Re: Jefferson on IP as goods
Couldn't let this go without a fight :>
On Wed, 15 Jan 1997, W. John MacMullen wrote:
> On Wed, 15 Jan 1997, Thomas Jefferson wrote:
> > 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.
> Software seems to be a perfect example of this; the incremental cost of
> producing products is no longer relevant because you need only a single
> copy and an ftp site.
> > Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property.
> But we're not exactly in a state of nature, either. And do "inventions" =
> "ideas"? If not, how does TJ move from an abstract concept (idea) to a
> concrete object (invention)? Surely, the great American Patriot Jefferson
> was not a closet socialist, arguing against all property rights...?
I, and I suspect Jefferson, would argue that a limited copyright is the
mark of a _truly_ capitalist society. By granting the kind of lengthy and
stringent copyright that Disney, for example, would prefer, we create an
artificial "short supply" which forces consumers to buy products from only
one producer. Nevermind that this enforced monopoly leads to shoddy
workmanship (Microsoft Anything (tm)) and inflated prices (Disney Anything
(tm)). At a certain point, hopefully LONG before someone has garnered
obscene wealth from an invention, the idea should become public property.
THAT would allow capitalism to grow as it was intended...in a _free
market_ where consumer demand and competitive quality/price issues would
force improvement, (where the greed of powerful men currently stifles it).
It doesn't cost $20 to make a videotape of Snow White, and Disney has long
ago recouped any production costs from the movie. Were the movie in the
Public Domain, we could probably find it on the shelf for $5-$10, and, I
daresay, digitally remastered, with extra new scenes added, and other
creative improvements as well.
A brief copyright is clearly needed, to allow researchers to recoup the
cost of their research, and possibly garner some reward as well, but
allowing copyright to continue beyond that point, to the point where
Disney still holds copyright on a movie made 50 years ago, for a few
thousand dollars, or to where leeches like Bill Gates can suck the
resources out of society in return for a very SMALL contribution which
ended decades ago, is silly.
Jefferson was no Socialist, he never (to my knowledge) advocated that the
means of production be owned by the government. He simply regarded
material goods as individual property, and _ideas_ (inventions) as a
"You like to manipulate people, not in the cute and endearing way that I
do, but in a nassssty and ugly way!"