What's wrong with the GNU GPL?

Submitted by zClark on Mon, 03/Dec/2007 - 23:55


No Orwellian Rights Recognized

When I first read about the Free Software Foundation's GNU General Public License, I was struck by the stroke of genius it represented! Moreover, my enthusiasm has not waned. This respect carries over to the Creative Commons efforts as well. Copyright is one of the state's basic mechanisms for seducing weak minds into sanctioning governmental violence to enforce contrived rights who's only hope of possibly being realized lies in the menacing threat of arrogant aggression. (Whereas a peace respecting mind would only confer the notion of a ‘right’ to concepts that prevail as working solutions where coercive enforcement is needed only rarely if ever.) The beauty of Copyleft, of course, is that while it is a copyright, it nevertheless works to undue most everything a copyright is traditionally used for. Consequently, all those who conceived, perfected, and use copyleft schemes will always receive my support. However, I cannot personally use it. The reason being of course, is that the freedom campaign that I'm promoting cannot be compromised by employing the threat of legalized violence against anyone who has not willfully and actively subscribed to the ‘jurisdiction’/agent who will be carrying out any coercive enforcement. During the last incredibly short three months, I have put a portion of my photography onto commons.wikimedia.org. Devout readers can verify this by checking commons' categories Honduras and Antigua_Guatemala. My files are all distinguished with file names that are exactly 22 characters long. All my photos currently under Antigua_Guatemala start with “GT056-Antigua” while those from Honduras begin with “HN”. The exif “Comment” of every photo carries this notice: “As no compulsive ‘jurisdiction’ can morally confer|deny any RIGHT, my photo is put in the PUBLIC DOMAIN to best advance art & integrity. Use file and visit http://yojoa.org/ego to be paid.

I believe the core argument in this post is: “Copyright is one of the state's basic mechanisms for seducing weak minds into sanctioning governmental violence to enforce contrived rights who's only hope of possibly being realized lies in the menacing threat of arrogant aggression.” Without commenting on the rest of the post (which I mostly agree with), I feel this main point needs rebuttal.

First, let me point out the extreme irony in this idea. It is no doubt that Mr. Z. Clark is strongly of the libertarian persuasion (as I am), sharing the two most important core beliefs of abhorrence from unnecessary force, and utmost respect for (physical) property rights. Yet, this is an argument over an abhorrence for intellectual property (IP) rights.

Assume two people toil to create something useful to others. One builds a widget, and the other writes a book. Assume both items have real, physical properties, as well as IP. Virtually every government in the modern world have laws which protect both. That is it is both illegal to steal either the widget or the book, and it is also illegal to sell identical copies of either without agreement from the creator of the widget or book (assuming neither person abdicated their physical property or IP claims).

There is nothing wrong with freely releasing all claims of ownership, but the argument in this blog suggest that all claims to retain ownership of creative intellectual work are necessarily wrong. While I clearly understand how boundaries of ownership regarding IP can become much less easy to identify (e.g., when does a derivative design or writing become a trespassing copy of the original?) than property (although meandering rivers can easily cause havoc to any reasonable system of property titling bordered by the river in similarly murky grounds; pun intended).

While there is much wrong with IP law, there is also much right with it. I think it is the necessity (apparently) of arbitrariness regarding things like time limits, determination of boundaries, identification of ownership when contested, etc., which is the real core of the issue. However, the difficulty in sometimes identifying boundaries or owners or the lengths of limitation of state protection of property rights do not make IP wrong, only difficult. As with most libertarians, compromise is an anathema to all they believe, and the apparent necessity of compromises in dealing with and determining IP boundaries results in declarations such as what started this blog. I contend these difficulties are no excuse for absolute abrogating all ties to property of the intellectual type.

We do not claim the state seduces week minds into sanctioning governmental violence to enforce land or "widget" property rights, so why would we make such a claim for mental property which comes from similar level of efforts producing analogous value in the form of creative designs, books, etc.?

-- Alan