Monday, 10 May 2010

A Opiniao de Fabio Ostermann

Escrevi o texto abaixo para um curso sobre as relações entre direitos de propriedade privada e liberdade de que participei um tempinho atrás. Críticas, sugestões e opiniões em geral são bem-vindas!

I wrote the piece below for a course in which I took part a while ago on the relations between private property rights and liberty. Criticisms, suggestions and general opinios are welcome!


Intellectual property is an issue that divides liberal thinkers. Some argue that it is a necessary feature of a society based upon innovation an individual merit. Others defend the idea that the enforcement of IP rules is an illegitimate form of government monopoly that we should get rid of.

Every school of thought on political theory has its own theory of property rights. Liberalism is of course no different, as it bases its political theory on the sacredness of private property rights, departing from the fundamental right to own (privately) one's own body. Besides the natural property in one's own body, tangible property may be acquired by homesteading something that has no previous owner or by a voluntary transaction with the previous owner.

Considering both sets of arguments about intellectual property I believe that the one that is skeptical about the legitimacy of government granted monopolies over the commercial use of an idea is more consistent with a fully liberal theory of property rights.

Liberals believe that with private property comes a bundle of rights granting absolute power over it as one wishes. The bounds to this dominium would be the liberties and properties of others – for instance, I am not allowed to use a crowbar I own to hit you or to break into your house, for this would be a violation of your property over your house and, of course, your own body.

By the same coin, it is a violation of my property rights to prevent me from using materials and resources I own to arrange them in a certain pattern and sell it to my neighbor only because someone else has registered this same pattern in a government office, and thus has obtained monopoly over its commercial use. What justification could there possible be for the initiation of violence against me, since I would not be threatening or depriving no one of their life, liberty or property?

Ideas are non-scarce goods and should not be artificially and arbitrarily made scarce only because someone thought about it first or was the first one to register it. Thus, unless contractually agreed upon by the parties involved (as in the case of copyrights, very different therefore from patent law issues), the institution of intellectual property is incompatible with a theory of genuine private property rights.

1 comment:

Sérgio Braz said...

Opinião discutível esta. Eu acho que é importante a protecção dos direitos de propriedade intelectual, mais não seja, para reconhecer o mérito dos inovadores. Ainda que seja ao nível das ideias. Para mais, vide