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Author Topic: 7th Commandment and intellectual property  (Read 993 times)

Graham

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It occurred to me that the institution of intellectual property didn’t exist in pre-modern times, and that the intention of the commandment might not extend to this relatively recent legal invention. For full disclosure, I think that intellectual property is on balance a harmful institution, so I’m predisposed to believe that the 7th Commandment doesn’t include it.

Here’s a source that surveys the history and justifications of intellectual property law:

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/intellectual-property/#HisIntPro

To summarize: the ancient and medieval world did not know intellectual property law in any rigorous form. This gives good grounds for believing that ‘thou shalt not steal’ was not understood to pertain to ideas; or, if it was rudimentarily understood this way, the protection of ideas and ‘trade secrets’ fell to the concerned party, not the civil law.

It’s possible that intellectual property law is a legitimate extension or progression of the commandment, one which God perhaps intended us to discover in good time. But I see no intrinsic reason to believe this. The assumption behind this seems to be that since the present is better than the past, it follows that present legal institutions must share in this superiority. Now, it would be just as incorrect to reason the inverse, that because past institutions are superior to present ones, no intellectual property law is therefore better (while this is generally my point of departure, I recognize that one needs better reasons), and therefore were not intended by the commandment.

Basically, my reasons are these:

1. That ideas are not the same as physical property. If I take your house, you’re out on the street. But if I take your song, you still have it.

2. That intellectual property law exists to ensure future revenue on protected goods. It confers legal monopolies that protect corporations from legitimate competition. In short, intellectual property is pure corporate handout. No commercial entity has a right to future revenue.

3. That the institution of intellectual property only grew up within a capitalistic and plutocratic society, which Catholic social doctrine detests. This is a good reason to mistrust it.

4. That the dismantling of intellectual property laws would – by enriching culture, reducing the profit motive,  making many goods less expensive, and helping to break the corporate stranglehold – serve the common good, which Catholic social doctrine supports.

Combined with the historical argument mentioned above, these points provide grounds for thinking that the 7th Commandment did not, does not, and should not include intellectual property. If anyone can direct me to a firm Catholic teaching on this matter I’d appreciate it.

Rosarium

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Re: 7th Commandment and intellectual property
« Reply #1 on: July 20, 2011, 11:02:am »
You are correct. Intellectual property does not exist.

However, it is a matter of the fourth commandment (according to Catechism of Pius X). Obeying civil authority when possible is proper.

My blog post on it: http://nonpeccabis.blogspot.com/2010/12/modern-concerns-of-theft-concerning.html

The basis for this idea of intellectual property is greed.

Scriptorium

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Re: 7th Commandment and intellectual property
« Reply #2 on: July 20, 2011, 11:30:am »
I think there are some forms of intellectual property that are warranted. We live in a time in which things are easily duplicated, for the creator and for those who wish to exploit them. Take digital music. Is it lawful for someone to create an CD of music, which could have been days if not months of preparation, not to mention the years of musical practice and composition, recording, mixing, mastering, and production, to then sell duplications of the master recording for profit? Is it lawful for someone to take that recording and duplicate it for free for himself (say, checking it out at the library), or free for many people (e.g., Napster), or to sell it to others? We are in new territory in terms of property. I think a modest amount of protection is warranted, for a modest amount of time. Certainly, though, the system is being used to protect big business, perpetuated revenues, and stifles the development of society due to information log-jam. I am also for artists having their creations being open, and allowing patronage from their fans. This market model has a lot of potential and can effectively by-pass the whole intellectual property issue.
Had your law not been my delight,
 I would have died in my affliction.

Ps 119:92

Rosarium

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Re: 7th Commandment and intellectual property
« Reply #3 on: July 20, 2011, 10:01:pm »
I think there are some forms of intellectual property that are warranted. We live in a time in which things are easily duplicated, for the creator and for those who wish to exploit them. Take digital music. Is it lawful for someone to create an CD of music, which could have been days if not months of preparation, not to mention the years of musical practice and composition, recording, mixing, mastering, and production, to then sell duplications of the master recording for profit?
Is it lawful? Not if it violates the law.

Is it immoral by nature? No, it isn't.

What is actually lost? Nothing. Something is duplicated.

One is not entitled to lifelong payment for past work.

Quote
Is it lawful for someone to take that recording and duplicate it for free for himself (say, checking it out at the library), or free for many people (e.g., Napster), or to sell it to others? We are in new territory in terms of property. I think a modest amount of protection is warranted, for a modest amount of time. Certainly, though, the system is being used to protect big business, perpetuated revenues, and stifles the development of society due to information log-jam. I am also for artists having their creations being open, and allowing patronage from their fans. This market model has a lot of potential and can effectively by-pass the whole intellectual property issue.

We are not in new territory, it is just that since things are easier to replicate now, the previous way of doing things (being paid for actually writing the work, being paid for printing the book, being paid for distributing the book, etc) are not all applicable. Once it is made, it can be copied easily as many times as necessary with no effort. That is a good thing. For the first time, written works are not limited by our ability to get ink on paper.


Resurrexi

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Re: 7th Commandment and intellectual property
« Reply #4 on: July 20, 2011, 10:51:pm »
You are correct. Intellectual property does not exist.

However, it is a matter of the fourth commandment (according to Catechism of Pius X). Obeying civil authority when possible is proper.

My blog post on it: http://nonpeccabis.blogspot.com/2010/12/modern-concerns-of-theft-concerning.html

The basis for this idea of intellectual property is greed.

It could be argued that intellectual property laws are tyrannical or unjust, and, as I'm sure you know, “A tyrannical law--through not being in accordance with reason--is not a law (absolutely speaking) but rather a perversion of law.”--"As Augustine says 'a law that is not just, seems to be no law at all.' Wherefore such laws do not bind in conscience" (St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, I-II, Q. 92, Art. 1; Q. 96, Art. 4).
Vita brevis breviter in brevi finietur,
Mors venit velociter quae neminem veretur,
Omnia mors perimit et nulli miseretur.
Ad mortem festinamus; peccare desistamus.


GottmitunsAlex

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Re: 7th Commandment and intellectual property
« Reply #5 on: July 21, 2011, 02:51:am »
"Nothing is more miserable than those people who never failed to attack their own salvation. When there was need to observe the Law, they trampled it under foot. Now that the Law has ceased to bind, they obstinately strive to observe it. What could be more pitiable that those who provoke God not only by transgressing the Law but also by keeping it? But at any rate the Jews say that they, too, adore God. God forbid that I say that. No Jew adores God! Who say so? The Son of God say so. For he said: "If you were to know my Father, you would also know me. But you neither know me nor do you know my Father". Could I produce a witness more trustworthy than the Son of God?"  St. John Chrysostom Sunday Homily

Scriptorium

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Re: 7th Commandment and intellectual property
« Reply #6 on: July 21, 2011, 12:18:pm »
Say I write a book and publish it with my own money. I sell one copy. I receive $5 after my expenses. Should now I be deemed to have been worthily paid for my effort, and now the work can be distributed and/or sold to the four winds? Or should I have a legal control over my work for my lifetime to reproduce, distribute, and receive money for my work. It seems logical that someone who creates a work should have legal rights over that work for a certain period of time. It certainly can be construed in some instances that purposely going against the law would violate a person's right to a just wage, since you are undermining it.
Had your law not been my delight,
 I would have died in my affliction.

Ps 119:92

Rosarium

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Re: 7th Commandment and intellectual property
« Reply #7 on: July 21, 2011, 08:28:pm »
Say I write a book and publish it with my own money. I sell one copy. I receive $5 after my expenses. Should now I be deemed to have been worthily paid for my effort, and now the work can be distributed and/or sold to the four winds? Or should I have a legal control over my work for my lifetime to reproduce, distribute, and receive money for my work. It seems logical that someone who creates a work should have legal rights over that work for a certain period of time. It certainly can be construed in some instances that purposely going against the law would violate a person's right to a just wage, since you are undermining it.

That is not logical.

You are missing the point.

The issue of payment would be in your managing the publication of it, or in the contract with a publisher. You are not entitled to anything but truth (another can't claim your work for their own).


Pheo

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Re: 7th Commandment and intellectual property
« Reply #8 on: July 22, 2011, 08:39:am »
Current copyright laws extend the protection to after the person who created a work is dead.  That does nothing to encourage additional productivity.  Why write more books when your best seller will keep you and your publishing house going for 70 years?

I've seen it argued that a 12 to 15 year copyright period would strike a nice balance between rewarding people for their work and encouraging more productivity - and it seems to be a less intrusive exercise of civil authority.  Isn't this also closer to the amount of time used in some of the first copyright laws too?
Forced to leave for refusing to lie - well played.

Scriptorium

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Re: 7th Commandment and intellectual property
« Reply #9 on: July 22, 2011, 09:43:am »
That is not logical.

You are missing the point.

The issue of payment would be in your managing the publication of it, or in the contract with a publisher. You are not entitled to anything but truth (another can't claim your work for their own).

Explain what is not logical, and what I am missing, The point IS the legal protection. If I have no legal recourse against an infringer, then all else is moot. I can tell you that without a copyright (which is automatic these days), 99% of publishers wouldn't touch a work. As for a contract between me and a publisher, that has little relation to an infringement of the copyright because that infringer is a third party and bound by no contract, hence the evolution of copyright laws to bind them. And lastly, a just payment for work is a right. Yes, someone cannot claim my work as his own, but also he cannot, or should not, receive compensation for work he did not do, or a right to duplicate my work without my permission which would undermine its ability to earn me a wage (sometimes these are called moral rights in some countries). I admit that intellectual property rights have been made to incredibly long periods (75-125 years after death in most cases), but I think the other extreme is that there is no moral rights to intellectual property which should be protected by law. I go back to my simple analogy of a man self-publishing his work and receiving payment. When you buy a book morally produced and sold, for instance, you are paying for the labor to create the work, create the materials, create the promotion, register the work (ISBN, LoC Cataloging, etc.), pack and ship the work, and a modest profit off the top for a living wage and to fund further works. Out of $12.95, I may take home $5.50. Without legal protections, such a system can be easily circumvented (as it often is these days) which could harm a laborers right to the sale revenue. People point to the big business record industry or Disney as the most extreme examples of this in practice, but we have to honestly look at the other end of the small time producers.

Current copyright laws extend the protection to after the person who created a work is dead.  That does nothing to encourage additional productivity.  Why write more books when your best seller will keep you and your publishing house going for 70 years?

I've seen it argued that a 12 to 15 year copyright period would strike a nice balance between rewarding people for their work and encouraging more productivity - and it seems to be a less intrusive exercise of civil authority.  Isn't this also closer to the amount of time used in some of the first copyright laws too?

The idea is to have something for the children. Take, for example, a man who dies while his children are young. A right to some of his creation could be a source of revenue to such a headless family. It is debatable how long such a protection should go. We have the Tolkien family still benefiting off of their father's works a good forty years after his death. Should Tolkien be public domain? It is a debate between the public benefit of having these open in the public domain, or having them available to heirs for their livelihood. Another option is for such property protection to be passed on through a will, without any involvement of the wider legal code beyond this. But you'll have the inevitable person who didn't make a will.
« Last Edit: July 22, 2011, 09:46:am by Scriptorium »
Had your law not been my delight,
 I would have died in my affliction.

Ps 119:92