I'm a practicing patent lawyer, and have written and spoken a good deal on libertarian and free market topics. I founded and am executive editor of Libertarian Papers (http://www.libertarianpapers.org/), and director of Center for the Study of Innovative Freedom (http://c4sif.org/). I am a follower of the Austrian school of economics (as exemplified by Mises, Rothbard, and Hoppe) and anarchist libertarian propertarianism, as exemplified by Rothbard and Hoppe. I believe in reason, individualism, the free market, technology, and society, and think the state is evil and should be abolished.

I also believe intellectual property (patent and copyright) is completely unjust, statist, protectionist, and utterly incompatible with private property rights, capitalism, and the free market, and should not be reformed, but abolished.

Ask me anything.

Comments: 2195 • Responses: 86  • Date: 

KaseyB40 karma

I' m entirely in favor of reworking the whole copyright/patent system, with much more reasonable time limits for the protections, but abolish entirely? Why would people make anything? Why would a pharma company spend hundreds of millions of dollars produce some medication only to have some other company take the formula and just produce the same medication without the development costs?

nskinsella17 karma

the purpose of law is not to make sure people make enough pre-ordained things. it is justice, to protect property rights. IP invades property rights. it's very simple. Your asking a question "why would people make things" is not an argument. A question is not an argument.

KaseyB28 karma

This seems like a very odd answer to my question. I don't think you've actually answered it.

nskinsella8 karma

but you are asking your question as if makign a rhetorical poitn: "how would people be incentivized to do X?' implies that we all agree that the state ought to make laws to make sure we have x and that if my answer is insufficient, then my arguemnt against the law fails. So it is question-begging; I refuse to be trapped. I will not permit people to engage in equivocation.

jscoppe13 karma

Why would people make anything? Why would a pharma company spend hundreds of millions of dollars produce some medication only to have some other company take the formula and just produce the same medication without the development costs?

I hope he answers your question. He explores this in his books/essays, IIRC.

nskinsella44 karma

you make things to make a profit selling a product or service, obviously. The idea that this is impossible absent state grants of monopoly privilege is totally unfounded, an wrong. Of course there has been innovation and artistic creation throughout human history, even before modern IP law. So the olnly real argument is that there would be innovation without IP, but not enough. This implies that you know that IP actually stimulates new innovation and that the value of it is greater than the cost of the system (neither is true: http://c4sif.org/2012/10/the-overwhelming-empirical-case-against-patent-and-copyright/). And there is no stopping point to this; the state could tax us and grant trillions of awards to innovators to stimulate even more innovation.

RikF5 karma

So you'd see a return to a world of commissioned works?

nskinsella29 karma

I'd like to abolish patent and copyright and let hte market work. I can't predict or guarantee the consequences of liberty.

bionsuba31 karma

Let me present a scenario to you.

I am a regular Joe. After working in a car garage for 20 years I invent a new type of tool that allows my work to go about three times faster. I try to sell it to make some money on the side, only a couple of local garages due to my lack of budget and I get some good reception. In your world I can't apply for a patent for my new idea and try to sell the rights to someone for even more money. Three weeks later, a large auto manufacturer is making a tool that is almost identical to my tool, but there is nothing I can do to stop them due to the fact that there are no patents. Now what?

nskinsella59 karma

yes, if you try to sell a product and if it is popular, you have to expect competition. there is nothing wrong with this. you have to have high quality, rely o your first mover advantage, your band name or reputation, or keep innovating, if you want to keep making profit. Profit is unnatural, and is gradually reduced by competition. Everyone who is for patent is against free market competition. See http://archive.mises.org/17767/. They admit this. They say "Governments adopt intellectual property laws in the belief that a privileged, monopolistic domain operating on the margins of the free-market economy promotes long-term cultural and technological progress better than a regime of unbridled competition." -- What kind of libertarian or free market advocate is against unbridled competition??!!

See http://mises.org/daily/4575 -- Wendy McElroy discussing Benjamin Tucker:

"The natural-rights side contended that the law must presume something to be property so long as it was valuable. If an idea had value, then it was presumed to be property whether publicly expressed or not. By contrast, Tucker advanced a theory of abandonment. That is, if a man publicized an idea without the protection of a contract, then he was presumed to be abandoning his exclusive claim to that idea.

'If a man scatters money in the street, he does not thereby formally relinquish title to it … but those who pick it up are thereafter considered the rightful owners…. Similarly a man who reproduces his writings by thousands and spreads them everywhere voluntarily abandons his right of privacy and those who read them … no more put themselves by the act under any obligation in regard to the author than those who pick up scattered money put themselves under obligations to the scatterer.'

"Perhaps the essence of Tucker's approach to intellectual property was best expressed when he exclaimed, "You want your invention to yourself? Then keep it to yourself."

acusticthoughts28 karma

How do we balance the need for individuals who invest great amounts of time in techniques and technologies that don't have the ability to go to a broad market with those who do? The best illustration would be someone like Edison who had the connections to get things to the world but didn't necessarily invent them.

If we keep technologies secret until we figure out how to make money off of them - might we miss out on much? It seems like the patenting ability gives legal protection to put your ideas out there. And an NDA doesn't seem the same as worldwide patent protection.

Of course, there is much potential benefit I see from so many who have put all of their plans and ideas out there (free music for one that leads toward concerts, etc).

Seems like with the current system the little guy benefits at a certain point and then begins to lose out at a certain point to the big guys...

What is your basic philosophy on how to get ideas to the marketplace?

nskinsella55 karma

the purpose of law is to protect property rights, not to ensure entrepreneurs of every type can make a profit; that is their job. but for some ideas of what is possible, see http://c4sif.org/2012/01/conversation-with-an-author-about-copyright-and-publishing-in-a-free-society/

JamesCarlin27 karma

"the purpose of law is to protect property rights"

This is only half-true. By saying "the purpose of the law is X" you implicitly seek to evade the other purposes and values implicit in law. The purposes of law are many-fold, as are the underlying human values.

P.S. You appear to have left off "physical," since if I.P. were property, that would undermine your entire argument.

nskinsella27 karma

you cannot justify any right or law other than one that assigns exclusive property rights in an objectively fair manner to scarce resources. That is all.

acusticthoughts11 karma

Two points - 1. Are the things we have spent our personal time on not our property? 2. How do we balance the free information concept with the fact that we do need to make money to exist in this world. If we couldn't make money in the world we wouldn't be able to buy food. No food no science.

As a side - I want all knowledge to be free because I believe the long term benefits are multiplied so greatly that any individual would benefit so much more than if they were to hold it close. However, we still live at a point where the prisoner's dilemma is real and to give it up usually means individual loss.

nskinsella37 karma

spending time on something does not generate property rights. you don't own your labor, or your work. you only own your body and other scarce resoures that you (a) homestaed from their unowned state in nature, or (b) you acquire by contract from a previous owner. That's all you can or do own. Nothing else. Creation is neither necessary nor sufficient for property; this is a mistaken notion, as is Locke's confused labor theory of property which gave rise to Marxist crap.

Dixzon24 karma

I am a research scientist, planning on filing a patent application for a new type of plastic solar cell. I don't know yet for sure if it will work, but if it does work the way I think it does, it could be an enormous boon to humanity. However, if someone with more funding than me can simply steal my idea, where is my motivation to invent this thing?

I suppose there is altruism and doing it for the good of mankind and all that. But altruism won't put food in my belly. What do you think of people in my position?

nskinsella28 karma

No one can steal your idea. They can learn from you. But you still have your idea. So be precise. What you mean is: htey are stealing the money you could extort from people if you had the right to sue for patent infringement; you are claiming a property right in the money of third parties that you can force to buy from you if you can outlaw competition. But you don't have a natural claim to or property right in the money in these potential customers' pockets.

skillip21 karma

Can voluntary user agreements create results similar to copyright/patents? If not, how? If so, are they consistent with you free market principals?

nskinsella40 karma

No, they cannot. Contracts are just transfers of title to owned scarce resources, and they cannot, in any event, affect third parties. I deal wit this in the reserved rights section of Against Intellectual Property, at www.c4sif.org

Wallies19 karma


nskinsella41 karma

who is going to enforce the tax? how much is it? why does society have a claim on land it never homesteaded? Why is land special--after all it's just another type of scarce resource. etc.

conn20059 karma

Is this the response you are talking about?


nskinsella11 karma

that's one

ChrisWillson13 karma

Do you believe in private contracts between companies and individuals stating that they won't copy each others work as some sort of voluntary substitute for the patent system.

nskinsella45 karma

yes, but I think they are largely impracticable--hard to enforce, pointless, and can't affect third parties. IP needs to ensnare third parties.

Consider as a customer: some publisher offers a text book on amazon for $30. to buy it you hvae to sign an agreement saying you will pay the publihser $10M if he can prove you copied the book or showed it to a friend or used the ideas in it. Who would sign this? not many people. Most peopld would move on to the next seller.

MANarchocapitalist11 karma

I agree with your position. How do you convince people who don't. Preferable through a practical, rather than moral, lens.

nskinsella28 karma

that's hard, but there are countless examples of abuse and obvious injustice. You can also put the burden of proof on the IP advocates. If they claim that it's necessary to have IP to have invention and innovation and artistic creation, point to examples that preceded modern IP and ask them how this was possible. And ask them where the stoppoing point is--some alleged libertarians actually support tax funded subsidies for innovation. where is the stoppoing point? http://www.againstmonopoly.org/index.php?perm=593056000000000206

throwaway-o10 karma

I am a huge fan. Will you come to our Decline to State show for a fun interview?

nskinsella11 karma

sure, just text me on fb or email me

conn20059 karma

Stephan- do you believe IP should be abolished cold turkey or phased out?

For those who would like an ebook of Kinsella's book, Against Intellectual Property is available for free at mises.org. It's also my understanding that the LvMI copyrighted this publication without his permission.

nskinsella33 karma

abolished immediately, cold turkey. IT is the 6th worst statist policy, and thre is not a single good thing about it. http://c4sif.org/2012/03/2012/01/where-does-ip-rank-among-the-worst-state-laws/

jporch10 karma

You have some sort of source to back this up? If it's just your understanding, it makes little sense. Copyright is automatic unless one voluntarily places it in the public domain. The Mises Institute could not have copyrighted this if Kinsella had waived his copyright by making it public domain. What you probably mean is that they placed it under Creative Commons without his permission, but likewise that doesn't make sense and if he wanted it in the public domain instead then his intentions would trump theirs. So the only thing that makes any sense would be that he wanted it copyrighted but not released under CC, which would mean he favored stronger enforcement of his copyright than the LvMI, which would contradict his position from everything I've ever read of his.

nskinsella33 karma

copyright is automatic. there is no way to "waive" it. http://c4sif.org/2011/04/lets-make-copyright-opt-out/. you can't blame me for this. I would publish it under cc0 or make it public domain if the state would let me.

conn20058 karma

He told me at Liberty On the Rocks two weeks ago that it was automatically under his copyright and then when he gave the LvMI permission to publish his book, they slapped their copyright on it.

Kinsella might elaborate on this more if he responds, but judging by his facial expressions he either didn't care or was over it.

nskinsella44 karma

they didn't copyright it. they put a copyright notice on it that was false. they said they have copyright; they do not, since it was not a work for hire and I never assigned it in writing. I have the copyright, and all my work it on stephankinsella.com with CC-BY applied to try to liberate it as much as the state will let me. It's bizarre for pro-copyrgiht people to blame me for having copyright that their system imposes on me against my will. It's like telling a black guy that he has no right to be against affirmative action or anti-discrimination laws since he is eligible to use these laws if he wants. why is it his fault if statist impose laws on society?

splintercell2 karma

So hearsay basically?

conn20053 karma

Kinsella personally told me this two weeks ago.

nskinsella4 karma

hearsay is a rule of evidence in court. it is not banished in normal discourse. in any case, he is right. it's just that you guys are confused b/c you don't understand copyright. whcih is understandable since it's an arbitrary, artificial, and complex system. it has nothing to do with real property rihgts or natural justice. That is one reason you guys can't understand it; you are not technicians are experts, just like I don't understan the income tax code.

splintercell4 karma

It's also my understanding that the LvMI copyrighted this publication without his permission.

Citation needed. You need to back that up with proof dude.

nskinsella15 karma

they didn't copyright it. copyrgiht is automatic. I own it by operation of law. I never assigned it to anyone else. So I still own it. The Mises Insittute did not copyright. they just erroneously marked it. that is bc/ copyright is confusing. not b/c of malice.

DT7779 karma

Keep up the good work. Feel free to frequent /r/Anarcho_Capitalism and /r/Libertarian whenever, they will no doubt enjoy discussing stuff with you.

nskinsella8 karma


LDL29 karma

Do you think the current gun ownership by 3D printing will lead to the first state intervention?

edit: Just realized why that didn't get the response I wanted, because I can't English good.

Should be: Do you think the gun ownership by being tied to 3D printing will lead to the first state intervention of printers as some companies have even pulled printers because of this?

nskinsella35 karma

the state will try to find a way to stop 3D printing on gun or Ip grounds, just like it is using IP, child porn, piracy, terrorism, etc. excuses to limit internet rights.

BlerpityBloop8 karma


nskinsella49 karma


dystopianutopia8 karma

Stephan, two part question, your answer to the first affects the second, if someone buys computer software and 'accepts' the EULA that states they must not copy or distribute the software, have they then not entered into an agreement that puts them under the same obligations as IP laws?

Thus, how would the development of computer software be possible in the absence of intellectual property? If your answer to the first part of the question is 'yes', this still would not protect the developers, as while the person who initially bought the software had broken the terms of the contract they entered, if that person were to sell it on to a third party for distribution (and thus could be sued), that third party would not have signed any contract with the developer and would be under no obligation not to share the software in the lack of IP laws.

If this were to happen, then obviously anyone could legally sell on pirated computer software at a fraction of the price the official developers would be charging (or give it away for free) without paying any royalties to the developers themselves without fear of any legal repercussions. In such an environment, would anyone really want to invest millions of dollars in developing software that we all need?

nskinsella27 karma

Contracts can never recreate IP b/c IP is "in rem"--good against the world--and contracts only affect the parties, not third parties, unlike real or in rem rights. Plus, such contracts are unlikely to be widely adopted for a variety of reasons: if hte penalties are small, they will not deter copying; if they are large, people will refuse to sign them, or only a marginalized ghetto subset of people will sign them. And as for fine print and EULA's -- see http://archive.mises.org/9923/the-libertarian-view-on-fine-print-shrinkwrap-clickwrap/

as for the second: rememembeR: a question is not an argument. even if I can't tell you how X would develop in a freer world is not an argument against freeing things up. But the answer here is obvious: look at the free software movement. It thrives without relying on copyright.

people invst money in develping products to make a profit. easy. Are you saying there would be some profit, but not enough? what is enough?

MaunaLoona7 karma


nskinsella20 karma

I am totally against patent, copyright, and also tradmeark and trade secret. Trademark law should be replaced with fraud law only. Trade secret should just be a private contract. Easy.

GoldenHamster7 karma

I took a Mises University class with you a few years ago. The topic of economic predictions came up and you mentioned that you did not believe that there would be any significant "collapse" of the current economic system (such as hyperinflation).

You argued that the private economy would continue to be so productive and so innovative that it would continue to support the ever-growing state. You said we would not experience a significant decrease in our standard of living caused by the socialist economy.

Do you still hold to these predictions? Can you elaborate on your explanation?

nskinsella14 karma

I dn't think I predicted this; I just said I hoped for this and thought it was possible. I still do. we have not had hyperinflation yet, have we?--despite predictions to the contrary from lots of austrian doom and gloomers.

Cynicister7 karma

Lets say someone records (orchestra engineers ect) a cd album with 15 classical tracks and one original.

Can she charge for full album price, with out having cyber nightmares?

nskinsella12 karma

this seems to be a legal question; I prefer here to deal with economic and normative issues, rahher than dole out legal advice geared to the current statist system.

huffyjumper7 karma

Is it true that Keynesian climb trees while Austrians hide under rocks?

nskinsella8 karma


ZeroBugBounce6 karma

Do you agree with this Mises.org ethics position that "the parent should not have a legal obligation to feed, clothe, or educate his children" and "the parent should have the legal right not to feed the child, i.e., to allow it to die."

Basically, should the law be forbidden from punishing a parent who allows their child to stave to death, based on the arguments from the linked article?

nskinsella10 karma

no, i believe in positive obligations assumed by virtue of actions like siring a child -- see http://www.mises.org/story/2291

vretavonni6 karma

How hotly are patent legislations and infringements pursued by big companies? How much money is pumped into these things by companies?

nskinsella21 karma

My guess is $200 billion a year or even more is wasted as a dead cost in the US economy alone, b/c of patents. http://blog.mises.org/14065/costs-of-the-patent-system-revisited/. honestly I think it's impossible to figure out exactly, and I would not be surprised if it is a trillion a year.

JamesCarlin6 karma

Do you reject all norms regarding intangibles?

nskinsella15 karma

of course not; it is immoral to insult your grandma gratuitously.

The_Automator225 karma


nskinsella31 karma

we are for the state having no right to own guns, and no right to stop private people from owning whatever they want. Simple.


What's your favorite thing about bears?

nskinsella11 karma

Their arms. ;)

Ehsaun4 karma

Will we see a more libertarian government in our lifetime?

nskinsella4 karma

not sure. maybe. but despite the state, not because of it; and not because of electoral politics or activism.

ParadiseCost4 karma

To what extent do you oppose IP? Should slander or libel be punishable offenses? If I were to do an AMA claiming to be you, and then also claim (as you) to have committed disgusting crimes that end up being attributed to you even after it's discovered that I am an imposter, would that be a crime on my part?

(I'm not trying to "stump" you, I'm actually hoping you can help clarify my own views on the matter).

nskinsella4 karma

I am totally opposed to defamation law. I view it as a type of IP. It is based on the same conflicted idea that there is a property right in value.

nskinsella4 karma

Slander and libel (defamation) are types of IP and should be abolished. so should patent, copyright, trademark. The former is discussed in Rothbard's Ethics of liberty, free online.

The AMA thing you mention has nothing to do with any of these things or with IP; at most it is a blend of fraud, contract breach, and plagiarism. None of which have to do with IP.

4li5t4ir4 karma

What are your opinions on the Rothbard vs David Friedman private law debate? I think that Rothbard is right fundamentally, but Friedman's arguments seem more likely to apply in the real world where people don't necessarily care/know about natural rights.

nskinsella11 karma

I agree. Rothbard is better but Friedman is perhaps more persuasive to the typical person who is somewhat unprincipled, pragmatic, and utilitarian.

Jivanmukta4 karma

Would you sue me if I copied your books and sold them as my own?

nskinsella4 karma

Nope. I would not mind if you looked like an idiot. see http://c4sif.org/2013/01/on-ip-hypocrisy-and-calling-the-smartasses-bluffs/

morttheunbearable3 karma

You describe yourself as an "anarchist libertarian." How do you connect anarchy (based on no private property) and libertarianism (based completely on private property)? It would seem that they are incompatible ideologies.

nskinsella24 karma

Anarchy means no state, not no private property. I am totally in favor of private property rights. I am a libertarian and pro-property and pro-justice and pro-property rights, and it is for this reason that I oppose the state, which necessarily invades property rights jsut by existing. see http://www.lewrockwell.com/kinsella/kinsella15.html

blastoise_mon3 karma

Can you explain the technological advancement gap between countries and regions with strong IP laws (US, EU, Japan) and countries that don't? How does this trend work in the mind of a person who wants to abolish patent law?

nskinsella31 karma

sure--we have stronger property rights in general. we have more prosperity because of property rights laws, and despite IP laws. Correlation is not causation. After all the US is warlike and imperialist, has has slavery, institutionalized racism and misogyny, the drug war, controls on immigration, tarriffs, but only a dunderhead would say these are the cause of our prosperity. We are prosperous despite these measures, despite the state, not beacuse of it. Without the state we would be immeasurably richer. as for backup for my "8 times richer" comments -- see l. neil smith http://www.stephankinsella.com/2009/11/how-much-richer-would-be-in-a-free-society-l-neil-smiths-great-speech/

BlerpityBloop3 karma

If patents did not exist, how would you encourage private industry to research and invest in new technology?

An example: a pharmaceutical company spends $500 Million dollars to research, test, market and manufacture a cure for arthritis. What would be their incentive to do this if once developed anyone can manufacture it, almost completely erasing their ability to recoup this investment?

nskinsella18 karma

it's not my job to encourage people. nor the state's. the state's only job is to commit suicide, or, so long as it exists, to protect property rights. There are no property rihgts in value, profits, intangibles.

jscoppe14 karma

A lot of that R&D cost is inflated by excessive FDA regs.

nskinsella15 karma

Exactly. To encourage innovation, get the state out of the way: eliminate or reduce taxes, regulations, etc., and innovation will thrive.

AttackTheMoon3 karma


nskinsella5 karma

I've met him but not sure if he knows who I am.

chowdertheclam3 karma

Whats your favorite type of ice cream?

nskinsella4 karma

Pecan crunch.

blore403 karma

I remember reading about some Australian guy getting the patent for the wheel. How did this happen?

nskinsella7 karma

doesn't ring a bell but given that state agencies are incompetent, inept, and enforcing arbitrary, vague unjust laws, nothing would surprise me.

kaces3 karma

What are your views on maliciously intended piracy - piracy driven solely to negatively impact the source?

nskinsella4 karma

I have no view on it other than it's fine.

kerbstomper3 karma

When it comes to pharmaceuticals, how would you keep companies investing in research and development without patents. If i can remember an equation from my econ law class a few years ago, i believe the basic equation is profit x length of patent - cost to develop, or the YK value.

nskinsella9 karma

see chapter 9 of Boldrin and Levine's Against Intellectual Monopoly, at www.c4sif.org/resources. they explain the flaws in this view. The main costs of pharma are not those protected by patents; it's marketing, etc. And the other costs are imposed by the goddamned state via the FDA, taxes, etc. If you want innovation then get the state out of the goddamned way. don't ask it for more interventions.

sideoffries3 karma

How did studying at LSU's law school affect your views? Does it give you a different perspective than most attorneys?

nskinsella15 karma

not in IP, but it did expose me to civil law. At first I thought it was more rationalist and superior, then I gravitated to the common law, then i rejected both in favor of anarchy but nowadays think the civil law approach is in many ways superior, except for the legislative posivism. see http://mises.org/daily/4147 and http://www.stephankinsella.com/paf-podcast/kinsella-pfs-2012-the-states-corruption-of-private-law/

liesperpetuategovmnt3 karma

Hello sir,

What are your views on contractual release, e.g. I make a contract stating terms of use and such and a $1000 penalty is imposed for breaking the contract. I then have all those who wish to buy early release of whatever sign contract. I think it would result in similar filesharing yet the government would no longer be involved with criminal charges. Obviously third parties would be immune to this restriction.

I personally just release nearly all of my software for free anyways. I use a fairly popular contract / license called the GPL which says that further "remixes" must too be open, yet they can be charged for distribution. BSD is another one I use frequently which does not require openness. I used the contract idea in a discussion with a musician who is heavy pro government & IP and we both believe it has merit.

However, I only believe that these licenses will stop businesses from violation.

nskinsella6 karma

$1000 it too small a deterrent to make a difference to real piracy; a greater penalty is going to cause people to refuse to sign the deal. And third parties are not affected. So this cannot work. Peolpe hate the idea of free market competition and always try to find ways to stop copmetition. I am all for them trying this--I oppose all antitrust law--but I don't tihink it will work well.

fixeroftoys2 karma

Thank you for this AMA! Aside from copyright and patents, how do you feel about trademarks? Is there room for trademark protection, and can you explain?

nskinsella7 karma

No, I think if you have fraud law that's sufficient. the rest of trademark is unjust: it's used to bully, intimindate, censor speech, stop real competition, and it has unjust aspects: 1. it is federal in the US, though it is not authorized in the Constitution; 2. the cause of action lies in the trademark holder, instaed of in the defrauded customer; 3. it can be used in many cases where there is no consumer confusion at all, e.g. if you buy a fake Luis Vuitton purse; 4. it has the anti-dilution cause of action which has nothing to do with fraud or consumer confusion. It is a mess. Get rid of it.

NamesEvad2 karma

I completely agree with you on patents and copy right, but what (if anything) would you replace them with?

nskinsella7 karma

with freedom.

homo-insurgo2 karma

A word of caution: most users on this website know little Logic, Economics, History and Philosophy, so don't be surprised if they advocate bankrupt, false, absurd, reality-adverse philosophies(e.g., socialism).

nskinsella3 karma

I'm starting to see this.

nozickian2 karma

Referencing this blog post of yours and in the comment section where you go back and forth with Tim Lee, you both agree that one's IP views should have nothing to do with the choice to use or not use free software.

Do you not think it is a good idea for anti-IP libertarians to support the use of software that uses the least restrictive licenses possible? Isn't it advantageous for IP opponents that MIT and BSD licensed software succeed because it helps to demonstrate that copyright isn't necessary and even harms software production?

nskinsella3 karma

I don't have a strong opiion on what kind of software you should use, but I Do think you should, if you can, publish artistic and literary works CC-BY.

donjuancho2 karma

According to the contract theory of property, can there be a contract for almost anything? As long as it is specified that if the contract is broken, then you are entitled to some form of property from the other person? Would this not include NDAs and copyrights, if people agreed to the contract?

nskinsella3 karma

contracts are just owners of scarce resources transferring that ownership, usually conditionally, to someone else. It's the exercise of the power of ownership. As logn as you communicate a clearly objective and determinable condition for the transfer, it should be effective.

iambinarymind2 karma

Do you feel that having been adopted has had any causal impact on you becoming an anarcho-libertarian?

I ask because I too am adopted (1 month after I was born) and I too would describe myself as an anarcho-libertarian.

nskinsella6 karma

possibly. I allude to this here http://www.lewrockwell.com/kinsella/kinsella9.html. I think it made me more individualist and less tribalist/collectivist, more ripe for being influenced by Ayn Rand, which led to libertarianism

acepincter2 karma

Did you know that almost every question in this AMA was going to be a challenge based on the economy as we know it rather than any future monetary policy or economic structure, perhaps those of barter, social credit, time-banks, etc, in which your philosophy would probably find a better home?

If so, how will you address that problem and ask people to think "outside the box" of the ruthless, dog-eat-dog economic-growth-at-all-costs paradigm into which we were born and have lived all our lives?

Serious question - I wrestle with this problem daily.

nskinsella9 karma

it's hard to get people to challenge the received wisdom. but consider the fall of communism in 1990: it was a teaching moment. Most people now do not think central economic planning is viable. Not b/c they read mises but b/c they saw the collapse of communism. So I hope that over time there is gradual economic enlightenment as people see the beneficence of the market.

pee_hole_papercut2 karma

If patent rights don't exists, won't that inhibit human innovation? I'm not going to share the super secret and useful invention I created for the world to see because somebody is going to steal the idea, market it, and make big profit

nskinsella5 karma

no, patents inhibit innovation. they make it impossible to innovate in some areas, or pointless, if you willbe sued. they make it easy to sit on your patents and not innovate, etc.

Salacious-2 karma

How do you feel about the Gold Standard?

nskinsella11 karma

I'm for a free market in money, whatever results, whether it be a hard money standard or bitcoin.

tlazolteotl2 karma

What about something like a drug company? The company may spend decades and millions on research and jumping through legal hoops to produce something that, while effective, is ultimately not that complex.

If a competitor got access to the chemical formula or procedure for making such a drug, wouldn't they have an immediate advantage because they don't carry the burden of sunk R&D costs?

Thanks for doing this!

nskinsella8 karma

they spend millions and decades, partly b/c of state regulations like the FDA. The enemy of innovation is the state; it and its regulations shoul be eliminated; to trust the evil state that harms business, to help it out by passing more regulations and granting anti-competitive protectionist monopoly privileges is insane. the state is the enemy.

ichormusic2 karma

Stephan, I recently watched a documentary called "The Invisible War". This movie shed light on how big of a problem rape and sexual harassment is in the military. One of the worst parts of it is the lack of action taken when someone is accused of rape or harassment. These soldiers signed up with honorable intentions, under the assumption that they were "protecting our country and our liberties". When raped, and no action is taken (the majority of the time), they are left with 4 options: suck it up, "write a letter to their congressman (wtf)", go AWOL, or suicide.

They signed a contract when they enlisted. Is it immoral for them to break that contract to get out?

Legislation also states that no member of the military may sue the military for any purpose, be it amputating the wrong leg, standing idle while their superiors are raping them, etc...

If you sign up for a contract, is that the final say so?

nskinsella1 karma

it is not immoral to break such a contract, as the other party is just a big mafya.

Mckee921 karma

As an anarchist, why do you favour individualist conceptions of a stateless society, rather than those of collectivist nature (Kropotkin for example), especially since we have seen in recent decades how capitalist interests and the states interests often coincide. Can the struggle for a stateless society be anything but a class struggle, if property is still privately owned, how does one avoid the domination by capitalists rather than by the state?

(Never really been interested in individualist tendencies within anarchism, but I'd be interested to know your opinion.)

nskinsella5 karma

because we are individuals and collectiivst leftist types typically have bad economics.

spiffiness1 karma

What does your employer (clients?) that pays you to help them with patent law think about your extra-curricular activities working to abolish patent law?

How do you personally come to terms with the fact that you're an anti-IP crusader who makes his living helping a company protect its IP?

nskinsella7 karma

They don't care; they just want competence and professionalism. I mean do you care what your airplane pilot or heart surgeon's religion is?

I only do defensive IP. I refuse to cooperate in helping aggressively assert IP. But companies need to have IP and patents, if only to defend themselves if they are sued. I have various posts on this at stephankinsella.com and c4sif.org

lazernerd1 karma

Just wanted to say that although I have not read your book yet, I enjoy your work.

One quick question. Do you think that the creators of ideas could ever have a legitimate case for fraud if someone uses/copies their idea without giving credit? This wouldn't limit me from copying your idea and attempting to profit off it, but merely require me to list you as a source.

The only problem I see with this is that every idea in existence borrows elements from other ideas making it difficult if not impossible to enforce such rules in any practical manner. Though it could certainly be handled on a case-by-case basis, and I see people as being much more willing to credit work if they knew they weren't going to be prosecuted for using one.

nskinsella3 karma

probably not. customers might have a fraud claim. but this would be rare too. There is nothing wrong with learning, borrowing, remixing. this is what human civilization rests on.

nobody258641 karma

Can trademarks be justified since pretending to be someone you're not (or representing a group you don't) may be considered fraud?

nskinsella1 karma

fraud should be prohibited. so why would you need trademark law in addition? abolish trademark law.

GhostOfImNotATroll1 karma

How is IP different from other forms of property that enable one to make money from nothing (i.e. a landlord's property)? Why should IP be considered illegitimate but not these other forms?

nskinsella4 karma

Because property arises as a means to permit the peaceful and productive use of rivalrous (scarce) resources (means). And if you try to allocate property rights in nonscarce things, this is literally impossible; all you end up doing is assigning property righs in alreayd-owned things, which is redistribution of wealth. I.e. theft. IP is theft. It is utterly evil.

[deleted]1 karma


nskinsella8 karma

no one can steal an idea. I have explained this already. I'm not right wing--I am for gay marriage, against drug laws, against war, what are you talking about?

arbivark1 karma

i am a libertarian anarchist lawyer (JD mizzou '93.) currently retired/unemployed/doing something else. is there a good way to network with other Libertarian lawyers?

nskinsella1 karma

I haven't found one, to be honest.

Facade9491 karma

Hi, I'm a Computer Science major in my freshman year and currently am looking at intellectual property law as my main career interest. I read Against Intellectual Property on Mises.org and have been a huge fan of yours since. I guess my question for you is if you have any career advice about intellectual property law. Additionally, do you believe that the eradication of intellectual property is feasible (as in can we actually get there from here)?

nskinsella4 karma

I have some crude advice here http://www.stephankinsella.com/2009/07/advice-for-prospective-libertarian-law-students/ but it is a big dated, and I am not sure what to tell people now. I tend to think that law is a difficult career to go into--you should not go into it unless you LOVE law and want to do it no matter what; or you are confident you can be top 3% of your class and get a top job, and don't think you'll hate it.

And I think IP is here for a while unfortunately.

Luckynumberlucas1 karma


Tomorrow, i am going to steal all your books, papers and everything you ever published and sell it myself.

Fair, right?

nskinsella11 karma

you can't steal it. but you are free to publish and sell them, with my blessing. But I deal with this non-serious, smartass approach here http://c4sif.org/2013/01/on-ip-hypocrisy-and-calling-the-smartasses-bluffs/

blarghargh21 karma

Libertarians are scary :(

Blackat1 karma

This guy's opinion on copyright isn't a Libertarian party platform.

nskinsella6 karma

I am not a Libertarian. I am a libertarian. The LP is not really completely libertarian.

CoolHeadedPaladin1 karma

Just to make a point, which you may wish to elaborate upon, monopolies and big corporations must use the coercive power of the government to stay that way. In a free market model rigorous competition would limit the size of corporate entities. There is a reason big corporations give to politicians that support government regulations on their respective industries, it keeps start ups from competing.

nskinsella3 karma

It is possible corporations would be smaller in a free market, but I think that there would be more and larger corporations and more self-sufficient/semi-retired contractor/outsourcer types.

unspecifiedwittiness0 karma

First of all, thank you for doing this AMA. I'm in the process of reading Against Intellectual Property, and a few friends of mine recently interviewed you for Liberty Minded Videos, so your work has come up in several of our discussions.

Under what circumstances, if any, would a copier be allowed to publish, say, a literary or artistic work under his own name? Would doing so be considered fraud?

nskinsella3 karma

I think basically anything goes. Evne if you lie, I think in most cases it's caveat emptor. If you publish Romeo and Juliet on Amazon tomorrow under your name and someone is stupid enough to buy it, then... come on. does the law realy need to protect such idiots? OTOH I bet Amazon would eventually ban people like you or you would get a bad reputation from user comments. IT's self-enforcing. not a big problem.

theonetrueGodHead0 karma

Your spelling and grammar are terrible. Are you sure you are a lawyer? You pay almost no attention to detail at all.

nskinsella5 karma

just typing fast