that “lazy” seems to be the new code word for gutting social security, health care and a raft of other progressive initiatives. It began to show up frequently on Facebook card posters this weekend.

    If they add “shiffless” we really will be back in the era of L’il Abner.

  31. Jon Taplin says:

    @John Papola I’m glad you modified your rant. I would be happy if some simple rules for making polluters pay for their pollution could be passed. What are the chances that the Koch Brothers would ever let that happen. As long as their mindset controls the Republican Party we will make no progress. The environmental views of Nixon, Reagan and Bush I wouldn’t allow them to get nominated as dog catcher in the contemporary Republican Party.

  32. Jon Taplin says:

    @Gwenn I believe copyright should be for a limited time, but that the artist should get paid for their work during that time. It works pretty well for songwriters, just not for anyone else in the creative value chain.

  33. Gwenn says:

    @Jon Taplin So it’s about artists making money off their work for you. Then what do you think of business models that don’t include copyright?

  34. Jon Taplin says:

    @John Papola John-someday you will write a book. You will spend months on it. You will want to get paid for your work.

  35. John Papola says:

    @Alex Bowles
    Human beings are clearly motivated by far more forces than sheer necessity, though that certainly helps. People are driven. Many (not all) really get deep satisfaction out of being active and productive. Those who do clearly are capable of changing the world, and most obviously have. There’s no denying this. We are not a “lazy species”. We don’t do well loafing around. Look to the felines for that. THEY are lazy. They sleep 20-whatever hours a day. Humans are active and driven. Again, for better and worse.

  36. John Papola says:

    @Jon Taplin

    Jon, I could spend months doing all sorts of activities which nobody would or should expect to receive any income. I surely wouldn’t write a book in the hope of making a nickel on it. Have you seen the sales distribution curve on that business? I know lots of authors, but know very few whose books put food on the table, IP or not.

    I have a tenuous relationship with IP as a concept. I’m inclined to say that it’s baloney. I’ve heard very convincing historical reviews that make a VERY strong case for IP as nothing more than a corporate cartelization scheme. Innovators innovate even without IP. They have. It’s an indisputable historical fact. Equally true is that the most aggressive exploiters of IP are current big incumbents looking to crush competitors and ultimately stifle any innovations that they don’t control themselves.

    And here’s a book all about this stuff, given away for free. The author probably made more on speaking engagements than most authors ever make on royalties.

  37. John Papola says:

    In an semi-related note…

    Jon, remember a year or so ago when you were fretting about wired cable net access as market failure and I said that spectrum auctions and wireless would deliver the competition and get us up to 50mbps? Well… I’m at the philly airport and my iPad 3 gets 40mbps downloads on Verizon LTE. I’ve seen it surpass 50. Amazing. This post is happening on my laptop with tethering and it feels like I’m on fiber.

    Consider the silliness of the central planning schemes given real innovation. Anyway… boarding….

  38. Jon Taplin says:

    @Gwenn If you are not interested in copyrighting your work, Creative Commons provides a good set of tools for you. But that should always be the individual artist’s choice, not the consumer’s choice.

  39. Gwenn says:

    @Jon Taplin
    Creative Commons is not a business model and, depending on the artist’s wishes, it can be as restrictive as copyright. What do you think of business models that don’t use copyright or any restrictions on work created? Models like this one (for example):

    Also, I don’t understand what you mean by the “consumer’s choice.” Are you saying that consumers are the ones driving the free culture movement?

  40. Rick Turner says:

    I’d be interested in knowing why folks like Gwenn and John are so adamant about denying artists, writers, and composers a chance to earn a living doing what they do. It is work in a very real sense, and that work is ultra-sensitive to technological changes that make it easy to steal that work from the creators. I guess if you place no value on others’ labor, then you’ve managed to imagine a very poor world of the future…a gray world devoid of art and music of any originality.

  41. Rick Turner says:

    And Gwenn, it’s thieves, not consumers or artists driving the free culture movement. I wish everybody’s living were as threatened as is the earning power of artists. Then maybe there would be a bit of empathy happening. As I’ve said before, I’m damned glad I make tangible goods for a living…goods that are not easy to copy cheaply.

  42. Gwenn says:

    @Rick Turner
    In my last comment (#39) I linked to a business model for artists! Clearly I don’t believe in denying creatives a chance to earn a living!

  43. len says:

    Gwenn :@Jon Taplin Creative Commons is not a business model and, depending on the artist’s wishes, it can be as restrictive as copyright. What do you think of business models that don’t use copyright or any restrictions on work created? Models like this one (for example):

    It doesn’t seem to work all that well, Gwenn.

  44. Gwenn says:

    If a business model not working for one person means that it doesn’t work for anyone, then the business model which includes copyright should also be thrown out! I’ve made my living as an artist for 9 years using the model I linked to. It’s not for everyone, but that doesn’t mean it “doesn’t work that well.”

  45. Rick Turner says:

    Gwenn, that’s a pretty myopic viewpoint, and it totally ignores “art” created by writers and composers. You clearly have no idea what it’s like to try to earn a living as a musician or songwriter.

    In the fine art world (I know this because I literally grew up in it), there is a premium placed upon original art work. Then next comes limited editions of fine art prints…serigraphs, lithographs, wood block prints, hand done engravings, etc. Then would come digital gilcee prints, and finally posters…that are too often called “prints” by today’s unsophisticated consumers. The analogy here is that you as a painter create a work of art, and then someone, without your permission, steals it (so it can never be sold as an original work of art) and then cranks out tens of thousands of copies and gives them away…also without your permission. And then every time you try to create an original work of art or control your own printing and distribution, you get ripped off again.

    What then? Simple…you go wait on tables in a dive somewhere.

    It’s really a drag that the “free distribution” crowd simply does not get it. You all just can’t make that intellectual leap to understand how it is that writers and composers work and how the money thing works for them…or doesn’t. You think that there’s some other magical formula that will work just fine, that crowd sourcing will support the arts, that musicians should just give it up and enjoy being on the road, that the public is clamoring to support live music.

    Get real, please. Before you run your mouths (or fingers) off on line, learn what the life of a writer or musician is really like…now, not ten years ago or twenty years ago. And don’t point to musicians who made it under the old rules who now can afford to give it away like David Byrne or who are so famous like Amanda Fucking Palmer (her choice of word) that they can raise the dough some other way. Check in with writers like Susie Bright or songwriters like Wendy Waldman and ask them how screwed up it is now…and they got the head start.

    Mr. “Information Wants To Be Free” Stewart Brand himself made his mark…and his money…under the old set of rules where IP was effectively protected and people bought real copies of the Whole Earth Catalog and associated books. Under the way it works now, the Whole Earth Catalog could never happen.

    And note here… …yes, Abbie Hoffman SOLD a quarter million copies of that book in eight months. I bet he kept the money, too…

  46. Gwenn says:

    @Rick Turner
    What? I specifically cite a writer who uses this model in the article I link to, and the business model I describe doesn’t rely on originals.

    You wish I wouldn’t run my mouth off? I wish you would read what you’re refuting before refuting it. :)

  47. John Papola says:


    I’m a commercial artist. I pay artists. I love artists. But this isn’t really about artists. It’s about corporate cartels who plead for the artists even as they squeeze them. But I’m not 100% sold on my own default position here. IP is fuzzy. I don’t pirate anything. I’m a big fan of paying for great content. Still, look at how far the IP cartel is willing to take it! There’s no end. Infinite copyright. Jailing grandma. There’s too much thuggery going on.

    Everyone has a right to make a living. Nobody had a right to make a particular living.

  48. len says:

    Gwenn :@len If a business model not working for one person means that it doesn’t work for anyone, then the business model which includes copyright should also be thrown out! I’ve made my living as an artist for 9 years using the model I linked to. It’s not for everyone, but that doesn’t mean it “doesn’t work that well.”

    That was the reply I was expecting. There are always outliers. That doesn’t account for the average results which is what most have to bet on. The Kickstarter model is not too different from the one where a condition for signing to a label is having a guaranteed financier. It’s a common question: do you have a rich relative or group willing to finance the production? It’s not the right way to get it done but lots of indies have.

    Also last time this thread popped up we had some A-list producers on this list. One quoted the costs for a world class production as $250k for medium quality and $750k for world class. It can go higher. As Rick pointed out, this is the music business or really music plus video (gotta have) and promotion. Once upon a time a record label could keep artists on the roster who were losing them money until they made money. Chet Atkins was famous for doing that for the likes of Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings who were losers. Now they can’t do that. The money isn’t there.

    Do I know how to make a basement album for a lot cheaper and make a profit? Sure. I’ve done it. Would I consider making a living that way? Not with a family to support. Would I want to compare my work with his? Not a chance. We do have to account for quality.

    That you can is great. Just don’t compare apples and oranges as far as the media type goes.

  49. Fentex says:

    Over the years this topic has repeatedly come up and I have mentioned that there are people telling us that the overall trade in music has increased while the income of bigger labels has fallen.

    These two comments generated by the inspiration for Jons post are a nub of the discussion…

    “Over the last 12 years I’ve watched revenue flowing to artists collapse.”
    David Lowery, founder of Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker.

    Revenue to labels has collapsed. Revenue to artists has gone up with more artists making more money now than at any time in history, off of the sale of pre-recorded music.
    Jeff Price, founder and president of Tunecore

    I’ve read a number of such opinions with supporting facts and find credible accounts that more artists now receive, in sum, more than they have in the past.

    But also that they now incur greater costs because disengagement from labels makes them responsible for all investment and production costs sans labels infrastructure and investment. However at the end artists still own all their rights today and I find that a compelling difference.

    These days are turmoil and what I see in the sum of conflicting accounts is adaptation and a promise of successful markets.

  50. Gwenn says:

    Outliers? If you want to talk about outliers, we should talk about all musicians who’ve ever been signed by a label.

  51. Fentex says:

    Ah, bother. Messed up markup again. Jon, may I suggest the WordPress Plugin WP Ajax that can be configured to allow posters to correct such obvious blunders when they become apparent after posting?

  52. len says:


    Talking about costs per media type would be more illuminating and the ranges for quality production. It doesn’t always matterto an audience but the point is the “sweeping generalization” tends toward applying costs only applicable to low end product to high end production. The so-called IP cartels, ie, the major labels, cover the costs as part of the advance. The deals can be complex and variable. Some artists want to skip that and they can now whereas twenty years ago that wasn’t practical. However a classic such as Oh Brother Where Art Thou that almost single handedly brought Americana to life cannot be produced with donations. So one size doesn’t fit all and I believe you’ve acknowledged that, yet a generation of upload/download sites that profit enormously have sprung up to exploit a system of distribution deliberately designed to enrich the server owner at the expense of the content producer.

    And that will be stopped by any means necessary. One would like it to be voluntary but obviously it won’t, so technical means are in the hopper. Wouldn’t it be better if more time was devoted by the technologists to innovate on opportunities instead of framing it as censorship? Seems rather self-serving.

    As Rick Turner noted the artists doing well as indies have tended to be the ones that the majors put there to begin with (underwrotes costs to create an artist brand that was sustainable). Some such as Arlo Guthrie are personal heros of mine so I’m familiar with the successes but the failures are notable as well. It’s a tough business in any model and taking away their income as recording artists and forcing them on the road is the height of presumption when coming from the graphics artists. However, you are better protected in the sense, for example with YouTube, that if we use your work we can’t monetize on YouTube without your permission and you can’t use the music. Google, on the other hand, can use either with ads and make money. Sort of twisted really.

    But if you are happy with the situation, put your works up on a fileshare for everyone who needs them to use in their videos on YouTube. Those of us who do put our works their would actually appreciate that because then we can monetize. Could be a win win but it has to be our choice too. And that is Jon’s point made above. The innovation argument is as I said, a bit over the top because we obviously do all learn from each other.

  53. Rick Turner says:

    I have recorded for two major labels…Vanguard and RCA, as well as produced for a subsidiary label, Raccoon, distributed by Warner Brothers. This was all a lifetime ago…mid ’60s into early ’80s. I also co-owned a great 16 track recording studio and live recording rig working with the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Santana, Quicksilver Messenger Service, James Taylor, the Youngbloods, Dan Hicks, and many more. I know the old style record business. Vanguard, Electra, Prestige, and Warners as well as other lables all supported marginal artists…for instance all the folkies on Vanguard and wonderful artists like Ry Cooder, Van Dyke Parks, the Grateful Dead, and yes, early Randy Newman on Warner Brothers. There was a nurturing of talent at both labels because the guys in charge were total music nerds and they had exquisite taste. And they had budgets to work with.

    But now the labels have all been tarred with the same brush…bad, bad, bad, rip off, scum bag exploiters of innocence, open season on them, it’s fair to steal from the bastards… But it’s just not the way it was in all cases. It is the people who know the least about the record business who seem to be in the forefront of the download for free crowd. Another couple of great examples of the best of the biz would be Ahmet and Nesui Ertegun at Atlantic and John Hammond at Columbia. These folks knew talent and knew how to develop it, and they earned their money both for themselves and for the labels. And the artists and writers got paid, too…and many had and still have very long careers because of how they were supported early on and through into artistic maturity. I don’t hear a lot of musicians coming up into the pop world whom I think will have long careers; I do see some on the fringes, but does anyone really think that Lady GaGa is going to be happening in twenty years? Nora Jones, on the other hand…but still, Nora would have done a lot better being a contemporary of Joni Mitchell, I suspect. I can’t imagine how badly she’s getting ripped off…

  54. len says:

    This is a long read but the comments are informative. This is how the technologists, particularly working group mavens, talk themselves out of doing the right thing and manage to insert market and personal emnities into the technical discussions to justify it. The topic is the Do Not Track header. By feats of convoluted logic the company that decided to do the right thing by default is made to do the wrong thing by consensus of the rest of the tribe.

    The W3C is failing spectacularly. We’re on our own.

  55. len says:

    It is the people who know the least about the record business who seem to be in the forefront of the download for free crowd. Another couple of great examples of the best of the biz would be Ahmet and Nesui Ertegun at Atlantic and John Hammond at Columbia. These folks knew talent and knew how to develop it

    This part is important if one also reads the original article, Infinite Stupidity. Copying is fine but not evolutionary unless a copier in some way improves on the original. Improvements in quality ARE evolutionary. This is how the old system worked and why it worked as well as it did. One didn’t simply get yet another Chuck Berry; one got a better Chuck Berry and the imitation of the better version led to new licks because they were combined with other styles. This is where Gwenn et al have a case. On the other hand, as I claim, I don’t think Sita Sings the Blues is innovative but one can make that claim as well. For a Flash animator, there are possibly things to learn from it. For someone who is already skilled in animation, or perhaps the real-time 3D artist, not so much. Context matters. Genre matters.

    Oh Brother Where Art Thou is different. There a process of intelligent selection of materials did have a feedback effect. As T-Bone says, “I only work with the best.” This has both a survival quality (he keeps on making better work and he keeps his tribe in work) and he incorporates the finest players available thus providing those who imitate a better model to imitate. As a result, the overall quality of Americana (a genre that did not exist prior) goes up. The bar is set higher. Just as jazz spawns in the blues and both co-exist but are not the same, imitation is only evolutionary if new features emerge.

    Let me speak plainly: Bob Dylan is a fine songwriter. He copied Woody Guthrie. He is a mediocre guitarist at best. Guthrie was not that good either. For their time, this did not matter. They are still cultural icons. To copy them note for note however is retrograde. This is also important: things ALSO devolve.

    Evolution is not free. It consumes real cultural energy. At times it is better to decompose older better work and start over if one is to achieve any progress. In this sense, both lower and higher forms of culture will always exist side by side if not in the same forms or genre. So we must allow for both. What cannot be the case is that the means to support the lower forms disables the higher forms and that is what is happening in the so-called “disruptive” culture of the download mavens. In truth they work against both ends of cultural spectrum because they steal the energy from one and do not reinsert it into the processes.

    They are stealing the wind and after a time, both ends of the creative culture will be becalmed.

  56. len says:

    And Pagel’s article if provocative comes to the wrong conclusion. He overlooks that with practice, skill at selecting better ideas emerges in persons and for a time, cultures (style periods). That is the role of the producer and without it, we are left only with amateur art. Again, it has a place but without practiced production, that place is limited. Those in the free culture have to recognize those limits.

    Some conversations on Facebook are a lot deeper than others. It depends on the tribe.

  57. Rick Turner says:

    And Chuck Berry would not have played as he did were it not for hearing T-Bone Walker who would not have played as he did were it not for hearing Charlie Christian.

    In the music world, you learn by copying, and then if you’re any good, you contribute to the whole thing by moving forward and becoming a true leader. For guitar players I’d put forward Hendrix; Cooder; Lindley; Santana; Reinhardt; Richard Thompson; Sonny Landreth; B.B King; Robbie Robertson. These are players who have real voices; I don’t have to hear more than about three notes and I know exactly who they are. There are more, but that’s a good start.

    How many musicians or singers can you instantly identify? How many artists? Poets? Writers? I’ll bet it’s an amazingly small percentage. Can you tell Mariah Carey from any of the other histrionic gospel inspired singers? Etc…

  58. Fentex says:

    Copying is fine but not evolutionary unless a copier in some way improves on the original.

    This is discussing how artists gather inspiration and material, how opportunity and insight are fruits of history and it’s a completely different subject from that of recompense.

    Copying, sampling and duplication is trivial and one of the consequences is the ease with which quality media is copied without recompense to the producer for the copying and another consequence is that there is going to be a whole lot of derivative art the vast majority of which, as has always been the case, of poor quality.

    That there’s likely to be an increased amount of poorly derived art is another consequence of modern tech that is beside the point of renumeration for the valued works.

    With distribution being no issue at all the quantity of all media burgeons and the task of sifting the good becomes harder. Exploiting that kind of opportunity is what made Google rich.

    And it’s a niche streaming services want to exploit for music and I increasingly suspect that’s where much of the future of discovering and following art lies.

  59. len says:

    This is discussing how artists gather inspiration and material, how opportunity and insight are fruits of history and it’s a completely different subject from that of recompense.

    No. It is explaining that innovation requires a greater and lesser talent pool where the greater has to be paid to keep enriching the lesser. It’s the difference between the A-list and the weekend warrior. If you liked OBWAT, then remember that the music producer paid the singer/songwriter of O Death a very nice sum. That’s the Natch. It is needed and it is deserved.

    It is never hard to sift the good unless one doesn’t know what good is. That is precisely why the T-Bone Burnett’s are as well rewarded as they are. They don’t take a nickel and then repay two cents. They may not always produce a hit, but they never fail to produce a quality work. There is a difference between the zeitgeist of a market and the goods on the market shelves but the cost of making the goods and getting the goods to market are not the same at all. Asserting they are is the Big Lie of Free Content.

    All the web added was more people can try more often. That is a good thing. It also means more people can fail more often. The difference is how hard they try and for that, they have to try all week long, all day long. And for that, well, they have to be paid.

    Would an Apple product be at the level of quality it is if Apple wasn’t a closed ecosystem?

  60. len says:

    @Rick Turner

    Fewer and fewer these days. The Nashville Copy Machine, etc., is turning out highly homogenized acts. High quality production does not equal innovation either. It does make it easier to bear. On the other hand, I have to admit I’m not paying that much attention to their product these days.

    This IS the advantage of the web for the artists. They can experiment for low cost and get feedback. Here Gwenn is right and we’d do well to acknowledge that low cost experimenting is better than say the costs of Electric Ladyland. Jimi had the skills but as you have said, in the old system they paid for him to make his mistakes in a very well set up room. Lindsay Buckingham put a studio in his home and got irate when F-Mac got irate about it. So there are different approaches.

    Left to the locals, all I would understand is Hank Williams, Sr. Because of the Machine, I learned from David Crosby’s “Guinevere”. The web gives us access. And yes, this aspect is about development, not remuneration. Still, if the Byrds hadn’t been financed in the early days when Crosby admits they were pretty dreadful, CSNY wouldn’t have had the chops.

  61. len says:

    BTW, an aside: if any of you have a prayer to say or a rain dance, do it for the people in Colorado. Richie Furay just put up on FB a very scary pic from his home. The fire is getting close.

  62. Rick Turner says:

    In our corner of the music world, we are happy to embrace Dock Boggs and his “primitive” version of “Oh, Death”…which was then covered…with innovation…by David Lindley and Kaleidoscope decades before people woke up to OBWAT. We don’t need highly produced, AutoTuned, quantized rhythms to recognize originality and quality. Blind Willie Johnson’s “Cold Was the Night”…then transmuted into the theme for “Paris Texas” by Ry Cooder…that’s not copying…and attribution was given and whomever the right person was to pay got paid. The British Invasion types were a bit more cavalier…the Stones had no compunctions about ripping dead and alive black blues men off. Ditto Led Zeppelin. Seems that the law caught up with at least some of that…and rightfully so. And I remember hearing from some of my guitar teaching friends that kids would come in for lessons and ask for that Eric Clapton song, “Crossroads”… Yeah, sure, kid!

  63. Fentex says:

    It is explaining that innovation requires a greater and lesser talent pool where the greater has to be paid to keep enriching the lesser

    I am amused at how close to a Randian account of Atlas this reads.

  64. len says:

    Fentex :

    It is explaining that innovation requires a greater and lesser talent pool where the greater has to be paid to keep enriching the lesser

    I am amused at how close to a Randian account of Atlas this reads.

    As well you should. The difference is if both ends don’t understand they need each other, it falls apart. Otherwise, Robert Zimmerman would be a fry cook at McDonalds today. Sort of like Steven Tyler.

  65. len says:

    @Rick Turner

    As I watch the view numbers for “Samantha Brown” rise steadily and surprisingly, I know that if the content is fun and “snappy” with a fine face and body in a bikini, popular to some demographic however that is achieved (thank you, Travel Channel), one can make a hit for some scale of hit (monetization aside) even if the production is C-list or amateur.

    The writers of the 50s and 60s understood that and produced a lot of throwaway hits some of which survive but most of which are seldom covered once they fade from the charts. Some hits are unique in themselves. How many good covers of White Rabbit are there? The songs that outlast the creators are typically universal in lyric and coverable at different scales of talent and production (O Death) or just fun to play (Louie Louie) but almost always leave room for a new perspective.

    And that is where innovation IS hard. Originality requires unique perspectives.

  66. Rick Turner says:

    Well, we in the US will have a unique perspective pretty soon…as a new 3rd world country yearning for former glory.

  67. len says:

    @Rick Turner

    Which is precisely where Britain was when it produced the Beatles. So there might be an upside.

    Do you know how to sing “Yeah Yeah Yeah” in Mandarin?

  68. Rick Turner says:

    If you want Mandarin, listen to Abigail Washburn! She writes (not exclusively…) old-timey songs on banjo…in Mandarin. She’s absolutely terrific, too.

  69. len says:

    @Rick Turner

    I will although in retrospect, we should be stealing Chinese songs, recording them and selling them back. So far so good although Apple did not open iTunes to China. Odd decision.

    Back to listening to my co-workers discussing how Obamacare is the end of American democracy as the Founding Fathers conceived it or putting my headphones back on and listening to classic rock with DJs discussing how Obamacare is the end of American democracy as the Founding Fathers conceived it. Sigh….

    Que odien ell sí sí sí
    Amb un odi com que vostè sap que hem d’estar boig

  70. Alex Bowles says:

    Or you could drop a buck twenty nine on the version of O Death, as recorded by Mr. David Lowery with his first group, Camper Van Beethoven.

    While you’re there, consider Eye of Fatima pt. 2. It’s right up there with their other classic, When I Win The Lottery.

    The line about buying the American Legion Post 306 and painting it red with five gold stars was waaay ahead of its time.

  71. Two points.

    First: Not all of us IP opponents are leftists or advocates of copyleft. I am a pro-property rights libertarian and practicing patent attorney, and I oppose patent and copyright because they undermine and are antithetical to property rights. As I’ve explained in various pieces available at the Resources page of my Center for the Study of Innovative Freedom .

    Second: Regarding this comment: “to call this act of theft “civil disobedience” is an insult to Thoreau, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King. What human right is Paley asserting with her civil disobedience? The right to steal other artists work?”

    Well calling it “stealing” is question-begging. It’s not theft unless expressions of ideas are legitimate forms of property. But that is the issue under dispute. As for the insult part: as Murray Rothbard has explained, all human rights are property rights. See And the problem with patent and copyright is that these laws invade and infringe property rights, which is not only the most basic human right but the only human right. Consequences include impoverishment, imprisonment, monetary theft (damages), censorship. Patent and copyright, as systematic invasions of property rights, are a huge threat to civil liberty, economic freedom, and prosperity. See

    So civil disobedience of these horrible state laws that infringe basic human rights and are helping to support the police state is perfectly in accordance with the spirit of civil disobedience of the past.

  72. len says:

    Stephen, so you assert that property rights are the only human right, yes? So the right to equality before the law is not a basic human right?

    How does that work?

  73. Rick Turner says:


    If you think it and express it, it’s worth nothing if it can be reproduced with the latest technology; that’s what I’m reading. It’s not “property”unless you can absolutely control the technology of reproduction, and therefore the work of visual, verbal, and audio artists is no longer the property of the creators because reproductive technology is more important to protect than the work that makes that technology worth while.

    How the fuck can anyone be a patent attorney and not respect IP? That is so bizarre as to be labeled as a legally insane position by me. Stephen, I suggest that you might want electro-therapy and strong doses of Thorazine.

  74. @Rick Turner

    Rick: Property is a right, a relation between a human actor and a given owned object. Of necessity, the objects subject to such property ownership are scarce (rivalrous) resources. I have explained this in detail in various speeches and articles at

    As for how you can “be” a patent lawyer and not “respect” IP, well it’s similar to “being” a defense attorney representing someone on death row while opposing the death penalty.

  75. len says:

    And once again, so equality before the law is not a basic right? How does an attorney square that with a client?

    There are very large holes in Rothbard’s assertions.

  76. @len
    No, it’s not some independent right, but of course it’s implied by the idea of property rights: if everyone’s property rights are respected, then they are “equal” before the law by implication.

  77. len says:

    Then Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the US Constitution should be removed in its entirety and the Constitution should be rewritten as a much simpler document that only declares and delineates the inclusive classes of property and no other legal constraints unless those constraints can be derived from the property right?

  78. len says:

    If we pursue that line of thinking don’t we reaffirm Dred Scott? This smacks of originalism at its worst which if enforced to the letter of the law means we need to track down Thomas Sowell’s owners and give him back to them.

  79. Stephan Kinsella says:

    Ien: the state is a criminal organization. The Constitution is bad: it authorizes a central state, and gives it the pretense of legitimacy by pretending to impose fake limits on it, that the state itself is in charge of interpreting and enforcing. That said, anything that limits the state is good, including prophylactic limits and artificial civil or procedural rights like due process etc. In a just society the state would be regarded as criminal and would thus be outlawed.

    The idea that libertarian property rights means slavery is legitimate is a literally stupid or dishonest argument; libertarian property rights are the antithesis of slavery. In fact it is statism in all its forms that implies slavery is legitimate: when the state imprisons or kills people for not paying tribute (taxes), for violating malum prohibitum laws like drug laws, or for not fighting in the state’s wars when conscripted, it is claiming ownership of the life and body of its subjects. That is slavery, my friend. and it is is what is endorsed by everyon who supports the state as legitimate.

  80. len says:

    Dishonest of illegitimate, it has precedents by implication: Winston County vs State of Alabama regards withdrawal from Union to Join Confederacy. One has to declare that selfhood is property and as I asked, the constitution would be rewritten to declare that self-hood is property. It does that through abolition of slavery but in so doing, it overtuns Dred Scott where property is the essential quality of the decision.

    Libertarianism and its cousin objectivism promote feudalism in that the powerful and rich can protect fiefdoms through armies paid for by claiming property rights that negate the property rights of the serfs and then the nobles, some what King John’s position prior to the Magna Carta, yes? It was the Locke-inspired contract for property and rule of law that enables indentured servitude but ultimately the ascendance of the Northern hemisphere which was land rich but gold poor over the southern hemisphere where the opposite conditions prevailed.

    IOW, libertarianism is panglossian like so much of objectivism, thrilling to the naive but refuting notions of common cause, that is, to ensure rights, a constitutional state is empowered to act in the common good. The implication then is the necessity of moral leadership and the direct or representative governance of the many by the few.

    It seems we have been slipping because of the exponentiating effect of concentrated wealth in overpowering the state through indirect control (some would say more direct since Citizens United) of the means of selection.

    Bullshit: a lie wrapped in truth to enable influence without responsibility. To know which is which, one must ask where lies responsibility to limit influence, that is, to check power.

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