How to Make Intellectual Property Law Fun

first_imgOn Thursday, November 14, the Phoenix Chapter of America’s Future Foundation hosted its third event, which proved to be its best yet. Speakers Maria Crimi Speth, intellectual property attorney/litigator, and Stephan Kinsella, another attorney and self-described libertarian theorist, gave listeners a crash course in intellectual property law. Among the topics covered included: trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets, and patents. Attendees ranged from bitcoin entrepreneurs to jet-setting Canadian expats, and everything Arizona in between. The diversity made for a surprisingly lively discussion.Kinsella, whose years of blogging have given him a knack for riling up the audience, began the talk by stating he would abolish all types of IP law, which he called “an abomination.” He compared it to that favorite libertarian boogeyman – the Drug War – and traced modern IP law back to the English Crown’s efforts to restrict speech and grant monopolies. His remarks were loaded with soundbites, the best of which were: “You don’t have to be an anarchist to be against IP laws, but it helps” and “the worst part of IP laws is that they employ people like me and Maria, who could be doing something productive instead.” He concluded with the assertion that it is “not the task of political theory to tell people how to make a profit,” making IP law just another example of government overreach.Enter Speth, whose calm, professorial style matched her more mainstream position, that since intellectual property “behaves like property,” it should be protected like any other form of property. In her conception, property rights protect scarce resources, the most scarce of all being a person’s time spent composing, innovating, or inventing. Without copyright protection, creators will lose the incentive to create, for fear that unscrupulous thieves will resell their work at an artificially low price. Though she did concede that large corporations sometimes use copyright laws to stifle smaller firms, and even seemed open to removing criminal penalties for violations, she remained firm in her defense of IP law as essential for a free market.Our audience questions matched the passion of the speakers, with one declaring emphatically that “You own what you own because you can keep it.” AFF board member Carlos Alfaro put Kinsella’s views to the test by asking point-blank whether he could reprint and resell Kinsella’s book, Against Intellectual Property, without attribution. True to his word, Kinsella gave Carlos permission to do just that, opening a potential new source of funding for the AFF-Phoenix chapter. Smaller personal debates continued well past the end of the talk. Prospects looked good for the next event, a standup comedy show, which though not as intellectual, should prove to be just as fun. Overall, this was by far the most engaging topic for our Phoenician following.last_img