The Problem with Intellectual Property is – Surprise – Government Aggression
Intellectual property, and the resistance to it, is something I’ve tried to grok for awhile now. RiP! A Remix Manifesto is a solid step towards remedying my ignorance, but it falls short of explicitly noting exactly why intellectual property has become the scourge that it is: government (aggression).
A Queen is a Government Official
The obviousness of the problem starts when the movie announces that a Queen Anne promulgated copyright for the first time. A queen is a government official! How did she enforce her assertion of a 14-year copyright? Through aggression! That is to say, she used her governmental powers to involuntarily force her edict on her fellow human beings. How is copyright enforced today? Through government (aggression)! Is the elephant in the room coming into focus now?
Big Media Made Possible by … Government!
The movie rails against big media, showing that it is controlled by just a few large corporations, which in turn are represented by just two lobbying firms. The filmmaker made it as far as the lobbyists but failed to see his analysis through to the end: government (aggression). How disappointing. There would be no big media without government-granted limited liability and corporate personhood.
Did the Supreme Court Ring a Bell?
The movie prominently features remixes of Disney’s Mickey Mouse character and makes a big deal of the rogue cartoonist being sued. The case went to the supreme court, where he lost. This was another chance for the filmmaker to consider the impact of government (aggression) on the tyranny of intellectual property, but, alas, another opportunity lost. Without government, justice would be rendered via judges and juries agreeable to both parties, and not selected by a compromised state.
While exploring Girl Talk’s day job, we’re told that overly general medical patents are holding back progress in medicine. Who is keeping it that way? GOVERNMENT! Why? Because it holds a self-arrograted monopoly on the creation and enforcement of patents. Another chance to examine this disagreeable giant elephant in the room moseys on by. These examples go on and on, including the supreme court ruling that life forms can be patented.
Property Good, Aggression Bad
Throughout the movie there is a subtle attack on the concept of property that constitutes an overreaction to the real problem: “property” created or backed by aggression. There is nothing inherently wrong with property. But there is something inherently wrong with aggression. Aggression short-circuits all that is good in us by denying our right to make our own decisions and co-operate voluntarily with others.
D’oh! Government Official Admits it
A former Clinton administration official even admits on tape that government created this insane dependency on intellectual property by trading the manufacturing base for future promises of IP royalties. What’s it going to take for the topic of government to be addressed directly?
“We can change laws” is the film’s call to action. But this is just code for “Let’s grab the reigns of government (aggression) ourselves, and use it for our benefit.” A remix of Lord of the Rings would have been appropriate here. The real solution is to abolish aggression. When a song or movie is released, the producer can lock down their control by voluntary contracts (licenses) and enforce it with their own resources. If they can’t do that or if their attempts at control stifle the market for their products, that’s the free market at work: they lose.
Learn from Open Source
In other words, hold your work too closely and it loses value. Let it go free and you profit. This is the lesson of the open-source software movement. Create a market for your services by giving something away, and you profit. Raise the cost of people discovering the value you have to offer, and you’re dust in the wind. We don’t need more aggression. We need less. And you can’t vote for that!
Don’t get me wrong: it’s an entertaining and informative movie. The short history of remixing they hinted at was fascinating. Maybe in the past it wasn’t such a big deal because the corporo-statist complex wasn’t as big – it didn’t have as many parasites on the payroll. Morally speaking, there is nothing wrong with remixing unless you promised not to do it. In that case only, it constitutes breach of contract. Which is not even to mention how stupid and self-destructive it is for the record labels to offend their customer base.