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Thursday, May 19, 2005

The Creative Commons

I have added a Creative Commons license to this blog. I doubt it will have any effect at all on anyone publishing my stuff, but I want to add my "vote" to the millions who have supported the concept. Plus, Larry Lessig's wife is an attorney in my firm. I believe the version I picked, attribution, non-comercial, share alike, will eventually become a standard for digital media, and will be where artists and writers start off, with the most famous then perculating up into for-profit commercial venues.

We can also pause here and consider the problem that all intelectual property poses for deontological right-libertarianism. One of two positions are logically possible.

The first is that intellectual property should not exist. There is no "thing" that can be owned, and the government creation of a monopoly on the use of an idea is close to mind control. But than how do you compensate creators for the good that they add to the world? And how to you provide for economic support for the creation of arts and inventions? Sure, eliminating intellectual property would have little effect on the creation of new music, short stories, and political commentary. But how could you fund the next Hollywood blockbuster or the next treatment for cancer?

The second possibility is the other extreme. Unlike objects made from material that existed in the universe befor humans arrived, intellectual property represents a pure creation of the labor of a sentient being. Therefor, intelectual property rights should be absolute and last forever. We have a moral duty not to publish or perform the works of Sophocles unless we track down his decendants and pay them royalties for the use of his works. (Unless some intermediate decendant voluntarily transfered those rights to others, and then we must track down the decendants in interest of Sophocles' intellectual property rights.)

Some deontological left-libertarians may have such problems as well, but most would say that your labor gives you only a life estate in the property you create and therefore declare that intellectual property terminates when the creator does. (A corporation being a creation of laws, if the left-libertarian believes they should exist, she can just state that there is no problem in legislating the length of corporate copywrite, if she also believes copywrites should exist.)

I am not a deontologist, I am a consequentialist social contractarian, so I have none of those problems.

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