Thursday, March 15, 2012

defining property rights

I've been wanting to blog this for a long time but luckily someone who is much smarter than me did it first so I can just link to it.

Paul Graham nails it in so many ways... Read the whole thing; it's not long.
It sounds ridiculous to us to treat smells as property. But I can imagine scenarios in which one could charge for smells. Imagine we were living on a moon base where we had to buy air by the liter. I could imagine air suppliers adding scents at an extra charge. The reason it seems ridiculous to us to treat smells as property is that it wouldn't work to. It would work on a moon base, though. What counts as property depends on what works to treat as property. And that not only can change, but has changed.
Exactly. Property rights, on the relevant legal margins, are arbitrary. This was obvious at the beginning of the era of piracy, when no one knew what the rules were, because we'd always made copies of tapes for our friends, and then hard copies of our CDs, and then digital copies of our CDs. Where were the defining lines? We didn't know because they didn't yet exist.

Then somewhere along the line, it became "just wrong"to make digital copies, and doing so was "stealing". What..? Shouting so doesn't make it so.
This is where it's helpful to have working democracies and multiple sovereign countries. If the world had a single, autocratic government, the labels and studios could buy laws making the definition of property be whatever they wanted. But fortunately there are still some countries that are not copyright colonies of the US.
Thank goodness for diversity, again. 

1 comment:

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