I've often seen it said that "copying an idea is never a violation of the NAP" or "intellectual property is the initiation of aggression." This assertion relies on the premise that I.P. is invalid, and therefore violating I.P. cannot be an act of aggression.
"Intellectual Property is Violence"
Ironically enough, this is identical to the Marxist claim "private property is the initiation of force," while while claiming "possessions" as legitimate. With the exception of persons who deny property in every form, claiming I.P. is violence is a hypocritical or incomplete statement unless one addresses the legitimacy of Intellectual Property first.
While the narrow focus on "aggression" at the exclusion of other possible problematic human interactions is problematic, lets take a closer look at the word aggression, and what is implied by the Non-Aggression-Principle.
- Aggressively pursuing success, yelling at sporting matches, sadomasochism, drug use, and participating in boxing matches are not considered acts of aggression. On the other hand, fraud, theft, coercion, rape, murder, mandatory taxation, and involuntary servitude are all considered acts of aggression.
Breaking aggression down into its component parts (see: Analysis of Desirable Relationships), the word aggression always contains the components [relationship, undesirable], and frequently [harm].
What about Intellectual Property? The phrase "Intellectual Property" has been used to broadly cover a very wide array of concept, many of which are not closely related or supported by many advocate of I.P. For example, an advocate of property usually doesn't support the ownership if an entire mountain or continent, and an advocate of I.P. doesn't support ownership of the number "5."
- Creative Property "the ownership of a sufficently unique and original form; a one-of-a-kind form could have never reasonably occurred without the application of creative thought and effort by the original creator(s)"
This proposal of creative property is not intended to dismiss all other possible I.P. claims, but rather to avoid categorically addressing all "I.P." and provide a standard for one valid form of I.P. The components of "Creative Property" are [sufficient, unique, original] and you could probably add [valuable, non-obvious] as well.
Extents of Creative Property
How far does Creative Property extend? Just as there are limits to the reasonable application and claims of physical property, so are there limits to the reasonable application and claims of creative property.
- If one pollutes using their valid property and land, it may result in a [relationship] that is [undesirable] and [harmful], and the valid property rights of his neighbors prevents him from polluting.
- A person may validly own a gun and may validly use that gun. However shooting that gun at other individuals is considered to be a violation of the other individual's self ownership [undesirable harmful relationship]. Is this restriction on gun use a violation of the gun owner's property rights?
- Enforcing C.P. in the case of someone who hums a song, or backup a hard-drive which happens to contain creative property is rather insane and tyrannical.
If one examines property law closely, you will discover many such concepts, such as easements. If one claims absolute and infinite property rights while ignoring all externalities and other human interactions, the above may appear to be a violation of property rights. However, upon closer examination one might recognize that these "violations" are actually an application of property rights in action.
If one reads Title 17 and Title 35, one might notice an application of these concepts, such as "fair use," "public domain," and "time limits." Whether or not the specific applications of these concepts is optimal, good, or bad is another discussion which requires one familiarize themselves with existing law.
Violations of I.P. as an act of Aggression
I wish to propose that there exists violations of Creative Property which are [undesirable, harmful, relationships]. This is not to suggest that all possible I.P. violations are aggression, but rather that at least one exists.
- A programmer spends thousands of hours creating an unique and original video game (~500mb of data, images, code, etc), that is valuable and desirable to many persons. He then distributes that video game online, under a $10 price tag. The purchase agreement (license agreement) clearly and explicitly states the user is buying a limited property right, which only grants the user the ability to use the video game as a video game and similar fair-use ways (i.e. youtube), and may not intentionally duplicate and redistribute the software to others for consumption, and anyone who receives the software illegitimately must not use it. Further it is clearly stated that the license agreement must not be removed from the game, and is clearly displayed upon first install of the game.
- Joe purchases the video game, duplicates the 1s and 0s distributing the video game online in mass.
- Corporation X acquires the video game (either through purchase or piracy) and then proceeds to strip the license agreement, and sell the game on their app store for $5 without paying the programmer.
The programmer's creation clearly qualifies under "creative property." There is a relationship between the Programmer and Joe/Corporation-X. The Programmer finds this relationship (i.e. redistribution) to be undesirable.
Further, the relationship is harmful to the Programmer because it results in inability to make a return on his investment, causing direct harm to the programmer's well-being. Both violations are also destructive and harmful to all, as they result in the inability (or reduced ability) for the programmer to pursue the production of more video games.
"IP violates physical property rights, therefore it’s invalid"
This argument requires implicitely assuming that which you intend to prove; namely that "I.P. is not property," or more precisely "I.P. doesn't deserve protections similar to property."
Take for instance a C.D. with data on it. The owner of the physical CD might be "Person-A" while the owner of the data is "Person-B." Person A's property rights to the physical CD prevent Person B from using the CD in an unauthorized way. Similarly Person B's property rights to the data prevents Person A from using the data in an unauthorized way.
The validity of any property right does not give one free reign to do as he pleases. Property rights *(whether self, physical, or intellectual)* are not an infinite right to use their property in such a way that violates the rights of others. One's 'right' to land may infringe on another's 'right' to tresspass, and one's 'right' to life might infringe on another's 'right' to use a gun.