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Professors Claiming Copyright Over Their Lectures: or, The Increasingly Evident Injustice of IP

See the great post from Mike Masnick, Professors Claiming Copyright Over Their Lectures, about the ridiculous case of some Harvard Professors claiming copyright in their lectures, jeopardizing the rights of students to take notes (this is so opposite the approach of the heroic MIT). I mused in an email, “what idiot can ever think this is libertarian,” and my compadre Manuel Lora replied, “it’s tricky. We’ve been told that we should get the fruits of our labor for hundreds of years. IP opposition goes against the grain.”

Great point. I think this has been a “dark horse” issue for so long for a few reasons. First, most non-libertarians are so statist and legislation-accepting, that they accept the common wisdom. Second, IP law is so arcane and convoluted that it’s not understood well by most non-specialist libertarians–so they sort of just assume it’s part of property law but just some boring, specialized area. The few libertarians who try to justify it on principle, like Rand or Galambos or Schulman, are so overboard or passionate that libertarians who only casually look at this assume they are right.

And a third reason is that until the digital, Internet revolution the abuse and injustice has been more limited and less visible. But I think with the increasingly visible examples of increasingly unjust applications, principled libertarians can see more and more easily that IP is poppycock. So that when they hear nonsense like “two copyrights” and just envisions students being sued for … taking notes, they know it’s all baloney.

We just need to persuade them it’s not fixable–it’s inherently screwed up. It can’t be fixed. It has to go.


Stephan Kinsella

Stephan Kinsella is an attorney in Houston, director of the Center for the Study of Innovative Freedom, and editor of Libertarian Papers.