Sole and Despotic Dominion: how a 20th century copyright law is abolishing property for humans (but not corporations)

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I know if I point this out to anybody (conservative) they’ll just say, “so don’t buy that stuff, then. Nobody guarantees you a DRM-free toaster. Or make one to your liking and sell it yourself.”

What is the response to that?


Maybe society’s ideas of property shouldn’t be based on the philosophies of an era where human beings could be property. Maaaybe.


Benjamin Franklin’s ideas on property are pretty amazing.

As are Thomas Jefferson’s on IP

The only problem is lots of people can’t understand the language and deny these guys wrote what they did.


The response is, “The government has no business telling me whether I can break the DRM on my toaster, because it’s mine, and that’s what property means.”


Property has always been a daft idea. I am pushing the other way, for things which are not owned by anyone.

Give us an update now & then, we’re all curious.


I’ll give it a try.

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Maybe you could point out the number of devices in their lives that could be compromised?
Even those of us not keen on the “smart home” idea inevitably end up with some gadgets.

Unless you’re hanging with preppers? In which case, I want some pointers.


I can kind of see that, but isn’t that kind of utopian? I mean, I think of growing up in a lower/middle class family in a mill town, and owning a house was a path toward security. Owning tools mean you can use them, or sell them if you need to. Do you see a way where we could do away with property as we know it in our current world paradigm? I’m honestly curious. I just don’t see it working without a whole lot of other changes first.


I suppose the counter-assertion is: “If they didn’t want this (toaster) to be other people’s property, they shouldn’t have put it for sale in the first place.”


The feudalism analogy seems like it would raise eyebrows and garner scoffs from people who would see it as an exaggeration, especially in the case of luxury devices. Being prevented from owning land or other property from which you derive a living feels different (on the surface) from the DRM’d Keurig. Where the analogy tightens, for me, is the realm of productivity software, like Creative Cloud, computers used for work, tractors with DRM, etc… the more the argument of feudalism can be tied to an invasion of home and the ability to work for a living, it seems like it would go down better with hipster-hating conservatives.


Eff you? Walk the walk? Put your Monday where your mouth is?

Or just turn your back on obvious fools who would tell you to go do something they, themselves, have neither the gumption nor the resources to do themselves.

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Property is a property of the scarcity economy. When we’ve got past that then we’re all set. Trouble is that a property of the propertied is their inclination to put obstacles in its path.


Beautifully and succinctly put.
You know, if manufacturers want to retain property rights on devices they sell us, then we are not buying them, we are renting them.

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But the interesting point here is not whether physical property is a good thing or a bad thing. It’s just an idea that is widely accepted on a small scale and controversial on a large scale, but still basically how the world is run.

The interesting point for me is that intellectual property undermines physical property, so when it comes to intellectual property, extreme communists and extreme libertarians are natural allies.

I always found it a bit strange how the FSF tries to paint itself as the absolute opposite of communism (e.g., - I guess that’s just because Communism Is The Enemy.

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This is such silly exaggeration. Renting, leasing, licensing, etc. has been a part of the legal landscape since well before Blackstone, and it remains so today. Further, it is a trivial and non-controversial exercise to sell an item that includes component parts under separate license.

Don’t want to be bound by John Deere’s IP licensing practices and DRM? Go by a non-Deere tractor that does not contain the offending software.

Companies invest ridiculous amounts of money to develop new technology, and it is not at all surprising that they might wish to protect their investment from free riders using any legal means at their disposal.

You first point there is negated by the second point because they too will want to protect their investments with DRM so what do you do when all tractors are locked down with DRM? That’s the way it’s going and then your options are kinda limited. The point is that they should not have the legal means to do this because it’s rarely in the best interest of the customer.


I can’t help wondering whether Cory’s “when we win” optimism here is misplaced. I seem to remember Larry Lessig feeling just as confident about his chances to overturn perpetual copyright term extension with Eldred vs. Ashcroft before he slammed right into an immovable Supreme Court.

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I just see it as a great source of humor. If only we could turn hyperbole into electricity!