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The Historical, Economic and Moral Arguments Against Intellectual Property and its Future

Contrary to widespread myths "Intellectual property"(IP) is a recent creation, which was not originally intended to protect authors but to control them and benefit cartels of publishers. More recent economic arguments also fail to survive close examination of the evidence and provide some signs of what could replace it.

Copyright was introduced in the sixteenth century to bring under control the flurry of religious and political publication the authorities considered dangerous. It did this by granting a cartel a monopoly over the printing of any books, any ’unlicensed’ printers were destroyed to ensure there were no unapproved material was published.

With the end of censorship and the advent of freedom of expression in the 18th century members of this cartel of publishers lobbied to preserve their monopolies and invoked the now common justification in the name of encouraging the creation new works.

Recent studies of the actual effects and incentives produced by intellectual property laws cast this arguments into question and show some of the costs of granting artificial monopolies.

While the industries built around IP want to perpetually expand its length and scope, technology has irrevocably disrupted their assumptions, what will the new era bring will depend on how well we understand the forces underlying the information economy.


  • Uriel

Uriel is a freelance hacker, entrepreneur and philosopher that for the last 12 years has been interested in how technology can change our world and how it can empower and free individuals. His interests range from politics and economics to biotechnology and history.

He has developed numerous open source software packages and has spoken about various topics relating to freedom and programming at many conferences including FOSDEM, CCC and FrosCON.