Tom Paine’s Common Sense.
A preliminary statement by Brad Linaweaver and J. Kent Hastings on behalf of their mutual friend, J. Neil Schulman.
Dear fellow libertarians, for some reason unknown to us, Neil Schulman thinks that our opinions will carry some weight in the current libertarian civil war between open source and IP. Since one of us is a moderate open source person (Kent) and the other is a moderate IP person (Brad), we have been discussing the eventuality of a pamphlet through the Resilient Freedom Foundation that we would entitle RADICAL COMPROMISE. We’re in no rush to finish this assignment since we believe that many seemingly reasonable libertarians have been acting fairly crazy in this internecine warfare. However, that is no excuse for us to stay out of the fray.
We’ll be taking turns making some individually attributed comments, as we take tentative baby steps down this thorny path. First, here are some of my observations.
For some time now, I have suspected there are two famous dead Austrian economists who share the same name. One is Ludwig von Mises. Implicit in his work was a concept of private property. He never spelled it all out because it was logically implied. He did not view the State as solely existing for the enforcement of outrageous state-subsidized property claims. He saw the State as the primary threat to legitimate private property.
However, there seems to be another dead Austrian economist with a similar name. He is never referred to as the aristocratic von Mises. He is an egalitarian guy who is simply called Mises. This fellow doesn’t hold much store (play on words) in old fashioned concepts of private property. In common with Ludwig von Mises, this Mises economist has some old fashioned view about contracts; but those contracts seem to be divorced from old fashioned concepts of property. We seem to have a subject for further study.
A recent re-reading of Samuel Edward Konkin III’s “Copywrongs” persuades me that the fountainhead of Agorism would be a moderate in today’s IP vs. open source war, the same as Kent and myself. At no point does SEK3 question the nature of individual authorship. At no point does SEK3 confuse works of art with corporate state monopoly patents. At no point does SEK3 confuse artistic creation with scientific discovery.
Unlike the worst open source fanatics (as bad as IP fanatics), SEK3 has a great sympathy for the travails of the midlist author. There is little doubt that he would have sympathy for some (but not all) of the complaints of Neil Schulman and Neil Smith. After all, he worked with both professionally, as he did with myself. The Neils and I have spent many years as commercial science fiction writers on Planet Copyright. That does not make us war criminals.
Many years ago, Neil Schulman wrote a pamphlet with his Logorights Theory. It was an attempt to deal with artistic creation claims outside of the context of the State. I don’t believe he ever dreamed the day would come when a fellow libertarian would completely deny the very existence of novels.
J. KENT HASTINGS:
I’m an author thanks to my articles appearing in various SEK3 publications and in issues of a magazine, MONDO CULT, published by Brad Linaweaver. I’m also a co-author of a novel with Brad, ANARQUIA. There may be a copyright notice with my name on it somewhere. If so, don’t blame Konkin, it’s all Brad’s fault. Blame HIM!
My stellar career, though it be of diminished magnitude compared to other luminaries in my local cluster, is more technical than literary. It’s tough to decide which sector of the economy is more insane on intellectual property (IP) issues, computer hardware and software firms or the big music and film studios.
I’ve followed the computer side of things closely since I soldered together a couple of Intel 8080A based MCS-80 computer-in-a-briefcase devices as President of my college electronics club in 1978, around the time the Apple II was first released and a few years before the IBM PC. I got my ham license then and followed reports of Microsoft founder Bill Gates running around an early homebrew computer club demanding that its hobbyist members respect his copyright authority on BASIC program games he wrote.
Later there were absurd shrinkwrapped End User License Agreements for software at the brand new personal computer stores. “By opening this package, you agree to the terms specified in the enclosed contract you haven’t read yet.” Right.
A long train of abuses and usurpations (that is catchy, I’m so original!) continues in and beyond Silicon Gulch at a furious pace today, despite the existence of various watchdog groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Cory Doctorow headed EFF for a while and still supports its activities. Cory somehow manages to eke out a meager living from writing copyrighted novels and editing anthologies (in other words, his sales numbers kick all of our asses.) [Of course, I must admit that Brad Linaweaver and Dafydd ab Hugh did four DOOM novels for Pocket Books that hit the best seller lists. That’s not as great as it sounds when you consider Brad and Dafydd were trapped in the work-for-hire Copyright Dungeon.] The important thing is that Cory has a career despite most of his published works being available in free downloadable editions. Some might view those free copies as marketing publicity.
By the way, works considered open source may have copyright notices. There are “copyleft” legal notices like the GPL and various flavors of “Creative Commons” licenses. These exist to allow copying, sometimes with restrictions, for example forbidding commercial use or the creation of derivative works. These licenses originated to keep public domain code from being locked up inside of proprietary software.
To his credit, Neil Schulman publicly opposes most of the abuses that drive me nuts, such as the way Monsanto uses IP to stop access to its products for safety testing and to destroy the time honored practice of saving seeds, even in neighboring fields of heirloom varieties contaminated by Monsanto’s genetically modified organisms. Yep, patent infringement is the biggest threat to our health.
I agree with Kent. Cory Doctorow is not a hypocrite. My idea of a hypocrite is Kinsella. If you look up the word hypocrite in a copyrighted dictionary somewhere, there should be a picture of Kinsella.
But worse than all that is the problem of the libertarian movement deconstructing itself in such dangerous times. We face an economic crisis that was predicted by libertarians. As the Imperial State flails around in a desperate attempt to save itself, it seems a propitious time for reasonable anarchists like Kent, and reasonable minarchists (as I view myself) to reach out to the unconverted. The Ron Paul movement has been doing a very good job in this regard.
I turn 60 this year. Never have I seen a time when the average person so frequently associates common sense with libertarianism. No wonder that Tom Paine’s COMMON SENSE is making a comeback. There is a very good reason that millions of people think liberal and conservative bullshit is not the place to find wisdom. The great advantage of the libertarian movement right now is that normal humans know nothing of the insane debates we are having inside our own Asylum.
Kent and I know that the Neils can provoke greater passions than we ourselves can do. (Amen, brother–Kent) I was disappointed to see the way Libertarian Celebrity Wendy McElroy chose to involve herself in this mess.
The following tangent is not really a tangent: One of the things I despised most about public High School was what would happen to you if you defended yourself against a bully. Other students could testify on your behalf, but it wouldn’t matter one little bit. If you had been abused for weeks and finally gave as good as you got, the “malefactors” would be dragged off to the principal’s office. The bully was usually smart enough not to claim self defense. The worm that turned would invariably claim self defense. The results were predictable, as fair and balanced as Fox News. Both students were to blame and both would be punished equally.
It would be nice if Wendy McElroy could rise to the level of a High School principal by condemning all participants in the regrettable incident. Neil was on the receiving end of incredible insults AND wishes for his violent demise before he returned the favor with equally extreme rhetoric. Swooping down like the dark angel of Liberal Political Correctness, Wendy chided Neil alone.
By the way, I was co-editor of FREE SPACE from Tor Books in which Wendy made no protest against receiving an evil Statist copyright in 1997. To borrow a comment from copyright protected Buzz Lightyear, “to infinity and beyond!” Fair use!
Incidentally, I do not believe that SEK3 would have felt threatened in any way by anything Neil Schulman has said. His ghost does not require Wendy defending him from Neil.
J. KENT HASTINGS:
Stephen Kinsella, despite having been involved in the granting of a number of patents, does strongly oppose them now, stating his concern for the freedom of home fabricators being able to 3D print replacement parts as an example. That seems clueful to me, but true repentance requires a sizable donation to the Resilient Freedom Foundation, which will happily issue indulgences for past transgressions against holy anarchy.
Certain conservative cranks are always warning everyone about an imminent expansion of the Seabed Treaty, created “to establish peace,” and which is the basis of the Moon Treaty. For some reason, these crackpots don’t want the UN to sneak its nose into our national tent, outlaw private property and establish a global or solar-system-wide monopoly of authority.
I’ve been concerned about global IP based power grabs that I call The Law of the (C). ACTA is the latest threat “to fight counterfeiting,” replacing SOPA, PIPA, and maybe BOBA and JANGO in the future. (Star Wars is a trademark of LucasFilm, Ltd.)
Brad is charitable when he says the debate reminds him of High School. The trash talking and threats are the playground antics of grade schoolers. Don’t we have better things to do? By the way, I think Neil Schulman’s ex-wife is hot and he sired a daughter. My diet is often worse than Neil’s, so if those who persecute us Lipo-Americans aren’t careful, they may get smacked in the head by a grocery bag of cookies, cheese, peanuts and frozen bean burritos. NOTE: I do not condone these terrible threats made by my alternate personality. Yes I do! Shut up, they’re reading this.
Brad has an MFA degree and therefore can cite obscure works such as COMMON SENSE by Tom Paine, mistakenly thinking the average person will know what that is. From Wikipedia, “George Trevelyan in his History of the American Revolution had this to say about Paine’s pamphlet:”
“It would be difficult to name any human composition which has had an effect at once so instant, so extended and so lasting […] It was pirated, parodied and imitated, and translated into the language of every country where the new republic had well-wishers. It worked nothing short of miracles and turned Tories into Whigs.”
See? It was pirated. Without permission! And its contents changed without approval for parodies. Oh, the humanity! We all know that means the author was ripped off and languished in obscurity, deprived of royalties in his attack on Royalty. So Tom Paine and his pamphlet were lost to the mists of time, except for snooty academics like Brad.
Too bad Paine failed to secure the lack of piracy that Albert Gallatin enjoyed for the publication of his book, Synopsis of the Indian Tribes of North America (1836). Because royalties were paid, it is one of the most famous works of all time–an indelible stamp on history for its celebrated author!
In my courses at the Brad Linaweaver Lugosi Studies Film School, I’ve learned that there are precisely a shitload of times that unauthorized home video copies of TV episodes or movies became the only surviving copies. Some horrible examples include the intentional destruction of older films when they were doing remakes, taping over masters of original episodes in the bizarre history of television, and lots of material that was allowed to deteriorate when the copyright holders had little demand for their product. In other words, it is only Pirate Men who guard even copyrighted things.
The survival of our culture is a mere utilitarian benefit of piracy. Riffing on a recent Doctorow Boing-Boing post, there are about 40 hours of original video and remixes uploaded to YouTube every second by little people versus 40 hours of studio product put in movie theaters each year. So the clear choice, if we’re going to encourage culture, is to discard all the content by the otherwise disenfranchised masses (I am the Left Libertarian here) in order to protect big studio productions of Bruce Willis running around blowing up office towers.
We know that what we’ve said is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the problem under debate. We know that personal matters are distorting the ideological discussion. Besides all the sound and fury, there are important issues at stake. The biggest mistake both sides can make is to assume that the libertarian opponent is the worst example of the other side.
Is an author trying to get paid royalties really the same as Monsanto? Is a fan completing his collection with bootlegs of out of print works really the same as Bernie Madoff?
The authors of this statement would like more common sense and less fanaticism on the Internet. LOL! We may be fucking lunatics, but we are not a threat to fellow libertarians who are just trying to live their lives. What has happened to our priorities in a world of collapsing economies, domestic crackdowns and endless wars?
J. Kent Hastings and Brad Linaweaver