IP: "Property Must be Physical" Fallacy

What is (Physical) Property?

Physical-property is made of (a) atoms (b) the form of the atoms and (c) a concept within the minds of humans.

  • The atoms within physical property were clearly not created by the individual claiming ownership, and therefore cannot be the source of ownership.
  • The form of the atoms can however be said to be of direct influence by the individual, and the form those atoms take could be said to be a direct consequence of human action.
  • Property, as a concept within the minds of man, there are no "laws of nature/reality" which define which convention(s) must be used.

If anything could be said to be a result of the individual, and therefore their property of that individual; to determine who owns anything, it would seem far more logical to cite the actions of an individual, rather than the atoms themselves, as the source of property.

Other Libertarian Property

Most Libertarians already make property claims to the things which are non-physical. A Libertarian will often claim they own themselves, and therefore they own their actions, their thoughts, and their labor. Actions, thoughts, and labor are all non-physical. Further, if one includes contract law, a contractual agreement signifies the intent of the parties to exchange duties, services, labor, physical property, ideas, and liabilities. Regardless of whether the terms-of-agreement are labeled property, they terms both function as property and are treated as such.

Further, in order to transfer anything or include anything in a contract, it must functionally be property of the person agreeing to exchange it.

Circular Redefinition

Some Libertarians attempt to carefully craft the definition of property, as to include their conclusions about property or exclude intellectual property, typically forming a tautology or circular definition. (i.e. "Property is ownership of a rivalrous physical object") Regardless of how any words are labeled or defined, relabeling in no way changes the realities of human interaction. Even if I.P. were not property according to a specific definition of property, that would fail to answer the question of whether or not it should be treated as such.


Simply defining I.P. as "not property" is merely a semantic move. Regardless the true meaning of the word "property or theft," the laws of reality, human interaction, or economics remain unchanged. This is akin to arguing that "fraud is not violence" while ignoring the harmful and destructive nature of fraud.


Simply stating "property must be physical," "intellectual property is not property," or "piracy is not theft" repeatedly does not change reality, nor the history of the word property, and merely suggests a combination of naivety and cognitive dissonance, like a child plugging their ears shouting, "I can't hear you!" We heard you the first time, it's annoying and disrespectful, please stop.

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