A Follow-Up About Intellectual Property

As a tongue-in-cheek gag, here is one of my free songs for you to listen to while you read my free article. Of course, I probably don’t count, but here it is anyway.

Most of the feedback regarding my previous article was positive, which is awesome, but one comment in particular here on the site deserves further scrutiny:

Great, just what the world needs, another anti-IP fanatic. The fact is, anyone who takes the trouble to create a game, or anything else, has the right to dictate the terms of its sale (or, if you don’t think the word “sale” covers a contract that stipulates conditions for resale, then use some other word). If you don’t like the terms, don’t purchase the product. It’s that simple.

But nooooo! People like you seem to think you can dictate terms of sale. It’s the attitude of someone who has never created anything others want. You’re like little squalling babies, endlessly whining. I have nothing but contempt for you and anyone else with this attitude.

I’m not going to waste your time, though, so let’s just dive right into it.

“The fact is, anyone who takes the trouble to create a game, or anything else, has the right to dictate the terms of its sale (or, if you don’t think the word ‘sale’ covers a contract that stipulates conditions for resale, then use some other word).”

This seemingly obvious statement is actually of profound importance to the discussion, and the comment accidentally hit the nail right on the head. The very essence of my argument against IP–which you’ll find alluded to in follow-up comments in the above article–is that it turns us from Owners into Renters, much in the same way that property taxes have usurped our ownership of our homes and turned us into renters. And he would hand-wave this entire point away paranthetically, as though it’s not of much significance what we call such a transaction, when this is of utmost significance.

We don’t have to look hard to find the legal definition of sale, and it is provided here from The Lectric Law Library:

An agreement by which one of the contracting parties, called the seller, gives a thing and passes the title to it, in exchange for a certain price in current money, to the other party, who is called the buyer or purchaser, who, on his part, agrees to pay such price.

The first thing we must call attention to is that, despite the comment’s implication that selling something is a one-sided affair, it is, obviously, an exchange between two sides. We’re not actually talking about “buying” and “selling,” not in real terms; in real terms, we’re talking about a property exchange between two people, while one person has agreed to offer up a currency and the other has agreed to offer up literally anything other than currency. The person with the “anything other than currency” up for sale is colloquially called the “seller,” while the person offering up the currency is colloquially called the “buyer.” But in real terms, it doesn’t matter if I offer up $50 or two Dungeons & Dragons books valued at about that; it only matters if the person on the other end of the exchange agrees that my offer meets their price. Similarly, it doesn’t matter if they offer up some form of property–like a video game–or if they offer up $50 in cash, thereby making me the seller. It only matters that each side have something the other side wants.

We lose sight of this because our use of currency allows our economic actions to become pretty circuitous, but if I want to buy a new copy of Grand Theft Auto V, but I lack $50, I might take seventy-six games to Gamestop and sell them for $50, and then use that $50 to buy GTAV. In every real, useful sense I have participated in barter–I have exchange 76 games for one game. Currency allows multiple actors to be involved in this barter transaction, because the universally valuable commodity means that it doesn’t matter that Wal-Mart has no use or need for 76 used games, as long as I can find someone who does.

Nor does it matter if I worked for two hours to earn that $50, having bartered out my labor and time to yet another actor in return for the cash that I use to purchase the video game. Perhaps I cut lawns for a living, and cut two lawns for the $50. Ideally, I could simply cut Wal-Mart’s lawn, and they could provide me with a copy of the game, right? This is literally the issue with the barter economy, because there is no guarantee that “someone selling GTAV” will also “need their lawn cut.” Again, the use of currency allows us to sidestep the issue, by widening my possible customers from “just people who are selling GTAV” to “anyone with money.”

The point of all this is to say that buying/selling are not one-sided agreements. It’s so easy to lose sight of this, because, again, currency masks the true roundabout of our economy, but I’m still putting up something for sell. I’ve probably already sold my “something for sell,” and I probably sold it to an entirely different person, but that doesn’t change the fact that Wal-Mart wants my $50 just as much as I want their copy of GTAV.

There’s a thin line between being pro-market and being pro-corporation, this comment is safely on the “pro-corporatist” side.

“Call it something else.”

Indeed. This is literally the crux of anti-IP arguments, that it is not a transfer of ownership, which is legally mandated in what it means to buy and sell–to exchange property. Going back to our barter economy, if I trade my two D&D books for your new copy of GTAV, I lose any and all ownership rights of those D&D books, because they cease being my property; similarly, you lose any and all ownership rights of GTAV, because it has ceased being your property. It makes absolutely no difference if you don’t want two D&D books, so I’ve sold them to Random Joe for $50, and then I offer you that $50. In that event, my ownership claims of that $50 in currency have ceased to exist, because I have transferred ownership of that money to you.

By the arguments of Intellectual Property, I have just as much right to dictate how EA uses that $60 I paid them for Dragon Age: Inquisition as they have to dictate how I use my copy of Dragon Age: Inquisition. Why not? I worked for that money just as hard as they worked for that one copy of DAI. In fact, I probably worked harder, when it’s all said and done. But we reject that out of hand, without even taking the time to process the argument. “Of course you can’t tell EA how to spend the money you paid them for that game! You gave them that money! It’s theirs now!”

I mean, that’s it. That’s exactly the point.

So of course EA can’t dictate how I use the game, because they gave me that game. It’s mine now.

Licensing

They might attempt to pull legalese bullshit and sell me a license, instead of selling me an actual, physical object, and they do attempt this sort of thing, but it’s hardly of consequence, and it can be pretty easily dismissed.

For example, when Square-Enix released Final Fantasy IV on Android for $19.99, I contacted them with my proof-of-purchase and proof-of-ownership of Final Fantasy IV on Nintendo DS and requested a code for FF4 on mobile. It’s exactly the same game, with the caveat that some content has been removed. Square-Enix predictably replied that my ownership of the same fucking game on NDS didn’t entitle me to ownership of the game on other platforms. Don’t get me wrong–I knew they’d respond that way.

“Fine,” I replied. “So you won’t mind if I rip the cart to my phone and use a DS emulator to play it.”

Again, predictably, their response was that making backup copies is a violation of their Intellectual Property, at which point they informed me that they would–seriously–be forwarding the emails to some government agency piracy watchdog.

But my argument is unassailable, and that’s why the agency never bothered me. For one, we do have the unfettered and unrestricted right to make any and all backups that we want of anything that we purchase. Not only that, but it’s necessary that consumers have this right, so let me get a little technical on you for a minute.

Playing a Game Creates a Copy

Even if all you do is pop your disc into your Xbox 360 and play Final Fantasy XIII, you are still creating an instantaneous copy of that game. That’s right–simply by playing the game, you are creating a copy of it. This is because the “copy” of Final Fantasy XIII that you’d be playing is a ROM–it is Read-Only Memory. But in order for stuff to happen, it must be moved to RAM–Random Access Memory. Since nothing is ever erased from the ROM, ipso facto, launching a game copies the files from ROM into RAM, where they live instantaneously. It’s not of significance whether you create a permanent copy, a temporary copy, or an instantaneous copy; you are copying it either way.

This is the same reason that Microsoft Office comes with a gigantic EULA that allows you to make copies of the program–it’s necessary in order to even use it. To even use Office, you must insert the disc, which copies the files from the CD/DVD onto your computer.

This is also why I made and uploaded this video to Youtube, specifically to call attention to how abused our IP system is. By all rights, Nintendo should have viciously pursued me over this video, but they didn’t. Here I’ve posted a video showing the actual programming of the NES game Startropics.

That’s it. That’s the actual freaking game being played. That’s Nintendo’s programming that I’ve recorded and uploaded. It’s literally proof of piracy. It’s proof that I made a copy of their game, and didn’t stop there–I made a copy of their game and put it online to share with the entire world.

Picking and Choosing

So publishers regularly pick and choose when to apply IP laws and when not to. We can’t act like it’s this Holy Grail of Certainty and Unambiguity, because it isn’t. Not only does that video remain on Youtube–without being ContentID’d–but it will always remain on Youtube, because Nintendo doesn’t give a shit about their intellectual property. When it comes to the game and IP laws, the code for that game is their Intellectual Property. But they don’t care.

If you don’t like the terms, don’t purchase the product.

If only it were that simple. But, see, because of the state, Intellectual Property has a monopoly on video games, music, television, and movies. This is overlooked by this part of the comment. Intellectual Property wasn’t just “such a great free market idea” that every company adapted and every consumer loved it. No, it was strong-armed onto us by the state, and adopted as an anti-consumer measure to protect corporations who had stifled the competition.

This is a critical free market pillar: competition. Intellectual Property, as a solution to a problem, doesn’t have any. It’s the de facto solution, enforced by the state. Sure, I could sit here in my house and listen to any music, not watch any television or movies, not play any video games, and not read any books–for what it’s worth, reading a book also creates a copy in your head–but anyone who would demand such a thing has totally forgotten what it means to be a human being. There’s nowhere to go to escape from Intellectual Property. Even GOG, which takes a diehard anti-DRM stance, doesn’t fight against Intellectual Property.

This argument is nothing more than “If you don’t like America, then you can get out!

Hey, I don’t like living under the state’s monopoly, either. Why don’t I just choose to go somewhere that I wouldn’t have to live under the state’s monopoly?

Oh, wait.

Because there isn’t anywhere to go. Because the state has taken a monopoly, not just over me but over the entire planet. And so has Intellectual Property, thanks largely to Hollywood lobbyists having the United States Government enforce U.S. copyright laws in parts of the world that, you know, aren’t part of the United States–like in Sweden.

Yeah, it’s that easy. Just avoid Intellectual Property. Why didn’t I think about it before?

Probably because I’ve been awake for about 2 hours, and I’m already swimming in a sea of things protected and covered by intellectual property. Like the song I’m listening to right now. Like the web browser I’m using right now. Like the content platform I’m using right now. Like the social media platforms I was on earlier. Like the song that played on the radio as I drove to the store. Like the Newports that I bought when I was at the store.

Every single one of those things deals with Intellectual Property; it’s no exaggeration at all to say that we’re swimming in a sea of it, and this isn’t specific to the United States. Slowly but surely, everything has come to be protected by Intellectual Property, which, as I’ve said and countless others have pointed out, does nothing more than allowing someone who transfers ownership of an item to continue claiming ownership of an item after the point of sale.

People like you seem to think you can dictate terms of sale.

Garbage hyperbole unworthy of a response. Arguing against Intellectual Property is not even remotely akin to trying to dictate anything. Trying to maintain ownership of property that I have purchased is similarly not akin to trying to dictate anything. This actually reminds me of my post about transsexualism, where I had to actually point out to a Voluntaryist that preventing the state from forcing its definitions onto me is not equivalent to forcing my definitions onto the state, much less onto him.

That said, why don’t I have just as much right to dictate the terms of the exchange as the other party? If the other party and I can’t come to an agreement, then the exchange shouldn’t happen, but what lunacy is it to suggest that I have no right to dictate the terms of my side of the exchange? The only difference here is that Intellectual Property prohibits me from going to Wal-Mart’s competition. If I don’t agree with Viacom’s Intellectual Property terms, I can’t just pop down to the meth-head selling bootleg DVDs without risking the full might of the state coming down onto me; this is what I meant when I said that Intellectual Property has drummed out all the competition. It has. Intellectual Property has given the power completely to the person selling the item, and the person selling the currency is just SOL.

My options become to avoid it or to endure their terms, because there is no competition. And while, on the face of it, that seems at least somewhat reasonable, it’s no more reasonable than telling someone to stop driving on the roads if they don’t want to pay taxes. It’s not how any of this works. You’re proposing a free market solution–boycotting–to something that has long since stopped being related to the free market, thanks to government regulations creating IP and stifling competition. Free Market solutions only work when there is a free market.

Yes, if some company could step forward and say, “We’ll sell you these games completely, and they’ll be considered yours from now until the end of time,” they’ll fun into problems. Even GOG doesn’t go this far. Why not? Because if they tried to go that far, then all of the AAA publishers would stop providing GOG with copies of their games to resell.

It’s the attitude of someone who has never created anything others want.

That’s funny to be posted on a free website that contains access to a free book, free music, free videos, and, until recently, free podcasts. And clearly “others” want it. I once created a script for RPGMaker VX that allowed actors with an Undead state to have healing turned into damage, and it was downloaded some 4,000 times. My old band I Over E had one of its songs stolen by a band in New York. I/E also had its music receive about 20 downloads per day. This site receives about 30 hits each day. I gave an essay to V2: The Voluntary Voice for free. I’ve got a game that I’ve made, but which isn’t finished, available for free right now. I’ve got a book I’ve written that represents nearly a decade of work for free right now.

Yet you’ll also find this scattered across everything I create:

It’s a KoPiMi that means, basically, I waive any and all Intellectual Property claims to any and all of my creations. For fuck’s sake, while I was selling a book on Amazon, I personally uploaded it to The Pirate Bay and gave it away. And yes, it did sell–clearly, people wanted it.

I don’t demand that all creators go as far as that. No creator is really required to personally help people get their content for free. But no creator has the right to stop it, either. If I go through the trouble of self-publishing a book and begin selling it on the street for $8 each, and Dickhead Bob buys a copy, hurriedly photocopies all the pages, slaps the copies into manilla envelopes, and begins selling those photocopies for $2 each, I have no right to stop him. How could I? I was the one who sold him the book. He can do what he wants with it.

I could argue and appeal to people’s better nature. “Look, I was the one who wrote the freaking thing. I’m the one who deserves payment for it!” Evidence suggests that this would actually work. People tend to get pissed off when one person tries to sell something that someone else made. Don’t believe me? Watch how people have reacted to idiots trying to upload Minecraft–which we’ll discuss more in a moment–onto Steam Greenlight, hoping to cash in on its noticeable absence to make a quick buck for themselves.

Note: I didn’t quickly see the Minecraft video, but there it happens to World of Warcraft, to exactly the same widespread response.

Ah. Here we go.

Because the videos are in playlists, they’re not linking correctly. It’s video #112 and #41.

Speaking of Minecraft, if you happen to think that only some Popularity Threshold will warrant a person’s opinions on Intellectual Property as legitimate, then it’s hard to get more popular than the blockbuster PC hit that is and was Minecraft. Maybe my arguments aren’t valid because only 74 people downloaded my game, or because only 112 people have downloaded my book, or because only 2700 people have browsed my free site in the past five days. Maybe that’s just not enough to say, with any certainty, that someone would be willing to pay for it if it wasn’t free. Then again, clearly someone is, and at one point I was actually making like $42 a month through Patreon. So…

Anyway, Notch himself, creator of Minecraft, is on the record as not giving a shit about Intellectual Property. You know what? Ed McMillan, creator of The Binding of Isaac and Super Meat Boy, both of which are also extremely popular, says exactly the same thing: “We don’t really care.”

Notch stood on the floor of a MineCon event and told people to “just pirate it” if they couldn’t pay for it. His words: “…just pirate it.” On top of that, though, Minecraft freaking has a free demo version. He didn’t say “Download the demo version if you can’t afford it.” No, he said, “Just pirate it.”

If you have some kind of popularity threshold that has to be met before you’ll take someone’s rejection of IP seriously, then you’re not going to find someone who has made something much more popular than freaking Minecraft.

Minecraft.

The game that fucking redefined video games. The game that has sold more than one hundred million copies. It has sold 2/3 the amount that the freaking Sony PlayStation 2, one of the most successful gaming consoles ever, has sold.

For more perspective:

Super Mario Bros., in all its various forms and re-releases and updates and Virtual Console releases, has sold about forty-million copies. Considering that’s probably the biggest game of all time, with an icon so popular that even people who don’t play video games will recognize him, it’s saying something that Minecraft has outsold Super Mario Bros. by a margin of 5:2.

How about Jim Fucking Sterling, Son himself, the person whose videos I was initially building from? All of his content–all of it–is available 100% for free. And though he doesn’t like it if you use an AdBlocker to view his videos, he understands why, and he doesn’t hold it against you if you do. For example, I’ve posted a lengthy response on his video about AdBlockers, and yet he follows me on Twitter. Don’t get me started on ads, though.

Despite the possibility–and the ubiquity, especially among his audience–of someone using an AdBlocker to watch his video without earning him any ad revenue, he still posts them. You don’t have to contribute a fucking penny to view his website, to watch his videos, or to listen to his podcasts. In effect, he relies on the Honor System, and, you know what? It works exceedingly well for him. As he points out, have you seen his Patreon lately?

So the statement:

It’s the attitude of someone who has never created anything others want.

… is certifiable bullshit. If I don’t count, then surely Jim Sterling does. If Jim Sterling doesn’t count, then surely Ed McMillan does. If Ed McMillan doesn’t count, then surely Notch of Minecraft does. And if Notch doesn’t count, then your threshold of “how many people want it” is so high that it’s irrelevant and meaningless, because the only game that has outsold Minecraft is Tetris, and Tetris has been ripped off and bootlegged in so many ways it’s basically a genre unto itself. Repeat: Minecraft is the #2 best selling game of all time.

Although that gap between #1 and #2 is fucking insane. Nearly 500 million for Tetris? Holy sh–

You’re like little squalling babies, endlessly whining. I have nothing but contempt for you and anyone else with this attitude.

Well, considering I’ve done nothing that resembles squalling or whining, it’s hard to imagine why your contemptible, vitriolic comment of insults wouldn’t qualify but a well-received and very successful article arguing against IP does. But there’s nothing here for me to retort, so I’ll leave it at that.

Moving On To Another Criticism

My analogy about replaying the game a second time constituting a violation of the publisher’s Intellectual Property did go too far, and itself became a false equivalence. I apologize for that, and thanks for pointing it out. You are correct–that went too far and didn’t hold up to scrutiny.

Another Criticism Via Reddit

While I agree that IP law needs a lot of improvement, I have to comment on the idea to compare video games to cars.

In my opinion this comparison is utter nonesense. There are two big differences between cars and games:

  1. While you play a game, it’s value for you decreases. Meanwhile the game’s value for other people is not affected by you playing at all. This is obviously not true for cars whatsoever.
  2. While it takes a lot of materials and physical work to build a car, reproducing a game just takes a couple of clicks and a little work for your computer. You cannot just clone a car.

Therefore comparing these two seems rather pointless to me. Even if they would be similar however, I would find the mindset “We should treat X like this because we’ve always treated Y like this.” being far from optimal. What we should think about is why things should be treated in certain ways. What behavior do we want to (dis-)encourage with our treatement/our rules?
Having IP lawas for example can possibly encourage people to create unique and enjoyable content (be it games, movies, books or whatever). It also can encourage people to try to trick and abuse the system.

I don’t pretend to have the answer to all these questions. I just want to point out that it is not that simple as just applying the same laws we use for cars to games (or movies or books etc. especially in their digital form).

To be clear, I am not being cowardly; I addressed the criticism in the Reddit thread. If someone wants to critique something I’ve said, that’s great–it’s how ideas evolve–but this also means that my reply has to be open, too. So I’m just going to copy and paste what I wrote on Reddit:

1. You are wrong here. The moment you drive a car off the lot, its value plummets. Because of wear and tear, each additional mile further lowers the value of the car. They have value to the owner for different reasons (the car because of travel, the game because of enjoyment), but it’s still the case that each moment spent using either one means that is one moment that can never be used like that again.

For example, I’ve often lamented the fact that I can never read the Harry Potter books “for the first time” again, nor can I play FF6 “for the first time” again. Those first experiences were unique, powerful, and special, and no subsequent revisit has come close to capturing it. Their value has certainly plummeted for me, and I’m not even sure I still own all the HP books. This is 100% true for vehicles, as well. Even the best vehicle will only get to about 300,000 miles. It has longer life and its value is larger, but the same rules still apply: every time you drive a car, its value most certainly does decrease.

2. This reminds me of a conversation I had with someone a few months ago about the replicators in Star Trek. Or with 3-D printers, the first real-life version of replicators we’ve yet made. I don’t see any reason that a person won’t be able to 3-D print a vehicle in a few more decades (though tires and other parts might still have to be purchased rather than printed), which will render your point moot. This is mostly a matter of technology. Once upon a time, it wasn’t as easy to just copy a book, either–it took a scribe hundreds of hours to produce a copy. Then the printing press was invented, and the amount of work required to produce a copy became drastically reduced. Now I can make a copy of a book with a few button presses.

2a. That said, the “copy” produced via the computer with a few clicks is a poor copy of what was purchased, which is what my point about feelers was supposed to call attention to. The only copied CD I ever owned–seriously–was A Perfect Circle’s Thirteenth Step, and I went to great lengths to get a high quality label printed for the copied version, and it still wasn’t up to par. Nor did it come with the booklet. Copied/cracked games often create their own problems, too, in addition to not being able to receive patches or purchase DLC, and these downsides have to be acknowledged. It’s not as simple as a couple of clicks to truly produce an accurate copy of a video game. It’s just not that simple. What one makes a copy of are files (which, incidentally, is necessary for installation of the game anyway, since installing a game from a disc literally creates a copy of that game), but those files don’t constitute nearly the whole package that was purchased.

Edit: It replaced all my numbers with “1”. Sorry.

Edit2: Continuing from the actual first point, a car with 120,000 miles on it doesn’t have anywhere near the value that a car with 12,000 miles on it has. Why? Because a car’s value lowers with each usage, and that usage is typically measured in “miles traveled.” Time itself is also a factor, as even a 2003 Mustang that has been sitting in a garage with only 5 miles on it won’t have anywhere near the value that it had when it was brand new. Really, the fact that a 5 year old game has about 5-10% of its initial value while a 5 year old car has about 25% of its initial value completely nullifies your point. If cars didn’t lose value with usage, then a 2007 Chrysler would be worth exactly as much today as it was in 2007, but that simply isn’t the case. Cars depreciate with usage, too, and often drastically–it’s generally said that even driving a car off a lot causes it to immediately lose a few thousand dollars in value, though, having never bought a new car, I can’t verify that. Regardless, it’s demonstrably true that cars depreciate in value with usage.

Edit 3: No more edits, I promise.

Since I’ve defended my points, and fairly represented the criticisms raised–they were copied/pasted directly, after all–I’m going to leave off here and wait on further objections to be brought up, if any are. Thus far, nothing has been said that truly holds up as a dispute to anything I said about IP and video games in the previous article, except that my “second playthrough” argument failed, and I’ve now rectified that. The reason that argument fails is that, while it’s true that we’re colloquially told that we’re sold “an experience,” that is just a colloquialism for saying we were sold “a license that allows us to have the experience.”

5 thoughts on “A Follow-Up About Intellectual Property

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  2. New reader here, just saw your other post and this one. I’m curious to know about what you think about open-source licensing, especially free software(‘copyleft’) licenses like GPL that can restrict the user, but with generally good intentions.

    I realize that IP and licensing are not 100% the same, but since your arguments here seem to address both to some degree I imagine you probably have something interesting to say on the subject.

    • I don’t have much experience with the terms of various licenses. The only time I’ve had to deal with them was when I put my game on itch.io and had to set the license agreement. I don’t remember which I chose, but it was the closest one to “do whatever you want with it” that I could find.

      I’ve actually lightened up on my stance against DRM in the past few days. If we could abolish IP entirely and publishers could rely on DRM to protect their games, I would be happy with that, because the battle of pirates versus DRM is one that will always rage. For publishers to be able to do both while also protecting their work with IP through various, restrictive licenses is too much.

      I hate DRM, Denuvo, and SecuROM, but… I vastly prefer them over the state getting involved and kidnapping people. Your comment is actually what made me think about DRM in that context, so thank you–it’s essentially a free market solution to the “We made this game, and we want to make sure that people who play it have paid us for it” problem. That’s fair and understandable, and they have every right to take whatever measures they can with *their* property to safeguard it. By the same token, though, they’d have to accept that people out here, self included, hate obtrusive DRM and will bypass it with every opportunity. Round and round it goes, like viruses and anti-viruses, with each side always trying to be one step ahead of the other.

      I think a seller has every right to dictate the pre-sell conditions of their property. I wouldn’t sell someone one of my old guitars if I knew they were going to give it a The Who treatment. And disregarding other things I’ve said about animals, I wouldn’t sell someone a cat without knowing very well that they would treat it kindly.

      But all of those would be negotiations, and done openly. With most software, one won’t see the full terms and conditions until after purchase, and may even be surprised to find that there even *are* terms and conditions pursuant to the usage of the product according to the purchased license that grants those usage rights. My day job is a tech consultant, and at least 3/5 clients have been shocked to find that purchasing a new PC means that, before they can do anything, they typically have to agree to HP/Dell/etc’s license agreements, and then Microsoft’s, and that their only recourse if they don’t agree is to return the product immediately–which often is a headache and a dead end street, since “I don’t accept the license agreement” won’t always work.

      I wish I could discuss the specific terms of OpenGL, because I think that’s what you mean, but I’m not familiar enough to do so and can only speak generally. I like anything that has a reason to call itself “open source.” Android, Firefox, the Dolphin Emulator… Even though I personally cannot code at a high enough level to make use of that, it functions as a sort of peer review. I *know* there’s nothing fishy in Firefox because other users *can* inspect the code and have verified that it’s not doing anything that I wouldn’t want it doing.

      I also think that a lot of art, music, games, and movies have been lost. Several years ago, I had one of my friends sample one of my songs and use it in one of theirs, and the result was far beyond what I had done, and infinitely better. If someone wants to take my book, my music, my game, or my articles, make them better, and reshare them with the world, to me that’s a good thing–it’s enhanced/improved stuff out in the world for people to enjoy.

      Steam is particularly egregious in this regard, and I really think Valve should rework the storefront to make it clear that people are not buying games but are renting licenses per Valve’s Terms and Conditions. I’m not going to pretend that I read these gargantuan, circuitous legalese documents before clicking “Agree,” but that’s exactly it: no one reads those things, so the overwhelming majority of people right now on Steam, Kindle, iTunes, etc. think of themselves as owning those songs, games, and books. Since they’re generally not aware that they were sold conditional licenses instead of actual products, they don’t know how badly their ownership rights have been destroyed.

      All that said, and at the risk of this becoming overly-overly long, I’d say there’s a difference between a pre-sell condition and a post-sell condition, since the seller loses all ownership rights of the property to dictate any terms once it is sold.

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