IP: Labor Intellectual Property Strawman

The focus of this article will be a strawman reinterpretation of a common IP concept. This article will not examine the quality of the IP concept nor any outside arguments for or against IP, but rather focus narrowly on a specific set of counter arguments which the author considers to be misleading strawmen.

The Concept & It's Strawman

  • "I created something, so it should be mine. No one should be able to copy, steal, or use it without my permission." - Layman's IP
  • "Your saying because you worked on something you are owed or entitled payment? That's the labor theory of value! Just because you spend 2 years creating something no one wants, doesn't mean anyone owes you anything." - Strawman IP

Typically a layman will intuitively recognize the strawman is not their argument, but will be unable to express the subtlety between the two.

Labor Theory of Property vs Value

The Layman's IP is typically an appeal to some variation Labor Theory of Property, which the Strawman IP cleverly distorts into the Labor Theory of Value. In layman's terms (review links for more detail & accuracy), the "Labor Theory of Property" (LTP) claims one who produces owns the product of their labor, whereas the "Labor theory of Value" (LTV)1 claims one unit of labor is one unit of value.

Once one understands the LTP (Property) is not the LTV (Value), misrepresenting the LTP as the LTV is a willful act of deception.

Given the LTP, let's clean up the Layman's argument:

  • "One who creates has the strongest ownership claim to the creation. Use of that creation without consent of the creator is an act of injustice (property violation, destructive, etc)." - Clearer Labor theory of Property/IP (LTP/LT-IP).

Entitled to Payment

Given one recognitions this concept is the LTP or the LT-IP (Labor theory of intellectual property), lets us consider the concept of 'entitlement to payment.' The only claim made by the LT-IP is an ownership claim. Ownership may then determines who may or may not then interact with the owned entity in particular ways. The LT-IP makes no claims that one is owed (or entitled) to payment for the act of production of either physical or non-physical wealth.

Once one understands the LTP / LT-IP (Property) makes no claims that one is entitled to payments, continuing to represent the LTP as if it makes those claims is a willful act of misrepresentation and deception.


Given one understands the content of this article, one should (in the pursuit of honesty and truth) refrain from misrepresenting and distorting the labor theory of property, and instead discuss it based on it's actual merits and flaws. Having set this strawman aflame and turned to ash, may I never see this strawman again.

side note: The author considers ideal ownership norms to be derived from several values, but considers one of the strongest determining factors of a strong ownership claim by a specific individual to be derived from action and creation.


  • Objection: "One doesn't create, one transforms"
  • Response: Yes, explicitly no matter is created, but rather transformed. Creation in this article is meant to conceptually include "creation of a transformation." More importantly, this is not the central topic of the article. As the article says, "This article will not examine the quality of the IP concept"
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