posted Oct 27, 2003
in Communication Ethics

Communication Ethics book part for IP Abolitionists. (This is an automatically generated summary to avoid having huge posts on this page. Click through to read this post.)

It isn't just the "IP" lawyers making the mistake of lumping many disparate concepts under one confusing umbrella term, though; by lumping so much stuff under the heading of "intellectual property" you have people calling for the complete abolition of "intellectual property". But because of their poor conceptualization of the problem, these people are calling for something that would be worse then what we have now.

Abolishing IP, be it a version of my communication-based protections or even modern IP, means abandoning everything in this essay. It means abandoning privacy entirely, because it can not be protected. It means abandoning all rights and all control to your messages, not just the messages of others. It means abandoning message integrity, because the defense for message integrity is effectively a copyright-based one. As a result, it means abandoning free speech, since integrity can not be protected and without integrity, we have no free speech. And yes, it means abandoning market rewards for new information, which may be OK in certain very limited domains like software, but will destroy other domains. Even trademarks can be important in subtle ways that we don't usually think of since we live in a society with strong trademarks.

Ironically, the IP abolitionists often hold thier views in the mistaken belief that this will increase their freedom and power, and decrease the power of corporations. They couldn't be more wrong; in the anarchaic environment that would result, it would be corporations who would be better able to exert power, more inclined to create and use DRM standards that only corporations can afford, and individuals who would be left almost entirely defenseless. Only strong IP laws even gives an individual a chance against a large corporation. If anything, IP laws need some selective strengthening, not weakening or outright destruction.

This demonstrates the importance of proper terminology to proper understanding; if we were really working in a message-rights-based model, these people could instead be fruitfully discussing what "inalienable rights" a receiver or a sender has to a message, which is a very important discussion for our society. Instead, these people marginalize themselves by calling for something that won't and shouldn't happen. The IP abolitionists are wrong.


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